Exegesis Volume 6 Issue #13

From: JG or DF
Subject: testing theory

From: "William D. Tallman"
Subject: Re: Exegesis Digest V6 #11/12

From: "Francis G. Kostella"
Subject: Problems Resolved?

Exegesis Digest Fri, 20 Apr 2001

Date: Sun, 8 Apr 2001 11:16:39 +1200
From: JG or DF
To: Exegesis
Subject: testing theory

We test the validity of a theory by applying it to real life situations. If it seems to work, we tend to find it reliable and expect others to do so. When this does not happen, either the theory or the others appear wrong. If we are satisfied the theory is right, then the others must be at fault.

Such is human nature, and the typical verdicts produced by this logic are readily found in the writings of both astrologers and scientists. Those of us trained in both fields acknowledge that science incorporates the discipline of replication, which gives it an advantage over astrology. Practitioners are expected to apply an identical method to get an identical result. The more this happens the more practitioners are able to agree that a theory has been tested and found to be reliable.

This consensus on methods producing reliable results when applied to particular situations is what astrology lacks. To remedy this lack requires that astrologers mend their ways. But, if they were to agree that they are willing to do so to acquire public respectability, it would still be necessary to deal with further challenges. The next obvious challenge would be to define the form that the results of the test must be expected to take.

There are certain traditional presumptions that are relevant. For old astrology, predictions come true - or not. For the more contemporary astrologer, predictions are cast in a form that is not falsifiable. That is to say, they are designed to be arguable. For old science, there is an external reality, the features of which are identifiable. For the scientist of the new paradigm, features are relative to the viewing device and the viewer.

It has been a conventional fashion to use statistics to test the validity of astrology. The presumption here is that astrologers have an agreed method by which the theory of astrology is applied to situations, therefore they may be analysed as a population. Anyone scanning the astromedia of any recent decade can readily ascertain that this presumption is invalid, but the scientists and astrologers involved were too keen to publish results to bother with any elementary precaution. Counting things in various arbitrarily-defined categories is a fun game, apparently, which any fool can play.

The usual outcome of a game of statistics is that the initiator of the study asserts that it has proven some (usually irrelevant) truth, such as that Mars produces redheads, then the other players assert that the methodology used in the study was wrong. Thus astronomer Shawn Carlson proved that a bunch of cheerleaders of the astrocommunity did no better than chance when character-matching natal charts with natives. No great surprise, when you read what those cheerleaders contributed to the astromedia. But then other analysts proficient in statistics found that Carlson had incorporated design flaws that rendered his study invalid.

Studies to test sun-sign characteristics were afflicted by a severe handicap when designed on the basis that sun-sign traits were actually as specified in various astrology books, with the further presumption that natives exhibit those traits. We all know people who are typical of their sun-sign, and others who are not, and it isn't hard to identify listed traits in astrological text-books that correlate with neither. I would have thought it elementary to only use those traits that all the text-book writers cited, for a start. Only such a documented basis of consensual meaning is suitable for correlative testing: if you want to tune into a signal, tune out the surrounding noise.

However ridiculous all this has seemed, it strikes me that the banality of statistics arises most from the presumption that counting things will prove something. All it actually does is measure an incidence of matches between cases and designer-created labels, allowing the designer to claim a statistical likelihood of something. That something being a population characteristic.

So, for instance, if there were such a thing as a death-producing configuration, we could test all accurate death charts to measure the incidence of that configuration. Ah, but such a configuration is not to be expected in the event chart, points out the traditional astrologer, but in transits to the natal chart. For the sake of simplicity, let's say Mars transiting the natal 8th is the correlation we want to test. Provided we had a population of accurate natal charts for those who died, we could count those that qualified in order to measure the incidence of the correlation as a proportion of the whole population.

But we have found from experience that real life astrology does not support such simple correlations. I can vouch for that from personal experience of examining plenty of death charts in relation to natal charts of the deceased. The presumption that counting can validate theory seems inapplicable to complex correlations.

So how to verify astrological theory? My personal stance is to start from the premise that the theory as promoted by other astrologers is only partially correct, so assuming that it is testable is likely to be unproductive. Better to discover from an empirical approach to real life case studies how it seems to work. I also subscribe to the presumption that, if something happens at a certain time, some kind of temporal convergence produced the right time for it to happen. Using the horoscope, the main structural features of the moment can be noted. Interpretation comes into play in correlating these with the primary archetypal features of the event, and the extent of any qualitative match must then be gauged and noted. Conclusions cannot be drawn, because these are appropriate only on the basis of a number of similar cases. This, of course, is where counting potentially comes in. However, it would be premature to count any common correlations without specifying the precise nature of the correlation to be counted. Failure to specify the key feature correctly usually causes inflated counts, and the consequent disbelief of scrutineers.

Then there is the decision as to the class of case studies to be examined. Nativities are best researched via (relatively) objective descriptions of character and destiny. Famous dead people constitute the most accessible class. These can be sub-classified on the basis of vocation, wealth, violent deaths, whatever. The discipline of using the most reliable and accurate data base is essential. Relatively objective descriptions are provided by those 3rd parties who produce biographies, but a rich harvest of psychological insights into self can frequently be obtained from autobiographies. Nonetheless, it must be kept in mind that natives may never manage to develop some potentials indicated in their nativity. Counting a large population sample in a defined social sub-class (farmers, top sports players, best-selling authors, movie stars, politicians, traders, serial killers, etc) therefore becomes a viable strategy.

That said, I must stress the necessary conditions. An accurate and reliable database of cases, specified traits which have been documented by native or commentator, plus chart factors that astrologers agree do correlate with these. Clearly meeting this third condition will be the main challenge for astrologers.

When it comes to events, various types can be suggested on the basis that accurate data can be ascertained from records. If one simply wants to perform a reality check, past events are suitable. The meaning given by media, historians, and popular culture, is the best guide to the archetypal nature of the event. The reality check can be performed by any astrologer able to correlate chart configurations with features of the event. This correlation really only becomes persuasive when other astrologers agree with it, thus demonstrating an element of consensual logic. It then becomes a suitable candidate for a population test.

Prediction testing applies to future events, in which a certain type of event is presumed to be catalysed by certain configurations. All that is required is that the type of event and the sought configuration are specified in advance, and the data is accurately obtained, all to the satisfaction of commentators.

My own examinations of event charts have lead me to the observation that the devil is invariably in the details. No characteristic configurations have become evident, suggesting that counting is unlikely to be a viable strategy. On the other hand, triggering configurations often seem evident. It's just that they tend to be different each time. This suggests that the uniqueness of an event outweighs its typicality. One would expect the complexity of life to be reflected in the horoscope, but one also expects to identify singular features that identify singular events. When Clinton is impeached, the only presidential impeachment this century, one expects that fate selected the moment. Discovering that Saturn was exactly on the Ascendant when the vote result was declared seems a vindication. But it only seems so on the basis of the archetypal meaning, which can be intuited by individuals but only documented by identifying the appropriate consensual keywords. And this correlation cannot be counted in any population so far as I can see..

Dennis Frank


Date: Tue, 10 Apr 2001 20:07:04 -0700
From: "William D. Tallman"
To: Exegesis
Subject: Re: Exegesis Digest V6 #11/12

Dale said:

 > I know there's been some dissatisfaction expressed with the digest-only
 > format of Exegesis, because you can't read through and reply by threads.
 > This makes it difficult for the reader to jump back and forth between the
 > different posts in a thread, and seems to discourage sponteneity. And
 > I complained about this to Fran, way back at the beginning, in no uncertain
 > terms. But Fran wanted to facilitate not only a more indepth look at
 > astrology, but also a more thoughtful discussion style. Individual posts
 > grouped in threads seem to encourage more ephemeral exchanges. Threads
 > also seem to encourage shallowness. There's no time to check sources in
 > depth and detail, either to supply or check references, so people just wing
 > it off the tops of their heads, just as in a real-time conversation, and
 > the conversations tend to be just as casual as the sidewalk variety. The
 > longest thread I've ever seen in an astrology discussion group was about
 > what sign you'd want to be if you were a car. As long as it was, however,
 > it lasted only a few days.


The idea I'd put forth was a completely different format for threads, so that they wouldn't wind up diluting this list. Fran implemented that but it didn't work for some people and so he took it down. Threads do encourage shallowness in general, but with Exegesis as a background context, a different format might avoid that. What I'd thought about was that threads might go on in a different format and then the resolution in the form of a summation might then be posted to the list.

Car thread? I think I remember that somewhere, but I suffered through some that ran far longer than just a few days < grin....argghh >

 > That's fine if you just want to talk, and lots of people do, but it's
 > not at all conducive to a more thoughtful, indepth discussion. When
 > I see an interesting discussion I like to read, reread, and reread again
 > what each person has said, and to reflect at length on what I want to
 > say, and perhaps go through some of the books in my library to doublecheck
 > some things I want to mention, but on most newsgroups and lists, by the
 > time I'm ready, it's too late. The participants have already discovered
 > another bright, shiny toy and moved on. (In general, attention span
 > on the internet is remarkably short.)

I would expect any threads to reflect that thoughtfulness here. Actually, we have had several threads on this list from time to time, and I suggested that might be a good thing, as they might serve each other through cross-fertilization. Unfortunately, they often wound up at cross-purposes instead. In general, the digest format is going to enforce reflection because of its slower pace, even with several threads going on at the same time. Or so I think.

 > The relative profundity of Exegesis discussions might be due only to
 > the subject matter Fran has tried to insist upon, and to the kind of person
 > who's tended to be attracted as a result, but I'm not convinced, despite
 > my initial _strong_ dissatisfaction with the digest format, that it hasn't
 > played a formative role by encouraging participants to take their time and
 > _think_ about what they want to say and what others have already said.
 > Just something to think about.

Yep, I think it's actually the format that is important here, as Fran has had the wisdom to see, and not especially the existence of threads. Good points, Dale!

Fran said:

 > Who knew that in 2001 I would not only be cursed with an ISP
 > mystified by the complexities of 10-year-old networking technology
 > and unable to fix an email system for a month, but would find it next
 > to imposssible to find a replacement ISP for less than twice the cost.
 > {sigh!} I suppose that the economy is to blame....
 > In any case, I seem to be back online with constant minor problems
 > instead of constant major problems. Let us hope for the best!

Well, this is the sort of thing the old UnixGuru types warned against back before (Gore's) Internet, when it was still NSFnet and just considering commercialism. The only hope, I suppose, is that the market place will serve to weed out such outfits, but it sure can be painful in the process! Out on the US west coast, the standard is $20/mo for unlimited access and competition can be fierce (incompetence poorly tolerated < grin > ). I would hope that would become the standard everywhere, but technology has already left the mom and pop ISP behind as dsl and fiber spread. It remains to be seen what the Big Guys will wind up doing.....

Alexander said:

 > My name is Alexandre C=E9sar Weber and I used to live in Santos - S.P. =
 > Brasil, as English isn't my first language probably I'll do lots of =
 > mistakes in my posts, so I beg all of you to forgive me and don't be =
 > afraid to correct me or ask for any clarification.

Hi Alexander, you need to find another email client, or set the one you are using to plain ASCII text. All the following equal signs are formatting that doesn't show up here correctly, as you will have discovered. And the HTML doesn't make it on this email list, which evidently doesn't handle MIME very well... that's actually good because it discourages the graphical stuff that really doesn't fit well here.

Email me directly for questions on this, if you like.

Dunno what to say about your interpretation of astrology, but it sounds pretty qabalistic, I think. Something like astrology for the mystical realities (inner planes, spiritual realms, etc.). Any idea as to how it relates to astrology as it's generally practiced today?

And then, Patrice said:

 > From: "William D. Tallman"
 > Well, I could sit here like the gimlet-eyed lobster and decry Patrice's
 > astrological revisionism, but I won't < grin > because he's following a fairly
 > well accepted precedent of blending astrology with other (psychological?)
 > paradigms. Whatever else, however, I do applaud Patrice's willingness to be
 > blunt about the matter of knee-jerk right-wing astrological
 > archconservatism...lol!!!
 > I must admit that I've not followed Patrice's theoretical discussions,
 > But what do you suggest as being the contrary of "REVISIONISM", Bill?
 > Opportunism?

Nope, not really, or so I would hope.. lol!!!!

You will note that I was on a fairly negative jag in that evaluation, but I think I managed to avoid decrying (my word here...) revisionism in general because it's a well accepted academic phenomena, without which there would be a lot more crusty conservatism, casting the subject in granite instead of lime-rock.

 > If you haven't "followed my discussions", what could I reply? Maybe then
 > follow your own monologue, as you are "one of the major contributers
 > here"
 > as you say, if not The one. True that you're abundantly replying to what
 > you understand, with (to) your own words.

Oh lord, here I hang, hoist on mine own petard...LOLOL!!!!!

Yep, well, you know the bottom of the pot starts to burn and then ruins the whole soup unless it's stirred regularly... so I stir diligently, and one never knows what sort of stuff is going to surface, dontcha know. < grin >

 > Well, all hyperbole aside... < grin > , Dennis certainly qualifies, I think.
 > And then there is Andre Donnell, Dale Huckeby, Ed Falis, Bill Sheeran...
 > off the top of my head..
 > Let's go on, Bill, to distribute good -- and bad -- points! But
 > remember: Lorenzo.

OOF!! How about we *don't* remember Lorenzo.... LOL!!!!

I didn't deliberately exclude you, Patrice, it's just that most of the time that you post it's about discussing your work, and so that makes you a special (and valued!!!) rather than a general contributor, I think.

 > Nevertheless to the question: The astrologer in the past has never been
 > ONLY astrologer, but also scholar, and/or physician, or philosopher, or
 > astronomer, or historian, or priest... Going on interpreting charts with
 > the only poor "pseudo-symbolic" thought which modern astrologers are
 > generally taking as a thought, isn't astrology, I advocate, but a part
 > of the modern "Show", -- or the space that the Show let to "astrologers"
 > define as astrology. No reflection upon astrology if not correlated with
 > a reflection upon society & culture!

Ummm.... about that "valued" part.... yep!!!

That the astrologer of the past has not ever been just an astrologer is a very valuable observation, Patrice, Thank you!!

Until just the last couple of centuries, astrology was consistently (though not ubiquitously) regarded as a very serious and profound subject. I guess Kepler was the last of the scholar/scientist astrologers, and since then astrology has been trivialized just as consistently. This has had serious consequences which should be more generally recognized than they are, I think.

Until that time, astrology tended to reflect the best of current thinking and we can observe the evolution thereof, at least in part. The caveat here is that astrology was never consistently part of a single meta-discipline, and so the context changes from which that thinking emanated. This makes it both more difficult and more valuable at the same time: while we might tend to be confused by those changes, the observation of them also serves to testify to the way thinking developed over the centuries. So in this sense, astrology becomes, from a historical perspective, a unique window through which we can witness the development of "civilized" mankind across the globe and down through time.

 > From the beginning of the Nineteenth Century onwards, this changed, and I think it would be well worth while discussing what sort of changes they were, at least over and above the vilification that took place as academia left astrology completely vulnerable. It might be that we can get a better idea of what we have in modern astrology as we look at those issues.

Certainly, astrology has always expressed some aspect of the culture in which it existed, but perhaps it's good to look at how that took place, and why. Perhaps we can come to see where the substance of the cultural interpretations used by astrology started to turn rancid, if indeed that is what has happened.

Comments, anyone?



Date: Fri, 20 Apr 2001 11:32:44 -0400
From: "Francis G. Kostella"
To: Exegesis
Subject: Problems Resolved?

Within the last two days many of the problems I'd been having for months with my ISP have seemingly abated. I've started some limited tests with putting a server up again and will announce any results as soon as possible.

Again, if you post a message and it doesn't appear within two days you can send email to me to verify that my ISP hasn't gone bonkers again. :-)




End of Exegesis Digest Volume 6 Issue 13

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