The Astrological Association Journal of Research in Astrology

Response to Understanding Astrology (2022) by Dean, Mather, Nias & Smit

by Paul Westran

Opinion – Paul Westran

So again, Geoffrey Dean et al (Nias, Mather, Smit, with contributions from Heukelom and Kelly) have unleashed their cocktail of unoriginal and divisive opinion on an un-expectant world. Perhaps this time they will have found something in their chosen specialised subject, astrology. Alas, no,  they have succeeded in finding nothing despite reviewing 1000 experiments and so their tome must continue to serve as a guidebook for guerrilla skeptics, unimaginative materialist authors and online astronomy educators. All of the people Rob Hand notes to be:

“…second-rate physicist-astronomers and people like that who are incompetent at doing what they are supposed to be doing, so they have at us instead of doing their own proper work! Half-baked hacks in their own fields. They are more interested in winning than in finding out the truth.”

Some context here, 1000 experiments sounds like a lot. It’s not. It’s a pitiful few considering the 366 years since astrology was expelled from academia. Physics currently gets about 120 billion hours of research per century (800,000 physicists at any time * 1500 hours research per year * 100 years). If astrology had this kind of facility, we would have a developed subject by now.  If each of the 1000 experiments in the book had taken somewhere near the same time as my own (none did), but let’s say they spent 25,000 hours on each experiment, the total research time would be just 25,000,000 hours. That’s 0.02% of the total hours spent on physics research. As only one, perhaps two of the experiments exceeded 25,000 hours you can see my point. No research = no development. No development = no progress. No progress = same mistakes are made over and over again. Same mistakes = Easy job for Geoffrey Dean et al.

As it stands the multi-century lack of patronage, funding, and the subsequent lack of actual researchers in this space has assured no progress. William Lilly could easily get a job as an astrologer today (and he wouldn’t actually be required to learn anything about Uranus, Neptune or Pluto). Dean et al, for 99% of their book are simply recording the ongoing effects of academic abandonment. If medicine had been abandoned by academia for hundreds of years, they could have written about how it ‘doesn’t really work’. If you think this is absurd, think back, medicine was abandoned by academia in the West for over a thousand years, more precisely from the death of Hypatia in 415CE to about 1796CE. Astrology’s rejection from academia was in contrast to the acceptance of medicine. Both subjects looked almost the same in 1666.

You could say that both medicine and astrology were attached to a more tangible, or ‘easy to validate’ subject, and that astrology – the psychology++ of its day – was quite easy to wrest from astronomy, its de facto technical partner since prehistoric times. Astrology was effectively de-patronized and isolated from the developing scientific academies. But medicine, connected in the same tangible way to anatomy, was harder to separate. Anatomy, more particularly surgery, was a comparatively advanced subject in 1666, general medicine (the non-surgical part of anatomical study) was not. Bloodletting, herbal remedies and the four humours as well as astrological guidance and prayer were the core of 17th Century medicine. Surgery was a slightly more precise science. Samuel Pepys was operated on successfully to remove a bladder stone ‘the size of a tennis ball’ in 1658, yet he can be found reporting on medical bloodletting 8 years later by the same surgeon. Science had to wait a long time for advances in medicine. Medicine developed slowly despite it not being declared pseudoscience and its subsequent access to funding.  It was only Edward Jenner’s discovery (or rediscovery) of vaccination that placed it on an upward trajectory and within a century we had anaesthetics and germ theory. The century that followed brought antiseptics, antibiotics, transplantation and gene therapy. As soon as we had germ theory, bloodletting ceased.

As soon as you get a single result you get funding, if you get funding you get researchers, if you get enough funding you get talented researchers, if you get talented researchers you get progress. Dean et al try to pretend that astrology has researchers. It simply doesn’t and they’re not helping us get them.

My experiments are a departure from what you might describe as traditional research. I maintain that the results of my experiments actually explain why we have not got results from most of the other experiments in astrological research history. This is a very good reason to try to debunk my findings, if Dean et al don’t debunk me, then all of their other endeavours are practically invalidated. If I say ‘by the way the reason you have not got extraordinary positive results (mine have extraordinarily high significance) from every experiment in the past is because all researchers have been viewing the horoscope as fixed and static, when in fact it moves’, it rather invalidates all of their crucial criticisms and demonstrates academic abandonment to be the cause of the mistake that made the materialist/rationalists of the world believe astrology to be a pseudoscience. In this instance the carefully constructed house of straw upon which almost all ideas about pseudoscience are constructed, starts to shake visibly.

The really annoying fact here is that Dean et al actually know that my experiments were successful. I shared, in good faith, my data which they perused for a year and then published whatever they could to try to cast doubt on it. But not before they had suggested to me a number of scenarios so bizarre and far-fetched that, if true, I would have been eligible for a Nobel Prize. They didn’t appear to understand the irony. Here’s Dean nominating me for a Nobel Prize:

Dean suggested that the effect may be because Venus cannot appear more than 48º from the Sun and that Mars has no such limits. They said that Sun-Venus is the only pair in the aspect connections where the aspect *in a natal chart* is constrained to 48º or less, with average frequencies for 0º and 30º being several times those expected based on uniform planetary motion. They went on to say that in theory any constraint disappears for Sun-Venus aspects *between charts*. Nevertheless, they suggested Sun-Venus non-uniformity is so extreme that ‘enough may remain’ between charts to explain why Sun-Venus results are apparently significant and why (despite Mars retrogradation) Sun-Mars results are not. Precis of correspondence PW and GD 2015

They debate points of order and make half-baked comments to try to put the curious off the scent, taking two bites of every carefully-picked cherry. They complain about p-value sizes and correlation coefficients as if they matter to the significance of the outcomes. Any astrological experiment that consistently offers p>0.0001 is extraordinary. As they have experience with me and my data, they no doubt know that it is useless to quibble about the usual methodological flack that they send up hoping to misdirect the reader away from the startlingly original concept underneath the results. They know they have one option and that is to convince the reader that ‘it’s just wrong’. Well it isn’t and they know this. Here are some comments from Geoffrey Dean about me:

  • ‘I am amazed at your industry’
  • ‘I find this represents an astonishing amount of work. How long did the assembling of data and analysis take? Amazing. If astrologers generally were prepared to invest similarly in proper research, astrology today might rest on more substantial grounds.’
  • ‘As usual, the sheer amount of work you have done is quite staggering, even more so in view of your careful controls.’

I imagine it would be very difficult for researchers to find out what I do and then not test it out for themselves using their own family data. As soon as they do this, they will more often than not, validate my findings. I managed to do it with a sample of nine relationships that included only the known cohort[1] of Karl Popper, Paul Thagard and AJ Ayer (three vocal astrology skeptics). Likewise I have done it with just nine relationships of my own family members.

Here is where the second bite of the cherry comes in:

[1] The marriages of Karl Popper, Paul Thagard and AJ Ayer and the extra-marital relationships of AJ Ayer along with the relationships of AJ Ayer’s partners and their partners.

Comment:  Because 90 years of life are described in the ephemeris by 90 hours (primary directions), 90 days (ordinary directions and secondary progressions), 1203 days (minor pro- gressions), and 2459 days (tertiary directions), Troinski (1910-1982), to whom Svensson’s book is dedicated, had in effect (like Westran) greatly increased the chance of observing hits  Dean et al p483

You can’t complain about studies not having control groups if you ignore the controls and then accuse researchers of a greatly increased chance of observing hits. That’s two bites from four adept cherry pickers. This is a very serious error on the part of this collaboration. Dean, Nias, Mather and Smit have here demonstrated that they have not been listening. Controls tell you how many hits you should expect, if you get significantly more hits than your control, then something is going on that needs a cogent explanation. Here this team of obfuscators makes it clear that the established conventions of science only matter when they are working in their favour. So here they try to undermine my results, by making a statement that is plainly untrue and honestly absurd.

As for this team’s untrustworthiness… well, we covered that previously. Can you trust Dean, Nias, Mather and Smit? The answer is no and there are two reasons why. The first is practically they have been found to deliberately mislead their audience at the expense of genuine researchers (see Correlation 33 (2) p22-23). The second is they have too much to lose to report a positive result. They have consistently failed to falsify my research, but they have also consistently failed to acknowledge it. Here’s an example of what I mean:

The failure to replicate reported in Tests of Astrology for a sub-sample with birth times (N=447) was dismissed as an artifact of small N and cherry- picking; it “betrays the trust of readers in what claims to be a scientific book” (2021: 23). Dean et al p481

‘Failure to replicate’ is an inaccurate description of the outcomes of the N=447 test.(Note that the 447 is 447 couples from my first 1300 who have a recorded time of birth, so this is my data and I can carry out the same tests they say they have done). If they did the experiment correctly the will have replicated two out of the three effects reported. Because they had selectively reduced the sample to the smallest subset they could get away with, they managed to reduce the significance of SO VE trines to less than significant, but as reported in Correlation 33 (2) they should have arrived at p=0.013 for SO VE conjunctions and p = 0.018 for SO VE oppositions. It doesn’t matter how they chose to slice the information, they should not be ignoring positive results because of the vagaries of the claims made at the time or the way the data was sliced. If they were actual researchers, they would know this, but, unfortunately whenever I interact with these people it seems to be more like a game of chess than an endeavour to discover the mysteries of the universe. At some stage there needs to be a review by a truly objective body which doesn’t care about the desires of either professional sceptics or professional astrologers. This would then form the basis of a research grant submission rather than a bizarre trip through the inside of Dean’s head.

The aim of their 2016 book, Tests of Astrology, Dean informed me, is to inform researchers of promising areas of research in astrology. Its actual purpose is a sledgehammer of obfuscation. If they were really looking for experiments with merit that might form the basis for future research, then there are many that are dismissed with notable insincerity and out of starkly invariable necessity.  Based on what I know they know, they cannot be looking for promising areas of future research in astrology. I believe if they were to press this claim their sponsorship (or whomever it is that supports them) would fall away sharply. Their actual aim must be to ensure that astrology remains unfunded and unresearched, and this is a very sinister aspect of their behaviour. If there were a 0.02% chance that astrology is true, they should be in the business of trying to develop it. After all, astrology is currently an international industry that turns over 100s of millions of dollars (not bad numbers for something that ‘is not true’), but it would be transformed into a multi-trillion dollar industry if we were able to make scientific (repeatable) predictions with it (which we actually can, by the way). We should explore, fund and develop it to find out what we can learn about its place in our lives and from my point of view, and millions of others, we have a good reason to do this.

1 The marriages of Karl Popper, Paul Thagard and AJ Ayer and the extra-marital relationships of AJ Ayer along with the relationships of AJ Ayer’s partners and their partners.