From time to time astrology pops up here at ILP.

Personally, I would love to be able to comprehend how those who believe in it are actually able to convince themselves that it can even be taken seriously at all.

To me it’s just a particularly irrational manifestation of the “psychology of objectivism”.

My own take on it “here and now” basically aligns itself with this:

Astrology Debunked
Richard Dawkins in Enemies of Reason

On the other hand, given my own philosophical assessment of these things, I cannot rule out the possibility that given new experiences, new relationships and access to new information and knowledge, I may well come to accept it myself.

I’ll let you know if I ever do.

In Defense of Astrology
by HILARY CARITO in the Lesley College Public Post

Bingo: the psychology of objectivism. And while many insist that astrology is among the least credible examples of this, it is still derived from one or another yearning to embody something or other in the way of a teleological font.

Some call this God, while others call it one or another of the many secular equivalents: philosophy, science, ideology, reason, nature. The point is that whether our fate lies “in the stars” or is more in sync with another more plausible, acceptable fundament, the impetus is still the same: to anchor “I” in that which allows one to feel connected to some overarching sense of a meaningful and purposeful life.

Ah, but it is precisely facile descriptions of astrology like this that some of its advocates insist distorts the “deeper” insights of those who delve into it far more seriously. And down through the centuries to a time when astrology and astronomy were deemed by some to be two sides of the same coin.


Okay, maybe. But all those like me can then do is to wait for those who do this research and experimentation to note the evidence that they have come up with that might persuade the skeptics.

So, for those here who might be in this camp, what evidence is there?

And, of course, in regard to my own interests here, how might this evidence be relevant to conflicting goods on this side of the grave and the fate of “I” beyond it.

The only member of this forum I know of who is definitely into astrology is Jakob who gets very irritated with anyone who dismisses it without investigation
While I understand his frustration it does not mean that astrology is a valid discipline simply because he has studied it extensively and uses it in his own life

What would make me less sceptical about it is actual evidence that astrology works and that would involve subjecting it to the rigours of the scientific method
But if that is not possible then I have no choice but to remain sceptical because the only other method available is personal testimony which is very subjective

I cannot accept as true something that cannot be determined objectively as I have no way of knowing if it is actually true or not for it could just as easily be false
Believing in something does not equate to it being true and even if it is that is mere coincidence so for me there has to be another means that is far more reliable

With him though I am not able to bring the discussions down to earth. Or, rather, so it seems from my own point of view. Whether in regard to astrology or value ontology.

I’m only really interested in investigating them as they relate to the behaviors he chooses in a particular context. Behaviors that come into conflict with those who believe different things. Or with those who reject astrology and VO.

That’s my thing here: morality on this side of the grave, mortality/immortality on the other side of it. … -afterlife

This is basically my own reaction as well.

Let’s face it though, existence itself is a really, really mysterious thing. Why does something exists and not nothing? Why does this something exists and not another? How is the meaning of existence itself able to be grasped ontologically? Is there a teleological component able to encompass one or another purpose “behind” existence?

And then all of the religious assumptions about God.

I think that the state of existence is eternal because absolute vacuums only exist at the quantum level for an infinitesimal period of time
Nature simply cannot tolerate an eternal state of nothing which is why there always has to be something - whatever that may actually be

We are merely points on the spectrum of existence and are no more or less important than anything else on the spectrum
Our first person subjective perspective makes us think we are important as it is the only way that we can observe reality
But from a truly objective Gods Eye perspective we are not observers of reality but a part of it just like everything else is

Existence is simply the natural state of the eternal now and whatever is occurring within it at that point in time
So it makes precisely zero difference whether or not that involves human beings or for that matter anything else

There was a French guy, Gauequelin, a statistician, I believe, who set out to disprov astrology, but decided that there was something to it and developed his own form of astrology. But there are two main ways it can be scientifically tested

as a practice.

You get a group of astrologers who are well respected by their peers and clients.

  1. The first process is to give them 100 sets of birth information, with the gender. Make all of them within one sun sign. That eliminates people’s own sense of themselves as, say, a Cancer or Virgo. Most people think the sun sign is the only thing, and this is also true of critics. So, the group of astrologers does page long ‘readings’ of each of the 100 horoscopes. These are then given in pairs to each of the hundred. IOw they get their reading PLUS one other reading for someone else. They then pick the reading that they feel fits them best. Their own or one that is for another Cancer or Virgo as far as sun sign. Statistics then come in and it would be easy to see if there is any significant getting of hits. A better, though harder to organize form of this test would be to have someone who knows the person read the two readings.
  2. Come at it the other way. The 100 people with the same sun signs answer a questionaire about their personality, how they relate romantically, what they do for a living and what they like and don’t like about it, etc. Perhaps twenty questions with short, 3-4 sentence answers. The astrologers, in this case, are presented birth information and the answers from two different people. They then decide, based on the generated charts, which of the two self-descriptions fits the horoscope. In this case the group could even opt to not decide on some charts where the self-descriptions are very similar. IOW they would choose just those charts where they had some confidence. Since there is nothing, within science, for them to base this confidence on, these creates no problems. If they managet to pick the correct person in statistically significant numbers, then there is something to it. If not, not. Of course a number of studies would strengthen the evidence.

Both methods eliminate completely all the cold read criticisms. There would be no way for the astrologers to figure out the right answers or to affect the ‘clients’ who are reading their readings.

both those methods would be effective tests. And regardless of any paradigmatic issues one may have with positive results, positive results would mean there is something to it. Negative results would all have significance and be meaningful in a way

that speculative deduction by people ignorant of astrology does not.

People who know little about astrology often make ‘arguments’ based on confusions and ignorance and think they can rule out astrology. That’s fine, of course. People do this in all sorts of fields.

But if you actually want evidence, either way, the two tests above would be a way to get this.

Notice, I said, ‘as a practice’. What we are focusing on is how the task works out when experts perform it.

Nah those ‘scientific’ methods of testing wouldn’t work either. It’s the ambiguous nature of the properties ascribed to the signs that would make the test moot. What, exactly, does ‘romantic’ mean… or ‘brave’, for example. These can’t be quantified or even narrowed down to descriptions of only a small number of behaviors (e.g., how many different ways is there to be romantic).

Now if you found that a great majority of Aries were less than 5’ 7" tall or the vast majority of Libras make the best sharp-shooters, you might be on to something. But even though these are unambiguous, quantifiable properties, you’d still not be able to rule out correlation between signs and properties/behaviors. It might just be incidental that all the Aries are less than 5’ 7" tall, and have nothing to do with the fact that they’re Aries.

So the short answer is: astrology is baloney. Or, if there IS something to it, no astrologer would be able to know it, to confirm that it was real.

I’m not a believer, but I can offer some defense of the practice (if not the theory) of astrology.

I forget where I read it(from here, see section 5), but my understanding is that astrology-like practices were very useful in early wars. Suppose an invading state had to choose one of two cities to attack, and a defending state had to choose one city to defend, and if the defender guessed right they would repel the attack, and if they guessed wrong their city would fall. If this scenario is repeated over the course of a campaign, the best strategy for the attacker is to pick the city at random, because any other strategy can be learned and countered. But since humans are bad at doing things randomly themselves, the best strategy ends up being to resort to divination as a kind of random number generator.

Similarly, astrology might be beneficial where it injects beneficial randomness into people’s lives. In addition to making them more daunting foes in prisoners dilemmas, it may force them to take slightly more risk or to explore slightly farther from what they would otherwise explore, and those divergences will pay off in many contexts.

Somewhat paradoxically, another benefit could be that it crystallizes intuitions that might not otherwise rise to the level of action. A vaguely worded horoscope that someone interprets as talking about the very thing they’ve been struggling to make up their mind about can push them to the conclusion that they would have made anyway sooner, which is almost always better (if it’s right, you get compounding returns; if it’s wrong, you fail faster and move on sooner).

Worth noting his studies have been challenged on multiple grounds. My immediate thought on reading this was that it could easily be a statistical artifact, and the wiki points out that I am not the first to think so. He was testing a number of astrological beliefs on the same dataset, that makes spurrious correlations more likely and increases the threshold for significance. This is something that is obvious in retrospect, but was not widely accounted for until recently (cf. replication crisis).

That doesn’t seem to matter in Karpel Tunnel’s experimental design. Even if we hypothesized that libras are more likely to select descriptions that contain the word ‘romantic’, if that’s a statistically significant result it would be noteworthy.

I do think there are other confounds, though. For example, in the US we have hard birth date cutoffs for school enrollment, so that kids born in August are effectively a year younger than some of their classmates born in July (and no similar gaps for kids born in March). That could affect personality later in life, and create a birth-month-based difference in adult personality without having anything to do with the alignment of planets or stars.

[EDITs: typos, typos, typos]

You are quite incorrect. If the astrologers can choose people’s birthdates from two options, or if ‘clients’ pick one description of themselves over the other this would mean that specific information is being gleaned through the charts.

. You don’t know much about astrology, which is common and fine. But this is just ridiculous.

Actually all you demonstrated was that your criteria are not useful and that you didn’t understand my descriptions of the testing protocols. Perhaps I did not explain clearly.

But here’s the issue in a nutshell. If the astrologers can look at two different birth info sets and decide which one fits people’s self-descriptions significantly above chance, then astrology works to some degree and where and when one is born given the positions of the planets, the Sun and moon and horizon, does indicate qualities of the person. If not, not.

The testing protocols I outlines remove any issues around the vagueness of words. If astrologers, in the first can determine which birth info fits the correct self-description (rather than the other self-description they receive) then information is conveyed by that birth info and somehow, by means unknown, by th positions of various heavenly bodies.

I should have added that everyone should come from the same city. That eliminates any possible cultural clues.

If you still don’t get it, imagine yourself in the astrologers shoes. You get two self-descriptions in answers to a questionaire. You have the birth info. Do you have anyway of increasing the likelihood of choosing the right self-description over chance. No, you do not. You have a fifty percent chance. If expert astrologers could pick the right one significantly over change with regularlity, then information is being conveyed based on something no scientist currently acknowledges.

It can be tested and those are both good tests.

No, it doesn’t matter at all. As I pointed out to him above, he would have way to increase his odds of choosing the right birth info related to the people’s self-descriptions. Over time everyone would end up around 50%. It’s a coin flip. Regardless of what people mean by romantic and whatever adjectives they use in their self-descriptions, if these selfdecriptions lead to astrologers choosing significantly over chance in repeated experiments, they are getting information, somehow, in ways that do not fit current scientific paradigms. If they don’t they don’t. But the test absolutely present a way to test the hypothesis.

And further I included in the protocols that all the test subjects would have the same sun sign.

AGain this can easily be avoided by choosing all participants with birth dates in the same sign and the same month, and even the same year. There are factors in a chart that change very rapidly - the rising sign, and allow for significant interpretive differences, even between people born the same day. This eliminates theses kind of seasonal/schedule effects.

And any possible effects like this can also be used by teams to compete with astrologers. If they think somehow they can find some other explanation for how information like that needed to distinguish (either by clients or by astrologers) between descriptions, they can use those tools to compete with astrologers. If they think that those towards the end of the Capricorn period have some different qualities related to schedules or other cultural factors, they can use this information and try to achieve similar or better results than the astrologers, should the astrologers be getting significantly better than chance. But I actually don’t think there would be any if you restrict down to one sun sign. It is only one placement amongst at least 11.

Interesting, I didn’t know this. I agree that this would address my concern.

This is a very different experimental design, and I don’t know if the results would show what we’re interested in. Even assuming the astrology is true, it’s very likely that a well-designed machine learning system could make better predictions based no people’s self-assessments, and might even be able to make 1-pagers that are more appealing to their intended targets. That wouldn’t tell us much about what we’re looking for, though.

Quite true, but I’ll make you a deal. If you can prove to me that the stock exchange was having trouble, and Daryl was more ambitious at work, and the Yankees won six games, and Marcy fell in love twice, and Carey became more spiritual, and three countries were on the brink of war, because Venus was over there points at solar system chart and Mars was over here points at solar system chart… I’ll admit to you that not wasting any more of my time studying astrology to learn more than what little I do, might have been a bad idea. Whadaya say? I’ll even let you teach me all about it… once you provide the proof I asked for.

But that’s not the topic of my post or your response to it. The topic was could it be tested scientifically, and it can be, and your objection to that test was incorrect.

I actually agree in a sense. Reading a chart is extremely complicated and in some of the ways that human minds still have potential advantages over AIs. This is in part because you have to prioritize tendencies as they would interact in a person. However, I think the better current AIs could do well enough and they will get better. The wonderful advantage is that it would be cheap and fast. No gathering of experts and meeting and arguments and voting. Data in, readings out and back to the test ‘client’s’ in minutes. Any seeming significant results would of course result in learning - why did I get those right and not the others?

“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars
But in ourselves if we are underlings.”

I’m skeptical of this. I admit I don’t know a ton about chart reading, but I do know some about the current state of AI. Even classical computers are very good at applying complex rules, so if the issue is balancing some set of interacting web of astrological laws, a computer should far outperform a human. And AI is better than humans at discovering complex rules; assuming there’s any truth to astrology, given a large dataset, AI should beat humans at finding whatever connections exist. That shouldn’t be surprising, given the sloppy, haphazard process over many generation with little or no formal testing, most of which were ignorant of the concept of scientific or statistical rigor, and which incorporated many ideas about the world we can now reliably say are wrong (and many conclusions of which have been shown to be wrong).

In related news, it appears that your study design has actually been done:

I haven’t read the whole study, but it appears to have been published in Nature, so should be taken as basically reliable. And it concludes that astrological results are no better than chance.

We might be able to find flaws in this study, but in the absence of a study of equal or better quality providing conflicting results, we should conclude that astrology is devoid of predictive power.

The rules involve integrating a lot of fairly abstract tendencies and applying them to human behavior. A person who tends to idealize male figures and likes to learn by via physical participation and who has a fairly short attention span might be the derived interpretations from the first even more abstract level. Then you need to integrate these into giving a description of how this person would be in public school, say. I think that kind of thing would be very hard for computers to do now.

Now computers could start doing enormous statistical analyses, and learn something over time. But I think a vastly better approach would be to do exactly as they first did with chess computers which is to use strong players to create heuristics so that the number crunching advantages can really play out. Even now combined human/computer teams beat the best computers. Someday computers will be able to crunch the whole damn thing of chess, but they aren’t there yet.

In related news, it appears that your study design has actually been done:

Actually what I read there is the the CPI test may be poor. Please read that abstract again.

We would not have concluded that they had predictive power if the single study had shown positive results, that is something we can be sure of. And while Nature, is, yes a very respectable journal, it is also much more likely to be biased towards things that fit their own paradigms, and to be less critical of papers that fit than those that don’t. To me that abstract screams not remotely conclusive of anything due to the problem of the CPI potentially being the problem.

Thank you for bringing that article to my attention. I have been surprised that such a testing protocol hadn’t been tried. I have also tried to interest both astrology organizations and scientists in precisely that protocol and no one has been interested. I do understand some of the motives on both sides, but sometimes it seems people would rather babble without much knowledge of the other side for decades and decades then to try to actually resolve things.

It seems silly that they did not retest using some other personality description than the CPI, one that people recognized better than chance. I mean, if you are interested in drawing a clear conclusion. Imagine a medical paper trying to find out about a treatment for a disease and using as a core part of the experiement a test for the disease that might not work at all. That would be laughable.

Should we expect two astrologers doing a reading on the same person to produce the same result?

In many fields, this probably isn’t true anymore. For example, AlphaZero doesn’t use human input at any point during its training, and is much, much stronger than any human. It is unlikely that pairing it with a human would improve its performance. Even where humans can sometimes bring intuition, more often they introduce unforced errors.

So, if we say that the CPI is flawed, and that’s what led to the null result in test 1, then we must say that astrology is also flawed, because the results were the same. The authors propose that self-recognition is to blame, and so they don’t hold this against astrology. But if you choose instead to hold it against CPI, you must also hold it against astrology. If we reject them both, then we can discount the second test, but then we don’t need the second test because we have our answer.

But the CPI has been used and tested a lot, its validity and reliability are well attested. There have been criticisms of it, but there are criticisms of all personality tests, and CPI is about as good as any we could use in your experimental design. Vindication for astrology would look like having the same validity and reliability as the CPI.

No, though there would be a lot of overlap if they know their stuff. Nor would two AIs produce the same result. And this, in part, is why I would want groups of astrologers, when testing them. To get that overlapping core. I could even see eliminating ‘clients’ when there isn’t consensus.

I don’t think you read me correctly. COMBINED computer and human teams beat computers working alone. At least according to a recent book I read. The humans provide strategy and focus for ‘crunching’ the computers do that tactical crunching. I believe this is also true for Go.

Ah, good point. But the second test is tainted if the CPI is not good. The astrologers were comparing its results with cpi descriptions. I’d be interested in how they chose the astrologers, were they in groups or alone, had they worked with written descrptions or just dialogue with clients, were they well respected by their peers and clients. I’d be interested in exactly what the ‘clients’ were told and what they were given to choose from/between. AGain, I am a bit proud that what I thought was a good protocol matches many facets of what both scientists and astrologers came up with. Both parts. However I don’t have enough to go on yet to know their whole process. It’s also one study.

Well, it did as well in terms of self-recognition :laughing:

All of this may well be true but:

1] how would one go about demonstrating it?
2] how might it be relevant to the lives that we live?
3] what does it have to do with astrology?