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An Astounding Proof of Astrology

This post was written by Donald Michael Kraig
on October 13, 2009 | Comments (13)

Magick and astrology have been deeply intertwined for thousands of years. In the past, astronomical and astrological influences were often more involved with magick, and even today, magicians often look at such things as the astrological signs and houses certain planets are in, the planetary hour of the day, whether the moon is waxing or waning, etc., in the design of their rituals and spells. Of course, this all falls apart if one thing is demonstrated: the failure of astrology.

The Debunkers Debunked

Indeed, so-called skeptics (I’d call them pseudo-skeptics) and debunkers often bring out flimsy logic, misunderstandings and misrepresentations about astrology, as well as bad science or bad scientific technique, to desperately disprove the effectiveness of astrology. In 1981, FATE magazine published an article entitled “sTARBABY,” where they revealed deception and intimidation among the debunking community, forever changing that community.

Recently, while browsing the internet, I came upon a video I want to discuss. First, however, some background.

The Debunker and the Astrologer

Dr. Michael Shermer is the Founding Publisher of Skeptic magazine, the Executive Director of the Skeptics Society, a monthly columnist for Scientific American, the host of the Skeptics Distinguished Science Lecture Series at Caltech, and Adjunct Professor of Economics at Claremont Graduate University.

The astrologer being tested in the video I saw is Jeffrey Armstrong. Mr. Armstrong uses Vedic astrology rather than Western astrology. One of the main differences is that Vedic (ancient Indian) astrology uses a sidereal zodiac (with the actual positions of the planets and constellations) rather than the Western Tropical zodiac which fixes the beginning of Aries with March 21.

Even with his many credentials and degrees, Dr. Shermer’s statement at the beginning of the video (originally shown in 2000 on the show, Exploring the Unknown), that according to ancient astrologers, “the movement of the Sun, Moon, and planets directly controls our lives and our destinies” is false. As astrologers will tell you, “The stars impel, they don’t compel.”

Armstrong is Tested

Shermer challenged Armstrong to give nine readings. Armstrong would only be given the dates, time, and location of birth, plus the gender of the subjects. After he analyzed the charts, Shermer videotaped Armstrong giving three-minute readings. He could not see or talk to the subjects. Then he watched from another room as the videos were played to the subjects.

I have no doubt that Shermer expected that Armstrong would be correct 50% of the time or less. In other words, he expected to prove the horoscope interpretations were just chance. This would show that astrology was a fraud. He could then gloat and ask questions like, “What do you think now that we’ve shown you that astrology is a fraud and nothing more than coincidence?” What he got, however, was shocking. Armstrong’s success rate for seven of the nine people was 69%, 63%, 89%, 71%, 74%, 75% and 66%. This was far above chance or coincidence.

A Debunker Trap!

But with the last two subjects Armstrong only scored 38% and 21% correct. How could he have been so correct on seven people and so wrong on two others? Well, Shermer—kudos to him for being honest—admitted that they played a trick on the subjects and Armstrong. Shermer had reversed their readings without letting anybody know it. When the subjects were shown their actual readings, Armstrong’s success rate jumped to an amazing 92% and 94% accuracy for these two people. Armstrong correctly hit 105 out of 137 comments for the nine subjects, an accuracy rate of 77%.

This was nothing less than an astounding proof of astrology.

Excuses, Excuses

Dr. Shermer, when asked about this by a supportive poster in an on-line forum, responded:

“The short story is this: we ran out of time at the end of the filming day to conduct any more experiments with Armstrong. I protested that it was going to make it look like he was successful, but to no avail as I did not have final authority over what was produced for the show, Exploring the Unknown, and so I just hoped that in the editing process it would be cut in a way that dealt with that problem, but it wasn’t and I couldn’t do anything about it, so it aired and no one noticed back then (in 2000), but someone posted the clip you reference and now we’re dealing with the fallout from it. It is an unfortunate reality of the series that I didn’t have enough control over the production and filming process.

“You can post this explanation if you like.”

Dr. Shermer further added,

“My memory on what we were trying to do that day of filming is a little vague, but if I recall correctly there was to be another stage of the experiment where Armstrong had to match his astrological readings with the profiles of a group of new subjects, and then have them do the same, picking out their reading from a batch he produced, and then compare them. But we ran out of time. Here’s how it works in the film/television industry: camera crews are unionized and have strict rules about working only so many hours in a day, after which they get paid double time and even triple time, need a certain number of breaks in the day, etc. Our budget for that show required that we were done by 5pm, and we simply ran out of time and the producer called the shoot over, and there was nothing I could do about it. Very frustrating.

“You can post this as well. In fact, maybe you can post it on the YouTube video of it, and anywhere else you find it playing.”

Those are Dr. Shermer’s quotes in full and in context. I’ll just bet he’s “dealing with the fallout!”  In fact, I’ll bet he and his supporters are doing everything they can to come up with all sorts of excuses. We were going to do more. We ran out of time. Other tests would have shown him to be a failure. We couldn’t edit it our way. It’s the fault of the camera crews. Our budget ran out. Yada, yada, yada.

In the sTARBABY incident, the main form of cheating by the skeptics was to change the number of people analyzed until the results showed what they wanted rather than the truth. Here, Mr. Shermer is saying they wanted to add more and more tests until they could get the results they wanted. If they couldn’t do that, maybe they could have it edited so it would appear like they were getting the results they wanted.

A Horrible Thing…For the Debunkers!

Instead, to the skeptics, a horrible thing happened. In a show that was designed to make astrology look like it was a fraud, even though it was being monitored by one of the leading lights of the skeptic/debunker movement, one dedicated astrologer proved that in this test, astrology was valid.

What do you think?

[Note: Our new website is still going through growing pains. I was unable to post a copy of the video. It is available on You Tube. When the kinks are worked out I’ll embed it in this blog post.

Reader Comments

Written By Elysia
on October 15th, 2009 @ 10:49 am

Great video! Now that I’ve had my first “real” astrology reading this past summer, I agree that your chart can definitely reveal things about you to a person who has no prior knowledge of you. I mean, anyone can google me and find out what I do for a living, but for someone to know how I approach problems mentally, what road blocks I put up in my path, and other teeny-tiny details like that – I really think there’s something to it. Of course our lives are not set in stone and astrology just focuses on influences and proclivities, but it can shed a lot of light when trying to balance out any energies that are harder to deal with. Thanks for posting this video.

Written By rakesh singhal
on December 1st, 2009 @ 1:43 am

Dear sir,

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our article http://jyotishratna.com/accidents.htm is first ever clear cut proof of astrology.

it is verifiable.

we challenge any skeptic/debunker to disprove this article.

I hope , with the clear diagnosis of accidents, we should be able to reduce the accidents.

best wishes,
rakesh singhal

Written By Byron
on December 3rd, 2009 @ 4:35 pm

I first got interested in astrology because back in the day,when everyone from Sybil Leek to Israel Regardie considered it mandatory for a budding occultist,witch or magician to know astrology in order to be proficient in “magick”, and I wanted to study magick. Indeed, it was a requirement for one of the grade qualifications of original the Golden Dawn Order to be able to cast a horoscope and interpet it. One book I read, suggested testing the validity of astrology by keeping a yearly diary of all important events,(and the date and time that they occurred) that occurred to you that year and later get an ephemeris and see if there are any repeating planetary combinations or configerations that coincide with occurence of certain events in your life. I did one better than that. I had suffered from an assault and robbery at a certain time.I went to an occult book store.I had the store owner do a computer transit for me on my natal chart, without telling him about the incident that occurred to me. I wanted to see if the transit would pick up on it.This would be my personal test for the validity of astrology and whether I should waste my time studying it.When I got the computerized transit back, I was amazed! It read,”Beware of the criminal activity in your environment”for the week the incident occurred to me. Right on target! It was too close to me to be a coincident! I also observed physical events that evidenced moon void off course and mercury retrograde activity to further validate the practice of astrology for me! Any onw else out there tested the validity of astrology for themselves???

Written By Chuck
on September 5th, 2011 @ 8:21 am

I think it is interesting that in the case of the two that were switched Armstrong had such a relatively week result. However the success rates that he received are attributable to a well know effect where people tend to agree with personality profiles whether they are random or not.

If there was a larger sample of “switched” profiles then that would be a much more convincing proof. This is very exciting but without a larger control group there just isn’t sufficient proof.

Written By Donald Michael Kraig
on September 5th, 2011 @ 10:54 am

Respectfully, Chuck, the two that were switched did not agree with the switched descriptions, but then did agree when the descriptions were appropriate. That’s hardly a “week result.”

Further, since we are only given the resulting hits vs. misses and total correct hits, I have to point out that we were not given the raw data and it is not possible to attribute Armstrong’s success rate to your assumption that “people tend to agree with personality profiles whether they are random or not.” There is not data to support your claim.

Finally, the test, including the cheating, was designed by Dr. Shermer, not by Mr. Armstrong. You are now doing what is called “moving the goalposts.” You didn’t like the results that were obtained so you want to change the parameters of the test. This was exactly what happened during the infamous sTARBABY incident (albeit after the test began).

I have a friend who, years ago, would give herself Tarot readings on a question repeatedly until she received an answer she liked. I disagree with this technique. I’m sure you can see the fallacy in it, too. But it’s exactly what you want to do–repeat the test until you get results you like.

Sorry. That’s not science.

Written By Reckoner
on October 12th, 2012 @ 3:32 am

How would you comment on the fact that the Zodiac signs we observe today are different than the ones observed when the principles of Astrology were first developed?

Due to the planet’s precession (wobbling of its axis), the Sun Signs representing the exact dates for which any of you were born does not correspond to those first observed in 1000 B.C.. For example, when Astrology was first proposed, someone born on October 28, 1015 B.C. would be a Scorpio. This is because the Sun lies in front of that constellation. On October 28, 1985, the Sun lies in front of SAGITTARIUS. Despite that, these people’s horoscopes are read as though they were Scorpios. Despite that, there is still this “astounding success rate” you speak of.

If horoscopes and readings changed along with the results of the Earth’s precession, then these arguments might have some validity, but since they don’t, it can almost be assumed that one can LIE about their birthday and still get a high degree of “truth” in their readings.

Written By Donald Michael Kraig
on October 12th, 2012 @ 10:16 am

Thanks for your comment, Reckoner. If you watched the video described in this post, you would see that you’re 100% wrong. Giving the wrong birthdate (or location or even time) results in wrong descriptions. In fact, there’s an entire astrological practice, known as “rectification,” that has the purpose of finding exact birth times when it is not known.

You are also factually in error in your description of the principles of astrology. The original principles of astrology took into account precession. Today, this type of astrology is still practiced and uses what is called the Sidereal zodiac. There are other forms, including the most common Western form of astrology, that focus a starting point of the year on the fixed vernal equinox. They are said to use the Tropical zodiac.

What you, and other debunkers ignore, is that astrological interpretations include far more than just your “birth sign” (more accurately, your Sun sign). The also include the interrelationships between the planets. If you give a wrong birthdate, location, or birth time, these interrelationships change, and would dramatically alter the interpretation of the chart.

If you put three dots forming the points of an equilateral triangle on a piece of clear plastic, you can place that plastic over any colored or patterned background and the points stay the same. However, if you change the interrelationship of the dots, perhaps making an isosceles or scalene triangle, you will see an obvious difference. Your claiming that a person could lie and have the same reading implies that an astrologer wouldn’t notice a difference between the points in this example or the interrelationships of the planets. This is simply false.

However, that still leaves the accurate issue of where do the zodiacal constellations sit in relation to the solar year? Indeed, they have shifted. Today, if you follow the tropical zodiac, Aries begins on March 21 while if you follow the sidereal zodiac it begins around April 15 (some say as early as the 13th while others say as late as the 18th). The thing is, each system takes this into account.

We were able to send astronauts to the Moon using the rules of Newtonian physics. That is, we had to include the concept of masses, such as the Moon and the Earth, exerting a force we call gravity. However, this simple theory of gravitation doesn’t answer all questions about the nature of gravity in the universe, and in quantum mechanics there several different theories, including “loop quantum gravity,” “string theory,” “Penrose spin networks,” Connes non-commutative geometry,” and others.

Some religionists falsely deny certain theories by claiming that a theory is only a speculation or guess. In science, a theory presents a paradigm that explains all known phenomena and predicts future phenomena. All of those theories can do this because they are accurate within their paradigm.

The same is true for sidereal and tropical astrology. By understanding the background or zodiacal system you get accurate interpretations of charts. Lie about your birth date will give incorrect interpretations in either paradigm. This was clearly shown in the video described in my original post.

Written By Skeptic
on May 27th, 2013 @ 10:04 am

Think about the similarities between astrology and racism. They both operate on the principle that a person’s behavior is based on how they were born instead of who they are. Though most astrology readings are parlor tricks pointing out the most general positive qualities in a person, it does follow that if you believe that a person is introspective because they were born in December, then you can also buy into the foolish idea that a person is lazy because of the color of their skin.

Written By Donald Michael Kraig
on May 27th, 2013 @ 11:06 am

Thank you for your comment, skeptic. My response is quite simple. What you have done is set up a straw man argument.

To those who don’t know, a straw man argument is easy.
Therefore, A=C

In this instance, A=real astrology. B=your false and imagined version of astrology. C=bad.

Your argument falls apart because A≠B. Therefore, A≠C. Only your imagined and false version of astrology is bad.

NOBODY who practices real astrology—which focuses on your entire birth chart and the interrelationships of the positions of the planets—would ever say “a person is introspective because they were born in December.

NOBODY who practice real astrology would ever say a person is any particular way because of a birth chart. This is because real astrologers know “the stars impel, they do not compel.” Understanding your astrological chart, like understanding a weather map, allows you to plan for the future by seeing the challenges and benefits of the weather to come.

In my posts and my responses in my blog I have always tried to respond reasonably to people. My first response to your display of your own ignorance was to really call out how despicable and stupid it is to relate astrology to racism. However, I deleted that. It’s far easier to simply point out your ignorance, lack of understanding, ability to set up a foolish straw man argument, willingness to support false beliefs (your incorrect notion of what astrology is), combined with your willingness to support illogic and, quite possibly, groups who support such illogic. And skeptic, it’s attitudes and beliefs such as those that support racism, not astrology.

Written By Veritas et Fortitudo
on June 8th, 2013 @ 10:21 am

Today I learned two things:

1)The professional skeptic crowd is full of a bunch of cry-babies.

2)I should study more classical and formal Logic, so I can handle the trolls as deftly as Mr. Kraig.


Thank you DMK!

Written By Jon
on April 29th, 2014 @ 5:47 pm

If this were an actual “scientific” test, it wouldn’t have been designed this way. In statistical terms, it isn’t reliable. There’s no way to be certain that the test subjects are being asked to respond in the same way. Some might have an interest in verifying astrology or the opposite, for example. Some might be attracted to or annoyed by the questioner, etc.

There should have been an agreed to criteria other than a yes/no for whether a reading was “successful.” What quantifiable information should a reading produce? And the answers to that question should have been given by the subjects BEFORE the reading, preferably written down in a unambiguous manner.

Written By Nartim
on July 27th, 2014 @ 2:56 pm

Yes, there should be more tests done which would be better designed, but that is not how communities of skeptics want this issue to move forward. As the example of this show indicates, they are completely fine with watching astrologists fail at mock tests which ignore both astrological theory and the rules of good scientific practice. Which is frankly still better than the common skeptical attitude of astrology being already decisively debunked, based on what they have read in overblown headlines without actually reviewing the studies for themselves. If you look at the state of the research in the field so far as it really is, there are some suggestions that some aspects of astrology might work and about as much scientifically speaking shabby and overall not very convincing straw man ridden debunkings that only sidestep what astrology really is.

For instance, it has been proven that people can be fooled by vague complimentary nonsense (Barnum/Forer effect), but if you actually get to read the readings used in actual studies and compare them to actual astrological readings from more reputable authors (from published literature), they are nothing alike – astrological readings are not meant to be complimentary and not vague (if they are, you’re doing it wrong). If anything, astrological readings are comparable to scientific psychoanalytical readings – the qualitative science of human personality, not behavioral psychology, which is the exact philosophical opposite of astrology in all ontological and epistemological respects, yet somehow it keeps getting compared as if it had to be similar or it isn’t science.

Which brings me to other proven thing – astrology is not comparable to standardized personality tests based on the behavioral school of social science and psychology. Astrology doesn’t predict objective traits, such as your future occupation (by name), just like it doesn’t predict you name, or your address, or color of your skin, or if you ever kill someone. Astrology is not meant to predict behaviors, because it isn’t deterministic. It describes subjective essence, qualitative potential. That can be approached scientifically, but not using the most hardcore quantitative approach in the history of social science, which does individuality erasing generalization and reduction to the maximum extent possible. But for some reason, that is the most common kind of test aimed at (dis)proving astrology. Unsurprisingly, no relation is being found – between things that are not supposed to be related in the first place. Also, the famous Carlson study interestingly doesn’t mention that CPI standardized personality tests fared no better than natal charts in their incredibly ill-designed study, but there you go, skeptics are no less biased than anyone else.

It has also been proven, that astrology has more to say about distinct, successful individuals, that it has about random samples of average people. As it was successfully shown in the Gauquelin tests with the so called Mars effect and at least three other links between dominant planets and professions. Scientists then decided it doesn’t count, because it does not work in random samples…completely ignoring that astrological markers for particular kind of excellence would logically show in behavior only when the excellence is achieved by the person. Which shows that not even a successful test proving something about astrology is enough for skeptics to accept that there is something to astrology, just like it happened the aforementioned skeptic show.

Oh and other tests have conclusively shown that (once again average) people don’t really understand their own personality and that most people who think they can do astrology right are probably wrong. Which is very frustrating, but hey, that’s the world we live in. Let’s hope, in a true scientific fashion, that more and better studies will be conducted in the future.

Written By Laurie
on January 1st, 2015 @ 3:38 pm

You haven’t fully described the experiment, but it does sound vulnerable to “cold readings” or Barnum statements, like those performed by Derren Brown. Which are specifically vague, two pronged, or true for everyone, disguised by verbosity, when used by someone skilled it’s easy to make any passage of text seem incredibly personal without really meaning anything, the listener naturally assigns it meaning. The matching task Shermer wanted to do would have been much more useful at avoiding that

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