Sunday, February 13, 2011

Responses to Martin Robbins' "Astrologers Angered by Stars" Blog

26 January 2011 11:52PM (link)

Reading through these comments I see a lot of misconceptions about astrology. First of all, you need to look past the rubbish.

Just to be clear, astrology is relativistic; it places the individual (not Earth) at the center of the universe, and the individual does not need to be on the Earth. Many of the commentator need to get their minds out of the "flat earth" types of criticism.

As to Forer effects and similar arguments. These are based on informal classroom demonstrations. The reason why there has never been a rigorous Forer effect test of astrology is because the samples are always cherry picked to support the hypothesis. These tests do demonstrate subjective validation, but it is an assumption that they say anything about astrology.

Evidence in support of astrology is hard to find. There is no funding, no acceptance in science journals, and a lot of resistance by people with closed minds. But published studies do exist. Here are some peer-reviewed studies to consider:

  • Ertel, Suitbert (1988). "Raising the Hurdle for the Athletes' Mars Effect: Association Co-varies with Eminence" Journal of Scientific Exploration, (2): 4. This study has been replicated numerous times, even with data collected by skeptical groups, and is unrefuted for over 20 years.
  • Hill, Judith (1996). “Redheads and Mars: A Scientific Testimony,” The Mountain Astrologer, (May): 29-40. This study (originally done in 1988) has been replicated numerous times with data from various countries, has passed time switching tests, and has remained unrefuted for over 20 years.
  • Yuan, Kathy; Zheng, Lu; Zhu, Qiaoqiao. "Are Investors Moon struck? — Lunar Phases and Stock Returns" Journal of Empirical Finance. 2006, 13(1), p.1-23. This study, which was much larger than previous similar studies and included data from 48 countries, was controlled for such factors as stock market volatility and calendar-related anomalies. It found signficant results that support astrological claims.
  • Clark, Vernon (1961). "Experimental astrology," In Search, (Winter/Spring): 102-1 12. This landmark double-blind study found significant results for astrology and has led to other double-blind studies that support astrology.
  • Marbell, Neil (1981). “Profile Self-selection: A Test of Astrological Effect on Human Personality,” Synapse Foundation Research Report, privately distributed. This brilliant double-blind test by the late Neil Marbell, which involved the participation of respected scientists and well-known skeptics, found highly significant results for astrology. It led to the Carlson study.
  • Carlson, Shawn (1985). "A double-blind test of astrology," Nature, (318): 419-425. This well-known study, one of the most cited papers on astrology research, claimed to find results inconsistent with astrology, but contains many serious flaws that obscure the actual results (see next item).
  • Ertel, Suitbert (2009). “Appraisal of Shawn Carlson’s Renowned Astrology Tests,” Journal of Scientific Exploration, (23): 2. This examination of the Carlson study by professor Ertel, shows that when the methods that Carlson initially states in the paper (but does not follow) are applied, the data from the study shows significant support consistent with the claims of the astrologer participants.
 30 January 2011 4:52AM (last word, almost) (link)

The thing is astrologers rarely get angry; they are generally good natured, inclined to be supportive, but their critics are always self-righteously angry and very emotionally tied to their beliefs. We're used to that. So maybe that's what makes this news to The Guardian. Astrologers, who have no funding for their research, this time got a weensy bit angry about what was claimed to be "balanced." That seems newsworthy.
The problem is that where we have such strong emotional attachments to our beliefs, and a huge avoidance issue, it often turns out that there is actually something valuable in the thing we are trying so hard to avoid. We try with all our might not to listen and not to understand astrology. We want to believe that science is all done, that we completely understand science, and we are clinging to the unsullied magnificence of science for dear life.

But we are scared out of their wits that science might not be all done, that there might possibly be some undiscovered science in astrology. We rationalize, by making up a steady torrent of reasons why we should not touch the dreaded unknown, the rubbish we know as astrology. Science should never sniff, probe, or measure anything that is rubbish. Let's all agree, for the sake of science, to keep astrology in the dim past, where it belongs, where science should never go.

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