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*[Note from David Bloomberg, Sysop of The Temples of Syrinx (FidoNet 233/12): This file is the Frequently Asked Questions list from the UseNet alt.astrology newsgroup. When reading this, remember that this is an area for discussion of this subject as if it were a known fact. Thus, whatever you read here should, in my opinion, be taken with a LARGE grain of salt. Mostly, the answers in this file are a good summary of what astrologers believe. However, it is not my intention to tell you, the reader, what to believe. Read this and other sources, and make up your own mind. That said, here is the file.]* ------------------------------------------------------------------------- Newsgroups: alt.astrology Path: netcom.com!csus.edu!wupost!usc!zaphod.mps.ohio-state.edu!magnus.acs.ohio-state.edu!csn!teal.csn.org!lmpm From: lmpm@teal.csn.org (L. M. P. McPherson) Subject: *** NEWCOMERS READ THIS: FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS *** Message-ID: Summary: (Date of last modification: July 6, 1992.) Sender: news@csn.org (news) Nntp-Posting-Host: teal.csn.org Organization: Colorado SuperNet, Inc. Date: Sun, 20 Sep 1992 05:13:44 GMT Expires: Thu, 15 Oct 1992 06:00:00 GMT Lines: 1065 ****** FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ****** (Date of last modification: July 6, 1992.) Here are some questions commonly asked by new readers of alt.astrology; the answers to each are given after the list of questions. *** Requests for Services *** 1) Could someone please do a chart interpretation for me? 2) I have no idea what to do with my life. Here are my birth data. Can someone please tell me what I should do? 3) I was born on a day when the Sun changes sign. Which sign is my Sun in? 4) Which Sun-signs are compatible with mine? *** Questions About How Astrology is Practiced *** 5) Is the Sun-sign all that is important for assessing personality and for prediction, or is there more to astrology? 6) How can one predict the nature of a relationship using astrology? *** Questions About Learning Astrology *** 7) Can anyone recommend a good book on astrology for beginners? 8) What is the best approach to learning astrology? 9) Where can I find scientific research on astrology? *** General Questions *** 10) I have seen people born within days/hours of one another whose lives are really different. How come? 11) What is the meaning of the term "the Age of Aquarius"? 12) How is it possible for astrology to work? 13) Does astrology control my future? Is it "wrong" to use astrology to learn what the future holds for me? I'm scared. *** Questions About Birth Data *** 14) I notice that I need to know the time zone used in the place I was born and the latitude and longitude of my place of birth in order to erect a chart. How can I find such information? 15) I do not know what time of day I was born. Is there some way to find out? *** Questions About Astrological Software *** 16) Does anyone know if there is any software available for astrology? 17) Where can I get a copy of the astrological software Astrolog? *** Questions About Alt.astrology Resources *** 18) How can I obtain a copy of the alt.astrology "resource list"? 19) How do I use ftp to get files from the alt.astrology ftp site? *** Questions Asked With Surprising Frequency by Disbelievers *** 20) Every sensible person knows that astrology couldn't possibly work, so why are you people wasting your time? 21) How could planetary forces, of whatever nature, act upon an infant when it is outside the mother, but not when it is a fetus in the womb? Why should the forces only have effect at the moment of birth? 22) Don't you guys know that astrology depends on a geocentric astronomy? Copernicus blew it away. 23) Don't you guys know that no cause for astrological effects is known? Therefore such effects cannot exist. 24) Don't you guys know that tests of groups of astrologers show they do no better than chance? Therefore astrology does not work. 25) Don't you guys know that astrology makes an infinity of claims? You could never test them all. Therefore we can dismiss it out of hand. 26) Don't you guys know that you can't really prove a negative, such as astrology never working, anyway? Therefore we can dismiss it out of hand. 27) Legitimate scientists (or educated people, etc., etc.) universally despise astrology. Can such a weight of opinion be wrong? 28) Why don't astrologers consider the fact that when the Sun is in the sign of Aries, it is not really in the constellation Aries? *** Questions About the FAQ *** 29) I have a suggestion for this FAQ list. What do I do? ****** ANSWERS ****** *** Requests for Services *** 1) Could someone please do a chart interpretation for me? Answer: A complete interpretation of a person's chart takes a great deal of time and energy to prepare. Someone just learning astrology might be willing to do a chart for you as practice, but if you want a high quality interpretation, you must either find an experienced astrologer on the net who is generous enough to interpret your chart without compensation, or, if that is not possible, you could consult a local professional astrologer (look in the yellow pages or look at ads posted in your local occult bookstore; you might also write to people in the group in your area and ask if they know of any good local astrologers). Of the experienced astrologers in the group, only Tito Domine has offered to delineate charts for people when he has the time. (He cannot do readings for everyone who makes a request.) His e-mail address is tito@ocf.berkeley.edu. (If you are an experienced astrologer who wishes to delineate charts as a public service to those who cannot afford to pay for a reading, and if you would like your address mentioned here, please contact the keeper of the FAQ at lmpm@teal.csn.org.) 2) I have no idea what to do with my life. Here are my birth data. Can someone please tell me what I should do? Answer: Nobody can tell someone what to do with his or her life. However by studying one's astrological chart, one can gain insights into one's personality, and one can see areas of life where there is harmony or discord. A reading of one's chart by an experienced astrologer would be very valuable (see #1). After you have such a reading done, you could probably benefit greatly from learning astrology yourself and studying your chart at leisure. You can also look at "transits," the interactions of planets in the sky with your chart across time. This tells you when opportunities and difficulties arise in various areas of life, and helps you plan your future. An astrologer can tell you about current transits, or you could learn to read your own transits. With a few good books from your local occult bookstore, it's really quite easy. (See # 7 about books.) Interpreting transits is much easier than reading a natal chart (which involves a synthesis of many factors). 3) I was born on a day when the Sun changes sign. Which sign is my Sun in? Answer: Which sign your Sun falls in will depend on your exact time of birth. There are two ways you can find out where your Sun is in the zodiac. Since the Sun is only one of (at least) ten bodies to consider, and since the whole chart is needed for an understanding of the personality and the life, it might be useful to cast a complete chart, which would tell you the exact position of the Sun as well as the exact positions of all the planets and houses. This is easy to do these days because there exists astrological software for computing charts. The most accessible software is a programme called "Astrolog" which was written by Walter Pullen, a reader of the group. (See # 17 for details of how to get a copy of Astrolog. See # 16 for details of how to get information about other astrological software.) If you do not want to calculate the chart yourself (e.g., with Astrolog), or if you have trouble doing so, another option is to order your chart from a chart calculation service. Some addresses for companies providing this service are listed in the alt.astrology resource list (see # 18 for details). Alternatively, look in an "ephemeris," a book that lists the positions of all the planets (usually at midnight, sometimes at noon) each day. Ephemerides are available in the astrology section at occult ("new age") bookstores, or in some libraries in the astronomy section. They usually list positions for Greenwich, so you must calculate your time of birth in Greenwich Mean Time (e.g., if you were born under Pacific Standard Time, you add 8 hours to your time of birth to get GMT; Mountain Standard Time, add 7 hours; Central Standard Time, add 6 hours; Eastern Standard Time, add 5 hours; if you were born during daylight savings time, subtract one hour before adding [or subtracting if you were born east of Greenwich] the number of hours for the time zone in which you were born). Next, determine if the ephemeris lists positions at midnight or noon. Then work out the number of hours that passed between the time for which positions are given (midnight or noon) and your time of birth in GMT. (e.g., for an ephemeris that lists positions for midnight, if you were born at 4:30 pm GMT, the difference is 16.5 hours). Divide this difference by 24 to get the proportion of the day that passed before you were born. Next, calculate the number of degrees and minutes of arc that the Sun travelled through during that whole day. Multiply that amount by the proportion of the day that passed before the birth, and add the result to the position given for the start of the day (or noon if the ephemeris gives noon positions). The result is the position of the Sun at your birth. 4) Which Sun-signs are compatible with mine? Answer: Some people feel that, in a very rough way, people with Suns in the same element (fire, earth, air, water) or, to a lesser extent, in the same polarity (positive -- fire and air, or negative -- earth and water) tend to get along more easily. (The fire signs are Aries, Leo, and Sagittarius; earth: Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn; air: Gemini, Libra, Aquarius; water: Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces.) But interactions among specific planets and houses in two charts are far more important in determining how well people will get along. Your best match may well be someone whose Sun is in a sign of a different polarity, and your worst enemy may well have his/her Sun in a sign of the same element! Real compatibility can only be determined when the complete charts of two people are compared, or a special chart is constructed based on the two people's birth data. See answer # 6 for details. *** Questions About How Astrology is Practiced *** 5) Is the Sun-sign all that is important for assessing personality and for prediction, or is there more to astrology? Answer: The most common misconception about astrology is that it divides people into 12 categories, "Sun-signs" (and may subdivide them further by Moon-sign). This misconception comes from the popular practice of publishing "horoscopes" in newspapers and magazines for different Sun-signs, and the sale of popular books containing predictions for people of a particular Sun-sign. Unfortunately, all such horoscopes provide nothing more than entertainment. Valid predictions cannot be made on the basis of the Sun-sign alone. In actual practice, astrology involves determining the exact position in the zodiac (not just by sign, but by degree and minute, that is, the specific part of the sky) of the Sun, the Moon, and 8 planets (Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto) at the time of a person's birth. The zodiacal degree of other points and bodies, such as the Moon's North and South Nodes, asteroids, Uranian points, and Arabic parts, are included by some astrologers. One also calculates the positions of 12 "houses" which are specific to the exact place and time of birth. The location of planets in these houses and the sign on the cusp of each house are important sources of information in chart interpretation. One also looks at the angular distances in the zodiac between each pair of planets; certain specific angular distances, called "aspects," are considered meaningful. All of this information is necessary to determine the astrological influences present at a person's birth and to formulate predictions for the future. The sign in which the Sun and Moon fall is only one very small part of the picture. This does not mean that people who write horoscope columns necessarily just make things up out of thin air. They usually use certain astrological concepts, but the application of these concepts to sign positions of the Sun rarely produces valuable information. To see why, let us look at what typical "Sun-sign astrologers" might do. First, they assume that your Sun is roughly in the middle of the sign. They then look to see if any planets are making aspects to the Sun on the day/week/month in question, and they interpret these aspects. If your Sun is at the beginning or end of a sign, these aspects will be irrelevant in your case. In addition, there may be aspects to other planets in your chart that will affect you strongly, and some of them may even have an effect opposite to the effect of the aspects to your Sun. Sun-sign astrologers might also set up "houses" by assuming that the sign your Sun is in is the first house, the next sign is the second house, and so on. They then look to see if any planets are currently in each "house". A serious astrologer would calculate the positions of houses using data about the exact time and place of birth, and these houses rarely coincide with the Sun-sign astrologer's zodiac-sign "houses." So the Sun-sign technique will only work at all for people who happen to have the Sun and several other planets in the middle of one sign, and whose first house also happens to begin at 0 degrees of the same sign. Such people are extremely rare, so for most people "horoscopes" will be useless. 6) How can one predict the nature of a relationship using astrology? Answer: The most common technique for determining the nature of a relationship is called "synastry." This involves comparing the positions of all the planets in two people's charts. One looks to see where one person's planets fall in the other person's houses, and one compares the positions of planets in the two charts to see whether any pair of planets is separated by a number of degrees in the zodiac that is considered meaningful. (These meaningful distances between planets, e.g., 0 degrees, 180 degrees, 120 degrees, 90 degrees, and so on, are called "aspects".) A couple of newer (and still experimental) techniques exist for studying the nature of a relationship. One is called the "relationship chart" (created by Ronald Davison); the chart is cast for the place in space and time that is exactly half-way between the two people's birth places and times. The second technique is called the "composite chart" (developed by Robert Hand). The Sun in this chart is at the mid-point of the two people's Suns, the Moon is at the mid-point of the two people's Moons, and so on for all the planets. For recommendations of books about all these techniques, see the resource list. (See # 18 for complete details about the list.) The nature of the synastry technique to be applied depends on the nature of the relationship contemplated and also on whether the relationship is between male and female or people of the same gender. If two people are contemplating marriage, the technique used is different than it would be if they were contemplating a business relationship. The technique is also different when evaluating a parent-sibling relationship or a superior-subordinate relationship. As a simplistic example, for marriage, a Sun in Aquarius (female) is an excellent match for Sun in Leo (male) (Sun's position taken alone -- neglecting other planets for purposes of discussion), as long as the two people operate on a spiritual level. This has the potential for the highest type of marriage. However, if it is a father-son relationship where the father has Sun in Aquarius and the son (especially the first born) has his Sun in Leo, they will cause each other frustration to no end. *** Questions About Learning Astrology *** 7) Can anyone recommend a good book on astrology for beginners? Answer: Recommendations appear in the alt.astrology resource list. (See # 18.) Maggie McPherson posted some beginners' lessons; if you would like copies of these, they are available by anonymous ftp at hilbert.maths.utas.edu.au in the directory pub/astrology; the file names are "lesson.intro" and "lesson.aspects." If you cannot use ftp on your machine, write for copies to Maggie at lmpm@teal.csn.org. A huge bibliography of astrology books (all levels) is available at the ftp site in the file win.rowe. 8) What is the best approach to learning astrology? If you can find a class offered in your area, that might be the best approach. It is difficult for the beginner to assess what is important in chart interpretation. Two lessons are available at the ftp site (see # 19) in the files "lesson.intro" and "lesson.aspects". These cover some basic concepts, but they do not explain how to cast or interpret a chart. See # 7 about beginners' books. The most difficult area of astrology is natal (i.e., birth) chart interpretation. It takes years to learn the art of synthesis that allows for accurate readings of a natal chart. Beginners might benefit from concentrating on transits (the movements of the planets in the sky across time in relation to a natal chart), which are relatively easy to interpret, astrocartography (changes in the zodiacal positions of the 12 houses as one moves from city to city), for which clear interpretations are available (e.g., from Jim Lewis' work), or synastry (evaluating contacts between two charts to determine the nature of a relationship). When the basic natures of the planets, signs, houses, and aspects become familiar, then one can begin to study natal charts in earnest, combining ("synthesising") the various factors wholistically to achieve a meaningful reading. 9) Where can I find scientific research on astrology? Answer: Brief summaries of a few scientific studies (written by Thomas David Kehoe) are available at the ftp site (see # 19) in the files "gauquelin" and "jung.synastry," which can be found in the directory pub/astrology/articles. The most famous research is that of Michel and Francoise Gauquelin. Some of their findings have been the focus of decades of scrutiny by skeptics, and their results have held up under this scrutiny. Some of their studies have been successfully replicated with different samples and by independent researchers. The highly publicised CSICOP "failure to replicate" on an American sample for the "Mars effect" (the appearance of Mars in certain sectors with greater-than-expected frequency for eminent athletes) has been shown to replicate the effect when the athletes are ordered by eminence (see the Winter, 1992 issue of the Skeptical Inquirer). (The CSICOP researchers included far fewer eminent athletes in their sample than did the Gauquelins, and this washed out the Mars effect when the sample as a whole was considered. When the athletes are divided into groups according to an objective criterion of "eminence," the Mars effect emerges among the most eminent.) Some of the Gauquelins' research is summarised in the following books: Michel Gauquelin, "Cosmic Influences on Human Behavior" (3rd edition, published in 1985 by Aurora Press, P.O. Box 573, Santa Fe, NM 87504); Michel Gauquelin, "Planetary Heredity" (published in 1988 by ACS Publications, Inc., P.O. Box 16430, San Diego, CA 92116-0430); Francoise Gauquelin, "Psychology of the Planets" (published in 1982 by ACS Publications, Inc.). A preliminary report of a study showing the relationship between inspiration in scientific discovery and certain angular separations of planets appears in a booklet entitled "The Eureka Effect," by Nicholas Kollerstrom and Michael O'Neill. It was published in 1989 by Urania Trust, 396 Caledonian Road, London N1 1DN. A complete report on this study and some additional data on inventions will appear sometime in the next few years. The Astrological Association of London publishes a scholarly journal devoted entirely to astrological research. It is called Correlation. (See the resource list for the address and phone number of the Astrological Association; see # 18 for information about the resource list.) Prior to its first publication in 1981, research articles appeared in The Astrological Journal, also published by the Astrological Association. If you are in Britain, all issues of this journal are available at The Astrology Study Centre (396 Caledonian Road, London N1 1DN), the Oxford and Cambridge University libraries, the Scottish National Library in Edinburgh, the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth, Trinity College in Dublin, the Warburg Institute, London University, the British Library in London, and the York University library. In the USA, these journals are available at the Heart Center library, 315 Marion Avenue, Big Rapids, MI 49307. Astrologers in your local area may have copies of these journals as well. Astrological research appears occasionally in academic journals of psychology. A literature search (e.g., of the database "Psychological Abstracts") for articles containing the keyword "astrology" or "astrological" (or "astrolog?" where "?" is a wild card) would turn these up. Because of the difficulty in publishing astrological research (or any unorthodox research), much remains unpublished. Among such studies are those described in postgraduate dissertations on astrology. A list of these (up to 1981) appears in the December, 1982 issue of Correlation. For more recent dissertations, check Dissertations Abstracts at a university library. (Our very own Mark Urban-Lurain did a multivariate analysis of the birth data of members of Alcoholics Anonymous for his Master's thesis at Michigan State University.) *** General Questions *** 10) I have seen people born within days/hours of one another whose lives are really different. How come? Answer: Even a few minutes difference in the time of birth or having a different birth place can change the chart substantially. Obviously people who have just the same birthday will have different charts. Since Earth is the only planet that makes a trip around the Sun exactly once a year, all the other planets will be at completely different positions in a different year. But even if people are born on the very same day, their charts can differ quite radically. The Moon moves about 13 degrees in a day, and the astrological houses, which are an extremely important element of the chart, move through the entire zodiac in a 24-hour period! And their positions are affected by latitude as well. In addition, even if two people's charts are identical (which is rare), other factors may influence the way the chart is expressed. Some people operate on a material level, some on a mental level, and a few operate on a spiritual level. The same chart can be expressed on any of these levels. An astrological chart does not show the "fate" or "destiny" as such. The person always has a choice, and the free exercise of the will determines how the influences indicated in a chart manifest themselves. 11) What is the meaning of the term "the Age of Aquarius"? Answer: Due to the precession of the equinoxes as explained in question # 28, the Vernal Equinox enters a new sign in the sidereal zodiac about every 2160 years. According to output from Astrolog, at the Vernal Equinox in 1992, the Sun will be at 5^ Pisces 22' in the sidereal zodiac. Because of this, the current age is called the "Piscean" age. The Vernal Equinox will not actually occur in the sign of Aquarius in the sidereal zodiac until the year 2377. Some astrologers, however, believe that the equinox is close enough to the cusp of Pisces that we will begin to see some of the effects of the Age of Aquarius, hence the "Dawning of the Age of Aquarius." Opinions also differ regarding the exact boundaries of the constellations and the length of an astrological age. 12) How is it possible for astrology to work? Answer: There are at least two schools of thought. One common explanation is synchronicity, an acausal connecting principle proposed by Carl Jung. The general idea is that events on earth of a certain nature coincide in time with astronomical events of a similar nature (according to the symbolic significance of the planets and their relations in the heavens). Although synchronicity operates throughout the universe, the planets might have special significance because they are part of collective experience (that is, we can all see them or know about them) and so they can take on a collective meaning -- they can speak to the "collective unconscious." But Jung's synchronicity principle is still hypothetical and still not well understood. Jung's idea is similar to the ancient hermetic idea of resonant bonds of sympathy between "similars" (which share a common essential design) in the microcosm and macrocosm. This was the ancient explanation for the correspondence between cosmic and mundane events. A less popular explanation is that there are unknown and currently undetected forces or energies emanating from the planets that affect life on earth, perhaps something akin to Rupert Sheldrake's "morphic fields." (This type of explanation is unpopular among those physicists who believe that all the forces in the universe are already known.) Biological evidence showing a harmony between celestial rhythms and biological rhythms suggests that known or unknown planetary forces operate on organisms at a material level, sometimes through changes in the pattern of solar radiation. Such biological effects might alter psychological processing and thus human action and the events that arise from it. Whatever explanation is offered, it is evidence from experience and research that convinces people that astrology does indeed work. The rich descriptive theory that has evolved over thousands of years provides for a deep understanding of human nature and the capacity for prediction of the type of circumstances that will prevail during specific time periods. As with most areas of inquiry, the correct explanatory theory to account for the structure of the descriptive theory awaits its discoverer. 13) Does astrology control my future? Is it "wrong" to use astrology to learn what the future holds for me? I'm scared. Answer: In Western astrology, it is not believed that the cycles associated with the planets control your future; it is believed, rather, that YOU have ultimate control over your future through the exercise of your will. The planets only indicate some of the tendencies inherent in your personality and the conditions that surround various areas of life. One cannot determine in precise detail exactly what will happen in one's life from day to day and moment to moment, but only what kinds of influences will be present. There is a famous saying: "The stars incline, they do not compel." Within the situational and psychological context described in a chart, you are free to act and react according to your will, which is in turn guided by the wisdom you possess and your stage in your spiritual evolution. As for good and evil, there is nothing "wrong" with learning what sort of conditions will exist in your life. It may be to your advantage to foresee these influences so that you can be prepared and control your actions to better work in harmony with the celestial cycles. *** Questions About Birth Data *** 14) I notice that I need to know the time zone used in the place I was born and the latitude and longitude of my place of birth in order to erect a chart. How can I find such information? Answer: To find the latitude and longitude of your place of birth, you can estimate from a map (which is not really very accurate) or look them up in a reference book such as Thomas G. Shanks "International Atlas" or "American Atlas" (which also provide information about the time zone and the use of daylight savings and war time for each city/town); these are usually available in the astrology section of occult bookstores. Time zone information is usually available in a reference book at your local library, but if you think you might have been born when daylight-savings time or war time was in effect, you must either check a reference book such as Shanks' or phone the state/provincial archives for your birth place and check with them. Note that some cities changed the time zone they used at some point in their history, so it is *always* best to check with a reference such as Shanks or phone the state/provincial archives. A difference of one hour changes a birth chart radically! If you were born in the United States of America, there is another method for finding latitude and longitude: through the database server located at port 3000 at martini.eecs.umich.edu; this is accessed by the command "telnet 141.212.99.9 3000". Once you are logged in, type in the name of any U.S. city, followed by the abbreviation for the state (e.g., Seattle, WA) and the programme will display the longitude and latitude. To end the session, just enter "bye." 15) I do not know what time of day I was born. Is there some way to find out? Answer: To find your exact time of birth, talk to a parent (who may have the time written down somewhere) or contact the hospital where you were born; sometimes the time appears on a birth certificate. If the time cannot be found, some astrologers claim to be able to determine the time through a technique called "rectification" which involves looking at astrological influences present when major events happened in the life, such as meeting a future spouse, marriage, birth of children, death of parent/sibling/spouse/friend, and so on. If no time is known, and if rectification of the time is not possible, some information about the person can still be derived from a chart. The position of the Moon, which moves about 13 degrees per day, will be inaccurate, and the positions of the planets in the astrological "houses" will be unknown. But the relations among the planets will be roughly accurate, and the sign positions of the planets (except perhaps the Moon) will be correct. *** Questions About Astrological Software *** 16) Does anyone know if there is any software available for astrology? Answer: See # 17 about Walter Pullen's "Astrolog" software. Information about other software (e.g., commercial software) is available in Michael Bulmer's "resource list." If it does not currently appear at your site, see # 18 for details on getting a copy. 17) Where can I get a copy of the astrological software Astrolog? Answer: Walter Pullen posts new versions on alt.astrology as they are ready. If you missed the most recent posting, you can get the latest version by anonymous ftp at the following ftp site: hilbert.maths.utas.edu.au; the code for Astrolog is in the directory pub/astrology (along with other useful stuff). Astrolog was also posted to comp.sources.misc and is therefore available at any of the numerous ftp sites which archive this newsgroup, such as ftp.uu.net. It can be found in the directory /usenet/comp.sources.misc/volume28/astrolog/*, in six convenient compressed shell archives. If you cannot use ftp on your machine, write to Walter at astrolog@byron.u.washington.edu and ask him for a copy of the programme. Astrolog can easily be loaded on UNIX (and less easily on a PC), and it is very easy to run. *** Questions About Alt.astrology Resources *** 18) How can I obtain a copy of the alt.astrology "resource list"? Answer: Michael Bulmer posts the resource list occasionally. If it is no longer at your site, you can get a copy via anonymous ftp at hilbert.maths.utas.edu.au; the list is in the directory pub/astrology. If you do not have access to ftp from your machine, write to Michael at bulmer@hilbert.maths.utas.edu.au and he will send you a copy. The resource list provides recommendations for books on astrology, addresses of astrological associations and organisations, information about astrological software, addresses of chart calculation services, and other useful stuff. 19) How do I use ftp to get files from the alt.astrology ftp site? Answer: For many sites (but check with the systems people at yours), you type "ftp hilbert.maths.utas.edu.au"; when connected to the ftp site, type "anonymous" and then enter, as a password, your e-mail address. Once into the account, type "cd pub/astrology" to get into the right directory. If you wish to see which files are present in that directory, type "ls". If you want to transfer a file (e.g., the file README) to your account, type "get README"; repeat for however many files you wish to transfer. (Note that commands are case-sensitive, so type the file name just as you see it in the directory listing, i.e., in caps or lower case.) When you are done, type "bye" and you will be disconnected. *** Questions Asked With Surprising Frequency by Disbelievers *** 20) Every sensible person knows that astrology couldn't possibly work, so why are you people wasting your time? Answer: It is impossible to rule out astrological phenomena on _a priori_ grounds. Current understanding in scientific circles does not shape the actual structure of the universe. Science involves research. No mere mortal is omniscient, and so none can predict infallibly which effects would show up in research and which would not. What is currently known is not all that will ever be known. It is a mistake to buy into the current way of thinking as if it was an accurate and complete picture of the universe. Dogma is antithetical to true science. _A priori_ arguments are not the final word in science, which was designed, after all, as a means of discerning nature's secrets by actually examining nature, as opposed to just thinking about it the way Aristotle and Descartes did. 21) How could planetary forces, of whatever nature, act upon an infant when it is outside the mother, but not when it is a fetus in the womb? Why should the forces only have effect at the moment of birth? Answer: Given that we do not yet have an explanation for astrological phenomena, we cannot assume that astrological correspondences are due to some "force" (e.g., gravity) that can travel through a mother's body as easily as it can through the walls of the hospital. One research finding might be relevant to this question. The Gauquelins found that one of their results, the "inheritance" of angularity for specific planets (i.e., the child of a parent with an angular planet tends to have the same planet angular), was only present when the birth was natural. This finding suggests that it is not exposure to air per se that produces the astrological effect. Rather, the baby is "destined" (for unknown reasons) to be born at a certain time, and to retain the astrological character of that time. Unnatural births (e.g., C-section, or drug-induced labour) prevent birth at the "correct" time, and so the child fails to "inherit" its parent's planetary angularity in its own chart. (No studies have been done looking at the effect of the type of birth on any factors in actual chart interpretation, so the Gauquelins' finding does not speak to the issue of astrological charts in general; if future research fails to find an effect of the circumstances of birth on the validity of the birth chart, then the reason for the child's absorption of the character of the time of birth will not be able to be accounted for by destiny.) 22) Don't you guys know that astrology depends on a geocentric astronomy? Copernicus blew it away. Answer: This is an argument that never occurred to Copernicus, who practiced astrology. Heliocentric versus geocentric is a method of calculation, and it is easy to postulate astral forces indifferent to the current interpretation of orbital mechanics. In any case, as the answer to the next question will show, demonstration of the possible causation of astrological effects is not clearly relevant to showing the existence of these effects. A force exerts the same influence whether the position of the body exerting it was calculated using Ptolemaic, Copernican, Keplerian, Newtonian or Einsteinian orbital mechanics. And, of course, astrology was originally practiced using observation, before astronomy was sufficiently advanced to allow highly accurate prediction of the positions of the planets. 23) Don't you guys know that no cause for astrological effects is known? Therefore such effects cannot exist. Answer: There are quite a few variations of this very popular fallacy. A common variation is to point out that the hands of the doctor delivering a baby exert a far stronger gravitational pull than any planet could. Again, the reasoning here goes, "no cause, therefore no effect." If there ever is a cause advanced for astrological effects, it may well not involve gravity. All sorts of sciences are based on empirical evidence alone, with no explanatory theories available. Genetics was accepted as part of science before the discovery of DNA, and, even now, the complete mapping from genetic factors to amino acids is far from complete. In psychology, the principles that govern the organisation of vision and audition (i.e., that determine the boundaries and content of separate "figures," "objects," or "streams" of sound) are well established, but researchers have no idea why perceptual processes follow these particular principles. Vast areas of sciences that *do* provide causal explanations make specific predictions that cannot be derived directly from the believed cause but are based on empirical evidence and descriptive theories that capture the structures inherent in the data. Tide tables, for example, are calculated empirically. Although physicists know enough about the relevant physical processes to make it plausible that there should be two tides a day, even though the earth revolves only once a day, mathematical formulae directly relating this cause to the observed tides do not exist. To tread but briefly on philosophical ground, the notion of causality itself is not well grounded, and is considered by many to be a function of human perception rather than a property of the universe (see, for example, David Hume in "A Treatise of Human Nature" and Immanuel Kant in "Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics"). As the empiricist Hume discovered, humans make an attribution of "causality" when they have certain types of perceptual experience (e.g., when A is perceived to precede B in time, B is always perceived to be preceded by A, and so on, then A is perceived to "cause" B). The famous psychologist Albert Michotte did many studies in which he examined the factors that give rise to the impression of causality (see "La Perception de la Causalite," 1946, or the English translation, "The Perception of Causality," 1963). He showed, for example, that animated dots on a screen are perceived to be involved in a causal interaction, with one dot "causing" movement in another, when the timing relations of their movements and the relative direction of their movements fall within a certain range. (Of course no "causal relation" was ever actually present, since the movement was due to animation.) Even so pragmatic a scientist as Sir Isaac Newton argued that an appeal to cause is unnecessary because the type of laws he discovered, which are purely descriptive in nature (e.g., the relation f=m*a among the theoretical constructs force, mass, and acceleration), are sufficiently powerful to predict events and account for all the available data. He believed that physical theories are what the physicist Pierre Duhem called "the economic condensation of phenomena" (see "The Aim and Structure of Physical Theory"): "To tell us that every species of things is endowed with an occult specific quality by which it acts and produces manifest effects, is to tell us nothing; but to derive two or three general principles of motion from phenomena, and afterwards to tell us how the properties and actions of all corporeal things follow from those manifest principles, would be a very great step in philosophy, though the causes of those principles were not yet discovered; and therefore I scruple not to propose the principles of motion above mentioned, they being of very large extent, and leave their causes to be found out." (Optics, Query XXXI at the end of the second edition.) So the descriptive theories of astrology, the relations that have been discovered and exploited over a period of thousands of years, may not lend themselves to an explanation in terms of causes any more than Newton's laws of motion do. The human mind seeks "causes" (at least in the West), but Nature herself may be indifferent to them. The Eastern vision of an harmonious universe with all its interconnected parts dancing in unison may be more in line with reality. 24) Don't you guys know that tests of groups of astrologers show they do no better than chance? Therefore astrology does not work. Answer: The same is said of investment managers. From the Economist for March 7, 1992, p. 81: "Numerous studies suggest that `exceptional' investment managers do not exist. In any given period, each has no more than an even chance of doing better than the market index; moreover, a manager who does well one year is no likelier than others to do well in the next. A few funds may beat the index for, say, three years running, but these are no more common than chance would predict. Give a sample of coin-tossers three coins each. If they obey the laws of probability, one in either will toss three heads." Does this mean there is no such thing as good investment advice? The question of the standard of practice in the profession and of the validity of the discipline are not the same, and should not be confused. Do the best astrologers participate in such tests? Given that astrology is not a closed profession, can testing groups of people where the only criterion for selection is that they say they are astrologers really say anything about astrology? Given these sort of ground rules for the test, would a good astrologer decide to participate? Even if highly qualified astrologers agreed to participate in a study, did the specific test administered give the astrologers a fair shot at accuracy (e.g., if they are asked to match charts with people, are they allowed to get to know the people well and learn about their lives and personal history in detail, or are they allowed just a brief chat with the people)? It would be very hard to answer any of these questions with an unqualified "Yes." The talent of practitioners and the validity of the discipline they practice must not be confused. And scientific tests conducted by those attempting to "debunk" astrology must be evaluated with as much critical attention as any other scientific study. The tests must be fair. The conditions of the tests must be conducive to finding an effect if any is possible. They must not be arranged so that finding an effect is impossible simply by virtue of the experimental design. One must be very careful in drawing conclusions from a *lack* of evidence (either because of negative findings or because no studies have been conducted). The failure to find an effect does not mean that the hypothesis is false. It just means that one hasn't found evidence in favour of it. Nothing more, nothing less. But if one *does* find an effect, then one has evidence in support of the hypothesis (and any other hypothesis that would make the same prediction, whether or not that hypothesis is currently available). So there is an asymmetry that is rarely recognised: evidence (data) can support an experimental hypothesis, but a lack of evidence cannot refute it (even if the lack of evidence is in the form of failure to find a predicted effect, e.g., a difference between samples). The possibility always remains that our experimental design is flawed and/or our measurement techniques are inappropriate and so they fail to capture the effect. In psychology, where measurement is often very difficult and indirect (as it is in much astrological research), one can fail to find evidence to support a particular hypothesis even after years of experimentation. Then some clever researcher invents a new measurement technique, or creates a new experimental design more favourable for the emergence of the phenomenon of interest, and the predicted effect emerges! Note that many scientific astrological studies that do not focus on the ability of individual astrologers (e.g., to match charts to people) have found positive results that are replicable. (See # 9.) The elements of subjectivity and interpretive ability are missing from these studies because they concentrate on objective measures (e.g., the presence/absence of a planet in a certain area of the chart for a certain group of people) and so effects are easier to observe. As any experimental psychologist will confirm, subjective judgments are fraught with error, and the unreliability in such measures vastly reduces the success rate of experimental studies. 25) Don't you guys know that astrology makes an infinity of claims? You could never test them all. Therefore we can dismiss it out of hand. Answer: Any non-trivial field makes an infinity of claims. If you wished to refute physics you could not track down every prediction it makes. This does not mean physics is not a science. In verifying physics, you look at the basics. If they hold up, you consider it basically valid, and then attempt to replicate more abstruse claims. You will never be able to replicate every claim implied by physics. 26) Don't you guys know that you can't really prove a negative, such as astrology never working, anyway? Therefore we can dismiss it out of hand. Answer: That a negative cannot be proven hardly constitutes a refutation of astrology. The argument above reduces to "a negative cannot be proven, therefore all negatives are false". If you want to be strict, you must accept that all negatives must be taken as possibly true, forever. It is not legitimate to say, "a negative cannot be proved, therefore all negatives that seem weird to me are false." That is simply clothing a prejudice in pseudo-scientific language. 27) Legitimate scientists (or educated people, etc., etc.) universally despise astrology. Can such a weight of opinion be wrong? Answer: Yes. Easily. Examples in the social sciences of educated opinion doing a total about-face are common. Racialist theories, now despised by almost all those in academe, were orthodox before World War II, as just one example. In the health sciences as well, practices such as phrenology, acupuncture, hypnotism and chiropractic have all crossed in one direction or another the line that separates respected science from despised pseudo-science. If astrology does so too, it will definitely not be the first time, and probably not the last. This question is based on an appeal to authority and, as such, is an example of a common fallacy in reasoning. Plausibility based on current world views is a poor guide to the nature of reality, but scientists, being human, are as fallible as the rest of us in embracing modern views with undue passion. (Humans have a deep need to feel they understand things. The unknown is a source of fear, so many choose to deny it. But the unknown is only unreal for those who are omniscient. For those of us who are less than omniscient, humility is in order in any discussion of the nature of reality.) 28) Why don't astrologers consider the fact that when the Sun is in the sign of Aries, it is not really in the constellation Aries? Answer: This is due to the phenomenon known as "the precession of the equinoxes." The equinoxes are the points in time and space at which the earth, with its tilted axis, is positioned with respect to the sun in such a way that the length of day and night are equal. Most astrologers, with a few exceptions, base their work on a zodiac with sign positions determined by the equinoxes rather than the constellations. At the Vernal Equinox, which occurs on about March 20th of each year, the Sun enters into the sign of Aries. The signs are not defined by the constellations. The zodiac positioned with respect to the equinoxes is called the "tropical zodiac"; the zodiac based on the constellations is called the "sidereal zodiac." Because of the precession of the equinoxes, the equinoxes are moving backwards with respect to the fixed constellations by about one degree every 72 years. Approximately two thousand years ago, the beginning of the tropical sign of Aries was aligned with the beginning of the constellation Aries (perhaps around 217 A.D.). Why do the tropical signs have the same names and symbols as the constellations with which they were aligned 2000 years ago? Isn't the sidereal zodiac the source of the meanings of the tropical signs? And so shouldn't astrologers take the meaning of a tropical sign from the constellation most closely aligned with it now? This argument is based on the presupposition that the meanings of the signs come from the natures of the symbols in the heavens that we call constellations. But clearly this is not the case. Some of the most dominant traits of Virgo are obsession with detail and an analytical and critical nature. How could these traits be derived from a picture of a virgin? How could the Piscean qualities "spiritual," "selfless," "imaginative," "inspirational," "feminine," and "idealistic" be derived from a picture of two fish? Few traits of each sign can easily be related to the symbol assigned to the constellation of the same name. There is no necessity, given current knowledge, for the tropical signs to have received their meaning from the constellations of the sidereal zodiac; it is possible that the nature of the tropical signs suggested a symbol to associate with a constellation (since the symbols look very little like the pattern of stars we associate with them). Perhaps the constellations with which we are familiar came into being during the period in which the tropical sign Aries was aligned with the constellation Aries. When did the tropical zodiac and constellations appear? The tropical zodiac may have been around a long time. The Egyptians had a tropical (solar) calendar by the early part of the third millennium B.C.; given the direct and transparent relationship between the signs of the tropical zodiac and the months of the solar year, they may well have had a tropical zodiac as well. Tropical calendars in the form of standing stones (e.g., Stonehenge) date from 1000-5000 B.C. in Northwest Europe, so the tropical zodiac might have existed there as well. Unfortunately, the preliterate people of these cultures left no records behind. Some sort of zodiac, possibly sidereal, with 12 equal signs, existed in India in 3000 B.C. A manuscript (in Sanskrit) from that period shows that astrologers then used a zodiac, an equal house system, and aspects counted sign to sign (as in much modern-day Hindu astrology). The origin of the modern constellations is somewhat obscure, so it is very difficult to decide whether the constellations were around to lend meaning to the tropical signs at the time that the tropical zodiac was created. Noonan (1976; Journal of Geocosmic Research, Vol. 2, No. 1, pp. 6-7) claims that the first zodiac of the constellations appeared around 500 B.C. The constellations are believed to have been assigned symbols by the Babylonians, but there were originally 36 constellations, and only some of them coincide with the modern sidereal signs. We know that some of the symbols used for the modern signs are recent, because the original symbols were all animals (the word "zodiac," derived from the Greek zo^idiako's, means "circle of animals"). We can be certain that the modern constellations of the zodiac existed by about 30 B.C. because they appear very clearly on the ceiling of the Temple of Hathor at Dendera in Upper Egypt. So was the tropical zodiac in use by then? It might have been. The precession of the equinoxes was certainly common knowledge by then. Precession was discovered at the very latest in 200 B.C., when Hipparchus wrote about it. But Sir Norman Lockyer found that many very early temples in Egypt had been moved at different periods in history so that they lined up with a particular star as it precessed across the sky. (See, for example, E.C. Krupp, "In Search of Ancient Astronomies," New York: Doubleday, 1977.) *** Questions About the FAQ *** 29) I have a suggestion for this FAQ list. What do I do? Answer: Make your suggestion known by sending mail to the keeper of this FAQ file, Maggie McPherson at lmpm@teal.csn.org. The preferred format is to submit a copy of the actual changes being suggested.

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