7 (un)Surprising Signs That Astrology Is Total Bullshit (Part 2)

Had meant to finish and publish this earlier. It is the continuation of part 1, which can be found here.

Astrology & Redheads

astro_5

Yet another one to look up. In this case, we get astrologer Judith Hill. Hill’s claim to fame is that “she accepted a 1986 NCGR sponsored skeptic’s challenge and won(!) by successfully matching 5 anonymous biographies to 5 birth charts”. This sounds impressive until you realise that NCGR is the National Council for Geocosmic Research. Further, implied by the recounting of it in the interview linked to below, it seems that multiple astrologers had taken a shot at the same test. How many failed? Matching 5 and 5 randomly is about a 1% chance, which is hardly spectacular if 100 tried it. Indeed, if astrology was a reputable and reproducible science, shouldn’t the failure rate be zero across the board? Please don’t tell me that’s a “straw man”, if you think there’s anything to it it should damn well be reproducible.

For $30 you could get Hill and Thompson’s book on redheads here, although for those without such cash and time to burn a hint at the methodology can be found buried in this interview.

Take Mars placements within 30 degrees on either side of the Ascendant, and compare these with Mars birth placements opposite — 30 degrees on either side of the Descendant — then place these numbers side by side for redheads and non-redheads. Invariably, the redhead population will have a higher ratio of Mars on the Ascendant side and a lower ratio of Mars on the Descendant side.

A more in-depth look at the apparent results is buried in this whiny tl;dr screed (highly recommended is the section on why scientific rigour can’t be applied to astrology, which is bullshit because far more problematic fields have successfully been studied through rigorous methods). While Hill and Thompson’s papers are cited, I can’t track them down. However, when I read things like “p=<0.000035”, my bullshit alarm fires on all cylinders. Why just 30 degrees of the ascendant/descendent? What is the actual distribution? What was the selection procedure for these people? What tests generated these implausibly low p-values? (usually because they incorrectly multiply p values together, as Ben Goldacre explains here) Without these questions answered, we can’t take the research seriously.

Astrology and Mental Health

astro_6

Let’s get one thing abundantly clear; mental health is not something to joke about. Yet I can’t help but feel that if astrologers are claiming that they can solve mental health problems, then they are joking about it. We see how much bullshit they spew on a daily basis, so applying it to mental health is about as funny as applying chiropractic to an infant.

Still, no links so I’m having to find this stuff myself. So, a description of Dr. Mitchell Gibson I managed to find:

In 2005, Dr. Gibson left the traditional practice of medicine after he began to experience what he now calls enlightenment. He had been practicing meditation for more than 25 years and in August of 2003, he began to experience a state of consciousness called Samadhi. Samadhi is recognized as a state of bliss and expanded consciousness that accompanies prolonged meditative practices. Dr. Gibson has been recognized by spiritual masters all over the world for his achievement. He has been given the spiritual name Sri Surya Dass by the great Spiritual Teacher Sri Siva Baba.

I think this is him. He certainly sounds medically qualified (sarcasm). Of course, it could be a different person entirely, but certainly there doesn’t seem much evidence of him being “Harvard-educated” if I’ve got the right one. Like so many, he seems more interested in selling stuff vaguely related to spirituality than doing any real science that his alleged medical qualification would suggest. But you know what? I’m going to be lazy and leave it there. This apparently spectacular piece of evidence to prove astrology is being relentlessly vague and forcing me to do a lot of work just to refute what it can’t even be bothered to say itself.

But I will say that I spent a good 5 minutes with my favourite search engine looking up the schizophrenia claim. It is true; there is an established seasonality. However, the second part is an outright lie. There is a lot of work going into understanding actual seasonality and how climate affects the pathogenesis of schizophrenia – and “birth month” is emphatically not a factor since the big studies are specifically northern-hemisphere based while equivalent southern-hemisphere based studies fail to replicate this. It doesn’t take long to find it. Have a try.

Astrology and Athletes

astro_7

This is just bullshitting. It doesn’t state that the “founder” who quit CSICOP is Dennis Rawlins, who quit not because he became convinced that the Mars Effect was real, but that he didn’t particularly like CSICOP’s statistical approach or integrity. The spat is somewhat embarrassing, but that’s it; embarrassing.  It has no influence on whether the conclusion is correct. Now, remember that this was in 1975, about 40 years ago. It may as well be a millennium ago as far as science is concerned.  There were further replication attempts in the ’70s and in the ’90s that demonstrated no effect. Indeed, Gauquelin’s data for an apparent Mars Effect on athletes suffered a painful number of flaws itself; a staggering selection bias as well as statistical fudging on par with the Sharpshooter Fallacy.

This non-existent effect shouldn’t be confused with the more interesting and real effect discussed in the book Outliers, which demonstrates that those born at a certain time relative to the school year have an advantage at sport over their counterparts at school due to being more significantly older at a young age – indeed, up to a year-wide age gap between children put in the same grouping, which may seem relatively significant for grown adults in their twenties, but constitutes an age difference >10% below age 10.

Conclusions

This was such a waste of my time… I mean, seriously, look at it. This is terrible. All 7 points are supposedly the final concluding remarks on how astrology is totally legit and real, yet they say no such thing. They’re vague, they’re out of context, they’re selective. They’re relatively trivial to debunk. Yet, there they are, sitting proud and making people think there’s something actually to this delusion.

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One thought on “7 (un)Surprising Signs That Astrology Is Total Bullshit (Part 2)

  1. Given the relatively large number of redheads in Scotland I would think that the influence of Mars is limited to deep-frying.

    Reply

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