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testing astrology with statistical methods
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penny seator



Joined: 29 Nov 2009
Posts: 19
Location: California, USA

Posted: Thu Jan 14, 2010 4:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Eddy wrote:
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.


Thanks for your thoughts, Eddy. This approach to statistical tests of astrology is the one Eysenck & Nias assume will work in Astrology: Science or Superstition (1984). They make the assumption that: diet : body weight = astrological factors : earthly occurrences. They assume the analogy, and assert it without argument or other justification. The analogy, or the assumptions that underlie it, are taken for granted in the design of statistical tests of astrological factors. The test designs don’t represent astrology, so the tests don’t capture it.

In a test like that of Mars/ascendant/death, the testers may draw proper conclusions from the data they collect, as you suggest. The problem I see is that test designs fail to properly represent astrology and so the resulting data don’t represent astrology either—unless the test design incorporates the angles of the chart and determines the planet(s) tested (like the Gauquelin tests, and a test and preliminary test of an angular Moon that Kenneth Irving reported, or the Hill-Thompson Mars-redhead study. So analysis of that data, except by chance, is not an analysis of or about astrology.

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. 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?


Yes, Ficina, I did want to step back from the various branches of astrology, various systems and from different techniques and rules and look at a more general, or foundational, question about basic principles of astrological signification and astrological method. I intended to be speaking about horoscopic astrology, and excluding, just for the purposes of this inquiry, any astrology that is not horoscopic. I used natal astrology as a stand-in for horoscopic astrology—for convenience.

Method seems very broad to me. We talk about ‘modern scientific method.’ That’s pretty broad. It’s about a very basic approach to how inquiry is made, about how we investigate things. How do we know pi r2 = the area of a circle? Because we determine that by use of arithmetic method. Horoscopic astrology is one astrological method, that comprises many systems, and variations on those systems. Horoscopic astrology ties the Sky to Earth at the horoscopos and through the houses of the chart. That’s what makes it horoscopic astrology.

As I see it, a basic principle of signification in horoscopic astrology is: Undetermined universal significators, whose natural meanings comprise all things in the categories they rule, mean and effect no thing in particular except as their meanings and effects are determined by the horoscopos and through the astrological houses. The concomitant principle of astrological determination is that to determine a planet’s actual meanings and effects in a chart constructed on the horoscopos, astrologers depend upon a method of determination that ties the Sky to Earth through the houses of the chart. The wheel (or square) of houses determine celestial influences (of signs and planets, delivered to Earth through planets) to actual earthly meanings and effects.

I wanted to use statistical tests to catch two birds in one bush. First, I wanted to say—not that statistical tests prove, can prove or need to prove astrology. I wanted to say that they don’t test astrology as they are designed. I think astrologers who use a traditional method can see that right away. Who would predict death from nothing but a direction of Mars to the ascendant or the ascendant to Mars? Mars would have to be determined to signify and cause (promise) death in a birth chart before an astrologer would predict death from such a direction, and would have to consider the direction along with other forecasting techniques required to be used with directions in the system used.

The second bird I wanted to catch was an astrological one. I wanted to set out some terms on which astrologers might establish, not agreement probably, but common terms in which to speak about the method by which we approach charts constructed on a horoscopos and the principles according to which astrological symbols signify and effect earthly occurrences. It’s in very basic principles of signification and method that a common language seems at least maybe possible.

I think horary casts a very interesting light on all these questions. It strikes me that horary and the method of determination in horoscopic astrology that is tied to the horoscopos and the houses constructed from it both rely heavily on the ascendant, angles, intervening houses and accidental significators. In use of a method of determination through the houses, placing a matter in the right house (particularly in use of derived houses) is as important as it is in horary. These things suggest to me that these basic statements of signification and method—if they’re accepted as such—in horoscopic astrology say something even about horary.

In horary and in natal astrology we need some way to tie the Sky to Earth. We usually use the rising point, but we construct other ascendants—for example, from Lots or from the houses of other people in the chart—as in derived houses. This determines the ascendant. If we use horary, we use the question’s moment to determine the ascendant. In at least one form, or system, of prashna, Jyotish’s counterpart to horary, a variety of different things can fix the lagna for the question. They include, for example, the direction in which the querent sits from the astrologer when the question is asked; a part of their body the person touches or otherwise emphasizes when the question is asked; the sound of the first letter of the first word the querent uses to ask the question; or the number of rice grains the person draws from a bag.

The crucial act in answering a question is fixing the lagna—‘tying down place.’ The jyotishi determines at the moment which indicator of the, or a, lagna that will answer the question is the one to choose. One lights up and that’s the one you naturally choose—naturally, as in nature, as in what science is about. It’s not even judgment. It’s pure intuition (which etymologically means ‘seeing.’) But as I see it, intuition is scientific. I don’t find a dichotomy there. Intuition is part of cosmos, and part of how we know. An understanding of and respect for intuition is part of what didn’t make it intact into the modern world. Whether it’s possible to test any kind of astrology, horoscopic or not, with statistics is something I don’t know (and, if it matters, actually don’t much care about). What I care about is that we understand astrology as well as we can, so that we can use it as best we can in practice—especially now when we are finding so many techniques and rules and need to know to use them—in a disrupted tradition.

Astrology shows that the subject-object split that is fundamental to the modern view is confused, a distortion. Subject and object were talked about long before anyone dreamed of thinking that cosmos is not alive with intelligence—given form and so become subject objectified. Astrology demonstrates to me that the very stuff of the world we live speaks to us about us and our lives, and astrology tells us how to understand what cosmos says. Astrology demonstrates that cosmos is communicative intelligence set out in ordered, beautiful, meaningful and effective form. It does that, it seems to me, in all its branches and in different ways—and all the time, whether we have a chart in front of us or not. To me, astrology says and demonstrates, for example, that intuition is scientific, in the real sense of two precious words I’d rather not see lost. Science is what we know from practice of the arts. Astrology is one of those arts. In the practice of astrology, we know intuition operates as a part of cosmos, and so of the natural, or physical, world. If statistical tests can't capture all of of this--all the physical world, all that is manifest--that's a limitation on the tool of statistical testing.

I think about natal astrology when I think about these questions, for simplicity’s sake. But when a chart is cast for a question, the person is still the 1st house and the 7th is still the other person or persons, and all the houses are the matters the life comprises. So it’s the chart of the person and the person’s world in that moment—the person’s life as it is in a crucial aspect right then (and in a sense each moment births the rest of the life), seen through a particular question’s lens (though sometimes the chart says the question asked isn’t the question to be answered, something I think Maggie Hyde says.) This is part of the reality and the magic (as in what the Magi knew) of how microcosms—each human being, and each moment, any one of which might be captured by a question posed to an astrologer or to another kind of omenologist—exist together as refracting expressions of one cosmos.

Astrologers know, as I think your comment about scientists suggests, Ficina, that it’s about demonstration, not proof. Scientists and statisticians want ‘proof.’ Astrologers want demonstration through practice of the art. These are all preliminaries, or foundations, and serve the art.

It seems to me that horary can be seen as the more fundamental astrological practice—the origin and basis of it all. In its own way, natal astrology stands on a fundamental ground too. That ground is the ground of the centrality for human beings of our human selves and human lives and how we act in them. I see the structure, dynamics and laws of cosmos, and so of human life, figured in the geocentric cosmos and the wheel (or square) of houses. That’s the fundamental way in which I see astrology as founded on an implicit ethical system that reflects cosmic law.

janeg wrote:
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….


I completely agree, janeg. What if Cremonini, a leading academic philosopher of the time, had taken a different tack when he and his colleagues (or at least that’s who it seems it was who published the anonymous pamphlet Galileo—it probably was—replied to anonymously, and very cleverly) chose the ground on which to defend the geocentric cosmos from the terrible blow it seemed to suffer on the appearance of the comet of 1604? (I think that was the year.) He might have recognized, in a precursor to theories of quantum physics, that for purposes of measuring cosmos’ corpus, Copernicus, and Galileo—with Tycho Brahe before him and Kepler shortly after—was right. For purposes of measuring cosmos as living intelligence and the living intelligence that permeates and animates all of life, however, different rules apply. He might have argued that measurements of a different order then those made by yardsticks, scales and clocks are needed to measure life and the experiences of a living being—realities that do not measure in centimeters, grams or minutes and that cannot be described in purely arithmetic terms. For purposes of measuring and manipulating cosmos’ corpus, a heliocentric model is best, especially for rocket ships. For understanding human life and being in conscious communication with cosmos, and, through cosmos, with divine will, a geocentric model works well.

A quantum physicist describes a single phenomenon—light—as wave or as particle, but never as the same at once, never admitting the possibility that one reality assures the impossibility of the other, and never admitting the existence of any thing at all except when and as it is observed to be either wave or particle. (I don’t mean here to take the analogy any further than to say that both model apparently contradictory realities.) Cremonini might simply have said that for purposes of sending rockets into space and other things like that, we live in a heliocentric cosmos. For purposes of understanding human beings, consequential action and cosmic intelligence manifest as life, we rely on the geocentric cosmos. Astrology demonstrates and confirms the geocentric cosmos; observations of the geocentric cosmos and occurrences in the sublunary world confirm and demonstrate astrology—whether or not statistics can catch that. It sometimes seems people must have been in shock at that time, from the horrible wars Steven described—that began in the middle of the 16th century and went on and on—the Office of Inquisition and the Reformation and Counter-Reformation, and other change and conflict of many kinds.

janeg wrote:
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.


Yes, gravity is retained in general relativity theory as that which curves light’s otherwise straight line through space-time. But what is this force? Nothing but that which curves space. That’s all it is. There’s nothing else to say about it except to measure it doing that. It can be detected, but only by its quantifiable and observable relationship to space-time.
It is unnecessary to detect some kind of gravity ray or wave, or a rain of gravity particles or any such thing, to know and measure gravity. We know gravity in its measurable effects.

But a super-requirement is placed on astrology. It’s assumed that astrologers should somehow find some kind of some kind of astral rays, waves or particles—or maybe something we can catch in our hands like moonbeams, to establish astrological influence and determination. We know astrological influence and determination in measurable effects on earthly life. When modern physical scientists catch gravity in rain barrels or when some amazing new technological instrument grasps gravity as something other than or in addition to its measurable effects, then I think astrologers might want to start thinking about trying to get our hands on moonbeams, or somehow else find something corporeal that is astrological influence and determination rather than a perceptible, knowable, predictable, measurable (in astrology’s terms, not in centimeters or kilograms) astrological signification known in its sublunary effects.

We shouldn’t give modern science the word ‘physical,’ at least not until they catch gravity in their hands, or at least watch its blips on a screen. All the manifest world is physical. Anything that occurs in cosmos is physical. Corpus polarizes with psyche or mens. The physical world is the whole intelligent communicative thing—subject objectified, subject in form, but still subject. That’s the reason astrology works: Because, as horary perhaps most clearly demonstrates, corpus is the bodily form of the intelligent, communicative physical world. How else would omens be able to speak, to communicate intelligently and appropriately with us? The physical world is what astrology models. And astrology knows that humans are part of the physical world, a living and conscious world.

geodorn wrote:
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.

…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?... 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.


If some fundamental principles of signification and determination of the method of horoscopic astrology were in place—even if only provisionally—then the test design would use those theoretical and methodological assumptions to design tests of particular hypotheses. A particular hypothesis would be an astrological statement of sufficient complexity that it would be enough to support an astrologer’s well-founded prediction. Well-founded would mean made in accord with method, system, principle, rule and appropriate techniques.

That’s pretty interesting, geodorn, about the weakness of prediction in truly complex systems. I don’t understand what you said about reductionism that may not hold for every process. But it makes me wonder if, for instance, a symbolic system may be such a process.

kirk wrote:
geodorn wrote:
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.


I agree, Kirk, both that statistical tests aren't by any means necessary for aastrology, but that astrology needs to have its preliminaries, or foundations, in place, and for the reasons you say, to serve the art of astrology by helping us know how to use what we’re finding. The philosophy we need, it seems to me, includes a philosophy of astrological signification and method, and a cosmology and natural philosophy that are woven with principles of signification and method. Astrology is so centrally an ethical system, so we need a philosophy of ethics, whose the structure and dynamics are figured in the wheel (or square) of astrological houses.

janeg wrote:
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.


Because not as easy to measure, it seems. Astrology measures. How much money? How successful is the career? How strong is the body? How stable and present is the parent? How peaceful is the marriage? etc. But astrology measures the things of life. And it’s easier to measure light years and kilometers than it is to measure factors that determine, for example, the length of a life or the likelihood of having a child or a divorce. Astrologers observe, analyze, judge, intuit, listen in order to measure, and we also guess as we reach to see and understand.
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Eddy



Joined: 04 Feb 2009
Posts: 922
Location: Netherlands

Posted: Thu Jan 14, 2010 7:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

penny seator wrote:
Eddy wrote:
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.



Thanks for your thoughts, Eddy. This approach to statistical tests of astrology is the one Eysenck & Nias assume will work in Astrology: Science or Superstition (1984). They make the assumption that: diet : body weight = astrological factors : earthly occurrences. They assume the analogy, and assert it without argument or other justification. The analogy, or the assumptions that underlie it, are taken for granted in the design of statistical tests of astrological factors. The test designs don’t represent astrology, so the tests don’t capture it.
Hi Penny. You could be right that the tests don't represent astrology but I believe that Eysenck and Nias simply tested several assertions made by astrologers in books.

The argument that the chart is to be seen as a whole is discussed in the Garry Phillipson interview with the reaearchers, also to be found via here: http://www.rudolfhsmit.nl/d-phil1.htm or directly http://www.rudolfhsmit.nl/d-phil4.htm scroll to '§17. Our inability to cope with complexity'.

***********************************************************

I'll stop here in this topic. All this thinking costs me a lot of energy and besides that I don't want to convey the impression that I intend to be trolling or to debunk astrology. I maybe happen to have a perhaps too critical mind, and try to cope with things I view as problematic in astrology (like the issues with polar charts). I believe in the use of statistical research in astrology. Instead of rejecting it after negative results I try to integrate it in my approach towards astrology. However there are some occasions (events (also 'concrete' ones) of not only myself but also of family members and friends related with astrological positions I saw) I can't simply ignore and I found that at least some of it must be true.

Like I said earlier, some dissatisfactions with astrology I have been having for a while also play a significant role in my recent thinking on the subject. Studying my own chart as a personal guidance to life hasn't brought what I expected, but rather a blind alley (and a circular one). Perhaps it's the 'I-centeredness' of this self observation (it's often said that several kinds of divination should not be used for one self, you shouldn't do your own palmistry for example) or maybe it is something else (but for the time being I'm not going to look for some transit to study this). Maybe transits and directions and progressions) are like 'litmus tests'; the 'litmus paper/moving planet' changes colour according to the state of being of the person (which isn't always the same), hence the difficulty of finding the meaning of the prognostication through methodical interpretation.

Yet, however my approach towards astrology might change, I acknowledge that I owe much to astrology, it stimulated me to understand spherical trigonometry, the connections of aspects with musical intervals made me read on musical theory and listening Medieval and Renaissance music and overall I observe humans and my surroundings in a more profound way.

Astrologer Peter Niehenke, who's research on the aspects were negative,
commented to his results, saying:
Peter Niehenke wrote:
I recognise that the negative results are a reality. But the evidence of my success in counselling is also a reality. A world in which astrology exists is surely more enjoyable than one without it. This remains for the moment even true for me!
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penny seator



Joined: 29 Nov 2009
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Posted: Fri Jan 15, 2010 4:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I appreciate your thoughts, Eddy, and the thoughts of others who’ve commented here, and the time and effort it takes to think about these things. It was your questioning viewpoint that made me wonder how the argument I made would fit for you.

It’s been valuable to me to state my thoughts here and to be able to clarify my thinking as a result of others’ comments.

Penny
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Eddy



Joined: 04 Feb 2009
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Location: Netherlands

Posted: Fri Jan 15, 2010 5:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks Penny, maybe I'll have to accept that astrology might not be entirely caught into testability and probably not entirely into the practice of astrologers too. Although I believe in 'social artefacts' and 'hidden persuaders' as explained in Smit's website, I find that some tests are a bit questionable. For example, astrologers who can't determine the owners of their charts when these have been mixed. Could psychologers do this with the results of their psychology test forms? Same is with testing under pressure in a laboratory setting. My father's aunt was clairaudiant but I would doubt if she would have been able to perform at command. For a while I'll take a break from person astrology and occupy myself with weather astrology etc.
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