Astrology is Rubbish (?)

Regardless of your personal opinion on astrology, I highly recommend reading this informative *and* incisive article by Assistant Professor of History Darin Hayton: "What Exactly is Accomplished by Asserting 'Astrology is Rubbish'?". There's some really good points made about pseudoskepticism, and the almost fanatical approach some scientists take when it comes to topics outside the gates of science:

Scientists claim that arguments from authority do not carry logical force. Yet they rely on them in almost every effort to dismiss astrology. They then claim that precession invalidate astrology and suggest that astrologers are dolts because they either do not know about precession or have not taken it into account. Zodiacal SignsYet astrologers have studied and accounted for precession since at least Ptolemy borrowed it from Hipparchus. The standard medieval textbook used to teach astrologers the basics of planetary motion, Gerard of Cremona’s Theorica planetarum, devoted a section to precession. Georg Peuerbach’s enhanced and improved version of this text, his Theoricae novae planetarum, devoted an entire chapter to precession.

...Whatever else might be the case, astronomers seem singularly unable to avoid denouncing astrology and equally incapable of persuading proponents of astrology to relinquish their conviction (or even to dissuade the astrology-curious). Maybe astronomers’ lack of success is related to the cavalier approach they adopt when attacking astrology. They certainly have not engaged with the body of knowledge they hope to refute. Instead, they attack caricatures and straw men. They argue from authority rather than logic. And they seem to ignore astrology’s technical details—such as anything approaching an understanding of positional astronomy—and ignorant of astrology’s history. To be fair, they have occasionally asked questions about possible mechanisms for astral influence, but then dismiss the very possibility of such a mechanism. No doubt they realize that their invectives do not constitute logically compelling arguments. So what then is the point of their denunciations? And whom are they trying to convince?

And what really is at stake in this enduring battle between science and astrology? Are astronomers afraid that their funding will suddenly go to astrologers? Does the fate of the free world or the rational mind or science depend on refuting astrology? Given the characterization of astrologers and believers in astrology as simple-minded, uneducated, irrational dupes, what threat do these people pose to astronomers and scientists? Does belief in astrology stand for a purported, societal-wide irrationality that threatens the entire practice of science? That seems a bit apocalyptic, but maybe. And what is served by the denigrating rhetoric typically used to brand astrologers frauds and charlatans? Surely it would be more effective to adopt a more conversational approach rather than labeling astrologers and their customers irrational, superstitious dupes.

But maybe despite its guise of rationality and argumentation, the anti-astrology polemic isn’t intended to persuade an opponent any more than any other polemic. Maybe it’s merely a secular form of “preaching to the choir.”

Make sure you read the entire article at the Philadelphia Area Center for History of Science website.

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red pill junkie's picture
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So what then is the point of their denunciations? And whom are they trying to convince?

Maybe they are trying to convince that housewife who is very fond of calling the 1-800 "Astrology hot line" that she's spending $3.99 a minute for naught.

You would not believe how much is spent on such nonsense here in Mexico, by people who really can't afford it.

I don't have anything against Astrology per se, and I don't make fun of people that like to read their horoscopes in the newspapers. But I do have an issue with those "astrologers" who like to take money off of people who are in need of some personal answer, and all they give in return are vague and useless answers.

Can Astrology help predict what kind of temper and abilities I might display if I'm born under certain astrological conditions? maybe.

Can Astrology help me predict whether I'm going to have a good week at the office, or an unexpected travel to some far-away place, or any of the generic stuff you read in 99% of printed horoscopes? I remain highly skeptical.

Would I call the 1-800 number of an astrologer that places ads on TV or gossip magazines? Not a chance in hell.

So maybe astrologers who do take their work seriously should take pains in policing their own field, and make sure people who profess to be astrologers actually have the right credentials, and are not just shooting horoscope answers out of their asses.

PS: That said, I'm also equally angered by "pharma" companies promoting miracle drugs or stupid exercise machines that are almost promised to let you lose weight while you sit in your ass watching TV and eating pepperoni pizza.

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Greg's picture
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red pill junkie wrote:

So what then is the point of their denunciations? And whom are they trying to convince?

Maybe they are trying to convince that housewife who is very fond of calling the 1-800 "Astrology hot line" that she's spending $3.99 a minute for naught.

Except they're not, which is the whole point of the article. When you want to convince people that they have an irrational belief, the stupidest thing you can do is lead off by saying "you're an idiot for believing this". Hence the 'preaching to choir' conclusion to the article.

Kind regards,
Greg
-------------------------------------------
You monkeys only think you're running things
@DailyGrail

red pill junkie's picture
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I understand that the greatest foe of debunkers and self-appointed skeptics is their proclivity to act like dicks —something we've discussed at TDG on other occasions.

Like I wrote before, the task then lies inside the astrology community to raise their own standards and police themselves.

Something that is also applicable to ghost-hunting, cryptozoology and ufology I might add...

It's not the depth of the rabbit hole that bugs me...
It's all the rabbit SH*T you stumble over on your way down!!!

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red pill junkie wrote:

Can Astrology help me predict whether I'm going to have a good week at the office, or an unexpected travel to some far-away place, or any of the generic stuff you read in 99% of printed horoscopes? I remain highly skeptical.

Many astrologers agree with you! ;-)

And you're such a Libran, Miguel. :-P

~ * ~

@levitatingcat

red pill junkie's picture
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And you're such a Libran, Miguel. :-P

Dios me libre! (God forbid it) :P

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Astrology will never go away, although it's name may change in the future. But eventually as our species becomes exponentially intelligent and technologically advanced we will create a new system of astrology which will predict(in the most logical of ways) ones outcome in space, for example, going on a 100 light year journey to a distant star system in the milky way would call for some type of prediction of that star systems location and structure at that moment in time and space, and since science is so open to being wrong it would be willing to admit that it cannot predict 100% of the circumstances per arrival, wherein this "intuition" software will kick in. I predict this prediction software will predict the outcome of space travel, scientific theories, births and deaths, consummations and even predicting it's own predictions. Thus concluding, vis a vis, that both of everything has been predicted already. Concordantly.

Btw, Libras 4 lyfe!

Sometimes we get what we need instead of what we want.

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That a funny example!

Predictions made by people are often wrong, and the conclusions one makes after an experiment are also often wrong, which is why the experiment is repeated (and is preferably repeatable), by many people trying to make different ideas work, but after many experiments of many different types and many re-writes of theory we come up with beautiful explanations that sustain repeatable results. I would say that whether something is 'understanding' or 'knowledge' is typically best judged by how well you can demonstrate that you can do something with it. That is about all we have regarding 'understanding'.

As for travelling from A to B being a matter of science, and of iterative nature of investigation, I do not recall ever using science last time I walked to the shops. Producing a dodgy map isn't a problem with the scientific method, it's a problem with the mapmaker, and while I am sure your example (which would feature relativistic physics) would be trickier I can't see it being a problem requiring astrology.

I did once have fun in a sci-fi Azimov sort of way though. A+B=C can be written A+B=C*F, where F is a fudge factor that is special to the answer you are tying to work out. If you can work out F you don't even need to know A or B or get to C and can calculate the correct answer every time without knowing the question. Here is to the power of the 'F' factor, which here might be similar to the 'prediction' factor.

red pill junkie's picture
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Look who's come out from under a rock! ;)

It's not the depth of the rabbit hole that bugs me...
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daydreamer's picture
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;)

Ola RPJ, hope you had a good christmas. I've been poking my nose in now and then.

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The general problem with science and astrology all together is that neither have been proven. The only thing we can do is create more assumptions and assume whether they are correct or incorrect.

Sometimes we get what we need instead of what we want.

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I would say 'Don't assume, test', but most of us don't have the equipment to test any of this stuff. I can test the horoscope of course and they all make sense for me, mine is never more accurate than any of the others, but I'm not going to claim that the horoscope in my local paper is the best of astrology.

Having said that I did make a new years pledge to myself to do more investigating (by this I mean more experiments). When I was a kid I used to investigate everything, then as an adult suddenly hardly anything.

So the other day I picked up a rock off of the ground and put it under a microscope. Oolitic Limestone, my favorite. Actually I think its part of the Great Oolite, a middle Jurassic limestone laid down across the UK.

When I was a kid i'd make at least one experiment a day, and now I hardly do any.

Quote:

The general problem with science and astrology all together is that neither have been proven.

As i'm sure you know you can't prove anything, not in the absolutist sense. There is no point worrying about that really as it cannot be helped. Best not to worry about the philosophy and decide on whether anything can be known. Do you really cut your hand on sharp glass? If you think you can know somethings, even if strict philosophy (as best as we know) says you cannot, then try and build up from there, but you are only building up what is 'reasonable'. Though I only think it is fair that the same rules exist for one kind of understanding as another, philosophically.

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Did you really cut your hand on that glass?

Did? Sure I'm conscious and time is relevant.
Did you? Yes me.
Did you really? Well I TRY!
Did you really cut? Sure, I could separate something relative to my size or ability.
Did you really cut your? Oh this is personal.
Did you really cut your hand? Yes :(::::::
Did you really cut your hand on that glass? Hmm, is matter real or illusionary? What came first the chicken or the egg?

All in all I agree. Unfortunatly, we live in a time where the only thing certain is the guarantee of being exploited.

Sometimes we get what we need instead of what we want.

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I believe astrology was used more to pevent a possilble bad outcome, whether it be war or any other gamble.

Hard science was born from astrology and magic, so a little respect please.

I personally believe the planets and stars have a bearing on us as we are all interconnected. So if they have, over thousands of years, found certain traits reflected in human behavior related to star and planet positioning, then who am I to say they are wrong.

"Life can be whatever you want it to be, as long as you do what your told."
LRF.

Live's picture
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I agree, the only reason we perceive each other as seperate is because we are not singular. Can't this rule apply to everything?

Sometimes we get what we need instead of what we want.

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I love the way he gets worked up by authority, treating it as if it was the same as authority by individual, and not authority by base argument.

It doesn't matter which scientist says something, what is important is that you can look up his argument and trace it right the way back to its base parts. That is the authority. Just like tracing the components of a logical mathematical argument to the base proofs.

Any authority only comes from this, and once one of the pillars is lost the authority is gone.

It isn't the same as 'Dude X' says Y, so we must believe in Y. This is why there are often multiple authorities (if we can continue using that word in that sense - it ends up being silly). It's a big difference. The authority is only as good as the components of the argument.

I'm really not up to date on modern astrology, but last time I checked their base arguments stopped at the level of 'some people think it's good and sometimes it gets it bang on'. My own vomit in a cup does it as well. Or at the very least it can tell you what I was up to yesterday ;)

Maybe they are just not putting their argument forward very well, but I definitely agree with clearing house. How any subject can expect to be respected if it full of charlatans should be beyond anyone. Non of the sciences would have managed it with the same number of pretenders.

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Thanks for the article, Greg--very interesting. For the record, I've been studying and practicing astrology for some 35 years, and have no problem with disbelievers in the subject--after all, it does seem pretty outlandish on the face of things--but I do think it's unfortunate when some attack it without ever taking the time to study it in a more hands-on way, since that's when you tend to see its weird effectiveness.

Case in point: perhaps the most common criticism I've heard leveled at astrologers has been that of "bias confirmation." My original astrology teacher, Mareen Cleary (formerly Maureen Bates) was formerly a brilliant young professor of psychology at the University of Chicago, teaching alongside the likes of Mircea Eliade and James Hillman, and was very skeptical of astrology. She set out to write her doctoral thesis on bias confirmation in astrology; but after studying the subject for almost a year under a veteran Chicago astrologer, Norman Ahrens, she realized it actually worked--and wound up becoming a full-time astrologer. Make of that what you will.

Among other things, my involvement in the subject led to some interesting encounters over the years--a few of which might be of interest to Daily Grail readers. For example, I met up with Frank Herbert (of "Dune" fame) at a book signing shortly before he died, and because no one else was around (amazingly), I was able to talk with him for a good 20 minutes. An incredibly approachable guy. Among other things, the subject turned to his birth time and astrology in general, and although he didn't know much about the subject, he was extremely open to it--perhaps because his wife was an avid astrologer who did his horoscope quite often.

On another occasion, a few years earlier, I called up Isaac Asimov in New York (that's when his phone number was still in the Manhattan directory!) and had a conversation with him about the subject. I was particularly interested in getting his birth time, but he said he wasn't even sure what *day* he was born, since they didn't keep good records in Russia back then. He was very skeptical of astrology, but not aggressively so, to his credit; but he saw no value in actually studying the subject in any depth, which I thought was unfortunate, since I felt he would realize that there was quite a bit more to the subject than met the casual eye.

I had a different experience with Buckminster Fuller, who I met on two occasions toward the end of his life. The second of those times, I had only a second to speak with him, so I simply asked him if he knew what time of day he was born. There was a long pause, which led me to wonder if he thought my question inappropriate; but finally he said, very wistfully, "I always regret not asking my mother that.." Curious answer. ;-)

--Ray Grasse

\

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An interesting footnote: at that book signing in downtown Chicago, Frank Herbert one of five or six authors seated at a long table--and he was seated directly between Charles "Bermuda Triangle" Berlitz and Frank ("Catch me if you can" con man) Abagnale. Strange bedfellows....

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I would really like to think that professional astrologers, who take their craft seriously and spend years studying it, are as offended by THIS

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gRmNxqZWl-Q

...as I am :-/

PS: And not, it's not the drag; although the botox is really pushing it ;)

It's not the depth of the rabbit hole that bugs me...
It's all the rabbit SH*T you stumble over on your way down!!!

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Yes, we do find this sort of thing offensive. I think it's important to note, though, that every profession--however respectable--has its charlatans or losers. For example, my father died as a result of a medical mistake, and my mother was completely blinded because of one; yet despite a virtual epidemic of such incidents around the world, we don't see a comparable hue and cry rising against the medical profession. So it's good to keep some perspective about these things.

red pill junkie's picture
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There are plenty of quacks with a stethoscope, but that's why there are things like review boards and medical licenses.

How can an average citizen distinguish between a "licensed" astrologer, so to speak, and a complete charlatan? From the amount of eye mascara and bling they wear? ;)

It's not the depth of the rabbit hole that bugs me...
It's all the rabbit SH*T you stumble over on your way down!!!

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Review boards and medical licenses don't prevent doctors from killing or injuring thousands of people around the world every day, do they? In other words, one is pretty much left to the same resource with astrologers that one has with medical professionals--namely, word of mouth, personal testimonials. I would only go to a doctor or dentist that comes personally recommended by someone, no matter how many certificates they have on their wall or letters they have behind their name. And I recommend the same tactic when dealing with astrologers.

red pill junkie's picture
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Review boards and medical licenses don't prevent doctors from killing or injuring thousands of people around the world every day, do they?

No. They are supposed to prevent that doctor from harming again.

In other words, one is pretty much left to the same resource with astrologers that one has with medical professionals--namely, word of mouth, personal testimonials.

Not really, because a medical license is an official assurance backed by an institution crediting the licensee as adequately trained to practice medicine.

The core issue here is accountability. From the professional as well as the institution & the government.

It may not be a perfect system, but IMHO it's better than what astrology as a guild is currently offering.

So we've already seen that debunkers accomplish nothing by scorning the belief systems of astrology advocates. In my mind, the task then rests in Astrology itself to raise their own standards.

It's not the depth of the rabbit hole that bugs me...
It's all the rabbit SH*T you stumble over on your way down!!!

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Yes, review boards and medical licenses are supposed to *prevent* doctors from harming again--we're in agreement on that, not sure how it read otherwise. I would simply disagree in how well it actually works, having seen--up close and very personal--how some pretty inept characters can slip through the net and wreak havoc on unsuspecting patients.

And I agree, the task facing astrologers is to raise their own standards. And there are people at work on that very thing, in some of the larger organizations. Not an easy thing though, unfortunately, since, like psychologists, the effects of their work tend to be more subjective and emotional than tangible or measurable. (If a doctor screws up, a patient may wind up maimed or dead; if a psychologist or astrologer screws up, a client could wind up depressed or misguided, but rarely injured or dead.) (Note I said "rarely" rather than "never"; note, too, I said "psychologist" rather than psychiatrist.)

So as much as most astrologers don't like those botox oracles running their TV ads, we unfortunately haven't figured out a way to curtail that kind of activity; but then, the medical profession hasn't figured out a way to prevent unscrupulous individuals from making countless millions hawking bogus penis enlargement pills on TV all hours of the night either, so the accountability problem is a rampant one even within the health field--among others. One more thing: I wouldn't say there is no accountability in our field at all, though, since--as with psychologists--astrologers (occasionally even TV ones) are as prone to lawsuits as anyone else. Not a very good system of checks and balances, granted, but it does exist.

red pill junkie's picture
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Yes, review boards and medical licenses are supposed to *prevent* doctors from harming again--we're in agreement on that, not sure how it read otherwise.

The fault lies in me ;)

So as much as most astrologers don't like those botox oracles running their TV ads, we unfortunately haven't figured out a way to curtail that kind of activity; but then, the medical profession hasn't figured out a way to prevent unscrupulous individuals from making countless millions hawking bogus penis enlargement pills on TV all hours of the night either, so the accountability problem is a rampant one even within the health field--among others. One more thing: I wouldn't say there is no accountability in our field at all, though, since--as with psychologists--astrologers (occasionally even TV ones) are as prone to lawsuits as anyone else. Not a very good system of checks and balances, granted, but it does exist.

Taking the example of ufology as an illustrative point, I don't happen to agree with Stanton Friedman on a variety of issues; however that doesn't impede me from recognizing the tremendous task he has undertaken in trying to bring the subject of UFOlogy to the masses in an educated manner. That translates in countless conferences and TV appearances where he's had to lock horns with the usual debunkers and their flimsy objections, as well as the woo woo con-men.

So that's my advise to the astrological community: get yourselves a Stanton Friedman who helps inform the public that botoxified drag queens are NOT the extent of astrology as an esoteric discipline ;)

PS: The drag queen an his ilk are quite cunning to prevent lawsuits. They'll use the same tactics as the pharma companies that specify wonder diet pills as a "nutritional compliment whose use is the responsibility of the person taking it and the one recommending it."

It's not the depth of the rabbit hole that bugs me...
It's all the rabbit SH*T you stumble over on your way down!!!

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I think that's quite right--having a respectable spokesperson can make a big difference. There are already a few viable contenders to the throne, actually: my colleague Richard Tarnas, who sold a quarter of a million copies of his first book "Passion of the Western Mind", a respected text on the history of Western philosophy used in many colleges, but who devoted 30 years to writing his second book on the astrological world view called "Cosmos and Psyche." He's become a prominent figure in the community, been on TV a few times and lectured to such groups as the Dutch parliament, of all things. And there are other brilliant exemplars, including Rob Hand and Nicholas Campion, both respected academicians in their own specialties, and who speak eloquently on the topic. Yet none of these have quite broken through into the media big-time, alas--which isn't to say it couldn't still happen....

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Here is an interview I did with Richard Tarnas a few years back:

http://www.raygrasse.com/pages/cos.html

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I know nothing of astrology though I once was treated to an expensive "chart" of myself by someone from whom I bought an expensive crystal. The reading was uncanny in its detail and accuracy. I must say I was impressed. So was my wife.
The video below is one of the most intriguing I have ever seen on the subject. It has a trick ending too which turns out to be a double blind that no one was expecting:

See video

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it's nice to see shermer handed his hat, so to speak.

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Wow, what a thread, lol!

You know, there are times when I have wondered whether it was the stars that created the individual's (astrological) personality... or the human persona that made the stars more than simple lights in the night sky.

I mean, the average dog out in the back yard sees the same moon, same sun and same stars that we do but it's hard to detect that they have even a passing interest. This (to me anyway) speaks not so much to the differences between man and beast as to the human consciousness realizing self.

From there, it suggests that most of what we perceive of the universe around us, is entirely unique to our species... like the Model T was to Henry Ford... if you catch my drift.

It also would mean that perhaps most of our science is equally... and unfortunately, nothing more than that.

What we perceive to be reality is really nothing more than our minds/personalities working with what they have on hand to make sense of existence.

Without 'I think, therefore I am' the stars would be nothing more than points of light that have absolutely no meaning.

"The power of accurate observation is frequently called cynicism by those who don't have it."

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The statistical research of Michel Gauquelin--partial though it may be--suggests the "meaning" of the stars is not simply subjective and projected onto the stars, Rorshach blot-style, but actually quite objective. And that's nothing short of momentous. As John Anthony West said in "The Case for Astrology" (and I'm paraphrasing a bit), if the celestial bodies each have their own distinct meaning, then the entire materialistic edifice comes crashing down "like a house of cards." Think about it.

Here's the Wiki on Gauquelin: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michel_Gauq...

(Daily Grail readers may already be acquainted with the whole Michel Gauquelin/Dennis Rawlins "Starbaby" fiasco, but if not, do check it out; it's possibly the most sordid episode in a long history of sordid episodes involving CSICOP and their debunking crusades: http://www.psicounsel.com/starbaby.html )

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I know this point is old, but it bears repeating:

The materialistic edifice that you think might come crashing down is the same one that lets you write this on a global computer network, supported in part by cables under the oceans and satellites in different types of earth orbit, low and high.

This is supported by materials science that allows detection of very low power electromagnetic signals, and all kinds of other interesting details.

So no, all this stuff will not collapse because people think the stars have meaning, or people don't think the stars have meaning.

The description of the physical world that science gives us for the local neighbourhood, let's say to a bit past the edge of the solar system to where the Voyagers and Pioneers are, is actually pretty decent and repeatable.

This is not a matter of your point of view or mine. The scientific interpretations and formal descriptions can be improved no doubt. And also without a doubt, the philosophical interpretations of the meaning of the universe are just guesses.

But saying that the whole thing could be revealed as being nonsense is silly.

----
We are the cat.

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First of all, John Anthony West, as some of you know, likes to state things in bold terms and rich metaphors sometimes to make it all more interesting. And more often than not, that works. But I think you may be misreading the comment somewhat: he didn't say the whole scientific/technological edifice will come crashing down (which it certainly won't, obviously); and I don't even think he was saying everything associated with the *materialistic* edifice will, either.

My sense has always been that he was referring to the underlying assumption driving materialism--namely, that reductionistic "nothing but" mindset which argues there is nothing beyond pure matter/energy--no meaning, no deeper dimensions of consciousness of any sort. So if it can be shown that different planets have their own unique symbolic--dare I say "archetypal"?--significance, such that great athletes are somehow associated with Mars or notable politicians with Jupiter, then yes, that fundamental presupposition is shattered in a big way.

(By the way, I should add that I'm well aware of how the CSICOP people and their friends have spent the last 30 years trying to explain away or disprove the Gauquelin research, after that hugely embarrassing Starbaby episode. Aside from the fact that their credibility on this matter is next to zero in my book, I have to say that, for me, astrology doesn't stand or fall on any particular scientific study so as much as it does on 35 years of empirical--I repeat, empirical--research. By that same token, unless someone is willing to get their hands dirty and actually experiment with this discipline, even for a short while, they'll always remain an armchair theorist in my book, not a serious investigator. That doesn't mean they can't come up with important insights or critiques into this subject, but those comments won't carry the same weight as if they had been backed up by some honest homework.)

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not sure who is "winning"...this is just the most recent instance where birth date seems to correlate with a personality trait...i especially like that the researcher makes a point to distance himself from astrology...

http://www.iol.co.za/lifestyle/family/bi...