Subject: Re: Gauqelin (sp?) Date: 10 Nov 91 13:57:27 GMT In article +lt;1991Nov8.143028.46

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From: Jan Willem Nienhuys Subject: Re: Gauqelin (sp?) From: wsadjw@rw7.urc.tue.nl (Jan Willem Nienhuys) Date: 10 Nov 91 13:57:27 GMT Organization: Eindhoven University of Technology, The Netherlands Message-ID: <2503@tuegate.tue.nl> Newsgroups: sci.skeptic In article <1991Nov8.143028.4615@cs.umu.se> jan@cs.umu.se (Jan T}ngring) writes: >Anyone out there who could brief me about the Astrology-experiments >of Gauqelin (sp?). What's wrong with them? I'm having a discussion >with someone who refers to them as decisive evidence in favor of >astrology. Francois Gauquelin has done a lot of research in astrology. Summary: almost nothing of it is worth anything. Most people who do some effort to obtain a horoscope interpretation of themselves will approve of whatever it says, especially if it is couched in flattering terms. However Gauquelin discovered one tiny effect. Athletes of champion class have a slightly larger tendency to be born on a moment that the planet Mars just has risen or is more or less due south (culminating). Statistically speaking, there is a chance of about 1 in 6 (16.7%) that this would be the case for an average citizen, and if we take into account that births occur not evenly distributed over the day (but a little more in the morning) and that Mars and the Sun are close to each other in the sky quite frequently for astronomical reasons, then the chance rises to 17.2%. However, Gauquelin found that among a carefully selected sample of about 2000 top athletes the percentage was not 17.2, but around 22. This is quite `significant', in other words, it merits deeper investigation. Gauquelin has protected his hypothesis with many extra conditions. He claimed that one should only take athletes born before 1950 (obstetrical practices ruined the relationship, he conjectured). His choice of what constituted a `top athlete' was rather arbitrary. About this later more. A long time ago the oldest skeptical organisation in the world, the Belgian Comite Para (estbl. 1948 (?)) undertook to check Gauqulin's claim. As I recall, in an examination of about 400 top athletes, many of whom were Belgian, the percentage of Gauquelin seemed to hold. Around 1976 (many years afterwards) a test was decided on to find out whether demographic/medical factors might play a role. This test (the Zelen test) found nothing of the kind, so one might say that the hypothesis of Gauquelin survived the Belgian experiment. Around 1980 (I don't have my sources around) a new test was undertaken, this time with American Champions. It came out negative (if G.'s hypothesis had been about `Mars just having set', the American test would have been positive). In the ensuing discussion it turned out that G. thought the Americans had not done the test correctly, they had included a lot of `sub-toppers'. Apparently, according to Gauquelin, there is nothing wrong with including hundreds of `Italian sports flyers', hundreds of Belgian cyclists and dozens of `Basque pelote players' in your sportsmen, but selecting more than hundred all time American champs of baseball is just asking for too many mediocres that will spoil your sample, not to mention including basketball players. Why? Well, he had had bad results with Italian basketball players. To me this simply reeks of habitually selecting groups of data to fit the hypothesis. I wouldn't be surprised if all G.'s hypotheses about what to include and what not were gradually built up, while collecting his data. Unfortunately, when I was in the position to ask him, last January, he looked too sick and too busy to be bothered, and in May he committed suicide. A couple of Dutch skeptics have revived the hypothesis of demographic factors. They conjecture that, given the limited time window from which these champions are drawn (birthdates between 1930 and 1950), there is ample opportunity for medical factors to operate. For instance, Among champions the number of first borns are overrepresented, and it is well known that firstborns are born (on average) somewhat later on the day than laterborns. They also claim that the daily and seasonal birth-patterns for the Extremely Fit are somewhat different from those of us normal semi-invalids. Possibly their claims only support the position that with the given sample all kinds of spurious effects are to be expected, in other words, the variance of the data is larger than one would expect from a simple model. It should be pointed out that G. has similar results (but less clear) about associations between other planets and other professions. I wouldn't be surprised if the Gauquelin Mars-effect would turn out to be composed of equal parts of `demographical/medical causes', `dirty data handling' and `luck'. Whatever the explanation, it should be pointed out that the effect is extremely small. If Gauquelin is right, it would mean that if you meet an internationally acclaimed sports champion in his fifties, and you would guess that he was born with Mars rising or culminating, then you would be wrong in only 78% of the cases, instead of 83%. It is a sad comment on the nature of astrological `knowledge', that such a tiny and doubtful effect is considered as the ultimate proof for a system that claims to turn out detailed and accurate reports on the characters and destinies of virtually anybody. JWN From: Jan Willem Nienhuys To: All Msg #38, Nov-17-91 02:51AM Subject: Re: Gauqelin (sp?) From: wsadjw@rw7.urc.tue.nl (Jan Willem Nienhuys) Date: 10 Nov 91 16:35:46 GMT Organization: Eindhoven University of Technology, The Netherlands Message-ID: <2509@tuegate.tue.nl> Newsgroups: sci.skeptic In article <2503@tuegate.tue.nl> wsadjw@urc.tue.nl writes: >In article <1991Nov8.143028.4615@cs.umu.se> jan@cs.umu.se (Jan T}ngring) >writes: >>Anyone out there who could brief me about the Astrology-experiments >>of Gauqelin (sp?). What's wrong with them? I'm having a discussion >>with someone who refers to them as decisive evidence in favor of >>astrology. > >Francois Gauquelin has done a lot of research in astrology. >Summary: almost nothing of it is worth anything. Most people who >do some effort to obtain a horoscope interpretation of themselves >will approve of whatever it says, especially if it is couched in >flattering terms. On rereading, I notice that the above is not really unambiguous. let me try to de-ambiguate. Gauquelin states quite clearly that most of the usual astrology is rubbish. There is no value whatsoever in Sun-sign astrology. The most famous astrologers turn out rubbish that is so flattering that it is swallowed hook line and sinker by most customers. Read his: Dreams and illusions of astrology, Prometheus, Buffalo, 1979. Unfortunately this aspect of G.'s research is seldom seen as `the decisive evidence with regards to astrology', only his finding that maybe one in five rather than one in six French superchamps is born under Mars. Whether this finding is the result of demographic effects, data bungling (with or without intent), good luck or just possibly something non-explainable by the previous three, remains to be determined. JWN --- Squish v1.00 * Origin: Universal Electronics Inc [714 939-1041] HST/V.32bis (1:103/208) From: Chris Malcolm To: All Msg #50, Nov-17-91 11:24AM Subject: Re: Gauqelin (sp?) From: cam@aisb.ed.ac.uk (Chris Malcolm) Date: 10 Nov 91 23:10:25 GMT Organization: Dept AI, Edinburgh University, Scotland Message-ID: <1991Nov10.231025.11072@aisb.ed.ac.uk> Newsgroups: sci.skeptic In article <2509@tuegate.tue.nl> wsadjw@urc.tue.nl writes: >let me try to de-ambiguate. Gauquelin states quite clearly that most >of the usual astrology is rubbish. There is no value whatsoever in >Sun-sign astrology. The most famous astrologers turn out rubbish that This is a silly straw man. The _only_ people who think there is anything in Sun-sign astrology are the customers. The astrologers who produce it think it is complete rubbish -- they do it for the money. Of course they are cautious about saying so and damaging their livelihood publicly, but the organisations which trained many of them will tell you quite firmly and unambiguously what they think of sun-sign astrology. -- Chris Malcolm cam@uk.ac.ed.aipna +44 (0)31 667 1011 x2550 Department of Artificial Intelligence, Edinburgh University 5 Forrest Hill, Edinburgh, EH1 2QL, UK DoD #205 --- Squish v1.00 * Origin: Universal Electronics Inc [714 939-1041] HST/V.32bis (1:103/208) From: Jan Willem Nienhuys To: All Msg #68, Nov-17-91 11:24AM Subject: Re: Gauqelin (sp?) From: wsadjw@rw7.urc.tue.nl (Jan Willem Nienhuys) Date: 11 Nov 91 09:51:19 GMT Organization: Eindhoven University of Technology, The Netherlands Message-ID: <2518@tuegate.tue.nl> Newsgroups: sci.skeptic In article <1991Nov10.231025.11072@aisb.ed.ac.uk# cam@aifh.ed.ac.uk (Chris Malcolm) writes: #In article <2509@tuegate.tue.nl> wsadjw@urc.tue.nl writes: # #>let me try to de-ambiguate. Gauquelin states quite clearly that most #>of the usual astrology is rubbish. There is no value whatsoever in #>Sun-sign astrology. The most famous astrologers turn out rubbish that # #This is a silly straw man. The _only_ people who think there is anything #in Sun-sign astrology are the customers. The astrologers who produce it #think it is complete rubbish -- they do it for the money. Of course they #are cautious about saying so and damaging their livelihood publicly, but #the organisations which trained many of them will tell you quite firmly #and unambiguously what they think of sun-sign astrology. Interesting. So Gauquelin was trying to demolish straw-men, and he must have known that they were straw-men? And was this insight that Sun-sign astrology is rubbish already present among astrologers before Gauquelin published his findings (I believe in the 60's). Since when is this firm attitude of astrological training schools so prevalent? B.t.w., the different characteristics associated with the zodiacal signs may then be pass'e for interpreting the sun's position on the zodiac, but they are liberally used for interpreting the position of the other `planets' on the horoscope, as well as the position of the ascendant and mid-heaven. JWN From: Brian 'Rev P-K' Siano To: All Msg #82, Nov-17-91 11:24AM Subject: Re: Gauqelin (sp?) From: revpk@cellar.org (Brian 'Rev P-K' Siano) Date: 11 Nov 91 17:41:32 GMT Organization: The Cellar BBS and public access system Message-ID: Newsgroups: sci.skeptic jan@cs.umu.se (Jan T}ngring) writes: > Anyone out there who could brief me about the Astrology-experiments > of Gauqelin (sp?). What's wrong with them? I'm having a discussion > with someone who refers to them as decisive evidence in favor of > astrology. Not quite. Gauquelin claimed to have found a correlation between athletic ability and being born under a Mars sign that was stronger than chance distribution would allow. Review of his studies showed that some of the data pool was skewed, in that many of his subjects came from a particular region of France, and the distribution wasn't as even as one would have hoped. Still, the study was re-conducted with an American stat pool, under Gauquelin's supervision... and the results came up negative. So far, only Gauquelin has found this alleged 'Mars Effect,' but at least one major replication of the study has failed. It's really charming when I run into astrologers who cite Gauquelin as proof-positive of astrology. They fail to understand that not only hasn't Gauquelin conclusive proven anything-- though his research is by no means worthless-- but that Gauquelin himself is very critical of mainstream astrology, and has conducted several spectacular experiments to demonstrate how bogus astrology is. From: Chris Malcolm To: All Msg #94, Nov-17-91 01:17PM Subject: Re: Gauqelin (sp?) From: cam@aisb.ed.ac.uk (Chris Malcolm) Date: 11 Nov 91 23:34:25 GMT Organization: Dept AI, Edinburgh University, Scotland Message-ID: <1991Nov11.233425.29047@aisb.ed.ac.uk> Newsgroups: sci.skeptic In article <2518@tuegate.tue.nl> wsadjw@urc.tue.nl writes: >In article <1991Nov10.231025.11072@aisb.ed.ac.uk# cam@aifh.ed.ac.uk (Chris >Malcolm) writes: >#In article <2509@tuegate.tue.nl> wsadjw@urc.tue.nl writes: >#>let me try to de-ambiguate. Gauquelin states quite clearly that most >#>of the usual astrology is rubbish. There is no value whatsoever in >#>Sun-sign astrology. The most famous astrologers turn out rubbish that >#This is a silly straw man. The _only_ people who think there is anything >#in Sun-sign astrology are the customers. The astrologers who produce it >#think it is complete rubbish -- they do it for the money. >Interesting. So Gauquelin was trying to demolish straw-men, and he must >have known that they were straw-men? Read Gauquelin! He wasn't rying to demolish straw men, and yes, he knew that Sun sign "astrology" was deeply emabarrassing to serious astrologers. He was trying to show that there was nothing in astrology proper. If he had only been concerned to rubbish Sun-sign astrology he would hardly have needed to expend the huge statistical efforts he did! >And was this insight that Sun-sign >astrology is rubbish already present among astrologers before Gauquelin >published his findings (I believe in the 60's). The answer is yes, sun-sign newspaper astrology has been a source of deep embarrassment to serious astrologers ever since it first appeared. You can easily verify that it predates Gauquelin at your local public library by looking up the serious astrological textbooks of earlier date. >Since when is this firm >attitude of astrological training schools so prevalent? As long as they have existed. Check the charter of the British Faculty of Astrological Studies, for example. Those astrological schools which award formal diplomas usually require the candidate's signature on a code of ethics, and this is often worded so as to firmly exclude (among other things) the practice of Sun-sign astrology. >B.t.w., the different characteristics associated with the zodiacal signs >may then be pass'e for interpreting the sun's position on the zodiac, >but they are liberally used for interpreting the position of the other >`planets' on the horoscope, as well as the position of the ascendant and >mid-heaven. If you want to criticise astrology do learn something about it first. There is nothing passe about interpreting the Sun's zodiacal position among astrologers of any hue (except the extreme Hamburg school who eschew the zodiac altogether). The Sun, however, is only one of ten bodies which move through the signs, and the position of these bodies in the signs is only one of a number of important influences in assessing a horoscope, and while few astrologers go as far as the Hamburg school, there are many who consider the zodiacal influences to play only minor role compared to the aspects. Indeed some regard the zodiacal influences to be a simplification of a more complex underlying aspect system. Sun-sign astrology exploits the willingness of people to believe in astrology, and feeds them a fake concoction dressed in astrological terminology based upon the only astrological factor which can be known without individual calculation -- your birthday, i.e. the Sun-sign. -- Chris Malcolm cam@uk.ac.ed.aipna +44 (0)31 667 1011 x2550 Department of Artificial Intelligence, Edinburgh University 5 Forrest Hill, Edinburgh, EH1 2QL, UK DoD #205 From: Jan Willem Nienhuys To: All Msg #16, Dec-11-91 04:02AM Subject: Re: Explanation for influence of birth date Organization: Eindhoven University of Technology, The Netherlands From: wsadjw@rw7.urc.tue.nl (Jan Willem Nienhuys) Message-ID: 2880@tuegate.tue.nl Reply-To: wsadjw@urc.tue.nl Followup-To: alt.astrology Newsgroups: alt.astrology,sci.skeptic In article <1991Dec1.190529.23579@cs.mcgill.ca# pisces@cs.mcgill.ca (L. M. P. McPherson) writes: #> #>There may be rational explanations for the correlation of birthdates #>and subsequent achievements. #>Many countries have fixed cut-off dates for introducing children to #>school. A single day's difference can make a year's difference to #>starting school. # #If you are referring to Gauquelin's work, the date of birth was not the #factor found to be related to subsequent achievements. It was the time #of day, or, more accurately, the position of a particular planet with #respect to the ascendant, nadir, descendant, or midheaven that was found #to be important. I'll have to explain what exactly such cut-off dates and other non-random `influences ' might have. Because the Mars orbit is slightly excentric, Mars spends more time near the Sun (as seen from Earth) than away from the Sun. Because in the early morning hours more births take place, there will be relatively more people born with Mars just rising. This effect was recognized already a long time ago, and consequently the zero hypothesis is not that precisely 1/6th of all births take place when Mars is in the two Gauquelin sectors (rougly house 12 and 9 in the Placidian system), but rather 17.16%. However, this percentage holds only when (1) one averages over a very long period (2) the population examined does not differ from the `total population' w.r.t. the circannual distribution of births and also not w.r.t. the circadian distribution of births. Ad (1). Averaging over a few synodic Mars orbits is not enough. I mean, after a certain time Mars occupies the same position between the stars as before, but then the Sun is somewhere else. The time during which Mars was in perihelion, physically close to the Sun, was only one season of the year. If Mars returns to the same position and the Sun is in more or less the same position, a much longer period elapses (that is the period between two `close oppositions'). The Gauquelin data are mostly sportsmen (indeed, mostly men) that are born in the twenty years before WW II. That period is not long enough for averaging out. (2) There are indications (in my opinion rather weak, but I don't know the details) that those sports champions do differ. One explanation might be those cut-off effects, another explanation (proposed by Jongbloet), is that very fit mothers tend to have babies only in certain seasons, and that the (small number of) babies with various birth defects tend to be born in other seasons. Firstborns (nobody knows the number of firstborns among those champions, though I noted a few champions who are brothers among Gauquelin's data) tend to be born later in the day (birth takes longer for a primipara), all factors that may introduce more variability in the data than a binomial model might lead you to expect. According to my friends, computer simulation of a population with the same birthdate distribution as the Gauquelin data, but slightly different circadian rithm from the general population yields `Mars effects'. I must say that Francoise Schneider-Gauquelin contests this explanation, and so does Ertel (it seems). And the coming two issues of the Skeptical Inquirer will, I'm told, throw an entirely new light on the whole problem. JWN

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