in Astrological Research
Mike Harding D.F.Astrol.S., Adv.Dip. Ext. Psych.,
article originally appeared in Correlation, Vol
19(1). For more details on this magazine
(the 'Journal of Research in Astrology'), contact
the Astrological Association (see 'Contacts' page).
Many thanks to Mike for permission to reproduce
can be suggested that one the main problems facing
the astrologer is the attitude of many scientists
towards the subject. The claim can be made that
the scientific world view is so different
from that of the astrologer, that science simply
cannot engage with the astrological model at all.
Thus science’s dismissal of astrology stems,
essentially, from its inability to understand
and, even worse, its inability to recognise that
it has failed to understand, what the astrologer
is talking about. Even attempts to ask the astrologer,
in effect, to set up a situation which could be
tested, is to ignore that, nevertheless, it will
be tested according to the paradigm of science.
After all, it is from science that the main concept
of testing emerges.
Other ways of thinking
- and testing - are not considered.
In this article I would like to present
an overview of
common scientific attitudes, and then look
with a little more detail at some particular research
examples. We should start with an organisation
which claims to represent mainstream scientific
attitudes, the Committee for the Scientific Investigation
of Claims for the Paranormal, (CSICOP). Although
we shall not spend time on this, we should not
overlook the fact that to designate a certain
phenomenon ‘paranormal’, prior to its investigation,
is to proceed from the prejudiced position
of normative assumptions.
and the Guardians of Society
many respects CSICOP came into being because of
the Gauquelins’ pro-astrology findings. It publishes
a regular journal, the Skeptical Inquirer, which is not
sceptical at all, but provocatively hostile to non-orthodox
opinion, and thus is not scientific in practice.
However, if it were
sceptical, that is, if it adhered to the sceptical
concept that, in the final analysis,
true knowledge of something is impossible,
it would find its position even more confusing.
As we shall see, whatever CSICOP’s position ultimately
attitude is as political as it is abusive. People who believe in, or practice astrology and alternative
therapies, or hold non-conventional ideas are 'airheads',
'con-artists', 'crooks', 'fraudsters'
and so on. 'Credulous' and 'misguided'
seem to be the least insulting epithets for
those who hold such differing beliefs.
Overlooking the intemperate language, we
should be clear of one thing: many scientists and
others connected to CSICOP believe, as we shall
see, that astrology is dangerous,
first to science, then to the fabric of society.
many see it as their duty to discredit
such alternate views. This may have the ring
of a religion to it. If so, then CSICOP’s anathema
The term 'antiscience' appears to be applied
by many of the Skeptical Inquirer's contributors, and appears to be applied to anything
that challenges the conservative view. However,
a new phrase has crept into the Sceptical
Inquirer's lexicon of
dangerous ideologies, and is frequently coupled
with antiscience. That phrase is left-wing. The
Inquirer ran a series of articles over several
of issues entitled Antiscience
in Academia. In articles such as The
and New Age Unreason
we learn that:
left-wing intellectuals have turned against
the legacy of the Enlightenment. And, up to now,
scientists have largely ignored the left-wing
antiscience polemics. Being pressed by important
duties, they simply let the asses bray.
'asses' in question are those inspired by philosophers such as Heidegger,
Derrida, Foucault and Rorty, against whom the humble
scientist's duty is still of greater importance.
The same article also denounces the rise
of 'feminist science' in America and makes the point
that such thinking 'when not entirely vacuous, amounts
to no more than an old-fashioned attempt to subordinate
the findings of science to the demands
of an ideology'. Something, of course, a
male CSICOP scientist would never dream of doing.
Now it would appear that the left wing are
also getting themselves set up for what one CSICOP
article called, enthusiastically, 'a bashing'.
For the astrologer, this is familiar territory.
political divisions that are occurring now
echo those which took place in Europe during the 17th century.
Up to the middle of the 1600's the astrological
world view was commonplace. The study of astrology
formed part of
many degree courses, and astrological literacy
extended to the common people -hence Shakespeare's
consistent use of its vernacular- and it was this
common appeal that led to its ultimate downfall.
As Patrick Curry
has shown, astrology fell because it became
identified with radical politics. In an age of political
unrest, science became the refuge of the
conservative and therein lay its power. Astrology
was swept away as its popular pamphleteers
were harassed or prosecuted, and by the time
the dust finally settled science had consolidated
its ascendancy. Despite its tone and behaviour over
the years, CSICOP sees itself as a bastion of rationalism
set against the forces of left-wing anti-science,
feminism, astrology, and everything else apparently
set on destroying ‘the fabric of society’.
have to plumb
depth of postmodern textual analysis to offer
the observation that, in painting
left-wing intellectuals as the enemy of the
is also clearly illustrating its own
that, metaphorically at any rate, the usual
list of suspects is being drawn up.
All of this filters down to a more popular
level. Following the CSICOP line the Guardian,
a frequent critic of the unconventional, has
often lumped astrology together with acupuncture,
herbalism and much else besides as suitable targets
for attack. In a typical Guardian
article Pat Kane quoted
CSCIOP’s Paul Kurtz’s claim that:
are moving into a new Dark Ages... the
values of the Enlightenment are under severe attack....fringe
medicines are dangerous because they encourage
a culture of anti-science.
Kane pursues the CSICOP line by
alternative medicine 'can be judged by the
company it keeps'
but fails to notice the part he plays in
creating that company.
As we shall see below, this is similar to
the parallels Dean draws between astrology and phrenology,
without realising that it is he who is drawing them.
Kane's article is neither better
nor worse than many others in similar vein,
it is infinitely more revealing. The revelation
as to what
it is on about does not appear in the text,
the bold type that heads the article and announces
that the author:
Kane dowses for the truth in the flood of ersatz
science threatening to engulf British culture.
things are slightly clearer. Echoing CSICOP's
fear for the demise of its world-view, it is British
culture that is under attack. While this revelation
should amuse those influenced by Derrida, who claims
that what is
from the main story often says more about
the subject than anything else, it is also an echo
of former times.
For the Guardian
is right. The vast majority of their targets did
not emerge from European shores. Astrology, in particular,
with its roots in Jewish Cabalistic
Babylonian star-lore is as mongrel and as
foreign as they come. How natural to reach once
more for the pejorative ersatz
in an article dedicated to the
it is Richard Dawkins,
with his claim that belief in things like astrology
results from some form of ‘mind virus’ that contaminates
and who believes that anyone who disagrees
with his evolutionary views is
‘ignorant, stupid or insane’,
who believes some
gene is responsible for faulty beliefs (but
does not question if his own beliefs might stem from faulty genetics), Daniell Dennett
who likens non-scientific beliefs to dangerous
animals that ‘may have to be caged’, there
is a terrible fear being expressed.
A fear which is voiced so often by geneticists,
in which the different and the foreign are experienced
cured or forces to be controlled.
We have heard it all before, and it effortlessly
finds its echo in the traditionally xenophobic press.
Here the likes of Patrick Moore,
his loathing of astrology with fears that ‘vast
numbers of foreigners from all over the world...
are dumping themselves on social security’ is simply
an absurd, down-market version of Pat Kane in the
These authors, all highly influential in
the own way, can simply dismiss the subject a
priori as irrelevant.
Perhaps the astronomer Heather Couper states
this position with the greatest clarity in an interview:
Astrology is absolute rubbish. If you study
it and see what they claim, it completely falls
view would have some importance if Couper had researched
astrology’s claims and found them wanting. However,
in the same article she admits that she is not a
researcher at all, but sees herself as a populariser,
in fact as
‘the Anneka Rice of science’. This prompted
her interviewer to comment that Anneka Rice was
known mainly for the shape of her bottom, but wisely
declined to extend the observation. What the interviewer
comment on was Couper’s claim that astrology was
rubbish if you studied it, while at the same time
acknowledging that she had not.
renowned science journal
Nature has not had too much to do with astrology,
for which we might be thankful. It did
publish Shawn Carlson’s anti-astrology research,
which was so flawed that Hans Eysenk claimed its
mistakes should have been ‘obvious to any first
years psychology student.’
is inconceivable that any article claiming to prove astrology
on a similarly flawed basis would ever see the light
of day in a serious journal, it is unlikely that
any pro-astrology research, however impeccably presented
would ever have been published
whose editor, John Maddox, had this to say on the
is a plain fact that astrology is a pack
of lies in the literal sense; those who peddle
horoscopes do so on an explicit set of statements
about the real world that cannot be correct. There
is no evidence that the position of the planets
human behaviour, nor any plausible mechanism by
which they could do so. It would not matter if
the lies were told in some other context, say
an alleged link between stock-exchange prices
and the popularity of rock-and-roll music. That
they are told,
and believed by countless innocents in
flat contradiction of the more objective view
of the world accumulated over several centuries,
means that each and every horoscope is, by denying
the objective view of the planets, an attack on
the probity of science… Would other professionals,
lawyers or accountants say, be as tolerant of
public belief that undermined the integrity of
-and, potentially, their livelihood.
is nothing to do with reasoned arguments and the
thorough examination of weighty evidence: it would
appear that, for Maddox, this is ultimately a matter
of professional rivalry.
Overall, it has to be said that
science does not have a good track-record
of dispelling belief in the ‘irrational’, perhaps
scientists it behave so irrationally
At any rate, at a time when science has never
been more omnipresent, never have so many alternate
views sought the light of day. CSICOP scientists
may speak of this as a failure to put across the
message of ‘truth’, others might feel that their
failure lies in quite another direction.
Whatever the reasons, there would seem little
doubt that the various views we have looked at so
can hardly be viewed as either unprejudiced
or scientific, and would have benefited from a more
aim of phenomenological research is to approach
the subject with as few pre-conceptions as possible,
and from the start to list clearly what assumptions
by the researchers. For example, Suitbert Ertel
published a report on 10 astrologers’ failure to
identify painters from politicians, using 20 charts
for each group.
If a phenomenological approach had been taken, the
author would probably have to acknowledge the following
assumptions implicit in his research: 1) that politicians
can be grouped together with no regard for political
orientation or motive for pursuing their chosen
career. 2) That no prior investigation need be carried
out as to whether they were also painters in their
spare time, or had other artistic aspirations. 3)
That painters can similarly be classed as one group
with no regard to their style of work, treating
abstract expressionists and hyper-realists alike.
4) That no regard need be paid to a painter’s motive
for painting, or the importance of their political
leanings. An excellent analysis of this research
has been undertaken
by Dr. Christopher Bagley
phenomenological approach is not just concerned
with the technicalities of sampling, but the assumptions
by which groups are selected and chosen.
While some individuals do try
to remain neutral, many research projects fall at the start.
Nowhere is the basic lack of a phenomenological approach more noticeable then
in a recent sociological inquiry into the nature
of astrological belief. Researching what they call
the 'problem' of belief in astrology
(although for whom it is a
problem, and why it
is a problem is never actually stated –a
strange omission considering it prompts the
whole research project ) social scientists Bauer
and Durant incline to the conclusion that:
it may be regarded
sociologically as one among a number of
potential compensatory activity (sic) that
to individuals who are struggling to come
to terms with the uncertainties of life in late
other words, in a world with so many of its
moral and scientific certainties stripped away,
be a comfort for those unable or unwilling
to confront the complexities of current life. Here
Bauer and Durant echo
the views of the previous editor of Correlation,
In astrology astrologers find a substitute
for a religion. It gives their life security and
meaning. Then you can imagine that they don’t
want to have it snatched away from them.
would seem that those who believe in astrology are
in some manner intellectually or emotionally inadequate,
and need its beliefs to counter life's brute realities.
With their research apparently backing up such
be useful to explore how Bauer and Durant
arrived at their discovery. On examination we find
that they researched a variety of other
research projects concerned both with popular beliefs
and general scientific understanding.
A series of graphs plotted various permutations
of gender, age, education and belief in science.
While such an approach can give
picture of believer and non-believer alike, it says
absolutely nothing about the nature of the beliefs
held, including, of course, why they are chosen
in the first place.
It is remarkable that nowhere did the
ask anyone why
they believed in astrology, nor did they draw on
any researchers who might have asked that question.
Nevertheless Bauer and Durant claim that
such beliefs have a compensatory function for the
individuals concerned. Under such circumstances,
a piece of research by claiming why
people might believe in astrology, after assiduously
avoiding any attempt to discern their views on the
matter, reveals only the beliefs and assumptions
of Bauer and Durant.
and Durant follow in a long line of
detractors whose position seems to be that
those who believe in astrology are in some way insufficient;
astrology is no more than a crutch or compensation
for the emotionally needy.
This view was stridently put by one of the
world’s leading philosophers, Theodor Adorno, who
presses the work of Freud into a denunciation of
Sun Sign astrologers:
generalised assumptions that his readers are regressive, warped
persons, and all the major dimensions of
actually involved in most defects of intellect
personality, are somehow taken care of
the research of Bauer
with either the column writers or their readers,
and thus can supply no evidence to back up
his remarkable assertions with regard
to the motives and personality of either group.
As they stand,
comments can only be
elsewhere he attempts to formalise them
psycho-analytic framework, which is itself
Indulgence in astrology may provide those
with a substitute for sexual pleasure of
passive nature. It means primarily
strength of the absolute power.
this strength and power ultimately derived
from the father
image has become completely
depersonalised in astrology. Communion
with the stars is an almost
unrecognised and therefore tolerable substitute
forbidden relation with an
omnipotent father figure. 
It would appear that, for Adorno,
the 'defects' of intellect and personality
he ascribes to believers stem from
unrecognised desire for
parental incest. Clearly, such desires have serious consequences:
moot point whether people
predisposition, whether 'psychotic characters'
be caught by it. It may apply to the
in the normal as well and may not
special psychological susceptibility
so-called ego weakness. In
astrology addicts seem to enjoy a rather
strong ego in
terms of reality functioning.
readers have now become 'addicts', and might
'ego-weaknesses'. But then again, they may
actually have quite
and thus not be psychotic at all. This amounts
who believes in astrology is very
except for those who are actually
critique of the
views, with their veneer of psycho-babble,
are so extreme that it is hard to image how they
ever came to be published as an example of serious
and Hot Heads
is striking how often pro-astrology findings evoke
extreme reactions from scientists. While the CSICOP
‘Mars Effect’ fiasco is well documented,
it is worth while looking at a more recent case
involving the CSICOP Fellow Susan Blackmore. When
an insurance company announced that there was a
strong correlation between
astrological signs and accidents rates,
with Aries drivers the most accident prone, Blackmore
suggested that this was due to the ‘fact’ that
born in the spring under the sign of Aries...
are more likely to be left out in their prams
to enjoy the fresh air. In later years this could
perhaps lead to a fondness for open-topped sports
more accidents than family estates.
attempts to explain the disparity of
Zodiac sign by suggesting that the sensation
of being in a pram
creates a fondness for fresh air, which in
adult life translates into a
desire to drive a sports car. No evidence
is provided for this, nor
explain why such an experience does not correlate
with a dislike
of being in the open air. After all, babies pushed
in a pram are often out of visual contact with their
parent at a time when there may be
unfamiliar stimulation, which is often frightening
to the infant.
In either case there is the assumption that
an event is enjoyed in adult life because it was
enjoyed during infancy. This closet Freudianism
cannot be substantiated. Do
adults enjoy eating because they liked food
in infancy? Do we enjoy sunny days now because we
enjoyed them as a child? Conversely, do we find
the a lemon sour today because it tasted like that when we were
using such arguments Blackmore also makes
the sweeping allegation that open-topped sports
cars are involved in more accidents than saloons.
The reality is more complex. For instance, according
to the Department
serious injuries in small family saloons
numbered 156 per 10,000 privately owned vehicles
during 1992-1994. For the same period small, high-speed
cars caused 143 passenger fatalities and serious
accidents per 10,000 vehicles: an accident ratio that is the
reverse of her suggestion. Thus it might
seem that any conglomeration of ideas, however far-fetched
and lacking in supporting evidence, are preferable
to the possibility that astrology might in some
way be true. As Blackmore herself
said in the same piece, 'the human mind is
made to make connections, and people will look for
them in everything’.
Blackmore appears to be searching around for anything
to distance the astrological paradigm from any accepted
world view, others writers seek to damn astrology
by associating it with the already-discredited.
A recent example here is Dean’s brief history
of phrenology, subtitled “Parallels between Phrenology
The article is well researched and intriguing,
and claimed to be ‘rich in lessons for astrology’.
But is it richer still in lessons on how
to draw conclusions which, almost magically, accord
with one’s existing views?
example, in Dean’s own words, a key originator of
phrenology was ‘a brilliant scientist’,
and he is at a loss to understand how such
mistaken ideas could ever come about. And
mistakes they were.
Dean points out how phrenology rationalised
racism, attitudes to crime and social problems,
the pathologizing of those from different cultures,
attitudes to mental illness etc. Yet so has conventional
science, and in every case to far greater effect.
Phrenology’s whole approach towards stereotyping
people by their physical characteristics came from
scientists, who have relentlessly pursued such an
approach from the 18th century.
achieved its great success precisely because
of its claims to be scientific. Dean chooses to
use phrenology as a stick with which to beat astrologers,
yet it could be just as handy for attacking science.
Dean writes as if there are ‘parallels between phrenology
and astrology’ rather than noticing how he makes
them appear so by his manner of thinking.
Dean overlooks the fact that,
whether we are looking at Hitler’s views
on race, or the attempt by
Lysenko and others to politically educate
wheat in Stalinist Russia, it is the geneticist
and the scientist, not the astrologer, who leaps
in to provide ‘proof’ for absurd theories.
Far from phrenology being held out as a warning
how much greater a warning it is for science,
In fact, the history of science reveals it
as a world full of chicanery.
It is well known that Newton, Galileo, Bernoulli,
Dalton, Mendel and Burt are but a handful of the
dozens of scientists
demonstrably guilty of faking research data
to make their point.
Today the situation is so bad, with so much
cheating and plagiarism, that the New
Scientist was prompted to declare that:
‘tribal’ culture of science is preventing proper
discussion, and that science and scientists must
change or face a gradual but certain moral decline.
The same article reports one survey in which
half of 400 medical researchers knew of cheating
in medical research trials.
In response to this state of affairs, the
editors of Britain’s medical journals have called
for an independent body to be set up to counter
‘fraud, plagiarism and other misconduct’. 
Against this sort of background one has to
question who should be lecturing whom.
this point it may be claimed that, cheating apart, examples such phrenology are simply bad science -a tack Dawkins sometimes takes
to distance himself from criticism- and that
if ‘good science’ had been adopted, none of these disasters would
have happened. Yet how do we detect good from bad?
We form an opinion based on what we believe the
evidence tells us, often overlooking that possibility
that this belief might be better called a prejudice.
Once the world was flat, then round, then
at the centre of everything, then off to
one side and going round the sun in circles.
Its travels around the sun were once explained
forces, now it may be that planets actually travel
in straight lines, running in
gravity-distorted space which only appear
circular in our particular dimension.
In each case theories and proofs abound.
One falls, another rises, and is chosen because
it is makes
sense at the time.
It makes sense because it fits in with how
people think and what they expect to find.
It makes sense because the mathematics of
the day appears to fit the observed phenomena.
It is not a matter of opinion that apples
fall to earth, but it certainly is a matter of opinion
fall from trees, and science can extrapolate
such basic observations which can place a
rocket ship on Mars. Surely such stuff is the proof
of science as the arbiter of what is real.
Again, to adopt this stance would be to miss
an important point.
The language of mathematics often, but not
our world very well. However, the idea that mathematics
laws is a fallacy exploded by Wittgenstein.
The planets are not ‘following laws’ as they travel
round the sun (or go in straight lines, if you prefer);
that is pure anthropomorphism. The need for
there to be ‘laws’ stems from linguistic,
and not natural concerns. The apple falls at a certain
speed, and we often claim that something called
gravity is the cause of it. We are certain, even
though no such thing as ‘gravity’ has ever been
seen. What we do
see is an apparent, and predictable effect which
we chose to think of in a certain manner. We might
claim that God exists in everything and causes all
things to move towards him. Larger particles
have more of God in them than smaller ones,
so the effect is greater.
With such a world view
our science would
work just as well, and our rockets would
still arrive on Mars.
They would, however, have been launched from
a radically different world.
issue of gravity is an intriguing one, for it underpins
the whole scientific world view of ‘forces’ and
‘causes’, which is constantly being used to discredit
astrology by asking what ‘mechanism’ or ‘force’
could make it work. Science would return us to Newton as the originator of such
thinking, but he was not. Newton did not believe
I likewise call attractions and
impulses, in the same sense accelerative, and
motive; and use the words attraction, impulse,
or propensity of any sort towards a centre, promiscuously,
and indifferently, one for another; considering
those forces not physically but mathematically:
wherefore the reader is not to imagine that by
those words I anywhere take upon me to reason
thereof, or that I attribute
forces, in a true and physical sense, to
certain centres (which are only mathematical points);
when at any times I happen to speak of centres
as attracting, or as endued with attractive powers.
with his alchemical, religious and astrological
background (he spent many years attempting to correlate
the precession of the equinoxes with historical
was clearly not the ‘scientist’ that we have made
of him. His concern to identify his theory with
‘mathematical points’, eschewing
simplistic causality, may have more in common
with the astrological paradigm than some scientists
might like to admit.
While some statistical approaches may allow
the demonstration of some astrological ‘effects’
–and for that reason should be encouraged- science
itself appears to have little to offer, as witnessed
by the little it has
offered and by its inability to engage seriously
with the object of its enquiry. Not only does it
so often proceed from a prejudicial position, as
we have seen, its view about the world in general
is often fatally flawed by its own assumptions about
the nature of human beings.
Theory of Everything and Nothing
illustrate this claim, let us look at Dean’s assertion
We may not realise it, but the making of
and testing of theories is a part of everyday
living. We do it all the time. Repairing a faulty
car requires a theory of how cars work. Curing
an illness requires a theory of how people get
sick. Interpreting a birth chart requires a theory
of how astrology works. In effect, apart from
answering a question from observation (“is it raining?”) or deduction (“this bird is white, is it
a crow”), every problem requires a theory before
it can be solved.
sort of thinking has been common in science for
some time, but even so it is hard to see how such
a series of claims can still be made.
Is there any evidence that a baby reaching
for the breast has a theory
about the production of human milk for its needs?
There is not.
Do I need a theory about electrical circuits in order to ring a
Do I need a theory
about bus conductors in order to pay my fare?
Do I need a theory
about mathematics in order to add 2+2?
Do children have theories
about addition? No, they follow rules, as they do
when they learn all forms of language. This
is just as well, as no one has ever demonstrated
(i.e., provided a theory) as to why 2+2 equals 4. In
all such cases we simply conform to
Vastly complex mathematics can be carried
out with not a jot of theory about math itself,
just as human beings all over the world talk
effortlessly, without any need for a theory of language.
The use of maths and language, as Wittgenstein
has endlessly pointed out, does not result from
theory but from practice. But
let us move on.
I need a theory about cars to repair a fault? Imagine
that my car splutters and stops. I recall that I
once saw someone putting something called ‘petrol’
into the tank under similar circumstances. I do
the same and the car
begins to work properly. I don’t need to
believe that petrol is necessary for a car to work,
nor do I need
a theory of motor mechanics in order to drive
a car. I simply need to follow a series of instructions.
Thus is the case when
I see someone seriously ill with certain
symptoms, and offer remedies. I might simply act
on experience, much as an animal might do when it
learns that fire is hot. Do children have a
about burned fingers? Do adults?
Do rats need theories to run mazes successfully?
Do scientists need
theories to plot their movements?
So, too, with astrology. I need no theory of the birth chart in order
to interpret it, merely an awareness that people
with Mars in X and Venus in Y tend to present in
similar ways. This observation is not a theory,
anymore than is the observation that people tend
to cry out in pain when bricks are dropped on their
feet. Neither does every problem need a theory before
it can be solved, as Dean demands. I am hungry.
What theory has taken place here? The claims
that a theory is needed in these cases, which are
all part of everyday life, is naïve in the extreme.
We could extend this investigation considerably,
but to what point?
Dean has wandered into the area that Wittgenstein
described well over 70 years ago. There will
be, literally, thousands of papers and dissertations addressing aspects of these issues,
and Dean’s claims have refuted not a single one.
Yes, one might have all sorts of theories
about aspects of life, but they are not automatically
necessary, or even needed.
idea that a theory illustrates an underlying
idea is similarly
flawed, and is probably the prime reason
why science cannot engage with astrology. Scientists
cannot have a theory about it which makes sense
to them, and do not realise that this is an error
which stops them seeing the world. Ultimately, I
have to explain my ideas about the world in terms
of how the world is.
I might have some amazing idea about the relationship
of Mars and
Venus, but my ‘proof’ will not lie in my mathematics or my theory,
only in the positions of the planets themselves
and what is said and done
by people who were born at certain moments.
In other words, nothing ‘underlies’ my observations,
as if were somehow separate from the planets
and the people themselves.
Nor does my practice rest on my theory ,
as science invariably claims for itself.
If anything, my theory rests on my practice
as, ultimately, I always have to point to something
in the world
to support my allegations, and not to my
ideas about it.
generally another way of saying ‘world-view’,
‘assumption’, or ‘prejudice’.
More importantly, something taking place
according to my theory
does not prove my theory about it.
Ptolemy could make accurate predictions about
the planets’ positions, but
his theory (i.e., his belief) was hopelessly
history of science is full of such examples. Dean
tries to draw a distinction between that which can
be answered by observation or deduction
from observation, and that which is not.
But how could that
distinction be drawn?
Where would one find the proof of something
other than in the actual
phenomena first called into question?
How can get away from what is?
In all cases, everything ultimately returns
to the nature of the world and how it is described.
Let us not lose track of the fact that, ultimately,
our world is described in language. Is this not
Need for Certainty
reading and re-reading the views of those hostile
to astrology one does not have to be a psychotherapist
to detect some concerns beyond the
immediate subject matter. There
appears to be a powerful need to ground all
ideas in safe
and known ‘theories’. This is in sharp contrast
to astrology’s claim for inevitable flux and change. Why? Nietzsche puts it well:
To trace something unknown back to something
attend the unknown -the first instinct
to eliminate these distressing states…
That it is something already familiar, experienced
and inscribed in memory, which is posited as a
cause, that is the first consequence of this need.
Thus one searches not only for some kind of explanation
to serve as a cause, but for a particularly selected
and preferred kind of explanation.
Nietzsche instinctively links knowledge and
power in his
that one of the functions of 'truth' is to
about ourselves and our beliefs in terms
which we already think we understand and, in doing
so, often create an illusion of causality which
Astrologers can make the same mistakes, of
course, but there appears to be
something so fundamentally
about astrology, which may account for so
much of the wrath it calls down, and the consequent
need to make it ‘safe’. As Nietzsche put it:
Look, isn’t our need for knowledge precisely
this need for the familiar, the will to uncover
under everything strange, unusual and questionable
something that no longer disturbs us? Is it not the instinct
that bids us to know? And is the jubilation
of those who attain knowledge not the jubilation
over the restoration of the sense of security?
the astrologer, if there is ‘an instinct of fear’,
it will be represented by Saturn. If there is a
‘sense of security’,
then this urge will be placed within familiar
what –of all research-
most significantly signifies the scientist?
Is there the possibility that in manifesting one
quality traditionally associated with this planet
other qualities are called into play?
Fear often demands that its object be eradicated.
It would appear that if the subject
of astrology cannot be removed its possibilities
for truth can at
denied. As we have seen, this
been assiduously undertaken by many of its
detractors, invariably in the name of science, but
generally without the benefit of its practice which,
despite constant misuse, still has much to commend
Mike Harding, 2000
Harding is an astrological consultant and a registered
existential psychotherapist. As well as practising
privately he is Head of Pre-MA Programmes at the
School of Psychotherapy & Counselling at Regent’s
College London. A former Chair of the Astrological
Association and the Association of Professional
Astrologers he is Chair of the Society for Existential
Antiscientific Left, by George Fish in the Skeptical
Inquirer, March/April 1995
and New Age Unreason.
Scientific Antidote to Fashionable Antiscience.
Review by Keith M Parsons in the Sceptical Enquirer, March/April 1995
the Science Bashers, by Taner Edis and Amy
Sue Bix in the Skeptical
Inquirer, March/April 1995
the Prophecy and the Power, by Patrick Curry
Thrall to the New Age, by Pat Kane, in the
Guardian, 4th January 1995
Richard Dawkins, the 1992 Voltaire Lecture Viruses
of the Mind, published by the British Humanist
Richard Dawkins, in the New
York Times, April 9th 1989
Lewis Wolpert, An
Idea which Beggars Belief, in the Independent
August 25th 1996
Danniel Dennet, Darwin’s
Dangerous Idea, Published by Simon & Schuster,
New York, 1995 page 515
Observer, March 18th 1979
6th February 1994
June 1986. See also A
Critique of a Double-Blind Test of Astrology
by Hans Eysenck in Astro Psychologial Problems,
Vol4, No1, January 1986
John Maddox, Defending Science Against
Anti-Science in Nature,
Can Astrologers Pick Politicians from Painters,
by Suitbert Ertel. Correlation
Vol. 17, No. 1
Christopher Bagley, Identifying
Painters and Politicians: a commentary on Astrology
as Art and Science, in Correlation
Vol. 18, No. 1
Martin Bauer and John Durant, Belief
in Astrology: a Social-Psychological
Analysis, published in
Culture and Cosmos, Vol 1, No1, 1997
Rudolf Smit, in the Dutch journal Skepter,
Theodor W. Adorno, The
Stars Look Down and Other Essays, edited by
Stephen Crook. Published by Routledge, page 63
reprint on web page:
Reported in the Daily Telegraph, March 23rd
Make and Model: The Risk of Driver Injury and
Car Accident Rates in Great Britain, published
by HMSO, London 1994
Coincidences: Parallels between Phrenology and
Astrology, by Geoffrey Dean, in Correlation Vol. 17, No. 1 1998
Art of Constructing Scientific Stereotypes
by Professor David Bindman, The
Times Higher Educational Supplment, June 2nd
William Broad & Nicholas Wade, Betrayers
of the Truth, OUP 1982.
Scientist, 3rd July 1999, page
Report in The
Guardian, September 9, 1999
Wittgenstein’s arguments against simplistic scientific
thinking occur in many places in his work. A good
starting point is section six of his
Logico-Philosophicus, published by Blackwells,
Issac Newton, Mathematical
Principles, translated and edited by Florian
Cajori, University of California Press, 1960.
Precession of the Equinoxes With Reference to
Isaac Newton’s Chronological Studies, by Robert
Powell in Correlation
Vol. 9, No. 2 December 1989
Theories of Astrology, by Geoffrey Dean in
Correlation Vol. 15, No 1, 1996
Four Great Errors in Twilight
of the Idols by F. Nietzsche, Penguin Books,
Gay Science, by F. Nietzsche, Vintage Age
Books, 1974, page 300
in the Stars, by Michel Gauquelin, the Aquarian