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Whence astrology?
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spock



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

Posted: Fri Oct 25, 2013 4:21 pm    Post subject: Whence astrology? Reply with quote

This thread is a spin-off of a spin-off. It began with James' "astrology— art or science?" who later began a new thread, "bird, junk, and formal education" to contain a subsidiary conversation about what educational attainments if any were needed to have an opinion worth taking seriously. For some of us, or at least me, the conversation has evolved into a consideration not just about what astrology is, which for me is a knowledge field ideally on its way to becoming a science, but what to make of that. If the subject of astrology is a knowledge of the correspondences between the celestial and terrestrial domains, what can we do to maximize our understanding of that subject? To the extent that astrology is a skill (which is what I take astrology as art to refer to), that skill might be developed to the limits of an individual's inherent capabilities but I see little scope for cumulative development. To the extent that it's a knowledge it can be conceived as an originally perfect knowledge to which in principle nothing can be added, which has degenerated over time, in which case the route to understanding is to recapture the original as fully as possible; or it can be conceived as developing from primitive beginnings, with our understanding increasing rather than decreasing over time. For the former case a discussion of methods for recapturing the past — historiography — might be paramount. For the latter a discussion of research approaches and methods, including both experiment and theory, and of the ways (if any) in which we can learn from disciplines further along in development than we are, would be more relevant. I'm going to reproduce my last few posts, via cut and paste, in this thread. Others are welcome to do so if they wish. I'm going to start with this post from the original thread, "astrology — art or science". It's a bit over the top and the conversation has moved on from it, but it does highlight some issues I think are important:

The "problem" is we astrologers apparently don't think our claims should be objectively verifiable via procedures (statistical tests, for instance) whose legitimacy in determining validity is recognized in other fields of study. If we cannot describe how we come to our conclusions it means our knowledge is deficient, not that we are exempt from having to demonstrate that astrology works for any reason other than that we say so (i.e., because it "works for me"). The "problem" is being unable to see the verbal games we unwittingly play that make it seem to us that astrology "works for me" whether or not we have knowledge, or at any rate sufficient knowledge, of actual correspondences or parallels between our lives and the heavens. The "problem" is that when statistical studies, even those designed by or approved by astrologers, fail to support astrological claims, or appear to support astrological effects different from the ones we already believe in (i.e., the Gauquelin work), we conclude that, since we know we're right because astrology "works for me", statistics in particular and science in general is incapable of fairly evaluating astrology's claims. The "problem" is that we assume, in a breathtaking display of collective hubris, that if astrology is accepted it will be due to a revolution in science, such that they will then see that we were right all along, that astrology works just the way we say and have said it does. It apparently doesn't occur to us that the revolution that's needed is in astrology, such that we then have knowledge about connections or parallels between us and the heavens that can clearly be shown to be valid, that doesn't require a self-justifying, self-mystifying verbal razzle dazzle to impress ourselves with the blinding obviousness of the truths we are in possession of; and such that we then have knowledge, or at least a plausible account, of how the correspondences or parallels that appear to exist can exist in a post-Newtonian reality as opposed to the implicit magical reality we so regularly take refuge in. The "problem", not the solution, is books such as Cornelius' Moment of Astrology , which is a brilliant rationalization of astrology as is, of not changing astrology as we've been doing it and want to continue doing it, because we apparently think the alternative is abandoning it altogether (rather than creating a truer astrology that transcends the existing version's limitations). The "problem" is that we apparently believe, or act as if we believe, that an admission that our knowledge is less than perfect, that astrology is in fact pretty backwards in terms of developmental level as a kind of knowledge about nature, is tantamount to admitting that the idea of astrology was wrong in the first place (which it wasn't, in my opinion). Science is no more likely to take astrology in its present form on board than it is to accept the validity of reading tea leaves, sheep entrails or tarot cards. But to the extent that we create a more viable astrology we'll be fulfilling our own imperative of maximizing our understanding, which is more important than what others think. [This last sentence has been modified from the original.]
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spock



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Posted: Fri Oct 25, 2013 4:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This post, in response to waybread, isn't in retrospect as focussed as I'd like. For one who is interested in and desirous of astrology's further development, an awareness of how other fields have emerged and developed seems not irrelevant, although I didn't close the loop very well:

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.

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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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spock



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Posted: Fri Oct 25, 2013 4:32 pm    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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Posted: Fri Oct 25, 2013 4:38 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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Myriam Hildotter



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Posted: Fri Oct 25, 2013 5:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you for starting this thread. I think that you have effectively stated the difference between a traditionalist and an evolutionist approach to astrology and to most of the natural world.

I do agree that astrology is an applied science, and that ultimately we are looking for it to be useful. My real area of disagreement is whether it is or should be a modern science or a traditional science. A modern science is completely objectively based. We are looking at what can be verified and tested. A modern science does not consider anything except what can be verified or somehow measured in the physical world. This does not mean that all modern scientists believe that there is nothing other than the physical world, but I think we will agree that this is all modern science as a discipline is concerned with.

I think that from the standpoint of purely modern science, astrology can not really hold. For it to be able to hold water, we must be able to somehow explain how the movement of the planets can affect us. I know that there are studies of the Moon on hormones and tides, and there may be some use to these studies; however, I highly doubt that anyone will ever really be able to explain how astrology *works* from study of the natural world. That may happen, of course, but I highly doubt it.

A traditional science is one that starts from metaphysical principles. These metaphysical principles have been passed on to us through tradition. For these purposes, I am defining tradition as what has been passed down to us from our ancestors. The science part of traditional science is the application of the metaphysical principles to the physical world. Tradition itself tells us that the physical world is one of flux and change. One of the changes is our consolidation into matter through the gunas or Ages of time.

This is where the differences between Plato and Aristotle really come into play. In Platonic thought (which is an explicit explanation of Traditional thought), the metaphysical principles are constant. They do not change. Plato's Perfect Form. Physical manifestation is imperfect; it does change. Traditional thought does not expect a direct correlation between the metaphysical and the physical. The physical *reflects* the metaphysical, but it is an imperfect reflection, not a direct imitation. Aristotelian thought teaches that the physical must be a direct model of the metaphysical, or we are wrong about the metaphysical. Under the Aristotelian approach, the "discovery" of the Outer Planets is problematic in a way that it really is not under the Traditional, Platonic approach.

I think that astrology holds up *very* well as a traditional science; much, much better than as a modern science. Astrology *works* because the planets are physical representations of higher metaphysical principles. There may also be physical "causes" that we find, such as the Moon's influence over the tides and our hormones; however, these are co-existent with the metaphysical explanation, they do not replace that explanation.

As I said before, Platonic/Traditional thought is very much aware of the physical world as the place of flux and change. Actually, it is *more* aware of it than modern science is, which thinks that it can extrapolate information about the past using information obtained in the present. I do not know *why* this is so, even on its own terms. Modern science has learned, for example, that the Newtonian laws of physics only "work" at the size and speed that we experience the world in. Things get very strange at the size of galaxies and atoms or at the speed of light! The more modern science learns about the physical world, the more questions come up.

So, as a proponent of astrology as a traditional science, I am not opposed to objective research. On the contrary, I think that it is very important. While the metaphysical principles themselves do not change, the *application* of these principles to the physical world may change, and in fact, are very likely to change!

My main quibble with the modern scientific approach is one of priority! I would START with a proper education in Traditional metaphysics. Modern science has thrown out and dismissed the study of Traditional metaphysics, for no good reason other than what later philosophers have said! Just because one *starts* with an understanding of metaphysics does not mean that the education ends there. Then, by experimentation and trial and error, we see how these principles find application to the physical world.

I think that some of the difficulty is that metaphysical principles are confused with actual techniques (which is part of the Aristotelian problem), so there is no understanding of the difference between major and minor points, or what is sound Tradition and what is mere application in the world of flux and change.

I will take a major point of contention between "Traditional" astrologers and "Modern" astrologers...the Outer Planets. I would hold that the Traditional rulerships of the planets to the signs are in the nature of metaphysical principle. This is something that has been passed down to us. We don't necessarily understand all of why these things are so, but Tradition is largely consistent on these matters. The meanings of the planetary principles are also a matter of solid Tradition. Interestingly enough, the Gauquelin research is largely consistent with the traditional meanings of the planetary principles, even if it is inconsistent with some of the techniques astrologers use. (By the way, that is one of the differences between a modern scientific approach in contrast to a traditional one....the data from the experiment does not *justify* the traditional understanding, but it is interesting, nonetheless)

With the "discovery" of the Outer Planets, there are two questions...do they rule anything and do they have meaning. In the Traditional/Platonic approach, no, they do not and can not rule any signs. Rulership of signs is a matter of metaphysical principle. The discovery of the Outer Planets means that the solar system is not an exact replica of the metaphysical Cosmos, but that is not a problem for Platonic thought the way it is for Aristotelian thought.

Whether they have meaning is a separate question, and it is perfectly right and proper to use testing and research to determine this. In my own experience, and in my study of both modern and traditional astrology, I think that they reflect the lower psychic (and perhaps even demonic) realms. I think that if they are used, they are supplements to, not replacements for, a thorough study of the seven traditional planets!

If a specific technique is found to be ineffective, it can be abandoned without comprising the system. There may have been a time it *was* effective, but that does not mean it remains effective to the present time.

With respect to "new" techniques, I think that there is a very high burden of proof, though. As most modern people, including astrologers, have lost an understanding of Traditional metaphysics, I think that a new technique is on inherently shaky ground. I think that true empirical evidence is quite difficult to obtain in astrology, so we may discover a correlation, but it is tricky to determine whether it is a causal or a co-existent correlation. I think that something just appearing to "work" is not enough to adopt it.

I do not completely rule them out, I just find them highly suspect!

Now there are some areas that must be adapted. For example, computers did not exist (to our knowledge) in Ancient times. What planet should be the significator for computers? In modern science, one would conduct empirical research to determine this. In traditional science, one would look to see what can be extrapolated from what we know about computers and the metaphysical principles that might be represented, and one would then test to see if this association holds. One of the modern ideas is that Uranus rules computers, and I think that this makes no sense on a metaphysical level. Computers are fast and they provide for instant communication. How could a slow moving planet like Uranus rule such a matter. My hypothesis would be the Moon or Mercury. Actually, I tend to favor the Moon for both metaphysical reasons and in what I have seen with my own experience.


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waybread



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Posted: Fri Oct 25, 2013 9:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Spock-- thanks for picking up on my posts.

BTW, I recently re-visited Marc Edmund Jones's horoscope patterns. By his definition I have a "splash" pattern, which possibily accounts for my "information junkie" eclecticism.

Some feedback for you.

Where I absolutely agree with you, is that astrology has a Big Problem in its truth-claims and the means by which they could be validated. Whether a top-down quantitative study or a more team-developed qualitative study would work best as a testing procedure is hard to say without developing the actually methodologies.

I have no problem with "anti-scientism," as scientism is the belief that science provides the ultimate form of knowledge. (What was sometimes called logical positivism.) If science is what scientists do, we can point to all kinds of problems, beyond mere blind alleys, in the name of "science"-- one example being the inhumane Tuskegee experiments that became the basis for today's codes of ethics for research with human subjects. Science never operates in a socio-cultural vacuum. You are probably familiar with the discipline today called science studies, which takes a critical view of science as an enterprise conducted by often flawed human beings.

I have a problem with generic anti-science and anti-scientist rants by astrologers; notably where it is clear that their knowledge of science today is minimal.

Thomas Kuhn was certainly a brilliant thinker, but not long after getting his Ph. D. in physics, he spent most of the rest of his life as a historian and philosopher. There is nothing wrong with this, but the combination of physics and philosophy (the two academic "priesthoods" of the academy) doesn't necessarily confer an appreciation of the natural and social sciences. I've not read up on Kuhn since (long ago and far away) his Structure of Scientific Revolutions was required reading for one course or another.

Sure, we could discuss reductionism (biology reduces to chemistry reduces to physics) but this doesn't get at the heart of what makes most of biology very different from physics.)

Moreover, there are additional Big Names in the philosophy of science, holding different arguments I'm not sure what you think of the work of Feyerabend or Popper, for example. Feyerabend threw a match onto the gasoline of descriptions of the scientific method, and while doing so, he noted that astrology actually met a lot of the accepted criteria for a scientific discipline.

The biologist I mentioned who switched fields moved to the geography department. Like anthropology, geography runs the gamut from science (earth surface processes) to post-modernism.

We find this eclecticism throughout the social sciences, and I think it has a lot of bearing on astrology. On the one hand, astrology is a consumer of astronomy and mathematics. Maybe even a producer if an astrologer comes up with a new system of house division. On the other hand, some astrologers view their work as a form of divination. The only academic parallel I can think of might be a divinity school. A lot of astrology is akin to counseling, minus the academic qualifications unless a counselor also practices astrology.

We could debate whether a licensed clinical psychologist would actually recognize modern psychological astrology, with its emphasis on Jung (and previously Freud) as having any bearing on psychology as it is taught and practiced today.

One good way to determine what takes place in a typical psychology (or any) academic department would be to peruse a few websites, both for course offerings and faculty research. I just did this for a few sites and found an entire field I knew nothing about: psychology and the law. This sounds more qualitative, alongside feminist theory. Psychology sometimes bills itself as a field that helps students to better "understand themselves" as well as offering degrees in neuroscience.

On the whole, I suspect that psychology is moving increasingly towards the science side because that is probably where the grant money is. My quick perusal of a couple of departments shows that the scientists outnumber their more qualitative colleagues.

Something to watch out for, however, in assuming that a top-down statistical study of a population, as a sort of revamped Gauquelin model could work today, are all of those niggling less-than-scientific variables. For example, IQ tests got turfed out when their strong ethnic biases were revealed.

You are aware of the "garbage in, garbage out" problem in statistical studies. If a researcher's assumptions are flawed then even the most rigorous methods cannot produce legitimate results. And science is not always the best guide as to why certain assumptions might be invalid.
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waybread



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Posted: Fri Oct 25, 2013 10:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi again, Spock.

One thing that occurs to me, about the in-house "science" explanations for scientific discovery is that the research on its own doesn't always explain why a scientist successfully tested a given hypothesis or developed a new method. Sometimes the scientist's childhood experiences or passionate interests subsequently diffuse into the adult's world.

Charles Darwin, for example, grew up in a Britain inhabited by various distinctive livestock breeds indigenous to their own locales. Selective breeding of crops and livestock has probably been going on since the advent of domestication-- though more for survivability than high yields. Until the advent of genetic engineering, the basics of selective breeding got more sophisticated but were not so significantly different.

I also wonder what you would make of applied yet non-eingeering fields with a science component like forestry, horticulture, range management, or soil conservation.

One expression that I used to hear was "curiosity-driven science" as opposed to science that might invent or patent something. Today there is huge pressure on university science to do the latter; even with the recognition that the curiosity-driven science might lead to major pay-outs in the future.

I have no attachment to science as the only means by which empirical research can be conducted. Indeed, using the example of historians, I know that it is not.

I don't think of qualitative research methodologies as particularly scientific. If we look at the hallmarks of the scientific method, oftentimes you cannot implement controls. Because the study participants may be generating much of the study design-- and kindly and voluntarily participating in the research-- a top-down study may only annoy them and produce no results whatsoever.

One could debate whether unstructured interviews, participant observation, or focus groups could be structured in such a way as to yield statistically testable results, but this is really missing the point. If an objective is to understand some facet of life as the study subjects understands it, they aren't going to understand their lives via sophisticated statistics packages.

Let me give you an example. An ecologist might visit an Arctic First Nations community, conduct a scientific survey of fish and game resources available to them, and make recommendations on hunting and fishing quotas based upon the methods found in a science-based textbook. This is top-down science.

Or, working together with an Arctic anthropologist and First Nations elders, he might first wish to learn how the local community members understand their homeland through some focus groups or open-ended interviews. Speaking with elders might be very important, because they have a long term memory of what their resources were like 40 years ago. But these elders might be very turned off by a long multiple-choice questionnaire; and might be sceptical of outsiders--whose society depleted their own biotic resources-- telling them how to manage their fish and game. So the study would have to be conducted more on First Nations terms than on the ecologist's. Ideally he would end up with a kind of hybrid project, reflecting both Native values and perceptions, as well as ecological survey results that would be useful for analysis at a larger regional scale.

Again, the Baconian science of Yesteryear probably isn't what is taking place in most of the qualitative sections of social science departments today. Much of it is, rather, a post-scientific pursuit coming from a disillusionment with the limits to science.

My non-scientifically-proven gut instinct is that to conduct a rigorous quantitative social science study of astrology's truth claims, a team of researchers would probably need to start with some open-ended methods even to get their arms around the project. So we are probably in agreement here.

The Saturn return possible study would be a good place to start.

One question to ask is the purpose of any kind of study, qualitative or quantitative. If it is fundamentally to increase our understanding of a given phenomenon, then science hardly has a corner on the market.
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Paul
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Posted: Sat Oct 26, 2013 12:52 am    Post subject: Re: Whence astrology? Reply with quote

spock wrote:
If the subject of astrology is a knowledge of the correspondences between the celestial and terrestrial domains, what can we do to maximize our understanding of that subject? To the extent that astrology is a skill (which is what I take astrology as art to refer to), that skill might be developed to the limits of an individual's inherent capabilities but I see little scope for cumulative development.


Why? Do the arts not also cumulatively develop? Surely your recognise a cumulative development of the arts from our cave paintings through the renaissance period through to today? These developments are not the work of individuals working in isolation - art is very much cumulative in that it finds its very meaning and expression through cultural interpretation and acknowledgement. Art inspires artists, who create art which inspires artists. And so the field of art develops and does so cumulatively.

Quote:
The "problem" is we astrologers apparently don't think our claims should be objectively verifiable via procedures (statistical tests, for instance) whose legitimacy in determining validity is recognized in other fields of study.


Actually I think the problem is in not fully understanding how that can be achieved, and indeed who is going to do it. There may well also be a discussion about why anyone would want to of course, but I don't think it's a widely decided upon consensus that astrologers don't think the claims should be verifiable, I think it may well be that nobody has given a good reason why they ought to be.

Quote:

If we cannot describe how we come to our conclusions it means our knowledge is deficient, not that we are exempt from having to demonstrate that astrology works for any reason other than that we say so (i.e., because it "works for me").


Deficient for who? Deficient in relation to what? Clearly the person who uses their methods, whether decipherable to others or not, and gets results out of them is not necessarily motivated to describe to the person who demands it how they got those results. Surely they might retort "by doing astrology". So who is made deficient by it? Not that individual astrologer surely?

Quote:
The "problem" is being unable to see the verbal games we unwittingly play that make it seem to us that astrology "works for me" whether or not we have knowledge, or at any rate sufficient knowledge, of actual correspondences or parallels between our lives and the heavens. The "problem" is that when statistical studies, even those designed by or approved by astrologers, fail to support astrological claims, or appear to support astrological effects different from the ones we already believe in (i.e., the Gauquelin work), we conclude that, since we know we're right because astrology "works for me", statistics in particular and science in general is incapable of fairly evaluating astrology's claims.


But I think it's a really hard sell - I think astrologers come to use and 'believe' in astrology precisely because they've witnessed that it works for them in the face of obvious adversity by weight of the fact that on the face of it astrology sounds ludicrous. I would be interested not one tiny bit by some statistical analysis that found that methods that I regularly use do not work. It would not move me whatsoever. Personally I don't think it matters if astrologers are involved in the statistics game process - many are not fully statistically savvy to know whether or not their results are statistically significant or not. If we take the Carlson experiment, where astrologers were indeed involved, the p value was such that it might have been used on a physics paper - that's the level that is required. Totally out of context or appropriateness. Astrologers who get involved probably don't realise that. I know I certainly wouldn't be able to tell you anything worthwhile about what a statistician would evaluate as being significant or not. I suspect others would be in the same boat.

Quote:
The "problem" is that we assume, in a breathtaking display of collective hubris, that if astrology is accepted it will be due to a revolution in science, such that they will then see that we were right all along, that astrology works just the way we say and have said it does.


Maybe I'm just the only one who is daft and doesn't really care how it works. I consider myself someone who uses a particular technology called astrology. I am fascinated by how it might work - it would be great to know. But not so great that I would first feel I have to find out how it works before I can feel justified in using it. As an analogy, if I stumbled upon a microwave oven and discovered I could heat food with it, I wouldn't feel I needed to understand non-ionizing microwave radiation. Heck maybe I should.

Quote:
Science is no more likely to take astrology in its present form on board than it is to accept the validity of reading tea leaves, sheep entrails or tarot cards.


Right, but the question is "who cares". Science is enormously powerful and efficient at doing what science does. But does that mean that it is the only arbitrar of what is truthful and real? I don't believe so. I think, at least in its present state, it is woefully inadequate in dealing or addressing certain facets of life - which can include astrology. I think that as a community of people, we raise science and its methods, understandably, to dizzying heights, but then think it can answer all of our problems, and perhaps it cannot. But okay, science may not let us join their party, but do we really want their invite anyway?


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james_m



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Posted: Sat Oct 26, 2013 1:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

paul, i enjoyed and identified with what you had to say in your post above mine that i just read now!

spock -

spock wrote:
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 , i.e., sample delineations, in the process of learning how to do astrology.


hi spock,
thanks for starting a new thread to try to dig deeper in the direction you've been pursuing on the forum here. i like a lot of what you've said in the above quote i've taken from your Fri Oct 25, 2013 4:38 pm post.

on the other hand, there was some way that astrologers of the past (prior to the 1700's) came to the position they did in regard the nature of the planets and astrology more generally. the idea of saturn being a planet connected to depression, or jupiter a planet associated with good fortune must have been grounded in their experience on some level. however one limitation of keywords in relation to planets, as only one example of how astrology is thought of/used, is that these ideas can be turned around 180 from the typical meanings given in the keywords as well as i see it. one has to start somewhere and where better then with one's own experience watching the movement of the planets in connection with your own birth chart? at any rate, i especially agree with the last comment in your post

spock wrote:
its (astrology) advancement at this time is hindered mainly by the difficulty in getting outside the conceptual boxes inculcated in astrologers by exposure to astrological paradigms
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waybread



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Posted: Sat Oct 26, 2013 6:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

It might be helpful to unpack the "it works for me" response a bit further.

Hold off on today's scientists just for a moment. Traditional horoscopic astrology had its critics since its inception.

1. Some of these criticisms were of astrology's truth-claims in a general way. For example, one truth claim was that a person's physiognomy could be determined from a horoscope. (And sometimes even vice versa.) Critics noted that horoscopes do not explain variations in personal appearance based upon ethnicity and location. Some astrologers (like Ptolemy) attempted to counter these generic criticisms, but they persisted albeit in different forms thoughout astrology's history-- largely because astrologers were not successful in answering these charges definitively.

A subset of #1 is that historically astrologers simply managed to make themselves irrelevant to a changing world and changing disciplines like medicine.

2. Other criticisms were of particular chart-readings that were patently mistaken. These start cropping up at least in the Roman empire, possibly earlier, and continue through astrology's eclipse in Europe by the late 17th century. About the only astrological come-back here is that the incorrect astrologer didn't know his craft: had he used better methods his predictions would have been accurate.

But there is seldom any way to validate this corrective.

These two sorts of criticisms plague modern astrology today, as well.

No doubt many astrologers today are happy to operate on the fringes of professional respectability; occasionally grousing about unsympathetic or misinformed scientists. Maybe there's an attraction in being anti-establishment. But I just wonder why anyone would wish to, if the alternative were simply to subject astrology to serious probing about its truth-claims.

It is fascinating to me that a number of well-known professional astrologers decided to return to university to get their doctoral degrees. Apparently not everyone in astrology happily operates on the margins. From what I gather on this site, some astrologers are actively working to protect astrology's image in the media. So even within the astrological community, the "it works for me" thesis doesn't work for everyone.

If astrology can hold up to serious testing of its truth claims, whether the methods are scientific or more qualitative (and experienced astrologers should be involved in any study design,) then it's a huge win for astrology.

If astrology has the potential to improve human lives, as many astrologers claim, then why wouldn't we want it to become mainstream, so that more people would benefit from it? Why hide its light under a bushel?

If astrology cannot hold up to serious testing of its truth claims, then why are we doing it? Are astrologers deep-down afraid of serious scrutiny and being found wanting?

Horary astrology should lend itself perfectly to objective, external testing. Either the missing cat is located or it is not.

However, the whole area of confirmation bias (Barnum Effect) would have to be hugely controlled for; and this in itself might actually change astrological predictions' success rate. If Joe firmly believes in astrology and asks a horary astrologer, "Will I buy the house?" and the answer comes back affirmative, he is likely to go ahead and submit an offer-- and even overcome obstacles to make it happen. If the astrologer's answer comes back negative, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I have no concerns in general about testing astrology's truth claims, provided experienced professional astrologers would have a major input into the study design. There actually are some studies of astrological claims in the social science literature that show a huge ignorance of how astrology actually works so somebody's time and taxpayers' dollars got wasted out of these poorly designed studies.

If astrology's truth-claims could be proven to be bogus, then I would still study it simply because I find it fascinating. I think it works best as a tool for self-awareness; in which case no validation is required if I derive personal meaning from it.
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Myriam Hildotter



Joined: 13 Sep 2013
Posts: 37

Posted: Sat Oct 26, 2013 7:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

It is interesting, Waybread, because I think that it was you who posted a video of Robert Hand's lecture, and he gave a very good reason to be a little wary of becoming mainstream in today's culture. I do not think I would want astrology used by insurance companies and the like, or for other types of questionable business purposes. I am just leaving a more mainstream profession now, in part, because my work required me to do things that made my stomach turn on an ethical, personal, and spiritual level, and I could not handle it anymore.

Of course, it would be easier to make a living as a professional astrologer if it were more generally respected, but there is a freedom that would be lost, unless we were VERY careful to maintain control over the ethical use of astrology! There are many ways that astrology can be used that I would never want to be a part of, and having been licensed in other professions, I know that licensing is no assurance for being able to practice the way one would choose as a professional!

I am also dubious of trying to "win over" modern scientists. They will accept us or not as they see fit. I do believe in research and observation, but not to "prove" astrology, but to improve the practice over all. I would think that this would be of primary importance. As an astrologer, I want to do my best in giving accurate and helpful readings. I personally have little interest in convincing anyone that astrology is useful, nor do I need research to prove it to me.

I have spent a great deal of time talking about my philosophy, including on this thread. I do think that a philosophy of practice is important, and why astrology works is a very important question, as this informs one's practice AND one's ethics around the practice.

You cite mistakes and failures of astrology that have been documented over the years, but I think that this is very misleading. There is a difference between whether astrology is valid, and whether practitioners are using good methodology or have read the chart accurately. Doctors misdiagnose people all of the time. Does that mean that we call the practice of medicine into question? (I don't want to take that too far, but do you see what I am saying)

Astrology is really hard to test empirically. You mention research on Saturn returns. Yet, a Saturn return will look very different for someone with Saturn in Libra in the 10th House, who has been working diligently all of her life previously than for someone with Saturn in Pisces in the 8th House who may have frittered away her twenties! It is very hard to isolate these things for a research project like that.

Anyways, it is very late here, and I need to head to bed. I hope my sleepiness has not caused me to be incoherent!
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Nixx



Joined: 10 Dec 2011
Posts: 295

Posted: Sat Oct 26, 2013 1:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

waybread wrote:


We could debate whether a licensed clinical psychologist would actually recognize modern psychological astrology, with its emphasis on Jung (and previously Freud) as having any bearing on psychology as it is taught and practiced today.



A brief debate methinks.

The PA would point out their horoscopic notions are profoundly influenced by Jung's model of the mind, Freud’s ideas although influential have been somewhat peripheral in comparison Jung’s ideas in the main are not really open to scientific assessment so they tend to be left within the domains of Psycho Dynamic thinking’s and practice.
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Nixx



Joined: 10 Dec 2011
Posts: 295

Posted: Sat Oct 26, 2013 1:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Myriam Hildotter wrote:


Astrology is really hard to test empirically. You mention research on Saturn returns. Yet, a Saturn return will look very different for someone with Saturn in Libra in the 10th House, who has been working diligently all of her life previously than for someone with Saturn in Pisces in the 8th House who may have frittered away her twenties! It is very hard to isolate these things for a research project like that.



Why would be hard to evaluate?. Astrology is what Astrologers do, or imagine it to be, so you can quite easily assess most Astrologers claims. Here is the person in whatever form you need them to be in, this could be a hour or so chatting to you, and/or details of external events in their lives, or in my case a few months in their company and then you are given 10 charts and asked to identify theirs Most Astrologers either implicitly or explicitly claim they can attach birth data to a person after exposure to the 'right' information.
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Myriam Hildotter



Joined: 13 Sep 2013
Posts: 37

Posted: Sat Oct 26, 2013 4:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Nixx,

Actually, all that would do would be to test the ability of the individual astrologers and the techniques they use. It says nothing about whether or not there is a correlation between the movement of the planets and events and human behavior. The scientific method is quite rigorous. One must be able to be sure that one is testing what one is actually trying to test. Generally, there is some sort of control, and the results must be repeatable and statistically significant.

By the way, I am a great supporter of the scientific method, even though I am also aware of its limitations. My difficulty is with the scientific world view, which I do not think can be supported by the scientific method, even on its own terms.

The trouble with the use the scientific method on astrology is that there are too many variables, so controlling for all of the variables is well nigh impossible. There has been good information generated by tests such as the Gauguelin research; however, its scope is very limited. The test that you describe, Nixx, would be of very little value to the practice of astrology itself, except perhaps as test for individual astrologers or for an educational exercise.

A big difficulty with astrology, as it is practiced today, is that there are SO many different techniques to choose between. I would probably say a large portion of available techniques are really not all that effective. For example, Spock's description on the research of Saturn/Neptune transits. I personally give very little import to Neptune or the Outer Planets anyways, so that test is of little value to me, except to confirm what I understand about the Outers.

I wish that there were better ways available of testing various techniques we use. Sadly, a lot boils down to the individual judgment of astrologers, and to anecdotal information. We just must all do the best we can.
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james_m



Joined: 05 Dec 2011
Posts: 2903
Location: vancouver island

Posted: Sat Oct 26, 2013 6:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

philosophical rigidity is definitely not a bonus for any person involved in serious inquiry into the workings of astrology. regarding the saturn/neptune combo, a very famous french astrologer - andre barbault - made an accurate prediction on the basis of the cycle of these planets 34 years in advance of the fall of the soviet union. perhaps the 'tradition' doesn't have a place for a discovery, but then what kind of tradition wouldn't allow for new discoveries like that of an outer planet 300 hundred years ago? i have it - the ostrich tradition!
http://www.andrebarbault.com/histoire_prevision_ang.htm
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