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.