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spock



Joined: 10 Apr 2011
Posts: 51
Location: Evansville, Indiana

Posted: Mon Oct 14, 2013 5:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

waybread wrote:
Hi Spock. I think a real problem for historians of science is in setting boundaries for what is "in" and what is "out." Scholars' understandings of the natural world in the past, for example, were oftentimes very different. One of my regrets (as a former grad student in environmental science) is that the whole field of natural history disappeared. It was the science of its day, but not the science of our day.

Thomas Kuhn, preeminent both as philosopher (The Structure of Scientific Revolutions) and historian of science, has addressed two aspects of this question. He juxtaposes his view of scientific development with that of Sir Karl Popper in "Logic of Discovery or Psychology of Research?" in Criticism and the Growth of Knowledge, edited by Imre Lakatos and Alan Musgrave (also in The Essential Tension: Selected Studies in Scientific Tradition and Change, a collection of Kuhn's papers), and as part of that comparison contrasts their demarcation criteria for determining what is and isn't science. In doing so Kuhn uses astrology, "Sir Karl's most frequently cited example of a 'pseudo-science'", as a test case. Although he ultimately doesn't see astrology as the sort of thing that could be possible, because he like most scientists and intellectuals basically takes astrologers' word for what astrology is, he's not really hostile to it and in The Copernican Revolution emphasizes the role it played in antiquity in the development of astronomy, and the fact that the two were not readily distinguishable at that time. He feels his demarcation criterion is superior to Sir Karl's in explaining why astrology is not now a science, although I see a lot of merit in both of their approaches. But mostly what I got out of a close reading of that part of the article was some ideas about where we are as a discipline and what we need to do to advance it. I recommend the article but will say no more because it's not as germane to the present discussion as the following.

In several papers in The Essential Tension Kuhn discusses relations between different sciences as well as relations between science and other enterprises, including both technology and art. This material is the primary source of my view that science and technology are separate enterprises, even at the present time, and more obviously during the 19th, 18th and preceding centuries. In "History and the History of Science" he writes, "Science, when it affects socioeconomic development at all, does so through technology. Historians tend frequently to conflate the two enterprises, abetted by prefaces which, since the seventeenth century, have regularly proclaimed the utility of science and have often then illustrated it with explanations of existing machines and modes of production." He notes that despite claims by Bacon and his successors "technology flourished without significant substantive inputs from the sciences until about one hundred years ago." (The article was published in 1971.)

After a discussion of the history of science and technology, emphasizing that the two have rarely flourished at the same time at the same place, he notes three ways in which the two enterprises, "now seen as distinct," have interacted. The oldest and longest lasting, "probably now finished except in the social sciences," is the effect of technology on the sciences: "In all these cases...the resulting benefits have accrued to science not to technology...." The second mode, dating from the mid-18th century, involves practical enterprises, like stock breeding and farming, trying to use scientific methods: "The men who used them were seldom, however, contributors to contemporary science which, in any case, few of them knew." He then turns to the third and most recent mode of interaction: "If one looks for important new processes which result from the development of scientific knowledge, one must wait for the maturation of organic chemistry, current electricity, and thermodynamics during the generations from 1840 to 1870....Since its emergence in the organic dye industry a century ago [this mode of interaction] has transformed communication, the generation and distribution of power (twice), the materials both of industry and of everyday life, and also both medicine and warfare." He notes how difficult this transformation has been to see, asserting that "Most general histories disguise even the existence of any such transformation."

You've undoubtedly noted the relevance to Tesla of the references to current electricity and the generation and distribution of power. With that in mind I turn now to another paper, "The Essential Tension." In this paper Kuhn discusses educational practices and the different personalities of scientists and inventors. Near the end he writes, "One could at least argue that Edison's personality, ideal for the inventor and perhaps also for the 'oddball' in applied science, barred him from fundamental achievements in the basic sciences. He himself expressed great scorn for scientists and thought of them as wooly-headed people to be hired when needed. But this did not prevent his occasionally arriving at the most sweeping and irresponsible theories of his own. (The pattern recurs in the early history of electrical technology: both Tesla and Gramme advanced absurd cosmic schemes that they thought deserved to replace the current scientific knowledge of their day.) Episodes like this reinforce the impression that the personality requisites of the pure scientist and of the inventor may be quite different, perhaps with those of the applied scientist lying somewhere between."

Until I started writing this I didn't remember the reference to Tesla. I remembered and associated the phrase "absurd cosmic schemes..." with Edison but felt it applied to Tesla also! No doubt some readers of this post will insist that Tesla's ideas really should have superseded the scientific knowledge of his day, that he was as neglected as a scientist as he was, for awhile, as an inventor. I can only say that whether or not it should have the fact is it didn't, and point out also that science, unlike invention, is a result of consensus, that science itself (pace Kuhn) is the product of a certain kind of group, that there is no omnipotent referee saying, this theory is right and that one is wrong. It's the relevant community, with a shared mentality inculcated by exposure to the same paradigms (i.e., accepted problem solutions) that, acknowledged by the wider society as the authorities in that area, decides what's 'true'.

But my point is not ultimately to prove that Tesla was or was not a scientist, although I still think he wasn't. Rather, I want to suggest on the one hand how surprisingly hard it is to cross boundaries, and on the other hand that it's not impossible and for the sake of our own discipline important to try. In "Mathematical versus Experimental Traditions in the Development of Physicial Science," also in Tension, Kuhn suggests that history of science can best be approached not by treating the sciences as one, or as unrelated, separate fields, but as natural clusters. He also insists, a point you will undoubtedly appreciate, that when dealing with science during a given period one should deal with the fields and subdivisions as they existed during that period. The histories found at the beginning of science textbooks take the present lineup of fields as a given and indicate when each piece of knowledge was added to the field, even though the field as presently constituted might not have existed during much of the period when knowledge was supposedly being added piecemeal to it. He calls this Whig history and considers it to be profoundly unhistorical.

Beginning with the 17th century Kuhn describes two sets of fields, a classical cluster, highly developed in antiquity, consisting of mathematics, harmonics, astronomy, geometrical optics, and statics, including hydrostatics. Local motion, thanks to 14th century scholastic analysis, was by the 17th century also a part of this cluster. During the 17th century all of these fields except harmonics were radically reconstructed. The latter, which can roughly be understood as music theory, declined greatly between 1500 and 1800 and dropped out of the sciences. A second natural cluster, the Baconian sciences, consisting of fields such as magnetism, electricity, heat, and chemistry, came into existence around the middle of the 17th century.

These two sets of fields were distinct. Within each cluster practioners moved consequentially from one field to another, but only Newton was unequivocally immersed in both, and his involvement led to two distinct lines of development, one descending from Principia, the other from Opticks. The classical sciences were highly developed in antiquity because the data on which they depended lay readily to hand (or up in the sky, dots of light against a black background). These sciences were all mathematical or quasi-mathematical, being largely deductive in their reasoning style. The Baconians, in contrast, disliked math and decried theory. Their emphasis was discovering data via experiment, the idea being that eventually the accumulation of facts might lead to theories.

During the rest of the 17th century and throughout the 18th the two sets of fields continued to be distinct and flourished in different national settings, the Baconian sciences in England and the low countries, the classical in France. By the latter part of the 18th century the Baconian fields had matured to the point of developing powerful qualitative theories, and during the first quarter of the 19th century, in the French Ecole polytechnique, in which the practitioners of the two clusters were for the first time brought cheek to jowel, a burst of mathematization occurred in which all the Baconian fields acquired fully mathematical theories. Only then, when the barriers between the two clusters were lowered, did physics, an amalgamation of parts of the two clusters, begin to emerge as one of the current lineup of sciences.

The point of all this is that the barriers between the two sets of fields, and the different mentalities that constituted them, didn't disappear but were displaced to the interior of physics itself. Kuhn points out that theoretical and experimental physics are so different that "almost no one can hope to achieve eminence in both." Yet for a discipline as powerful as modern physics to flourish descendents of the Baconian tradition, the experimentalists, and descendents of the classical tradition, the theorists, must be able to interact constructively. Theorists must be able to appreciate experiment and communicate with experimentalists, experimentalists must be able to appreciate theory and communicate with theorists. This has implications for astrology, which I'll take up below in response to your last paragraph. One other interesting point Kuhn raises. Music, in the form of harmonics, was part of the classical cluster, and mathematicians and theoretical physicists (but not experimental physicists) are often passionately interested in music and have difficulty in choosing between a musical or scientific career.

Quote:
During the 19th century natural history and taxonomy/systematics generated all kinds of interest among amateur biologists. There was a huge collecting phase in Britain, for instance, where amateurs added significantly to the known flora and fauna. In a field like taxonomy (and where the universities were humanities-oriented) amateurs could actually make lasting contributions.

I think one thing that helps to determine a field or set of related fields is what the members characteristically do. I would say natural historians like to tramp about fields and collect samples of things, whether flora, fauna, or rocks. Darwin is a prime example. Martin J.S. Rudwick's The Great Devonian Controversy, about a transition in geology that took place from about 1834 to 1842, brilliantly evokes the social makeup of the geological and natural history communities and the messy, confusing process of knowledge making, including wrong turns, cul de sacs, power plays and declining and advancing reputations. It's history of science at its best.

Quote:
I can kind of put inventors like Tesla in their category, because the boundaries of science/not science were more fluid then.

I see your point but am reluctant to go along with it. By the latter part of the 19th century the physics community wasn't that permeable and wasn't peopled by amateurs and/or didn't include them as "collectors" like 20th century (and 21st century?) astronomy. At least that's my impression.

Quote:
Similarly, I once knew a respected and well-published biologist who switched university departments (highly unusual) because he was an ecologist in the midst of microbiologists and biochemists, who increasingly looked down upon his "soft" research. (A lot of this shift, IMO, has to do with funding from granting agencies.)

What departments did he switch from and to?

Quote:
Today neither "hard" or natural scientists or political scientists would likely consider Poli Sci to be a true science, despite the "science" term applied to it back-when. This was part of the modernist project around the turn of the last century. Some political scientists are actually more in the humanities camp than in the present-day social sciences.

I vaguely remember hearing or reading about this but don't know much. I know more about a similar split in anthropology between scientific and humanities wings, both virulently hostile to each other. I was briefly involved peripherally when I was on an anthropology mail list and a scandal broke out when a member of the humanities wing wrote a book attacking Napoleon Chagnon, best known for his ethnographic field work among the Yanomamo. I mentioned an exchange I had with someone, perhaps the author, regarding the controversy, and Chagnon asked me for a copy. He was an aggressive, in some ways irritating person, but I thought the other guy was a snake in the grass.

Quote:
There is a case to be made for labeling as science branches of psychology better termed behavioural science and even neuroscience.

I'm not clear on what you're saying here. Behavioural science and neuroscience are labeled as science, in their very names, but that's obvious so I think I must not be picking up on your point. I think all branches of psychology are science, albeit not necessarily at the same level. Kuhn makes a clear distinction, which not all of his readers pick up on, between science and mature science, with the latter being what he's describing in his theory of science in Structure.

Quote:
And this is part of the problem for astrology. From my perspective, it was so much part-and-parcel of astronomy prior to the Copernican Revolution. Yet today, too many (not all) science historians write it out of their tradition, except perhaps to disparage it. Why? Because it is so clearly not science today.

Kuhn is an interesting case in point. He's relatively enlightened about astrology, and doesn't neglect its role in the evolution of astronomy in The Copernican Revolution. Thus he writes, "Particularly after Aristotle supplied a physical mechanism — the frictional drive — through which heavenly bodies could produce terrestrial change, there was a plausible basis for the belief that an ability to predict the future configurations of the heavens would enable men to foretell the future of men and nations....Before the second century B.C., ancient records show few signs of a fully developed attempt to predict the details of terrestrial affairs from the observed and computed positions of the stars and planets. But after this relatively late start, astrology was inseparably linked to astronomy for 1800 years; together they consituted a single professional pursuit." He goes on to differentiate between judicial astrology and natural astrology, the latter being what we now call astronomy, and notes that Ptolemy was equally famous in both. It's all the more puzzling that he doesn't include astrology in the classical fields. He could have noted that, like harmonics, it declined greatly and fell out of the classical cluster. Astrology's decline was even more precipitous than that of harmonics, being still practiced by Kepler who died in 1630 but effectively banished from astronomy by 1700 if not before.

Given the example of how parts of the classical and Baconian clusters combined to form modern physics, and examples of combination or recombination that can be culled from other fields, for instance molecular biology and, more recently, earth science, it's worth wondering what might be in our own future. Astrology, although it shares the mathematical impetus of the classical cluster, is no longer and likely will never be part of the physical sciences. But it seems to me that, if I'm right that what astrology predicts and therefore is about is motivational rhythms, then a truly modern astrology might well embody parts of not only traditional astrology, most specifically transit analysis, but also psychology, especially developmental psychology, biology, especially chronobiology, and statistics.

That brings me to my final and ultimate point. I don't quite see the point of the mouse versus elephant analogy, since we should be less concerned about what the elephant thinks of us than about what we can do to best make sense of that facet of reality with which we're concerned. However, I think that while communication across domains is surprisingly difficult — I know scientists whose reasoning as geologists or chemists is far more advanced than their reasoning as astrologers — it's not impossible. Economically backward countries have modernized more rapidly than did England and Western Europe. The less advanced must be able to learn some lessons from the more advanced, and I can't help thinking it's true of knowledge fields as well. That's why the antiscientism that is so rife on this board — even on the Philosophy & Science subforum! — is unfortunate, because I think there are useful lessons to be learned but we'll have a hard time learning them if we're blindly prejudiced against 'science'.
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varuna2



Joined: 20 Feb 2012
Posts: 320
Location: Lemuria

Posted: Mon Oct 14, 2013 8:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

spock wrote:

That's why the antiscientism that is so rife on this board — even on the Philosophy & Science subforum! — is unfortunate, because I think there are useful lessons to be learned but we'll have a hard time learning them if we're blindly prejudiced against 'science'.


We all have the right to our own beliefs. Speaking for myself, since I am assuming I am included in this accusation, I am not against science but I am against the portrayal scientists and their ilk, give to other ways of viewing the world. Scientists and people who follow science, inevitably try to portray other people such as Mary, to be not thinking critically. I do have a serious problem with this propaganda tactic and destruction of alternative ways of viewing the world, and this is why I continue to annoy you (assuming this annoys you).

I reject the smear tactic you and W use, to twist criticism into "prejudice against science".

spock wrote:
actually has its roots in the Middle Ages, which I find a lot more plausible than your vague assertion.


It is fine if you believe it is plausible, but why should someone else believe it is more plausible? Why should we take your word or sources over Mary's sources? Mary uses terms that predate the middle ages and there is no trademark or copyright on terms like "Primordial Tradition." Imagine, for example, what would happen if only one group had access to information in the Middle Ages and they were able to rewrite history however they pleased - how do you know that did not happen? People often give lip service to the freedom of information created by the Gutenberg press while at the same time disparaging internet information (because they cannot control the information on the internet as easily), but the internet is allowing us to circumvent the censorship of the rulers who control the press and traditional information sources as well as the scientific literature, for example. It will not be long now...


spock wrote:

so much of it is based on unevidenced assumptions, with no indication even of where it came from or could have come from, given that much of it is not stuff humans could have known unless they were superhuman or had a direct pipeline to God or Truth.


Precisely this. This is one of the only reasons some choose to value certain teachings over other teachings, by pondering on the limitations of kaliyuga human intellects. I personally will not accept any contemporary person's words merely on faith (unless it serves my purposes), but the ancients is another matter because I know how limited contemporary human minds are but I do not know how unlimited ancient human minds were and so if given the choice between kaliyuga human limited minds, or unlimited rshi minds I choose the latter.

This is a perfectly rational decision and involves just as much critical thinking, contrary to W's accusations, as accepting the belief in progress - if one believes the ancients were ignorant and unintelligent apes.

This is why some prefer the teachings of previous yuga maharishis to teachings of kaliyuga intellectual academic citations. You and W both unfailingly worship at the altar of "science" and "progress" and behave no differently from any cult member and yet then you question Traditionalists for behaving exactly as yourselves. On the day that you and W recognize that you worship at your own cult, on that day you will stop projecting your own blind faith ("flaws") on the traditionalists like Mary and you will begin to take ownership of your own stuff. Don't you just love psychological thinking? It even enables people to accuse victims of being oppressors and vice versa...


spock wrote:

Which we're supposed to take your word for, of course, or the word of the ancients you venerate.


Just as we are supposed to take your word or the modern bibles such as On The Origin of Species or whichever scientific texts you worship and accept those priest-scientists at face value.


spock wrote:

As for older is better, about which you're admirably direct, does that apply to all things, such as, for instance, astronomy and cosmology? Do you believe that the sky is the underbelly of a giant cow whose feet rest on the four corners of the earth? Do you believe that the pinpricks of light in the night sky are glimpses of the roaring fire that is the Hearth of Zeus, as seen through holes on the inside of the bark of a giant hollow tree? Do you think the earth is flat, or that it is at the center of the cosmos with the sun and planets circling round, or do you favor the Tychonic version, in which the planets circle the sun which in turn circles the earth. Exactly how far back do you go to obtain your version of Truth and, a question that cropped up repeatedly in my mind when I read your treatises, how do you know?


I would suggest to first study ancient sciences including Indian, before repeating contemporary propaganda around here, unless you don't feel like learning or for some reason.

One of the primary purposes for these "your ancestors were ignorant apes" assertions is solely to destroy people's cultural and ethnic identity in order to create one vast homogenous underclass of serfs and slaves and a new social order. This is nothing new and has been happening for millennia. For example: "But thus shall you deal with them; you shall destroy their altars, and break down their images, and cut down their [sacred] groves, and burn their graven images with fire" (Deuteronomy 7.5) - The following verse and verses in other chapters of Deuteronomy repeat statements of ruling over all of the people of the earth after their identity is destroyed in that verse. This is a violation of the UN mandate on Indigenous People's Rights and all humans are indigenous, therefore all humans have the Natural Human Right to their own cultural and ethnic identity and history, and it is a violation of the alleged and pretend supposed values (multiculturalsim; pluralism; diversity) of the contemporary West whose true aims are the exact opposite of those names. Either all peoples have the right to their own cultural and ethnic history and identity, or no people have this right to their roots, otherwise it starts looking really sinister and people start questioning who invented these things and applied them unequally amongst groups of peoples.

"They mixed us up with [Westerners]. They took away our language. They took our kids away to schools and wouldn't let them learn about the old culture. They herded us onto reservations and rewarded Indians who acted just like [Westerners]. They created a generation of Indians who didn't even know who they were" (Neither Wolf Nor Dog).

Kent wrote:

But it did something worse, too. It took away all of our history from before the time you came here to our country. It's like before you came here, we didn't exist. You won't believe anything we tell you unless you can dig up some pot or an arrowhead. Then you put it in a lot of machines and put chemicals on it so you can know when it was made, and then you can say, 'Now we know about it, Now we know what happened.' Then the man who did the tests writes down what he found out and other people write down what they think about what he found out, and you call that history.

'I can come to you and tell you what my grandfathers told me, and that's not history unless the chemicals told you the same things. I can even tell you about power, like wipoye, the medicine bag, or how one becomes a double woman - but I wouldn't - and you would just say that is a story.

'See, none of what we know is history to you. Our sacred stories are just legends to you. The powers we were given by our ancestors you think are superstitious. The responsiblities, too. None of that is real in your history.

'All it really means is there wasn't anyone with a book writing things down. It doesn't matter that when your people came with books and wrote things down, they wrote lies. Once it was down then it was truth. Then there was history. The elders used to say, 'Wasichu builds his house on lies.'

That's what they meant.'


-Neither Wolf Nor Dog



"People living in countries at points diametrically opposite to where the sun is first seen rising will see the sun setting, and if a straight line were drawn from a point where the sun is at midday, the people in countries at the opposite end of the line would be experiencing midnight. Similarily, if people residing where the sun is setting were to go to countries diametrically opposite, they would not see the sun in the same condition" Srimad Bhagavatam 5.21.8-9).

Even if we had no evidence of ancient beliefs, which we do, we can use inference and contemplate things like sailors seeing mountains or high towers and such from the ocean and seeing the curvature of the earth, or lunar eclipses which reveal the earth's shadow as curved, or look at the Sun and Moon and notice how round they are and use inference.

"At a lunar eclipse the Moon enters the shadow of the earth, and at a solar eclipse she enters the Sun's disc. That is the reason why the lunar eclipse does not begin at the western limb, nor the solar one at the eastern limb" (Brhat Samhita 5.Cool. This was written by Varahamihira who was likely from around 2000 years ago according to B. S. Rao, since the one verse they used to date Varahamihira era was fraudulently translated by a false interpolation of that verse of the year of the era that Varhamihira wrote he is from, because Varahamihira did not name the era he used...

We could do like Eratosthenes did to verify the ancient Egyptian teaching of the size of the circumference of the earth and test this ancient teaching like he did.

In studying the history of science, in the West and in the East, I have noticed numerous discrepancies between the two. Western history always starts like, so-and-so was the first to measure the speed of light, or the first to measure the circumference of the earth, while in reality these things were done by previous peoples or learned from previous peoples, but this is never acknowledged by the ravening beast of Western History which devours everything in its path.

The Surya Siddhanta lists the diameters of the planets, and that text also states:

"O Maya, hear attentively the excellent knowledge of the science of astronomy which the Sun himself formerly taught to the great rshis in each of the yugas.

I teach you the same ancient science...But the difference between the present and the ancient works is caused only by time, on account of the revolution of the yugas
."

The Sun is referred to as the atma or center or soul in various ancient texts, and it is also said to support the other planets, but as astrologers we know why the geocentric version was used: because we do not live on the Sun...

http://www.keplersdiscovery.com/Ancients.html

Rather than try to destroy people's identity by referring to their history as mythology we could contemplate whether there are scientific truths or any type of truths behind mysterious statements about reality which sound strange or "superstitious" initially, especially when wrong translations are used such as 'cows' for something with an entirely different (and more than one) meaning. I cannot believe contemporary people actually state these mistranslations and then say, "Look, those ignorant people thought the earth was supported by a 'physical' cow! etc."


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waybread



Joined: 05 Mar 2009
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Posted: Tue Oct 15, 2013 5:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Varuna2, I started to craft a response to your rant (flame?) but decided against it. If you find that your invectives against complete strangers and misunderstandings of science get you through life in great shape, who am I to argue with you? Good luck with them.

Spock, thank you for your detailed posts. Your knowledge of the history of science is impressive. I do see overlap between science and engineering; and one could equally point to applied sciences, with today's particular academic push for university scientists to develop spin-off companies, patents, and sufficient external funding (often through contracts) to support all their own grad students and post-docs. A scientific study requiring sophisticated instrumentation will often involve both scientists and engineers.

With respect to astronomy and astrology, I hope we all learn something about the heavens that are the basis for our own work. I don't think astrology's future lies with science, but with some of the more qualitative branches of the social sciences, where some of astrology's truth-claims are perhaps best explored.
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Morpheus



Joined: 21 Mar 2007
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Posted: Tue Oct 15, 2013 5:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

varuna2 wrote:

Quote:
In studying the history of science, in the West and in the East, I have noticed numerous discrepancies between the two. Western history always starts like, so-and-so was the first to measure the speed of light, or the first to measure the circumference of the earth, while in reality these things were done by previous peoples or learned from previous peoples, but this is never acknowledged by the ravening beast of Western History which devours everything in its path.


Thumbs up

I have learned a lot from your and Myriam posts. Geoffrey,has also given his point of view (he is a Scientist as well as a trained Astrologer).

Apart from other things I would like to mention 'Kama Sutra'. A compendium of Sex, Relations and Human Psyche.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kama_Sutra

Let see, when this work would be fully understood by the current generation.
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Morpheus

https://horusastropalmist.wordpress.com/
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Nixx



Joined: 10 Dec 2011
Posts: 295

Posted: Tue Oct 15, 2013 11:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
That's why the antiscientism that is so rife on this board — even on the Philosophy & Science subforum! — is unfortunate, because I think there are useful lessons to be learned but we'll have a hard time learning them if we're blindly prejudiced against 'science'.


I appreciate your posts Spock, amongst the best I've seen on Skyscript over the years.

Picking up on this observation there might be some irony, even hypocrisy, present as when one looks at the aims and practices of many, if not most, Traditional Horoscopists they are operating quite explicitly within the scientific paradigm There is a strong focus on concrete manifestations on the material place, if you like, events of this nature either occur in a certain way or they don't. This is evident on Skyscript on the Horary, Sports, Mundane boards or when we have had the Mystery chart exercises the objective is to test empirically the various systems entertained by the participants.
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james_m



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Posted: Tue Oct 15, 2013 5:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

quick note to myriam - i plan on responding properly when i have some free time.

thanks also for the additional conversation by everyone which is also interesting to ponder. james
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varuna2



Joined: 20 Feb 2012
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Posted: Wed Oct 16, 2013 4:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

waybread wrote:
Varuna2, I started to craft a response to your rant (flame?) but decided against it. If you find that your invectives against complete strangers and misunderstandings of science get you through life in great shape, who am I to argue with you? Good luck with them.


People oftentimes reject a dosage of their own medicine when they get to feel how unpleasant it is. You have been directly or indirectly casting aspersions at me for quite some time now (whether you realize it or not), but I did not take it personal since this is your standard debate pattern. You made a wise choice to let it pass.

I also appreciate some of Spock's writings just as others do and I am supportive of developing different ways of viewing and understanding astrology through science, but like many people in astrology, I am so weary of being portrayed as a "superstitious relic from the dark ages." I have noticed how people (including astrologers) who specialize in contemporary thought oftentimes dismiss the ancient views without even having studied them. The reason they do this is because "Wasichu builds his house on lies" and it is the same phenomenon we find in prior case law citations and academic papers piled up on top of other papers and distortions and biases become fossilized dogma (whether scientific or political or any other type of dogma), and the original sources are almost never verified or checked for bias or lies and just assumed true. Thus, the 'flat earth' lie and I already gave one reason for destroying those ancient connections and roots.

You and Spock deserve me nonetheless after the way I have seen you both interact with other people, be honest or remove your buffers as G I G would say. Would you rather have praise from enemies or criticism from friends?
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james_m



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Posted: Wed Oct 16, 2013 6:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Myriam Hildotter wrote:
James,

Now we are getting rather deep into things, but it is not true that we will never get back.

Fundamental to this philosophy is the concept that eventually all will return, and that the separation is an illusion. In some ways, it is actually easier in the late Kali Yuga, because smaller efforts have a bigger impact.


myriam, i'm of the view that one's philosophy has to be ultimately based on their own experience. one can only go so far on others ideas or directions and eventually have to find the road - or their own way on their own..

Myriam Hildotter wrote:

There really is a richness to the study of Tradition, and I am not talking about a rigid application of techniques, but a deeper understanding of the mythology, stories, traditions, fairy tales, etc., from our ancestors, and seeing how these inform the techniques we use as astrologers. It can also help us sort through what makes sense and what doesn't as our practice has developed.


can i substitute 'god' for 'tradition' here? your word "Tradition" hits me like some fundamentalist religious position that one has to be a convert to in order to appreciate fully. as for the rest of your paragraph, i am reminded of the work that liz greene and other 'modern' type astrologers have engaged in with the use of jungian ideas with a focus on mythology, fairy tales, dreams and etc. how does it differ in your particular philosophy, i have no idea but i know other astrologers more recently have taken an approach incorporating these ideas/techniques as well.

Myriam Hildotter wrote:

James, you talk a lot about frustration with the distinction between Modern and Traditional Astrology, and it ends up being personal. When we get beyond the philosophy, the nuts and bolts of what we are talking about is what techniques do we use, and how we decide what to use and what not to use. If one employed all the techniques one possibly can find, there would be so much information that we would never be able to actually read a chart.


this raises the question of whether one has to settle on a specific approach with the techniques used, styles followed, or even the different types of astrological inquiry that make up the vast subject of astrology..this is one of the many reasons i found geoffery cornelius's book so fascinating as it discussed what for lack of a better way for me to describe it, would be the difference between horary and natal astrology, or an approach based on divination as opposed to one more scientific in nature.. that would be one way of dividing up a different approach and of course the techniques used by one may or may not work for the other. but really for me in my own study i like to think if i see the merit in a particular technical approach that bears fruit, i would want to use it regardless of what time frame or school of astrology it came from.. what this means is i am mostly interested in using techniques that have merit.. i could be accused of fooling myself into thinking some or any of it had relevance, but i have to go with my observations thru trial and error. accepting a particular approach without question is not something i am inclined towards. if someone comes along and says "god" or "tradition" says this, it just isn't enough for me.

Myriam Hildotter wrote:
Waybread's approach (I am assuming) is to study the research that has been done, with as close as possible to the scientific method as can be approximated. I am not sure what criteria you use to sort through methods, to be honest, James. Maybe you can shed some light on that for us.


my last paragraph above has answered this to the best of my ability.

Myriam Hildotter wrote:
I sort through methods by first looking to older material, which honestly is a hodgepodge as well. Much less of a hodgepodge than we have now, I think. Before I started studying Essentialist thought (although I think I have always sort of believed these things, without vocabulary for it), I would sort through by what seemed to work and what didn't in practice. Now, I know enough to understand the *reasons* for methodology..or at least sometimes, which is helpful for evaluating it.

This makes a difference to education, in that I believe Waybread would want to teach the scientific method, psychology, and other research methodology. While I would not object to some teaching in these areas, I would focus much more heavily on mythology, Ancient philosophy, and metaphysical studies.

It also makes a difference to very simple questions, like, what planet rules Scorpio? Does Chiron have meaning in astrology, and should Chiron be studied at all?


i accept i started studying astrology beginning in the mid 70's when much of the astrological literature, especially the literature with a focus on astrological material from the 17th century and further back was unavailable to consider. it is due my ongoing curiousity that i have also had the good fortune to give as much of this material as possible consideration as well. i can't toss away something of value based on it coming from a particular era and not another one, just like i'm unable to throw away my previous experiences whether they were what i would have liked or not.. i accept i'm a collected experience and a whole lot more that remains a mystery. i prefer to hold to the mystery which is why i find the idea of holding to others philosophy - we do it this way, but not that way - doesn't have a lot of relevance the longer i live. maybe it never has now that i think of it. this isn't to say i don't learn from others, as i am learning from others all the time, but i process it in my own way.

regarding having a way of answering simple questions, some folks are more given over to a black and white rule based system then others.. i accept this, but it isn't for me. if someone said scorpio was ruled by mars or pluto i would try to understand why they said that, as opposed to saying ' i follow so and so's system, but that is just me.. same deal with whether to incorporate chiron or not.. obviously it is much easier to not have to think about chiron or any other recently discovered planet, or lump of something within our solar system and we do have to draw a line somewhere.. i have a hard time drawing these types of lines and believe i understand why some are more likely to want to incorporate chiron, especially after having an interesting experience that i feel was captured quite well by the chiron return in my chart a few years ago.. we all have to find what works for us in our own way.. following another person's muse has never been my thing. maybe that is one difference between a chart with a sun in pisces verses one with a sun in aries.. what do you think?
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spock



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Posted: Fri Oct 18, 2013 11:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

waybread wrote:
Spock, thank you for your detailed posts. Your knowledge of the history of science is impressive. I do see overlap between science and engineering; and one could equally point to applied sciences, with today's particular academic push for university scientists to develop spin-off companies, patents, and sufficient external funding (often through contracts) to support all their own grad students and post-docs. A scientific study requiring sophisticated instrumentation will often involve both scientists and engineers.

I've been thinking about this. If science and technology are distinct enterprises, as I believe to be the case, and if since the 1870s science has nonetheless impacted technology (and vice versa) in enormously consequential ways, by what means does it do so? Pure scientists, especially theorists, the ones who elucidate theories about the nature of reality, aren't much interested, by temperament, in making things. Theirs is a contemplative kind of knowledge, and this would be true of the classical physical sciences I referred to earlier as well as the equivalent parts of the life sciences. On the other hand experimental physicists, whose historical roots lie in the Baconian sciences, are by nature tinkerers. They do make things. But what differentiates them from technologists, it seems to me, is that the things they make are characteristically scientific instruments created for the purpose of understanding reality, not for the purpose of providing socially useful artifacts.

Yet socially useful and/or power over nature artifacts, including electricity generation and distribution, and electronics, and not excluding contrivances capable of escaping from the earth, sometimes carrying humans in sealed environments (itself a remarkable feat) on a round trip journey, are supposedly the result of basic science's inputs to technology. How does that input occur? I'm thinking engineering, which as you say overlaps with science, is that bridge. I put the words engineering, applied. and science in the google search field and the topmost link was an article titled "Applied Science" on Wikipedia. Here's what it says in the first section:

"Within natural science, disciplines that are basic science, also called pure science, develop information to predict and perhaps explain—thus somehow understand—phenomena in the natural world. Applied science applies the basic science toward practical endeavors. Applied science is typically engineering, which develops technology, although there might be feedback between basic science and applied science: research and development (R&D).

Medical sciences, for instance medical microbiology and its clinical virology, are applied sciences that apply biology toward medical knowledge and inventions, but not necessarily medical technology, whose development is more specifically biomedicine or biomedical engineering. Applied science can also apply formal science, such as statistics and probability theory, as in epidemiology. Genetic epidemiology is an applied science applying both biological and statistical methods."

So it appears, at first glance at least, that applied science and engineering aren't identical but are nonetheless closely related in being bridges between basic science and end-use technology. Perhaps applied science is slightly closer to basic science and engineering slightly closer to technology. And the practitioners of both are probably, pace Kuhn, in terms of personality somewhere between the basic scientist and the inventor.

Quote:
With respect to astronomy and astrology, I hope we all learn something about the heavens that are the basis for our own work. I don't think astrology's future lies with science, but with some of the more qualitative branches of the social sciences, where some of astrology's truth-claims are perhaps best explored.

I'm surprised you don't count qualitative social science as science. Kuhn is pretty explicit that the qualitative theories of the Baconian sciences were prerequisite to the quantitative theories that succeeded them: "Why those barriers [between the classical and Baconian fields] were lowered when and as they were is a subject demanding much additional research. But a major part of the answer will doubtless lie in the internal development of the relevant fields during the eighteenth century. The qualitative theories so rapidly mathematized after 1800 had come into existence only after the 1780s....Except perhaps in optics, the papers which between 1800 and 1825 made previously experimental fields fully mathematical could not have been written two decades before the burst of mathematization began."

I think even in the most developed sciences quantitative theory rests on a qualitative foundation. It's not a matter of social sciences being qualitative and physical sciences being quantitative, but of a discipline in its early stages being qualitative and only later, after much development, finding ways to quantify previously qualitative theories. Those qualitative theories do not themselves spring forth as soon as a discipline becomes 'a science'. Kuhn argues that at first a new science has an undifferentiated mass of facts, with little understanding of what's important and what isn't: "The Baconian 'histories' of heat, color, wind, mining, and so on, are filled with information, some of it recondite. But they juxtapose facts that will later prove revealing (e.g., heating by mixture) with others (e.g., the warmth of dung heaps) that will for some time remain too complex to be integrated with theory at all. In addition, since any account must be partial, the typical natural history often omits from its immensely circumstantial accounts just those details that later scientists will find sources of important illumination."

To be fair Kuhn himself is ambiguous about whether a 'pre-paradigm' field should be considered a science: "Writers on electricity during the first four decades of the eighteenth century possessed far more information about electrical phenomena than had their sixteenth-century predecessors. During the half-century after 1740, few new sorts of electrical phenomena were added to their lists. Nevertheless, in important respects the writings of Cavendish, Coulomb, and Volta in the last third of the eighteenth century seem further removed from those of Gray, Du Fay, and even Franklin" than are the latter from those of the 16th century. "Sometime between 1740 and 1780, electricians were for the first time enabled to take the foundations of their field for granted....They had, that is, achieved a paradigm that proved able to guide the whole group's research. Except with the advantage of hindsight, it is hard to find a criterion that so clearly proclaims a field a science."

But Kuhn also regularly refers to the Baconian fields as sciences, not as fields that were destined to become sciences, and at any rate in his subsequent writings he clarifies that what he's been talking about is mature science. At first glance it seems almost as if he sees a bigger gulf between science and mature science than between pre-science and science, but I think the reverse is probably true. However much faster a mature science progresses than a science, I think there's an even larger discrepancy between the evolution of knowledge in a science and the glacial, imperceptible speed of change in a field that hasn't made the transition from not-science to science. I think it's only that extremely slow rate of change that enables some adherents to imagine that it hasn't happened at all, or that if it has it's happened in reverse, so that we begin, at some indefinably deep period in the past, with The Truth, and then lose ground.

As for what happens either as a cause or concomitant of such a transition, two things come to mind. One is a commitment to the pursuit of knowledge of nature per se, as opposed to a knowledge of how to make something that works in a desired fashion which is characteristic of the crafts from which so many sciences have sprung. Craft knowledge might tacitly embody knowledge of how nature works, but surely it makes a difference when an overt commitment is made to the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake. The other is a commitment, again overt, to pursue that knowledge on the basis of empiricism, on what can be seen rather than merely imagined. Except for the simplest manifestations of reality a chain of inferences is required to link what we can see to the unsee-able ontological entities we posit, but just as we can check what a person claims to have seen we can also review the logic of the inferences by which he or she connects that observation to an underlying reality. Only when we connect with nature and each other empirically, via the senses (which of course includes more than just sight) can we find a basis for an unarbitrary, unforced consensus.

The barest outline of such a consensus can be seen in at least one area of astrology. The Saturn Return, a transition that begins sometime after the 28th birthday and ends sometime before the 30th, has been 'seen' not only by astrologers but also by lifespan developmental theorists such as Daniel Levinson (Seasons of a Man's Life) and Gail Sheehy (Passages) and by writers (i.e., observers of 'the human condition') such as Gertrude Stein (in Fernhurst): "It happens often in the twenty-ninth year of a life that all the forces that have been engaged through the years of childhood, adolescence and youth in confused and ferocious combat range themselves in ordered ranks—one is uncertain of one's aims, meaning and power during these years of tumultuous growth when aspiration has no relation to fulfillment and one plunges here and there with energy and misdirection during the storm and stress of the making of a personality until at last we reach the twenty-ninth year the straight and narrow gate-way of maturity and life which was all uproar and confusion narrows down to form and purpose and we exchange a great dim possibility for a small hard reality."

Compare Stein's passage with Grant Lewi's (Astrology for the Millions) description: "Saturn's contact with your own Saturn causes your mind to turn inward and to think long and deeply about yourself and what you have already accomplished....You are reviewing the past, taking stock of your aims, your accomplishments, your desires; revising deeply your notions of many things....You have abandoned [by the end of the transit] many old ideas—and perhaps have struggled hard against the abandonment....You will stand freed, when this transit is past, of many erstwhile inner restrictions. You will have swept your nature clean of dead wood and cleared the decks for action that proceeds less impeded by personal complexes and internal difficulties. You will, in short, have matured—'put away childish things'—and you will be ready to take your place in the world as an adult." Or consider the emerging consensus among online astrologers that what's predictable during the Saturn Return is an agenda, not any specific external event, or the notion that at this time we set priorities (foreshadowed in Stein's "narrows down to form and purpose") that decisively affect our life and career trajectory as we move into our thirties, and it becomes clear that all these people are seeing, and drawing inferences about, the same visible "thing". When there's a visible thing to see it's possible for different people to agree about what they're seeing.

This emerging and still inchoate consensus is of course qualitative, as would be expected of a field that's (now, or will be) a natural member of the social sciences. But a scientific astrology might well quantify more rapidly than other members of this cluster. Recall that astrology was originally a member of the classical cluster of fields and is thus in important respects mathematical to its core. The Gauquelin research, which I don't think you take as seriously as you should (more on this later) is at least a harbinger of that development. Another thing worth discussing is the nature of pre-scientific astrological reasoning, how we think when we "do" astrology, the point of that kind of reasoning, and its role in some of us wishing to see astrology as at least partly an art. So again, more later.
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Article: After Symbolism
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waybread



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Posted: Fri Oct 18, 2013 10:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Spock, thanks again for another carefully thought-through, insightful post.
I agree with most of what you said. Before the scientific method gets applied to lab rats, a biologist undergoes a much more qualitative thought process.

My reading of Kuhn (long ago) is restricted to his book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. (The original one, not the new 50th year anniversary volume!)

If I might take off from the spirit of his volume, however, it seemed to focus on science being what scientists do-- descriptive rather than prescriptive.

My approach is descriptive and eclectic. I had a 30+-year academic career; am an a non-rehabbed information-junky and former library rat; as well as a joiner, such that I got to interact with academics from all over campus. I was also married to a scientst for 20 years, socialized with scientists, and have another family member in engineering. In academia if you age long enough in-place, you also get on committees (like tenure and hiring committees) where you get to read a lot of personnel files, including publication lists. I did a lot of inter-disciplinary teaching, sometimes team-taught. I was friendly with other women faculty in different disciplines. So that's my background.

Most of what I picked up about current science, engineering, &c is from keeping my ears wide open and asking questions of academics about their work-- which most are happy to talk about. (Unless they're theoretical physicists, in which case they knew I couldn't possibly understand it.)

The scientists I knew were pretty clear about what distinguished their work from everybody else's. However, they seemed to feel some kinship with engineering faculty; (a) because engineers need to know a bunch of basic science; and (b) because the scientific method applies to both types of research. (I once overhead a mechanical engineer ask a botanist, "Have you done anything technical lately?")

What happened in the social sciences-- at different times and in different directions according to their subjects-- was a bifurcation or even splintering of the fields into different research methodologies (or paradigms, if you prefer.)

Take Anthropology, which is usually classified as a social science. Traditionally its "four pillars" have been: linguistics, archaeology, physical, and social/cultural anthropology. (In reality these often overlap and may draw in additional topics.)

Physical anthropology and some types of archaeology are increasingly scientific-- although archaeology continues to attract art historians (i.e. humanities/fine arts people.) Linguistics can have more in common with humanities language departments than with the science crowd. A lot of socio-cultural anthropology veered deeply into the "posts": post-modernism, post-solonialism, post-structuralism, &c-- which made it less scientific and more in the humanities camp.

Similarly with political science. Some scholars are political historians or like philosophers interested in political theory, or-- some are more like statisticians who like working with election results data. Others specialize in policy analysis, which is highly subjective; and so on.

We could parse each social science discipline in a similar way.

(to be continued)
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waybread



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Posted: Fri Oct 18, 2013 10:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

(...continued) And here is where I come full circle to astrology.

So, if we take the scientific method as the distinction between "science" and "something else" we might find academic research-oriented engineers using it to test the efficacy of some new apparatus or other. Whereas, if we stroll over the the Athropology Department we might find highly scientific work taking place in the bone-analysis lab; and even an anti-science crowd in the coffee room discussing recent research in the post-colonial history of Latin America.

My other point, is that in social science work reliant upon survey research (questionnaires, interviews) there is also a split between the more traditional quantitative work, and more recent qualitative methodologies.

To continue with an anthropology example, we could envision a traditional quantitative survey researcher approaching a band of First Nations people or inner-city African-Americans, and asking them to fill out a written questionnaire about something-- say, their child-rearing practices. Even with a pre-test and a lot of sophisticated number-crunching, this is a very top-down "God's eye view" type of research.

Here the story veers partly into research ethics.

What happened in many places is that minority groups got sick and tired of having such research conducted on their backs-- giving the professor some new publications and a merit raise; but yielding them little or no benefit in exchange for graciously giving up their time to answer unwanted questionnaires.

Moreover, they pointed out that top-down research didn't address issues of concern to them. Like how to rear children in an economically and politically repressive system. Or how to rear children in unsafe urban environments.

From dialogues between researchers and the researched, scholars began to ask, "How do you design a study that the subjects actually want and would find useful?" Well, ask them to participate in the study design!

How do you ensure that an Anglo middle-class professor doesn't miss out on what really takes place in a very different sub-culture? Maybe do some focus groups, or very open-ended verbal interviews, and ask the subjects to talk about what matters to them. Commonalities in such discussions yield "bottom-up" rather than "top-down" studies.

Then summaries of "results" would be expressed in more qualitative ways, as well. Maybe the tool of choice would be content analysis, not some sophisticated multi-variate analysis based on written multiple-choice questionnaire data.

And so forth. There's more where this came from, and it isn't quantitative top-down social or behavioural science.

This could so well fit into astrology. We don't need a bunch of behavioural scientists analysing data, top-down. Start with some focus groups with professional astrologers. Let's get some interdisciplinary teams in which astrologers and qualitative social scientists craft methodologies that both find acceptable.

Of course the loud cry will be "Those meanie old academics won't understand us!" However, more senior astrologers have actually returned to universities to get graduate degrees. They are building bridges, not barricades. Similarly, there are sociologists who specialize in New Age movements who might be willing to tackle opening discussions with astrologers.

I say this is a good initial step.

(p.s. James-- you decide if you would need a university degree or not to follow Spock's posts. If not, it would take a fair bit of homework.)
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james_m



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Posted: Sat Oct 19, 2013 6:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

hi waybread,

unless someone mentions my name directly, i may or may not have the interest and inclination to study a particular post or go so far as to comment on it. since you mentioned my name at the end of your post i thought i would respond just to say i agree with spock that the gauguelin research is more worthy of consideration then some astrologers appear to be giving it.
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spock



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Posted: Tue Oct 22, 2013 1:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Nixx wrote:
Quote:
That's why the antiscientism that is so rife on this board — even on the Philosophy & Science subforum! — is unfortunate, because I think there are useful lessons to be learned but we'll have a hard time learning them if we're blindly prejudiced against 'science'.

I appreciate your posts Spock, amongst the best I've seen on Skyscript over the years.

Thanks.
Quote:
Picking up on this observation there might be some irony, even hypocrisy, present as when one looks at the aims and practices of many, if not most, Traditional Horoscopists they are operating quite explicitly within the scientific paradigm There is a strong focus on concrete manifestations on the material place, if you like, events of this nature either occur in a certain way or they don't. This is evident on Skyscript on the Horary, Sports, Mundane boards or when we have had the Mystery chart exercises the objective is to test empirically the various systems entertained by the participants.

Perhaps irony more than hypocrisy. Most people, including most astrologers, are sincere in their beliefs. And operating on the material plane doesn't mean they're operating within the scientific paradigm, only that they're operating within science's domain even as they deny its relevance. So you could say they're being inconsistent but not deliberately so. Only sociopaths consistently lie consciously and deliberately. However, I doubt that even sociopaths lie to themselves more often than most people do. Perhaps lie in this context is too strong a word, but like any caricature it highlights a feature that might otherwise be unobvious, the ways in which people fool themselves in order to maintain belief.

I don't think their doing so is necessarily bad or wrong. Part of Kuhn's accomplishment in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions was to undermine the logical positivist concept of science drawn from science textbooks, in which the "history" section in the opening chapter of the text records a series of piecemeal additions to knowledge, each attributed to a particular discoverer at a particular time, which collectively comprise "what we know" in that area of science. As pedagogy the image of science thus inculcated serves important and necessary functions, but as history it's profoundly misleading. The great discoveries and many of the minor ones were not mere additions to knowledge but were reconceptualizations that overthrew and replaced their predecessors. If Copernicus was right Ptolemy was wrong. If Kepler was right Copernicus was wrong. If Newton was right Kepler was wrong. If Einstein was right Newton was wrong.

You can see where that's leading. Nobody is right forever. Yet each was right, in some important sense of that term, at the time and for some time thereafter. A necessary corollary is that unless we can feel we're right, unless we can reason in ways that make that possible, no revolution can be completed or maintained, in fact knowledge itself becomes impossible. Doubt can act as an examiner only if not carried to the ultimate extreme of doubting everything. In reality mechanisms of doubt must be balanced against mechanisms of belief, and only when anomalies pile up and lead to crisis and those mechanisms become strained are they then seen, through the lens of a successor theory, as "errors".

In astrology the sources of crisis are an awareness that sometimes astrologers get the right answers with the wrong chart, the instances of different astrologers providing different rectified birth times for the same famous person, all of them convincing even though they can't all be right (in the case of Winston Churchill, as recounted in Recent Advances in Natal Astrology, none of them were), and perhaps most of all a vague general sense that astrology doesn't work as well it should. The widespread idea that astrology has too many factors, and the resulting rule of three, is itself an indication that there's a diffuse awareness of crisis among astrologers. For many the failure of statistical studies, even those signed off on or conducted by astrologers, to validate astrology as automatically and unequivocally as expected, brought the matter to a head. This, in my opinion, was the impetus for the neo-traditionalist movement, and divination (i.e., magic) as an explanatory mechanism, as a significant number of astrologers looked to the distant past when astrological practice was apparently unproblematic, overlooking in the process that it was unproblematic only for those predecessors, because the circumstances that have since made it so were at that time far in the future.

The loosening of practice that's a characteristic response to crisis has resulted in the mechanisms of belief feeding the flames. Why do you think we get sometimes get right answers from wrong charts? Why do different astrologers rectifying for the same person come up with different times which work perfectly? The answer is one that I first glimpsed thanks to a thought experiment. I realized that what can be construed as significant configurations are in effect at all times, and that virtually any event can be made to fit the symbolism for the configurations present at a given time. This is aided (exacerbated?) by a multitude of factors, by the slipperiness of symbolism, and by an excessive focus on the surface of things, for instance attributing meaning to geo Venus square helio Mars, as if the zodiacal positions interpreted as square to each other are absolutes independent of the coordinate system (earth versus sun centered) in which each is given. Another example is attributing marriage to, for instance, transiting or directed Jupiter to natal Venus, without considering the psychological processes underlying and leading to that event, and the means by which those processes are caused by or reflective of that configuration. It's as if we wave a magic symbolistic wand and — presto! — they're married. Hence our ability to justify virtually any event with virtually any chart means the right event can fit the wrong chart, the wrong event can fit the right chart, and multiple birth times can fit a given life history.

The problem with being able to justify any event after the fact is not knowing which of a multitude of justifiable events to predict before the fact. Beginning students face this problem in acute form because they haven't yet learned from exposure to paradigms (accepted examples of valid practice, aka sample delineations) how not to see it. Hence they suffer from an embarrassment of riches, a multitude of things they could predict, but not knowing which of them to predict. Experienced astrologers cluck sympathetically and assure them that with experience they'll be able to filter out what's important from what isn't and interpret unproblematically. This does happen, but not for the reasons they think it does. They learn to avoid prediction and instead explain what's already happened under the (mistaken) assumption that what's explainable after the fact would have been uniquely predictable before the fact. Or if they do predict it's in vague general terms that a multitude of events would fit, but in which the client sees her events, which she excitedly describes via "client feedback", which the astrologer then "explains" with neither noticing that the meat of the interpretation is coming from the client not the astrologer.

But astrologers, to the extent that they glimpse such problems, tend to blame the astrologer rather than the system. That's why, in After Symbolism, the examples I give of how symbolism leads us astray involve two highly regarded astrologers, Noel Tyl and Dane Rudhyar. My point was that these two, especially Tyl, are expert practitioners who are applying astrology correctly according to accepted methods. It's those accepted methods that are wrong. (i have frequently been congratulated by readers for my acute analysis of how some astrologers misuse astrology, which is not at all the point I was trying to make.) About the former I write, "Tyl, in The Horoscope as Identity, delineates the chart, with Saturn opposite Neptune from the eleventh house to the fifth, of a man who commented that his sex life had tapered off normally during his mid-thirties. Borrowing the opening line from Grant Lewi's Heaven Knows What description of Saturn square or opposite Neptune — 'Ambition has a way of going to sleep on you' — and noting the fifth house connotation of sex, Tyl exclaims, 'Ambition throughout the sex spectrum [Tyl's emphasis] had fallen asleep.' And with that clever play on words career ambition, which was what Lewi was talking about, becomes sex drive."

The reason I wrote that, besides highlighting how symbolism misleads, was to suggest that symbolism also subverts empiricism. Grant Lewi observed, in the lives of a number of people who shared Saturn hard-angle Neptune, that they also shared a tendency to underachieve in life (not in sex!) due to a kind of complacency rooted in a sense that they could do it if they wanted to. To the extent that the rest of their charts differed and their other tendencies differed, the fact that they had in common that configuration and that tendency suggested that the two tended to coincide with one another, that having that configuration predicts that tendency.

Whether or not Lewi was right in his conclusion is irrelevant. What is relevant is that Tyl failed to clearly realize what Lewi had concluded, because like most astrologers he was using words differently than Lewi was. Lewi used language figuratively, the same as Tyl, but he used it to convey an observation. Other words, other forms of figurative usage, could have been used to convey the same idea, the common denominator he saw in those people's lives. Tyl, in contrast, was using that phrase the same way astrologers use single words, as a keyword or in this instance a keyphrase, a term that in a sense attaches to the planet almost like a talisman and represents it regardless of what it's made to mean via figurative usage. Their use of words is exactly the opposite. With Lewi the observed meaning or effect is the constant, regardless of the specific words and figurative meanings used to convey it. With Tyl as with most astrologers the word or phrase itself is the constant, seen as belonging to Saturn regardless of the wide range of (possibly conflicting) meanings or effects it's capable of (conveniently) generating, including the one at hand, thus rendering systematic observation irrelevant and its results invisible.

This brings me full circle to your suggestion that with "Traditional Horoscopists...[t]here is a strong focus on concrete manifestations on the material plane," which strikes me as true but only slightly less so for event-oriented "modern" astrologers than for neo-traditionalists. That this focus has loosened at all is one of the ways in which astrology has progressed since antiquity. That it has loosened so little is an indication of how little it has progressed. There is little evidence or logic supporting the idea that astrology predicts concrete external events. What it does predict, in my opinion, is psychological states of mind, specifically motivations. This better fits the evidence, dissolves the fate versus free will paradox, and renders an astrology so conceived, with a nod toward chronobiology, as something that's not after all impossible on the face of it.

But the knowledges that make an observationally based (i.e., empirical) astrology possible and its existence plausible at this time, namely biography, psychology, statistics and chronobiology, to cite only the most obvious, weren't available to our distant predecessors or even to the 17th century astrologers whose attempt at a scientific revolution in astrology was doomed to fail because the background knowledge needed to make good on it didn't exist at that time. But it does now, and its advancement at this time is hindered mainly by the difficulty in getting outside the conceptual boxes inculcated in astrologers by exposure to astrological paradigms, i.e., sample delineations, in the process of learning how to do astrology. I'll offer some ideas on how I think we can best pursue astrology empirically in response to waybread's recent posts.
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Article: After Symbolism
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waybread



Joined: 05 Mar 2009
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Location: Canada

Posted: Thu Oct 24, 2013 5:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Good points, Spock.

Quote:
a significant number of astrologers looked to the distant past when astrological practice was apparently unproblematic, overlooking in the process that it was unproblematic only for those predecessors, because the circumstances that have since made it so were at that time far in the future.


Intending no disrespect to those who love traditional astrology for its own sake I sometimes wonder why, if traditional astrology worked so well in the past, western society decided to dispense with it by the late 17th century. Surely by the Enlightenment, the weight of church prohibitions lost a lot of their force. During the 19th century, an emergent business class should have paid handsomely for traditional astrology's forecasting abilities, if they were as accurate as today's traditionalists claim.

I suspect that the reasons go beyond the Copernican Revolution. For one thing, a lot of "street" astrology in the past really wasn't very good. Most of what has come down to us are the more significant works by master practitioners; but we can glimpse what "average" astrology would have been like through the writings of traditional astrology's critics over the centuries-- and the traditional astrologers' own criticisms of some of their peers.

The fact that Vedic, modern, and traditional astrologers use different techniques yet produce accurate results suggests to me that "the right chart" (sidereal or tropical?) or the right techniques really aren't what produces a gifted horoscope interpretation.

Surely astrology suffers from confirmation bias, aka the Barnum Effect. However, is the astrologer's job really to map out the details, present, past, or future, of a client's life? Clinical psychology doesn't work this way, but tries to empower clients to develop their own insights, in order to reach their own plans of action. It's better to have someone figure out what her sun in Sagittarius means to her and how she can use it, then to receive an operating manual from an astrologer.

In terms of the slipperiness of symbolism, as Anais Nin put it, "We don't see the things the way they are: we see them as we are." Any form of divination with which I have some familiarity, however, equally uses symbols with multiple possible interpretations.

It's a bit different in horary questions, where the missing passport is either where the astrologer said it is located, or it is still missing.
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Paul
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Posted: Thu Oct 24, 2013 7:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

spock wrote:
That it has loosened so little is an indication of how little it has progressed. There is little evidence or logic supporting the idea that astrology predicts concrete external events. What it does predict, in my opinion, is psychological states of mind, specifically motivations. This better fits the evidence, dissolves the fate versus free will paradox, and renders an astrology so conceived, with a nod toward chronobiology, as something that's not after all impossible on the face of it.


Actually Spock I think it's truer to say that there's little to no evidence either way, and whilst it may be that you believe it predicts psychological states of minds, this is similarly lacking in evidence either way.

You mentioned earlier that astrologers:

Quote:
learn to avoid prediction and instead explain what's already happened under the (mistaken) assumption that what's explainable after the fact would have been uniquely predictable before the fact. Or if they do predict it's in vague general terms that a multitude of events would fit


Well this hasn't been my experience of any professional astrologers I've gone to. I've been to one years ago before I knew much at all about astrology and he, a modern astrologer, predicted several things, quite concretely. Last year I went to a traditional astrologer who predicted a number of things, also very concretely (such as that I would return to University, which I did). The fact remains that there's little to no evidence whether an astrologer can make accurate concrete predictions, nor is there enough evidence to say that "astrologers learn to avoid prediction" - though no doubt many do learn not to, but equally, many do predict.


Last edited by Paul on Thu Oct 24, 2013 7:49 am; edited 1 time in total
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