From: James J. Lippard
Subject: Ertel's "Update on the 'Mars Effect'" and Kurtz's response
Those of you who read the Skeptical Inquirer may have noticed Suitbert
Ertel's article, "Update on the 'Mars Effect,'" in the most recent issue
(Winter 1992). He describes various tests he has made of Michel
Gauquelin's data showing correlations between the position of planets
at the times of people's births and their eminence in various fields.
He also describes a test he performed on the data from the CSICOP
American sports champions test of the "Mars Effect," which was
presented by Paul Kurtz, Marvin Zelen, and George Abell as a failure
to replicate Gauquelin's results. Gauquelin claimed that this test
actually *did* support him, if the "less eminent" sports champions
in the test were removed from the sample. (It also appears that there
were two samples taken in the "U.S. test," as it is generally known,
and the first supported the "Mars effect" and a second sample was
subsequently added to the first.)
Anyway, Ertel's test of the "U.S. test" data involved the use of
some 18 reference works of sports champions. He looked up each of
the athletes in the U.S. test in each work, and categorized them
by number of citations--low eminence (no citations), medium eminence
(1 citation), and high eminence (2 or more citations). The results
appear in his article as table 1:
Eminence N = 408 N=349
# % # %
Low 216 18.1 98 21.4
Medium 107 21.5 89 21.3
High 85 25.9 162 30.2
Expected 22.2 22.2
p of trend .06 .05
The left set of data is from the CSICOP-conducted U.S. test, the right
set is a group of additional U.S. athletes collected by Gauquelin which
he used in his response to the U.S. test (also published in the Skeptical
Inquirer). The numbers and percentages indicate which athletes were
born with Mars in one of the "key sectors" predicted by the "Mars effect"
So what Ertel has shown here is that by an apparently unbiased procedure
of determining eminence of athletes, the U.S. test *does* support Gauquelin's
"Mars effect" hypothesis.
Immediately following Ertel's article is a one-page response by Paul
Kurtz, titled "A Dissenting Note on Ertel's 'Update on the Mars Effect.'"
In it, Kurtz criticizes Ertel's procedure for determining eminence,
writing that "Ertel now supports Gauquelin's evaluation because he does
not find U.S. football and basketball players cited often in European
'who's whos.' (See Ertel's note 7.) But this post-hoc criterion is
questionable. American football and basketball players reach high
eminence in the United States, but these sports were not popular in
Europe when these sports who's whos were written. Thus I do not
think that Ertel's analysis sustains Gauquelin, at least in regard to
the American sample."
This is more or less the same response which Kurtz made to Gauquelin's
criticisms of the U.S. test. However, in this case, Kurtz has simply
made a mistake. The reference books which Ertel used were *not*
"European who's whos." Note 7 in Ertel's article describes how the
sample in the U.S. test was collected--from *U.S.* _Who's Who in ..._ books.
According to Ertel, his 18 reference works were a mixture of American
and European books, none of which contains "Who's Who" in the title.
(A list of Ertel's works is in his article in the Journal of Scientific
Exploration 2:53-82, but I don't have that source.)
Kurtz implies that there is a European bias to Ertel's 18 reference
works, which Ertel admits may be the case, but even if so, that doesn't
explain why the athletes with more citations are more likely to show
the "Mars effect."
In short, the mystery of the "Mars effect" remains an unsolved one.