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.