Scientific Bias against Astrology


Recently I have been taking an online course at coursera.org entitled Pensamiento Científico by Professor Carlos Gershenson of UNAM in Mexico.  Having followed the work of Carlos Gershenson for some time,  I was was delighted to have an opportunity to hear him lecture about the scientific method.  I majored in math and minored in physics in college and acquired a Master’s degree in theoretical mathematics prior to pursing my doctorate in medicine,  so I consider myself a member of the scientific community.  At the same time astrology has been a serious hobby since my teens, and I consider myself reasonably knowledgeable about the art, though there is still much about astrology I would like to learn.  I have had enough experiences with accurate “predictions” in astrology to be convinced that there must be some scientific validity to the art.

Today I listened to Dr. Gershenson’s lecture on Pseudociencia and was disappointed by his obvious bias against astrology on the basis of an lack of knowledge of the art and a pseudoscientific “study” by a group of Belgian and German scientists which he cites as evidence.  It is clear from the lecture that Professor Gershenson has never studied astrology and is almost totally ignorant of the celestial art.

The so-called study which Gershenson refers to was done by a group of Belgian and German scientists who began with the premise that the date of birth (and hence the zodiac sign during which one is born) correlates to individual difference sand general intelligence.  Any competent astrologer would tell you that such correlations between a sun-sign and individual differences including intelligence would be no better than chance.  How could one twelfth of the world’s population of 7 billion or so people all share the same traits and intelligence levels on the basis of which of the 12 signs they were born under?  It’s an absurd premise, which shows a total ignorance of the principles of astrology, and I’m surprised that Dr. Gershenson swallowed this ridiculous premise hook, line and sinker.  He should know better.  Garbage in, garbage out.

There are some good studies of astrology which show positive results.  The Gauquelin research on the Mars effect is a good example.  The Gauquelins gathered a large sample eminent athletes and found that Mars occupied a prominent position in their horoscopes as predicted by astrology when compared to a control group of less prominent athletes or the general population.  Their statistics were scientifically valid and demonstrated that athletes with a prominent Mars at birth were likely to achieve public recognition for their athletic skills at a rate significantly greater than chance.  The rigorous science of this study upset the scientific community which responded by diluting the sample with athletes of much less eminence and thus reducing the statistical difference.

In another interesting study of infant mortality:

“A study by Arno Müller, Profesor of Psychology at the University of Saarland, Germany of the lives of 1,145 German nobility over five centuries where records were kept meticulously, showed a significantly higher frequency in infant mortality within the first 15 months (p=0.0004) of birth when Saturn was rising or culminating (Gauquelin sectors) at birth. (Muller & Menzer 1986) [This fits with a traditional interpretation of Saturn rising as difficulties early on in life.] “

Interestingly, I recall reading Goethe’s autobiography in which he attribute his serious post-natal ill health to Saturn rising at this birth.

Not to belabor the point, but I am seriously disappointed in Dr. Gershenson’s ignorance about astrology and his lack of scientific objectivity.  I expected him to be open-minded as a scientist and to follow the evidence wherever it might lead him.  Instead he has chosen to pontificate about a subject of which he knows nothing and to accept as truth a “study” founded on a ridiculous straw-man hypothesis which was guaranteed to produce the result desired rather than to seriously test the validity of astrology.  In doing so, he is exhibiting bias without reason, espousing bad science, and contradicting his own principles which he is teaching in his course.

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About Anthony Louis

Author of books about astrology and tarot, including TAROT PLAIN AND SIMPLE, HORARY ASTROLOGY, and THE ART OF FORECASTING WITH SOLAR RETURNS.
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4 Responses to Scientific Bias against Astrology

  1. Nick Sceusa says:

    Unfortunately, Astrology is in a shambles and the scientists are correct as far as they go. Gravity does not explain any astrological phenomena, and no one has taken a look at planetary electro-magnetic fields in terms of astrology. The Gauquelin Statistical studies do not establish cause and effect, merely correlate occurrences, by eliminating the effects of probability. This means that there is an effect someplace, but does not tell us what it is. Getting the right answer for the wrong reason is no help. We need to know if there is a basic mechanism at work or not. Probability is not enough even for Sherlock Holmes who got somethings wrong using deductive reasoning.

    The cycle of day and night is disturbed by electric lighting, and may be a factor.

    I would like to see a good study of electro-magnetic effects over time in relation to astrology. As you know the electro-magnetic effect is 10 to the power of 39 times greater than that of gravity.

    On top of this mess, we have other biological effects that must be accounted for. Until all these things are done, Astrology is just a fun hobby and a pseudo-science. Can we find an open mind with a physics background or EE background and a statistician to work with in these respects.

    Count me in for a study of these things, if we can find a few open minds who know the scientific method and the appropriate sciences to apply.
    Best of luck,
    Nick Sceusa

  2. dennis says:

    Hello Anthony,
    on the very last point of your article , I would add : …of course , and …as usual !
    Dr Elizabeth Teissier , the french Astrologer , dedicated her book ” l’homme d’aujourd’hui et les astres = Fascination et rejet ” to this very sad (and strange) tendancy…!

  3. Dennis,
    thanks for the recommendation. I don’t know that book by Teissier.
    Tony

  4. Mystikel says:

    I tend to think that scientific understanding will trickle down through climate studies. Of course climatologists that study how planetary forcing affects the baryocenter of the sun’s mass and therefore climate (and civilization) have their own struggle for acceptance, especially since their studies of climate cycles tell them that we’re currently in a climate minimum (which is also the conclusion you come to if you just graph out the planetary cycles for past minimums using the outer planets in astrology.) See Tallbloke’s Talkshop and other alternative climate blogs for these astronomical (not astrological) studies and theories.

    From there it really is not a great stretch to grasp the fact that the epic wars that have led us into new eras of progress in U.S. history, like WWII, the Civil War and the Revolution, have all shared an overlap of Uranus between 9 & 17 degrees of the astrological sign of Gemini, with Neptune between 1 & 5 degrees of Aries/Libra. The soldiers who fight these epic wars and lead us into the new era are overwhelmingly born in the quarter with Uranus in Sag, Cap & Aqua (and always face a world of rapidly increasing wealth inequality).These quarters also map fairly close to Strauss & Howe’s theory of generational history and to the seasonal poles on Uranus oddly enough. For instance I call that generation mentioned above the winter solstice generation because they are born with Uranus in winter signs while that planet experiences its own 21 year winter and they then grow up to become the 21 to 42 year old ‘heroes’ of the Strauss and Howe historical winter.

    I call this branch of astrology ‘astrosynchronology’ though hopefully someone comes up with a better name. It is very easy to demonstrate with “cycle charts” and graphs. I have a few articles up on this subject on my blog but since have streamlined the idea and need to get those articles up too. I do think this or a similar approach could offer strong evidence supporting astrology in the future.

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