The Astrological Association Journal of Research in Astrology

Understanding Astrology: Comments on Dean’s critique of my Ph.D. Thesis

By Dr Bruce Scofield

On pages 490-491 of Geoffrey Dean’s massive work “Understanding Astrology” he reports critically on a large study I did for my Ph.D thesis which raised the question “Does Saturn influence the weather?” (Bruce Scofield, A History and Test of Planetary Weather Forecasting, PhD thesis, Department of Geosciences, University of Massachusetts.) He did not take into account a subsequent paper I wrote on the subject. (Scofield, 2013. A Signal From Saturn in Daily Temperature Data. Correlation 29 (1).)

In his comments on my account of John Goad’s 17th century study of astrometeorology, Dean makes the assumption that Goad thought planetary aspects that correlate with weather events were consistent in all locations: “all possible weather conditions exist somewhere on Earth all the time, so the idea that planetary aspects could be usefully specific is unlikely to be fruitful”. This was not the case as Goad’s study also considered weather data recorded by a sea captain friend of his. Goad was well aware that different regions had different weather and this appears in my summary of Goad’s work, which Dean apparently missed.

Dean seems to have misunderstood that my study first analyzed all Ptolemaic Sun-Saturn aspects (as a pilot study) but then focused mostly on the opposition which (like the conjunction) is a syzygy in both geocentric and heliocentric perspectives and also marks the point in the Sun-Saturn synodic cycle where Earth and Saturn are nearest each other. This reductionism in the study, which he calls lack of plots (these plots do appear at the start of the work but are then set aside), seems to bother him as he uses it to criticize the work as it moves into a deeper and narrower investigation.. For Dean, apparently, the Sun-Saturn effect must work under all aspects or it is not an effect. Disregarding this narrowing of the analysis, he draws attention to, and comments on, my findings for the conjunction of Sun and Saturn – “The notably high peak at the conjunction (horizontal arrow) escaped comment, possibly because the indicated warming was contrary to tradition.” Here Dean seems to have missed my comment in that section where I cited that Kepler’s study showed the conjunction to have a “warming effect.” This finding was also commented in more detail on in a subsequent publication that Dean did not cite (Scofield, Correlation. 2013).

Dean states that “The author also analyzed daily temperature data during 1971-2000 for other areas including ten stations in NE USA (sd of mean 3.87), central England (sd 2.63), Prague (sd 3.69), and central Argentina.” He neglects to mention that many other regions were also investigated and that the datasets were not limited to 1971-2000. Many datasets were longer than that particular 30-year period and the data for central England and Prague extends well over 200 years and was used in several tests of Sun-Saturn oppositions.

A profound misunderstanding of my methodology is revealed when Dean states “because the SO-SA aspect cycle is only 378–365 = 13 days longer than the calendar year, its analysis will be made even less certain by seasonal effects; for example part of the cycle may occur in summer rather than winter, or in a wet season rather than a dry season.” He apparently completely missed that I compensated for any seasonal distortions by converting my datasets into a form called by weather and climate scientists the “anomaly from the mean.” This involves a calculation of the daily mean over the period studied in which temperature deviance (on each day from the daily mean over the period), positive or negative, then serves as the data for graphing and analysis. This is standard procedure in these kinds of studies.

Regarding the experimental controls used in my study, the contrary findings of Sun-Jupiter oppositions are criticized – “if the predicted cooling effect is genuine and is genuinely tidal, then tests of Sun- Jupiter aspects should confirm it because Jupiter’s tide raising influence on Earth is 11x that of Saturn, Unfortunately the author’s limited test of Sun-Jupiter oppositions has left this decisive area mostly unexamined.” Dean seems to be saying that my hypothesis that gravity plays a role in a Sun-Saturn effect on temperature is negated by this finding, which is true and that is why I included it. But my hypothesis is stated as “There is a correlation, shown in daily temperature records, between cooling trends in specific regions and the geocentric alignments of the Sun and the planet Saturn.” Whether or not my findings are explained by gravity, or involves some kind of resonance, is left open. Given this correlational hypothesis, whether or not the Jupiter finding completely falsifies my study is another matter. What Dean doesn’t note is that I found that Sun-Jupiter oppositions to be correlated with precipitation, apparently positively, and this is one of the traditional astrometeorological correlates with that planet. He also doesn’t note that I used the Sun-Mars syzygy as a control for a series of tests using the Prague dataset (warmer at conjunction, cooler at opposition).

Finally, Dean was critical of a reference I cited (John Nelson) because he believes it has been thoroughly debunked. The debunking is questionable and the reference was not directly related to my actual study and had no effect on my results.

In summary, Dean did not look very deeply into my study and based some of his critique on assumptions about my work, was bothered my reductionist approach (which seems contrary to his scientific standards), and did not understand my methodology which was approved by the climate scientists who granted me a doctorate.