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Guardian blogs and our inability to communicate to scientist
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Joined: 11 Oct 2003
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Posted: Sat Jan 29, 2011 5:54 pm    Post subject: Guardian blogs and our inability to communicate to scientist Reply with quote

Anyone who has been following the Guardian science blog, which discusses the issue of whether scientists should get more informed of their facts before issuing critical attacks on astrologers, may know that two of the postings I made into the comments area (answering some of the sceptics’ questions) were deleted without explanation. Also, that a post I tried to submit yesterday evening was prevented from publication.

Below is a copy of the post that has not received publication. This was in response to one of the sceptic’s questions, (which has been quoted in my answer).

I captured this from a local copy of the post I submitted, although before it was uploaded it received a final edit in the upload box. Hence, if the Guardian do go on to publish this post (eventually), there may be one or two small inconsequential differences of wording or punctuation – a point I feel the need to explain in case I get accused of deceit!

Wendy Stacey has published a statement on the Guardian site to explain that I will not be contributing further points to the discussion there, but will show the unpublished post here to demonstrate the nature and tone of its content. (The Guardian have their own copy, so I have obviously not made changes except the minor tweaks of the upload already mentioned.)


To BrianMcNaughton:
I want to thank you for your post. There was a lot in it that I appreciated and agreed with

To Sputman47:
To you I can only say, thank you. I have been passing over those comments myself because I see them for what they are, but appreciate your consideration.

To patrickdallas:
In response to my first post you ask:

Fine. You want your world to be "soulful, art-filled, meaningful and rich with symbolic expression." What in the world does that have to do with astrology? Nothing that I can see. That's not what astrology does. Astrology pretends to be able to tell people true things about themselves and their futures. This is, as has been said often enough now, rubbish.

This shows why more respectful dialogue is needed – to overcome these misconceptions. Many of the principles of astrology originate out of ancient philosophy which is deeply concerned with matters of the soul. The teachings of Pythagoras are important as a basis for the interpretational meaning built into aspects and celestial division; the principle being that the universe (our solar system) is an integrated, living organism, moved by a common ‘breath’ (or impulse) which permeates everything and filters through all the individual components of it. (In the way that a tissue cell inside your foot maintains a connection to one in your head although each could be picked out and identified as separate entities). It is from this that we get the traditional astrological principle that we are not separate from the planets, we are sharing the same influences – and this is the reason why science has a hard time understanding the astrological perspective, and why our language is so different. Science expects some kind of causative influence, when in fact astrology doesn’t consider that the planets ‘influence’ us, but that they move in harmony with us. To coin a traditional phrase – the stars impel; they don’t compel - they are only reflective of what is happening within us.

This is where we get the essentially Pythagorean idea that an individual acts as a microcosm in which all the (meaning-loaded) mathematical laws in the macrocosm of the Universe are at work. When you read the work of ancient astrologers you can see the very strong influence of stoic philosophy, arguing that astrology is about purification of the soul through experience and the gaining of wisdom; so that astrology is not to be rested on, or turned to for easy answers, but used as a means to gain freedom and fortitude (of the soul). This highlights one of the philosophical and theological sensitivities of astrology, the traditional argument being that although it can be used to predict, and to aid preparation, it should not be used to remove personal responsibility for our actions. Hence astrology is not essentially about telling people what to do; its underlying principle is to help them find their answers for themselves.

As regards art, you say “Go to a gallery or look on your own living room wall”. But unless you have studied astrology or the symbolism of art (which integrates some of its knowledge) you are unlikely to appreciate the meaning of the symbolic details of medieval artwork. Of course astrology is loaded with symbolic expression from beginning to end. It is a language of symbolism.

I would like to recommend you to this article which explains the amazing array of astrological, alchemical and mathematical ideas that are embedded in the frontispiece image of the famous 16th century English astrologer John Dee's Monas Hieroglyphica.

It is a two-part discussion, but not a lot of reading – it will take about one hour of your time. If you do give this your attention then I think you will start to understand why astrologers have not given up on the knowledge or the outlook that could create a work of such mathematical genius and inspired vision (the same sort of inspiration that Einstein described, also Kepler, Newton, and many other scientific visionaries, including Ptolemy in the 2nd century).

[You say]
All of that is irrelevant to astrology, which is not about soul or art, but does pretend to have real meaning, which it does not have. And even worse, astrology is actively harmful in people's lives, because credulous people hand over their hard-earned cash to charlatans pretending to have knowledge that they do not have, and because it encourages false magical thinking.

If astrologers don't appear to be answering some questions, it is because we don't know where to begin when your misunderstanding is so deep and so wide, and the narrow focus of your vision is so very different from ours. How is anyone possibly supposed to answer in response to a comment such as this?


That was the end of my post. Although the Skyscript forum has a policy of extending membership only to those who admit a sincere interest in, and appreciation of, astrological philosophy, I have spoken to Garry to see if there is a practical way to engage their discussion here, if there is anyone within the scientific community who has any genuine desire to ask questions of offer intelligent points of discussion that could be developed. We are currently giving thought to this and will report our views or decision soon.

If anyone wants to comment on the above, or on the problem that we are facing in failing to even open the door to dialogue, please do. I also made a comment myself about the sad state of affairs, where everything we say is closed down by ridicule, on this link:

Of course, I feel very fortunate that I have been censored, but not silenced, because of this forum! Thank you very much to everyone for indulging my wish to publish the material that was rejected by the Guardian site, so that everyone can see it exactly for what it is.

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Posted: Sun Jan 30, 2011 5:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Deb has set up an email address for any non-astrologers who would like to pursue the discussion about astrology that started on the Guardian website. Email us at: and we’ll post any serious comments here and try to respond to them. This strategy, with the special email address, is the only one we could think of that allows us to filter out the abuse that characterised most of the posts on the Guardian forum, thereby making a meaningful discussion possible.

If I may throw a thought or two in here: it quite often happens, when astrologers are criticised on the grounds of astrology lacking scientific validation, that they attempt to refute the charge on its own terms, typically citing the Gauquelin work. There is an ongoing discussion there, and people who have looked into the matter in a serious way, such as Suitbert Ertel and Geoffrey Dean, tend to acknowledge that there are effects in need of explanation, even when (as with Dean) their explanation of choice is not astrological.

What such discussions can overlook, however, is the fact that many Western astrologers (my impression would be that it is a significant majority) think that science affords only a very limited view of astrology. This, of course, is something that Deb argues very eloquently in the previous post. Such views can appear to make little sense, for so long as they are approached with the assumption that the human mind, allied with the scientific method, is fully equipped to look at the universe in a detached and objective way, and understand everything. As Deb points out above, astrology has often been informed by philosophies which see human life as one part of a bigger picture – a picture in which it makes sense that there could be consonance between planetary movement and the life experience of the person on the Clapham omnibus. The individual mind, which in this way of thinking is a part and not apart, would therefore be inherently incapable of looking at the workings of astrology from a viewpoint of absolute objectivity.

It may be considered, in fact, that the scientific perspective simply presupposes the invalidity of the universe of discourse with which astrology coheres. That things are one way rather than another is not, of course, universally agreed. But these words from the philosopher William James (who was not at all interested in astrology) illustrate the type of perspective to which I am referring:

I firmly disbelieve, myself, that our human experience is the highest form of experience extant in the universe. I believe rather that we stand in much the same relation to the whole of the universe as our canine and feline pets do to the whole of human life. They inhabit our drawing-rooms and libraries. They take part in scenes of whose significance they have no inkling. They are merely tangent to curves of history the beginnings and ends and forms of which pass wholly beyond their ken. So we are tangent to the wider life of things.[1]

Such views can, I think, be more accommodating of a situation in which there is something real and vital in astrology, which yet seems to elude attempts to appraise it objectively. Additionally, I want to suggest that the assumptions we bring to the investigation tend to reflect back at us – as suggested by the following.

The psychotherapist Viktor Frankl was living in Vienna at the outbreak of the Second World War. As a Jew he was under constant threat, and so was hugely relieved when he was offered a visa for immigration to the United States. But then it hit him that the only reason his aged parents had not been sent to a concentration camp was his status, as head of the department of neurology at a Viennese hospital. If he left Vienna, he could well be condemning them to death. As he puts it, “While I was pondering what my true responsibility was, I felt that this was that type of situation in which you wish for what is usually called a hint from heaven.”

When he returned home, he noticed – lying on a table - a piece of marble with a Hebrew letter engraved and gilded in it. This, it turned out, was from a tablet showing the ten commandments from the nearby synagogue, which had just been burned down. His father had picked it out of the rubble and brought it home as a sort of holy relic. The Hebrew letter was the abbreviation of one commandment: “Honour father and mother and you will dwell in the land.” Seeing this, Frankl immediately decided to stay on in Vienna.

His comment on this is:

You are fully justified in claiming that this was a projective test, that I must have made my decision in the depth of my heart beforehand and just projected it onto the appearance of a piece of marble stone. But if I had seen in the piece of marble stone nothing but calcium carbonate, this too would have been the result of a projective test, more specifically, the expression of a sense of meaninglessness…[2]

My point is that we come to a discussion such as this with a tendency to believe, or disbelieve, that the universe is meaningful and that it is possible for people to genuinely receive signs. The truth of the matter is not something which science is capable of determining – it is a matter of belief. And it is only, I think, when the involvement of belief – one way or the other – is highlighted, that it becomes possible to understand the irrational ferocity of many of the anti-astrology responses on the Guardian website.

Obviously enough, nothing has been proved here. I am not pretending otherwise, and do not deny that it is valid to question and scrutinise astrology in all its facets. The point here is simply that any discussion might be more productive if we can take stock of the beliefs and assumptions that loom out of our pronouncements on the subject.


1: William James (ed. Giles Gunn), Pragmatism and Other Writings (London: Penguin, 2000), p.131.
2: Viktor E. Frankl, The Will to Meaning – foundations and applications of logotherapy (London: Souvenir, 1969), pp.58-9.
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Posted: Sun Jan 30, 2011 11:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Garry,

Thanks for contributing your thoughts. I share that view and that was why I had decided not to try to answer questions about how astrology works in scientific terms; but to try to explain how astrology has a different and unique perspective, that can be respected in its own terms.

One of the consequences of the widespread exposure of the Guardian report, is that there now seems to be a flurry of new online blogs, each wishing to ‘debunk’ astrology from its own angle. Eventually the flare-up will burn out, but until it does I will try to answer some of these criticisms where I can, respectfully, to try to present another side of the argument which counters the current catchphrase of ‘astrology is rubbish’. You know that I love your story about Frankl, because most astrologers will recognise some similar kind of ‘special moment’ when astrology didn’t ‘make a decision for us’, but did give us the confidence to face a fear with a sense of single-minded purpose.

That is why we know astrology to be a soul-strengthening and mind-expanding discipline which will ride the current storm, because each of us finds it in our own way, when the time is right, through an experience that is unique and appropriate to each individual.

So with your permission (thank you) I “stole” that story and used it as my inspiration to reply to another blog headed “Astrology and Ridicule” published today at

Although the author aims to follow the more informed approach recommended by Rebekah Higgit, the summary of this report is that “astrology is not so much rubbish as utterly useless”; based on the authors view that:

Astrology has no existential value to add. It does not describe a moral framework. It has no eschatology, nor any symbolic narrative of origins that might enable someone to establish meaning in their life. It is simply an alternative version of causation to that offered by science, but unfortunately without any of the data to support it. In that narrow sense it is indeed rubbish: it doesn’t do what it says on the tin, and doesn’t say on the tin anything that could be useful.

I won’t quote my reply in length because it has been published directly under the author’s article for anyone who wants to read it. It included my opinion that we cannot separate astrology from the practice of divination – a word which is not to be disrespected since it essentially concerns communication with that which is Divine: ‘the Supernatural’ which governs over but also lies within ‘the natural’. I therefore argued that

… the subject still deserves to be looked upon as both a natural science (which is seeking reliable practical information from nature’s patterns), and an art (a word which in its fundamental meaning means to find common understanding of shared experience through the use of the imagination or subjective reasoning).

The Frankl story allowed me to make the point that even something as trivial and ridiculed as the daily horoscope column can hold value, as can any symbolic reference when the mind which approaches it is seeking for ‘signs’ that can bring understanding to a legitimate, soul-filled (or what we would term ‘radical’) question. I wanted to make this point because the issue of media-horoscope columns is a very sensitive one in this current debate; and my own view is that too much emphasis upon sun-signs columns is not helpful to the AA’s desire to seek respectful treatment of astrology in the media; but on the other hand I don’t believe that their existence is a threat or the cause of the current problem; providing the exposure is proportionate and they are understood to be the most simplified and limited aspect of what the subject is really about. I would love to hear other astrologers’ views on that one though; because it is a tricky issue.

BTW, I heard back from the Guardian today that the censored post which I reproduced above was denied publication on account of it being identified as “spam”! Unbelievable, ... what I can I say?

Hmmn, actually I can think of a lot that needs to be said; so I have another post to make on Skyscript, and then I will set to work on my letter of complaint. I am currently deciding whether to make the letter of complaint public here for the sake of transparency, although I don’t want to use this site as a platform for petty negative issues. On the other hand my belief is that the Guardian curtailed my posts because it is prejudiced against astrology being properly presented from beginning to end, and so it favoured all the abusive commentary attacks that included links to Skyscript as part of their criticism, but rejected mine which made one discreet link, for the purpose of including information and relevant reference. Sick
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Posted: Mon Jan 31, 2011 12:09 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I am a scientist by formation, I have a degree in chemist, so I completely understand the disbelief of people, specially if they heard only about sun-sign astrology.

Gosh, if they saw some of discussion in skyscript, and we are one of the best forums in the web, they would see some senseless stuff that would shake anyone´s "suspension of disbelief" Razz

When Gary says that we have a disposition to belief or not that the universe is meaningful, I think it is very truth... I only entered into astrology after I discovered that tarot really worked.

But there is, as someone said before in the forum, scientific and "scientism". This attitudes that we are seen are not scientific in nature. For instance, all favourite sceptic darling, James Randi, is not a scientist, and has no understanding of scientific methodology, prefering the cheap stage tricks.

There is a video on youtube that he shows that people would identify with astrological reports that were standard made. So astrology doesn´t work.

Of course the problem is that we see so many comments applauding James Randis work, but his "proof" wouldn´t be acceptable in any field, for any qualified standard. If Randi was trying to disqualify psychology, saying that people "identify themselves with random psychologycal tests" would never been found as evidence that the whole field of psychology is BS. In fact, I can imagine him having difficulties even to fulfill the requirements of a post degree if he was applying his "methodology" in Academia.

The fact is that, although I don´t have any problems with astrology detractors, and in fact sometimes I applaud them (I don´t want that the main secular trend to end), I think that "the ones who stand against the barbarians" should, by nature, have higher standards then the people they are protecting society for.

So, I don´t believe in people who say that "every life is sacred" except for criminals, and I don´t believe in the protectors of science that believe that the scientific method is not necessary when it is too hard or not polytical useful.

Well, sorry for the rant
Meu blog de astrologia (em portugues)
My blog of astrology (in english)
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Posted: Mon Jan 31, 2011 4:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Yuzuru

That was only a little rant though Yuzuru ... comparatively speaking .... Now apologies to those who don't like controversy, who I advise to skip over the following.

I decided, for the sake of transparency, and upon hearing that it does not prejudice a complaint to make it public, and because it concerns Skyscript, and is also in the interests of astrological representation in the media, to make public my letter of complaint to the Guardian about censorship of my right to reply to their coverage of the AA petition. Rather than encourage discussion here I will simply place the information below, and give an update on the situation if and when this happens.



Dear [name deleted]
Thank you for your response (below) on behalf of the Guardian website.

I refute the suggestion that there was *any* spamming in any of my posts, nor justifiable reason for anyone to think so. The links I gave to the Skyscript site were in order to allow other posters to see for themselves the falseness of the personal slurs and accusations made against me by the poster known as ‘Layman02’ and your science department’s ‘Lay Scientist’ editor, Martin Robbins, who was the first person to link directly to Skyscript within the comment-facility, to try to draw attention to the comments there. In fact, Martin Robbins’ comment in his post of 28 January 2011 11:27AM – which is still showing – is mainly comprised of one long link to Skyscript! He repeated the same post immediately afterwards, both posts making unfair allegations which I then invited readers to consider for themselves by my explanation and by exemplifying the link that is there for anyone to follow and thus see the misrepresentation for themselves.

Both of the posts you removed offered astrological explanation and personal defence against astrological slurs and insults made against me by others, who were the ones posting links to Skyscript, to claim that the site content was not credible. By leaving up their attacks, but removing my defence, I am now perceived as someone who has no argument by which to counter the accusations set against me. An example is the post by ‘Bulbous Squidge’ of 28 Jan; 10:19 am – whose post gives a link to Skyscript, accompanied by some very uninformed criticisms of the content of one of its articles. In my (removed) reply I informed him of his misunderstanding of the astrological technique in question and gave the link to the exact page of the article he was referring to, rather than the general home page of the site as he did, so that the critical comments could be examined appropriately, within light of my explanation, and with the evidence being made available for all to see. (And yet, again, you allow his unfair comment to remain; and the link to Skyscript seems to be OK for him to post because *he* gave it as part of an attack on astrology).

To provide a link to relevant material within the context of an argument *about that material* is not spamming; it is the correct way of sourcing and referencing the pertinent information. And remember, those references to Skyscript content within any of the comments was first given by others, not me.

It is also most relevant to this complaint that Martin Robbins’ original anti-astrology report, at pointedly drew attention to the Skyscript website, by placing a prominent link and reference to it in his second paragraph, then cutting into an extract from its text (at a place where he could diminish the context of the quote). This made it inevitable that the Skyscript website and its astrological content would become a target in the follow-up discussion, with much of the sceptical criticism directed to me personally when it was realised that my reason for posting was to point out the distorted facts of his argument, and the unfairness of cutting that quote where he did (see my comments to that blog for 24 January 2011 10:55AM; 6:22 PM & 11:57PM). Although Rebekah Higgit’s follow up article was supposed to start a different aspect of the discussion, the comment facility of her report merely became the new area of attack for a small nucleus of sceptics who were wishing to perpetuate the hostility of the previous blog and bring it over into the new discussion.

As to the subsequent post that you then deemed unsuitable for publication; this also did not contain any incidence of spamming. I have posted this on the Skyscript site for its internal forum members to see, since I am not the only one unable to recognise any reasonable point for which my posts should have been removed or censored. Within that detailed and informative post I gave one pertinent link to an article that added information worthy of consideration within the context of my answer to the poster’s question. The fact that the link leads through to an article on the Skyscript site, rather than any other astrology site, is inevitable since Skyscript is one of the most substantial sources of freely-accessed information for articles concerning the specialist nature of traditional astrological technique. This does not constitute spamming but the provision of information and relevant reference. It does however, serve the purpose of those who were so keen to have the subject of astrology criticised, but were not so keen when the criticisms were being answered and attended to.

I see that the disputed policy 7 of your guidelines explains that your removal of posts is applied to those which are commercial, spam-like or of a propaganda nature. But there was no opportunity for commercial gain for either myself or the author in the link that was given. Following it through you will see that it leads to two free-to-access PDF articles, offering an informative demonstration of work from the historical astrologer John Dee, which clearly disproves the sceptical-poster’s declaration that there is nothing "soulful, art-filled, meaningful and rich with symbolic expression” embraced within the subject of astrology.
Neither was there any attempt towards propaganda on my part; unless it is considered propaganda to provide an argument in favour of astrology, in response to posters who ask why it should receive any attention other than ridicule.

Again thank you for the offer to restore my right to comment upon alteration of my ‘posting behaviour’, but I see no way in which my posting behaviour was inappropriate or could be improved. I would like to suggest instead that you consider the room for improvement that could be made by your editorial and moderation team. Firstly by considering the highly inflammatory nature, distorted argument and incorrect historical facts contained within Martin Robbins’ initial anti-astrology article at (since admitted by himself and others but not, as yet, corrected); by the additionally aggressive nature of this journalist’s publicly expressed views towards the subject, as shown in his comment to Rebekah Higgit’s article, where he encourages the idea of ‘taking the piss’ on this so-called ‘quackery’ and ‘bullshit’ (see his first post of 28 Jan 2011 – 11:02 am); and by the fact that this man’s intolerant attitude, biased presentation, and provocative call to have astrology dismissed as rubbish, has led to a torrent of offensive, hated-filled remarks; which were deliberately engineered to prejudice the impartial hearing of the AA’s legitimate cause for complaint against the BBC.

Because I consider my censorship, the very nature of the article itself, and Martin Robbins’ provocative commentary to have been unfair and biased against the interest of astrology, I would like to register this as an official complaint and am therefore cc-ing a copy of this email to your in-house ombudsman at, with a copy of the email also being sent to Wendy Stacey, Chair of the Astrological Association of Great Britain, and being made available for inspection to the members of the Skyscript site. I would have cc-d a copy to Martin Robbins too, if I had found his email address to be publicly advertised.

I would very much appreciate a swift response on this since this inflammatory public discussion is still ongoing.

Your Sincerely,
Deborah Houlding


On Behalf Of
Sent: 30 January 2011 16:02
To: Deborah Houlding
Subject: Re: Querying a reason for my post removal

Hello Deborah

Thanks for getting in touch.

Your account's been placed in premoderation because you repeatedly linked to your website:

We regard this as a form of spam. In point 7 of our community guidelines it's explained that we actively discourage such promotion.

You can read our guidelines here:

Once we're happy that your posting behaviour adheres to the guidelines your full posting rights will be restored.

In addition, Martin Robbins is not part of the moderation team. He was not consulted when deciding to remove your comments.

Kind regards

[name deleted]
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Posted: Tue Feb 01, 2011 7:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

An update to this Guardian situation,

In reply to my 1243 word letter of complaint, I have now received a lengthy 4½ line reply, agreeing that after reviewing the matter: “Since the site was mentioned in the piece and was subject to detailed discussion in the comments, it was fine to link as you did.”

The reply, short on explanation and devoid of apology, confirmed that my deleted posts have been reinstated and my unpublished post has been allowed to appear, Thumbs up but at the place where it should have been published when I posted it 3½ days ago, now buried behind the 300+ new posts that have come in since Thumbs down

Not by any measure a restoration of fairness because:

Although stating that they have reinstalled my ‘normal posting ability’, the fact is, they haven’t! Unlike all other posters, my posts cannot be published directly to the thread, but must be submitted for the attention of a moderator to review and post, in his or her own time not mine (experience so far suggests 3 days later). Presumably, this is providing that they don't find an online reference, spelling mistake, or astrological argument which may be mistaken for astrological propaganda. (Of course I am talking about discovering these imaginary errors within my imaginary new posts since I have no intention of actually attempting to post comment under these conditions).

The Guardian also felt that words were necessary to ask me to “please be aware” that in a different context, their reasoning that what I did was actually fine, might not apply. What different context might this be? That I actually do something that was not appropriate instead of not doing anything that was inappropriate?

Being generous, and willing to believe that the Guardian simply ‘forgot’ that Martin Robbins put a blazingly conspicuous link to Skyscript at the start of his article, and based his report on a comment taken from my 13th sign article, (also linked to by Rebekah) it still remains a mystery why, of the 40 references to Skyscript that appear in the comments after Rebekah Higgit’s article, it was only the 3 links that I gave within my total of seven posts which gave them any cause for concern. That’s right, three of my seven posts, each one of which contained 1 solitary link in order to offer reference and support to the arguments that were brought to me by others.

I have written back to the Guardian, asking why they think it is necessary to make me aware of their reasoning on policies that I never breached, and to confirm how the term “normal posting ability” applies when I am the only person in the thread that is made subject to pre-moderation. I have also asked them to confirm that my letter is being dealt with as a *letter of complaint* against the editorial and moderation team, and not just as a request to have my ‘perfectly appropriate but censored anyway’ posts returned to the archives of the thread.

Guardian online wrote:
Dear Deborah

Thanks for your email. On reviewing the thread, I have reinstated the
comments and your normal posting ability. Since the site was mentioned in
the piece and was subject to detailed discussion in the comments, it was
fine to link as you did. Please be aware that in a different context this
reasoning might not apply.

Best wishes
[name of moderator]

More later
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Posted: Wed Feb 02, 2011 4:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The latest update is that the Guardian moderation team has confirmed that it has investigated itself and resolved my concern satisfactorily by the reinstallation of my posts and – now – the right to post without restraint. (Again this came in the form of a brief email constituting 4½ lines).

I have contacted the Guardian readers editor to ensure that my complaint against the editorial standards is considered, and have been assured that some kind of reply will be coming from their office with regard to that.

The opportunity for submitting comments is still ongoing. When that facility is closed I will move these posts (concerning the way that my arguments in favour of astrology were censored) to the news section of the forum, to keep them available as a matter of record concerning the misrepresentation of astrology that was led by Martin Robbins’ Guardian report, whilst removing them from a place where we really want to encourage calm and sensible discussion of the scientific and philosophical principles of astrology.
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Posted: Sat Feb 05, 2011 1:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote


I have huge admiration for what you and others are trying to do for the reputation of astrology, but I have to admit I also have some sympathy for the Guardian in this case. I do not of course have sympathy for what does appear to be their prevailing view of astrology, merely their right to present it in a way that suits them. So I thought I'd add my perspective ( as a person who is scientifically qualified to do so with an M.Sc in a relevant subject Cool ).

Unlike the BBC (which is a whole different matter) the commercial media have no obligation to present an unbiased view of anything. On the contrary, they can be as biased in selection of the facts as they like to promote whatever viewpoint they choose. The only thing they can't do is report actual facts inaccurately.

We might wish it were otherwise, but all the information we read in the papers, and their websites, about every subject is biased ( often extremely so). The commercial media are there to make money not to provide objective information.

So, if they choose to present a view that undermines astrology they are fully within their rights to do so.

Furthermore, when it comes to the moderation of their blog comments, they usually will ban any advertising. Indeed any blog reader is extremely glad not to have to plough through a load of tacky adverts to get to any real meaty comments about the subject in hand. The problem that I think you faced was that you linked to your own site (i.e. it was on the face of it advertising). Bear in mind that these media operations get most of their revenues from advertising, they don't want people to get it for free. Others linking to your site would not, of course, have been classed as advertising. The fact you did so for non-commercial reasons was probably not a consideration for the, very likely, junior member of staff allocated to moderate those comments.

As for not been reinstated where you originally posted. I suspect that their technology just isn't up to it or, rather, that the person doing the moderating/reinstating does not have sufficient override control of the technology to re-instate at the original time point, or even more likely was too lazy to bother with the extra effort reqired. Again, it's a commercial company, it will take the quickest easiest route to solving things, I'm afraid.

So, I doubt that your posts were the subject of any concerted campaign to block your views, just a by-product of the way the news companies operate. Which is good. It is also good that they asked the question and started a debate at all. That doesn't alter the fact that you were right to object and get things changed. I just thought you might like to understand why they behave as they do.
"The universe is full of magical things, patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper" Eden Phillpotts
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Posted: Sun Feb 06, 2011 3:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks Amelia, it’s always good to get feedback with a different shade of opinion.

The most annoying thing is that the defence you suggest involves a monumental level of idiocy on their part. First they draw massive attention to the Skyscript site by featuring a prominent link to it in the lead-in to the article and quoting from its content (cutting the quote at a place where its main point was lost, but never mind; I accept that this is what journalists do); and then throughout the thread the content of this site is being referred to by critics for examples of astrological comments that physicists think are ridiculous. For example, one sceptic made a big fuss by describing one of Dylan’s decumbiture articles and suggesting it was stupid to make a prediction on something that had already happened (ie, the decumbiture chart). When I tried to explain what Dylan was actually doing and gave the link, so it could be understood in context of the full article, that post was removed as spam.

If they were taking enough trouble to notice that I was responsible for running the site being linked to, then they must have also read my post and understood that I was giving the link as a necessary reference and not to lift more of the “hundreds of millions of euros, pounds and dollars out of the pockets of customers” as Martin Robbins reports we all do each year. And why, after they admitted that I hadn’t done anything inappropriate, was it necessary to keep me as the only one under moderation until I took the trouble to complain? But I take on board your comments. I do believe it is only because I made the situation public here that they admitted their mistake and let me back into the discussion before it closed. But this is probably one to let go of now and put down to a learning experience.

Thanks for the sincere feedback,
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Posted: Fri Feb 25, 2011 12:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Deb and all,

This evening I came across the following site:

"This website is dedicated to countering the dogmatic and frequently ill-informed attacks leveled by self-styled skeptics on parapsychology and pioneering researchers in general. We take the view that 'my mind is made up - don't confuse me with facts' is not a useful premise from which to conduct a reasoned debate. As well as investigating skeptics, we look at ways in which scientific objectivity is compromised by vested interests, fraud, experimenter effects and merchants of doubt, who use skepticism as a weapon to further corporate interests. We also explore current controversies and look at open-minded investigations, which use the scientific method to investigate the unknown."

Much interesting material in there for anyone who finds themselves in 'debate' with pseudosceptics. That is, the kind astrologers usually have to deal with, as was the case in the recent Guardian skirmish. The site also has a useful links page.

Worth checking should one wish to familiarize oneself with the enemy, or fancy strengthening one's defense and attack capabilities for dealing with the prejudices and blind faith of scientism's military wing. At the very least you will know what to expect, which confers an advantage, as well as being armed with ready responses to anticipated moves.
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Posted: Thu Mar 03, 2011 6:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Deb, thank you not only for your mission, but for your persistence. If there were some kind of astrological award for someone who has best championed the cause of astrology, you get my nomination.

I do think astrologers need to continue soul-searching if we are to make any headway with the sceptics amongst the general public as well as scientists. Without focusing on or blaming any astrologer in particular (amongst whom there are exceptions) but in considering the field in general, here is how I see the road ahead.

1. Astrologers need to learn more about science: what it is and is not, and how it operates as a social practice. We can't beat a group at their game if we don't understand their game. We need to distinguish between past science and the history of science vs. science as it is practiced today in universities, government research labs, and industry. This would help clear up incorrect or irrelevant statements from the astrologers' side of the debate. Just for example, Kepler and Newton were fine scientists in their day, but reference to them as supporters of astrology may not fit a 21st century discussion about science or scientism vs. astrology.

Most professions today require at least a university degree or post-secondary certification, and I think that astrologers with comparatively low levels of education are less likely to successfully address issues about science or astrology in society.

2. The binary science vs. astrology debate is unhelpful. We can't help that: it is here to be dealt with. Your wonderful comments about Pythagoras and a spiritual approach to astrology are a case in point, and we need more work in your direction. Nobody criticizes law, history, religious studies or French literature on the grounds that they are not science!

Astrologers could do a better job of aligning ourselves with the humanities, I believe, where scholars are now publishing academically credible work on the history of astrology and astrology in the fine arts. We could then reasonably posit that schlock astrology is to good astrology as Harlequin romance novels are to the canons of English literature.

A problem with the astrology/science binary is that there is no serious place for really bad science in the scientific community or in society. Sure, some bad science hangs around for a while (cf. the cold fusion debacle) but not for long. Yet astrologers have no serious methodological basis, so far as I can tell, for disavowing really silly or vicious astrology; in the way that an art historian could demonstrate that a Renoir painting meets standards that an amateur painting doesn't. Or a scientist could show that a given study doesn't meet science's criterion of duplicability. This is where astrologers are vulnerable to the attacks of our critics.

And the internal traditional vs. modern debate here is not going to register with astrology's sceptics. We will rise or decline together in the public view.

So when you valiantly challenge the Guardian editorial policy Thumbs up Cool , you do so with all of the baggage of bad astrology encumbering you. And many astrologers themselves encourage bad astrology, like the popular sun-sign columns and lists of static personality traits.

3. I think astrologers should also stop rounding up our wagons in a circle in order simply to defend ourselves against the arrows of our critics. We would end up merely talking among ourselves while astrology's position in the media deteriorates. Another analogy would be an industry accused of selling a defective product to the public, yet directors decide to close ranks despite the mounting evidence.

4. Astrologers need to do a better job of the causality problem ("Why does astrology work?")

I really like the holistic notion that human lives and planets are part of an interconnected system without causal factors. But I don't think it washes. On the general board of this forum, there is a thread on people cutting themselves under Mars transits to one's ascendant. Even if we argue that Mars doesn't cause the injuries but merely synchronizes with them, we are hard-pressed to explain the synchrony.

"As above so below" is not an explanation. "The stars impel but do not compel" is not an explanation. An explanation would be why this should be so.

For a holistic explanation to work, shouldn't we equally identify some feedback mechanism whereby people affect planets or even whereby someone cutting herself could logically be seen to relate to a Mars transit?
I.e., the feedback loops of holistic interactive systems. In a vast, holistic cosmos, why whould someone with a good-looking moon in Pisces be a good dancer? Why should the geocentric configurations of a universe that extends for billions of light years even be relevant to the petty jealousies of a woman with an afflicted Venus?

5. We need to decrease our predictive and analytical failure rates and boost our successes. If astrologers really could predict the stock market, weather, accident timing, or the means and time of death with a high degree of accuracy, then big investors, the transportion industry, and insurance companies would be all over astrologers, wanting what we've got. Universities would offer courses teaching students astrological predictive techniques because companies would hire them.

This is all one very tall order--too tall, perhaps. But I think progress towards filling it would nevertheless be helpful.

In the meantime, please keep up your good work!
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Posted: Thu Mar 17, 2011 11:33 pm    Post subject: Bias versus incompetency Reply with quote


At the risk of flogging a dead centaur, you are trying to have it both ways.

First you claim that newspapers can be as biased as they want. Okay. But then you defend the deletion of Deb's post as most likely due to the problem of ad spamming--i.e., some neophyte editor innocently deleting a post.

So the deletion of the post, according to you, was due to an incompetent attempt to thwart spamming, but not bias.

On what grounds does your science degree bolster your defense of the news industry and "why they behave as they do?" You just "know" that Deb's post was deleted due to misguided anti-spam efforts and NOT a continuance of the bias that you defend with such equanimity? How is this possible?
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Posted: Sat Mar 19, 2011 11:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote


I think you have misunderstood my post completely. And if I misled you by being too brief rather than explaining the background I apologise. I did nearly go back and correct the word sympathy as it wasn't the right one, but by the time I noticied it the debate had moved on.

I was not defending the media at all. Indeed the reason I did my masters in Media Regulation ( a complete change of subject for me and an MSc due to the stats content not to astronomy or anything in case you thought that I was Mr Cox in disguise) was because I despair of the media.

What I was doing was stating the factual situation about the way the media operates because I thought that Deb was worrying that she was the subject of a deliberate campaign whereas I was more inclined to think that it was an inevitable result of commerical media operations.
Of course, you are right, I could be wrong - I wasn't there.

The other point I was trying to highlight is that complaints to the media rarely make a difference; the solution would have to change something much more fundamental. That doesn't mean that astrologers should stop campaigning, but perhaps we need to understand that the nature of the battle isn't always going to be about the truth of the facts.

Hope that clears up the misunderstanding.
"The universe is full of magical things, patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper" Eden Phillpotts
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Posted: Sun Mar 20, 2011 8:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

amelia wrote:

I think you have misunderstood my post completely.

What I was doing was stating the factual situation about the way the media operates because I thought that Deb was worrying that she was the subject of a deliberate campaign whereas I was more inclined to think that it was an inevitable result of commerical media operations.

Of course, you are right, I could be wrong - I wasn't there.

So I did not "misunderstand" your post "completely". Thank you.
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Posted: Fri Jul 15, 2011 12:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

thanks for sharing.....
(Y: removing spam)
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