The greatest mystery of all for astrologers: how to argue with a skeptic
Astrologers have long been faced with trying to explain to skeptics how and why astrology works. I don’t mind the questions; I mind the closed-mindedness of Empiricists who cannot perceive as true anything that is not verifiable via the five senses—but that’s a rant for another day.
Fortunately, someone who understands the principles of argumentation can speak for me, so that this won’t become an unnecessary diatribe in which I splutter and lose whatever credibility I still have, tattered though it might be.
In a rebuttal to the skeptic’s usual method of argumentation, on his website Theory of Astrology, author and theoretician Ken McRitchie addresses not only the assertions that are most often leveled against astrology; but also, the structure and foundational premises of the arguments themselves.
He has found that most of the arguments used against astrology rely on logical fallacies that go ignored because the nature of the rhetoric employed is so inflammatory or misguided that, instead of creating discourse, all that is accomplished is further dissension and misunderstanding.
The following represents one of the many fallacies that undergird negative assumptions about astrology, at the same time that it foregrounds the reason Plato didn’t like rhetoricians very much. He deplored the rhetor‘s ability to twist words around so as to make the weaker argument the stronger. This twisted rhetoric, amounting to legerdemain, was a pet peeve of his, as it is to anyone who believes in keeping an open mind and not manipulating people.
Burden of proof fallacy — The assertions that astrology should be explained by a conventional causal mechanism (such as gravity or magnetic forces), or that astrology should use the time of conception instead of the time of birth, are attempts to argue that view A (conventional mechanism and time of conception) is to be preferred to view B (testable, falsifiable operations drawn from astrology texts).
The logical fallacy in this case is that the burden of proof laid on view A is raised to an impossibly heavy level, and furthermore would not prove view B either. Preference for view A further leads to the false attribution that astrology makes extraordinary claims, and that no evidence of view B is sufficient because extraordinary evidence is required to prove view A. This argument makes a faulty inference of proof and is another error of logical structure.
Why are these rational errors made? No doubt the theories and applications that scientists are familiar with do not explain how astrology works. Yet no theory can be used to either support or deny what astrology actually claims in its texts. This requires evidence. To rely upon theory before evidence is, epistemologically speaking, to put the cart before the horse.
Before astrology can be explained, or explained away, it is necessary to understand and evaluate its claims. All researchers, whether they agree or disagree with the claims of astrology, need to immerse themselves deeply into the empirical observations made by astrology.
Without evidence, all arguments go down a slippery slope of rational errors. [In the year 2000], [a]strologer Rob Hand assert[ed], “We should not be trying to explain astrology by means of science as it is, but there is no problem with trying to explain astrology by a science that has not yet come to be.”
I think this is the fundamental problem for astrologers: astrology cannot be defined by the current narrow parameters of science as it exists today, and I see nothing wrong with that, because science allows for hypothetical realities and possibilities to be true even if they are not currently verifiable.
The fact that ‘how astrology works’ cannot be proven or disproven according to current scientific rules does not change my premise, which is that one should keep an open mind until perhaps one day, science catches up with the perception that astrology has some validity, of a sort that cannot currently be verified. That there are instruments incapable of measuring an energy or force does not mean the energy or force does not exist. It means we need to create more sensitive instruments, and that might never happen.
But what if it did? I know that I am not the first to have thought the currently impossible was remotely possible—some day.
- Astrology – beyond the sun signs (anne-whitaker.com)
- I am a circle, I am a square: Astrology as ontological metaphor (beyondthestarsastrology.wordpress.com)