Wednesday, October 13, 2010


Worth a close look, at website Astrology and Science is a section headed "Artifacts in Reasoning ~ Hidden persuaders make astrology work", by Geoffrey Dean and Ivan W Kelly. Interested passers-by can take a look at the full page of astro "stuff" via the links. I'm going to concentrate here on something there which particularly interested me: the topic of so-called "hidden persuaders".

The whole article was written for the edification of professional astrologers who conduct consultations, not for nosey-parkers like me. But whatever is found on the internet is open to all for their scrutiny - so I shall scrute away:

"....... factors that can make a vague reading seem so uncannily accurate that it becomes almost impossible not to believe in the system's validity. There are many hidden persuaders, of which thirty-four are listed below. All are an active component of experience and all are in routine use in astrology consulting rooms. For convenience we have grouped them under seven descriptive strategies:"
I'm picking 2 from the 7 "strategies", adding my own comments, relating to my own experience of blog-writing about charts of historic or well-known characters, artists, musicians, etc. My responses are in red text.

#2. Stifle chances of being wrong

Appeal to birth chart complexity (nonfalsifiability).....No need to "appeal": THE. CHART. IS. COMPLEX. Common knowledge to even a novice.

Avoid conflict, see what you believe (cognitive dissonance).....
You can only see what is there, whether you believe it or not. If there's no Sun conjunct Neptune or whatever, it isn't there. Capiche?

Believe what you cannot prove (unavailable data)...In astrology nobody can prove anything. That is a given to any astrologer worth his bread. I may not be able to prove it, but I can see it working, proof enough that "something is happening".

Remember the hits, forget the misses (selective memory)
Sometimes this appears to happen when attempting to highlight a specific point about an artist, politician etc. Again, if the factor I hope to see isn't there - it ain't there. Mostly it is, however. The "misses" are only "misses" when they don't apply to the specific factor under discussion.

Ask only confirming questions (stack deck) -
Not really relative to my own case - sans client. I ask myself about the chart of an individual under scrutiny at that time - if I'm looking at the chart of a writer I look to see whether there are natal astrological indications of that. If there aren't any, there aren't any. This hardly ever happens.

Ignore disconfirming evidence (confirmation bias) - This duplicates the item above beginning "Remember the hits" - same response. Added that as long as birth data is accurate, and a factor is there, it cannot be totally disconfirmed (is that a proper word?) as far as I know. It can be "weakened" perhaps, but no more than that.

Deny that astrology can be tested (testability veto) -
We can try to test it, denial of all possibility would be wrong. Thing is, nobody seems to have put enough $$$$$$ into an effort to test it using all available new technology - as yet.

#6. Make the chart fit

Find meaning where none exists (faces in clouds) - Can't do this. A factor is either there or not. Meanings are fairly tightly defined- you cannot "make stuff up".

Read specifics into generalities (Barnum effect) - See above.

See only what you want to see (illusory correlation) -
See above.

Accentuate the positive (social desirability) - What in Urania's name is
wrong with accentuating the positive?

Be seduced by resemblance (magical thinking)
- Tsk. Magical schmagical.

Afterwards we knew it all along (hindsight bias) -
Only if the factors are present. You cannot make it up...... rinse and repeat, 3 times.

Sound arguments yes, sound data no(stereotypes)....Don't understand this. Data = birth data ? If it is not sound, of course proper interpretation cannot be presented. Stereotypes (of a sort) can only be invoked if the right factors are present.

Case rests - comments and alternative views welcome.


Twilight said...


Twilight, enjoyed tremendously to read your reflections. You went into a lot of trouble indeed.

Had to think: What makes the life of anyone "defending astrology" (why after all? - does a fan of say Yoga have todefend it?) a bit complicated, is that destiny is not always what people egoistically wish it to be (for themselves at least). If it were so, astrologers would be "King".
Experts in producing ever more satisfactions and felicity in what they then would be able to say. But, as we all know, critics and defendants of astrology alike, destiny is not a very scrutable phenomenon. And even less so can it be
"bent to only give pleasure"...

Twilight said...

Gian Paul

No defence would be needed if "intellectual" opponents didn't try to denigrate astrology so energetically. Leaving their criticisms unanswered would only encourage them.

I agree with your assessment too.

Hope Blogger rights itself soon in your part of the world. We shall miss you.