Today sun sign delineation books heavily outnumber other astrology books in the New Age section of bookstores except when sun sign forecast books are in season. Do cat signs reveal the "inner cat" or only "as others see them"? And how would we know anyway? Indeed signs generally have taken over even in astrology textbooks.
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Thus in the 19th century the page ratio for planets:signs averaged about whereas today it is more like When astrologers talk about planets they now tend to use sign-based psychological characteristics, for example Pluto might be characterised by "Scorpionic intensity. The disagreement among astrologers begins We have seen how sun sign columns are a twentieth century invention, driven by commercialisation to a status far above their traditional entitlement, making them equivalent to palmistry readings based on little fingers.
No wonder that among astrologers they quickly became controversial. But no action was taken. In Elliot's own words:. So I retreated and no longer play a significant role in Association matters. Gown, Astrological Journal Autumn , In his defence, Elliot felt that no firm line could be drawn between popular and serious astrology. The former "supplies an inadequate service which is better than nothing.
There is always the hope that it will lead to better things. Harvey stressed that:. Clearly stating its limitations, it sets out to give a popular account of basic astrological principles which no astrologer would deny. No-one would deny that such literature has a useful role to play in spreading astrological ideas to a wider public. They may offer a choice of 12 thoughts for the day but as astrology they are an offence to the intelligence of even the most modestly endowed.
To couple and underpin such nonsense with astrology is not only a pernicious encouragement of superstition and neurosis but also a corruption and denial of astrology's great power to increase individual awareness and liberate the human spirit from arbitrary values, pressures and exploitation. These views were endorsed by Julia Parker, President of the Faculty for Astrological Studies who was later to become famous for her best-selling books on sun sign delineations, who felt that:.
Certain eminent US astrologers agreed.
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For example "newspaper or sun-sign astrology is nonsense" and "astrology in the newspapers is pure drivel", from respectively Henry Weingarten and Noel Tyl in The Humanist November-December , But other US astrologers equally eminent disagreed. For example, in a defence of popular astrology, Charles Jayne argued:.
It would not be too much to say that the above group is as eminent and respectable as their critics: this suggests that one or both sides must be partially wrong. I suggest that our critics come forward with some hard evidence that this type of material is actually the rubbish they allege it to be. But the critics did not come forward with hard evidence.
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For example, in the same issue the editor Zach Matthews merely commented:. Enter empiricism: Our prize competitions Whatever we may think of sun signs, testable claims are often made "Aquarians favour the unusual", "the 22nd sees you keeping a rendezvous with your gynaecologist" , so their truth or falsity is an empirical matter to be established by research, not proclaimed by fiat or simply ignored. We described the background to the prize as follows:.
They fill the pages of serious textbooks and popular magazines alike.
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And for over years astrologers have been largely in agreement about what each sign means. It follows that signs are widely seen to be valid. But if they are valid they can be shown to be valid. And if the popularity of signs is any guide, their validation should be easy.
Furthermore if signs are empirically based, as is generally implied, they automatically lend themselves to empirical testing. In other words, it should be easy to demonstrate that signs actually work in the way they are said to work. During our literature searches But although we had searched well over a thousand books and many hundreds of journals, and had written to hundreds of astrologers around the world, we had not found anybody who had demonstrated the validity of signs -- and many had tried. Accordingly, our prize was offered to anyone who could demonstrate the validity of signs as traditionally conceived.
When our offer closed at the end of , six entries had been received, none of them successful.
Along the way we discovered that some people wanted more time, or more money, or a more definite hypothesis to test. When our offer closed 18 months later at the end of , four entries had been received, none of them successful, see Astrological Journal Summer , When our offer closed 18 months later at the end of , 34 entries from seven countries had been received, of which 16 did not address the required topic and 3 had produced only negative results.
Of the remaining 15 entries two involved signs , only one was successful, but this was a fake study entered to test the allegation by Dennis Elwell that the prize was unwinnable because appropriate tests could not be designed and the panel of eight judges was not impartial. Ironically, in certain quarters in the USA the response to our superprize was nothing so simple as an entry. Improbably, this generated an entry "Astrology as poetic text" from a British astrologer cum semioticist who argued that "proving the validity of language in general amounts to the same as proving astrology, hence I take the contest seriously.
In short, despite massive literature searches, letter writings, and cash inducements, we had still not found anybody who had demonstrated the validity of signs or sun sign columns under controlled conditions. Opinions yes, demonstrations no. Accuracy of sun sign forecasts: Early studies The mundane predictions were undoubtedly responsible for the initial interest in sun sign columns, and much was made of any apparent hits.
For example on 12 October the editor of the Sunday Express announced:.
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He forecast, among other things, the Stock Exchange boom in September and the Hitler upheaval in Germany. And last week In fact the first forecast, which read "values on [the Stock Exchange] and otherwise will appreciate after Thursday morning", resulted in the following letter to the editor:. Few of us in business believed such a thing possible under present conditions, but it shows that the action of the planets can be taken into account with some confidence.
Fordyce Jones. The forecast about the R, Britain's great passenger airship, read "British aircraft will be in danger about the same date October 8 to 15 " 5 October page On 5 October the R was wrecked in a storm near Paris. She was flying low, weighed down by heavy rain, when gale force winds blew her into a hilltop. There were 46 dead and 8 survivors. Naylor himself commented:. It can be proved that, whenever the new moon or full moon falls at a certain angle to the planet Uranus, aircraft accidents, electrical storms, and sometimes earthquakes follow.
But the hit is ambiguous. Naylor's forecast said October, during which time no other hits were noted, whereas the configuration New Moon conjunct uranus was actually at GMT on 7 October, and the crash was at on 5 October when the Moon was 33 degrees from configuration. Less ambiguous were Naylor's repeated forecasts of no war: "In this column, for years, I have constantly laboured these points: Hitler's horoscope is not a war-horoscope But despite the obvious realities, Naylor persisted with his views, which in the issue of 26 May led to the following editorial comment: "We are living in tense, grave days.
The Sunday Express believes that the light, popular entertainment of normal times is out of place now. For that reason it has decided to discontinue the weekly article of astrological predictions. Don't make me laugh! Not a sign in my charts" 25 June page 6 , "Hitler will not do it!
Los Angeles Free Press, Volume 7, issue 294 Part Two,March 6, 1970 — Page 20
Then, ingeniously, after war was declared, "A madman against the stars! But unlike Naylor he did not get the sack. In the hard-hitting investigative London magazine Picture Post [no relation to Australia's Picture Post ] tested the accuracy of the top five UK newspaper astrologers Lyndoe, Naylor, Old Moore, Arden, Petulengro against nine outstanding events during , most of them involving the invasion by Germany of various European countries.
Each prediction was rated on a six-point scale of 0 totally wrong through 2 slightly correct to 5 totally correct. Out of a possible total of 45 they scored 9, 12, 4, 4 and 13 respectively, an average of barely 1 per forecast "What DID the stars foretell? The issue of 20 September noted that "Seldom has any article provoked so much interest" page 22 , and then gave a selection of readers' letters, of which the following is typical:.
My only criticism is that your markings were far too generous, and that negative marks should have been awarded for "reversed" forecasts. By this system it is doubtful whether any of the professors would have had a credit balance. The issue of 27 September contained a letter from the astrologer and AA member P. Harwood, which said:.
I am sending you a copy of my booklet, When the War Will End , and if you are really interested in it I should be obliged if you could give it some publicity. Mr Harwood's booklet foretold invasion in May , a separate peace with Italy in July , and considered Russia unlikely to "be implicated seriously" in war. Accuracy of sun sign forecasts: Later studies In due course sun sign forecasts focussed almost entirely on personal matters, making validation more difficult.
But studies have found their accuracy no better than before. For example Fichten and Sunerton used Montreal college students to test daily and monthly forecasts by Sydney Omarr and Jeanne Dixon and found them to be neither valid nor in agreement. When the sign was not known, forecasts for own signs were judged no more valid than forecasts for other signs.
But when the sign was known, forecasts for own signs were judged the best, suggesting that prior knowledge is important for acceptance Journal of Psychology , , Similar studies reported by us in our follow-up article Response to our Armchair Invitation all confirm the same outcome -- forecasts for own signs are judged no more valid than forecasts for other signs. In effect the same test is made whenever the column happens to appear on the wrong day, eg due to a filing error or because old columns were being recycled to save money, or when the column is pure invention as quoted for Jan Moir in our first section or assembled at random from previous columns as per James Randi in Flim-Flam!
But readers never notice. In Randi's case "two office workers They squealed with delight on seeing their future so well laid out, and in response to my query said [their columns were] 'right smack on'.
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