Re: [asa] astrology, ID & science

From: Iain Strachan <igd.strachan@gmail.com>
Date: Fri May 04 2007 - 16:27:27 EDT

On 5/4/07, Alexanian, Moorad <alexanian@uncw.edu> wrote:
>
> Astrology cannot be a science since its subject matter cannot be reduced
> to data that can be collected, in principle, with purely physical devices.
> How does one correlate the physical interaction of the universe on a person
> and use that to make future predictions? There is no such theory or
> detectable effects.
>

On the contrary, I would have thought it comparatively straightforward to
come up with a double blind trial on a similar level as a clinical trial
that would test the predictions of astrology. Astrologers claim that by
studying the stars they can predict your mood, happiness, likely romantic
sucess, how you're doing in your job.

So here would be my design for a trial:

You get two "astrologers" one is a genuine astrologer who believes it is
all true. The other one is a sham astrologer who doesn't believe it and
writes down the first thing that comes into his head. The sham astrologer
is analogous to a placebo drug.

Both astrologers make predictions about a group of people for whom they have
names, date of birth, and whatever info an astrologer is supposed to have.

What the astrologers are not told is that the subjects are divided into
three groups A,B, and C. Group A is the treatment group and is notified of
predictions from the genuine astrologer. Group B is the placebo group and
is notified of predictions made by the placebo astrologer. Needless to say
A and B are blinded to which astrologer they receive the predictions from.
Group C is a control group, which receives no predictions from either
astrologer, though the predictions are still made.

All the subjects fill out a daily checkbox questionnaire about their mood
e.g. Happiness, Romance, Energy etc, on a scale of 1 to 5.

Then you just test to see the correlations. If astrology is valid, then
Group A correlates better than Group B (Drug outperforms placebo). Also the
genuine predictions will be better correlated with Group C than those from
the placebo astrologer.

If astrology is false, then I would expect no differences at all (though
possibly Groups A and B will show some correlation with their respective
predictions, as both will experience the placebo effect).

Easily testable. What is not testable is the prediction that we'll never
find a way for a flagellum to evolve because the experiment would take
rather too long... :-)

Another way to do it would be to have one genuine astrologer, but only half
the data matching the actual subject, and the other data as sham (e.g. give
the subjects name but a random birth date and age).

Iain

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Received on Fri May 4 16:27:57 2007

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