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reader comments: astrology

19 May 2008

As you are criticizing our noble art, I suspect you have never seen how predictive astrology works. When prediction is given in advance and later confirmed - this is the best treatment against scepticism.

Look, in the recent post I found by analogy two people born on the same day:


Is it objective or just my imagination?

Best regards.


reply: The analogy Valerie refers to is the music of Leoš Janáček played by the Pavel Haas Quartet from Czechia (the Czech Republic) and the writings of Franz Kafka (born in Prague, now in the Czech Republic). She found that both artists were born on July 3rd. "Moreover," writes Valerie, "both have Venus and Saturn in Gemini and spoilt Jupiter (Janáček’s is detrimented [?] and retro, and Kafka’s is combust [?])." She even has a graphic depicting this pseudoscientific jargon, for those who are interested.

First, I don't see anything noble about astrology. It's an ancient superstition that seems plausible to many people who don't understand such things as confirmation bias, shoehorning, subjective validation, the law of truly large numbers, communal reinforcement, the Forer effect, and a host of other cognitive illusions. That doesn't make them bad people, but it does indicate a certain ignorance regarding the psychology of belief.

Second, I don't see how predictions that "come true" effectively rebut the skeptic, who will note that even a broken clock is right twice a day. If you make enough predictions you are bound to get some right. Certain kinds of predictions have a very high probability of coming true. E.g., there will be an earthquake in California this year or there will be an airplane crash in April and the tail will have the color red on it. If you make your predictions vague or ambiguous enough, so that an unlimited number of events might count as a hit, you are also safe. A skeptic would say that even if we read the headline "Psychic Wins Lottery" we won't be convinced psychic power had anything to do with it unless she can repeat the event.

Third, the fact that the music of a Czech composer played by a Czech quartet reminded you of a Czech writer is not surprising or interesting. The fact that the composer and the writer share a birthday is surprising, perhaps, but it is not unusual. Did you know that if you randomly selected just 23 people that there would be a 50% chance that two of them would share the same birthdate? When you celebrate your birthday, some 16 million other people will celebrate too. So, yes, I would say that it is a coincidence that Janacek and Kafka were both born on July 3. As for the sharing of Venus and Saturn in Gemini and the "spoilt Jupiter" (whatever that is), I imagine there are millions of people who also share these wondrous events, but I don't see the significance of it.

Fourth, the scientific evidence demonstrates that there is no connection between the planets and stars and human personalities or characteristics. For an overview of the overwhelming scientific evidence against astrology see "Is Astrology Relevant to Consciousness and Psi?" by Geoffrey Dean and Ivan W. Kelly, published in the  Journal of Consciousness Studies, 10, No. 6–7, 2003, pp. 175–198.

Finally, I am happy that you enjoy good music and good literature, which proves that astrology hasn't totally corrupted your sensibilities.


Valerie replies:

This is funny. Your arguments just demonstrate that you are not familiar with what you are talking about. This is quite typical for an ignoramus, unfortunately.

If astrology was "superstition", it would be devoid of predictive power. Yet, it is able to predict, just as any other kind of objective knowledge.

Read this about US March primaries:


reply: I read your blog. It is obvious you did not read my article on confirmation bias, however.

Or rather read the entire blog:


reply: Nice photos. I especially like the one of the Kirschstrudel.

For your information, "detrimented" planet means planet devoid of dignity, for instance, Jupiter in Capricorn or Virgo. Yet another affliction is combustion: when a planet is shadowed by the Sun, being in conjunction in the sky; you cannot see it and it does not cast its "beams" upon you. It is interesting that afflicted (detrimented) Jupiter is the most frequent feature in the charts of atheists - is it just coincidence that it is a general significator [?] of religion?

You are opposing knowledge which is too ancient to care about your opinion :)

Best, V.

reply: As any ignoramus knows, astrology is devoid of predictive power. You would understand this if you had bothered to follow the links I provided. Well, maybe not.

It takes a special gift to understand how planets possess or lack dignity, or cast "beams" on us. If you can prove these claims and that a detrimented Jupiter is the most frequent feature in the charts of atheists, you should qualify for the Templeton prize.


23 May 2008

Re: the astrological significance of Kafka and Janáček having the same birthday.

First, note that although Valerie comments on predictive astrology, she provides an example that is emphatically not predictive, in that it refers to her interpretation of art that was produced a century or so ago.

Second, although Janáček and Kafka both have July 3rd as their birthday, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica, Janáček was born in 1854, while Kafka was born in 1883. Also, they were born in different parts of the world (with therefore different views of the sky).

So, when Valerie asks "Is it objective or just my imagination?" the only possible response is, "Is *what* objective or your imagination? That two artists from roughly the same time and place are vaguely evocative of one another?" There is simply nothing to explain.

Norman Paterson

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