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reader comments: astrology

31 Dec 2014
Dear Skeptic,
You should learn some science before you make any claims. What you say is nonsense and is typical of those who are ill educated [sic]. Take a look at my website, which is one of the worlds [sic] major sources of astrological research. And yes you can use my name.

Brian T. Johnston

thecanadianinstituteforappliedastronomy.yolasite.com/

Ps. If you don't know what you are talking about you should remain quiet.

reply: Dear Brian,
Thank you for your kindness in sharing your wisdom with me. I look forward to ignoring your nonsense until you and your craft are sucked into a black hole never to be heard from again. If ignorance is bliss, you must be one giddy fellow.

Sincerely,
Bob Carroll

Brian replies: Dear Bob, lt was nice to hear from you. It is very sad that you want to live in an unreal universe based upon ideas put forth in the 17th century where the Pope banned astrological research and most universities followed suit due to the threat from the inquisition. Find me the peer reviewed articles that specifically show that astrology does not work with strict controls. Have a wonderful and prosperous New Year.

Sincerely, Brian T. Johnston BSc.

Bob Carroll replies: If you'd rather live by the notions of those ignorant of even the most fundamental things about the natural world put forth a couple of thousand years before the inquisition than by what we now know thanks to science, be my guest. The astrological world is not 'real' and what astrologers were doing in the 17th century is precisely what you are doing in the 21st. You think you are doing scientific research, but what you and your fellow astrologers are doing is confirming your biases. If you had spent as much time studying subjective validation as you have spent finding correlations between astronomical facts/events and terrestrial facts/events, you would have a better understanding of why astrology "works."

The basis for what we might call the 'soothsayer's delusion' is the natural inclination of human beings to find meaning where there is none and see significant patterns in insignificant noise. Psychologists who have studied this phenomenon attribute it to the inherent uncertainty in human existence and the consequent fear and anxiety uncertainty produces. Evolutionary psychologists account for the soothsayer's delusion in terms of the survival value of being overly cautious and excessively driven to find patterns and meaning. Modern science has developed methods of research and investigation that mitigate the power of this delusion. A proper education in science includes an understanding of the many ways we deceive ourselves while trying to understand the workings of nature, including the workings of our own minds. Soothsayers and those under the sway of the soothsayer's delusion mistakenly think that the elaborate systems of some astrologers, card readers, psychics, palm readers, etc. that provide satisfying readings for so many people is clear proof that the systems are 'real' and that their craft is grounded in scientific evidence. What drives your success is ignorance of basic human nature. James Michener, who learned an elaborate form of fortune telling while a young man in Egypt from someone he called "the Princess," summarized the basis for this delusion quite succinctly. "People desperately want to have their lives put into order," the Princess [a fortuneteller] told him one day. "People long for structured situations." The 'structurization' doesn’t have "to be reasonable or even sensible; it merely requires it be firm." (Michener discovered these truths for himself when he later practiced the craft as "Mitch the Witch." He describes the experience in chapter XII of his memoir The World is My Home.)

You soothsayers bring order to a disordered world. You provide guidance and structure and meaning to lives desperately in need of such. It doesn't matter that what you tell people is based on some elaborate system that has no basis in reality or whether it is made up on the fly. As long as your subjects can find meaning and order in what you tell them, they will be satisfied. And when your statements to them can't be deciphered? They ignore them and forget them. You are successful and your craft "works" not because there is anything real about it that can be traced back to scientific knowledge about correlations between astronomical facts/events and peoples' lives, but because your subjects validate your utterances.

Michener gave up fortune telling when he realized that a chance remark he'd make could have a profound effect on people. He was dismayed that people could be changed when an off-the-cuff bit of nonsense that he made up would be taken as guidance. Telling a woman to avoid a certain color would give her something she could do something about, even though it was meaningless. The fact that he could do much good with chance remarks made up on the spot "made me a sober man as far as fortune telling was concerned." It wasn't worth it to see people deluding themselves about their lives. Seeing the power he had over people "finally compelled me to stop giving readings." He said that people "deserve better guidance than I can give them." So, he quit and "the comedy ended."

Would that you and all the other soothsayers of the world would do the same.

[note: The Michener material is from an unpublished manuscript housed in the University of Northern Colorado Archives in the Michener Library and is used with permission. I am working on a review of this fascinating glimpse into the world of fortune telling. Michener wrote more than 40 books, all of them published except for the work on fortune telling and one on Russia.]

Brian replies: Hi Bob, Happy New Year. What you saying does not make sense. I am not sure how you relate astrology to soothsaying, whatever that is. Can you please provide a definition? At any rate I am not really an astrologer I am a researcher. I make my living at the present time in Mobile communications technology- cellular systems, cell phones and the like. I began my research into the true nature of "astrological" influences about 40 years ago. I have applied statistics to everything I have been able to in this regard. My most comprehensive research has been into the relationship between earthquakes and planetary aspects. I have studied many thousands of earthquakes and have found a very stable relationship between the positions of the planets and these events. I first studied astronomy and had actually made thousands of astronomical observations before any astrological research began. I was as ignorant of the facts as you are now, then. I found no evidence in my research that there had ever been any real studies to disprove astrology. There have been some pop psychologists using very dubious experimental designs to say it didn't work, but these are entirely spurious.

Much of my latest research has been in the area of solar physics. I made a prediction weeks in advance that there was going to be a large solar storm on the 7/8th of December due to the conjunction of Mercury and the Sun from the perspective of the earth. As an example of my research you can view the attached video of the predicted solar storm. Maybe then we can begin to move away from the idea that we are still talking about presumptions about the nature of the universe that began in the 16th century. It is 2015 you know. If you really want to know the truth, as I am well versed in quantum mechanics and cosmology, that it is within the realm of quantum wave equations that astrology can work. If you really want to test your suppositions I suggest a few courses in quantum mechanics and advanced physics first.

The video is of the storm on the 8th of December, although there was one on the 7th as well, the storm on the 8th was larger.

What does a Sooth say anyways? Have a wonderful and prosperous New Year.

Sincerely, Brian T. Johnston, BSc.

reply: Given your claims, perhaps we should consult some lawyers about suing you for not warning us the next time an earthquake hits like the one in Japan in 2012 and the one in Indonesia in 2009. Anyway, I'm sorry you took the low road in your initial contact with me. Your last email indicates it isn't the only road you know, but once you nailed quantum wave equations to the door this conversation was doomed. If you're really interested, you can find out more about the soothsayer's delusion by clicking here.

__________

19 May 2008
Hello,

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:

http://vlivina.blogspot.com/

Is it objective or just my imagination?

Best regards.

Valerie

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:

http://vlivina.blogspot.com/2008/03/us-primaries-prediction.html

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

Or rather read the entire blog:

http://vlivina.blogspot.com/

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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