Thursday, December 22, 2016

A questionable quote about science and truth

Neil deGrasse Tyson must know that science is belief in skepticism and skepticism applies to all accepted science as well as to any other belief. Skepticism tends to erode everything it touches. Tyson says, "Science is true whether or not you believe in it." But this is true only until skepticism and new discoveries make the science untrue, at which point it becomes non-science. Think about what that means. The history of science is replete with science becoming non-science. Past science is untrue whether or not anyone ever believed it was true.

Scientist Julia Shaw, who studies false memory, provocatively sees benefits in a post-truth society. In times when truth and facts are uncertain, the good thing is that we are giving up some of our illusions, and gaining new, hopefully better, ones. I'm a Scientist, and I Don't Believe in Facts: The benefits of a post-truth society.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Supposed NASA claim that zodiac has shifted

The claim, supposedly by NASA, that the zodiac has shifted, which is popping up everywhere in the Internet lately, is a genetic fallacy. It refers to the prehistoric common ancestor of astrology and astronomy and it claims that the frame of reference used by the astronomy branch is what the (tropical) astrology branch should have followed. It is not a scientific argument because it does not present any comparative data or practical evidence to support the claim. It is an unverified hypothesis, or more correctly, a false rumor. No scientist at NASA would knowingly accept a genetic fallacy over evidence.
Astro Precession "Problem" Solved
The zodiac signs do not move and Ophiuchus is not a sign

Friday, June 24, 2016

Definition of astrology by Geoffrey Dean et al in Tests of Astrology

The first sentence of the new book Tests of Astrology by Dean, Mather, Nias, and Smit reads "Astrology supposes a link between the heavens and human affairs." This statement is factually inaccurate and results in a plethora of misconceptions that follow.

The term "supposes" is not the problem, but the term "link" cries out because it makes astrology seem like 18th-19th century physics. I do not believe astrologers today accept that there is any measurable physical influence that accounts for astrology, as this definition suggests. By framing astrology within a causal definition of links, Dean et al set up a straw man that they can easily attack.

The term "suppose" does not need to lead to any causal relationships. For example, in multi-universe theory we can suppose that our universe has a "relationship" or is "relative" to parallel universes where choices made in this universe were made differently in another. Choices in one universe do not cause choices in the other and yet a relationship exists. Nor does a "choice point" need to cause a split or a specific outcome in any particular case.

If astrology has rules, based on a corpus of observations, for finding and mapping choice points and potential outcomes, the rules could be heuristic or they could describe causality. Dean et al provide no justification why astrological rules need to be presumed causal.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Social pressures and transgender identity

A recent article was critical of the increasing rights of transgender people and advocated laws to force transgender people to use public bathrooms according to their birth gender rather than their self-identified gender.

The article came to my attention through an online discussion among astrologer colleagues. In my very brief stint as a practicing astrologer in Toronto many of my clients had identity issues, including gender. I would have thought other astrologers had many similar experiences but this does not seem to be the case. Part of the online discussion cited a recent study that homophobia is significantly associated with homosexual arousal, as measured by sensors placed on the body, that is denied or unwitting. This study helps to understand the larger picture.

Family pressures and social pressures, such as the law changes advocated in the bathroom article, that go against an individual’s gender self-identity can cause that individual enormous and even fatal harm. In the few cases I saw in my practice, I found that the individuals who struggled with these gender identity pressures are almost always engaged in dangerous activities. It is apparent to me that the normalizing of same sex marriage in recent years has likely done much to reduce promiscuity, drug abuse, and crime. If marriage is denied, promiscuity tends to become the norm.

At the same time I have to say that I have encountered a few forcefully gay people and a few very needy transgender people who projected strong coping mechanisms that have made me feel uncomfortable. Yet it is clear to me, based on the calming effect that can be expected from the sanctioning of same sex marriage and families, that once the individuals are accepted for who they are, the disruptive coping mechanisms would become unnecessary. The social acceptance and normalizing of LGBT persons, which will take time, will very likely contribute to reductions of dangerous activities and crimes of the type that are complained about in the bathroom article.

A critical part of gender identity problem is that some people, who deny to themselves or who otherwise have latent and unresolved gender identity conflicts, due to social or familial pressures, and who are in positions of authority and influence, can make things very uncomfortable for people under their influence. Situations of this can range from classroom teachers to presidential hopefuls. When I look at the natal chart of Ted Cruz (,_Ted), and consider the bigoted and religiously glorified views of his father Rafael Cruz, who condemns homosexuality, and consider Ted's distinctly creepy personality and his hateful and dangerous political views, I really have to wonder about this. Enacting laws to force gender identity on people, thereby removing choice and an opportunity for a normal life, is a very bad idea with serious consequences.

The Forecaster -- Documentary

If you haven’t seen it, there’s an intriguing documentary on investment consultant Martin Armstrong called The Forecaster. Armstrong developed a model or algorithm, the Economic Confidence Cycle, based on historic currency cycles and the value of pi, that is so astoundingly accurate in predicting currency collapses that he was imprisoned for eight years for supposedly manipulating the entire global economy. There was no evidence or trial. The actual offense that kept him in jail was contempt of court. Eight years. He refused to disclose the model.

Armstrong is critical of monetary systems that rig the system by pegging currency values, enabling no-risk borrowing that inevitably results in collapse. The documentary views much like a spy thriller except this is real life. Considering the development of events, it is remarkable that he ever got out of prison and that the documentary was made.

The documentary is largely engrossing but covers some esoteric details of finance in a few places where it would have been helpful to have explanations and commentary by third party participants. Here are a couple of trailers and an interactive string of segments taken from the documentary with additional footage. You can skip over the German language parts.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

What we should not take literally

We should all know that there were no chariots carrying planets across the sky, there were no crystalline celestial spheres, there are no lines in a magnetic field, and there is no rubber sheet of curved space-time. No one expected to touch or sense any of these. None are illusions we need to free ourselves from but all are metaphors that enabled greater knowledge.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Knowledge is not for the few

By making more than 48 million journal articles freely available online, the Sci-Hub website created by Russian neuroscientist Alexandra Elbakyan does a valuable service to people like me and many others who write peer reviewed articles. I need access to articles published in scientific and academic journals but cannot afford to subscribe. I have to pay out of pocket to download the articles I need, which puts me at a distinct disadvantage to other writers who enjoy the benefits of an academic environment. Sci-Hub has been around since 2011 but I am only hearing about it now.
These publications should be freely available to all interested parties. The world of knowledge will benefit greatly from more open discussions and review. Knowledge is not the possession of only a few. Remember Aaron Schwartz!
Science Alert

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.