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Ken Ward's Astrology Pages

Astrology and Science 2: More Specific Comments.

clear.gif (807 bytes) Roland Seidel, of Australian Skeptics, makes a number of interesting comments. 

"It is now a quaint relic that keeps the masses amused. It generates controversy, it captures imaginations, it may be a triviality or it may be dangerous but it is, after 120 years of formal research, unquestionably wrong."

Very little serious research has been done in astrology, so I do not believe that astrology has been "disproved" through research. On a similar subject, homeopathy has been around for a long time, but little serious research has been done. Like astrology, it has been largely ignored. However, unlike astrology, it appears to be more amenable to proper research. Siegel mentions that astrology could be dangerous in the sense that it could lead people to believe that what is written in the stars is inevitable, and cause them to give up when encountering events that might have been predicted in the stars. The same could be said of other practices, such as medicine, where a doctor giving an unfavourable prognosis might lead the patient to die.

He continues:

"Astrologers deal with these problems by saying that the signs don't correspond with the constellations because they are different things, but how they can reconcile that with the fundamental thesis of astrology, that the stars effect our lives, is a mystery. They are asking us to accept that the stars affect our lives, but not the real stars, the pretend stars that used to be where the real stars were 4000 years ago."

I find this comment persuasive. I suppose that astrologers would claim that astrology works in its present form, so even though it is a mystery, then that is the way things are.

Roland Seidel suggests that there are three ways to test astrology:

  1. Ask subjects to pick out their own horoscope from those of others
  2. Compare horoscope readings with personality tests
  3. Compare predicted events with actual events.

The first way presumes that subjects can accurately pick out their own personality profile because they "know" themselves. It is an assumption that might not be true. Therefore, the inability of subjects to pick out their own horoscopes may be a general phenomenon of subjects not knowing themselves.

The second way of testing astrology, likewise, is somewhat questionable. Personality tests created for specific purposes may not be applicable to astrological testing. A personality test devised to check for the astrological traits may be more relevant. Personality tests are considered in terms of Validity and Reliability. Reliability is a measure of their consistency, that is whether they will give the same results when taken some time later. Astrological readings are likely to be high on Reliability because different astrologers will give similar readings.

Validity is the measure of how well the personality test measures what it says it measures. So a test of neuroticism would score highly those people who were also scored highly by expert judges, such as psychologists and psychiatrists. In practice, the psychiatrists and psychologists disagree among themselves and so do the tests.

The third way of testing astrology, in principle, seems a valid one.

He mentions an experiment using 1000 subjects which compared birth data and the predictions of astrologers with measures of personality. There was no correlation, indicating that the birth chart does not predict the character of people.

"In 1979 Michel Gauquelin put an advertisement in Ici-Paris offering a free horoscope. Recipients were asked to reply saying how accurate they and their friends found the horoscope. Of the first 150 replies, 94% percent said it was accurate as did 90% of their friends and family. Unfortunately, they all got the same horoscope, that of Dr. Petiot, a notorious mass murderer."

Astrology is claimed to be very general in what it says, so it is hard to tell whether it is true or not. A counter hypothesis here, is that subjects do not understand themselves very well. What might be overlooked here, is that the value of any personality testing might be drawn into question. It seems that any personality profile, providing it isn't too negative, will be accepted by the reader. This criticism of astrology is also a criticism of psychological testing in general. Also, a more meaningful experiment would have included a psychological personality test, written at random, and considered how the subjects given this free test responded to its accuracy. If 94% of those given the same psychologica test said it was valid (when it was not based on their scores), then the problem would not lie with astrology but with self evaluation.

From my own position, I do not particulars care whether astrology has been validated scientifically. The way it works may be somewhat different.

Peter Shepherd, who began this site, has Pluto in his first house. A simple meaning of this is "transform" and "the mind", which is almost the name of this site (trans4mind).

However, it seems unlikely that this could be divined in the absence of knowledge of the native and their activities. This indicates one of the frustrations of this kind of work, where tantalisingly, the answer was there all the time, but we did not see it!