Antarctic radioactive dating of meteorites
Why has research failed to find effects commensurate with astrological claims?
The above issues keep an explanation on track but are not enough to make it useful. To be useful an explanation of astrology has to (1) explain the observations, (2) lead to testable outcomes else we can never know if it is right or wrong, (3) improve on existing explanations else why bother, and (4) not contravene known restraints such as the second law of thermodynamics or Newton's first law of gravity.
An explanation that is testable will usually pass the other criteria as well. So we can usefully make testability our first focus. To see how it works, consider Tomaschek's (1962) suggestion that astrology might be explained by direct causation, by triggering, by the correspondence between simultaneous events, or by the unity of everything. We can see that none of these "explanations" can in fact be tested, at least not as they stand.
All reduce to a circular argument -- the unity of everything explains the unity of everything. More detail is required before we can proceed further. As shown next, the same applies to nearly every explanation that has been put forward to arguments against radioactive dating explain astrology.
In what follows we exclude explanations characterised by vagueness such as that of Shallis (1981), which is based on unspecified Principles whose nature is not described, and explanations that view astrology purely as a language without regard to content, which leaves nothing for an explanation to explain.
In general, spiritual explanations view astrology as soul stuff, dealing with things other than the material. In effect such explanations put astrology into the purely spiritual domain, which is unproblematic provided no claims are made for astrology other than spiritual ones.
But no astrology conference or book stays within purely spiritual beliefs.
Furthermore the application of astrology in cases where there is no living body (eg ships, companies, countries, questions) might seem to deny that astrology could be fundamentally soul stuff, unless of course we assume that everything (even atoms and ideas) has a soul, in which case we also need to put forward a way of testing this assumption.
Spiritual explanations include those of Alice Bailey (1951, based on seven rays), Charles Carter (1968, based on the zodiac as the pathway of the soul), Alan Leo (1913, based on karma and reincarnation), Dane Rudhyar (1969, based on actualisation of potentialities), and Robert Schmidt (1990, based on the Greek principles of the One and the Many).
Clearly spiritual explanations can differ just like other explanations, but being spiritual they are by definition untestable. We can of course test the supposed physical implications of a spiritual explanation but this does not solve the problem, in the same way that presents antartic radioactive dating of meteorites under the Christmas tree do not allow us to choose between Santa Claus and an Act of God. So such explanations are not useful, which is not to say they cannot be a comfort in times of spiritual adversity.
Physical explanations reduce astrology to physics.
For example Ptolemy notes how the sun is linked to seasonal and daily variations in humans, animals, plants, and the weather, and how other heavenly bodies "aid it or oppose it in particular details." So in principle, if celestial positions are known, the weather can be predicted, as can "the general quality of [human] temperament from the ambient [ie heavens] at the time of birth", and "occasional events" (Tetrabiblos I.2 Robbins translation).
In 1657 Placidus argued that "It is impossible for the efficient heavenly causes (as being so very far distant from things below) to influence sublunary bodies, unless by some medium or instrumental virtue." He concluded that "the instrumental cause of the stars is light", so that "the stars, where they do not rise, are inactive." Consequently "we reject a secret influence as superfluous, nay, even impossible" (Primum Mobile, 1.1 and 1.4, Cooper translation).
Today there are two approaches to physical explanations of astrology.
One is to stay with an extended conventional science, as in the explanations of McGillion (1980,2002) based on the pineal gland, Cotterell (1988) based on interstellar radiation, and Seymour (1990,1997,2004) based on resonance between planetary tides and the magnetosphere.
The other approach is to move beyond conventional science. Recent examples (albeit applied to astrology by astrologers and not by their originators) are physicist David Bohm's idea of implicate order, neuropsychologist Karl Pribram's idea of holographic order, and plant physiologist Rupert Sheldrake's idea of morphic resonance.
Two earlier explanations that were once popular among certain astrologers are those of Charles Muses (1919-2000), a mathematician and philosopher, and Arthur Young (1905-1995), founder of the Institute for the Study of Consciousness.
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