Daily Horoscope:Mars May Be Conjunct Jupiter, But Your Head Is In Uranus.

Posted on August 17, 2010. Filed under: Astrology and Related Bunk, Irony in the Title, Science |

Edit:I changed the grammar of the title in response to James’ criticism.

Note From George: There is a more lengthy criticism of Polaris in my follow up post Daily Horoscope: Polaris Software- A Critical Analysis.

After a month long hiatus, Jamie Funk is back for round 2 over at Lousy Canuck.  Well, sort of.  He has re-joined the fray now that Robert Currey has come in to defend astrology with something resembling a real argument.  I do not by any means agree that Robert’s argument is anything short of trying to obfuscate the debate, but he at least came to the fight with a weapon; even if it is just pepper spray at a gun fight.  I can summarize the new flavor of the debate like so:

1. Astrology doesn’t need a mechanism.  It also apparently doesn’t need to have a quantifiable effect.  In fact, it doesn’t seem to need anything other than a 3000 year pedigree and some nifty anecdotes.

2. Astrologers are not responsible to give any evidence to prove that astrology works.  Science needs to prove a negative so that astrologers can critique these studies as faulty.  Scientific method be damned.

3.  Skeptics continually disregard “hits” out of hand.  Even if those hits are based on ambiguous guesswork that could be viewed as a “hit” no matter which way the winds blow.

4.  Astrologers like to insist that we divulge our personal information rather than subject their “field of study” to any semblance of a scientific assessment.

Why I Am Not Convinced.

Not suprisingly, Uranus is a Gas Giant- What effect that has on me, I don't really know...

Astrologers, in my mind, need to show that their “field of study” has some measurable effect in the world we live.  Before we can postulate a mechanism, we first need to see the need for a mechanism.  There has to be some phenomenon that can best be explained by astrology, and this would make a mechanism necessary.  Astrologers do not seem to agree with this.  They think we should prove that astrology has no effect, at which point they can decide if our proof is sufficient to discount astrology or not.

Then, out of the blue, James Alexander comes into the discussion.  Those of you who have read my Daily Horoscope series would be familiar with James, both as the poster I referenced from Jamie’s blog and the author of the Polaris link I gave in DH: You’re in a Circle Jerk With The Confirmation Bias Fairy.  You might also remember the open offer I gave him in DH: There Will Be A Test.

Polaris: What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

To reiterate what I said before:

Polaris is the brightest star in the constellation Ursa Minor, but likely not the brightest computer program...

A poster named James mentioned Polaris, a computer program that he described as being indisputably predictive in calculating birth times.   I should have caught on when the process was referred to as “rectification”, but the temptation of a program that was testable and falsifiable blinded me to its obvious flaw.

The process is called “rectification”, I know now, because it uses your built in confirmation bias to re-jig your birthtime based on past events in your life.  The idea is this:

Subject A either has no registered or confirmable birth time or feels that his/her birth time was miscalculated by timepieces at the time of their birth.

With the foreknowledge that astrology is more accurate at calculating birth times then, say, a clock or watch which was invented solely for the purpose of time keeping; Subject A gives a list of significant events from their lives and a list of probable birth times and Polaris extracts the most likely one based on a points system.

How eminently scientific!  I can still see how this program could be used to disprove itself though.

Let’s say someone bought the program, gathered birth time information on several individuals using clocks that are accurate to the millisecond, witnessing and documenting firsthand the indisputable birth times.  Wait say, 20 years and input events from those individuals lives and a wide range of birth times and voila, the indisputable birth time must surely emerge!

Not Fair?

I’d like to know why, without any confirmation bias “that was the time they were supposed to be born” bullshit that I can hear already spewing from the credulous assholes mouth.

I’ve already proposed how to use this program in a less scientific way to at least lend weight to it’s credibility.  I’m still open to takers:

From James’ comment at Funk Astrology.

Hypothesis: That the time of a persons birth can be calculated with better than average accuracy using the dates of a series of unrelated events in their lives.

Experiment:  Provided with a list of ten (10) unknown subjects information including date of birth, place of birth, and several important events in their lives, the astrologer will be able to calculate their known birthtime within an insignificant margin of error.  These calculations are to be statistically more accurate than the guesses of 5 non-astrologers.

James didn’t want to address my concerns with Polaris a month ago, and certainly has not seemed to keen to address them now.  He claims that the odds of Polaris working are 1 in 1440 yet when I look at his example on the Polaris link I find this information:

She sent me over 40 events from her life, mostly with exact dates. I took 38 of these events (the ones where the dates were most accurately known) and entered each of them into Polaris. I gave the software a search range of an hour on either side of the supposed birthtime. This entering of events goes quite quickly. In about a minute (time dependent on computer speed), Polaris examined every 8 seconds in birthtime throughout the range and gave the following table:

Don't know you're "real" birth time? That's why we invent astrology software!

With an hour on either side,and examining every eight seconds, you’re chances look like 1 in 900. But if we consider the fact that many people don’t have birthtime to the second, we must consider what range of “hits” would be considered uncanny to the person who has a rough birth time. Let’s suppose its just ten minutes either side of their birth time. By my math that equates to 1 in 6.
So I question the method, not the significance of it’s results.

I am left with the impression that his statistical skills are a bit lacking.  He has succumbed to his own confirmation bias.

I still leave my original offer open though.  I would gladly offer him the chance to set up a rigorous blind test of Polaris’ efficiency at calculating birth times.  I’ll even allow him to help shape the parameters so that his program can get a fair shake.  I doubt he will take the offer though, I just thought I would give him the chance he says every other skeptic won’t.

What Will I Do If You’re Right?

This sphere exerts more gravitational pull on her than Jupiter- It also is just as likely to give her useful information about her life...

James, if you win, if Polaris can be seen to fair better than chance at calculating birth times, I will gladly take up your cause.  I will stand behind you 100% on Jason’s site, and I will admit to everyone that astrology is plausible.  I will give Jason and Glendon and Stephanie all the data we gathered together, and defend it as more than mere coincidence, proof that there is SOMETHING to astrology.

I will also post a retraction on my site saying that I was wrong to criticize astrology, outlining all the evidence I collected from our study, and you could link to this post with reckless abandon every time a skeptic questions astrology.

So let’s have a go then.  Let’s put your program to the test.

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18 Responses to “Daily Horoscope:Mars May Be Conjunct Jupiter, But Your Head Is In Uranus.”

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[...] a post following up on that fact, and summarizing the current round’s tactics quite well, as such: I can summarize the new flavor of the debate like [...]

There is too much that is incorrect in your rant (above) for me to remotely have time to address.

As for the test… I already told you, we only have to work out how to have verifiable data. (One CSICOP farce was more than enough, but hey, true colors are good to see)

Let’s make this more about the data, Astrology, and review; than about our two personalities.

Peace

James

Wow!
What a measured response.
There is too much incorrect, yet you don’t want to explain what it is that is incorrect? I don’t hide my bias on your computer program. I think, based on your own description on your write up and comments you have made on Jason’s blog that my “rant” is factual based on all the information I have been given. I welcome you to correct anything I misrepresented. I will, given a proper defensible counter-argument, amend any and all misrepresentations of your software in my post.
I am a reasonable person James, and I am willing to give your software and you a reasonable shake. To come here and say I’ve got it all wrong but refuse to be specific is suspect. The post is a mere 1200 words, you couldn’t afford more than 75 words to rebuke anything I have said?
I am offering to let you help shape a study that, although certainly flawed and limited by the variables I can control, will go a long way toward convincing me that I have been wrong to judge astrology so skeptically. I have also offered to have something in it for you. So please, try to be civil in your responses, and I assure you I will endeavor to do the same.
So to start, would you agree that if I could find a sample size of say 15-20 people of varying ages who have, let’s say 12 or more important dates you listed over at Jason’s, and have a verifiable birth time- and I gave you seven choices of possible birth times, you could choose the one that is known with better frequency than a random choice? Or is the software not capable of getting in the right ballpark? I’d even let you rate them 1-7 by likelihood. I need your input because I don’t know what your program is capable of.

For the record, I’d prefer if you hash out what your testing criteria are, right here, rather than in the already bloated thread at my place, where fewer outside observers can interfere with your negotiation process. I’ll cross-post anything you eventually come up with.

I can be more specific. The only parts that stood out as inherently correct and reasoned are the parts where you have quoted.

The rest is either misinformed attack, weak attempts at comedy, or bravado. None of it would I, or any other learned person, read and say, “now that’s correct.”

I thought, from many discussions on the topic that skeptics tend to be ignorant on the topic of Astrology.

As the sentence “Mars May Be Conjunct Jupiter, But You’re Head Is In Uranus.” should obviously be “Mars May Be Conjunct Jupiter, But YOUR Head Is In Uranus.”, so apparently grammar is also a weak point in your “arsenal.”

As for Polaris, it does help to find birthtimes. I want you, for one minute, to be generous and step into my shoes and IMAGINE that you had purchased a program and gone and looked up celebrities who have documented birthtimes. Then you researched dated events from their lives and entered them into the program that you purchased. Now, when the program often leads you right to that documented time or so very close, so that it is obvious recording error (I mean if it’s random, it shouldn’t even regularly be CLOSE), then you would say, “WOW”, there is something to this. That is where I am at. So, when you come in and argue against the program being able to work, from a philosophical standpoint, when I have seen it perform in the REAL WORLD, it doesn’t take a doctorate degree to figure that the armchair philosopher is full of manure to the point that it spills out on his blog.

Yep.

James

Wow,
So the linchpin on which you care to hang your argument is my improper use of the word “You’re”?
So I am bad with grammar and you are bad with math. Which one do you think is going to be most useful in this discussion, James?
If you want a war of words, I’ll give it to you. If you want a level discussion, I can do that too.
I am not attacking you personally when I point out my criticisms of Polaris. I have even taken the time to write a more detailed analysis of my issues with Polaris and the statements you have made, which I will post once I have done some obviously needed proof-reading. I wouldn’t want to get the high school English teacher smack down twice in a row.
I am giving you my opinion of the weaknesses in the program, I cannot and should not be held responsible for your hurt feelings solely because you have chosen to invest emotional interest into your software.
On my blog I aim to give every idea a fair treatment, that does not mean I don’t reserve the right to hold a strong opinion or publish my blog in a stylized way that obviously offends you. It means that I will listen to your criticisms, I will answer your questions, and I will not be rude without reason.
As for your “real world” experience, it is not my job to blindly accept your word that the program works. The onus is on you to sway my opinion. At this moment in time, I have a series of concerns with the information I have at hand as well as with statements you have made. If you want sheep, go back to your astrology clients. No amount of pounding your fists in protest is going to make me or any of my friends accept your software just because you believe in it soooo much.
Thank you for correcting my grammar. I realize that this was a mistake, and I will correct it accordingly. I just hope that you will extend the same courtesy when you are rightfully corrected.

No, I didn’t say that your astrology comments were hanging on the proper grammar… it was my first showing, in an obvious way, that you a) are fallible, and then some and b) the implication that your Astrology comments (something you don’t really know about…did NOT study, Astrology) is likely a worse case than your grammar (something you should know about, since you DID study that at some point).

Let’s call it the first chink in your armor. ;)

Soon to be all chinks…

Peace

James

James,
We are all fallible. If I ever gave you the impression I believe myself incapable of mistakes then I again would implore you to give examples. I think misdirecting people to a grammatical mistake in lieu of making a proper argument shows that a) you are fallible, and then some and b)you don’t have an argument with the meat of my criticisms.
You obviously have a weak argument and are trying to play the “never mind the man behind the curtain” game. I have yet to see, in four comments on my blog, a single counterargument to anything I have said…..
Perhaps this is why skeptics ignore you.

Re: Perhaps this is why skeptics ignore you.

Were it only so easy.

As I said, most of what you said in that combi-post was in error or misdirected.

Again, I will try to get you to BROADEN your understanding of where I am coming from (I don’t care whether you care or not) ;)

Pretend you were me. (Okay, quit looking down and contemplating the bonus you just received and get back to topic)

Say, you just bought this software and you thought, well, now I have spent $350, let’s see what this thing can do. (which is just what I did)

The first thing I did was go and look up celebrities who have a well-documented (ie. likely not too far off) birthtime and lots of events. (celebrities have to be good for something! LOL)

Then, you took those events, of which you made a list, and you entered those directly into Polaris. Once entered, you entered a search range of say half a day (depending on number of events…as I’ve said before, one needs quite a few events IN ORDER TO MAKE THE CORRECT TIME STAND IN HIGH RELIEF TO THE OTHER POSSIBLE TIMES, especially in very large searches) and when you pressed “Start” (rectification) the program gave you back a list of most likely times based on the Astrology at EACH of those events and you keep finding the “correct” birthtime (or very, very close to the documented time, ie. the documented time is not too far off) in the top few entries. This is what HAS happened. It is not important to me that you believe that it happened. I was there. I appreciate that you are not inclined to believe it, which is okay… but that doesn’t make it ANY less demonstrable.

See…if it wasn’t something that is being attempted over the internet, it would be very easy for you to just PICK YOUR OWN CELEBRITY and show up with a list of events. I would put the events in and let Polaris give me the most likely birthtimes (ie. ranked). By cross-checking with the other reliable systems, I would tell you when they were actually born. Because this would be within minutes (very likely) of the documented birthtime, there wouldn’t be a lot more to discuss on IF there is anything to Astrology.

As it is, we are on the internet, so we have to find another method. This is clumsy because I refuse to take ANYONE’s word on the validity of information. Again, we have the CSICOP farce where data was falsified to enhance the outcome more in favor on the non-astrological position. As your posts have a certain “bulldog” quality (beyond the tail-chasing), the fact that you get so worked up trying to “argue away” Astrology, indicates to me that you very likely would not be trustworthy in the data provided. Either way…we have to come up with some way that we have a person whose birthtime is well-documented AND who has VERIFIABLE events for Polaris to work off of. Preferably there should be about 25 events (or more) if it is to be a 24 hour search. Remember, Polaris, in 24 hours is looking at 10,800 moments in time. The more events there are, the more the correct time stands out. For shorter search ranges, less events are necessary. I think this is logical.

So far, twice, I have seen Polaris lead to the right birthtime with only THREE events, but this was surely more of a fluck, otherwise, it would have happened a lot more than just twice.

If you have some ideas about HOW we can pull this off, I am certainly interested in hearing it.

One other point… in your original “boast” you said that if Polaris could perform better than chance, then you would do this, that, and the other. Now is the time to mention Jason’s random number generator that he kept trying to (wrongfully) interject into the argument.

When you put things in words, sometimes the mathematical implications are not so clear. In other words, HOW exactly are you meaning “better than chance.” The way it’s worded (to my mind) you are saying that Polaris would tend to NOT be any closer than some randomly generated time.

I am so sure of Polaris’ performance, that I would bet that TEN random times would ALL be further away from the documented time than Polaris would be. Certainly, if that were the case, you would have no choice but to say that it is performing much better than “chance”, since “chance” had TEN tries at it to Polaris’ ONE.

How close are we to finding some common ground in how we attempt this?

Peace

James

Sorry, somehow the software doesn’t let me edit, so please read fluck as fluke.

Danke

You called me an asshole, George and you don’t even know me. Which part of Polaris are you commenting on, thereby?

Can you pull the direct quote where I called you an asshole please James? I don’t recall using that language and I would like to be reminded of the context with which I used it. Please cite the example….

I don’t know where it was, but I know that I read it. I think it was from the previous post you had done on Polaris, before I came this time to talk about it.

The line was something like “word out of the _______ asshole’s mouth” or something like that. Maybe that will ring a bell.

I don’t think you used the possessive on asshole, even though it obviously should be.

I’ll attempt to not call you on any more grammar unless it leaves something ambiguous. We’ll just assume that English is your second language. ;)

Peace

James

I called Jamie Funk an asshole on his splitting hairs over my use of “the stars” the way that astrologers generally use it to refer to the heavens, over on my thread. You could be thinking of that. And for the record, I consider any such hair-splitting to be an ad hominem attack — meaning you’re attacking the person, rather than the argument.

(Unless you’re also attacking the argument, at which point then you’re just throwing an insult in to rub salt in the wound. This is different from an ad hominem and has more to do with general dickishness — because despite Phil Plait’s exhortations, you’re not here to be diplomatic, not with your assuming George’s English is his second language, winky or not.)

For the sake of argument, I did a ctrl-f on the word asshole, and he did actually call you a “credulous asshole” in the body of the text. The “asshole” part of his dissecting of your argument is dickish, but not ad hominem. Do you want to set ground rules that you’re not to insult one another? Does that include only vulgarities, or would you consider attacks on grammar and assumptions of foreign-ness insults as well?

“credulous asshole”

Yeah, that’s the quote I meant.

I don’t care about a few insults…as long as the main thrust of the conversation is on the experiment (let’s call it).

Speaking from vast experience, when skeptics shit gets weak, then comes 99% insult to 1% information. I am trying to stay off something I have seen way too many times before.

As I said, Polaris DOES help to find correct birthtimes. I have seen it do so on NUMEROUS occasions. When we work out the details of this test and assuming the test is valid, then you will see it too.

On the level meter, making a comment “assuming English is someone’s second language, based on evidence” is much less “dickish” (as you said) than calling someone (you don’t even know AT ALL) an asshole.

The main focus should be the input data, the rules of the game, and the outcome. Everything else is just “boys being boys” in a (mostly) friendly debate. I’m down with that.

James

James,
I’m glad to see your attitude has somewhat improved since this morning. You do make some good points about the method of testing possibly being flawed as well as about the potential for bias to creep in. Rest assured that I have no interest in “cooking the books” to favor my personal preference. I would like to try and find a way to make sure that there is as little chance as possible for fraud on either side of the fence.
I am quite serious about doing this research as well as giving you a chance to explain the program. I am glad to see that you have toned down your ire; I was beginning to wonder if your attitude was a ploy to cry foul and wash your hands of your promise to test Polaris. Rest assured that I will attempt to tone down any “dickish” rhetoric in future posts.
I apologize for referring to you as a “credulous asshole” in the past. The tone was perhaps uncalled for given the circumstances.

I am going to edit my newest post over the weekend, which is a more specific explanation of how I view Polaris, rectification, and your past remarks about it. It will also take a more serious tone than my previous posts, which I admit are stylized in order to keep my interest while writing them. I have always hated dry, uninspired writing and have attempted to mix facts with humour, wit, and prose. I don’t particularly care if people don’t enjoy it, that is how I choose to communicate. At the same time I am aware that this tone may be fine for more lighthearted fare, but has obviously hindered the course of this conversation.
I am genuinely looking forward to hearing your specific criticisms of the facts in this post as well as my next one. I hope that perhaps you might take the time over this weekend to analyze more than just the spelling, grammar, and style of my writing and get to the actual points I have made. You could also just flippantly wave them off as too wrong to even answer, because that seems to be more of your style.
I also wish to take issue with your claim that Jason or I have been referring to a random number generator. Jason has repeatedly referred to a pseudo random number generator; the removal of the word pseudo changes the whole meaning of the term. I am sure this is a simple mistake on your part (fallibility?) and not an effort to change the meaning of our words as to make our statements “seem” wrong. A PRNG will always give you the same answer when offered the same variables, a RNG will not. HUGE distinction.
I will be mostly unavailable this weekend due to some needed family time, but I will do my best to check in when possible.

James,
I hope you have taken the time to read my follow up post on Polaris. It is a little lengthy, but I felt that I should lay out all the issues I have with the software as well as your descriptions of it. I hope you gathered from the post that I still believe there is good reason for further study as the odds, no matter how much better than you have implied, are still very intriguing. I also hope you take me up on my offer to give a rebuttal/explanation of your own for Polaris. I will gladly post it here on my blog and as I have already stated I will not edit it at all, save a beginning note that the opinions expressed are not mine. I will address issues with it only in the comment thread. Feel free to propose a test that you believe is fair so that I may review it. I will also devise a test that I believe to be fair, as well as my expectations of how I wish Polaris to perform in order to impress me. I look forward to your forthcoming reply….


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