For those who believe, no proof is necessary.
For those who don’t believe, no proof is possible.
~Stuart Chase (1888-1986), economist and writer
Astrology researchers are caught between polar opposite views.
Astrology’s most sceptical critics insist on ‘irrefutable empirical proof’ before they can entertain the possibility of a connection between the celestial and the terrestrial.
Astrologers of a mystical persuasion see researchers as desperate to prove astrology. They say, “Why try to impress our critics? They have already made up their minds. Astrology does not need proof.”
These extreme positions do little to improve our understanding of science and astrology.
Laws require proof. Theories require evidence.
In Pure Mathematics, one can prove that a proposition is always true or always false. In 1637, mathematician Pierre de Fermat couldn’t demonstrate proof of his last theorem as there was not enough space in the margin! It took 360 years and many failed attempts before another mathematician settled the matter by demonstrating a proof (Singh 1998).
In the natural sciences, beyond the austere objective world of mathematics, one cannot prove a hypothesis. It is only after an accumulation of empirical evidence consistent with the hypothesis that a claim becomes a scientific theory. With each replication, the theory becomes more persuasive and established. But since new evidence could show the theory to be false or that it requires modification it remains a theory and can never become an eternal proof or a universal law. This is why Darwin’s theory of evolution is not his law of evolution.
In his pursuit of mathematical harmony in an enchanted Universe, Kepler (1619) developed his three laws of planetary motion. In 1687 Newton refined this with his laws of motion and universal gravitation. These ‘laws’ were further modified by Einstein in 1905 by his special theory of relativity. So, since we cannot prove that a natural event will always occur and is universal then we cannot claim it to be a law. A theory is the best we can do.
Our extraordinary burden of extraordinary proof
This does not stop our critics holding us up to higher standards than the sciences. Professor Marcello Truzzi, co-founder of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP), stated in 1987 that “In science, the burden of proof falls upon the claimant; and the more extraordinary a claim, the heavier is the burden of proof demanded.” In the mind of this sceptical sociology professor, astrology is extraordinary.
The grounds for this high hurdle are not unreasonable. If someone pointed to a UFO in the sky, you might check it more carefully than if they said it was an aeroplane. What is unreasonable are critics who raise the bar when astrologers produce highly significant results.
But then the burden of proof also falls on the sceptic who dismisses astrology. This has led sceptical groups to attempt to refute astrological claims with tests. Remarkably, in every case where the raw data can be analysed retrospectively, the results have favoured astrology! This applies to the various sceptical groups who tested the Gauquelins’ claims (Ertel & Irving 1996), the Carlson Test (Ertel 2009; Currey 2011) and on Dean’s Extraversion and Neuroticism experiment (Currey 2017).
Our goal is evidence, not proof.
The Gauquelins were able to produce consistent evidence of a weak correlation between planetary positions at birth and professional eminence. But again, as ever, this is not proof that validates astrology as it could be refuted at any time. It doesn’t matter that the Gauquelin results have survived without a plausible alternative explanation even after half a century. But it helps that their results have been replicated by sceptical groups and by independent researchers around the world at least fourteen times. (Evans 1976, Ferguson 1989, Müller 1986, 1990, 1991-94, Müller & Menzer 1994, Müller & Ertel 1994, Ertel 1988, 1995, 1998, Ertel & Irving 1996, Perradin 2006, Fuzeau-Braesch & Denis 2007, and Cochrane & Fink 2010). Moreover, the Gauquelin results may in fact be validating the most ancient Whole Sign House system and decans as claimed in an ongoing study by Ken McRitchie, Terry McKinnell and myself.
The probability that the Gauquelins’ results occurred by chance are impossibly low. However, critics such as Geoffrey Dean now claim that the effect size is so small that there must be an artefact. To counter this, a small effect size in large samples is more persuasive than a large effect size in a small sample.
I often review studies from new researchers. Sometimes, the authors are convinced that their study will prove astrology ‘once and for all’. But just as frequently, their results are … undermined by a false positive (known as a Type 1 error). . This can be, for example, an artefact (non-astrological effect). So, it takes a lot of filtration to find studies that provide solid evidence.
Those who once defended astrology by
claiming that “absence of evidence means evidence of absence” can now upgrade
to arguing that “validation of evidence means evidence of validation”.
Where’s the evidence?
Just as proof is not possible in scientific fields, astrological research is no more than testing claims and providing evidence. Over the past fifty years, scientists and astrological researchers are discovering a growing body of objective evidence of correlations between celestial positions and terrestrial life. These statistically significant results have been published in peer reviewed journals and set out in an Evidence List published by Correlation that includes 63 separate experiments that support the astrological premise.
Correlation Journal link
Boxer, Alexander (2020) A Scheme of Heaven. Astrology and the birth of Science. Profile Books
Currey, Robert (2011): U-turn in Carlson’s Astrology test, Correlation. Vol.27 (2)
Currey, Robert (2017) Can Extraversion & Neuroticism, as defined by Eysenck, match the four astrological elements? Correlation Vol.31 (1)
Dean, Geoffrey. (1985a), Can astrology predict E and N? 1: Individual Factors, Correlation, Vol.5 #1, pp.3-17
Cochrane, D., and Fink, D. (2010). A Reassessment of the Mars Effect and Other Planetary Effects, MA Thesis. University of Florida.
Ertel, Suitbert (2009) Appraisal of Shawn Carlson’s Renowned Astrology Tests Journal of Scientific Exploration, Vol.23, No:2. pp.125-137
Ertel, Suitbert & Irving, Ken (1996) The Tenacious Mars Effect. The Urania Trust
Evans, C. (1976) Into the Unknown. BBC TV, October 26. With subsequent communication of data to Michel Gauquelin. (via Dean et al 2016 p.108)
Ferguson, I. (1989). The Stars of Dance: Diurnal analysis by Mike O’Neill. NCGR Research Journal, Autumn Equinox, 21.
Fuzeau-Braesch, Suzel; Denis, Jean-Baptiste (2007) An Empirical Study of Some Astrological Factors in Relation to Dog Behaviour Differences by Statistical Analysis and Compared with Human Characteristics. Journal of Scientific Exploration, Vol. 21, No. 2, pp. 281-293, 2007
Kepler, Johannes (1619) Harmonices Mundi, Linz
Gauquelin, Michel (1988) Is there a Mars effect? Journal of Scientific Exploration Vol.2 No:1 pp.29-51
Müller, A., & Menzer, G. (1993). 1145 Angehörige deutscher Dynastien [1145 members of German dynasties]. Astro-Research Data 4. Waldmohr, A. P. Müller-Verlag.
Perradin, M.P. (2006). Effet Mars. Recherches Astrologiques Méthodes Scientifiques, 14.
Singh, Simon (1998) Fermat’s Enigma. New York: Anchor Books
Truzzi, Marcello (1987) On Pseudo-Scepticisms, Zetetic Scholar, 12/13, pp3-4, 1987