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testing astrology with statistical methods
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Ficina
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Posted: Tue Jan 12, 2010 11:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Penny
Quote:
many of them taking the view that astrology is either difficult, impossible, or certainly quite unusual as a thing to test with statistical methods.

It would appear that 'astrology' here is being limited to the kind of astrology that deals with individuals (person-centred astrology or whatever you want to call it). I agree this kind of astrology doesn't lend itself at all to statistical testing, being far too vague with too many variables.

When this subject has come up in the past, it has often been suggested that mundane astrology might be more appropriate for statistical testing. On this thread in fact several people have mentioned weather and sports predicting, both of which would come under this category. Financial astrology also perhaps? I'm not saying it can be done, but it might stand a better chance than natal and horary.

Hopefully your hobby horse isn't too blinkered to consider all areas of astrology Cool
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penny seator



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Posted: Tue Jan 12, 2010 1:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ficina wrote:
It would appear that 'astrology' here is being limited to the kind of astrology that deals with individuals (person-centred astrology or whatever you want to call it). I agree this kind of astrology doesn't lend itself at all to statistical testing, being far too vague with too many variables.


Hi, Ficina,

What I’ve wanted to do is step back from questions about which branches or techniques of astrology are most suited to test, and make a point about method.

The point I want to make is: That statistical method’s failure to grasp astrological method is the problem with statistical tests.

A number of astrologers who posted said that or something like it in one way or another. Some of those who posted said that it may be possible to test some branches or techniques. Others said that it may be possible, but identify a number of reasons that it would be very difficult in any case. Others think it’s impossible. Others don’t care about statistics—perhaps the wisest approach so as not to let it take time from the art itself.

But your comment relates to something I was thinking when I was thinking about Steven’s last post. I was thinking that with so much being discovered, how can astrologers recognize the value of all that comes within the tradition, and make sense of how it all relates. It’s all in the world of astrology, so it’s part of our world. All astrologers have a deep drive to understand our world(s).

It seems to me that method is key, and it seems to me that astrologers who made comments here were saying that in different ways.

Method is the thing that modern science most focuses on, and lauds itself for. They’ve put a lot of thought, observation, practice and argument into figuring out the terms of their method. The fruit of that has been quite a lot of clarity within the terms of their enterprise that has helped them in many areas of their vast (and very well funded) undertaking. And a lot of technology, and a deeply limited—limited to the point of deluded—view of what is—if they take their enterprise to define cosmos and all that cosmos is.

Modern science took over for astrology in the 17th century, as much or more than it took over for religion even. And it took over the terms that astrologers used to talk about cosmos and reshaped them to its purposes. Now it seems that looking at what modern science has done with what astrologers knew and did for many centuries can help unwind us from confusions and limitations of a modern scientific view.

One problem is that we don’t have common terms in which to talk about astrological foundations (or preliminaries)—the thing Ptolemy addressed in the first three chapters of Tetrabiblos.

Method is different from systems of astrology, and both are different from rules and techniques. Within one method many systems can thrive. ‘Method’ comes from the Latin methodus, which comes from the Greek for ‘pursuit of knowledge, mode of investigation.’ ‘System’ comes from the Latin systēma, ‘musical interval, the universe’, from the Greek for ‘organized whole, constitution, musical interval.’ It comes from the Greek root for ‘to set up.’ The prefix is syn-, ‘together.’

A method is a pursuit of knowledge and a way to investigate. A system is an organized whole that is set up together. One method—which I take horoscopic astrology to be—can accommodate many systems. Systems stand together or they fall apart. But methods aren’t like that. They have more room.

I think this helps understand something that has seemed hard to understand within astrology. Different systems can rub elbows just fine within the method of astrology—including systems that use one zodiac or the other, different techniques, different rules or different triplicity rulers. That’s because they are different systems—though they use the same method.

I find Morin’s system to be extraordinarily powerful, more so the more I learn of it and use it. But the point I wanted to make about statistics and astrology, and therefore about astrology, is a point about method. Morin analyzed, explained and demonstrated astrological method in a wonderfully clarifying way. He may have thought his system replaced other systems. I don’t think so, and I don’t think anyone needs to think that to use Morin’s system. I do think he told us something about astrological method that is extremely valuable.

I wouldn't say "person-centered" except in the sense that the ascendant is the person and horoscopic astrology is traditionally ascendant centered--centered on the horoscopos. So in that sense, yes.

But it's more like "microcosm-centered." Its fundamental committment is to seing the whole person living in the person's whole world. (Not every detail of course, a matter left to god.) It uses derived houses (turning the wheel)--in a powerful and beautiful way--in order to flesh out the native's world. It insists on seeing the whole chart--and especially the ascendant, midheaven and the Lights--in order to see any part of it. Every bridge strut needs a bridge.

I don't share the view that 'modern astrology' is psychological and traditional astrology is not. I think 'modern astrology' departs from astrological method, and that traditional astrology knows better than to leave the person out of the person's world. The chart shows the person living in the person's unique world.

Thanks for your comment. I hope this clarifies.

Penny
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Ficina
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Posted: Tue Jan 12, 2010 3:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
I hope this clarifies.

Yes and no Smile I think I understand where you're coming from when you differentiate between method and systems or different branches of astrology. However, I am still somewhat concerned that your examples throughout have focused on astrology relating to individuals. For example:

Quote:
Its fundamental committment is to seing the whole person living in the person's whole world.

and
Quote:
The chart shows the person living in the person's unique world.

This is not true of an event chart for example or the chart of a currency.

Quote:
All astrologers have a deep drive to understand our world(s).

'Some astrologers...' would probably be more accurate, but I don't think people's motivations are the issue here - or are they? Perhaps it's the only thing that (some) astrologers and scientists have in common!
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Estebon_Duarte



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Posted: Tue Jan 12, 2010 5:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Olivia wrote:
No it doesn't. They'll carp that you were 45 minutes wrong on the time so therefore the entire prediction was invalid. Or you'll tell them something so accurate that atheist-materialism aside, they'll cross the road and start making the sign of the evil eye when they see you.

I guess the second way does shut them up but you certainly won't win any popularity contests from it.

So - don't make predictions for atheist-materialists. Don't even talk to them about astrology if they fancy themselves debunkers.




yes it does. I've looked at an secular individual's chart for a few minutes that I had never met before and told them about their childhood sexual abuse.
they shut up.
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janeg



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Posted: Tue Jan 12, 2010 5:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This thread touches on a number of thought provoking topics and I know I'm late jumping into the discussion but hope you don't mind my going back to the use of statistics as a means of 'proving' or 'justifying' the use of astrology.

The biggest factor hindering the application of statistics is not in the nature of astrology itself but in our own understanding of astrology; astrologers agree on very little even when they class themselves in similar groups i.e. Hellenistic, traditional, medieval, modern, etc. It seems everyone who studies astrology comes to it with their own ideas of why it works and all complain that those who went before are rarely clear in explaining how it works.

Valens texts are replete with bitter complaints about the ancients not stating things clearly; Ptolemy claimed delineation was "to confusing, difficult and too indefinite"; Morin is no exception. There are some, like Bonatti, Schoener, Lilly, who repeated what earlier astrologers said and then added their own thoughts on what worked and there were others (Ptolemy, Abu Ma'shar, Placidus, Morin) who tried to make sense of what earlier astrologers said, tossing what they believed didn't work, adding what, in their experience, they believed did work all the while believing they were restoring astrology. Yet, with each newly translated text, we find older reasoning and techniques that the restorers were either unaware of or simply didn't understand.

Astrologers today are no different and therein lies the rub. It is impossible to statistically test what we can't agree on. Penny's idea that Morin's approach would provide a good starting point is valid; however, as Steven pointed out, it would need to be expanded to include elements Morin tossed out i.e. the terms. For my part, it would also need to include profections and lots. There would need to be a clear definition of all technical terms, rules of determination in radix charts, clearly defined techniques, etc.

In a nutshell, the community would have to come to at least temporary agreement on certain basic elements and techniques as well as establish valid testing criteria. A tall order, and even jumping this hurdle may not be enough to convince the world of science that astrology is, in fact, a science and not a pseudo-science.

That doesn't mean we shouldn't attempt to come up with clear definitions, well defined techniques and valid testing criteria; only that it is naive to think it will change anything either within or without the astrological community. In the end, it is impossible to prove a negative, any astrologer who insists on one method will not be deterred from using it because one study shows it doesn't work; any non-astrologer will not be convinced of astrologies scientific basis because one or two or three studies show one facet of it does work. Human beings are, if anything, irrational and stubborn in their beliefs.
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Eddy



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Posted: Tue Jan 12, 2010 8:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

penny seator wrote:
Eddy wrote:
Here’s a set-up for some questions:
1. Mr. Smit made a study of whether death by accident is statistically associated with the Mars-ascendant progression he mentions.
2. He found that it is not.
3. No astrologer would predict fatal death from this Mars-ascendant progression.
4. Mr. Smit concluded that his ‘test’ called astrology into question.

Here are my questions:
1. Is this good science and good reasoning?
2. Does this make sense as a way to test astrology?
3. If results of a test are entirely consistent with astrological principles, practice and rules, do those results call astrology into question?

My answer to these questions is ‘no.’
Hi Penny,
I read Smit's 'Astrology, My Passion' and indeed he mentions the tests.
Rudolf Smit wrote:
I tested the statement that in the charts of people who had died an accidental death, there would be a remarkable incidence of Progressed Ascendant to Mars, or of Progressed Mars to the Ascendant.
He thus tested a statement which can be found in books etc. Note that this took place ca. 30 years ago. Secondary progressions were probably the most popular prediction tools. And I believe that the progression of the ascendant is in fact a sort of primary direction which was calculated in a particular simple method. Few people had computers 30 years ago. In the '70s/'80s many books (available in the Netherlands and before Hamaker-Zondag's Jungian mission) especially the pre WWII books were of a style to be found in Alan Leo's work like 'Progressed Horoscope': http://books.google.nl/books?id=GIMfmrFBBsgC&printsec=frontcover&dq=progressed+horoscope&lr=&cd=1#v=onepage&q=&f=false There (p. 223 n°369 we see Mars Ascendant relations as harmful for health and sometimes injury) And here's an article of Gauricus' warning to King Henry II of France http://www.skyscript.co.uk/gauricus.html The primary direction of Ascendant to Mars is involved. So there were astrologers who believed in the danger of such Mars astrologers.

So your question if this is a good test then I must say that if in astrological teaching such a direction or progression is stated to be dangerous, then it can be tested. Although other factors in a chart can make that the dangerous effect is mitigated, a big number of violent death charts should show a more than average number of these Mars positions.

However often it is said that one must also look at the 'promise' in the natal chart. If it is possible to find a 'promise' of danger in the natal then it could be tested by giving astrologers a number of charts of which there are a few of which the owner had a fatal accident. If the right charts are chosen from the whole number and above chance level then there's something in it. The next thing to do would then be to find the direction or any other prediction method to find the moment of the fatal accident.

And Smit continues:
Quote:
Sure, there were a few (but the word says it all: a few), hence not an overwhelming number which could confirm the textbook statement. And so it went on and on. And one can imagine that my views on astrology had sobered down somewhat. Yet, I was still a believer, simply because I had happy clients, who tended to come back. So why complain!?

The change came when he learnt about 'artifacts' like cold reading and Barnum effect. Tests have shown that these are very effective and convincing.

The reasoning seems okay and scientific. A statement is tested and turns out to be incorrect. It doesn't devaluate astrology as a whole but only this statement. I'm afraid I don't totally understand your third question. If results of a test are entirely consistent with astrological principles, practice and rules, you mean if the tests turn out to be positive? Then I would say that the researchers would be convinced that there's some value in some parts of astrology.

Or did you mean that the tests should be done taking into account the rules like you pointed out in your initial post in which you mentioned that according to Morin planets can be different according to the placements in houses and signs? This still could be tested. It might be difficult to test the rules when they can make the planets so different but these differences still would appear when the samples are big enough (over 1000 charts or so).

I'd think that Dean or Smit would also see it this way. How they should see it is somewhat different. In science the generally accepted rule is that the person who makes a statement should also prove it. Unless a theory is not proven it is not a fact but just a theory. The favourite theory model of astrology is analogy. There are some extreme analogies like the pictures of the constellations which gave name to the signs give the signs their meaning or the mythological name of a new asteroid gives the meaning to it (e.g. Chiron). Other more sophisticated analogies are the rulerships as explained by Ptolemy in Tetrabiblos Book I.

How I would view this, is a bit inbetween I think. The astrology I prefer the most is Kepler's, making use of aspects alone and no divisions of houses and signs. Kepler didn't really believe in the predictability of concrete events like the number of children or accidents. I tend to believe the same way. I believe transits etc can affect your mood. In such terms I might be considered a modern astrologer (I've also always looked at transits of the three modern planets). However I strongly dislike the deliberately obsure astrology of astrology after the theosophists and Jung. Whole books have been written on the meaning (of transits of) one planet while a few words would do, it seems that blaming your parents for 'that terrible childhood' and let Chiron heal the wounds does always work very well.

Here are test results http://www.rudolfhsmit.nl/d-rese2.htm usually negative. Since I focus on aspects, I found Peter Niehenke's negative results on aspects (§4) disappointing. I had hoped that at least these would lead to something positive.

Many other tests are focused on concrete events which predicatbility Kepler dismissed and most modern astrologers would as well. My view of an accident in relation to a transit or direction would be that the transit/direction of that moment/period might make the person more inclined to carelessness or overconfidence or simply feeling bad. In such a state the chance of getting an accident would then be higher.

I'd propose another kind of test. If Pluto transits are said to give feelings like 'driving you crazy', then perhaps it would be a good idea to look at the charts of people who were taken to a mental hospital after a nervous break down. Not that everybody who has a Pluto transit will go to a mental hospital and not that every patient will have a Pluto transit but I'd say that more than the average number of people with nervous break down would have such a transit in the chart. There were plans for tests of Pluto transits and 'difficult periods' (§8 of the research results article) but they weren't carried through. If I only had the time for such a research...
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dr. farr



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Posted: Wed Jan 13, 2010 3:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Janeg's post puts it in a nutshell-excellent points and conclusion!
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Ficina
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Posted: Wed Jan 13, 2010 10:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Janeg has certainly made some good points and I don't think anybody would disagree with them. However I think she may have gone down a similar avenue to the one I did, diverting from Penny's main road argument regarding astrological method as a whole rather than particular methods/techniques/approaches on which astrologers disagree amongst themselves.

Perhaps the word 'method' is the problem here? I'm wondering if astrological 'model' might describe it better, i.e. the basics: planets, aspects, signs and houses. Of these four, planets exist and the distances between them can be measured, so aspects 'exist'. Unfortunately signs and houses do not exist - they are pure invention or imagination. Presumably scientists cannot (or will not) test things which do not actually exist. So from that point of view the astrological 'method' is incompatible with scientific testing methods.

Am I on the right track here, Penny, or at least getting nearer to the main thrust of your argument?
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janeg



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Posted: Wed Jan 13, 2010 5:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ficina wrote:

Perhaps the word 'method' is the problem here? I'm wondering if astrological 'model' might describe it better, i.e. the basics: planets, aspects, signs and houses. Of these four, planets exist and the distances between them can be measured, so aspects 'exist'. Unfortunately signs and houses do not exist - they are pure invention or imagination. Presumably scientists cannot (or will not) test things which do not actually exist.


Here I'd have to disagree with you; the signs are based on the ecliptic which is real along with the Earth's motion through the signs and I believe the houses create lines consistent with those generated in a magnetized field; but I take your point.

One of the key problems today is the way the scientific community views astrology; they threw it out because the model appeared broken without considering that the model still worked based on the way those living on earth experienced the universe. In any other area of investigation they would have taken the 'broken' model and tried to tweak it based on the new knowledge; instead they just tossed the whole thing.

I wish they had taken the same stance they had with gravity; they can't toss it because they can't deny the effect and they continuously work at trying to explain it. We are unlikely to see the same approach to astrology any time soon as the idea that it is a worthless physical study is so strongly entrenched in society and academia.
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geodorn



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Posted: Wed Jan 13, 2010 7:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ficina,

Just a small correction: scientists do not test things, they test hypotheses. Whether a hypothesis concerns something material or largely hypothetical - does not matter. However, hypotheses need to be quantifiable and carefully formulated, with a well defined scope of applicability. I fully agree with janeg that one needs clear definitions, especially when working with statistics. However, we do not need to have an agreement on how things work or which method works or does not. This is the whole point of testing: to learn what works, what does not, where, when and maybe how.

From what I have seen of the statistical research of astrology, I dare to make a "ground breaking" conclusion that cookbook astrology does not work or works very badly. It's not that surprising, is it? Of course, it would be great to have a simple predictor for this or that part of human life. But human life is an enormously complex system. So why people look for a simple factor like a transit or progression of X to Y to have a definite effect? Even in hardcore science, the more complex the system, the more input variables one needs. And by the way, the predictive ability of science for truly complex systems is still very weak. I am not sure it will ever be great. The exact sciences operate largely on reductionistic basis, which may or may not hold for every process in the universe.

I doubt that statistics is a fully appropriate tool to test astrological methods. I may be wrong. From what I see, we are dealing with a very different system than the one statistics was developed for. Another difficulty with astrology is that it is often based on value-judgements. This not only opens a way for subjectivity, but also makes it difficult to quantify. For example, I am very suspicious of summing up essential dignities to get a combined score, but I am an amateur, my worries are probably unjustified. I just feel we are adding apples and oranges there.

Despite my reservations, I think statistics can be still useful to check some claims: it's a great training tool. The exercise of defining a hypothesis, even without actually testing it, could be of tremendous value.


Janeg,

I agree, in general, with your last post. However, I do not agree that astrological effects are as apparent as gravity. They are not. With gravity it's all simple: raise something – drop, raise – drop, repeat to infinity – it will keep doing it, and if you stay under it – you will feel it every time. Not so with transits, etc. They are not obvious. Most of experimental science is based on repeating experiments. But you can not repeat the same question in horary, for example. Physical model is inappropriate for astrology, it is a completely different can of worms.

I think the main problem with astrology is its very obscure philosophical basis. Its revival should be the highest priority, not statistical testing of its predictions. Without the philosophical basis people try to use the materialistic model and fail consistently. The models are just incompatible, if you know physics, etc. This is the reason why, I think, astrology declined in the past centuries. With industrialization and the rise of capitalism, the society became more and more materialistic, and so did the mainstream science, which was in a way a self-fulfilling prophesy. Astrologers tried to keep up with the times, hastily incorporating new planets, asteroids, etc. At the same time the tradition was being eroded, techniques simplified, corrupted or simply forgotten, some because of personal feelings, some to get it aligned with physics. The result – a lot of frivolous predictions and claims, which were very easy to disprove or show their triviality. This did not help maintaining the interest. The philosophical foundations by that time were practically non-existent, not to mention that they are very foreign and even threatening to the materialistic world view. So, what is left to keep the interest of scientific establishment?

Which brings me to another question: do we really want to “prove” astrology to the establishment? What for? To get external funding? Contemporary science is very much $$ oriented, which does not do it much good. The recent climategate scandal is just one example, which I suspect is not limited to climate research community, but is a sign of a bigger problem. Contemporary science reflects the dominant value system of the society, which is very simplistic too: it is dollar-based. And if the establishment will catch the drift that astrology can be (ab)used to make $$ or control people, they will do it, just like a lot of “exact” sciences are working for the military, directly or indirectly. That's scary Smile Fortunately, I do not think astrology can ever be very useful for material gain, so yes, I agree, I don't think it will get much attention from the research community in the near future.
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###



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Posted: Wed Jan 13, 2010 8:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
I think the main problem with astrology is its very obscure philosophical basis. Its revival should be the highest priority, not statistical testing of its predictions. Without the philosophical basis people try to use the materialistic model and fail consistently. The models are just incompatible, if you know physics, etc. This is the reason why, I think, astrology declined in the past centuries. With industrialization and the rise of capitalism, the society became more and more materialistic, and so did the mainstream science, which was in a way a self-fulfilling prophesy. Astrologers tried to keep up with the times, hastily incorporating new planets, asteroids, etc.


Thanks so much for that, Geodorn Exclamation


And one more time (the issue is usually dodged and avoided):

Quote:
I think the main problem with astrology is its very obscure philosophical basis. Its revival should be the highest priority, not statistical testing of its predictions.

That's the missing foundation of current-day astrology. The astrology teachers and advanced practitioners are performing a grievous disservice by either ignoring this or by merely touching on it from time to time as a garnish for their discussion of techniques.

Just as we grab as much from the earth as we can for our enrichment and power, so astrologers seem to grab the symbols of the sky for a comfortably furnished mind – an impressively decorated living space. Statistical analysis does work well for comparing floor space and desirability of location. Astrology as real estate. . .
Quote:
. . . the society became more and more materialistic, and so did the mainstream science, which was in a way a self-fulfilling prophesy. Astrologers tried to keep up with the times. . .
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Eddy



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Posted: Wed Jan 13, 2010 8:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I appreciate your post Geodorn. On the second part however I have two remarks.

I'm not sure if a revival of astrology would be without risk in society. Even if not accepted by science and never proven by statistics. I have sometimes read about employment agencies asking the job-seekers for their birthtime. What would society look like if people would hear that they won't get the job because their chart doesn't fit, or the horarist would advise not to take this person. Especially when interpretations can be very different.

By the way this is also my general objection against the use of any personality tests for applicants. They often are a snapshot in time.

Another thing is the $$ issue, or as a European I should rather talk about an €€ issue. The misuse of science doesn't devaluate science itself. Science is science. The $$ are just politics.

On the other side in astrology there are also many $$ involved for some. Not the individual astrologer, whether professional, semi or amateur. I mean the book industry. Every year many sun sign books of astrology appear, one might think that a once written book on sun signs will be enough.

Of course most astrologers don't believe in sun-sign astrologers but the same is with the climategate scandal. There are many scientists who question several climate change issues.
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janeg



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Posted: Wed Jan 13, 2010 9:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

geodorn wrote:

I agree, in general, with your last post. However, I do not agree that astrological effects are as apparent as gravity.


Hi geo ... I didn't mean to imply that astrological effects were as easily apprehended as the effect of gravity; I was comparing the two in the sense that they both describe 'action at a distance'; science continues trying to work out the how and why of gravity but gave up long ago on any theories of planetary effects, probably because they weren't as obvious as gravity.
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janeg



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Posted: Wed Jan 13, 2010 9:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

geodorn wrote:

I think the main problem with astrology is its very obscure philosophical basis.


Doubt science or society will be willing to look at it seriously without a testable physical model that makes sense in terms of what is already known about the physical world. Philosophy is fine but what it explains must be sensible to experience; otherwise its just talk.

I've always thought a test of Mundane Astrology would be best as it would show the influences on groups of people making the possibility of individuals being influenced not such a stretch.

It would be a huge task though as I think it would require a lengthy study involving major cities on all continents, all subject to the same cosmic influences that would, hopefully, show their effects according to the different houses being emphasized. You'd also need to predict tangible events that would be apt to appear in the local media; to try and ensure the results would be less prone to subjectivity.

I fear Horary, Electional and natal astrology leave too much room for subjectivity and Weather predicting, while eminently useful, does not automatically translate to individuals being affected by cosmic influences.
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dr. farr



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Posted: Thu Jan 14, 2010 3:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Geodorn's points are in close proximity to my outlook: I thank Geodorn, Janeg and Kirk for the high quality of insights each has posted in this latter part of the current thread.
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