Monday, June 22, 2009

Critical Method in Astrology

Some time ago, I did a Youtube presentation about critical thinking in astrology. I didn't expand on the idea then - but I should have. Here are some additional thoughts.

When I look at how astrologers think compared to other groups, I am struck by a simple fact: astrologers are about as wet as it's possible to be. What do I mean by that?

Almost all astrologers are way better at accumulating techniques than in culling them. Why is this significant, and why should this matter? Consider this. You read a series of books on astrology, and learn about, let's say, progressions and solar returns. Then Life throws you a curve. Your run your techniques to try to understand what is going on - and a portion of the time, they show you exactly what you expect to see (at least in terms of explanation!) - and a portion of the time: they don't. So what happens in this case? Chances are, you go off in search of another technique. And with the number that we have in astrology, chances are: you'll find one!

And then what? This is the question that astrologers don't ask. Can you keep adding techniques indefinitely? If you could, then professional astrological readings given by people who have been in astrology for decades would be hours in length, while readings given by relative newcomers would be short. This isn't necessarily true - professional astrologers are clearly finding a way to find the techniques that give them bang for the buck, ignoring the ones that don't. But this is easier for someone doing a lot of readings - you can see what is working consistently, and what isn't.

But what of the astrology buff - the person who may be passionately interested, but isn't making a living at it? With more occasional charts, it may be very hard to sort out the best techniques. In fact, this can be a very difficult position to be in, because not being able to winnow down the techniques can very easily lead to confusion.

How frustrating can it be to read book after book after book, attend conference after conference after conference? And then instead of getting clarity, you can never figure out exactly how to do it, because each time you try, there seems to be too many conflicting possibilities. One gets the sense that you know that there is something there, but it's hard to pick it out in practice. So you think that the speakers or authors that are demonstrating it just have some magical ability, that it seems to work for them.

I would like to propose a working axiom that would make almost everybody's astrological learning curve easier. It's very simple: perhaps astrology doesn't have to explain everything. Consider how this simple idea can free you up phenomenally.

Consider, for examples, how geneticists don't feel they have to explain all of intelligence. If a person seems to be brighter or dimmer than might be expected, geneticists don't have to run out and try to find some other genetics analysis to try to explain it: they can simply say: there must be an environmental effect. A meteorologist doesn't have to go to a conference to find a new technique when a forecast is wrong: he or she simply says: either there must be a factor I didn't take into account, or perhaps my weightings were wrong - or even that my forecast was only statistical to begin with!

What we collectively do which other knowledge areas don't is to create a tent big enough to capture all possible outcomes - no matter how unlikely. We never stop to think that the odd case may simply be better explained by something other than astrology. Instead, we risk sacrificing what accuracy we have by focusing too much on the out-liers: those one-in-a-million shits that may be real - just not likely. We don't stop to consider that the astrology that can deal with the oddballs may be embarrassingly bad on the routine.