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 Fran├žoise 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.