Sceptical Research into Astrology
Problems with testing astrological practice under strict scientific conditions
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Flawed Tests: Many sceptics have claimed that astrology has consistently failed over many years in 'thousands of scientific tests'. This is a very popular but, misleading claim that has been copy and pasted onto many websites. I have asked numerous critics of astrology to cite their best single test and I invite anyone reading this to produce or even devise a test of astrology (other than media Sun-Sign astrology) that is not fundamentally flawed. [I don't have the time and resources to evaluate more than one test at a time].

If astrology has existed for four thousand years, why has there not been more research? When compared with the hard sciences, astrology has benefitted from very little scientific investigation over the past 300 years. However, in the previous millennia, there was no scientific method, so evidence was based on observation and experience rather than experimentation. Though astrologers and most people value this subjective evidence, sceptics will only accept objective evidence.

Most astrologers are more motivated by the study and application of astrology than in addressing the challenge of providing and defending scientific proof. So most tests are run by sceptics with budgets in fields like psychology who design quantitative tests when the data requires qualitative analysis that would be better addressed by those who understand astrology. There are also real procedural hurdles to jump:
  1. Problems testing astrology and astrological practice under strict scientific methods:
    1. Lack of accurate data. [It is possible to rehash data from earlier tests like Gauquelin.]
    2. Lack of objective data. How is it selected?
    3. Challenge isolating huge number of variables involving human behaviour and astrology.
    4. Replication is impossible as each set of birth data is unique. It has to be a best match. Human beings are unique. Planetary positions do not repeat within recorded history.
    5. The Experimenter Effect is potentially stronger in astrology and psychology than in a field like chemistry as the human experimenter is part of the experiment. So the criteria used, the data selected, the format and the results are particularly open to reflecting the conscious and unconscious bias of the experimenter rather than providing objective data.
    6. Statistics perform well with simple data in physics, chemistry or molecular biology. However, when you work with more varied and complex data, results can be skewed, misrepresented and manipulated through selection. You'd think with all the objective climate data and vast resources, we would have less controversy about the projections for climate change.
    7. Lack of funding. Because of the complexity, huge numbers of subjects required and issues outlined above, astrology tests are prohibitively expensive and time consuming. Unlike every other field of knowledge in the broad definition of science Astrology has no funding and limited scope for University research.

  2. Here are some requirements might make an experiment possible:
    1. A new methodology - possibly on the lines of a multivariate analysis and more flexible rules.
    2. Access to a huge amount of solid, accurate and detailed data.
    3. Serious funding, which does not currently exist is required.
    4. Collaboration by experts. There are not many professional statisticians who know astrology and only a few astrologers who are trained in statistics.
    5. Studies should reflect how astrologers work:
      1. Identify themes within the horoscope. A good astrologer does not work with one feature like a moon sign in isolation.
      2. Handle contradictions. These don't manifest in simple black and white terms and change over time.
      3. Allow astrologers to rank the strength of effects.
    6. Avoid asking homogenous groups to identify how they are different.
    7. Avoid asking young adults or teenagers to identify who they are or what profession they want to pursue.
Why it is no longer acceptable to say astrology is rubbish on a scientific basis.

Robert Currey
www.twitter.com/RobertCurrey
The Scientific Method (c) 2014



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