Monday, January 25, 2016

Precessional shift and the 13th sign

Some astronomers claim that the signs of the tropical zodiac used in astrology have shifted due to the motion of precession and that the constellation Ophiuchus should be used as a 13th sign. This claim is refuted in the following video.
Click here.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Thomas Nagel on intelligibility, consciousness, mind, and theism

In his 2012 book Mind and Cosmos, philosopher Thomas Nagel has questioned the materialist, reductionist, neo-Darwinian conception of nature, concluding that it is “almost certainly false.” He considers the intelligent design controversy through an examination of the mind-body problem, constitutive accounts of consciousness (reductive or emergent), and accounts of the historical origin of consciousness (causal or teleological) as descriptions and explanations of intelligibility. Consciousness, he argues, presents a problem for evolutionary reductionism. His argument from “objective idealism” suggests a teleological causality. My interest in Nagel's argument is the suggestion that the original Aristotelian teleology, which is without theistic intention, has natural values as the explanatory end. To me this suggests astrology, which has a natural framework of values.  I can only briefly summarize Nagel's arguments here with some key passages, cited by page numbers, to which I've added a few thoughts. 

“The great advances in the physical and biological sciences were made possible by excluding the mind from the physical world. This has permitted a quantitative understanding of the world, expressed in timeless, mathematically formulated physical laws. But at some point it will be necessary to make a new start on a more comprehensive understanding that includes the mind.” (8)

“In the natural sciences as they have developed since the seventeenth century, the assumption of intelligibility has led to extraordinary discoveries, confirmed by prediction and experiment, of a hidden natural order that cannot be observed by human perception alone. Without the assumption of an intelligible underlying order, which long antedates the scientific revolution, these discoveries could not have been made.” (16)

“The intelligibility of the world is no accident. Mind, in this view, is doubly related to the natural order. Nature is such as to give rise to conscious beings with minds; and it is such as to be comprehensible to such beings. Ultimately, therefore, such beings should be comprehensible to themselves.” (17)

Edmund Husserl said "to like is intrinsically to be conscious." To me, this suggests that conscious liking, as opposed to being selfish and driven, is forward looking and purposeful because it is the basis of choosing and consciousness. The mind is occupied by likes and dislikes and this suggests intelligible values. I think this is where Nagel is going in his argument. Consciousness is a problem for directionless physical law.

Nagel postulates that the opposite of materialism is “the position that mind, rather than physical laws, provides the fundamental level of explanation of everything, including the explanation of the basic and universal physical laws themselves. This view is familiarly expressed as theism. … theism makes physical law a consequence of mind. … theism interprets intelligibility ultimately in terms of intention or purpose.” (21) Nagel does not agree with theism.  

“Theism embraces that conclusion [a 'mentalistic or even a normative form of understanding'] by attributing the mental phenomena found within the world to the working of a comprehensive mental source, of which they are miniature versions.” (22)

[In evolutionary terms] “Teleological laws would assign higher probability to steps on paths in state space that have a higher 'velocity' toward certain outcomes. They would be laws of the self-organization of matter, essentially—or of whatever is more basic than mater.” (93) This intriguing postulation suggests something out of quantum physics, a sort of teleological boson having probability states that impart values as consciousness. Saying it seems to revert to reductionism.

The orthodox received view in evolutionary biology is that natural selection is blind to the future. It is progressive only "locally" in terms of better adaptation of an organism to its immediate ecological environment. In place of "chance, creationism, and directionless physical law," Nagel argues for "natural teleology," an evolutionary view that we perceive as forward looking and purposeful, yet secular rather than deistic or theistic. 

There is a problem that evolutionary reductionism does not explain. Nagel says that “the recent extraordinary discoveries of evolutionary developmental biology (evo-devo) seems to imply much more system and less chance in the sources of genetic variation than had formerly been supposed. But such facts would also have to be explained ultimately by physical principles in a reductionist theory.” (48) I believe Nagel is referring to calculations that suggest there could not have been enough chance variation over the past three billion years to provide a basis for the “single long process of evolutionary descent” that we observe in the natural record. This observation is akin to Hubble finding that the universe is expanding.

To Nagel, intentions of mind are not a part of the explanation. Rather, he suggests that teleology is restricted by organizing scales of values. “I believe that teleology is a naturalistic alternative [to explain evolution] that is distinct from all three of the other candidate explanations: chance, creationism, and directionless physical law... [this] teleology would have to be restrictive in what it makes likely, but without depending on intentions or motives. This would probably have to involve some conception of an increase in value through the expanded possibilities provided by the higher forms of organization toward which nature tends; not just any outcome could qualify as the telos. That would make value an explanatory end, but not one that is realized through the purposes or intentions of an agent. Teleology means that in addition to physical law of the familiar kind, there are other laws of nature that are ‘biased toward the marvelous.’” (91-92)

Nagel does in fact associate his teleology with the original Aristotelian idea of teleology without intention. (93) Yet his thinking does not go very far beyond Aristotle. He does not explain the organizing values that expand possibilities presumed to limit teleology and the tendencies of nature other than to suggest that they are laws on a par with physical laws. Nor does he address the current theories of “self-organization” (e.g. Stuart Kauffman and the Santa Fe Institute). This is disappointing in that astrology contains a well defined set of organizational values, the zodiacal signs, and it would be interesting to compare. 

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Carl Sagan against astrology

In his 1995 book The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark, celebrated astronomer Carl Sagan bemoans the shallowness of the media that presents pseudoscience, in which he includes astrology, as being credible.
"The dumbing down of American is most evident in the slow decay of substantive content in the enormously influential media, the 30 second sound bites (now down to 10 seconds or less), lowest common denominator programming, credulous presentations on pseudoscience and superstition, but especially a kind of celebration of ignorance."
To his credit, Carl Sagan refused to sign the infamous 1975 "Objections to Astrology" article endorsed by 186 scientists on the basis that the signers relied on their collective authoritarian tone instead of arguing whether astrological principles are faulty. Yet Sagan ignored his own criticism when he later condemned astrology in the Cosmos TV series and in The Demon-Haunted World. Sagan had a less than rudimentary understanding of astrological principles and practices and he never engaged in the only type of argument he declared was credible.

Hypocritically, Sagan attacked newspaper horoscopes (the 30-second sound bite he was critical of) and the most superficial aspects of astrology as if that were all that astrology offers. Sagan's public trivializing of astrology was in fact a striking example of his own considerable contribution to the "slow decay of substantive content in the enormously influential media". It was nothing less than his own appeal to credulity and celebration of ignorance.


In hindsight, it almost seems as if someone influential in Sagan's life correctly warned him not to sign the Objections article but was not around to stop him from making the same rational blunder at other times.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Iunr4B4wfDA

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xerwni_carl-sagan-videos-pseudoscience-of_tech

Monday, October 12, 2015

Astrology and modernity

In France, astrology has not had the same revival of traditional astrology as in many other parts of the community. Alain de Chivré, president of the Fédération d'Astrologues Francophones has argued against this trend toward traditionalism in order to distinguish astrology from fortune telling. Instead, he has suggested the alignment of astrology with the humanities and concepts of Modernity by advocating the following five requirements.

1) To avoid any association of astrology with tarot reading, clairvoyance, and mediumship.
2) To prohibit the astrological prediction of specific events, such as the outcomes of presidential elections or of football matches, and all predictions concerning individuals.
3) To apply astrology as a practice concerning nature and nurture rather than as a practice that applies techniques.
4) To exercise great caution in forecasting, limited to general forecasts only.
5) To refocus on the useful function of astrology, which is the development of human potential.
Full text: http://federation-astrologues.com/

One cannot blame de Chivré and the FDAF for trying to protect astrology from attacks. Astrologers have not fared well in the prediction of specific events and it should be recognized, as de Chivré suggests, that it is better to interpret probabilities and general tendencies instead. This is what most of mainstream science does today in a much more disciplined way. Psi is not part of the astrological corpus and formally making this distinction ends guilt by association.

However, I don’t completely agree with de Chivré’s avoidance of an emphasis on techniques. I see diversity of techniques as a strength rather than a weakness, provided there is an active discourse that places the development of human potential first, as de Chivré states. A process of critical discourse would separate the more promising concepts from the weaker concepts and this needs to be strengthened not only in France but throughout the astrological community.

In my view, a more serious mistake would be for astrology to embrace Modernity as de Chivré suggests. Modernity can be recognized in some of the worst global problems suffered today. Modernity in the name of progress or economic enterprise fosters widespread pressures on work dependent identities and the compulsive elimination of doubt. It has resulted in the avoidance of social diversity and the abhorrence of divergence. Astrologers need to divest from such social pressures even if it raises criticism from skeptics that astrologers do not agree on everything among themselves. Disagreement is an essential part of a healthy creative process.

The proper rejection of Modernity is not “Postmodernism.” Postmodernism turns out to have the same agenda as the old Modernity but repackaged and branded in terms of consumer identities. The proper response is rather the greatly maligned New Age. It is the New Age alone that combines an emerging sense of ecological awareness with the intelligent understanding of ancient knowledge and practices.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Is astrology authoritarian? Is science?

Since Galileo and Francis Bacon, science has been disruptive and anti-authoritarian. Astrology is too, but many scientists mistakenly believe astrology to be authoritarian and that is why they fight against it. Science is a method skeptical of claims. It replaces authority and dogmatic laws with evidence and statements of deductions and probable conclusions—its theory. Generally, scientists do not recognize astrological theory because it appears to be simply a black box of accumulated traditions. They do not want to look inside the box to see how the theory is structured and how the structures might provide evidence.

To claim that astrology is pseudoscience is an authoritarian and unscientific position. If scientists do not know of any evidence that supports astrology, they should declare astrology to be probably pseudoscience (equivalent to "all swans are probably white"). But there actually is strong evidence of astrological effects (black swans). The evidence is widely suppressed, most publicly in Wikipedia, the popular, crowdsourced encyclopedia. The intent of those who actively suppress the evidence is to maintain that astrology is authoritarian. Yet this can only be accomplished by the enforcement of authoritarian-based rules and dogma. The end result is faulty logic that uses the very argument it rejects.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Review of Bernadette Brady's "Astrology and Research"

The complete title of the paper, published in June 2003, is "Astrology and Research: Astrologers’ attitudes to research methodologies and the implications of these attitudes for the contemporary communities of astrologers." In the paper, Brady voices strong opinions in support of qualitative research in astrology.

The article was written during a particularly pessimistic period when it seemed normal to characterize quantitative research in astrology as an obsession with legitimacy, almost in the sense of a psychological disorder that needed a cure. Looking back at the research in the late 20th century, I would not regard the research of Michel and Françoise Gauquelin or of Suitbert Ertel, and others as particularly concerned with legitimizing astrology but rather with exploring unknowns and making interesting discoveries. In itself, obsession is irrelevant to science, provided there is method, review, and replication.

While I can appreciate the promotion of good ideas in qualitative research, I don't think the problem is an over-emphasis on quantitative research. In my view, where the quantitative astrological research effort fails is in the critical review of its findings and claims, that is, in drawing greater attention to the flaws and to the promise of its individual studies.

The growing interest in astrology as a form of symbolic divination has a place but would be very worrisome if it were to become the predominant philosophy. Both qualitative research and divination astrology tend to throw out the basic principles and the best sources of criticism without trying to better understand them. They are just not astrological enough. They rely too much on the moment and on the rituals of practice.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Misreprentation of the temperaments in the EPI

From what I understand, Empedocles (c. 450 BCE) postulated that the universe is built out of fire, earth, air, and water. He was a nilist and did not assign any values to these elements. His predecessors had been Thales (c. late 6th century BCE) who believed the essential ingredient was water, and later Anaximenes who argued that the fundamental substance was air. Later, Democritus (c. 400 BCE) argued for materialism and that the world consists of nothing but imortal atoms and empty space, and even the soul was composed of atoms.

Soon after Empedocles, Hippocrates (460-370 BCE) incorporated the four temperaments or humours into his medical theories: sanguine (pleasure-seeking and sociable), choleric (ambitious and leader-like), melancholic (analytical and quiet), and phlegmatic (relaxed and peaceful). These may have their origins in ancient Egypt or Mesopotamia. I don't know how these ideas were conflated and incorporated into astrology.

As you can tell, none of these early descriptions of temperaments represents a disturbance, and as such they can be considered as stable dimensions of personality. What I think Eysenck and later psychologists did was interpret these dimensions in such a manner that suggested disturbances or unstable psychological states. The difference, I believe, is that in astrology the personality dimensions may be disturbed into such states but recovery is expected because psychological states are not permanent as dimensions are. Eysenck and others seem to take certain psychological states as being permanent and I think this has no place in astrology.

Thus in Eysenck's Personality Inventory (EPI) test, we have E (extraversion - sociability) and N (neuroticism - emotional stability) each with continuums between + and -. E+ is sociable and outgoing, E- is quiet and reserved, N+ is emotional and easily upset, N- is calm and not easily upset. Now, how often do you encounter people, for example, in the E+N+ quadrant (outgoing and easily upset emotionally)? Are these people in your everyday world? Is this really a personality dimension or a psychological state? You may encounter someone from this quadrant like Mayor Rob Ford, but such people are unstable and definitely need professional help. It is not a true personality dimension.

The beauty of astrology is that it describes both personality dimensions and psychological states but the states are assumed to be under the control of the native, whereas the dimensions are not. That is why astrology cannot predict with certainty what the state might be at any given time. This is a different paradigm than the E and N theories, which I now believe to be a corruption.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The jetpack scientist

In view of the corporate manipulation of science funding and research programs in the pursuit of higher profits in the name of progress and growth, and the corresponding decline of scientific authority and credibility, here's a link to an insightful blog post with a "modest proposal." The author, that science potentially could once again be supported by astrology, in the way that Ptolemy, Galileo, and Kepler practiced astrology to support their scientific efforts. Science institutions could offer astrological services to the public as a means of supporting their research programs that are now underfunded because there are no foreseeable profits to be made from them for corporate gains. This is meant to be somewhat satirical, though it touches upon interesting discussion points. Apparently, skeptics ought not attack astrology because astrology might just be the means that at some time in the near future could once again support the best innovation in science.

http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.ca/2013/08/not-written-in-stars.html

It seems to me as if science has been suffering a slow but steady decline. There are a growing number of history of science shows on television and they seem almost nostalgic. Science has become the stuff of storytelling and legend. Scientists today are not the impressive figures of authority and respect that they once were. Scientists nowadays are just ordinary people who collect a large amount of data for statistical evaluation or who isolate pieces of genetic code for Monsanto products and the profit motive. Some of the best known scientists are turning to skepticism as a career, trying to blame the "decline of science literacy" on what they perceive as "growing superstition" and "irrationality." In reality however, the current decline may have much more to do with a growing public awareness of a lack of ethical choices and global responsibility related to corporate control of science for profit.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Here the existential astrologer

If we have been taught doctrine of heliocentric world, haven't we all obligation then to conceive disembodied, floating in space, looking down at "You are here"? Where? Or would we now need declare liberty to think wherewith in reverse, abiding in our skins? Must one then invoke license, against that wisdom, to be at one with self and a whole universe a system whirling and substantiating about us? Because they who profess could not grasp this fateful objectivity which is that all share their own oneness at the multicenter of an at-once and often unique universe that encompasses within its many spiral arms an intimate feasible embrace.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Does astrology violate physical laws?

It is sometimes said that astrology defies the laws of physics. But what laws are these? Do we need to choose between gravity and thermodynamics? Anyone who makes this assertion should state exactly what those laws are and exactly how astrology ignores, denies, or goes counter to them. What I think you'd probably find would be an attempt to change the subject to astrology's "claims" of "influence" and "effects" and some interesting and revealing assumptions. Astrological "claims" are not so specific as to be law-like, but are complex postulations that are rather more like theories than claims.

Theory can postulate influences and effects, and these might potentially be indirectly evaluated and inferred, like the Higgs boson, through observing statistical correlations. "Influence" is just a word that astrologers have used. Like many words in the English language, the word influence has become somewhat ambiguous by the different meanings it has acquired. Astrological influence could turn out to be something more like quantum entanglement.

From the experimentation so far, entanglement seems to have no limits. If there was a primordial Big Bang, then everything was split from everything else at the beginning and theoretically there should be plenty of entanglements evident throughout the universe. Microcosms entangled with macrocosms in the astrological sense would be normal and not against natural laws. This relationship in astrology is known as the Hermetic maxim. The nearest macrocosm that everyone on Earth shares is the local environment of the Sun, Moon, and planets. Such an explanatory theory might challenge some of our conventional beliefs but does not violate or defy the laws of physics or nature.

Scientific theory allows the freedom to provide hypothetical interpretations and allows even extraordinary concepts to be seriously discussed. For example, the extraordinary principle of nonlocality is well documented through experimental research and might eventually be used to explain macrocosmic observations beyond quantum phenomena.

The "violates or defies physical or natural laws" assertion is in conflict with scientific curiosity. This assertion as an argument should always be critically questioned because the discussion can uncover deeper beliefs and lead to a better engagement with astrology. Astrologers have learned a how to evaluate astrology fairly within scientific frameworks, and are prepared to ensure fairness if given the opportunity.


As a last point, astrologers can borrow a useful term from quantum physicist David Bohm that could help overcome typical criticisms of astrology that are redolent of late 19th century classical science. Instead of "influences," we might say that there are planetary "implications" that operate between the interplanetary macrocosm and the microcosms of individuals. This suggests Bohm's concept of a deeper implicate (enfolded) order compared to the explicate (unfolded) order of our familiar existence according to the symmetry of the Hermetic maxim. Planetary implications referred to in this manner suggest archetypes and their taxonomies, which are abstract organizational concepts that have their beginnings in astrology.