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The Sceptical Attack of Dean et al on Astrology
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Sue



Joined: 11 Oct 2003
Posts: 945
Location: Australia

Posted: Tue Oct 28, 2003 6:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Garry makes a point in 'Anatomy of Doubt' when he suggests that astrology being unprovable is possibly the only option which makes sense. I think he makes a very valid point when he says that the idea of an astrology which can work at its optimum regardless of our attitude towards it is a contradiction in terms in light of the fact that most astrologers believe in the interconnectedness of astrology. Garry went on to say that it is consistent with the nature of astrology that it cannot be conclusively validated in objective and scientific terms.

This reminds me of something that Dean said some time ago in relation to some astrology experiments where a couple of astrologers in particular had a very high success rate. He said something along the lines of (and I'm paraphrasing here) 'these tests have not demonstrated that astrology works but only that astrologers work. To adequately test astrology the participation of the astrologer must be eliminated.'

To use Tom's example of the physician, would Dean say that it is not medicine that works but the physician? Or would he suggest that in order to scientifically prove that a particular operation can have life saving benefits we must first eliminate the surgeon?
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haku



Joined: 22 Oct 2003
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Posted: Wed Oct 29, 2003 9:10 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

i do not feel capable of contributing much to this discussion, but there are two tiny points that i picked up from Rudhyar and which I find useful to mention whenever people attack astrology as a science:

1. astrology is not a science, but a language.

2. astrology cannot be understood by the principles of western science, which is based upon the aristotelian logic of the excluded third. however, it can be perfectly understood from the viewpoint of the oriental philosphies, which are based on paradoxical logic.
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Violin



Joined: 22 Oct 2003
Posts: 39
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Posted: Wed Oct 29, 2003 11:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Deb, Sue and others
well, a lot of things to respond to. I'll try to do it as soon as I have time, then I'll go back to horary where I belong Smile

regards
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Deb
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Joined: 11 Oct 2003
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Posted: Wed Oct 29, 2003 5:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
He said something along the lines of (and I'm paraphrasing here) 'these tests have not demonstrated that astrology works but only that astrologers work. To adequately test astrology the participation of the astrologer must be eliminated.'


That’s interesting. At the moment we all seem to agree that to try to validate astrology scientifically is as futile as using scientific criteria to prove whether the law works. The law is very powerful, it can be great or it can be ass, depending on how it is used. Although there should be clear guidelines, it’s actually very complex and can be manipulated one way or another depending upon how the arguments are shaped by those that use it. Neither law nor astrology, as a whole, can or should be defined by scientific means because they rest too heavily on the judgemental process, case closed.

However, from the comment above it seems that Dean is willing to accept that and is looking only at the issue of whether there are any elements of astrology that stand up to objective scrutiny. The debate will always remain at stalemate unless astrologers begin to separate this issue out into what falls under the remit of judicial v. natural astrology. On this level I believe that Dean makes points that we would do well to consider. I agree that scientific validation (and better understanding) of many elements of astrology that would stand up to objective scrutiny is being impeded because astrologers cling to factors that are not appropriate to that examination. And let’s remember that Dean would not be arguing against an objective recognition of astrological principles if astrologers weren’t making poor attempts to demonstrate that they exist.

The following is extracted from comments I made in the debate over sign-rulership earlier in the year. I think it is appropriate to this discussion and worth reproducing because it illustrates an important factor that is generally being ignored in this issue:


Quote:
Another thought on my mind is that until recently astrologers were more conscious of the fact that there are two fundamentally different ways of using astrology – with clear distinctions between the branches of ‘judicial astrology’ and ‘natural astrology’. Judicial astrology, as the divinational side of the craft, rests heavily upon symbolic principles and the interpretative skills of the astrologer. It’s often said that it has had a controversial history because it implies a fated existence, but I doubt that this was ever fully the case. What it certainly does do is place the astrologer’s understanding as a crucial element at the centre of their work. The astrologer translates the symbolism according to his or her understanding and then interprets the meaning of the chart accordingly. As someone who practices horary astrology, I have no doubt of its potential for use and abuse. This branch doesn’t just rest on what is physically, or if you like, scientifically happening in the sky, because it is seen as a study that marries astronomical movement with symbolic meaning and broader judgement. It recognises the ‘magical potential’ of a human being to gain information beyond what is consciously obvious, through stretching our senses, (using the chart as a focus as well as a source of information). The importance of its symbolic elements have always been subject to shifts and fashions - we have had periods where rulership by face was extremely important, other ages when triplicity rulership dominated, plus a whole lot of symbolic systems that have been and still are recognised under some approaches and not others.

Natural astrology on the other hand aims to capture the undiluted effects of astronomical movements and celestial effects in a manner that should stand as a reliable tool regardless of the astrologer’s unique symbolic approach to the judgement. Mars on the midheaven, for example – can we reliably expect this to reflect a certain type of event regardless of whether or not an astrologer is monitoring it? Astrology started as a study that included scrutiny of all aspects of the sky; as parts of it become verified by science they move out of natural astrology – the study of the shape, colour and meaning of clouds was once a part of astrology, but now that it’s been verified it has become meteorology.

My point on this is that many ‘modern’ astrologers today pride themselves on taking a more rational, scientifically grounded approach to astrology, but I think that very few of them actually do, and most are not prepared to look critically at what they are working with for fear of having to relinquish some ingrained belief. There are too many elements of ‘scientific’ astrology where the reasoning is not based directly upon observable effects but an integrated assessment of various forms of symbolism and mythology that the astrologer is affected by, mostly without knowing it. The distinctions of ‘judicial’ and ‘natural’ have become blurred because even the astrologer claiming to use the most ‘scientific’ perspective continues to be heavily entranched in myth and symbolism (and distorted myth and symbolism). Of course we could say that myths carry truths, but are they consistent, indpendent truths as ‘scientific astrology’ claims them to be?
And where do the planetary rulership over signs fall into this? They have a valid role in judicial astrology but in natural –scientific - astrology I have not been convinced that they have any place at all. The irony is that the corrupt reasoning that led to the change in sign rulership was justified by the view that doing so would make astrology more scientific and up to date.

I am not suggesting that planetary rulership over signs is necessarily insignificant outside of judicial astrology, perhaps through that basis we come to a valid understanding of areas where a planet’s influence is more effective for reasons that we struggle to explain in any other terms. Or maybe it’s the power of our belief that makes it so. In either case this argument can’t be fully explored until we come to a more honest assessment of what astrology actually is and how we use it. Judicial astrology unashamedly admits a symbolic bias and doesn’t really need to worry about it. Here the argument is a different one – which form of symbolism is the most valid, practical, philosophically sound and meaningful in a lasting sense; and should we bear in mind that alteration of symbolism laid down by an underlying philosophy may produce a ripple effect that dilates the power of all associated symbolic tools?
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graelhaven



Joined: 22 Oct 2003
Posts: 82

Posted: Wed Oct 29, 2003 7:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I dont recall, but I think it is Diane Duane, who said "you must first get outside the game to know if you are playing it accurately, only then when you lose to yourself can you know the truth." but I believe it describes all sciences well. MissB
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Sue



Joined: 11 Oct 2003
Posts: 945
Location: Australia

Posted: Wed Oct 29, 2003 9:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
However, from the comment above it seems that Dean is willing to accept that and is looking only at the issue of whether there are any elements of astrology that stand up to objective scrutiny.


I don't think Dean has been doing that. By testing to see if people fit into their Sun sign characteristics, he is testing something that is open to vast interpretation. He is testing his interpretation of what it means to be a Piscean or Gemini or any other Sun sign. How many of us really agree on that anyway?

Quote:
And let’s remember that Dean would not be arguing against an objective recognition of astrological principles if astrologers weren’t making poor attempts to demonstrate that they exist.


Totally agree. Astrologers seem to get caught up in things that are not scientifically able to be tested. But then, so does Dean. A lot depends on knowing what is able to be tested. Scientific testing requires a hypothesis to be put forward. The act of choosing the hypothesis, the wording of that hypothesis and the act of testing that hypothesis is often open to interpretation and manipulation. And I think it was Tom who said that astrology seems to be one of the only disciplines that is required to have 100% accuracy. It's a case of the 'white crow' argument. If you hypothesise that all crows are black, it only takes one white crow to destroy your hypothesis. If you hypothesise that Mars on the Midheaven means certain events, it only takes one time that this doesn't happen to destroy the hypothesis.


Quote:
Natural astrology on the other hand aims to capture the undiluted effects of astronomical movements and celestial effects in a manner that should stand as a reliable tool regardless of the astrologer’s unique symbolic approach to the judgement. Mars on the midheaven, for example – can we reliably expect this to reflect a certain type of event regardless of whether or not an astrologer is monitoring it?


Yes, and then you have the problem of what is statistically significant and what isn't. If this event only happens seven out of ten times is it enough or does it have to happen every time for it to be correct? I was reading recently of some scientific tests where there was a twenty-three percent success rate in the tested hypothesis. This was reported to be statistically significant. If astrologers showed that something happened twenty-three percent of the time and called that significant we would be shot down in flames, and rightly so.

Admittedly I haven't read everything that Dean has written. But I haven't seen any reports where he has studied observable movements of the planets to see if they correlate to particular events. The questions that Dean seems most interested in appear to be ones that are seriously open to interpretation. In 'Astrology and the Year Zero' what the researchers suggested was important was objective astrology and not subjective values. Okay, fair enough. But what they said was, 'What matters are issues like... Are Leos more Leonian than non-Leos? Which techniques are the most accurate?...Can clients pick their own interpretation from a control?' I don't find these questions to be scientifically objective. For a start, it invloves coming to an objective agreement of exactly what being Leonian means.

Quote:
Astrology started as a study that included scrutiny of all aspects of the sky; as parts of it become verified by science they move out of natural astrology – the study of the shape, colour and meaning of clouds was once a part of astrology, but now that it’s been verified it has become meteorology.


Excellent point. And anything that has been scientifically verified regarding the planets is now considered to be astronomy. Once it has become 'proven' it becomes credible. If it can be scientifically verified then it must have been astronomy all along and not astrology.


Quote:
There are too many elements of ‘scientific’ astrology where the reasoning is not based directly upon observable effects but an integrated assessment of various forms of symbolism and mythology that the astrologer is affected by, mostly without knowing it.


And to me that's the whole point. If astrologers really want to say that astrology is scientific it means leaving behind most of what astrology is. Most haven't done that and have tried to make astrology 'scientific' within the framework of astrology, not of science.
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GarryP
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Posted: Fri Oct 31, 2003 11:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

That Dean Quotation – which Sue has in fact remembered very accurately - is:

“It is clear that the significant blind trials have not demonstrated that astrology works but only that astrologers work. Hence to adequately test astrology the participation of the astrologer must be eliminated.”

It’s on p.554 of Recent Advances in Natal Astrology and is quoted and analysed in Geoffrey Cornelius’s The Moment of Astrology – p.62 of the 2nd edition. (I’ve said it before, but for anybody who wants to get stuck into these questions about what astrology really is, Moment is manna from heaven.)

As Deborah says, the distinction between natural and judicial astrology is enormously important for any discussion of what astrology is, how it works, whether it can be tested, and so on. An awful lot of misunderstanding and talking at cross-purposes can be avoided by bringing this distinction into play. Which reminds me. I was very interested by the quotation from Rudhyar which Haku mentioned, namely:

“..astrology cannot be understood by the principles of western science, which is based upon the Aristotelian logic of the excluded third. However, it can be perfectly understood from the viewpoint of the oriental philosophies, which are based on paradoxical logic.”

I’d very much like to know where I can find that quotation. There’s a lot of truth in it, I think. In the Buddha’s day, four options were commonly considered in any logical situation. For instance, if the question was asked, ‘Did X win the race’, you could have: ‘He won the race’; ‘He did not win the race’; ‘He both won and did not win the race’; ‘He neither won nor did not win the race’. The law of the excluded middle states that ‘there is nothing between asserting and denying’, so the latter two options would appear to be invalid. Yet in complex, real-world situations, both can be the best way of describing a situation. For instance, X crosses the finishing line first, but is disqualified for cheating; he both won and did not win the race. X did not enter the race; he neither won nor did not win the race.

When it comes to questions such as, ‘does astrology give useful information’, I believe we’ll save ourselves a lot of grief if we avoid trying to arrive at valid-for-all-time excluded-middle answers. So much depends on the person asking, the astrologer, the importance of the question and so on, that it may be better to say, ‘astrology both works and does not work’ – it all depends on context. This isn't going to satisfy the average sceptic, of course, but if there's one theme to have emerged from this whole thread, it's that we need to evaluate how far we are prepared to go in attempting to engage in dialogue with sceptics.

Incidentally, Deborah, since you mentioned planetary rulership in the context of judicial/natural astrology – I wonder if you saw Bernadette Brady’s research into parent-child chart contacts? This has to be one of the most promising pieces of scientific research into astrology for quite a while; but anyway, what made me think of it is that Bernadette’s data showed that traditional rulerships work, and modern rulerships don’t.

I talked with B about this in an interview, you can find the relevant portion here:
http://www.astrozero.btinternet.co.uk/brady_2.htm and there was a long write-up in a scientific stylee in Correlation Vol 20(2), 2002.
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Violin



Joined: 22 Oct 2003
Posts: 39
Location: Croatia

Posted: Fri Oct 31, 2003 5:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

What I did was printing Brockbanks essay, printing Deb's first answer, printing Brockbank's footnotes, printing what Sue and Tom said to sit and read it all in peace. Which all confirms that I'm out of my mind. Or I just can't read it onscreen, because it has become more complex than the most internet communication tends to be.



Quote:
Dean&al something like “Astrological symbolism is unsystematic and based on metaphors, analogies, verbal associations, and mythology, all of which are developed in different ways by astrologers with no clear way of evaluating them.” With this kind of symbolism it is always possible to correlate any one thing with any other thing.

Brockbank1: For all types of horary astrology this criticism is incorrect. Horary astrology is specific, and one cannot interpret a horary chart in any way that one wants. If someone asks, ‘Will I buy this house from X?’ there is a clear way to evaluate the resulting chart

Deb1: This comment is far too sweeping and demonstrates as much, if not more, defensive bias as Dean is accused of. Metaphors, analogies, many types of symbolic association and myth underlay all aspects of astrology, including horary.


I somehow didn't understand this first Brockman's quote as a try to deprive horary astrology of its mythologically rooted symbolism . I understood it as stating horary among all astrologies to be the clearest example of being opposed to the last sentence from that paragraph ("With this kind of symbolism it is always possible to correlate any one thing with any other thing. ") as well as opposing to the adjective “unsystematic”

Quote:
Brockbank2:If someone asks, ‘Will I buy this house from X?’ there is a clear way to evaluate the resulting chart.

Deb2: Depending upon which authority you follow, the level of experience you have, whether you use new rulers or old rulers, regiomontanus cusps or a different house system; whether you recognise sign boundaries as termination of contact or not, consider application to mean within orb or within sign, consider the conjunction of a significator to the Sun to show perfection or combustion, consider the chart valid if the planetary hour doesn’t match, use dispositorship to show submission or control, etc., etc., etc., – horary is riddled with nuances, contradictions and debate amongst its practitioners upon what constitutes the clear way to evaluate the chart. Ultimately, most of these are left to the practitioner to decide within the context of each particular chart. In other words, there is no clear, unequivocal way to evaluate the chart – it rests upon the astrologer’s skill in judgement.






Deb, please note that on the second page of his essay B. says: "The approach to horary astrology varies from those who follow the rules of the past closely to those who have re-interpreted those rules in light of their own experience."
So, though he doesn't make an elaborate division of horary (which is not the aim of the essay anyway) he allows differences to exist in horary and give accurate results.

Perhaps Brockbank wasn't precise the way you'd like him to be, but I understood what he meant. There is a system in every astrology, but some astrologers(especially moderns) tend to disregard it or to change it in order to fit their own theories. I’ve even read some interesting stuff by C.P. Tobey (Correspondence Course, available online) where he claims that the rulers of Taurus and Gemini are two yet undiscovered planets plus he identifies the houses with sign but in an inverted order starting from Leo.

Traditional and especially horary, as I can see it now, emphasizes the system (whichever it is Lilly’s, Hellenistic or some other), so that any other influence the astrologer might have picked up during his studies could fit in, but only if it doesn’t collide with the system itself. So, when there arises a question over something unclear, one is able to ask a concrete question and another is able to give a concrete answer that will follow the chart from beginning to an end without shaking the foundations of a system. (Remember our topic about Beth’s key.) On the other hand, when you hear "astropsychology" - you simply don't know what you're going to meet, until you do -from modern or double rulerships to planet x is ruling Taurus. From mdpoints to secondary charts.

Let’s go back to this: Brockbank2:
Quote:
If someone asks, ‘Will I buy this house from X?’ there is a clear way to evaluate the resulting chart”


Querent - 1st, X should be 7th and his house should be 10th i.e. fourth from seventh, shouldn’t it? If there were any alternative to this at all, it would be clearly shown by chart itself. Maybe there’d be some questions over eg. what if that’s my brother and his house, so could the house be fourth from third or still 10th). We could include 2-8th axis – what’s the money situation. So what’s the relation between ruler’s of 1st, 10th and 7th, Moon’s movements, how are dignities and receptions doing. Isn’t this a clear way? (now I’m aware that we are talking about relative clearness, and that when you say clear, you mean 100% clear, don’t you?). But even if it’s not 100% clear, it is systematic, so if there’s any “deviation” from the rules and principles it is explained using other astrological (horary) rules that have advantage over the previously mentioned ones.

One more thing here: I think that “level of experience you have” you mentioned in the first line of your quote isn’t relevant here. If anybody wants to test astrology scientifically (or any other way) , he’s supposed to take the work of experienced professionals in account.

Quote:
I guess you can see that I am looking for a much more penetrating argument and firmer reasoning where all the gaps for attack are closed. In this approach they are still open and I can not only see where Dean could maintain his position, but develop it as well.

Not only can I see it, but I have a great respect for it as well. There are things you and Sue mentioned that go above my present knowledge, so I’m definitely going to keep reading this thread, but don’t expect answers from me . It took me ages to write this one.
.Regards
V.
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graelhaven



Joined: 22 Oct 2003
Posts: 82

Posted: Fri Oct 31, 2003 5:56 pm    Post subject: comment Reply with quote

by the way, I still dont get the need to "prove" astrology works scientifically? I mean it either does or doesn't and attempting to prove it does or doesn't seems like one way to waste a government grant?

I think we either find the element of truth in it ourselve or not? If you need to "prove" it, it seems to me yousee no truth in it?

okay my tuppence. MissB
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Violin



Joined: 22 Oct 2003
Posts: 39
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Posted: Fri Oct 31, 2003 6:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

'talking to me?
if you are, please read what I've written (quote below). If not - sorry.

Quote:
Astrology being scientifically not testable has, in my opinion, its own purpose - were it testable it would be so only in a part, the science would have proven it a long ago. Having done that, the science would have studied and practiced only that part of astrology and discarded everything else . Astrologers would have become scientists and forgotten 95 percent of their art. That would have led to a very reduced astrology.


regards
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graelhaven



Joined: 22 Oct 2003
Posts: 82

Posted: Fri Oct 31, 2003 6:56 pm    Post subject: Violin :) Reply with quote

actually just posting to the general idea of this very old arguement.

Smile

Beth
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Mathew



Joined: 06 Nov 2003
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Posted: Thu Nov 06, 2003 11:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Reading the comments in the chill-out forum (psychotic Lulu) about Dean’s chart; I have looked at the chart and it is very interesting. I am surprised astrologers don’t formulate a response to Dean that exploit’s our knowledge of his chart.
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haku



Joined: 22 Oct 2003
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Posted: Thu Nov 06, 2003 1:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

personally i've started it to consider it a waste of precious energy trying to convince sceptics.

most of them have such ego issues that if you try to persuade them, all that happens is that their resistance even increases.
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Violin



Joined: 22 Oct 2003
Posts: 39
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Posted: Thu Nov 06, 2003 1:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Mathew, glad you joined us
As for this
Quote:
Reading the comments in the chill-out forum (psychotic Lulu) about Dean’s chart; I have looked at the chart and it is very interesting. I am surprised astrologers don’t formulate a response to Dean that exploit’s our knowledge of his chart.

somehow I disagree. Of course if a person has disclosed his birthdata, he/she may expect others to look at it and say a thing or two and most of us have started our astrology studies with a few things from the celebrity charts or charts of the people we somehow got but didn't even bother to ask a permission to analyze. But as I go on with astrology, considering the natal charts interpretations I'm more and more inclined to stick with "do not enter unless invited" thing.
And I don't think it's right to "exploit" anyone's birthdata no matter how noble the cause might be. So even if the cause is to defend astrology from the prevailing and imposing sceptics view, I wouldn't use it. I hope this doesn't sound too moralistic, but no matter how it may look like, it's my honest opinion. Astrology is a powerful device. Having power must be accompanied by being responsible and the latter should grow as the former does
Regards and welcome
V.
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Mathew



Joined: 06 Nov 2003
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Posted: Fri Nov 07, 2003 12:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hello Viola and thank you for your welcome.

There are two interpretations for the word ‘exploit’. One is “to make use of selfishly or unethically”; the other is “to employ to the greatest possible advantage”. I used the word in the latter sense. Dean has a very powerful Moon-Nepune opposition across his MC-IC axis; Mercury in Capricorn is tied into this and Saturn rules and is posited in his 9th house. Understanding the mindset that motivates his criticism may place us in a better position to respond more effectively. Granted it may not. However, it comes to something when astrologers do not feel it is appropriate to use astrology in their defence of astrology.

Sorry, but I find that bizarre.
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