The “debate” on astrology that I’d hoped to foment has finally kicked into… medium gear, I guess, when two new astrologers joined the fray to provide some anecdotes and a few selected “hits” as evidence. Several of the players have claimed that astrology can’t properly be used to predict stuff, and the man who was so keen on debating has pretty much given up on actually talking about the topic and is merely sniping and making specious claims about the Large Hadron Collider.
I really can’t do the comments section of that post justice in a new post off-thread, though I felt the need to direct you to a post from last month by George W, which you may have missed the first time around, regarding the Polaris software mentioned by James Alexander. This software is some sort of rapid means of determining astrological events — a quicker way of calculating the information for a person’s natal chart, basically — which he uses to “reconcile” people’s birth information. Meaning, he takes events from their lives, plops them into the program, with the age of the person involved, and it tells them when they were really born, to the minute. Even if it differs from the birth certificate, or the doctors’ recollections, or the parents’ recollections. Never mind all that obviously errant information — if it conflicts with the program, then obviously the program has given you the TRUE time of birth. Or when you were SUPPOSED to be born. George explains:
With the foreknowledge that astrology is more accurate at calculating birth times then, say, a clock or watch which was invented solely for the purpose of time keeping; Subject A gives a list of significant events from their lives and a list of probable birth times and Polaris extracts the most likely one based on a points system.
How eminently scientific! I can still see how this program could be used to disprove itself though.
Let’s say someone bought the program, gathered birth time information on several individuals using clocks that are accurate to the millisecond, witnessing and documenting firsthand the indisputable birth times. Wait say, 20 years and input events from those individuals lives and a wide range of birth times and voila, the indisputable birth time must surely emerge!
Think any of these astrologers would try this? I doubt it. Not only is rectification a rather small branch of astrology, but it’s evidently rather hotly debated within astrology as well. I say this not because I’ve seen any actual debates, but because astrologers differ grossly in how much influence they ascribe to the very astrology on which they depend for their livelihoods. Take Marina Funk, for example, who says:
Jamie was just trying to answer your question playing in the same ball park. But the point is 75% of astrology does not play in that ball park. 80% of our work is NOT mundane astrology, we do it because people like to see Astrologers try and predict stuff, but really its just us using our intuition guided by the planets. The planets are not dictating what humans are actually going to do, they are just showing the astrological weather.
Get it? You can’t actually predict things using astrology with any degree of efficacy, but we do it anyway because our clients like us doing it. But when we do it, we’re using our own intuitions about the situation, colored by what we assume might happen due to influences of the planets.
This is structured guessology. It’s cold-reading without the malicious intent — or at least I’m assuming it’s without that malice, giving her the benefit of the doubt. She probably even believes she’s doing a kindness for the person by attempting a cold-reading despite her doubts that the planets actually have very much influence.
But, I mean, honestly, why do I keep fighting with them? I mean, what’s the harm of allowing people to go on believing these astrologers are gleaning some deep insights about humanity, then?
Oh, and this is evidently post number 1000. However I suspect the post count also includes drafts that I’ve since scrapped, as it was 998 yesterday and I didn’t post anything. Anyway, hooray for me!
Update: George W points out in the comments that he’s repeatedly offered James Alexander an opportunity to test his Polaris software. He’s written a post following up on that fact, and summarizing the current round’s tactics quite well, as such:
I can summarize the new flavor of the debate like so:
1. Astrology doesn’t need a mechanism. It also apparently doesn’t need to have a quantifiable effect. In fact, it doesn’t seem to need anything other than a 3000 year pedigree and some nifty anecdotes.
2. Astrologers are not responsible to give any evidence to prove that astrology works. Science needs to prove a negative so that astrologers can critique these studies as faulty. Scientific method be damned.
3. Skeptics continually disregard “hits” out of hand. Even if those hits are based on ambiguous guesswork that could be viewed as a “hit” no matter which way the winds blow.
4. Astrologers like to insist that we divulge our personal information rather than subject their “field of study” to any semblance of a scientific assessment.
This is entirely accurate. Robert Currey’s tactic has been to handwave away any study or meta-analysis on astrology as being “flawed”, even though meta-analysis is a well-established way of gleaning real data from data whose studies were flawed. Meanwhile, he ignore any requests for studies providing any positive evidence of astrology’s validity, exactly as George’s point number two suggests.
Make no mistake. The burden of proof is not on skeptics to DISprove astrology, though there is a number of studies and meta-analyses we have pointed out that show astrology to be no better than chance.