#Astrology & The #Skeptics: #TheOrville Misfires.

(Astrology Explored) Seth MacFarlane misfires across the bow of astrology in January 24, 2019 episode “All the World’s a Birthday Cake.” Ed Mercer and crew make first contact with a pre-spaceflight society who SETI like, zapped an invitation for any and all to visit. What should have been a party moment turned deadly serious when at a state dinner First Officer Kelly Grayson mentioned that next week was her birthday. You would have thought someone dropped one hundred cobras on the dinner table for the natives’ reaction. Kelly and Bortus (who share the same birthday) are summarily arrested and put in a detention camp, while feckless Ed tries to figure out what caused the native’s reaction.

Come to find out that Kelly and Bortus were born under the “Sign of the Geliac,” an astrological sign that is supposed to be dangerously violent. The society goes so far as to perform medically unnecessary c-section on mothers dangerously close to giving birth to a Geliac child, even if the procedure is dangerous to both mother and child.

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#Astrology Pro Tip: There Is No Thirteenth Zodiac Sign

Sidney_Hall_-_Urania's_Mirror_-_Taurus_Poniatowski,_Serpentarius,_Scutum_Sobiesky,_and_Serpens(Astrology Explored) Oh, god. What do we have to do to get it through peoples heads? I opened my Quora feed this morning to find this:

Now that NASA has re-arranged the zodiac signs, should I go by the ancient Babylonian way or the NASA way? I’m either Gemini or Taurus.

Of course, I answered. And here it is.

NASA has not rearranged the zodiac signs.

They tell you so themselves.

No, what NASA was attempting to do, through a children’s page, (updated January 2016) was to discredit astrology by saying that once upon the time, the Babylonians knew there were thirteen constellations in the zodiac but since it didn’t fit in with their astrology ignored it proving astrology is not a science, is nonsense and should be thoroughly ignored by anyone with a lick a sense.

Which only shows you that NASA should stick to what they know because the Babylonians, whose civilization started about 18th century BCE, (according to astrology antagonistic Wikipedia,) identified 17 to 18 constellations in their zodiac. Continue reading

Astrology and Skeptics: When An Opinion Is Not A Fact

2921288464_fec22107eb_z (Astrology Explored) It started innocently enough with a person asking an astrologer to read his palm. I declined to do this, but a skeptic weighed in with this response:

My advice is that you do not attach any significance whatsoever to anybody who claim to be able to tell the future by reading palms, the stars, etc. Palmistry and astrology is pseudoscientific nonsense and it has been thoroughly debunked scientifically.

To which I replied:

Please cite the scientific papers that support your claims.

And this is the response I received:

Comment: “The scientific community rejects astrology as having no explanatory power for describing the universe, and consider it a pseudoscience. Scientific testing of astrology has been conducted, and no evidence has been found to support any of the premises or purported effects outlined in astrological traditions. There is no proposed mechanism of action by which the positions and motions of stars and planets could affect people and events on Earth that does not contradict well understood, basic aspects of biology and physics. Those who continue to have faith in astrology have been characterized as doing so “…in spite of the fact that there is no verified scientific basis for their beliefs, and indeed that there is strong evidence to the contrary.”

Kindly see citations at the bottom:

en-wikipedia-org/wiki/Astrology

So, of course, I had to respond.

1.) Comment:”The scientific community rejects astrology as having no explanatory power for describing the universe, and consider it a pseudoscience.”

It is not the entire scientific community that rejects astrology, but a specific group that promotes the rejection of anything they consider supernatural. This group us the Humanists who promote atheism. Anything other than a rejection of God or any “supernatural” force is unacceptable to the Humanists. I wrote about here:

Astrology and the Skeptics: Debunkers Tool of a Religious Agenda?

And here:

Atheists, Humanists and Astrology: What You Should Know

2.) Scientific testing of astrology has been conducted, and no evidence has been found to support any of the premises or purported effects outlined in astrological traditions

Again, this assertion that is patently untrue. I wrote about that here:

Astrology and the Skeptics: An Open Letter to Dr. Rebekah Higgitt

3.) There is no proposed mechanism of action by which the positions and motions of stars and planets could affect people and events on Earth that does not contradict well understood, basic aspects of biology and physics.

Then you are behind in your understanding of quantum physics. You can read my article here:

Astrology and Science: Scientific Determinism’s Dangerous Ground

4.) Those who continue to have faith in astrology have been characterized as doing so “…in spite of the fact that there is no verified scientific basis for their beliefs, and indeed that there is strong evidence to the contrary.”

I refer you again to point 2.

5.) Kindly see citations at the bottom:

en-wikipedia-org/wiki/Astrology”

Lest you think that Wikipedia Editor has presented a true account of astrology, you can read my recounting of the edit war against the people who are best qualified to present astrology—astrologers.

Wikipedia’s War Against Astrology: Jimmy Wales–Are You Listening?

Again, I invite you to provide direct scientific proof that astrology is false, from qualified, unbiased scientists. I’m sincerely interested in that. I’ve been unable to find same, but perhaps you have access to sources that I do not. In the meantime, I submit that you’ve only provided an opinion, which is your right. But opinion is not scientific evidence. Otherwise, we’d still believe the earth is flat.

Sincerely,

Beth Turnage

Photo published under a Creative Commons license from Flickr user Marcin Chady

Skeptics, Astrology and Robert Currey

(Astrology Explored) When Robert Currey asked if he could use my avatar for the image of quintessential astrologer looking to mount skeptics’ challenges to astrology, I was tickled pink. Robert Currey, the proprietor of Equinox Astrology, has been carefully taking apart skeptic’s objections to astrology for years. Too much a gentleman to rip them apart with my or even Matthew Currie’s (no relation) ferocity on the subject, he non-the-less continues the good fight by evaluating skeptics’ claims and taking them apart molecule by molecule. Below is Robert’s current comictorial on the subject.

If you are so inclined share this on your Facebook page. Spreading awareness is the best way we can stand up for ourselves as astrologers and lovers of astrology.


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Astrology and the Skeptics: The Evidence of Things Unseen

(Astrology Explored) My friend Matthew Currie recently challenged the good people at the James Randi Educational Foundation to provide citations for their claims in their instructional booklet “Astrology: Science or Superstition”. In support of Matthew’s challenge I’m presenting the comment that turned into an email exchange between me and one skeptic on the subject of astrology for your consideration.

The skeptic, Shawn, starts off in a comment to one of my blog posts:

I read the article you directed me to. Honestly, I found it confusing. Let’s go back to the beginning. My birthday is July 17th. Please tell me my sign and please tell me why (astronomically) that is my sign.
Thank you,
 Shawn

You wrote, “The sun was 24 Degrees 28 Seconds of the tropical zodiac sign Cancer
on July 17, 1978.”

Great- that’s what I thought. My question was: how is my sign determined? The
answer is: on my birthday, the sun was “in” the constellation Cancer. Yes?

My Answer:

No.

The Sun on the date given, July 17, 1978 was in in the area that we call Cancer in the tropical zodiac.

For those that still aren’t clear what the tropical zodiac is based on, we start the tropical zodiac on the Vernal Equinox, most commonly called the first day of spring. The sun advances roughly one degree per day. Therefore, degrees 1 to 30 is called Aries, 31 to 60, Taurus, 61 to 90 Gemini91 t0 120, Cancer and so on. Continue reading

The Probability of Predictions: Will and Kate So Far

(Astrology Explored) As a front line fighter in the skeptic’s wars against superstition, the paranormal and the supernatural, Michael Shermer has a whole line of pat answers to why people believe in what he and his fellows believe irrational. In fact he wrote a book about it The Believing Brain in which he postulates that the brain constructs its own belief systems based on patterns and culture, essentially creating its own reality.

Being a man of science, Shermer believes that science holds the answers about what is real and what is not. Science being his guide he tells us that what we perceive is true is only dictated by our belief systems. Continue reading

Atheists, Humanists and Astrology: What You Should Know

Minnesota Atheists in Parade (Astrology Explored) One of the most marvelous things about this country is that anyone is can practice or not practice religion. Whatever your belief or lack thereof about God, or a higher power, does not prevent you from enjoying the benefits of living in this society.

So then, it is a curious thing that atheists are organizing a “Woodstock for Atheists” today Saturday, March 24, 2012 on the mall in Washington, DC to “show their power in numbers and change their image”.

Certain segments of the atheist movement believe that American’s don’t like them much, as written aboutin an op-ed piece by two atheists published in the Washington Post. In this piece, while saying that atheism is rarely denounced in the mainstream they posit that atheists are subject to discrimination in the military and that surveys show that in Americans in general won’t marry or vote for atheists. They call this “stunning anti-theist discrimination”.

The Reason Rally organizers hope that by holding this gathering, it will give “closeted” atheists the confidence to “come out” and to show the religious majority that atheism is alive and well in America.

The rally is being sponsored by several atheist organizations, including the Freedom From Religion Foundation, the Center for Inquiry, the American Humanist Association, and the American Atheists, which is holding its annual convention in D.C. the very same weekend.

Far be it from this astrologer to deny anyone the right to believe what he or she wishes. Go with or without God, be well, prosper.

However, one needs to be aware that the agenda of these non-theists is not so much about what they believe, but what they want you to believe and that is . . . what they believe.

Here is what the American Humanist Association says about themselves:

American Humanist Association – We strive to bring about a progressive society where being good without gods is an accepted way to live life. We are accomplishing this through our defense of civil liberties and secular governance, by our outreach to the growing number of people without traditional religious faith, and through a continued refinement and advancement of the humanist worldview.

In other words, as I’ve said before, they don’t want to be just in their business, they want to be in yours too.

Even though it seems that all there are many organizations involved in this rally, all the organizations above are inextricably tied to the American Humanist Association. Ed Buckner, board member and former president of American Atheists is cited as “a noted Humanist” Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of Freedom From Religion Foundation received the the 2010 Humanist Heroine award by the American Humanist Association. The Center for Inquiry is listed on one website as affliated with the Councile for Secular Humanism, American Atheists and the American Humanist Association. Its list of former speakers reads like a who’s who of American Humanist Association Members. This is small regional group claiming a membership of 400 though only 40 members actively attends meetings but still is helping to sponsor an event where 30,000 people are expected to be in attendance.

So while not all atheists are humanists, it’s the humanists that drive the mission to make our society a secular, atheistic one.

And though the American Humanist Association claims atheists are discriminated against in society, in concert with its ideology it actively denigrates any form of belief that it deems “unscientific”. The paragraph below is taken from its own website:

In the wake of articles in The Humanist which were critical of pseudoscience, the AHA established in May of 1976 the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal. Through its membership of humanist leaders and scientists, CSICOP launched the Skeptical Inquirer, challenged pseudoscientific claims, and exposed much of the faulty experimentation, frauds, and fallacies of “psychic research.” Now called the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, it is a dynamic, independent consumer-information organization.

The above paragraph makes it seem that CSICOP was only investigating “psychics” but the truth of the matter is that CSICOP and the Humanists took especial aim at astrology. It published “Objections to Astrology” in the Humanist magazine, sponsored the NCGR-Berkeley double blind test which purported to disprove astrology but upon independent peer review was found to be fundamentally flawed, and attempted to skew the peer review of the famous Mars Effect as discovered by Michel Gauguelin by rearranging the data sets to favor their position.

James Randi, another member of the American Humanist Association is a speaker at this rally. He calls himself a debunker of astrology. However his debunking techniques have been debunked themselves, shown as mental “slight of hand” tricks that actually prove nothing.

Various wings of the American Humanist Association have taken quite a few potshots at astrologers calling them frauds and charlatans, and thieves of consumer’s money for taking payment for practicing their profession. It’s just not really called for. Even other skeptics call for a toning down of the rhetoric.

In light of the contempt opponents have for the intellectual abilities of both astrologers and their customers and in light of utter ineffectiveness of their attacks, what is the point of these anti-astrology polemics? What really is at stake? And what really is accomplished?*

What is accomplished? It’s the attempt to further the Humanist worldview of a totally secular society with no room for other viewpoints.

Hey, you want to be an atheist, go be an atheist. Protest your treatment at the hands of the non-secular world. It’s your right. But no one, no one movement, group or organization has the right to foist its worldview on the rest of America. That the Humanists attempt to do so is what makes this astrologer queasy about their agenda.

Photo published under a Creative Commons license issued by user Fibronacciblue as explained on Flickr.

Astrology and the Skeptics: Debunkers Tool of a Religious Agenda?

Wearing the guise of science one organization mounts attacks on paranormal subjects from Big Foot to psychic John Edwards. Included in their attacks is a quite well orchestrated war on astrology conducted with questionable tactics. These tactics include funding “studies” on astrology and declaring that astrology is disproved, setting up websites with disinformation on astrology, and influencing organizations like Wikipedia and the British Broadcasting system and using the argument that astrology is a pseudoscience pushing a point of view (POV) that treats astrology with derision.

One wonders why all this energy is expended to plant an image of fakery and disreputability to one profession. Real scientists know that there are more “things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in our philosophies” and don’t dismiss outright what they don’t understand.

As it turns out these individuals are not motivated by science after all. Continue reading

Wikipedia’s War Against Astrology: Jimmy Wales–Are You Listening?

JImmy Wales

Jimmy Wales

(Astrology Explored) Recently, a small group of “astrology friendly” people have been attempting to edit the section on astrology in Wikipedia where in the current version is slanted and full of inaccuracies. Time and again, this group has been batted back and their proposal for edits denied, the crux of the argument being, “We know astrology is a pseudoscience.”

Really?

In fact, the admins of Wiki-pedia are sure of their position because they had an arbitration that decided it was so.

(note and update: the original link to this section of Wikipedia disappeared. I researched and found the nearest correlation to original material in the link above.)

What’s bad about that?

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Astrology and the Skeptics: An Open Letter to Dr. Rebekah Higgitt

Royal Observatory, Greenwich, UK

Royal Observatory, Greenwich, UK

(Astrology Explored)

Dr. Rebekah Higgitt,
Curator of History of Science and Technology
National Maritime Museum and Royal Observatory
Greenwich, UK

Dear Dr. Higgitt,

Recently in an BBC television show, two scientists proclaimed that “astrology was rubbish” prompting an article by you, asking whether “we should debunk astrologers more respectfully”. I am fascinated by your assertion that “Astrology as a scientific hypothesis has been put to the test and found wanting”.

There are many semantic holes in this assertion that only serves to muddy the waters.

Astrology is not a “scientific hypothesis.” It is a practice, much like the practice of medicine, so straight off the bat we are in trouble.

Maybe what you mean to say is “that the principles of astrology, when held to the light of scientific inquiry fails to yield reproducible results”.

Is that what you mean Dr. Higgitt?

Because if it is, then we run into problems again and that is there are studies that do yield reproducible results.

The most famous of these is the “Mars Effect” in which prominent athletes show a higher frequency of of Mars placed in certain sectors of their chart than statistical average.

For those unfamiliar with the astrological definition of Mars, the red planet in astrology relates to aggressiveness and competition.

Despite the fact that certain of those in the skeptic community claim to have disproved the effect, it was found that those involved with this inquiry disallowed some of Gauguelin’s data and introduced other data with a result that was more favorable to their position.

Gauquelin found that people of certain professions tend to have the same planets in these critical segments with a greater frequency than statistical average. Not only that, but he also found an effect which he titled the “theory of eminence” which holds that not only do people established in their chosen fields have a greater than statistical chance average of having those planets in these important fields. The more eminent a person is in their field, the greater the likelihood that those planets will be found in those critical segments. For example, doctors were found to have the planet of Saturn in these critical segments. If you take an average, general practice physician, the chances of he or she having Saturn in that critical position is much less than the chart of a highly prominent physician, one who is frequently published and renowned in their field. In other words, the more prominent you are in your field, the greater the chances you will have the corresponding planet in the critical field of the wheel.

Although scientists find Gauquilin’s findings very disquieting, increasingly sophisticated analysis seems to confirm, rather than disconfirm, certain of the original results. For example, in a 1986 study, the German researcher, Suitbert Ertel, reported: “A reanalysis of Gauquelin professional data using alternative procedures of statistical treatment supports previous Gauquelin results. Frequency deviations from chance expectancy along the scale of planetary sectors differ markedly between professions.” Read more about it at the William James Roots of Consciousness website.

Of course one study does not “prove” the validity of the whole of astrology, but it is far from “found wanting”. So lets look at others.

Carl Jung studied the charts of 453 couples and found that of the happily married couples with the classic aspects, (connections between planets) that indicate the opportunity for a satisfying relationship occurred three times more often than the rate of coincidence.

Jung said of this:

The chances of this actually happening are extremely improbable. Even in the first two cases, the probability works out at 1:100 x 10,000, which means that such a coincidence is to be expected only in one case out of ten million. It is improbable that it would ever happen in anyone’s experience. Yet in my statistical experiment it happened that precisely the three conjunctions stressed by astrological tradition came together in the most improbable way

And then there is this:

On December 6, 2010 Science Daily reports on a study published in the journal Natural Neuroscience that “The season in which babies are born can have a dramatic and persistent effect on how their biological clocks function.”

The experiment provides the first evidence for seasonal imprinting of biological clocks in mammals and was conducted by Professor of Biological Sciences Douglas McMahon, graduate student Chris Ciarleglio, post-doctoral fellow Karen Gamble and two undergraduate students at Vanderbilt University.

While not a study on astrology itself, it comes dangerously close to suggesting that the tropical zodiac, the zodiac based on the position of the Sun as it travels thru the seasons, actually has something behind it.

I could go on, but we don’t have all day here, so let’s move along.

Let’s play devil’s advocate for a minute and look at tests that purport to dispute the validity of astrology.

One such study found online is the NCGR/Berkeley Double-Blind Test of Astrology undertaken by Shawn Carlson and published in 1985. Shawn Carlson concluded that “we are now in a position to argue a surprisingly strong case against natal astrology as practised by reputable astrologers”.

The experiment was designed to test the astrological proposition that:
“the positions of the ‘planets’ (all planets, the Sun and Moon, plus other objects defined by astrologers) at the moment of birth can be used to determine the subject’s general personality traits and tendencies in temperament and behavior, and to indicate the major issues which the subject is likely to encounter”.

In this test volunteers took the California Personality Inventory, was given three horoscope delineations, with only one of which was the written for them, and asked to choose the one that fits their personality, as well as choosing a second choice. Of 83 subjects only 28 chose the horoscope written for them, which was on par with chance.
But wait! To check the subjects ability to self evaluate their personality types the subjects were given three CPI evaluations and asked to pick out their own. In a subject sample even smaller than the first, the subjects did not choose their own personality profile in numbers that were not statistically significant. Calling this result “disappointing” Carlson writes “”if subjects cannot recognise accurate descriptions of themselves at a significant level then the experiment would show a null result however well astrology worked”

Carlson then moves on to the astrologers and ask them to choose the correct CPI out of three to the natal chart of each subject. The astrologers faired no better than chance when the astrologers themselves predicted they could match 50% of the profiles. From this Carlson arrived at the conclusion that astrology failed. But here again is there is a fly in the ointment.

Though Carlson claimed that natal astrology performed no better than chance, a number of authoritative sources including Professor Hans Eysenck of London University (1986) [6]have shown that this conclusion was faulty. Recent evidence now shows that the part of the test that was valid (according to Carlson) shows evidence that favours astrology to a statistically significant level in spite of many disadvantages that the astrologers faced.

And remarkably, Dr. Carlson is not a psychiatrist or psychologist but a mathematician and physicist so he shouldn’t have gotten the numbers wrong. But the study itself was funded by the skeptics group CSICOPS, and for that group, no other conclusion but to declare astrology invalid, is possible.

All people are entitled to their opinions, and if some people prefer to think that astrology is rubbish, scientist or no, that is their right. However, as an astrology blogger friend said “The general opinion of people doesn’t make for good evidence.” To veil opinion with the mantle of scientific certainty is not only self-serving it is just wrong.

So Dr. Higgitt, despite your very nice attempt to debunk us astrologers respectfully, we respectfully submit that we are not in need of debunking. But thanks for the thought.

Image published under a Creative Commons License from Flickr.


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