Thursday, December 25, 2008

Separating astrological effects from anomalies

In a scientific exploration you might not have preconceptions, but you still make assumptions. For example you might be looking for relationships between the planets correlated to some world events like market prices and you don't care what relationships you find. There's still an assumption or hypothesis that you might find some.

What’s missing in exploration is not assumptions but theory, and this is intentional. Someone once saw something weird out there that just didn't make normal sense, and you’re going hunting for it and others like it. It doesn't bother you that it doesn't make sense.

The interesting findings you make, if they are consistent but without theory, are anomalies.

But all astrology, as it has been handed down to us with all its concepts, may be an anomaly, or maybe not. If we agree on mapping principles then we have paradigms and structure, and we can build theories, but of course these theories need to be reliable.

Let’s say we've found anomalies. Either they fit a theory (and are predictably reliable), or they are nothing.

If we don't think these anomalies we’ve found are nothing, because we've found a lot of them, then we'd better think of ways to show that the findings are reliable and predictable. Can we replicate? Can we compare to a control, either physical controls or simulated controls created by shifting the appropriate pieces of data? Can we rank the findings based on eminence, severity, affinity, etc. to see if there is a rule, mathematical function, or a constant that supports it?

If we have an astrological finding that is reliable and predictable (replicable, independent of controls, and co-varies in strength with known factors) then the finding is not an anomaly. It’s a "response," "species," "pattern" or "effect."

It is confusing to some people to say something is an "effect" when effects are taken to be direct and strong physical influences and not just statistical tendencies, and so they have problems with astrology. An effect is not the same as a theory because a theory needs to explain why the effect happens as a feature of nature.

What normally happens with unexpected effects is to embrace the weird by building theory that is consistent with our various effects and our original paradigmatic principles. The findings of these effects might never stop being weird but the effects would begin to make normal sense, at least to some people.

Astrological theory might be different than current standard physical theory, or it might be an extension of it. For example, if we live in a fractal universe, which implies patterns with a mathematical function, then we should have no problem considering such astrological concepts as synchronicity and cosmic symmetry. In a fractal universe, there could be some conceivable cause and effect relationship in astrology through the operation of fractal functionality, which may determine some behaviors, such as planetary movements, but only govern but not determine other behaviors, such as the lives of people as well as the lives of non-living and non-physical entities, which traditional astrology concerns itself with, but standard theory does not.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Response to Theories of Astrology: A Comprehensive Survey

An article, "Theories of Astrology: A Comprehensive Survey" by Dean, Loptson, Kelly, et al, available on Rudolf Smit's website at, is a very good overview of skeptical arguments against astrological theories and explanations. It is gratifying to see that the "ordinary explanations" it offers are stretching a lot farther and attempting to grapple with much tougher and more complex issues than what was presented in 1975's "Objections to Astrology." This is a good sign of discourse. However, a major deficiency in the article is the argument against a key astrological concept that most astrologers agree with, which is introduced by using a quote from Robert Hand.

"As Hand (1988) puts it, 'The universe is essentially a clock in which all components serve to tell what time it is. As above so below, because it is essentially one thing. ... In various forms this is the most prevalent theory at present.'"

In this instance Hand interprets the hermetic maxim ("as above, so below") as a question of time and synchronicity, even though the maxim says "as" not "when," which should suggest that this concept is more applicable to states and symmetries of behavior rather than purely temporal behaviors. In any case, the skeptical argument completely falls apart at this point by appealing directly to a common sense dismissal of the concept presented in the maxim as simply "absurd."

"But as argued by Roberts (1990:98), it is absurd to believe that the quality of time throughout billions of star systems, some possibly with planets sustaining life, is synchronous with what our solar system is doing. So the quality of time has to be localised, on which point neither Jung nor astrologers offer guidance."

Why is this belief or postulation so absurd? If this is a comprehensive survey, as the sub-title of the skeptic article claims, then we must consider the possibility of a fractal universe, as some astrologers have offered, where this is not absurd at all. In this view, inner world behaviors (microcosms) are "self-similar" (which is to say symmetrical) to outer world behaviors (macrocosms).

Fractal behaviors have been observed throughout nature and it might not be surprizing to discover that the universe as we know it behaves with some sort of fractal functionality. One might even venture to say that it would indeed be more surprizing to find that the universe as a whole does not function in this way.

The conclusion that the skeptics in their conventional wisdom have brought foreward is that "the quality of time has to be localized." This conclusion, which in their view necessarily remedies something they believe to be "absurd," is logically and scientifically unwarranted. The "explanation" offered for the hermetic maxim, which is no explanation at all, does not even scratch the surface of this prevailing and very intriguing astrological concept.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Astrological properties and influence

While it can be said that people, social dynamics, and events "influence" each other through their interactions, and that planets and stars have "properties" because they are objects, it cannot not be said that planets and stars directly influence people, society, or events, because there is no direct interaction between them. However, if people and events "reflect" celestial objects by a type of symmetry as astrology purports (i.e. as above—so below), then the planetary or stellar "influence" is indirect. It comes from people and events that are influencing—or trying to influence—each other while diachronically reflecting astrological properties.

This is why it is best to think of celestial objects as having astrological properties rather than astrological influence. Being ambiguous, the latter can be construed to mean direct physical influence, animism, determinism, etc., which it is not. Thinking in terms of properties instead of influences relieves researchers of the unfortunate semantic burden of assumed causal interactions where none are claimed. Free of this burden, researchers can get on with their work, which is based on mapping principles that everyone, in principle, can agree to.

It is not so important to know how celestial objects come to have astrological properties or how symmetries operate. These are just things that are empirically observed, like any other properties or behaviors in nature. Researchers need to be circumspect in their language to infer astrological properties through symmetrically diachronic observations of people and events.

Friday, November 21, 2008

How are planetary effects different?

Recent discussions have raised the issue of how planetary characteristics in astrology fit into some sort of rational organization. Like others, I believe this represents a puzzle.

As I was writing Environmental Cosmology, I began to think of the planets differently. Planets do not directly influence us. Instead, planets have astrological properties, which we use. So the question we need to ask is, how are the astrological properties of planets discovered and what makes each planet different?

Skeptics have pointed out that planetary effects in astrology do not diminish with distance (like gravity does). They suggests that near planets should be "stronger" and far planets should be "weaker" or have no effect at all. This skeptic view assumes that the planets all exert a physical influence that is always the same, only stronger or weaker (like gravity). But in astrology the different planets have different effects. They do not operate like gravity, which is always the same effect. We can postulate that distance and speed might account for the different astrological properties. So in effect, this astrological postulation might actually take distance into account as a factor of astrological "properties," strange as that might seem.

The planets are astrologically different from each other because they have different astronomical and physical properties. They move at different speeds, so they might associate with different biological rhythms, and by extension, social rhythms. If the planets all moved at the same speed in the same cycle, then maybe they would all have the same single astrological property, but they don't move that way. To discover the astrological properties of the planets, we need to measure effects, and for this we use the astrological frames of reference: the signs, houses, and aspects, which are all based upon natural, environmental symmetries.

At this time, the best understanding I have for why the planets are astrologically different is that they have different rhythms that associate (by cosmic symmetry, or fractal symmetry, diachronic synchronicity, etc. whatever) with biological rhythms, and their astrological properties have been indirectly inferred by their observed effects.

Although ideas have been floated concerning an "octave" effect, in which the more distant planets are higher octaves of the near planets, there isn't much in this to consider in terms of pattern. Finding a pattern for planetary effects is a mystery that would be nice to resolve, but this shouldn't stop or hinder our understanding of the planets through brute observation, which is the way much of science is done anyway. Astrology just has to use indirect methods of observation.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Why science rejects astrology

Modern science rejects astrology because astrology does not present a "causal mechanism" that the classical parts of Standard Theory would assume to operate between the celestial system and the individual. Science does not recognize the concept that astrology presents instead, which is the natural symmetry that occurs between inner and outer environments. As the ancient Hermetic maxim states: "As above, so below; as below, so above." The inner world of the individual is reflected in the symmetrical outer world of the celestial environment.

Empirical evidence of this type of symmetry is found in hologram fragments. Each fragment contains an image of the whole. Another example is the so-called "self-similarity" found in fractal geometries, where the same shapes or patterns are repeated at different scales within the fractal environment. Although they are not recognized as such, these are symmetries, and they fall into the category of what may be called "cosmic symmetry." The behaviors of microcosms are reflected in the behaviors of their macrocosms and vice versa. Within an environment, behaviors implement cosmic symmetry.

Although relatively inconspicuous compared to other symmetries, cosmic symmetry is nonetheless a feature that is found throughout nature, and this natural feature has gone unacknowledged by science for the past 400 years.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Letter to TD

Hi TD,

I've read your articles and I wonder why you want me to see them, because, as you may have already surmized, I do not support this sort of research. I do not think it is either necessary or useful to try to fit astrology into standard theory, despite the efforts of Percy Seymour and to some extent Theodore Landscheidt, and others, who BTW are not astrologers.

Standard theory is a hodge-podge with many gaps and counter-intuitive assumptions. Why should Newtonian gravity act at a distance with no causal mechanism and what is the physical mechanism whereby an electron can be both a particle and a wave? Most scientists don't bother themselves with these deeper questions because they know that the research they are doing works anyway. When it comes to astrology, why should similar questions concerning the physical or causal links between planets and individuals suddenly become so important that astrology is labeled a pseudoscience?

My friend, your intentions are good, but I think you have bought into the burden of proof fallacy. You describe various physical mechanisms that might go together in some way as a causal chain of influences to explain astrology, but there are holes in the sequence. And there are always people, skeptics like Geoffrey Dean, who will find or simply imagine more and more holes – the fallacy of many questions. Holes in a theory can be major distractions. That is why in normal science the puzzling holes and imponderable assumptions in theories are largely ignored as long as the theory works. Why then should astrology be any different?

Astrology does not work according to standard theory, because standard theory does not accept the principles of symmetry upon which astrology is built. "As above, so below" means that there is a symmetry of behavior between the microcosmic world of the individual and the macrocosmic planetary environment surrounding the individual. Astrologers just accept this. It's a feature of nature. We observe it. It just is.

There is nothing stopping astrology from being scientifically studied to get relevant results that support the goals of astrology. Michel Gauquelin and Vernon Clark, among others, have already demonstrated this. I strongly advise you to use the obvious paradigm shift to extract yourself from the rational fallacies that you are now entangled in and to follow the constructive lead of those who have gone before and found interesting things with their science.

Best wishes,


Saturday, July 5, 2008

Socializing the Baby

Bhavana brought her new baby to work. We gathered and adored the baby. His name is Nishant. Then Bhavana took the baby into in the breakout area near our cubicles and asked who wanted to hold the baby. Tonya took him and sat down. She has a baby of her own and she cradled Nishant in her arms. The rest of us stood by and chatted. Everyone was a bit uneasy about holding a baby.

Craig stood at the entrance to the breakout area and someone asked him if he'd hold the baby. Craig joked that he was afraid he'd drop the baby. It had been years since I'd held my own children as babies and, though it made no sense, I think I too was afraid I'd drop the baby. Strange babies move strangely.

We all stood there, chatting while Tonya coddled the baby. Eventually, the baby fussed and so back to mom. Then Dorota kindly took the baby for a while and then back to mom. The chit-chat continued, but it seemed like no one else was going to take the baby.

I gazed out the window where traffic throbbed on the city's main artery. All shapes and sizes of cars and trucks sped by. In the distance, on the lake, a large ship appeared to be completely immobile. Cloud shadows slowly swept across the city.

"Bhavana," I said, "we need to socialize the baby. We need to move the chairs into a circle." I remembered my former urban commune landlady, the late Judith Merill, talking about this. She had said that socializing the newborn was a developmental necessity. We needed to pass the baby around. Once the tables were cleared out of the way and the chairs arranged into a circle, we all sat down.

I took the baby. "Hi Nishant," I said softly, "my name is Kenneth and I was born in Saskatoon. Your mother's name is Bhavana." The baby's eyes blinked and met mine. For a moment, the baby was awestruck. "Aw, look at his face," Bhavana laughed. "Yeah," I smiled. I carefully passed the baby to Christine. For baby, it was another new face and voice. "Hi Nishant," the cheerful voice said. "You're a beautiful baby. My name is Christine and I was born in Hamilton."

And so the introductions went, one after another, as the baby was passed around the circle to William, Craig, Dorota, Olga, Tonya, Syam, and back to mom.

The baby seemed to enjoy this ride around the circle and gently floated around for a second time. On the start of the third circuit, however, he fussed, and so back to the comfort of mom.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

An Eclipse

For the better part of a year I had wrestled with the problem of why astrological matching tests did not produce results. Following the initial early promise of the Vernon Clark research (1961), the more recent matching tests had failed. My thoughts on this question eventually became part of a paper in which I reviewed the leading scientific research in astrology and attempted to assess the best methods by which astrology could be objectively evaluated.

I noted that matching tests had been done in two formats. In one format, astrologers are asked to match a set of subjects' birth charts to the subjects' questionnaire results (Carlson 1985, Nanninga 1996). In the other format, the lives of time twins (two unrelated persons with nearly identical birth charts) are tested to see if they match by using a set of predetermined criteria (Dean and Kelly 2003). I argued that the success of these matching tests depended on a level of determinism that was beyond the limits of astrological tendencies. As commonly stated in psychological astrology texts, "The stars incline; they do not compel." In my assessment, these matching tests were not sensitive enough to show significant results except, as Clark had demonstrated earlier, where the test subjects had strong differences.

In contrast to matching tests, statistical tests, as successfully pioneered by Michel Gauquelin, had shown much better results for astrology. These tests quantified a single quality or trait within a large sample of charts. I argued that the sensitivity of statistical tests, particularly to ranks of eminence or severity, as objectified by Suitbert Ertel's analysis (1988), made them more precise and useful than matching tests as a tool for researching astrology.

As I completed my paper, an interesting chain of events took place. It started when one of my peer reviewers asked me to verify my attribution of the astrological eminence hypothesis to Gauquelin. This attribution might have been confused because it was Ertel who first published objective evidence of a significant eminence effect. Ertel had used a simple yet sensitive method of citation frequency analysis to evaluate Gauquelin's entire database of athletes' birth charts. Using this same method, Ertel had also found significant evidence (1996) of athletic eminence in the astrological data used by each of the skeptic organizations that had published research on the subject, which they had gathered to support their intended denial of astrology.

The eminence effect exposed a monumental problem for the scientific skeptics. What made it much worse for them was that Gauquelin had predicted it. This effect begs for an explanation from the skeptics, which to this date they have failed to do. Furthermore, instead of initiating a scientific discourse, the discovery of the eminence effect began a period of deep silence on the part of the skeptics. The only response seems to have been that the few skeptic researchers who are still in the game have turned their attentions to matching tests.

To resolve the concern over the origin of the eminence hypothesis, I wrote to Ertel (Feb. 4), providing him with the relevant section of my paper. After a few correspondences we resolved the wording, which correctly ascribed the eminence hypothesis to Gauquelin. Upon completing this final bit of review, I quickly submitted my paper to the publisher (Feb. 6), who was waiting for my work.

With my paper safely in the hands of the publisher, I was relieved to get my life back. For over a month this paper had consumed nearly all of my free time and I needed to catch up and recharge. It wasn't until about week later that I emailed Ertel (Feb. 14) to thank him. I included a link to my paper, which by then I had posted on my web site. I hadn't thought this paper would be much worthy of his interest, so I wasn't expecting any response to it.

Coincidently during this time, I was peer-reviewing (Feb. 11-19) a lengthy technical paper by Peter Markos, which was a statistical analysis of the Moon and betting favorites. Peter used some advanced techniques, which weren't clear to me with my limited knowledge. I focused on editing, which is what I do in my professional life as a technical writer. I asked Peter for some clarifications and was ready to provide whatever help I could.

Then I remember getting out of my car at home late one evening (it was Feb 21). I was exhausted. The world was quiet. I looked at the Moon high in the clear sky above the trees. It was large, shadowy, and reddish. A planet (Saturn) was nearby. This vision held me transfixed. It was beautiful. Yet something was not right. The Moon's position told me that it was full. Then it struck me that I was seeing the culmination of a total lunar eclipse. It was only by chance that I'd seen it. I hadn't opened an ephemeris in weeks, and I hadn't heard any news of an impending eclipse. I flipped through the ephemeris and found the eclipse. It was at one degree and fifty-three minutes Virgo.

The next day (Feb 22), I heard from Peter. Unexpectedly, he had lost his job on the day of the eclipse. The eclipse was exactly conjunct, within an arc minute, to his natal Sun, which rules his 10th house (pertaining to career). He also had some Saturn and Mars activity. He wrote that he had to put his paper on hold because he needed to find a new job. I thought about my own chart. The eclipse was square, by less than two degrees of arc, to my own 10th house ruler, Mercury. I didn't think about my job so much as the paper I'd submitted. I felt that I was working the eclipse, making it work for me.

Some time later (Mar 16), Ertel emailed. He wanted to know if it was too late to suggest "improvements" to my paper. I replied that I was interested in the improvements, but I believed it was too late. More than five weeks had already passed since I'd submitted my paper. He replied back (Mar 17) that he had just completed a critical analysis of Carlson's 1985 study. The Carlson study was a matching test that I'd given an account of in my paper. Ertel offered that I might be able to cite his analysis as "unpublished" or "submitted for publication," which he planned to do shortly. He had attached his paper and I had a quick look at it. It looked interesting. But I was still very busy with my life at that point. I thanked Ertel, saying I'd read it.

That same day I mentioned Peter's paper to Ertel, saying Peter had been trying to get some expert opinion on his statistical analysis. Ertel agreed to look at it, but said he wouldn't know what his response would be until after he'd read it. Peter was grateful and sent his paper to Ertel. It seems Peter got some good feedback over the next couple of days, but he couldn't resume work on it yet because he was still looking for a job.

I must have forgotten about Ertel's paper for awhile, then suddenly (Mar 29) I remembered it. This time I went through the paper very carefully. Some parts of it were not clear to me and the English needed some work. I spent the entire weekend meticulously editing and polishing the English, and attempting to clarify troublesome sections. Ertel hadn't asked me for this work, but I instinctively did it. I sent the markup to Ertel (Mar. 31). He was grateful and responded with a new draft with astonishing speed (Apr 1). The new draft not only incorporated almost all of my suggestions but included quite a bit of further development, written during the two weeks when I'd left his paper sitting around unread. I wondered if he'd stayed up all night working on this new draft, but then realized that it had been daytime for him.

I emailed my publisher (Apr 1), asking if I could revise my paper. I had something important concerning the Carlson data. The reply came back that it was too late. I spent the entire day on Ertel's paper and sent him my second markup (Apr 2), which actually didn't look like very much this time. By now I had a headache (which later became bronchitis). After some additional small revisions, Ertel's paper was finished (Apr 4) as far as I could tell.