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A Brief Introduction to Horary Astrology

By localroger in Culture
Mon Jul 04, 2005 at 10:02:16 AM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)
Culture

The serious practice of Astrology is poorly understood outside of a small circle of dedicated fanatics. The construction and interpretation of a Horary Chart is a craft requiring considerable skill, and of a much different nature than most people realize.

This is not a full HOWTO with enough information to start doing proper Astrology, but rather a brief tour of the symbolic system and basic method of use. I expect it will be equally interesting to the paranormally oriented people who might be inclined to take up the craft, and the scientific materialists who would rather debunk it. This guide will itself take an agnostic position as to whether the resulting art is useful for anything, although I will point out some of the mistaken and inconsistent beliefs common both among Astrology believers and Astrology debunkers.


The first and most important principle of Astrology is the following statement:
"As Above, So Below."
That is, events here on Earth echo the arrangement of objects the sky and vice-versa. It is impossible to relate one's position to the practice of Astrology without understanding this principle and what it means.

As Above, So Below is an axiom. Within the context of Astrological belief it cannot be proven or disproven; it is assumed. Without this assumption all systems of Astrological practice are meaningless.

If you wish to debunk Astrology, As Above, So Below is your primary target; but since it is an axiom you cannot simply offer a disproof of it. If you simply assert that it is bunk the serious Astrologer is likely to smile mildly at you with the contempt you deserve for so completely misunderstanding his science. You can make the case that it is bunk, but in order to do this effectively you must work backward and show, by induction, working within the system, that the methods do not produce results. This is harder than it sounds.

On the other hand many Astrology believers misunderstand the implications of As Above, So Below. It is common for Astrology writings to assert that natural forces like gravity, magnetism, or the science-fictional "As Yet Undiscovered Law of Physics" somehow account for the Above/Below relationship. This idea can be debunked because those physical laws (even the holes in which any "AYULoP" must fit) are very rigorously understood.

As Above, So Below is a very profound statement with vast religious implications. It implies that the entire Universe is not only a deliberately made creation, but something almost like an artwork. It either implies that there is no such thing as free will, or that there is a constant rain of influences large and small keeping ground-level events synchronous with the ordained celestial order regardless of individual choices. A debunker can attack Astrology by asserting this, because many casual Astrology believers don't understand these implications and will balk at them when they are carefully explained.

The implication of Astrology as a divination system is that supernatural entities are constantly meddling with the heavens, by inserting comets and similar phenomena to reflect on things that will happen down here. And they are also constantly meddling with things on Earth to encourage them to line up with the grand master plan outlined by the clockwork motions of the permanent planets. Astrology is unlike any other divination method in that the Oracle cannot match its symbolic responses to the situation it is describing; it can only, if it is effective, reach out into the world and mould the situation to match the clockwork progression of its response.

People who practice Astrology vary as to exactly how they think this intervention occurs. Many think it's the result of blind unconscious forces, a "resonance" or "harmony." This explanation is not too impressive if you actually know what resonances and harmonies are. Some think it is the work of a singular God, and others consider it a committee effort by a variety of named and unnamed conscious supernatural entities. Many simply haven't thought it through at all; after all, it's an axiom. Once it's established you don't need to ask why it's true; it simply is.

The Horary Chart

The much-maligned newspaper Sunday horoscope bears exactly the same relation to true Horary Astrology that a Popular Mechanics article on cold fusion does to the actual practice of particle physics -- and that analogy is exact. If you attempt to debunk Astrology based on its vagueness or the idea that one-twelfth of everyone has the same sign, you'll just look like an idiot.

The Horary Chart is a map of the sky at a moment in time, as it relates to a particular place on Earth. The chart is circular, and is collapsed to two dimensions by ignoring latitude and true astronomical distance. The circle basically follows the Ecliptic, including the planets and constellations which are hidden by the Earth's bulk beneath us or by the glare of a daytime Sun. Remember that the Astrological convention is that anything that moves regularly with respect to the backdrop of stars is a planet, and by this definition it's perfectly sensible to include the Sun and Moon.

The sky is sectioned into twelve Signs demarked roughly by the constellations of the Zodiac. It is also sectioned into twelve numbered Houses referenced from the point directly beneath an observer's feet (opposite "midheaven," the point directly above one's head). At a given moment each planet is in a certain Sign for everyone, but which House it is in depends on both the time of day and where you are on the Earth. Technically, it depends on the local Sidereal time.

The position of each planet within the signs and houses reveals a bit of information, and the relationships between the planets provide even more.

A properly done Horary chart requires an exact Sidereal time, and serious Astrologers are serious about determining correct Sidereal time. No serious Astrologer will be without a copy of Doris Chase Doane's Time Changes in the USA, an encyclopaedic listing of time-zone boundary shifts and daylight saving time policy changes, for converting birth certificate times to true Sidereal times. There are techniques for doing astrology when the time isn't known, since so many people are unaware of their exact time of birth; but this is considered an inexact and poor practice, like using sloppy, worn-out, and improperly calibrated machinery in a laboratory. It takes more skill to get a poorer result without the right information.

The process of determining each planet's position and measuring relationships used to be a backbreaking chore, but since the 1980's this figuring has been computerized. Astrologers were early and enthusiastic adopters of home computers and a diverse array of Astrology software has been written to perform the menial chart-drawing and aspect-figuring work. The people who write this stuff are serious, and I've never seen an error or inconsistency between two Astrology programs. They all draw the same charts given the same source data.

Masculine/Feminine, Qualities, and Elements

Before we proceed to the famous Signs it's better to review how they are constructed and arranged; Signs are not fundamental images pulled from a hat. They are constructed from three interlocking periodically applied descriptive sets.

First, each sign is either Masculine or Feminine, meaning there are six of each. This has more to do with a Yin/Yang kid of duality than with actual sex.

  +------------+--------------------------------+
  | Masculine  |  Direct, Positive, Active      +
  +------------+--------------------------------+
  | Feminine   |  Passive, Negative, Receptive  +
  +------------+--------------------------------+

Second, each sign is either Cardinal, Fixed, or Mutable. These are the "qualities" of the sign; each of the possible Qualities is shared by four Signs:

  +------------+--------------------------------+
  | Cardinal   |  Enterprising, Outgoing        |
  +------------+--------------------------------+
  | Fixed      |  Resistant to Change           |
  +------------+--------------------------------+
  | Mutable    |  Adaptable, Changing           |
  +------------+--------------------------------+

Obviously the Cardinal quality is not mutually exclusive to Fixed / Mutable, and this has always seemed like a bit of a hack to me. Since it overlaps a bit with "Masculinity" it gives the entire Zodiac a distinct hint of testosterone poisoning. But then, this whole system was developed by a distinctly patriarchal society.

Finally, each sign corresponds to one of the ancient "elements." Amazingly enough, three Signs share each possible Element:

  +------------+--------------------------------+
  | Fire       |  Enthusiastic, Energetic       |
  +------------+--------------------------------+
  | Earth      |  Practical, Stable             |
  +------------+--------------------------------+
  | Air        |  Intellectual, Communicative   |
  +------------+--------------------------------+
  | Water      |  Emotional, Intuitive          |
  +------------+--------------------------------+

Construction of the Signs

By starting at a fixed point and cycling through these differently periodic descriptive elements, we can construct the familiar Signs of the Zodiac, so that each Sign has a unique combination of descriptive elements:

  +-------------+-----------+-------+----------+
  |    Sign     |    M/F    |  Ele. | Quality  |
  +-------------+-----------+-------+----------+
  | Aries       | Masculine | Fire  | Cardinal |
  +-------------+-----------+-------+----------+
  | Taurus      | Feminine  | Earth | Fixed    |
  +-------------+-----------+-------+----------+
  | Gemini      | Masculine | Air   | Mutable  |
  +-------------+-----------+-------+----------+
  | Cancer      | Feminine  | Water | Cardinal |
  +-------------+-----------+-------+----------+
  | Leo         | Masculine | Fire  | Fixed    |
  +-------------+-----------+-------+----------+
  | Virgo       | Feminine  | Earth | Mutable  |
  +-------------+-----------+-------+----------+
  | Libra       | Masculine | Air   | Cardinal |
  +-------------+-----------+-------+----------+
  | Scorpio     | Feminine  | Water | Fixed    |
  +-------------+-----------+-------+----------+
  | Sagittarius | Masculine | Fire  | Mutable  |
  +-------------+-----------+-------+----------+
  | Capricorn   | Feminine  | Earth | Cardinal |
  +-------------+-----------+-------+----------+
  | Aquarius    | Masculine | Air   | Fixed    |
  +-------------+-----------+-------+----------+
  | Pisces      | Feminine  | Water | Mutable  |
  +-------------+-----------+-------+----------+

To these quality combinations we add the constellations themselves -- the pictures in the sky that actually started the whole exercise off. I find it easy to imagine how this system developed, with the cycling qualities, elements, and so on shifted and tested until they made the most sense with regard to those permanent sky symbols and the occasional wanderers among them. The end result is twelve personality types, archetypal images which are the deep-water anchorage of all Astrological thought.

The Planets

The relationship between Planets and Signs is worked out by a variety of techniques common to magic-symbolic systems. Obvious qualities like color (Mars), brightness (Venus), or speed of motion and elusiveness (Mercury) are starting points. As we have seen with the Signs, the overall picture should display a kind of balance. Although Eastern and New World civilizations came up with different ideas, the Western relationship between Planets and Signs has been fixed for at least a thousand years and possibly much longer.

For each Planet, one Sign is:

  • Ruled: It is the Planet's native Sign. The Planet's influence on a horary chart is very strong (in both positive and negative sense) if it is found in this Sign. A Planet found in its ruling Sign may have a much stronger influence than a less well placed Sun. Since there are a lot more Signs than Planets some Signs are ruled by more than one Planet, but as new Planets are discovered Astrologers have been rectifying this.
  • Exalted: The Planet is exceptionally well placed so that its positive effects are accentuated and its negative effects minimized.
  • In Detriment: The Planet is exceptionally poorly placed so that its negative effects are accentuated but its positive effects minimized.
  • In Fall: Think In Detriment only worse.
Just as there is an imbalance from the presence of the Cardinal quality, I have always felt that this list is a bit skewed toward the negative since being "Ruled" by both positive and negative qualities doesn't exactly counterbalance the double-whammy of having a sign in Fall. A serious Astrologer will coolly explain how this is counterbalanced in other ways, though, too Deep to get into here.

To summarize these relationships,

  +---------+----------------+-----------+-------------+-----------+
  | Planet  |     Rules      |  Exalted  |  Detriment  |   Fall    |
  +---------+----------------+-----------+-------------+-----------+
  | Sun     | Leo            | Aries     | Aquarius    | Libra     |
  +---------+----------------+-----------+-------------+-----------+
  | Moon    | Cancer         | Taurus    | Capricorn   | Scorpio   |
  +---------+----------------+-----------+-------------+-----------+
  | Mercury | Gemini         | Virgo     | Sagittarius | Pisces    |
  |         | and Virgo      |           |             |           |
  +---------+----------------+-----------+-------------+-----------+
  | Venus   | Taurus         | Pisces    | Aries       | Virgo     |
  |         | and Libra      |           |             |           |
  +---------+----------------+-----------+-------------+-----------+
  | Mars    | Aries and      | Capricorn | Libra       | Cancer    |
  |         | Scorpio *      |           |             |           |
  +---------+----------------+-----------+-------------+-----------+
  | Jupiter | Sagittarius    | Cancer    | Gemini      | Capricorn |
  |         | and Pisces *   |           |             |           |
  +---------+----------------+-----------+-------------+-----------+
  | Saturn  | Capricorn      | Libra     | Cancer      | Aries     |
  |         | and Aquarius * |           |             |           |
  +---------+----------------+-----------+-------------+-----------+
  | Uranus  | Aquarius *     | Scorpio   | Leo         | Taurus    |
  +---------+----------------+-----------+-------------+-----------+
  | Neptune | Pisces *       | Leo       | Virgo       | Aquarius  |
  +---------+----------------+-----------+-------------+-----------+
  | Pluto   | Scorpio *      | Taurus    | **          | **        |
  +---------+----------------+-----------+-------------+-----------+

  *  As new planets are discovered, shared ruled signs are split off
     as seems appropriate, after much studying of charts

  ** Detriment and Fall signs for Pluto are not yet determined

The modern planets move so slowly that their effects do not change much over time, and they are regarded as affecting whole populations; thus, they are considered "generational" planets. But their influences in the houses (see below) can be quite individually specific.

Each combination of Planet and Sign indicates a trend, some more influential than others. Sun sign influences are well known but there are a swarm of others. It's typical, especially in a computer horoscope, for each relationship to be illustrated by a pithy paragraph like this:

MOON in PISCES: The subject is highly receptive. Often kind, amicable, and gentle. Under affliction he may be lazy, gullible, restless, and impractical, with a strong tendency to change his mind; decision-making can prove a source of conflict. The imaginative powers are well developed and often there is artistic ability, though this may lack coherent expression. There is a tendency (which should be recognized and resisted) to be too easily discouraged. This placing heightens the emotions. Self-indulgence.
A very experienced Astrologer would not start from a mnemonic like this, but would work it out from the inherent qualities of the Sign and Planet. This is much more helpful when these pithy descriptions seem to contradict since one can use elements that are reinforced while ignoring the ones that aren't to build up a coherent picture.

The Moon is unique in that it moves quickly enough across the heavens that an unknown birth time can make even its Sign uncertain. This is especially problematic for those whose exact birth times are unknown because it is also considered to be the second-most influential Planet after the Sun.

The Houses

Just as each Planet is in a Sign at any given time, from a particular point on Earth it is also in one of twelve Houses. The House in which a Planet is found indicates which sphere of life it is influencing most directly. Unlike the Sign, Houses shift constantly as the Earth rotates and are different for different parts of the world. Knowing an exact time is critical for using Houses in a Horary chart.

  +----------+----------------------------------------------+
  |  House   |  Area of Life                                |
  +----------+----------------------------------------------+
  | First    | Personality, Disposition, Health, Appearance |
  +----------+----------------------------------------------+
  | Second   | Possessions, Wealth, Resources               |
  +----------+----------------------------------------------+
  | Third    | Family ties, Siblings                        |
  +----------+----------------------------------------------+
  | Fourth   | Birth, Death, Home, Parents                  |
  +----------+----------------------------------------------+
  | Fifth    | Creativity, Children, Hobbies, Holidays      |
  +----------+----------------------------------------------+
  | Sixth    | Work, Bosses, Employees                      |
  +----------+----------------------------------------------+
  | Seventh  | Close Emotional and Business Relationships   |
  +----------+----------------------------------------------+
  | Eighth   | Money, Inheritance, Investments, Crime       |
  +----------+----------------------------------------------+
  | Ninth    | Education, Travel, Foreigners, Dreams        |
  +----------+----------------------------------------------+
  | Tenth    | Aspirations, Ambitions, Public Standing      |
  +----------+----------------------------------------------+
  | Eleventh | Friends, Clubs, Social Networks              |
  +----------+----------------------------------------------+
  | Twelfth  | Seclusion, Self-Sacrifice, Escapism          |
  +----------+----------------------------------------------+

If Signs determine your Astrological "genotype," Houses indicate how your "phenotype" will develop -- your relationship to family, life, possessions, and acquaintances. As with the Signs, each combination of Planet and House elicits a pithy comment from a handbook or software package:

MERCURY 4th House: Your mind tends to settle on issues of security -- home, family, etc. Your thoughts have great substance and feeling. An interest in history, the past, and nostalgia may be lifelong.
Aspects

In addition to Houses and Signs, Planets and a few artificial constructions can have relationships with one another by being conjunct (aligned together), opposed, or forming an angle which exactly subdivides the circle such as 90 degrees (square), 120 degrees (trine), 60 degrees (sextile), etc. Your handbook or program will divulge more pithy paragraphs describing each of these relationships which are found:

MOON Conjunct VENUS: Venusian traits being emphasized, there is a love of art and luxury. Emotions are calm and the outlook tranquil. On the whole this conjunction seems more favorable for men than for women, especially in family life. Natural friendliness leads to popularity, which is eagerly sought, but too much self-love can occur. Excellent aspect for statesmen.
Aspects are always more important the closer they are to being exact in terms of angular measure; the error term is as important as the aspect itself. Generally speaking, as aspect angles get smaller aspects tend to make more specific statements, but also carry less weight. A narrow aspect such as a sextile will usually only be considered if the alignment is very exact or if it illuminates some area that the rest of the horoscope is silent on.

The Ascendant

There is one pure non-Planetary relationship between the Zodiac and Houses; the Zodiacal sign which is on the eastern horizon is the Ascendant or Rising Sign. Most astrologers seem to consider the Ascendant less important than the Sun and Moon signs, but more important than the other Planetary signs and aspects. Like a Planet in its ruling House, an Ascendant backed up by other factors can overrule the more obvious influences of Sun and Moon signs.

I have been told that in Eastern Astrological systems, this relationship is reversed and it is the Ascendant which is considered the most important astrological datum. Unfortunately, exact timing is necessary to establish the Ascendant just as it is for the Houses, so such a system would favor people whose parents have good clocks.

Cruft

There are also some artificial constructs that don't involve directly visible things in the sky which can play the part of planets such as the Midheaven and Part of Fortune, lesser aspects such as quincunx, and if you're really a masochist asteroids. The really fanatical astrologers put a lot of energy into finding new relationships and proving their significance by establishing their consistency in the horoscopes of people whose personalities and fates are publically known.

Reading a Chart

By far the most common reason to draw a Horary Chart is to plot someone's destiny from their time and place of birth. Other moments can be and are plotted, though, such as births of nations, founding moments of business enterprises, battles, and attacks like Pearl Harbor and 9/11. There are also techniques for combining charts, for example to determine how well a couple will get along or whether a moment is auspicious for a particular action to be taken.

A typical chart will generate thirty or more pithy comments which may either reinforce or contradict one another. This is where the "art" of Astrology comes in, and why it is often possible for technically competent Astrologers to differ widely in their readings of the same chart.

The amateur Astrologer will take the pithy comments from the software program or guide book and mentally try to average them out, weighting them according to the prominence of the planetary relationships they represent and cancelling out the things that contradict. A problem arises here because many Astrological sources gild the lilies that pop up frequently in interpretation. The popular computer programs that produce automated analyses are famous for this. Many of the planet-house relationships are considered warnings of very specific health and psychological problems; if a guide never coughs up anything more than vaguely negative, it should be considered suspect.

The more experienced astrologer will go back to basics. He will learn the craft by studying the underlying principles and the pithy statements in the guidebook, learning how those statements are derived from the underlying principles. When reading a chart, instead of taking the pithy statements as a starting point he will form weightings based on the qualities, elements, planetary characteristics, the areas of life and of the body represented by the Houses and so on and re-combine them to form his own impression of the kind of person your chart says you are and what your destiny is.

Many fortune-teller level astrologers will also use other divination techniques or intuition to inform their reading, but the real Astrology wonks who spend months casting charts to figure out what a newly-discovered asteroid is doing consider this a questionable and amateurish crutch. Indeed, this is among the established methods for dealing with a poorly known birth time. Although they are uncommon I have met Astrologers who prefer to do interpretations before knowing anything about you other than your birth data partly because they like to check their results against reality. Although it chafes a lot of scientists, serious Astrologers consider themselves scientists and in my experience, however deluded they might be about their data sources, they often act more like real scientists than most real scientists do.

What Can Astrology Say?

Most divination systems are structured so that no matter what random inputs are used to generate an output, that output can be interpreted sensibly. Astrology is no different; if you pick a time and place by throwing darts at a calendar and map, the chart you draw will tell a reasonably sensible story about what might happen at that point.

Although the Astrological method isn't random, the input can be considered random in that the time, date, and location of what is being charted are not consciously chosen. The chart-drawing and interpretation process functions a bit like a cryptographic hash to convert the orderly motion of the planets into a chaotic jumble of mixed influences on the ground.

The Horary chart reveals far more and more detailed nuggets of information than most divination systems. It is common for horoscopes to contain specific warnings about things like heart or colon disease or sexual paraphilias. They tend to paint very specific character portraits that are not at all vague, and which from an honest Astrologer using honest tools are not always flattering.

This does not mean, of course, that if you choose to have your horoscope done you'll get such a brutal and honest appraisal. Most fortune-teller level astrologers will gild those lilies in the chart themselves if their tools don't do it for them, and will use their intuition and possibly other techniques to over-interpret better meaning into a boring, uncomplimentary, or otherwise unsatisfactory chart. It's almost unheard-of for an honestly interpreted chart to contain no criticisms or warnings, so if you get a reading that's unrelentingly positive it's a red flag for seeking a second opinion.

Another problem is that, getting back to the matter of how Astrology works, it may imply the existence of Actors who are destined to guide the trends which must be adjusted to reflect the fixed map in the sky. These, presumably, will be the people with "interesting" charts featuring lots of planets grouped together or in ruling signs and other unusual highly influential features. Just as most people do not have a Stellium in Aquarius, most people end up being bit players in the grand drama of life. It is entirely natural for Astrologers to conclude that those people with interesting chart features are meant to be the stars of the show.

Although most Astrologers do claim you have the free will to reject your star-written destiny, the whole enterprise still implies that at the very least the range of roles you can expect to play in life is predetermined by your Astrological heritage. Most Astrologers have New-Age sensibilities and are politically liberal, and about the most potent criticism you can aim at them is to call them elitist because their craft implies that destiny is more important than free will.

I tend to feel it is unproductive whether you believe or disbelieve to ask whether Astrology can be "proven." Given that supernatural direction is necessary to make Astrology "work" at all, one has to assume that if such forces want the world to appear to be deterministically neutral, that they can hide their activities when the cameras are around. This makes their detection more than just a bit of a problem; if you do catch them slipping up, you will be ridiculed by the "real" scientists as a whacko and crackpot and dupe for presenting whatever meagre evidence you are able to acquire.

If you believe in Astrology, I do think you should understand the philosophical ramifications. And if you don't, I think you should understand the amount of observation and sheer hard work that have gone into building the system and making it so very aesthetic and consistent. And whether you do or don't, watch out for Jupiter in the sixth House, it sucks.

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Poll
Astrology:
o Rules 1%
o Unlikely 11%
o Stupid 54%
o Need More Evidence 3%
o ESP yes, Astrology no 1%
o Astrology yes, all that other New Age crap no 0%
o Verily, my coming was foretold in the stars 27%

Votes: 59
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A Brief Introduction to Horary Astrology | 120 comments (101 topical, 19 editorial, 0 hidden)
Wow (none / 0) (#2)
by dhall on Sat Jul 02, 2005 at 08:54:24 PM EST

I never suspected you were into stuff like this.

Anyway, your reluctance to look for proof means you're afraid of finding out that you're wrong.

I recommend the following:

  1. Get a computer to draw up charts for your entire life so far.
  2. Prevent yourself from seeing the actual dates on the charts - only look at the contents. Program the computer to hand the charts to you in random order.
  3. Interpret the contents of the charts, and make specific event predictions. Don't try to infer the associated date.
  4. Now, compile a list of interesting events that did happen in your life, and their times. Restric yourself to events that happened before you got interested in astrology.
  5. Finally, allow yourself to look at the dates on your predictions, and compare to your list of real events. You are not permitted to modify anything once you get to this step.


Why and How (3.00 / 4) (#4)
by localroger on Sat Jul 02, 2005 at 09:06:13 PM EST

Why -- I wrote this basically to defend the honor of a few acquaintances whose dedication impressed me. I was tired of seeing "debunking" of Astrology which was not just overenthusiastic but completely ignorant of what Astrologers do.

How -- well, how? You can't draw "charts for your life so far." You can draw a chart for your life, and you can draw charts comparing specific life events with other charts representing other people (like a spouse) or life events. A computer can't pick those moments or do the interpretations.

I guess in my zeal to keep it light and breezy so as not to bog down nonbelievers I didn't really emphasize the kind of information a chart gives. It describes influences. One thing that has come true with unfortunate verisimilitude is the adverse health prediction of Jupiter in the sixth house, which did not seem likely at all when I was hanging out with the astrologers. But then, that's just an anecdote, like all data favorable to anything metaphysical.

Although I am agnostic on most things metaphysical I consider Astrology to be at the far end of what is believable without giving up and chucking Science into the trash heap. And I have by no means done that. I am not at all a "believer" in Astrology myself, I could not cast a chart or interpret one myself if my life depended on it, and I'm not convinced enough that it is useful to be bothered to learn. But I thought a few of the nuts and bolts might be of interest.

I am become Death, Destroyer of Worlds -- J. Robert Oppenheimer
[ Parent ]

At the risk of looking like the k5 archivist (none / 1) (#6)
by Scrymarch on Sat Jul 02, 2005 at 09:15:27 PM EST

... a decent backgrounder for localroger's view is Is the Universe Really Consistent from a few years back.

[ Parent ]
/me kicks foot mumbling thanks, and a note (3.00 / 2) (#8)
by localroger on Sat Jul 02, 2005 at 09:26:02 PM EST

The phenomena I wrote about in that article were fundamentally different from Astrology. Despite the knock-down-drag-out that went on in the comments about whether it was a bunch of crap or not, the thing is you can believe in Tarot readings and still have a hard time swallowing Astrology because of the implications for determinism that I've mentioned here.

It is true I hung out for awhile with some people who would probably be considered *WHACKED OUT FREAKS* by the typical K5'er. OTOH most of those people had girlfriends, so... /chuckle.

Anyway, that previous article is relevant, so thanks for bringing it up.

I am become Death, Destroyer of Worlds -- J. Robert Oppenheimer
[ Parent ]

there's your answer (none / 1) (#64)
by trane on Sun Jul 03, 2005 at 08:13:12 PM EST

girls rot the brain.

[ Parent ]
can you clarify.. (3.00 / 2) (#21)
by vhold on Sun Jul 03, 2005 at 02:57:19 AM EST

.. what it is that he might be wrong about?  Are you assuming he agrees or disagrees with astrology?  Or something else entirely?

I think the early tone of his article is that he disagrees with astrology, but he does a fairly decent job of staying mostly objective.  

I can't entirely tell from your post what it is you think he is afraid of finding out is wrong.  I'd assume from your statement of "I never suspected you were into stuff like this." that you somehow came to the conclusion he agrees with astrology, which honestly to me makes no sense given all the things he said early on that are geared towards facilitating attacks on astrology...  

So... I have to give you the benefit of the doubt.. what exactly are you saying here?

[ Parent ]

sorry (3.00 / 2) (#35)
by dhall on Sun Jul 03, 2005 at 12:44:57 PM EST

I must have just skimmed to the parts where he's defending astrology.

[ Parent ]
Astrology is still easy to debunk. (2.66 / 6) (#12)
by Surial on Sat Jul 02, 2005 at 10:31:38 PM EST

Even if one takes 'As Above, So Below' for granted, I can still debunk astrology. There are no checks and balances. It's all based on the very very old and archaic notion that in the past, people knew MORE than now and that knowledge is always getting lost.

As in: There's all these charts declaring what it all means, and there are no experiments going on to actively determine the correctness of all the charts, the meaning, etcetera, etcetera.

In other words, you can't just say: Astrology is a science that has a bit of an exotic axiom (As Above, So Below, with all the repercussions of that), but other than asking of you to take this axiom on faith, the rest works out to a Tee.

Because that just isn't true. Any attempt to test astrology in a statistically significant test tends to be met by astrologers by SEVERE anxiety, usually with ample shrieks of "unbeliever!" and "'astrology's many millenia old! Who are YOU to doubt this knowledge of auld?"

The admittedly very weak testing I've done on my own didn't work, at all. I won't say that this is 'proof' that astrology doesn't work per say, I do not consider myself studied enough in astrology to declare it so, but I'm much more concerned about the complete lack of testing; this isn't science, or anything verifiable. Calling 'As Above, So Below' an axiom tries to hide that fact, I think, so I'd consider that misleading.

The only light on the horizon insofar as there even is one, is the notion that newly discovered planets are causing shifts in the charts. Apparently someone is willing to concede that we now know more about heavenly bodies than we did in the past, and hence, that the charts handed down from generation to generation aren't inherently correct just by virtue of being old. It's unfortunate that principle isn't being extended to a large-scale check.
--
"is a signature" is a signature.

How an Astrologer might respond (3.00 / 3) (#27)
by localroger on Sun Jul 03, 2005 at 08:17:59 AM EST

The only light on the horizon insofar as there even is one, is the notion that newly discovered planets are causing shifts in the charts. Apparently someone is willing to concede that we now know more about heavenly bodies than we did in the past, and hence, that the charts handed down from generation to generation aren't inherently correct just by virtue of being old.

Exactly! However rich Astrological lore is, Astrologers do understand that events in the heavens are what it's all about, and nowadays we have fantastic tools for tracking those events.

But how often, exactly, do you as a scientist bother to prove to yourself that, say, the heat of evaporation of water is what it says in the Handbook of Chemistry and Physics? Have you measured the half-life of Strontium 90 for yourself? Have you personally performed the rather unbelievable single-photon double-slit diffraction experiment? No? And when people tell you the photon seems to go through both slits at the same time you actually believe that crap?

You see, you are holding the Astrologer to a much different standard than the Scientist. Like the Scientist, the Astrologer inherits a rich and complicated body of lore which must be learned before he can do useful work; when he uses that lore as directed, if he gets results in accordance with what he's been taught, why exactly should he set out to prove, from his perspective, that basic data like the freezing point of water or the hardness of sapphire are really what the handbook says?

Now, stepping out of my Astrologer costume, I'll say that however much math may be involved in casting a chart, interpretation is still a entirely a matter of art and anecdote. However, this was also mostly true of Science itself until roughly the 19th century.

And this is why statistical studies wouldn't be meaningful; you can't quantify the final step of interpretation. You could always claim that it is biased or incorrect. However, an Astrologer might add that while Alfred Wegener was wrong about how the continents move around, he was right and everyone else was wrong about the plain fact that they do move around, and for Scientific purposes Astrology might simply still be at that point.

I am become Death, Destroyer of Worlds -- J. Robert Oppenheimer
[ Parent ]

Most of those, yes. (3.00 / 3) (#29)
by Surial on Sun Jul 03, 2005 at 09:11:06 AM EST

the heat of evaporation of water is what it says in the Handbook of Chemistry and Physics?
Done that.
Have you measured the half-life of Strontium 90 for yourself?
Got me there.
single photon double slit
Yes, I did. Yes, it was hard to believe.
My physics teacher decided that the best way to teach physics was simply to spend three quarters of class time doing physics experiments. First we build a crude chart of ie the relation between temperature and pressure, and then it would be our job to start predicting numbers. Only after all that do we get the full chart. and the theory behind it.

There's no list of repeatable experiments for Astrology. Hence, it isn't science, and any attempts to categorize and defend it as being such is wrong.

Astrology might still be true at this point, but I don't see why the enlightened principles of science couldn't be applied to it. Isn't there -anyone- out there passionate about both science and astrology who tried to set up a bunch of proper experiments? I'd like to think there must have been some. The fact that none of these experiments are easy to find online strongly suggests to me they didn't find any conclusive evidence in favour of astrology.
--
"is a signature" is a signature.

[ Parent ]

Huh? (3.00 / 3) (#33)
by NoMoreNicksLeft on Sun Jul 03, 2005 at 11:54:52 AM EST

If astrological procedure doesn't produce any data itself at the end of whatever it is you do, what good is it? I mean, really. If I put 10,000 scrabble tiles in a bucket, dump it out, expecting it to spell out the future for me, as dumb as that sounds, at least it is somehow verifiable. It will almost certainly spell out gibberish, which can be dismissed, with a slight chance of something that is undeniably human readable laying there on the floor. If that happens, the human readable text will either make grammatic sense or not, with an even smaller chance of it having some semantic sense. Finally, if that is the case, there is a (forgive the pun) astronomically small chance that maybe this "message" will have some relevance.

Even so, there really isn't any interpretation going on here. Either it happens, or it does not. You're telling me that astrology uses tea leaves though, and any message still comes out of the head of the person dumping them out... that just sounds so stupid. What good are the charts themselves? How do we know that they're important for the final result?

Even if the astrologer is unerringly, spookily right every single time, the charts may only be some sort of comfort item that helps them focus psychic powers.

--
Do not look directly into laser with remaining good eye.
[ Parent ]

Some admittedly good points (none / 1) (#46)
by localroger on Sun Jul 03, 2005 at 03:07:39 PM EST

If astrological procedure doesn't produce any data itself at the end of whatever it is you do, what good is it?

What good is a parable? What good is a novel? What good is a simile? None of these produce checkable results but we consider them all useful.

When you get to issues like falsifiability, the Deep astrologers will tell you that of course the system is falsifiable, since you can do readings and then check to see if the picture that forms describes the person sitting in front of you and what actually happens to them. Astrologers also cast charts for famous people all the time both to check their methods and to see how newly discovered influences might apply.

However, the gap between Astrology and real science is that the interpretation of the chart isn't and can't be quantitative. It can't be automated. Thus, it is prone to the criticisms you levy; how is the chart any better than a Tarot reading? Personally, I think they're about the same, but most Astrologers definitly don't agree with me.

I am become Death, Destroyer of Worlds -- J. Robert Oppenheimer
[ Parent ]

It's worse than that though. (3.00 / 2) (#47)
by NoMoreNicksLeft on Sun Jul 03, 2005 at 03:47:27 PM EST

Most people wouldn't even be having this discussion, period, if they didn't stop once in awhile and think, hey, there's more to this than meets the eye, even an eye prone to scientific method.

We've all wondered if there may be something weird going on, I think.

But if you told me that there were spirits that aren't easily (or even at all) detectable that were influencing things on this planet, it's plausible in some small way. But the relative positions of an astronomical body? That's beyond infantile... it is the echo of when humanity once thought them gods. They aren't, this is one thing we can be sure of, if anything.

Tell me, do any of the asteroids even get mention in this? There are a few out there miles in diamater, which would be tiny little planetoids in their own right. Maybe they're the ones making horoscopes so unreliable, the astrologers don't bother figuring out where they are, and it nudges everything just off of accuracy a bit? Or maybe their influence isn't proportional to their size at all, maybe a chunk of rock between Mars and Jupiter only a few feet wide can be just as influential as Mars itself? Who knows, but don't they even ask these questions? It's all so fucking arbitrary, that's what gets me. Trillions of astronomical bodies in our own galaxy alone, and they've picked several dozen that decide it all.

What in the hell happens if we build a Mars base, and people end up living on it? Mars won't be in the sky at all for them, how in the fuck does that figure into things?

--
Do not look directly into laser with remaining good eye.
[ Parent ]

FWIW I mostly agree (2.50 / 2) (#50)
by localroger on Sun Jul 03, 2005 at 04:00:40 PM EST

As I said in at least two comments so far, I consider Astrology to be at the very far end of what is potentially credible about this kind of thing. The purpose of the article was to provide an overview so those who want to criticize it won't make perfect asses of themselves while doing so.

As for asteroids, some astrologers do indeed use the larger ones in charts. I think they decided based on sheer numbers and swarminess that dinkier rocks weren't doing anything they considered useful.

They also tend to pay attention to anything unusual. Before I drifted away from that crowd there was a buzz about what we now call Oort cloud objects, a few of which had been detected.

As for Martians, they'll have another planet we don't have in our sky -- Earth, which will be an inner planet, tending to group with Venus, Mercury, and the Sun. They will also have two fast-moving small moons. I'm sure many hundreds of hours will be spent comparing Martian charts of people whose personalities and fates are known in order to determine what kind of effects they're having. That is exactly the kind of thing these people love to occupy themselves with, and even if it's mental masturbation at least it's not watching TV.

I am become Death, Destroyer of Worlds -- J. Robert Oppenheimer
[ Parent ]

TV is far less likely (none / 1) (#86)
by destroy all monsters on Tue Jul 05, 2005 at 07:23:41 AM EST

to turn one into a fanatic. Given the propensity of folks to turn to whatever fiction they need to to cling to some kind of sanity - I'd much rather have them watching Aqua Teen Hunger Force (or even some pap on a major network) than telling me that some patently outrageous theory is somehow true.

"My opinion: You're gay, a troll, a gay troll, or in serious need of antidepressants." - horny smurf to Lemon Juice
[ Parent ]
Not quantitative ? (none / 0) (#92)
by bugmaster on Tue Jul 05, 2005 at 09:46:30 AM EST

However, the gap between Astrology and real science is that the interpretation of the chart isn't and can't be quantitative.
Then astrology is not a science. Quantitativeness (is that a word ?) is the cornerstone of science -- not because it allows anything to be automated, but because it allows the scientists to eliminate (or, at least, greatly reduce) subjective bias.
>|<*:=
[ Parent ]
Magic, Alchemy, Astrology (3.00 / 8) (#14)
by forgotten on Sat Jul 02, 2005 at 11:07:21 PM EST

A lot us would have been doing this stuff had we been born five hundred years ago (or more). That's not to say believing it now is in any way justified; but you are just kidding yourself if you think that the roots of the scientific method are in Greek philosophy. It all became an embarassment during the 19th century, so you hardly ever hear about it now.

Roger Bacon, Isaac Newton, Tyco Brahe, all spent much (or most) of their time doing this kind of thing. It's worth looking at if you are interested in history. Astrology is pretty tedious, but some alchemy and magic was amazingly inventive and creative. They were scientists; they just didnt have the framework we are so lucky to have available now. I'm not saying that current astrologers are credible, but those of the past included the greatest thinkers of the times, and shouldn't be dismissed outright because they lacked what we know take for granted.

As for the question, why didnt they realize that it clearly didnt work: there are two answers. One, they were smart enough not to always trust their senses. They had no measuring equipment, no statistics, repetition, or even a clear idea of why those things might be helpful. Debunking theories is not easy, especially when you are getting partial results at times, too. Two, ask any high school chemisty or physics student what they do when their experiment appears to fail: they rationalize it. If your current theory offers an explanation for why something failed, why look elsewhere?

--

Can't agree enough. (none / 1) (#18)
by vhold on Sun Jul 03, 2005 at 02:34:56 AM EST

A major theme I've seen amongst prideful intellectuals is that they seem to think that their own superiority through knowledge is somehow their own doing, when in reality they are just blessed with what has come before them.

My dad, who was not the most intellectual guy (high school drop out crane operator at the time), did occasionally say some insightful stuff.  When I was around 9 and reading the newspaper, I asked him if horoscopes were true and he more or less said "Well, some people believe it so much that they make it true."

[ Parent ]

Interesting synchronicity (3.00 / 2) (#31)
by localroger on Sun Jul 03, 2005 at 10:48:03 AM EST

Via teh othar site, there is a current article on the discovery of some of Isaac Newton's papers, which reveal his fascination with alchemy.

Just as there are modern people who still practice Astrology, there are modern people who still practice Alchemy. They claim that the ultimate goal of the Alchemist was not really to create gold, but actually the purification of spirit and soul. This was the real purpose of the Philosopher's Stone. It was only as a side effect believed that such a thing would also purify matter, for example by converting dross to precious metal. These guys are much less numerous than Astrologers, though; you find their writings in the New Age bookstore under the heading "High Magick."

I am become Death, Destroyer of Worlds -- J. Robert Oppenheimer
[ Parent ]

yes (3.00 / 2) (#69)
by forgotten on Sun Jul 03, 2005 at 10:17:55 PM EST

In fact reading that paper, the Royal Society is still pretty coy about admitting Newton's interest in pre-science topics. I've been told by people who study the history of science that if Newton's complete works were published as a 20 volume encycolpedia, about 1 volume would be math and physics. the rest is alchemy, bible study, astrology...

Still, whilst Newton's work is of historical interest, I plan on maintaining my prejudices against the modern day practicioner of alchemy.

--

[ Parent ]

One way of thinking about this... (3.00 / 5) (#82)
by gidds on Mon Jul 04, 2005 at 03:40:01 PM EST

...is to see Newton and his ilk as people who were supremely good at pattern matching. Spotting relationships and discovering connections. It's what our brains are wired up to do, in fact.

Sometimes, he found patterns which reflect the underlying nature of the universe -- viz. gravity, light, and all the wonders we attribute to him today. And sometimes, he constructed patterns from nothing more than abstract creations like numbers -- viz. fluxions (sorry, calculus). But other times, he found patterns in ancient texts, in chemical processes, people's behaviour, &c; patterns which today most of us would consider to be the results only of coincidence and random chance, experimental error, and/or self-delusion.

To us now, there seems to be a huge gulf separating the two types of results. But then, our whole understanding of the universe is based upon his work and the work of those who came after him -- it's impossible for us to put ourselves in his position, for unlearn all that we've learned, to forget the mechanisms and principles underlying his results that we've discovered in the years since.

It's also hard for people to accept complex situations. We like nice simple labels -- Newton was either a hero or a villain, a great scientist or a crackpot, methodical thinker or a chaser after phantoms. But Real Life(tm) is complex; Newton was a complex character, who combined great creativity with childish arrogance, insight with self-delusion, method with temper, and eccentricity with responsibility. He may have died a crotchety old virgin, but he's remembered as one of the founders of modern mathematics and physics -- and both pictures are true. Certainly we should view alchemy and astrolgy in the light of what we know now; but I think we must try to see his work as a product of its time, and not blame him too harshly for it. He was just trying to see patterns; isn't that what we all do?


Andy/
[ Parent ]

Furthermore (none / 1) (#75)
by Scrymarch on Mon Jul 04, 2005 at 06:02:37 AM EST

Magical thinking comes naturally to people, as the mind is very good at seeing patterns.  Alchemy and the rest of it is a case of systematicity without falsifiability, and it still requires hard thought and scholarship.  Science is harder than alchemy mainly for psychological reasons - the way new experimental evidence slaps your pet theory down.

My anecdotal experience is that constructing theories that are essentially magical is an occupational hazard of thinking professionals.  If you know in outline what full-grown, sophisticated magical system of thoughts look like, you'll be better able to spot when you grow one yourself, and, with a sigh, euthanase it.

[ Parent ]

exactly (none / 0) (#79)
by forgotten on Mon Jul 04, 2005 at 09:42:24 AM EST

when i attended some lectures on this subject at university, the lecturer made both those same points.

--

[ Parent ]

Interesting. (none / 1) (#20)
by jd on Sun Jul 03, 2005 at 02:56:27 AM EST

I've looked at astrology briefly. Even though I don't agree with it in general, I can agree with the hypothesis that certain large-scale phenomena can be approximated as a composite of cyclic events (essentially a variant of fourier synthesis) and therefore can be timed, with limited predictions being achievable, using any other set of cyclic events with the same cyclic periods as each component in the original. That is not "astrology" in the classic sense, but it could be construed as a derivative of the idea.

From my limited understanding of astrology, charts are usually drawn up with a series of harmonics. However, not everyone agrees with the number of harmonics that are important, or indeed what those harmonics actually mean. On discussing this with an astrologer, they said that they went to the fifth or sixth harmonic, usually, but that you could get some useful information above that.

This, then, is my personal suspicion towards astrology - there is too little agreement amongst those who practice it. Were it truly objective, it should be quantifiable - most objective things are. The subjective things are the things that are least quantifiable, but are also the least "real" in any kind of external sense - though they can be perfectly "real" within a person.

(If I like brand XYZ of soda, then that is subjective - it is not a universal truth - but it is still real to me.)

"proper astrology" lol [nt] (1.50 / 2) (#23)
by warrax on Sun Jul 03, 2005 at 05:00:21 AM EST



-- "Guns don't kill people. I kill people."
Astrology is... (none / 1) (#24)
by Xanthipe on Sun Jul 03, 2005 at 06:50:14 AM EST

...trying to predict the future by looking at the ghosts of dead stars. Nevertheless, a well-written article (despite the digs at real scientists). Any plans to do similar ones for things such as the Tarot?

--

The best answer I can give to the question of whether I am alive or dead is "Yes"...


I'll see how this one is received (none / 1) (#26)
by localroger on Sun Jul 03, 2005 at 08:00:13 AM EST

I think a tour of the Tarot or I Ching might be appropriate for a similar article, but I'll have to see if all the fundie materialist naysayers can look past what they consider the bullshit to see the aesthetics.

I am become Death, Destroyer of Worlds -- J. Robert Oppenheimer
[ Parent ]
Feng Shui ! (none / 1) (#90)
by bugmaster on Tue Jul 05, 2005 at 09:16:51 AM EST

And I mean, the hardcore geomantic stuff, not just moving chairs around. If you write an article about that, I'd totally vote it up.
>|<*:=
[ Parent ]
Hardly. (2.50 / 2) (#32)
by NoMoreNicksLeft on Sun Jul 03, 2005 at 11:40:33 AM EST

If astrology was determined by the actual positions of astronomical bodies, instead of where their several years old light was showing in the sky, it would mean that the astrology fairies had a faster than light influence. Virgo rising over mercury pretty much proves general relativity correct though, so we know that isn't possible. Neither gravitons nor astrology fairies travel faster than light. Duh.

--
Do not look directly into laser with remaining good eye.
[ Parent ]
Might not actually matter... (none / 0) (#34)
by gordonjcp on Sun Jul 03, 2005 at 12:05:30 PM EST

Does it really matter that the stars are now in a different physical position? Not really, and I'll tell you why: they still *represent* a physical position.

Think about it - imagine the old-fashioned cork-on-a-wire level gauges on water tanks, and vintage aeroplane fuel tanks and the like. The top of the wire isn't *actually* where the water (or petrol) level is, but we know from its position relative to the top of the filler cap how much is in there.

Give a man a fish, and he'll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he'll bore you rigid with fishing stories for the rest of your life.


[ Parent ]
It does matter... (3.00 / 2) (#39)
by NoMoreNicksLeft on Sun Jul 03, 2005 at 01:07:09 PM EST

The Paklaktaklak Empire has been using graviscalar fountains to accelerate several stars to within 92% of light speed on a variety of trajectories here lately, quite a few of which are within a 20 LY radius of our system. Over the next few years, expect some of the more popular stars to simply wink out suddenly, never to be seen again, to the great consternation of orthodox cosmologists everywhere.

--
Do not look directly into laser with remaining good eye.
[ Parent ]
Awww damn... (none / 0) (#44)
by gordonjcp on Sun Jul 03, 2005 at 02:30:21 PM EST

See, there's always something you forget about.

Give a man a fish, and he'll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he'll bore you rigid with fishing stories for the rest of your life.


[ Parent ]
Haha is because I made fun of astrology? (1.00 / 2) (#36)
by 1318 on Sun Jul 03, 2005 at 12:48:15 PM EST

Reagan was into astrology, so like it must have some merit right?

How about the simple idea that if anything could allow you to predict almost anything with even modest certainty you'd be super rich. Why don't we hear about race horse jockeys getting their horoscopes done? If we knew they'd be likely to win big we could simply bet on the horoscopically selected jockey and "hit it big".

Or what about the lonely sad fortune teller willing to cast your 'scope. I always think "If she had the gift she'd've known that this street corner was going to suck."

It is amazing to see and hear people extolling the virtues of a predictive system that has consistently been unable to predict anything.

But then, you knew I was going to say this right?

"So then, why don't you die?"-Antisthenes

Next time read the article /nt (none / 1) (#42)
by localroger on Sun Jul 03, 2005 at 01:40:31 PM EST



I am become Death, Destroyer of Worlds -- J. Robert Oppenheimer
[ Parent ]
au contrair - read this (none / 0) (#59)
by 1318 on Sun Jul 03, 2005 at 06:50:20 PM EST

http://www.kuro5hin.org/comments/2005/6/26/152533/500?pid=36#40

"So then, why don't you die?"-Antisthenes
[ Parent ]

And your point is? (2.50 / 2) (#60)
by localroger on Sun Jul 03, 2005 at 07:01:26 PM EST

It's not that you made fun of Astrology. It's that you made an ignorant claim about how Astrology works. And you seem to have this happy go lucky "can't be bothered with what people really said" attitude toward my current article, too. But then you have lots of company, so I guess it's OK.

I am become Death, Destroyer of Worlds -- J. Robert Oppenheimer
[ Parent ]
It is a classic ploy (2.66 / 3) (#68)
by 1318 on Sun Jul 03, 2005 at 09:51:10 PM EST

For those who want to advance some objectionable position that instead of demanding people accept it - which they won't - they demand that people at least "understand it the way it really is" instead of their preconception.

The implication being that to really understand it is to agree with it and that not agreeing with it is not based on its falseness but merely on misunderstanding.

Astrology, like many false doctrines, is complex. For example, look at MindPixel's cognitive/neuro-blather - it's not simple stuff. However, astrology - like cognitive psychology- don't need to be evaluated by engaging in an amazingly in-depth understanding of every little particle of wisdom professed in it.

Rather than even looking at "what astrology says" I find it more entertaining to look at who (professional) astrologers are and what they do.

I have a friend who owns an apartment building in which one tenant is an astrologer (with a big neon sign in the window and everything). I asked him how she was as a tenant and he said she was always paying late - like one month behind all the time.

I mean couldn't she see that business was going to suck with her horoscope on her own self?

But Astrology is just the flavor of the huxterism involved. It could be three-card monty, a dot-com get rich quick scheme or some other form of fakery and fraud. Yes, the amazingly complex system of astrological divination is lost on me and I don't feel I'd be the less for never understanding it. But then again the subtle nuances of a ponzi scheme and a street 3 card monty game are also not in my realm of understanding. It doesn't mean that I can't decide that they are bad news and based on fraud.

Here is how the 'cold reading' is done.

http://www.kuro5hin.org/story/2005/7/3/19575/58909

It has been my experience that the defenders of astrology are usually professional astrologers themselves. Are you, by any chance, in the business of giving readings?

"So then, why don't you die?"-Antisthenes
[ Parent ]

No (3.00 / 3) (#70)
by localroger on Sun Jul 03, 2005 at 10:51:20 PM EST

Are you, by any chance, in the business of giving readings?

No. I have done all my metaphysical/weird explorations for my own information, and despite hanging around a bunch of true believers in any number of crafts I remain pretty skeptical.

My original impetus was something like a dare in a book I read long ago. Do you trust your own experiences more or less than what someone else has told you? Don't take my word for it, the writer said. Try it. Well I did. (I think it was actually a penniomancy demonstration, but it was a long time ago.) I remember being quite startled. So I set out on an exploration of these nutjob phenomena. I had many interesting observations, but I am also highly contrarian and skeptical. I really don't believe in *anything*. That *anything* might include science itself probably galls you but I am an equal opportunity curmudgeon.

I have learned to do my own Tarot and I Ching readings. I don't do them for other people. I haven't learned to do my own astrological interpretations. The system really is too fucking complicated to bother with unless you really feel it's going to be useful, and I don't have that feeling.

My purpose in writing the article was not to promote it so much as to make sure those who might find themselves in an argument one day would have the tools they need not to look like fools. But then, there is no fool bigger than the one who thinks he already knows everything. I have made many mistakes in my life, but that's one I have vowed I will never make.

I am become Death, Destroyer of Worlds -- J. Robert Oppenheimer
[ Parent ]

Important archaelogical question about sidereal (2.50 / 2) (#38)
by Jonathan Walther on Sun Jul 03, 2005 at 12:49:26 PM EST

I read somewhere that the days of the week were named by the planet that "ruled" in the first hour of that day.

This would seem to imply that you could look up in the sky and figure out which day of the week it is.

Can you tell me anything at all about this?  Do you know how it is done?  Is it even possible?

I'd like HOWTO information.  This has tremendous religious implications.

(Luke '22:36 '19:13) => ("Sell your coat and buy a gun." . "Occupy until I come.")


I doubt it (none / 1) (#41)
by localroger on Sun Jul 03, 2005 at 01:39:06 PM EST

There is no fixed relationship between the planets and the 7-day week. Most likely the days were simply named in order of importance of a group of gods. In our case, Norse gods.

I am become Death, Destroyer of Worlds -- J. Robert Oppenheimer
[ Parent ]
Norse gods ? (none / 0) (#89)
by bugmaster on Tue Jul 05, 2005 at 09:13:47 AM EST

What, even Sunday ?
>|<*:=
[ Parent ]
Norse naming convention (none / 0) (#106)
by tassach on Fri Jul 08, 2005 at 02:34:34 PM EST

Our day names come from the Anglo-Saxon tradition, which was predominantly derived from the Norse mythology, but also has Roman influnce:

Sunday = Sun's Day (common to both Norse/Germanic and Greco-Roman culture)
Monday = Moon's Day (common to both Norse/Germanic and Greco-Roman culture)
Tuesday = Tiw's Day (Anglo-Saxon name of Tyr, Norse god of war)
Wednesday = Wotan's Day (Anglo-Saxon name of Odin, The All-Father -- sired the rest of the AEsir)
Thursday = Thor's Day (Norse god of thunder and protector of humanity)
Friday = Frea's Day (Norse goddess of fertility; leader of the Valkyries)
Saturday = Saturn's day (Roman god of agriculture, romanized version of Greek Chronos)

"The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots & tyrants" -- Thomas Jefferson
[ Parent ]

There is no clear consensus on (none / 0) (#53)
by Smiley K on Sun Jul 03, 2005 at 04:35:39 PM EST

where the names for the days of the week came. What we do know is that a week is seven days because that is the average number of days it takes the moon to square its position. That is, each lunar return takes a little over 28 days. So every 7 days, the moon is 90 degrees forward of its prior position. Four weeks make roughly one month for about 13 lunation cycles per year (solar return).
-- Someone set up us the bomb.
[ Parent ]
ur addicted to vice and debauchery. (1.66 / 3) (#43)
by community icon on Sun Jul 03, 2005 at 02:07:29 PM EST

yes yuo

i am not as cool as a: video of a hot chic working out
Welcome to the world of cognitive bias. (2.33 / 3) (#45)
by it certainly is on Sun Jul 03, 2005 at 03:05:36 PM EST

Please continue walking through your beautiful gardens, but do not mistakenly believe they are real.

kur0shin.org -- it certainly is

Godwin's law [...] is impossible to violate except with an infinitely long thread that doesn't mention nazis.

What I find amazing (3.00 / 3) (#48)
by localroger on Sun Jul 03, 2005 at 03:48:47 PM EST

Considering how eager so many people are to diss Astrology, it's amazing to me that an article that is basically a guide for those who want to debunk it is getting voted down by them.

Then again, I guess it's not so amazing since so many people can't be bothered to read past the title.

I guess we can look forward to more humiliating blunders like the segment in Cosmos that Astrologers laugh about to this day where Dr. Carl Sagan uses a newspaper Sun Sign column as his basis for claiming that Astrology is crap. Well, Science wouldn't fare too well either if you used The Journal of Irreproducible Results as an example. But then, we expect other people to bother to learn about things they intend to criticize.

I am become Death, Destroyer of Worlds -- J. Robert Oppenheimer
[ Parent ]

Oh no (none / 1) (#49)
by onix on Sun Jul 03, 2005 at 03:57:39 PM EST

The astrologers are laughing at us.

---
I'm interested in certain of your thoughts. - medham
[ Parent ]
Yes (none / 0) (#52)
by localroger on Sun Jul 03, 2005 at 04:31:15 PM EST

And when the uncertain New Age newbie goes to one of these experts and asks "what about the scientists who say this is all crap?" they can and do pull out that tape of Carl Sagan and say, "how can you trust people who know this little about what they're talking about?"

Instead of debunking Astrology, you cast yourself as a bunk peddler.

I am become Death, Destroyer of Worlds -- J. Robert Oppenheimer
[ Parent ]

People are entitled to their stupidity. (none / 0) (#54)
by onix on Sun Jul 03, 2005 at 04:58:53 PM EST

You might even say they deserve it. Just don't expect me to care what they think.

---
I'm interested in certain of your thoughts. - medham
[ Parent ]
Well I care what they think (none / 0) (#55)
by localroger on Sun Jul 03, 2005 at 05:11:33 PM EST

For one thing, they vote, and there are more of them than me. That's just one of the better reasons.

I am become Death, Destroyer of Worlds -- J. Robert Oppenheimer
[ Parent ]
You're worried (none / 0) (#58)
by onix on Sun Jul 03, 2005 at 06:17:49 PM EST

about the pernicious influence of the astrology vote.

---
I'm interested in certain of your thoughts. - medham
[ Parent ]
Astrology is just one corner of it. (none / 0) (#61)
by localroger on Sun Jul 03, 2005 at 07:04:15 PM EST

Are Astrologers a big bloc? Not really. Do they influence a lot of people? Well, a few of them do, but it's not really a big deal. Does it matter if you give them ammo to consolidate their position by making yourself look like a moron when trying to discredit them? Probably not such a big deal.

But it is good practice for when the Creationists come around.

I am become Death, Destroyer of Worlds -- J. Robert Oppenheimer
[ Parent ]

Human stupidity knows no bounds (none / 1) (#77)
by onix on Mon Jul 04, 2005 at 07:56:26 AM EST

Pot-holing, for example, is pure lunacy.

I appreciate your faith in my abilities, but I really can't spend my time debunking every kind of nonsense you happen to come across. I'd never sleep. They're your friends, after all.

---
I'm interested in certain of your thoughts. - medham
[ Parent ]

-1: been there, done that (none / 0) (#91)
by it certainly is on Tue Jul 05, 2005 at 09:40:59 AM EST

I spent a while in my youth playing with Astrology software, making readings to my heart's content. To claim that the positions of the heavenly bodies (other than the sun and the moon) have any affect on people's moods or their "compatibilities" with each other, without offering evidence for it, is just bunk. I don't need an article to tell me this.

You will give this post a +3 because the planets are in alignment.

kur0shin.org -- it certainly is

Godwin's law [...] is impossible to violate except with an infinitely long thread that doesn't mention nazis.
[ Parent ]

Huh? (none / 0) (#96)
by vhold on Tue Jul 05, 2005 at 08:32:54 PM EST

Do you think he believes in astrology or not?  

First you seem to slam him for believing in something that isn't real, so I have to assume you thought he believes in astrology.

"Please continue walking through your beautiful gardens, but do not mistakenly believe they are real."

Then..

(Astrology is wrong.) "I don't need an article to tell me this."

Soo now you admit the article could be used to debunk astrology, which would contradict your original statement quite a bit.  I suppose you could be talking about a different, totally unrelated, article?  That'd be pretty nonsensical.

Then you randomly say:

"You will give this post a +3 because the planets are in alignment."

Which seems to imply that he still believes in astrology..  So you also contradict yourself within a single post.. Huh?

By giving you the benefit of the doubt, I have to hope you only judged the article without even getting past the first several paragraphs where he makes his stance immediately clear.  

The rest of this posturing is just trying to wiggle around avoiding to admit that.  There really is no shame to just come out and admit you made a heavy handed mistake initially.  Perpetually dodging an obvious truth would definitely be more embarassing.

But if you actually did read it and somehow came to the conclusion the original author believes in and is advocating astrology....  Then I'm interested to hear the reasoning there.

[ Parent ]

Welcome to me. (none / 0) (#98)
by it certainly is on Wed Jul 06, 2005 at 02:19:57 AM EST

Do you think he believes in astrology or not?

As he says, he is agnostic. This implies he has not committed to either believing it or not believing it. He's a fence-sitter. A bet-hedger. It's like he said to me "Touch wood, this whole "good luck" thing is bunk".

Naturally, I want him to affirm his skepticism and my comments are a reflection of that.

kur0shin.org -- it certainly is

Godwin's law [...] is impossible to violate except with an infinitely long thread that doesn't mention nazis.
[ Parent ]

How is it a 'humiliating blunder' (none / 1) (#93)
by zakalwe on Tue Jul 05, 2005 at 11:42:51 AM EST

Dr. Carl Sagan uses a newspaper Sun Sign column as his basis for claiming that Astrology is crap
What's wrong with this though? When you say astrology, the thing that comes to mind for most people is those newspaper columns. If Sagan attacked astrology based on this then the best professional astrologers can say is that it doesn't apply to them. (In fact, they'd doubtless then also agree with him that that form of astrology is nonsense, and isn't real astrology) However, just because someone attacks the popular notion of Astrology doesn't mean they can pretend it was an invalid attack on what they mean, just because they use the same word (but use it in the 'proper' sense.)

In reality, belief in newspaper column astrology is probably more prevalent than in professional astrologers. Millions follow their column with some degree of belief who would laugh at the notion of actually consulting an astrologer as being incredibly superstitious.

I'm not familiar with whatever argument Sagan made, so if he followed it up with "and for the same reason doing the whole star-chart thing is also invalid" then I'd agree that he's misapplying an argument. If he just made points that are only applicable to newspaper columns, then that seems entirely valid - you don't have to attack all related superstitions just to show one particular one is wrong.

[ Parent ]

I would be a lot more interested (none / 1) (#56)
by Dont Fear The Reaper on Sun Jul 03, 2005 at 05:33:10 PM EST

in debunking astrology by spending a lot more time pointing out the vagueness and/or the presumed inaccuracies of the predictions. As it is we've got a basic assumption that cannot be proven or disproven, and some stuff about how astrology is a partially exact method of producing something that is barely even examined. I don't really care how objective or exact a part of the process is if I'm evaluating the usefulness of the practice as a whole. My computer is a very elaborate and precise mechanism, even when it's serving up useless content.

I think there are interesting things to be said about astrology and divination, (like asking what kinds of people believe the "as above, so below" axiom in the first place and why, or how traditional divination techniques are related to natural or learned abilities that some people have to "read" others) but this just gets an "0, who cares?" from me.

Your interest is teh stupid. (none / 0) (#57)
by localroger on Sun Jul 03, 2005 at 05:43:27 PM EST

in debunking astrology by spending a lot more time pointing out the vagueness...

The entire point of the article is that there is nothing vague about the results of an astrological reading. You also obviously skimmed (or just read the comments) the part where the interpretation process was described.

Fortunately I don't have much hope invested in this story; I pretty much expected this to happen. It's still galling though to see the people who are ostensibly on my side in the smarts vs. stupids war, jumping up and down and proclaiming their ignorance.

I am become Death, Destroyer of Worlds -- J. Robert Oppenheimer
[ Parent ]

Erm, (none / 0) (#62)
by Dont Fear The Reaper on Sun Jul 03, 2005 at 07:24:26 PM EST

"This is where the "art" of Astrology comes in, and why it is often possible for technically competent Astrologers to differ widely in their readings of the same chart."

"When reading a chart, instead of taking the pithy statements as a starting point he will form weightings based on the qualities, elements, planetary characteristics, the areas of life and of the body represented by the Houses and so on and re-combine them to form his own impression of the kind of person your chart says you are and what your destiny is."

Maybe I'm missing something, but it sounds pretty vague to me. You go on to say that

"It is common for horoscopes to contain specific warnings about things like heart or colon disease or sexual paraphilias. They tend to paint very specific character portraits that are not at all vague..."

but don't spend any time worrying about whether or not those warnings ever actually predict anything accurately. So on the one hand it sounds like it's vague, and on the other you say it makes specific predictions, but don't care to follow up and see if they are accurate. Either way I can't see why I should care.

[ Parent ]

Well (3.00 / 2) (#66)
by localroger on Sun Jul 03, 2005 at 09:00:27 PM EST

Either way I can't see why I should care.

You should care because other people do. You should care because those other people are articulate and hard working and when they make their case against you, they are very persuasive. I have seen this firsthand. And if you don't learn how to make your case against them, your influence will diminish and theirs will increase.

Astrologers aren't a big deal at the moment, it's true, but Creationists are. Scientists got their asses handed to them for years in the public debate because nobody wanted to poison their beautiful minds with the toxic sludge of the enemy's thought enough to actually figure out what the enemy might say and form a strategy to counter it. And those guys aren't going away, and scientists aren't doing much better. In the recent school board flap that got national attention the scientists -- get this -- refused to attend the public debate. That's real smart. That's just so fucking smart it makes me want to pound my head against a wall.

And that's not even to mention the "pro-lifers" (if the life hasn't been born yet) who are blocking stem cell research, which if you have any brains you should care about regardless of your attitude toward teh A-woid.

Now, as for the vagueness thing, some charts do consist of mostly contradictory messages that don't form any clear trends. But if you've been paid to do someone's chart, you can't just tell them "you don't seem to be one of history's actors, daaaahling." Most charts aren't that muddled and do display clear trends that most interpreters would agree on. Astrologers are not interested in scientific concepts of "repeatability" and they take the presence of clear messages that seem to speak sensibly as evidence that their craft works.

I don't go into the accuracy thing because you cannot go into it without actually looking at the process and example results. Even if you are staunchly skeptical you have to realize that people don't believe this kind of thing because they are entirely stupid. It may be coincidence, it may be clever structure, but all divination devices seem to say a lot more than they should. Holding your hands over your ears and shouting "LALALALA I CAN'T HEAR YOU" is not a constructive way to handle the fact that so many people do perceive it this way.

I am become Death, Destroyer of Worlds -- J. Robert Oppenheimer
[ Parent ]

I'm trying to care... hold on... almost... no, no. (3.00 / 4) (#72)
by Back Spaced on Mon Jul 04, 2005 at 12:19:46 AM EST

You should care because other people do. You should care because those other people are articulate and hard working and when they make their case against you, they are very persuasive. I have seen this firsthand. And if you don't learn how to make your case against them, your influence will diminish and theirs will increase.
That may be true in some situations. However, this is not one of them. Rigorous belief in astrology (other than "what's your sign, baby?") is marginal in the United States, and likely to remain so, largely because the major cultural groups - secular America and Christian America both disavow it. Astrology is a remnant of ancient religious practices that have long since lost their ties to daily life, and has nothing really to anchor it to mainstream American culture. It just kind of drifts around at the margins of society making a little money for hucksters here and there. It is no more likely to come into generalized favor than, say, the Norse gods.

You make a point with creationists, but creationism is 1) anchored strongly into the present culture through the tether of evangelical Christianity and 2) never really fell out of favor within that group. We're only seeing a "resurgence" of creationist sentiment at the moment becuase Evangelical Christians had more political power than they did 30 years ago. Astrology has not such parallels. There are not 100 million people in this country who vehemently believe in astrology and want to to be taught in our schools, but are too politically marginalized to have much of a voice. Your explanation as to why anyone should really care enough to refute astrology ultimately does not hold water. You might as well be telling me that I should care to argue that Zeus does not exist.

A better article would have been to delve into the history of astrology, which I will briefly sum up here:
Thousands of years ago, at what we call the dawn of civilization, Homo sapiens (sapiens) developed agriculture. This had some significant advantages - a larger portion of the population could be freed from food acquisition than was possible in a hunter/gatherer society, but it had its difficulties as well. One of the major difficulties (in addition to being forced to deal with draughts, plagues, locusts and the like) was the problem of when to plant crops. Any farmer knows, afterall, that seeds have to go into the ground at a certain time. Otherwise, the seasonal conditions are not proper for their maturity, fruiting or survival. In order to know when to plant, you need a calender.

So, our ancestors looked up into the sky and found one.

Dawkins pointed out years ago that ideas, like organisms, are products of a kind of evolution. He called these idea/organisms "memes." And like living organisms, ideas like the sky calender are not always neat, trim little functional packages. The sky calender system worked, and that's how it survived, but it carried detritus along with it - like the junk that we carry in our DNA. You see, our ancestors didn't just look to the sky for their planting calender - they looked to it for everything. They survived because it made a good planting calender - the rest was just noise - memetic junk DNA, carried along for the ride, but because the planting calender worked, and they survived, the junk did as well.

Carried down, even to today, when somebody sees fit for some damn reason to post it to Kuro5hin. And that, as Paul Harvey might say, is the rest of the story.

Bluto: My advice to you is to start drinking heavily.
Otter: Better listen to him, Flounder. He's pre-med.
[ Parent ]

Astrology (2.00 / 2) (#63)
by moeffju on Sun Jul 03, 2005 at 07:54:10 PM EST

is bunk.

precession of the equinoxes (none / 0) (#65)
by trane on Sun Jul 03, 2005 at 08:28:38 PM EST

That is, events here on Earth echo the arrangement of objects the sky and vice-versa.

But the arrangement of objects in the sky doesn't even fit our current observations. It's based on some 2000-year-old map of the sky, which is no longer accurate because of the precession of the equinox.

Not if you are using the sidereal zodiac (none / 0) (#73)
by Smiley K on Mon Jul 04, 2005 at 12:21:13 AM EST

What you say is true only of the tropocentric zodiac. The sidereal zodiac uses the actual relative positions of the various features.
-- Someone set up us the bomb.
[ Parent ]
I guess (none / 1) (#94)
by trane on Tue Jul 05, 2005 at 01:52:15 PM EST

but the research I did subsequent to my post indicated that only Indian and a very few Western astrologers use accurate skymaps. The objection is valid against most astrology. localroger would have done well to include this bit of information in his story.

[ Parent ]
Granted...but... (none / 1) (#97)
by Smiley K on Tue Jul 05, 2005 at 10:56:43 PM EST

I think it is also important that people understand serious astrologers (using the Western system that is) are well aware of the precession of the equinoxes and use a tropocentric reference system by design. The system is reckoned against the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn (you will note those two lines are still on most globes and world maps.) Too often, the precession of equinoxes is used as a strawman to falsely paint astrologers as being utterly clueless regarding the positions of the moon and planets. This is completely false as not only do professional astrologers know the position of the orbital bodies reckoned against the tropics, but also know their inclination, relative rate of movement, position of the nodes, time to perihelion, and other position and movement data. I suppose it would now be possible by applying enough software to work with a chart in 3 dimensions rather than the collapsed 2 dimension systems that have been in use for thousands of years. Now THAT is an article I would immensely enjoy reading. Unfortunately, my programming skills are not really up to the task of building such code. I'm more of a database guy than a true hacker. Might get back to you on this after I run the idea up the flagpole with a few folks I know who are into that kind of coding.
-- Someone set up us the bomb.
[ Parent ]
okay, straw-man objection withdrawn (none / 0) (#101)
by trane on Wed Jul 06, 2005 at 06:44:11 PM EST

I've become interested in the sky for the first time (now that I'm living out where the stars are quite visible at night), and am learning how to pick out the constellations and stars. The book I'm using mentioned the precession of the equinoxes problem with astrology, and also mentioned that astrologers know about it and don't seem to care. Thanks for explaining more about why...

[ Parent ]
This is like that story (none / 0) (#67)
by voodooeskimo on Sun Jul 03, 2005 at 09:21:47 PM EST

where the guy sent 5000-some-odd letters out asking for money to put in the stock market. "One right answer is enough to make irrelevant the countless wrong answers preceding it.

An improvement. (none / 0) (#71)
by Back Spaced on Sun Jul 03, 2005 at 11:49:45 PM EST

This isn't nearly as wacko as your last article, and that got posted to the front page, so I should vote it up... I guess.

Bluto: My advice to you is to start drinking heavily.
Otter: Better listen to him, Flounder. He's pre-med.

Too muuch like someone's Mother In Law (none / 0) (#74)
by livus on Mon Jul 04, 2005 at 02:30:25 AM EST

who has just come back from her annual hippy folk womyn festival. Horrendous.

Also, -1 does not mention Master Rao.

---
HIREZ substitute.
be concrete asshole, or shut up. - CTS
I guess I skipped school or something to drink on the internet? - lonelyhobo
I'd like to hope that any impression you got about us from internet forums was incorrect. - debillitatus
I consider myself trolled more or less just by visiting the site. HollyHopDrive

Astrology is something different (3.00 / 6) (#76)
by fhotg on Mon Jul 04, 2005 at 07:14:44 AM EST

Thanks for that article. Nice to see someone has the guts to try that on k5.

Once upon a time I did dabble in astrology, trying to make sense of it, encouraged by esoterically inclined friends and attracted by the apparent analytical left-brain skills to come up with the right data - the birth-chart. Case anybody is interested, the best free multi-platform program I found is astrolog by Water Pullen.

Now I don't care anymore and proactively diss anyone getting astrological at me. That is why:

Even if you, like me, believe that "There are more things in heaven and earth, than are dreamt of in your philosophy (= accepted science)", and you accept that there are ways to gain information about people and to influence the the world which are beyond scholary psychology and scholary science, astrology is not interesting.

Those esoteric disciplines are all inherently subjective, having the subjective experience of an individual at the core and therefore are principally not in line with our (very successful) scientific method. That doesn't mean that there are no people in these disciplines who wouldn't try to advance their art by scientific means: For example the esoteric healer who influences "energy flows" in the client's body (which of course are not measurable in the scientific sense, but he feels them), keeps track of his observations, experments with his technique and documents his results.

The astrologers claim to be "scientific" is only based on the fact that he needs to use a computer and maipulate numbers and be exact in the preparatory stage of his service. The underlying theory is not as consistent as you like to portray it. There are many different schools who advocate different systems to come up with a chart with wildly differing results for the same place & location. If there was at least scientific attitude, there were discussions and experiments going on about which theory is more valid, but there isn't and never was. This is usually countered with differing "old traditions". How many planets are there ? Discovery of Neptune 1846 should have changed the old traditions a bit. As well as that of Pluto 1930. But hey, 10 "planets" make a nice mapping onto the Quaballah.

The theory is full of asymmetries and inconsistencies which are not adressed. And there is no attempt to address them. What about a house cusp "inbetween" signs, that is the error in time of birth (which you have to acknowledge) makes impossible to pinpoint the right sign ? Not addressed. Its Scorpio or Sagittarius randomly assigned. If there was scientific attitude, someone would have come up with an attempt of a continuous evaluation during the last 500 years. There is much more of that.

So what is astrolgy good for then ?

It is a framework which gives a mind the opportunity to overload itself with archetypical meanings and associated personality traits in an inconsistant, multi-meaning confusing way. A left-brain loaded this way with a zen-koan like dualistically unsolvable dataset will give way to a "supernatural", instinctual or however you like it way of looking at a person or phenomena and come up with genuine new and useful information.

To the same effect someone using a crystal ball, a puddle of ink or a magic mirror gets herself into trance.

Now these ways are much more direct and to the point than going through the calculations and the interpretation - bulk used by astrologers. So astrology might be a useful technique, albeit an extremely inefficient and ugly one with lots of unnecessary assumtions and philosophical implications.

Addendum: The "above as below" - postulate, where the "above" is uniquely and completely encoded in the birth-chart, and the "below" are personal traits and personal events described as in the astrological literature can and has been scientifically invalidated multiple times. This is a mess astrologers got themselves into by claiming to do science.

Shawn Carlson, "A Double-Blind Test of Astrology," Nature, Vol. 318, pp. 419-425, 1985

Roger Culver, Philip Ianna. Astrology: True or False? A Scientific Evaluation. Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books, 1988

Geoffrey Dean and Ivan W. Kelly, 2003, Journal of Consciousness Studies, 10, No. 6-7, Is Astrology Relevant to Consciousness and Psi?
~~~
Gitarren für die Mädchen -- Champagner für die Jungs

-1, but with some constructive (I hope!) criticism (none / 0) (#78)
by monad on Mon Jul 04, 2005 at 07:57:04 AM EST

Sorry localroger, had to vote it down. Very well written, but I'm not sure what role the article plays.

If I was interested in astrology to the point of wanting to practise it, I would have already gone to the library and got a textbook or two on it, in which I would find the information in your article. So clearly, this article is not for those people. If I had a passing interest in it (as I do), then I wouldn't really want (or need) to know the specifics of how it all works, e.g. the Houses, Planets, Signs etc., because I'll probably never need to. However, a piece on how the author became interested in astrology, or how the author can reconcile scientific beliefs with a belief in astrology, or the philosophical ramifications of a belief in astrology (which you allude to several times), would be fascinating.

Feh (none / 1) (#80)
by shokk on Mon Jul 04, 2005 at 12:32:18 PM EST

I don't see this as "Technology and culture from the trenches". Give me a nice article on astronomy any day. Check out Science Magazine's 125 Questions for some nice topics.


"Beware of he who would deny you access to information, for in his heart, he dreams himself your master."
Don't care what they do (none / 0) (#81)
by Have A Nice Day on Mon Jul 04, 2005 at 02:08:30 PM EST

It's based on an assertion that cannot be proved and comes to results that can be interpreted in any number of ways. Thus it is useless.

Bye now!

--------------
Have A Nice Day may have reentered the building.
Rules for debunking a religion? (none / 0) (#83)
by rvcx on Mon Jul 04, 2005 at 08:16:02 PM EST

This article seems to assume that a religion (in this case astrology) has the right to set the rules for debate. Asserting that something is an axiom and thus without need for justification is the difference between science and religion.

Despite claims to the contrary, this article is not at all a guide to "debunking" anything. It's a description of an elaborate mythology, and at best is utterly unfalsifiable.

IAWTP (none / 0) (#85)
by nml on Tue Jul 05, 2005 at 12:42:33 AM EST

along the same lines, from the article:

If you wish to debunk Astrology, As Above, So Below is your primary target; but since it is an axiom you cannot simply offer a disproof of it. If you simply assert that it is bunk the serious Astrologer is likely to smile mildly at you with the contempt you deserve for so completely misunderstanding his science.

firstly, if i offer disproof of the AASB axiom, then i certainly do prove that astrology is 'bunk', because it is then shown to be based on faulty principles. Secondly, astrology isn't a science, simply becuase it is based on the AASB axiom, which, AFAIK, there isn't any particularly convincing evidence for. The onus is on the astrologers to provide evidence that the AASB axiom works, not simply to assert it. And since it is difficult to see what principles underly AASB and the fact that it is possibly undecidable, i'd say that astrologers need to provide particularly good evidence that it works, which they haven't. Thus astrology is more religion than science, because at least one of its axioms requires faith.

However, i thought that the article was quite well-written.



[ Parent ]
Hey localroger (none / 0) (#84)
by ctgPi on Mon Jul 04, 2005 at 08:24:28 PM EST

Since you seem to believe astrology has a mensurable effect on our reality, I suppose you wouldn´t mind being a million dollars richer?

Next time read the article (none / 0) (#87)
by localroger on Tue Jul 05, 2005 at 08:37:27 AM EST

Since you seem to believe astrology has a mensurable effect on our reality,

The article does not say that.

I am become Death, Destroyer of Worlds -- J. Robert Oppenheimer
[ Parent ]

It doesn't? (none / 0) (#99)
by ctgPi on Wed Jul 06, 2005 at 09:35:29 AM EST

From your article:

If you simply assert that it is bunk the serious Astrologer is likely to smile mildly at you with the contempt you deserve for so completely misunderstanding his science.

Since you call astrology a science, you seem to believe it is, indeed, a scientific theory. Therefore, as any good scientific theory, it should, at least partly, explain and predict stuff, therefore being measurable.



[ Parent ]
No, it doesn't (none / 1) (#103)
by localroger on Thu Jul 07, 2005 at 05:18:10 PM EST

Since you call astrology a science,

I do not call Astrology a science. I said that a serious astrologer would call Astrology a science. Nowhere do I claim to be one of these serious Astrologers myself, and I would think it would be pretty clear to most readers that I am not one of them.

In other news I am IME more familiar with the contents of the Bible than most self-proclaimed Christians, but I'm not a Christian either.

I am become Death, Destroyer of Worlds -- J. Robert Oppenheimer
[ Parent ]

OK, I'll concede that point. (none / 0) (#104)
by ctgPi on Fri Jul 08, 2005 at 12:11:34 PM EST

I will rephrase my question:

Since a serious astrologer believes astrology has a mensurable effect on our reality, why none of them have yet (sucessfully) bothered becoming a million dollars richer?

(If they don't care about the money, and do it merely for fun/passion, they can just donate the megabuck to charity.)



[ Parent ]
Well... (none / 0) (#105)
by localroger on Fri Jul 08, 2005 at 01:02:31 PM EST

That certainly is a bit less punchy. Maybe it's because it doesn't really work? I did state that I'm taking an agnostic position here for such purposes.

Slipping back into that point of view, though, I'd also add that even if astrology works, it would be almost impossible to meet the criteria for the challenge. Randi is a stage magician and the challenge is written around things that look like stage magic.

The only way to even use Astrology to approach the challenge would be to put predictions in envelopes and have them opened later. Since the results of a chart reading are qualitative they can always be passed off as "coincidence" as skeptical materialists so often dismiss anything seemingly paranormal. The sensible astrologer would probably find his time better spent filling out Publisher's Clearing House forms.

I am become Death, Destroyer of Worlds -- J. Robert Oppenheimer
[ Parent ]

Challenge (none / 0) (#107)
by hymie on Fri Jul 08, 2005 at 03:14:24 PM EST

Here's the key criterion of the challenge: EVERY APPLICANT MUST AGREE UPON WHAT WILL CONSTITUTE A CONCLUSION THAT, ON THE OCCASION OF THE FORMAL TEST, HE OR SHE DID OR DID NOT DEMONSTRATE THE CLAIMED ABILITY OR POWER.

It's not geared to stage magic, or to anything else. You go and say what it is you claim to be able to do. You and the foundation come to an agreement ahead of time on what you both will agree is success. Then you try it, and fail, and the foundation declares you a failure as you agreed, and you carp with a bunch of excuses as to why it's not really a failure. What could be simpler?

[ Parent ]

To rephrase (none / 0) (#108)
by localroger on Fri Jul 08, 2005 at 04:13:53 PM EST

Given what Astrology tries to do, it is difficult for me to imagine a result which an Astrologer would expect to get which the CSICOP crowd would accept as proof of paranormal influence. The link I gave is a perfect example of something most people would consider reasonable evidence that something is going on, but which CSICOP would certainly pass on as coincidence.

I am become Death, Destroyer of Worlds -- J. Robert Oppenheimer
[ Parent ]
Notes about the linked page (none / 0) (#109)
by ctgPi on Fri Jul 08, 2005 at 04:47:24 PM EST


  • Robertson tweaked the Titan's width and displacement after the Titanic sank, so the "Displacement" line of the table is bunk.

  • Titanic top speed was more like 23 knots — the linked site seems to have conveniently bumped the rounding of the unit conversion -- even assuming the 43 km/h Wikipedia provides are 43.5 km/h, that makes the top speed 23.488 knots, not quite roundable to 24 knots.

  • Why Titanic's capacity is "about 3000"? Its capacity is known exactly, 3,547 passengers. Besides, the novel never prefixes the passenger count with "about".

  • Minor fudge, but the Titanic had 2,223 passengers on board.

  • Ths site makes a point to mention that the damage in both ships was starboard side forward. Even though the collision being starboard was, indeed, a hit (no pun intended), it's hard to imagine an iceberg collision with the aft of a ship moving forward at 24 knots.

You may complain that I am insisting on rounding errors, and you would be absolutely right. The point I am trying to make? All rounding/truncation errors happened in the direction that helps making the case for the coincidence between the book and the ship. Besides, some of the other assertions of the book are conveniently ignored:


  • In the Titan, "[t]wo brass bands, two orchestras, and a theatrical company entertained the passengers during waking hours", the Titanic apparently had one band. (It's unclear whether it had a theatrical company; someone with more data would contribute to the discussion.)

  • The Titan could float with nine flooded compartments; the Titanic, only four of the first compartments or two back compartments — that's wrong by a factor of more than two!

  • Perhaps the most important difference: The Titan did not sink on its maiden voyage.

That's why I'm inclined to believe that this whole Titanic theory is nothing more than an example of a confirmation bias.

(To produce this post, I used nothing more than Google, Wikipedia, the fragment of the book in the linked page, and maybe an hour or two of research. That may seem little time. But when you realize the sheer amount of allegedly paranormal claims you'll find around, and that the day has only 24 hours, you'll begin to understand why skeptics will often dismiss those claims without a second's thought.)



[ Parent ]
All true, and a good example (none / 0) (#111)
by localroger on Fri Jul 08, 2005 at 09:12:24 PM EST

...of exactly what I was talking about. In fact I deliberately chose a page that was biased toward the "paranormal" view thinking I might get this kind of reaction.

While the believers inflate the things that bump up their worldview, you deflate the things that downgrade yours -- "Titan" vs "Titanic" alone is a hell of a coincidence.

Anybody who does any kind of metaphysical work will tell you these things aren't strong with numbers. The attempt to pin numbers down is doomed to fail, but it doesn't mean there was no connection there. On Tuesdays and Thursdays I imagine that the author had this really vivid dream, wherein he saw the actual sinking of the Titanic as a vision. He would not have gotten the actual statistics; he would have had to back them out of what he had seen in a few moments of blurry precognition. Even if his vision had been completely accurate you couldn't expect him to get all the details right.

But while the believer cuts the prophet some slack, as I just did in that last paragraph, the CSICOP mentality goes the other way. He got the number of compartments wrong; must be bunk. And look, rounding up and down to conveniently merge numbers. Obviously fraud. Next applicant, please.

My own thinking is that either worldview could be workable, and neither really can prove the other wrong since they emerge from completely different and mutually inconsistent axioms. The hostility with which fundamentalist materialists greet this kind of open-mindedness is an ugly thing that tends to drive people away from the scientific worldview.

Sometimes it is not a matter of correctness that wins the day so much as it is a matter of courtesy. Temporarily acknowledging that someone might have a point, even when you think otherwise, can pave the way for an argument that gives you a chance to lay out your case and convince them. Barging in like the Roman Catholic Church would have in 1000 AD and asserting that your knowledge is the Only One True Way causes people to say "fuck you" and deliberately seek and favor alternate sources.

Sadly, this article's reception illustrates well why dingbat ideologies like Creationism can get such wide support in the face of overwhelming evidence. I myself favor the scientific worldview for most situations even though I find some of the metaphysical stuff aesthetically interesting. But if someone else holds an idea contrary to yours, and they offer a fig leaf of understanding to bridge the gap, and you respond by knocking it out of their hand and calling them an idiot, how the hell do you expect them to regard you and your worldview?

Science is too damn useful to abandon, but some of the responses here and to my other articles (like Is the Universe Really Consistent) really make me ashamed to find myself in the scientific camp. That's not about which system is right or wrong, but about which set of people behave in a more civilized and pleasant manner. And an Astrologer would tell you that it's a natural result of the procession from Pisces to Aquarius. :-P

I am become Death, Destroyer of Worlds -- J. Robert Oppenheimer
[ Parent ]

Congratulations! (none / 0) (#114)
by ctgPi on Sat Jul 09, 2005 at 01:00:48 AM EST


In fact I deliberately chose a page that was biased toward the "paranormal" view thinking I might get this kind of reaction.


Congratulations, localroger! You've just trolled!


While the believers inflate the things that bump up their worldview, you deflate the things that downgrade yours -- "Titan" vs "Titanic" alone is a hell of a coincidence.


You do have a point here, even if a bit skewed — the figures on the site were actually distorted; the best case you can do against me is that I omitted vital information on the discussion (or that my data is distorted; but I never claimed that Wikipedia was actually authoritative). But there's a fundamental difference between our two positions:

You're the one making the claim that Robertson predicted (consciously or not, maybe he just chanelled the prediction from other world, or something) the sinking of the Titanic: therefore, the burden of proof is on you.

(Interlude: when I say "you", I actually mean "the linked page" — I'm doing this only for the argument's sake, so please don't take it too personally.)

Therefore, you are the one who should be bringing such coincidences to surface; ignoring them until I respond and then pointing and saying "Look! He didn't point opposing evidence! He must be biased!" is intelectual dishonesty, because that was never my role or obligation. This is exactly what happens in science: you come up with a new theory, you find the data necessary to support it.


On Tuesdays and Thursdays I imagine that the author had this really vivid dream, wherein he saw the actual sinking of the Titanic as a vision. He would not have gotten the actual statistics; he would have had to back them out of what he had seen in a few moments of blurry precognition. Even if his vision had been completely accurate you couldn't expect him to get all the details right.


I understand he couldn't be expected to get the details right. But if you acknowledge these details were partially filled in by educated guesses, you can't compare these to the Titanic and use them as evidence that something paranormal is going on without watering down at least a bit the significance of these hits.


But while the believer cuts the prophet some slack, as I just did in that last paragraph, the CSICOP mentality goes the other way. He got the number of compartments wrong; must be bunk. And look, rounding up and down to conveniently merge numbers. Obviously fraud. Next applicant, please.


First things first: did you actually read the link about confirmation bias on my last post?

Secondly, the CSICOP doesn't go around looking for confirming evidence; it already gets more than enough of that. What it admittedly does is find counterpoints to the paranormal theories. Do you have any objection to CSICOP trying to have a debate?


Sometimes it is not a matter of correctness that wins the day so much as it is a matter of courtesy.


So you would rather have pleasant lies than the truth? Glad you took the blue pill, eh?


But if someone else holds an idea contrary to yours, and they offer a fig leaf of understanding to bridge the gap, and you respond by knocking it out of their hand and calling them an idiot, how the hell do you expect them to regard you and your worldview?


I wouldn't mind being called an idiot if I could earn a megabuck proving my detractors wrong (and having moral ground to call them idiots in return). Astrologers don't seem to share that opinion. Care to explain why?



[ Parent ]
About non-testability of astrology (none / 0) (#110)
by ctgPi on Fri Jul 08, 2005 at 05:25:08 PM EST

About your assertion that the JREF will refuse all claims of astrology, this clearly does not seem to be the case: see, specifically, this post from the JREF forum. I do not speak for the JREF forum, but if you could match the birth dates/times with the results of some sort of questionnaire (probably a personality one), you'd certainly qualify for the prize.

(Of course, the only way of knowing beforehand what would be acceptable is asking — nudge one of your astrologer friends/colleagues to have a chat with the JREF and see if there's something you can arrange.)



[ Parent ]
What is with the putting words in my mouth crap? (none / 0) (#112)
by localroger on Fri Jul 08, 2005 at 09:17:02 PM EST

I did not anywhere say the JREF would refuse all claims of astrology. I said that I could not imagine an astrologer who believed in the usefulness of his craft expecting his results to be convincing to JREF, which is an entirely different thing.

It is a fundamental difference between paranormal people and scientists that they have different criteria for considering results successful and useful. As for the idiot who posted "you don't get to choose the criteria," the Astrologer would throw that right back at you. It works both ways. The Astrologer doesn't get to have his charts published in Scientific American unless he meets your standards, and you don't get to close down his publications or call him a fraud within them unless you do so within his. And his standards are, whether you like it or not, much more subjective and accepting than yours. As you would tell him, deal with it.

I am become Death, Destroyer of Worlds -- J. Robert Oppenheimer
[ Parent ]

Re: What is with the putting words in my mouth cra (none / 0) (#113)
by ctgPi on Fri Jul 08, 2005 at 11:37:41 PM EST


I did not anywhere say the JREF would refuse all claims of astrology.


Of course you didn't actually say that, but you did say that "skeptical materialists" would dismiss any correct prediction as "coincidence". All in all, isn't it the same as flatly refusing to test anyone? At the very least, that approach would save astrologers some grief.


It is a fundamental difference between paranormal people and scientists that they have different criteria for considering results successful and useful.


Surely. Scientists call experiments "sucessful" and theories "useful" when they help us in our understanding, perception and prediction of reality.

(Well, sort-of. There is bad science and bad scientists, after all, but I'm talking here about serious scientists.)

The question is: what do astrologers call "sucessful" and "useful"? These definitions certainly have at least some overlap with the scientist's definition; being otherwise would imply that astrology did not correlate with reality.

Scientists are interested in (and, realistically, can only work in) the overlap, since, as you said, each one must work inside his own axiom system.

So, why can't astrologers work out the overlap and iron it out with the likes of JREF and CSICOP?



[ Parent ]
What astrologers call "successful" (none / 0) (#115)
by localroger on Sat Jul 09, 2005 at 12:43:09 PM EST

The question is: what do astrologers call "sucessful" and "useful"?

This is actually a good question, and the answer will highlight why the JREF challenge is a red herring.

If you put this question to someone who practices anything like Astrology, Tarot or I Ching reading, or any of the numerous systems of ritual magic, you would hear something very much like this:

We call our projects "sucessful" and our symbolic systems "useful" when they help us in our understanding, perception and prediction of reality.

Now while this is exactly the same statement you put in the mouths of your scientists, it is completely different because of the interpretation of the word understanding.

Scientists only consider themselves to understand something if they and other scientists using the same techniques can get predictable results in repeated trials. No matter how elegant or pleasing a theory is, it's not (supposed to be) accepted unless it can meet this criterion. It's objective.

The people who practice metaphysical things do not require repeatability; in fact, they often assume that their tools have the qualities of living things and that to expect repeatability of them is ridiculous. They consider a theory useful and successful if it enhances their personal understanding of what are usually very subjective qualities of people and situations.

You could correctly criticize their judgement in this regard for a lot of good reasons, for example giving more weight to positive results when a coincidence is noticed than to the negative results where nothing interesting emerges. But that misses the point; if someone has used the system for years and they feel it has educated them, it has sharpened their perception, it has given them moments of epiphany where they can see the symbolic relationships reflected in the world around them, then it is successful to them no matter how many nits you pick in their methodology.

Things like the JREF challenge are a waste of time because science and magic are about totally different things; there is no overlap. Despite the existence of people who will take your money for a reading, it is a common theme in metaphysical literature that you should really do your own magic, because it is really about personal growth. You rely on others when learning and seeking the path that makes most sense for you, but the whole point is for your own intuition becomes strong enough that you don't need such crutches.

People like Randi perform a valuable service because there are hustlers out there whose only interest is making a buck off the gullible, but they miss the boat when it comes to why these systems of thought exist at all.

Barbara Walker, who drew the Tarot deck that I favor, flatly disbelieves that these devices really do anything outside of the mind of the querant, but she still considers the exercises interesting and useful simply because they focus your attention on things that you would normally miss. There is no way to represent this to the folks at JREF. To call it useless is to deny that human experience has any value. But the Astrologer or Tarot reader would reverse the situation; they would say that our interior experience is really all we have. To say that it is worthless an almost obscene denial of what we are.

And that, basically, is why none of the many people who fervently believe in this stuff is a millionare courtesy of JREF. To them, the interior experience of appreciating the system is the ultimate successful result; but it doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that it's not something JREF would accept. So ultimately there is no overlap; the two worldviews simply do different things. Which is why a fair number of people, such as Robert Anton Wilson, are able to work within both without compromising either.

I am become Death, Destroyer of Worlds -- J. Robert Oppenheimer
[ Parent ]

Great answer, too (none / 0) (#116)
by ctgPi on Sat Jul 09, 2005 at 06:27:20 PM EST

As it was certainly clear on my earlier posts, I don't accept astrology. I usually don't care about it, under normal circumstances, but I will go ballistic when such paranormal claims are an excuse for a money-sucking scheme, specially if, as sadly is the case with many such beliefs, they are sought by ill/dying people in spite of conventional medical treatment (in other words, the likes of "Don't take these AIDS pills or wear condoms; they are artifical and will harm you. Here, take this magical potion." that seem to unfortunately pervade particularly Africa, but I'm sure are present too in Europe and the U.S.).

My initial fear was that you were somehow trying to defend the astrologers/psychics that play it out like "Here, have your chart done for $. Hey, you have spiritual problems. Pay $$ and have a spiritual cleansing done at our Spiritual Healing Facilities(tm). Hey, you've got a brain tumor? Pay $$$ for this amulet and it will go away." and so on.

(Indeed, Randi, in his weekly column, does admittedly bash that kind of paranormalist more than the silent variety. I haven't collected data on this, though, so feel free to call me on my confirmation bias :) )

That said, my worst fears — that you were sheltering the media/money whores under a guise of legitimacy — are allayed. As such, I apologize for any misunderstandings I may have caused.




[ Parent ]
Excellent (none / 1) (#117)
by localroger on Sat Jul 09, 2005 at 09:12:34 PM EST

I agree with your assessment of the quick-buck crowd. Fortunately the metaphysical scene in the USA (or at least the corner of it I've seen) seems pretty devoid of the people who would guide you away from regular medical treatment. Everyone I've encountered sensibly advised that medicine was useful and that the paranormal was something to augment or help it along, not to replace it.

People naturally do tend to turn to the paranormal when the best medical solutions are iffy or are not working. Frankly, in those cases I can't see the harm in putting crystals on your chakras or whatever too; it certainly does no harm, and hope (however misplaced) is a good thing when your body is fighting to survive.

I have known people who take money for readings, crystal balancings, and so on who I don't think are frauds. They do what they do for the same reason anyone would choose a line of work that they find personally interesting, and you can tell who they are because they are willing to tell you things you don't want to hear or that won't set them up for repeat business. Those people don't tend to work 1-900 numbers, but might hang around the local New Age bookstore or do readings at a public square. Here in New Orleans I understand quite a few of them attend the Unitarian Universalist church. And they won't be getting rich off of it. That takes a kind of ruthlessness which contradicts the whole idea of what these systems try to accomplish.

In our society, the real shystering and steering people away from medicine into snake oil seems to be the province of semi-legitimate Christian sects. Then there are the flat-out shysters. I once got (fortunately comped) tickets for The Amazing Kreskin at a local casino. He had the audience eating out of the palm of his hand, but I found him profoundly disturbing. Mostly thanks to James P. Hogan I was able to see through most of his "mentalist" tricks. I enjoy stage magic even though I have a knack for figuring out those tricks too, but magicians admit that they use trickery even if they don't tell you what the tricks are. Kreskin is much less honest.

When I talk about "serious" astrologers or honest Tarot readers, these people don't claim to be able to do the kind of things Kreskin claims to be able to do. They may truly believe they have an inside line to some useful force, but they know it's not reliable the way a wall switch is and they won't tell you it is. They certainly won't use trickery to make you think they have a power that they know they don't have.

There are, of course, professional divination readers who are no different from Kreskin. If you judge the whole field by these shysters I can't blame you for feeling hostile about it. They make it that much harder for the people who honestly want to explore these systems of thought without being harrassed or ridiculed.

I am become Death, Destroyer of Worlds -- J. Robert Oppenheimer
[ Parent ]

Encore ! Encore ! (none / 0) (#120)
by bugmaster on Sun Jul 10, 2005 at 08:47:23 PM EST

I actually enjoyed this post as much as I enjoyed the article. I've been trying to articulate the difference between science and magic for years, but you've done it better.

How about a more, in-depth article on the subject ? You can cover topics such as "why JREF cannot succeed", "the difference between magic and science", "science is seen as magic by most people", etc.
>|<*:=
[ Parent ]

Guys, relax (none / 0) (#88)
by bugmaster on Tue Jul 05, 2005 at 09:11:37 AM EST

Geez, what is it with you people ? I liked the article. It (like most of localroger's articles that don't deal with zombie BSDM incest or some such) was articulate, well-paced, and a lot of fun to read. I would've voted it up if I saw it in the queue.

The article clearly states, right at the beginning, that all of astrology is based on the "As Above, So Below" principle, which is essentially taken on faith. If you have faith in this particular concept, you can use the article to explore your faith further. If you lack this faith, you can use the article to get an insight into the minds of the people who do believe. What's the problem ?
>|<*:=

I don't believe in astrology (3.00 / 2) (#95)
by Cro Magnon on Tue Jul 05, 2005 at 02:11:32 PM EST

We Virgos are sceptical of such things.
Information wants to be beer.
Axioms (none / 0) (#100)
by hymie on Wed Jul 06, 2005 at 06:28:11 PM EST

We don't do "axioms" in the real world. If we want some fundamental principle to be accepted as a model of reality, we must offer evidence to demonstrate its plausibility. A claim of "as above, so below" will not be accepted without a reason as to why this should be, any more than a claim of "as the shape of my belly button lint, so the world" would be.


Re: Axioms (none / 0) (#118)
by bugmaster on Sun Jul 10, 2005 at 09:01:55 AM EST

We don't do "axioms" in the real world.
We do, actually. Most of us accept the axiom "I exist" (at least in the weak, brain-in-a-jar sense). Many also accept the axiom "god exists" (for various values of "god"), or "my senses appear to be relaying information about a world which exists independently of myself".

These are axioms precisely because they are not "models of reality", and are not subject to empirical analysis of any kind -- these are just some things you must arbitrarily accept or reject. Some people reject "as above, so below", but then, some people also reject the existence of an independent objective reality.

Note that not all claims are axioms; for example, "the Earth is round", or "I can predict the future" are claims that can be easily verified.

Localroger contends that "as above, so below" is an axiom. Your choices are to accept it (arbitrarily), to reject it (arbitrarily), or to demonstrate that it's not an axiom, in which case you'd be able to demand some evidence for it.
>|<*:=
[ Parent ]

Hooray! (none / 0) (#102)
by Chewbacca Uncircumsized on Wed Jul 06, 2005 at 10:47:56 PM EST

Astrology!

axioms (none / 0) (#119)
by izogi on Sun Jul 10, 2005 at 07:58:43 PM EST

If you wish to debunk Astrology, As Above, So Below is your primary target; but since it is an axiom you cannot simply offer a disproof of it. If you simply assert that it is bunk the serious Astrologer is likely to smile mildly at you with the contempt you deserve for so completely misunderstanding his science.

This is unfortunately true, and it's why I've given up on arguing with astrologers, and instead debate with people who are listening to them if I think those people are being conned unfairly.

All that said, it's not the axiom that's messed up. An axiom can be anything that's taken as truth within some frame of reference, and astrology may well be very consistent within it's own theoretical rules and axioms. The problem is its applicability to the real world when astrologers start talking about the real world. For that, it's not terribly difficult to search for observations.

Mathematical axioms are considered that because they're the basic definitions of mathematics, and we know that they're consistent. Mathematics would be useless, though, if we hadn't also confirmed that it can be applied to problems in the real world. This confirmation wasn't through blind confidence -- it's been continuously and carefully tested and confirmed through observation.

If astrology were merely a theoretical pursuit that had no attempted bearing on the real world, it could have all the axioms it wanted. Astrologers who make predictions that are so disjointed and waffley that they can't be checked, are not disproving astrology at all. They're also not proving it useful.

As Above, So Below may be an axiom of astrology, but until astrology is proved to be applicable to the real world, the axioms and rules of astrology are nothing more than vapour.

Thanks for the article -- it was an interesting read.


- izogi


A Brief Introduction to Horary Astrology | 120 comments (101 topical, 19 editorial, 0 hidden)
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