Astrology: Answers to Common Objections

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Astrology: Answers to Common Objections

Post by Mersenne » Sat Feb 18, 2012 7:42 pm

I have occasionally come across the following objections to astrology, and would like to submit my own replies to the criticism of the forum.

1. How does astrology work?

In "Synchronicity; an Acausal Connecting Principle" C.G. Jung postulated two connections between phenomena. These were the causal, operating with the flow of time, and the acausal, operating instantaneously across space. In "Cosmic Loom- the New Science of Astrology" D. Elwell noted that acausal connections were more frequent than Jung supposed, but that they operated according to a “code” recognisable only to those familiar with the astrological correspondences.

Where any phenomena are spatially remote, so that causal influences are greatly reduced in frequency and intensity, we may expect the acausal influences between them to dominate. This, I think, is the rationale of astrology; the remote planets are predictable phenomena of negligible (or, in the case of the Sun and Moon, easily distinguishable) causal influence, the acausal associations of which have been identified by observation and experiment.

An astrological chart, calculated for a particular time and place, contains information as to the synchronistic influences acting on that time and place. It therefore holds information as to all non-causal, non-energetic phenomena that can be associated with that time and place, and which originate at that time and place. For most times, and most places, this will be very little, since causal phenomena predominate. In the case of the birth of a human being, however, the acausal phenomena become overwhelmingly significant. A person’s life-history is primarily dependent on personality, choice, and luck. These comprise the three-headed monster whose actions cannot be predicted from the causal, energetic perspective precisely because they are acausal.

2. Why can the sex of the native not be found from the birth chart?

Astrological interpretations are based on the moment of birth, whereas sex is decided at conception and so predates the casting of the Chart. Circumstances such as the difficulty of the birth, the time of labour, mishaps and setbacks will indeed be indicated, but not the sex.

3. What about "Cicero's objection"?

Cicero’s objection to Astrology was that all the men who died at the battle of Cannae should have had the same Horoscope, since they died the same death. But this objection contains an unwarranted assumption; in fact, everyone who died at Cannae died a different death. For one old soldier, his death at Cannae was an occupational hazard; for a young groom, fresh from his nuptials, an untimely tragedy; for a Tuscan turncoat, an act of revenge; for a leper, a welcome end to suffering; and so on. Individual death is a very complex issue.

For the same reason, the time of death of the native can probably not be told from the birth chart. In any chart, the significator of death might be the Sun for promotion to glory, the Moon for a return to ancestral land, Mars for a violent death, Jupiter for a blessed release, Saturn for a “great career move”, Uranus for a sudden transition, Neptune for a drifting-away, Pluto for a transformation, Eris as the fulfilment of a debt, or Sedna as a mistake. Perhaps even Venus as a work of art, as with Nero.

4. Why can't astrology help me win money?

Astrology is an unreliable guide to gambling success. On the whole, the universe doesn’t care whether Bugle Blower or Fun Boy Three wins at Newmarket.

However, a subtler element may also be at play here. Most attempts to predict the future require the interpretation of a random outcome; the pattern of tealeaves in a cup, the draw of cards from a deck, the fall of the I Ching's coins, the patterns in bird-flight etc. Indeed all modern games of chance derive from such attempts to divine the future- the probable true reason for the Church's long-standing objection to games of chance. Therefore, a game of chance has a symbolic significance of its own far greater than the matter of pecuniary gain. In casting the chart of a race meeting or a rubber of bridge, we are in fact turning one method of divination onto another. I suggest the result to be a kind of synchronistic interference which largely negates the attempt.

5. How did Astrology manage when Astrologers only knew about seven planets?

Well, how did physics manage when physicists only knew about three fundamental particles? Astrology, like physics, is an invention about about the universe, and any invention is subject to refinement as new phenomena are observed.

I appreciate that these are not the only possible responses. Would the forum like to add any more? Or has the forum come across any other objections I might be able to address?
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Mersenne’s Astrological Statistics & Datasets
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Three more objections

Post by Mersenne » Tue Apr 03, 2012 1:14 am

Admin, under the "Astrology proven or disproven by statistics?" thread raises some objections originally given by Carl sagan in episode 3 of his landmark series "Cosmos". I'm taking the liberty of reprodcing my reply here, since it brings the number of objections answered to 8, and indeed I'll number them 6, 7, 8 as "the Sagan Objections".

6. Astrologers diasagree, based on the evidence that two randomly-chosen newspaper horoscopes give different advice.

This is Sun-Sign astrology, using only twelve possible influences (Sun in sign) out of the 20736 (12 planets*12 signs*12 houses*12 aspects) that the real astrolger might investigate. It therefore fails as an objection to astrology per se.

Even if we extend the argument to what we consider astrology, of course two astrologers will continue to disagree. The nativity is a large and complex set of data. Do medical doctors never disagree on a diagnosis when presented by the same evidence? Or are all physicists unanimous in their conclusions when confronted by the same set of data (I have the recent controversies from CERN in mind)?

7. Twins, born under exactly the same stars, can lead very different lives.

Well, no two twins are born under exactly the same stars. On average, a differnce of 4 minutes will mean a change in the degree of the rising sign, making or breaking any number of aspects, and particularly important in the harmonic charts.

But even if (perhaps by Cesarean section) two children shared the same birth moment, it's quite concievable that both twins would manifest different parts of the same chart. I suspect (but cannot prove) that such charts contain many unaspected planets, or disassociated series of aspects.

We can certainly find evidence of the opposite effect. For instance, in "Beyond Coincidence" M. Plimmer and B. King quote (among others) the case of Barbara and Daphne, reunited after 40 years apart to find that:
both met their husbands at a Xmas dance and were married in blue with white lace;
both their first pregnancies miscarried in the same year and month;
both went on to have two boys and a girl (their second sons were born in the same month of the same year);
both mispell the same words in the same way;
they have the same illnesses and buy the same books at the same times, despite living 90 miles apart (Luton and Dover)...
...and these are just some of the concidence least likely to have a strict genetic connection.

8. The light from the stars cannot reach a baby born indoors, and the gravity of a planet is insignificant compared to that of the other people present at the birth.

Well, what of it? No astrologer contends that light or gravity is the mechanism of the sky's influence, or even that the concept of a mechanism or causal connection is appropriate. It's easy to knock down a target you've set up yourself.

Would anyone out there care to raise the total to ten?
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Mersenne’s Astrological Statistics & Datasets
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Mersenne’s Transneptunians

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Re: Astrology: Answers to Common Objections

Post by Mersenne » Fri Apr 06, 2012 6:53 am

Hello Rajshekhar,

And thank you for your interest. You are quite right- different strokes for different folks, as they say.

Personally I am driven to rationalise, to explain and to establish authority. I recognise this isn't the way for everyone, but fortunately it is the way of the "scientific" community, so I can indulge my own passions by answering rational objections in their own terms. While there are scientific objections, I shall be happy to fight fire with fire; it is an intellectual game.
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Mersenne’s Transneptunians

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Re: Astrology: Answers to Common Objections

Post by admin » Mon Apr 16, 2012 5:40 pm

Mersenne,
May I ask what your thoughts are on ‘determinism/fate’ and ‘free will’ with regard to Astrology?

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Re: Astrology: Answers to Common Objections

Post by Mersenne » Mon Apr 16, 2012 10:27 pm

Hi Admin,

That's a big question, and raises more than one objection, as I'm sure you recognise. I'll do my best to address it, but I won't add it to the list of objections.

First, let's recognise that science hasn't been deterministic (against free will) since quantum theory was first codified in the 1920's. The idea that atoms are just tiny billiard balls reacting to measurable external forces is wrong. Atoms are less important than "wave functions" representing the probability of measuring a particular momentum or position at a particular time. The exact values of these positions and momenta are never found exactly from preceding data. Instead, these contribute to the wave function, which describes a range of possibilities; on observation, the wave function "collapses" to a particular set of values.

Put more informally, time is always a little creative in the answers it gives to our most sensitive instruments; there's genuine unpredictability, indeterminacy, in the physical universe. This is not to say that free will exists; unpredictability isn't the same as free will. But it must make free will possible; it gives free will the "elbow room" it needs to work in. Science, therefore, is no longer strictly deterministic, and does allow for free will.

So, does anything in astrology contradict the above? No, astrology supports the scientific viewpoint; it allows for free will, but doesn't entail it. In giving the acausal influences on a character and in a life's events, the stars give strong indications as to what that character and life will be like. But so will many other things, about which the horoscope gives no indication, notably sex. Sex will have a strong bearing on what happens in a person's life- at one time, being born a woman brutally constrained what life one could have. But even in the patriarchal past, a woman could refuse to conform, and, by an exercise of will, achieve as much as any contemporary man.

Similarly with the horoscope. Someone with a Capricorn Moon quintile Neptune in Gemini will have both the inclination and the ability to fool masses of people with convincing rhetoric. Does this mean that Adolf Hitler wasn't responsible for what he did? Of course not; he could always have chosen to not be "that guy". It seems grotesque, but these same energies could have been channeled into a constructive outlet; an architect specialising in follies, or an artist famous for trompe l'oeil.

The horoscope, then, is analogous to the wave function; it represents all the tendencies and possibilities inherent in the character or the moment. But the actual decisions and events that crystallize out from it are either random (given natural phenomena) or the products of free will (in the case of a native). In the words of Herbert Waite; "With the very same winds, two sailing ships can be steered from the same port to very different destinations" (quote from Waite's Compedium of Natal Astrology).

This, at least, is how I see it. Does anyone else in the forum have contradictory/supporting views?
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Mersenne’s Astrological Statistics & Datasets
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Is Astrology still accurate after change in stars?

Post by Gemini23 » Wed May 09, 2012 7:08 am

Watch this video, at least the first minute. The stars have drastically changed, so how can we be sure that the same astrology etc or even the same sign applies to us?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-1nsEtjqPg8

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Re: Astrology: Answers to Common Objections

Post by admin » Thu May 10, 2012 4:31 pm

This is certainly a valid question and crops up incessantly and inevitably, as the system most western astrology is based on, no longer matches the ‘actual’ constellations. This is due to what is called the ‘precession of the Equinoxes’. In other words, the Earth wobbles on its axis (something like a spinning top)about 23.5 degrees, so that the North Pole shifts about 1 deg. every 72 years (or, rotates backwards through a full sign every 2,150 years; or through the whole zodiac cycle in approx. 25,800 years).

Indian/Vedic astrologers use the real/astronomical zodiacal positions of ‘what’s up there, now’ (the ‘Sidereal Zodiac’). ‘Western’ astrology, has remained static in the Ptolemeic view, and still uses the 1st degree of Aries at the Vernal Equinox (21st March) as it was at that time (the ‘Tropical Zodiac’). All of which means that someone born on the 21st March with the Sun in Aries, is getting close to actually being born with the Sun in Aquarius. (Hence all of the hype about ‘The Age of Aquarius’).

So, why do ‘we’ still use this system when it is obviously no longer ‘real’?

Our ‘Tropical Zodiac’ system is primarily based on the relevance of the Signs with the Seasons, and looks at individuals from a more abstract, symbolic and psychological viewpoint. Somehow, it...works, and I really don’t know how or why, but after 37 years of study and thousands and thousands of charts...I don’t question it anymore. I did once, and studied Vedic Astrology systems for a while, but I was already years into the ‘Tropical Zodiac’ system, and found it too difficult to work with the ‘Sidereal System’, and not least of all with Vedic Astrology, which is clearly amazingly accurate, and which I leave up to Rajshekhar on this forum.

By all means, do attempt to learn the Vedic system if you prefer to choose the real/astronomical way. Be prepared for a lot of work, which you may find is well worth the effort.

Up to you.

(Re: Carl Sagan - despite his intense dislike of Astrology, he is still one of my favourite cosmologists, and I still endlessly watch his 1980's series 'Cosmos'. Doesn't matter at all that he 'disagrees' as it doesn't diminish in any way, his brilliance, nor what I've learned for myself).

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Re: Astrology: Answers to Common Objections

Post by Mersenne » Fri May 11, 2012 1:33 am

Hi Gemini23,

Thanks for the interesting post.

The twelve signs of the zodiac are 30-degree divisions from that point in the sky where the ecliptic (the path of the sun) crosses the equator. When astrology was first formulated, Aries happened to be the constellation (group of actual stars) that lay at this point, so that first 30 degrees became called the sign (area of astrological significance) Aries. Same with the other eleven signs, moving around the zodiac.

This point is the "Spring Equinox" (at least, in the Northern hemisphere), and Spring begins when the Sun crosses it, and the days are as long as the nights. When the Sun is at 90 degreees to the equinox, we get Summer; 180 degrees, Autumn, and 270 degrees, Winter.

Viewed from Earth, it so happens that this point slips back against the stars over time, so the twelve signs appear to be slipping backwards over the twelve constellations. But this doesn't matter- it's the point itself and the 30-degree divisions that matter. Remember that the constellations themselves are very arbitrary groupings of stars, and different cultures draw very different pictures against them. The twelve divisions will ALWAYS coincide with the four solar seasons- so the astrologer's zodiac is also the farmer's calendar, and the life-cycle of the flora and fauna of the Earth. In other words, it is the living, effective reality, not the jazzy star pictures.

To criticise astrology because it has two different versions of the zodiac is reidiculous- one is traditional (constellations), the other is effective (the signs). These people might as well criticise navigation because the North Star hasn't always been at the Pole.

Well, now... that isn't the whole story. The fact is that eastern astrologers get their results using the constellations. I suggest this is because
1. Whichever zodiac you use, angular separation, and so the aspects and harmonics, are comparable, and
2. Eastern astrologers use traditional set "yogas" or planetary configurations whose effects have been observed and recorded.

But I am no expert on the Eastern art, and would be happy to be corrected. It may simply be that the influences of the constellations are as profound as those of the signs, but require a different and equivalent formulation to apply them.
See on this Forum:
Mersenne’s Astrological Statistics & Datasets
Mersenne’s Microcosm
Mersenne’s Transneptunians

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Answers to Common Objections

Post by admin » Wed Jul 04, 2012 9:01 pm

Recently, I saw an episode of ‘The Big Bang Theory’ in which one of the characters stated that Bertram Forer disproved Astrology back in the forties. Is this true?
Bertram Forer (an American psychologist - 24 Oct. 1914 – 6 April 2000), forayed forth into the area of the validity of astrology. He gave a ‘Personality’ test to his students (1948), and from their answers ‘proved’ that astrology was based on ‘generalisations’ that could apply to anyone. – http://apsychoserver.psych.arizona.edu/ ... n_1949.pdf

Would appreciate comments on this matter.
"There are more things...likely to frighten us than there are to crush us; we suffer more often in imagination than in reality." Seneca

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Re: Astrology: Answers to Common Objections

Post by Mersenne » Thu Jul 05, 2012 9:01 pm

Hi Admin,

With all due respects to the inestimable Sheldon Cooper, Bertram Forer didn't achieve half of what he's credited with in that episode.

Forer showed that if a test subject is given a statement that applies to almost everyone, and told that it applies uniquely to the test subject, the subject would rate it as an accurate description of himself. Also, they may tend to overlook or identify with inaccuracies.

This is of course very interesting, but (in my view) rather trivial. A general statement, one which applies to everyone's psychology, is still an accurate statement. So it's possible that the test subject rates the statement as accurate not because of gullibility, but because it does indeed apply to him- even if it applies to everyone else. Forer's "gullibility" applies only to the trust the subject shows that the statement is unique to himself- which in the case of Forer's experiment, is trust in science.

It's "The Emperor's New Clothes" in reverse. Suppose a scientist told you that you're the only person in the world who can see a space-age suit of clothes. If you trust the scientist who says this, and you can indeed see the clothes, you're not misled by your senses or your intelligence, you're misled by the scientist.

Further, the implications of his results, taken at face value, are damaging to clinical psychiatry (and possibly to psychology). Any psychological evaluation is going to apply not only to the person in question, but to many other people. And what about medicine? Any life history is certain to have a lot in common with every other contemporary life history (from a simliar cultural background).

Forer successfully demonstrated only that people have a lot in common, and then stated that the unscrupulous can exploit this. He certainly indicated that Sun-sign ("news-stand") astrology is one such possible means of exploitation, but we all know that. Once again, science attacked what it percieved to be astrology, but not astrology itself. Moreover, Forer was concerned with all types of "pseudo-diagnisticians", citing "crystal gazers" explicitley. Pop-culture psychology would likewise be invalidated. But none of Forer's conclusions apply to clinical psychology, nor to the full discipline of astrology.
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Mersenne’s Astrological Statistics & Datasets
Mersenne’s Microcosm
Mersenne’s Transneptunians

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