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The Sceptical Attack of Dean et al on Astrology
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GarryP
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Posted: Thu Oct 23, 2003 1:50 pm    Post subject: The Sceptical Attack of Dean et al on Astrology Reply with quote

I've just posted an article by James Brockbank with this title on my website. This is a serious piece of work, and well worth a look for anyone interested in the astrology/scepticism dialogue.

You'll find an abstract, & links to the article, at the bottom of this page:

http://www.astrozero.btinternet.co.uk/Science.htm

Happy reading!
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Violin



Joined: 22 Oct 2003
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Posted: Sun Oct 26, 2003 12:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Here and there I find myself reading the discussions between astrologers and their opponents. This summer (or spring) I even spent a day and a half with that discussion Dean&al vs. Dennis Elwell. (Having read it all, I was a bit angry with myself- I could have done two or three charts instead, but finally I made peace with the fact that I like theoretical blabla, discussions and exchanging thoughts as well), so I've read that twenty-seven-page Brockbank's essay and admit it was really worth reading.

Brockbank divides sceptical arguments in five groups, summarizes them by numbers 1-5 and then discusses each one respectively. For those less patient or busier than me today, I'll pick out some parts I like best:


Quote:
2. There is no consensus on basic issues so that astrologers cannot agree on which house system to use, which zodiac to use, or what planets to use.

This criticism is correct; astrologers do disagree on what techniques to use but it does not follow that this is a problem. We might want to analyse the housing market; I might say that house prices will fall because unemployment will rise, you might say house prices will fall because interest rates will rise, but perhaps house prices fall because the Government builds millions of new houses or puts up the tax on selling houses. We could reach the same correct conclusion from different arguments and different techniques of analysis. Using different techniques to reach a conclusion will only matter if those techniques are contradictory. The example that Kelly uses is the different zodiacs that astrologers use. Using the tropical zodiac one might believe a certain area of the sky is “intense” as it falls under Scorpio, whereas using the sidereal zodiac one might believe the same area of the sky is “relaxed” as it falls under Libra. For astrology, where a prediction is being made, or where guidance is being given, this is not contradictory because there can be more than one route to the same answer. However, for psychological astrology where one is trying to describe a personality it is more of a problem. If Mars in Aries means aggression, while Mars in Taurus means sluggish, how is it possible to be both at once? But it is possible to be aggressive in the office and sluggish at home, or active in certain areas of life and sluggish in others. If Mars is expressed in one nativity in a certain way it does not follow that it will be expressed in the same way in a different nativity. What will matter is whether the complete system, whether sidereal or tropical, can accurately describe a personality with apparently contradictory behaviour. Given that many of the planets will be in different signs and all the planets can be expressed in various ways, in principle, there is no reason why this can not be done.


here goes another one

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

For all types of horary astrology this criticism is incorrect. Horary astrology is specific, and one cannot interpret a horary chart in any way that one wants. If someone asks, ‘Will I buy this house from X?’ there is a clear way to evaluate the resulting chart. For an election chart or an inception, there are again clear rules of how the charts are to be evaluated. There may be problems in making a judgment, or deciding which of two possibilities is more important, but this is not because the symbolism is unclear. Indeed, for all predictive work, whether mundane or natal, the symbolism is clear if only because it has to be in order to make predictions. Dean et al. seem to be confusing the difficulty in making a judgment with what is fairly straight forward astrological reasoning. If I say, ‘Tony Blair has Mars rising and therefore Britain will go to war with Iraq’, my judgment may be incorrect because it may not be possible to draw such a conclusion from the simple fact that Tony Blair has Mars rising, but there is nothing wrong with the astrological reasoning. However, if I say ‘Tony Blair has Mars rising and therefore Britain will not go to war with Iraq,’ even if the judgment is correct the astrological reasoning is incorrect. The example that Dean uses, “Is Mars unfortunate because red = blood (war) or fortunate because red = blood (life)? Who can believe any correspondence when it is so easily denied by another?” is an extremely poor example. It is incorrect in its astrological reasoning: Mars is significant for wars, probably because it is god of war, and is significant for death not life. To argue that it is significant for blood and therefore life, because there is a correspondence between the two is simply bad astrological reasoning because it contradicts the nature of Mars. What Dean seems to be thinking is that because astrology uses arguments of analogy all arguments of analogy must be acceptable astrological arguments. This is a faulty argument; no argument of analogy is acceptable if it contradicts the nature of the planet. One point that Dean et al. could make is that confusion is caused when two planets are significant for one matter. In the second century Vettius Valens tells us that Mars is significant for blood, but by the Arab period, with the Aristotelian qualities being absorbed into planetary signification, Jupiter rules blood because it is warm and moist. Planetary meanings have changed over the years, but this does not make them any more difficult to use: if I am hit on the head by a fist, the resulting blood may be indicated by Mars; if I have a blood transfusion to save my life, the resulting blood may be indicated by Jupiter. What this shows is that in certain circumstances blood is unfortunate and in certain circumstances it is fortunate. For this reason, it is possible for two planets to rule the same matter. That only one planet should be significant for a given matter is a modern concern: in Hellenistic astrology three planets were responsible for friends..
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Violin



Joined: 22 Oct 2003
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Posted: Sun Oct 26, 2003 12:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

What I like about this essay best is the fact that it goes beyond its initial aim - discussing astrology with Dean&al. (I've had enough of that).

I've never seen the need for hierarchy of astrological learning (first horary, then elections, mundane at the end) explained so thoroughly as in this essay, though it was not the essay's initial intention and though I've read others have trying to explain it. There are some valuable thoughts concerning modern psychological astrology vs traditional and ancient methods.

Proving why natal and most other astrologies aren't testable, especially not in Dean's manner, Brockbank also gives thoughts very illuminating not only for astrological beginners

Quote:
4. The nature of human judgment is such that it is impossible for astrologers to interpret a horoscope in the way that they claim and there are good, non astrological, reasons why a client will believe what an astrologer tells him.



Dean et al. argue that in interpreting an astrological chart, it is necessary to consider a minimum of forty factors, but our short term memory is only capable of “juggling” 5-9 factors at any one time...

The moment that we start to use more data than our short term memory is capable of holding, the moment we try to synthesise a chart to produce an interpretation, we start to invoke human biases which affects our judgment both as an astrologer reading a chart and as a client. These biases “mistakenly persuade us that astrology works.”Dean et al. say that type of bias will vary “in effectiveness depending on the situation, and on the application (individual, mundane, horary etc)."

However, if we take a horary question there may well be less than nine factors to consider. The question, ‘Will I buy that house from John?’ may involve looking at no more than the planets significant for the Ascendant, seventh house and fourth house and the Moon. That subset of four planets will probably tell you everything you need to know. If one looks deeper into the chart, perhaps by considering the condition of the fourth, any planets in it, and its ruler (representing the house to be bought) one is creating another subset so there should be no difficulty in evaluating the outcome. All horary questions follow this method. Inceptions and elections are more difficult; there is a long list of preferred positions for the planets at the start of an enterprise which cannot all be fulfilled and the art of choosing an appropriate election or judging an inception is in choosing which are the most important. However, according to Dean et al. counting is something we can do, and it is perfectly possible to list both the favourable positions and the unfavourable positions of the planets. With this list we then make a judgment; we do not “juggle” the factors to reach an outcome, we simply decide which are more important. Obviously, given that there will be factors for and against we may make an incorrect judgment, or we may focus on one factor at the expense of another factor, but there is no bias involved here which is not involved in any human decision making process.

Dean et al.’s main issue, as with much of their criticism, is with natal astrology. In part they are reacting to the astrologer who complains that individual chart factors, like one’s Sun sign, cannot be looked at independently and argue that it is necessary to consider every factor in a chart and synthesise them into a cohesive whole. Their argument is that we cannot look at a chart as a whole because our brains do not have that capability. This may be a problem for the psychological astrologer who considers a chart ten minutes before a reading and then talks through the chart in the next hour, but it is not necessarily a problem in reading a natal chart. In both Greek astrology and in medieval astrology one does not synthesise all the chart factors together, one builds up a series of subsets and then puts those subsets together. These subsets are usually based on areas of a native’s life, for example, one might look at the parents, then the siblings, and then occupation. For each subset one looks at a variety of chart factors and make a judgment accordingly, but one does not have to consider the whole chart. If there are contradictions between the different areas of life then one might consider progressions or directions to determine at what time one particular area of life will predominate. The difference here is one is looking at a natal chart in a more predictive manner; one is concerned with what the native will do, what will happen in a given area of life. With psychological astrology one is looking at a personality and one is drawing in all these factors to make a comprehensive description. One wonders if this is possible whatever method is used.

Another issue is the time an astrologer spends on a chart. For financial reasons most chart consultations last about one hour to one and a half hours. It would seem an impossible task to give a full description of someone’s personality in such a short time. In the past, when astrologers had patrons much more time was spent on a natal reading. Cardano spent one hundred hours on the chart of Edward VI and even then missed out certain important progressions; Robert Schmidt has estimated it would take two weeks’ work to prepare one natal chart in the Hellenistic manner. This criticism then becomes less a problem for astrology but more a problem of the amount of time an astrologer can afford to spend on a birth chart. If one had sufficient time to spend on each chart one could, perhaps, build up a picture of a personality based on a series of subsets each of which tell us something about the native. However, whether it is even possible to build up a recognisable picture of any personality remains a problem.

The most complicated form of prognostication is mundane astrology. If I want to predict whether America will go to war with Iraq in 2003 I have to consider the charts of President Bush, the USA, the United Nations, Saddam Hussein, Iraq, Tony Blair, the European Community, recent ingresses, current transits, etc. If I want to consider whether America will go to war in 2010 theoretically I would have to consider every chart of every country, as America could go to war with any of them, and every potential candidate for Presidency. If I was able to consider all these charts then I would first have to make a judgment on whether America was likely to go to war in 2010 and then I would have to compare the American charts with the charts of other countries to determine with whom America might go to war. I would inevitably bring my own personal biases into the judgment. ...


I recommend the reading of the whole essay
regards V.
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Tom
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Posted: Sun Oct 26, 2003 1:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

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

RESPONSE:For all types of horary astrology this criticism is incorrect.

I'm going to play Devil's advocate here. First I agree with Violin on the preceding criticism [number 2] that astrology is being judged by a set of standards that are applied nowhere else. That quote could also be said of economics. The saying is that if you laid all the economists in the world end to end you'd never reach a conclusion. And this is true given the variety of economic models (symbolism) that are used.

And I agree with Violin that for horary criticism number 3 is invalid. But what of natal and mundane? What passes for mundane astrology today is no more than rationalizations designed to validate a particular political point of view. George Bush is a bum/George Bush is a hero just look at his chart. Bill Clinton has Neptune on his ASC; he is delusional or an idealist; take your pick. The USA crumbles tomorrow because George Bush (the bum) will have Saturn conjunct his Sun and it will conjunct the USA Sun simultaneously. We're doomed -- doomed! All this is rather easily accomplished with the clutter contemporary astrology allows: infintesimal minor aspects, insignificant bodies in the cosmos (Hand calls them "gravel"), armchair psychology, make believe planets, and an extraordinary and growing dependence on the outer planets. Rob Hand once said a chart can contain so much information as to make it useless. Gary Phillipson's book Astrology in the Year Zero makes this point by placing a dot on the chart for each body, midpoint, aspect, etc, and the result is one large black dot. This may be an exaggeration, but it isn't by much.

I don't believe we have to be as systematic as the scientists say we should. After all, psychology and particularly its offshoot, psychotherapy (talk about a mishmosh of techniques; ever listen to a bunch of shrinks babble on about the right methods to "cure" someone?) isn't all that systematic. But I do think we need to clean up our act a bit.

Go to Noel Tyl's site any time at all. It is a very active site with many participants who chime in frequently. This is a good thing. But look at the emphasis on Neptune. I think if you took it out of the chart, many of these people would refuse to read it and the reason is you can attribute ANYTHING to Neptune and have contemporary astrologers bob their heads knowingly. Take one Neptune at night and by morning you, too can be an astrologer. Pluto is in a tie for second in the ubiquity race with Chiron.

Let's look at the Aug/Sept 2003 issue of The Mountain Astrologer. Page 47 the column is called Astro-Coach. A reader writes to the astro coach about, what else, the man of her dreams, who was tragically killed in a work accident 10 months after their meeting. The astro coach notes: "With your natal Saturn and Venus in exact conjunction, and natal Uranus close by (four degrees-tc), it seems that destiny brought you a lasting love -- but not in the way you might have hoped." (Might have hoped? On the other hand, she might have hoped for the man of her dreams to die?)


Do we really need Uranus at all here? Just what does Uranus have to do with anything in this answer? Saturn fulfils all the requirements for delineation: destiny and loss [Saturn] of love [Venus]. Yes, I'm sure it's true that this woman did not expect the man of her dreams to be killed. Who would? Someone with a Saturn Venus conjunction that didn't aspect Uranus? I really believe the astrologer who wrote those words forced herself to mention Uranus. No delineation is complete without an outer planet.


I'm not concerned about gaining respectability with scientists and skeptics. On the whole, I don't think they are a very respectable lot. I'm more concerned with the direction our art has taken and that many of the people who are in the lead right now are taking us farther from astrology's purpose by diluting it with claptrap to the point of meaninglessness. They might also learn how to write clearly.

Sadly right now, it would be impossible to get many astrologers to agree on anything, so imbedded is the false belief that opinion has as much weight as fact. "It works for me" is all it takes, and Mars can become Jupiter. It might even be argued that at no time could a group of astrologers agree on much. But even in the 17th century, when the English astrologers were carping at each other in print, or earlier when astrologers bitterly contested the results of rivals, there was at least an agreement on the framework. We are losing even this.

Thanks for taking so much trouble to post this Violin. I never would have read that article if you hadn't.

Tom[color=blue]
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Violin



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Posted: Sun Oct 26, 2003 5:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

You're welcome, Tom.
I’ve done enough of quoting for a year. Let me add something of my own.

I’m getting more and more sure that astrology isn't scientifically testable at all (so I even don't quite agree with Brockbank who says that only a small part of it is, but not the way Dean and others think it should be. )

Astrology being scientifically not testable has, in my opinion, its own purpose - were it testable it would be so only in a part, the science would have proven it a long ago. Having done that, the science would have studied and practiced only that part of astrology and discarded everything else . Astrologers would have become scientists and forgotten 95 percent of their art. That would have led to a very reduced astrology. This way we are both lucky and unlucky - the latter because our art is not socially appreciated, but the former- the fact that our art isn't damaged by scientific approach totally unfit for it in itself, is much greater blessing since astrology still exists.

Traditional astrology still exists, too. It isn't widely appreciated inside the astrological community of today and I wonder if that fact might have its own purpose as well. (I personally found out about it after 5 years of reading astrological books and trying to do some natal astrology, mostly with unsatisfactory results. The teacher comes when the student is ready, and now I'm starting the whole work all over again, beginning with horary of course, but I must admit I feel rather helped with these previous five years, not hindered).

I don't mind modern psychological astrology as long as it doesn't claim to be the only astrology worth studying there is. I must admit I've learned quite a lot from it. Psychology in itself is rather vague - I've known some physicists seriously stating psychology isn't a science at all (factors can't be separated, fully isolated and analysed and that's exactly what it has in common with astrology). Astrology can be a rather good diagnostic tool for psychology, saving much of its time and client's money. I would never practice this one though, because I think that one doing it should have degrees in astrology, psychology and counselling for a start. And I don't have so much time and money to attend all those universities, even I am interested in the subjects.

As for the outer planets, I use them like fixed stars (when conjunct personal planets or angles in the chart mostly) but that’s for some other topics I think.
“It works for me” can sometimes be a way to get away with ad-hoc conclusions and alike resulting in things like that Mars-Jupiter confusion we mentioned, but sometimes it’s just that we, as individuals, have our own attunements – someone simply sees things starting from one planet better than from some other – you’ve certainly come across charts that are easier for you to read than other. For someone else, the situation may very well be the other way round.
Regards
V.
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Sue



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Posted: Sun Oct 26, 2003 10:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

One of the things that bothers me about this is that astrologers seem to go on the defensive when confronted with criticisms of the nature of Dean et al. Being on the defensive immediately weakens your position. The fact that Dean and his colleagues do have some valid points to make should not make us defensive but rather willing to engage on an equal level. Part of this is getting them to justify their claims. They seem to be setting the terms here and astrologers fall into the trap of going into defence mode. What about defining our own terms and letting them defend their position? I don’t need to defend astrology. I know it works. I don’t need to justify astrology to anyone. But if they want me to believe that astrology is invalid then they have to prove to me that astrology doesn’t work and they haven’t done that. Astrology has been around for thousands of years and no one in that time has come up with a valid argument as to why it doesn’t work. The argument is that no one has proved it does work (although I would question that). Failure to prove astrology isn’t the same as proof of the failure of astrology.
I don’t actually think that Dean is saying astrology doesn’t and can’t work but that it doesn’t work by the criteria that he has set for it. To me, those criteria are not valid. So instead of wasting time trying to defend astrology, I would rather confront them on the use of their methods. The article mostly spends its time talking about what the author thinks astrology is and why the author believes in it. Dean and his colleagues have heard this stuff a thousand times before. To me, going on the defensive like that shows a certain amount of insecurity about astrology that plays right into the hands of those who argue against astrology. I would like to have seen a considered argument as to where the author thought the weaknesses in the methods of Dean et al are (and there are many weaknesses in their methods). They claim to be purely scientific but many of their claims are not. What is the scientific basis for the comment that was made in ‘Astrology in the Year Zero’ that researchers are always more careful than astrologers?
I agree with Tom’s comment that scientists are not necessarily a very respectable lot. A survey once showed that more than 50% of scientists had, or knew someone who had, manipulated their research results to get the desired outcome. Science is not nearly as ‘scientific’ as scientists would like us to believe. As with everything else, it is partially a social construct. You only have to read a history of science to see that. I have no desire for astrology to be scientific, particularly in the terms dictated by scientists.
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Tom
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Posted: Mon Oct 27, 2003 12:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

>>I have no desire for astrology to be scientific, particularly in the terms dictated by scientists<<

Exactly! And this is the purpose isn't it, to dicate terms of as much as they can, and hold down their prestigous posts, and enjoy the respectability they think they've earned by being "scientists." Their motivations are no better than the average politician's.

Tom
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Violin



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Posted: Mon Oct 27, 2003 6:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
The article mostly spends its time talking about what the author thinks astrology is and why the author believes in it.


The article (essay) explains why astrology mostly isn't testable through scientific criteria. Since the science has had a role of "God" in the sense of providing "good and solid truth" for majority of the population (even if one may not have any basic scientific knowledge, he rather believes what scientists say), I think this essay is a good time spent to say something about scientific arguments contra astrology. Since Dean (unlike tha vast majority of the sceptics) at least knows what he's talking about, he makes a respectable opponent in this sense.

I sincerely doubt Dean has heard something like this "a hundred" time. Or perhaps he has, but I haven't maybe. What's new for me here is that an astrologer is talking to a non-astrologer (ok Dean is a former astrologer, but Kelly is, if I'm not mistaken, non-astrologer) about astrological hierarchy, horary-electional-natal-mundane doing so the way that can be useful for astrological students to read.

Quote:
To me, going on the defensive like that shows a certain amount of insecurity about astrology that plays right into the hands of those who argue against astrology.


Well, I didn't see it as defensive at all. What the author has done is simply collect scientific arguments and answer them one by one.
I don't see why astrologers should be more offensive either. Most astrologers don't know about scientific methods enough to suppose that Dean's methods aren't scientific. I certainly can't be the judge of his methods in the sense whether they are scientific or not and how much scientific they are. Maybe you can? What we know though is that if astrology were proved, there would be only a small part of it accepted. Anyway, we already agree we wouldn't even like astrology to be scientific, so why questioning their methods anyway.

As Elwell once put it - it's all about the door you entered this world. If someone entered this world through the door on which it's written "i believe only what I see" or some other idea I believe is a nonsense, becase I've entered through some other - then he'll say he disbilieves astrology even after you tell him prediction that comes true in a time given. Now, I've seen that, too.

Regards
Viola
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Deb
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Posted: Mon Oct 27, 2003 10:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I wasn’t impressed with the article, largely for the reasons Sue has outlined. Dean has set out an inappropriate framework for astrology and the author has tried to respond to criticisms within that context. So we’ve taken a poor defensive position which is riddled with inconsistencies and flawed reasoning. It would not satisfy Dean and it doesn’t satisfy me.
I sent my own critical review of the article to the author before this thread developed.
When forced to consider the argument in these terms I don’t believe that Dean’s points have been met or answered. At this stage I don’t even think they’ve been properly considered – they’ve been dismissed out of hand without consideration for where they do apply and why. That smacks of bias, which is what we say we hate about Dean’s work.
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Violin



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Posted: Mon Oct 27, 2003 10:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
So we’ve taken a poor defensive position which is riddled with inconsistencies and flawed reasoning.


I'd really like to know what is inconsistent and flawed about it bacause at the present moment I don't see it.
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Tom
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Posted: Mon Oct 27, 2003 12:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

>>Quote:
To me, going on the defensive like that shows a certain amount of insecurity about astrology that plays right into the hands of those who argue against astrology.


Well, I didn't see it as defensive at all. What the author has done is simply collect scientific arguments and answer them one by one.
I don't see why astrologers should be more offensive either<<

As an aside, I see Sue's point a little differently. I don't bother with these arguments with skeptics because their assumptions regarding astrology are usually way off base, and we end up correcting their misunderstandings without ever getting to make our point. The skeptics arguments tend to be without merit because their premises are incorrect, e.g. how can you say there are only 12 personality types, one for each sun sign? Or Gauquelin failed to find a correlation between sun signs and occupations, doesn't that prove astrology doesn't work? It is difficult to explain your side when you're forced to answer idiotic questions like that.

Secondly, I don't think Sue's point was that we need to be offensive just proactive if we are to engage in these "debates" with skeptics. I think we're better off by staying out of the sandbox and ignoring them.

Tom
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Violin



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Posted: Mon Oct 27, 2003 1:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Tom
Quote:
The skeptics arguments tend to be without merit because their premises are incorrect, e.g. how can you say there are only 12 personality types, one for each sun sign?

Generally, I can agree with this, but not in Dean's case. We should give him at least the credit of being beyond this "12 personality types"sceptic "argument".


Quote:
Secondly, I don't think Sue's point was that we need to be offensive just proactive if we are to engage in these "debates" with skeptics. I think we're better off by staying out of the sandbox and ignoring them.

My point is this: Most astrologers including myself can't discuss scientific methods with scientists since we don't know much about these methods. (And I leave the possibility that Sue knows about it much more than most of us do). But when scientists say something about astrology not knowing the subject, then I'd have something to say, (were I not bored by it from the start because of their lack of astrological knowledge and prevailing arrogance that usually goes with it. ). Since Dean knows astrology very well and is a scientist, there's no wonder I like reading both what he says and what Elwell and Brockbank answer. Though I must admit I sometimes get tired reading it unlike looking at the charts - I never get tired of it.

p.s. I'd also like to know what Deb wrote about Brockbank's article if that's possible

Regards
V.
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Sue



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Posted: Mon Oct 27, 2003 8:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

No, I don't know a lot more about it but I do have a Diploma of Applied Science and spent four years studying psychology, including statistics. Having spent many hours having to conduct experiments and write up 'scientific' reports, I know how easily these can be manipulated or misinterpreted. I don't think for a minute that Dean et al. are being intentionally dishonest but I also don't believe that it is possible to be without personal biases, even in science. And I don't believe that you need to be a scientist to debate intelligently and accurately with the scientific community, particularly in this case becaue I question exactly how scientific their research is anyway.

Tom is correct when he talks about being proactive. I'm not personally interested in engaging in this debate but for astrologers who are, it would be wise to come from a position of strength. By being on the defensive, we are so busy defending our position that we fail to really look at what our position is.
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Deb
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Posted: Tue Oct 28, 2003 1:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The comments were quite comprehensive but my main gist has been perfectly summarised by Tom and Sue’s last posts.

I’ve reproduced one point below that demonstrates Sue’s last remark. (My comments in blue). I’ve also selected this because it gives an alternative opinion to the views expressed above, that the article is commendable for having answered Dean by differentiating between horary and other uses of astrology.


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

For all types of horary astrology this criticism is incorrect.

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

Horary astrology is specific, and one cannot interpret a horary chart in any way that one wants.

Again, too sweeping. Horary is not always specific, and astrologers can, and do, interpret it by alternative approaches and methods. It is possible for astrologers to read horary charts very differently and yet arrive at a common conclusion. It is also often the case that horary astrologers claim to use the same methods yet still come to different conclusions.

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

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

[A related point made elsewhere: Even amongst the purest traditionalists there are disagreements over methods. Someone like Robert Zoller would take a completely different view over a horary technique (following Bonatus) that someone like Sue Ward would take (following Lilly) or someone like Schmidt would take (following Valens). And then even those who agree to follow a certain authority – like Lilly – can have passionate debates over whether he meant this or that. So we are all of us re-interpreting the rules in the light of our own experience and inclinations.]



My point here is this: In the article the author tries to reject the argument that astrological symbolism is largely based on metaphors, analogies, verbal associations, and mythology by suggesting that certain branches are not affected by it. But they quite clearly are, as anyone that has delved into the origin and development of astrological symbolism will easily be able to demonstrate. He then partly concedes the point to the sceptics as one he cannot fully rebuke. We would have been on firmer ground if he hadn’t tried to rebuke it within any branch of astrology. A more reasoned response would have been to accept that yes, metaphors, analogies, and mythology play an important and vital role in astrology because its language is so heavily symbolic. It is a study based on cosmic, geometrical, numerological, mathematical and planetary laws so complex and deep that metaphor, analogy and myth have been wrapped around them for thousands of years. Approaching astrological symbolism in this way allows us to understand core principles and retain the essential flexibility that we need to filter that principle through to its most relevant manifestation in each unique chart. The lack of systemization is not wholly true, because there is a very clear consensus of opinion around most of the core principles of astrology; but it is true that some of the symbolic factors that surround the core principles – zodiac divisions, house cusps, etc - are open to personal inclination precisely because these are the elements that are most heavily ingrained with symbolic reasoning. We can either take the view that astrology is a pure science and reject its symbolic basis, or we can argue that it is fed and strengthened by that because human consciousness has the ability to look at a whole and see something greater than the sum of its parts. And this may call us to accept that – because of the complexity of this subject - not all astrologers operate to the same standard but become more sensitive to its meaning with time, training and experience. So it may well be that astrologers could all apply the same ‘technique’ and not necessarily arrive at the same answer, or they may all arrive at the same answer using different techniques because each will personalize the system in a way that allows the flexible parts of it to become the most relevant and meaningful background to their knowledge and understanding.

I guess you can see that I am looking for a much more penetrating argument and firmer reasoning where all the gaps for attack are closed. In this approach they are still open and I can not only see where Dean could maintain his position, but develop it as well. I don’t deny that there are some good points in the article, but presently they are overwhelmed by inconsequential details, and intellectual credibility is lost by approaching complex issues in such a black and white manner. I understand that the article will be subject to review following feedback, (which is why it has a version number), so it will be interesting to see where this goes. One point I think we need to appreciate is that Dean has a good working knowledge of astrology, and he hit the place that many astrologers get to when he lost confidence in it, and subsequently went onto the attack. That was the realisation that astrology doesn’t conform to pure intellectual reason and it doesn’t respond to objective and mechanistic testing because it isn’t a purely objective or mechanistic study. Even those parts of it that we often think are the most scientific can be traced back to an apparent use of symbolic metaphor and articulated through simplistic logic. Dean expresses a problem that all intelligent astrologers face, so this is less about shutting him up than reasoning answers that concern us all. (Incidentally, the best response I have seen to this argument so far is Garry Phillipson’s Anatomy of Doubt - in this article there is a fair and open review of the contradictions that exist within the logic of astrology, but the study still emerges with its dignity intact).

http://www.astrozero.btinternet.co.uk/doubt.htm
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Tom
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Posted: Tue Oct 28, 2003 2:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

It's interesting that this topic came up as I began Dennis Elwell's Cosmic Loom. I'm not yet half done with it, so I'm still not sure about what I think of it, but I think I see where he's going. It's a pretty good response to Dean et al.

I still think it is obvious that the skeptics apply standards to astrology that they apply to none of their pet fields of study. Yes astrologers use different methods and techniques. So do physicians and economists. Yet if a physician makes a mistake, they would attack his competence, not the field of medicine. If an economist is wrong, and they usually are, no one even bothers to attack the economist's competence. While Sue is being polite about Dean's honesty, I don't feel the same compunction. I think these broadsides are dishonest, and I think he knows it.

Where does it say that every field of study has to be 100% consistent and 100% accurate? What field of study meets either of those criteria? And when we meet some of their criteria, as in Gaquelin's research, they claim that the methods are faulty and when that proves wrong that the results aren't significant. Science can rationalize anything with the rules they enforce randomly.

Tom
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