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Re: [evol-psych] Re: Asteroids and the Scientific Method

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  • Edgar Owen
    Fred, The astrologer Gauquelin conducted a number of very detailed statistical studies in an attempt to prove various aspects of astrology. In the end even
    Message 1 of 89 , Nov 30, 2012
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      The astrologer Gauquelin conducted a number of very detailed statistical studies in an attempt to "prove" various aspects of astrology. In the end even he concluded there was no correlation between anything in astrology and human behavior except what he called "the Mars effect". 

      However when professional statisticians reviewed his data it was found he had made statistical errors. Towards the end of his life he seems to have finally admitted he was wrong about that too and there was NO Mars effect.

      So ironically it was the meticulous work of a professional astrologer who, in an attempt to prove astrology, ended up disproving it!

      PS: Gauquelin is one of the celebrities Julienne claims is/was her "friend" apparently because she attended an astrology conference he was present at once.


      On Nov 30, 2012, at 9:44 AM, Fred Feinberg wrote:


      Thanks for the civil reply, Edgar (not always a given on this list).

      It's a bit odd to read it, though, when right in my note I'd put things fairly plainly: "As I've said before: Do I think the claims of Astrology have been proven? No. Am I sure there aren't some that may some day be proven? Also, no. Does this mean that these two ends of the spectrum are equally likely? Wait for it... no."

      I do NOT assign anything like equal probability to the claims of Astrology being supported and not. What I was trying to say is that I do not discount the possibility that some particular claim or other will find, at a future date, some degree of empirical support.

      Do I believe that tiny asteroids' actions correlate strongly with the events in my life? I do not. But I recognize that as a belief. I really know of no data that directly bears on the question.

      Which brings me to my main question to you. You have asserted on several occasions that the claims of Astrology have been thoroughly tested and found wanting. I did a recent search of the academic literature -- the only one I halfway trust, since at the very least there are penalties for outright deception -- and could find very little in that direction. I know that people like James Randi have offered Big Money for quite some time for proof of such paranormal claims. But what I'm looking for are extensive, double-blind, controlled studies of Astrology's main contentions. Do you know of anything that fits the bill?

      And, as a statistician (a Bayesian, to boot), I know not to interpret "null results" as proof that something doesn't exist. Astrology's claims are so loose that getting it to make a firm "make or break" prediction is difficult.

      What I've love to see believers of any stripe do/say is the following: "My belief system predicts the following things that no other system does. If these turn out not to take place, I will abandon my beliefs." But one never hears that, which tells you something. [Well, the Dalai Lama said that, pretty directly. But he's not your typical religious zealot.]


      Re: Asteroids and the Scientific Method
      Thu Nov 29, 2012 7:22 pm (PST) . Posted by: "Edgar Owen" Fred,

      As a statistician you of all people should understand that the PROBABILITY of proof of astrology is vanishingly low and that is what is relevant here.

      In your posts you misleadingly imply there is equal probability there will or won't be evidence for it someday which is totally off the wall.

      Scientific method rests heavily upon the probabilities of things and discounts the vanishingly small probability that the laws of nature will suddenly change one morning and astrology will suddenly become true.

      As a statistician you should know that well though you don't seem to be giving it any credence.. That's why I assumed you were pulling Julienne's leg. But the fact that you say you aren't is troubling....


      On Nov 29, 2012, at 6:05 PM, Fred Feinberg wrote:

      > My goodness, Edgar, you and Julienne really are bookends! As Yeats put it, "The best lack all conviction, but the worst are full of passionate intensity."
      > I know the idea that you and Julienne are similar will seem surprising, but one trait you do share is that your mind is completely made up on this issue, albeit with unshakably opposite conclusions. It's like listening to the hardcore atheist debate the fervent believer: amusing for a while, but ultimately tedious.
      > As I've said before: Do I think the claims of Astrology have been proven? No. Am I sure there aren't some that may some day be proven? Also, no. Does this mean that these two ends of the spectrum are equally likely? Wait for it... no.
      > For future reference, the "scientific method" (as if there were just one) isn't terribly difficult to follow. One needn't be as quick on the uptake as you to grok it.
      > FF

    • Andy Anderson
      Julienne, Can you help me understand how astrologers do experiments? What would an astrological experiement look like? How would another scientist repeat the
      Message 89 of 89 , Dec 10, 2012
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        Can you help me understand how astrologers do experiments?  What would an astrological experiement look like?  How would another scientist repeat the experiment?  Assuming science doesn't prove anything, it only falsifes hypotheses, what has been falsifies by astrologers?   
        As a x-genetist, I can understand how a scientists do organic chemistry, microbiological or genetic experiments.  There was a time when I could cross to corn inbreds that another scientist had crossed and repeat his experiment or tweak his hypothesis (outcome) by following a specific methodology.  May be you could discribe an astrolgoical experiemental methodology for me.


        To: evolutionary-psychology@yahoogroups.com
        From: julienne@...
        Date: Sat, 8 Dec 2012 20:53:16 -0500
        Subject: Re: [evol-psych] Re: Asteroids and the Scientific Method

        At 10:17 PM 12/7/2012, Fred Feinberg wrote:

        Hi Andy,

        I can't speak for anything like the majority of statisticians or users of statistical methodology. However, if I were to write one of those Freakonomics type books where I had to say what Science or Statistics really meant, it would boil down pretty much to this:

             Science helps us overcome known biases in human perception in helping determine what's true.

        The reason I emphasize this is that there are systems, like Astrology, divining, bloodletting, and thousands of others (not to mention whole religions!) that were believed in not only by some very bright people, but by very bright people who based their belief on what they took to be EVIDENCE. "Evidence" isn't enough. How it's collected is.

        It's like Richard Feynman said, in one of the most insightful and important remarks I've ever heard: that, if you are a real scientist, you put equal energy into supporting and refuting your theory, looking for evidence on both sides. Very few people do that. Most have a horse in the race.

        Edgar and Julienne have whole fleets of horses in the race. Each of them is completely committed to a final position, and endpoint in their debate. Neither is even trying to pretend to be equally arduous in collecting evidence in favor or against Astrology. Personally, I don't care about Astrology, and what I've seen of its predictive successes is, putting it mildly, inconclusive. Julienne does make a good point: if we decide in advance what is possible, we will not take a close look at things that may surprise us.

        I have come to the point now, Fred, where I think you are just in a coma. It  doesn't matter what I
        say, you can't take it in.

        I founded The International Society for Astrological Research for exactly the purpose of conducting
        sound and comprehensive research into astrology, because, in my twenties, I was frustrated with the
        level of astrology I saw being done, and the misinterpretations of it in the media - such as equating
        it with sun sign rubbish.

        I organized conferences all over the world, and travelled all over the world - over 80 countries,
        gathering together physicists, medical doctors, historians, mathematicians, psychiatrists,
        therapists of many kinds, biologists, geneticists, astronomers, and more, to bring their expertise'
        and their information and work to explore what was or was not to be found in astrology.

        You sit there smugly telling me what I believe in order to comfort yourself. I have always said,
        when asked, on, for instance, interviews on TV or radio, or for various publications, why I
        "believed" in astrology, that I don't believe in it - any more than I believe in biology. I've
        lived long enough, Fred, to see information taught us in school as gospel, be unmasked - not
        necessarily as fraud, but as incomplete, sometimes flatly wrong, sometimes needing fine tuning,
        sometimes exploding the current levels of information. Even this week - we knew (were told)
        there was no water on Mars - and now, guess what? - there seems to be water at the Martian poles.

        But you insist on lying and claiming that it is a religion to me, and that I do "believe"
        in it - and you appeal to the rest of the group here to join you in your belief. Seems to me,
        Fred, that the believer is you - trying to convince yourself in your pretend role of reasonable
        mediator, that you are being open and objective. But you're not.

        I sent, as requested, "sTARBABY", and the "CSICOP" article, and you simply brushed them aside
        as containing information which was confusing to you.

        Edgar knows nothing about astrology, and you know that - but you got a kick out of
        using him as a "balance" against me. Ignorance isn't a balance against a quest for
        knowledge and understanding, Fred - it's just ignorance.


        I think it was Erasmus Darwin who said we should do crazy experiments from time to time, like to play a trumpet every day for a month to daffodils, and see what happens. Most of the time, nothing. But, sometimes, we may question the very way we see the universe.

        I don't know if this sort of answer is what you were after. Obviously, it's a subject that intrigues me.


        Re: Asteroids and the Scientific Method
        Fri Dec 7, 2012 6:46 pm (PST) . Posted by: "Andy Anderson" nd_ndrsn


        In your sense of having “…a specific
        way of dealing with data and empirical questions,” would you say that is
        similar to a position of experiential, experimental observation, from a clearing
        free of “artificial scaffolding?”

        I for one would like to hear more of your
        position. It seems to me there are few
        places on the internet and few news groups that are not full of true believers proselytizing
        their beliefs, projecting thier fear. ]You articulate an
        important position. Thank you,


        Few people are capable of expressing with equanimity opinions which differ from the prejudices of their social environment. Most people are even incapable of forming such opinions.
                    -- Albert Einstein

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