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The greatest mystery of all for astrologers: how to argue with a skeptic

How does it all connect?

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. 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. 

How it all connects for astrologers: through symbols, images, the zodiacal belt, and imagination

9 thoughts on “The greatest mystery of all for astrologers: how to argue with a skeptic

  1. Cosmic laws do not require human sanction or belief. There was a time when gravitation as a force was not known, accepted or believed. Yet, its force was in action and its effects felt by all.

    Same with astrology.

  2. Science has already caught up in many respects. Take the neutrino, for example. It’s postulation, and recent proof that not only do neutrinos exist, but that they have mass, indicates that they can deliver information from bodies surrounding earth. Recently, research has looked into whether neutrinos could replace satellites in communications technology. More disturbing however, is that fact that the father of the neutrino, Wolfgang Pauli, followed up on his discovery by going to work with Carl Jung for 7 years. There are many theories as to the cause and outcome of their collaboration, but suffice it to say that their respective families keep the results under lock and key, in case their reputations be damaged beyond recovery. In recent years, the only person with access to Jung’s work in the vault of a New York bank, organised the publication of The Red Book, a collection of illustrated essays that are apparently hard to decipher and hardly warrant such security and shielding from the eyes even of Jung scholars. The truth is that the Red Book is a red herring most likely. Pauli’s records are under lock and key at the Cern laboratories. If this all sounds like a Dan Brown scenario, well, it probably is. However, the results of their work together are by no means hidden, however, what they created was a system that bears little resemblance to astrology as we know it. It is ‘practised’ by a growing number of people, and it IS verifiable by empirical observation. That’s how precise it is. Astrology is a mighty tool that is very precise, but it is brain surgery for mere mortals, the mastery of which can take a lifetime. Pauli and Jung found a way to access the human subconscious and broke yje genetic code, for want of a better term. Their system would bring astrology to levels beyond our imaginations, and the scepticism of astrologers themselves that is preventing a large-scale enlightenment,. Pity.

    • I’d like to see the research, because this is an interesting perspective, but until I see primary sources, I couldn’t possibly have a coherent response. Generally, the only skepticism I have, after too long in academia, is based in the fact that researchers need to show their sources, if they’re going to be believed, and more importantly, trusted. I trust astrology to the extent that I know how to use it, and its outcomes are pretty much what I expect (also, sometimes I am surprised, because I’m rather more skeptical than not).

      I don’t think skepticism on its own is a bad thing. I think it’s part of critical thinking skills, and it’s one of the basic building blocks of logic and being cautious prior to coming to any conclusion, one way or the other. I also refuse to commit myself to a position until I’ve had a chance to work with the information for many years. I trust astrology at this point in my life largely because I have been using it, reading its texts, studying it, discussing it, since I was 11; and selling it as a service since I was 17. This gives it a longitudinal usage that makes it a source I personally, with my limited human lifespan and equally limited human perspective, can support.

      Am I wrong? I have no idea. I think we work with what we’ve got, and it works for me, up to a point. I wouldn’t trust my life to astrology. I’d go to a doctor if I thought there was something seriously wrong with me, and I sure as hell wouldn’t risk the life of someone I love because astrology “told me to.” To the extent that there are real life consequences to believing a little too much in the power of something outside the self, I’d say, pull back and let’s look at the research (and quote your sources).

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