A Reply to Dennis Elwell's 'Memo to the Careful Ones'

by Geoffrey Dean, Ivan Kelly, Arthur Mather & Rudolf Smit

[Note: This article is the eighth, and last, in what has turned out to be a gargantuan series. For a full chronology, and to access previous articles, go here. In responding to an article by Dennis Elwell, the authors have chosen (as before) to reproduce his original article in its entirety, together with their point-by-point comments. In order to make it clear what is what, Elwell's original text appears in normal text; comments and responses from Dean/Kelly/Mather/Smit are in bold, and indented.]

This is the last of the exchanges, so our first and last comments below include a brief summary of the progress made (none, thanks to Elwell’s failure to respond to issues). For a concise overview (4K words) of the exchanges and main issues, see “Researchers respond to Elwell” on http://www.astrology-and-science.com/el-77.htm

MEMO TO THE CAREFUL ONES

by Dennis Elwell

One matter needs clearing up straight away. For many collective man-years you have picked an argument with astrology and astrologers. With extraordinary single-mindedness you have sought to undermine what to many is an important, and to some a sacred, truth.

This is an unpromising start. Even if astrology is an important truth, even a sacred truth to some people, so what? They could be wrong, and only by proper enquiry can we find out.

Elwell had begun this exchange in his first article by accusing our interview in Year Zero of leaving “the ordinary interested inquirer with a completely misleading impression”. The impression we gave was “not the astrology I know”, and it was all due to our “proceeding in the wrong direction, and with a set of false premises”.

Elwell gives no details but his concern seems to be page 142 where we say “Half a century of research into astrology, using techniques incomparably more powerful than those available to the Babylonians and Greeks, has failed to reveal effects (or at least effects commensurate with astrological claims) beyond those due to ordinary causes such as errors in reasoning.” That is, astrology fails to work once safeguards are applied to rule out non-astrological factors (we give examples later in this section). We added that this “does not deny that future tests may be more positive, or that astrology may be fruitful in subjective ways.”

In other words the issues boil down to (1) tests and (2) safeguards. The rational course of action for parties interested in resolving them would be to establish tests and safeguards that are mutually acceptable, and then in due course to see how they work out. Would the alleged “important truth” of astrology be supported? So we asked Elwell what tests we should be making. He did not tell us. We asked again. He still did not tell us. So we asked yet again but it made not the slightest difference. He still did not tell us.

Bear in mind that, in Elwell’s criticisms of existing tests such as Vernon Clark tests, he objects to the choice of topic, the choice of astrologers, how it was conducted, and so on. So we expect him to specify new tests in which all these details are taken care of, and where he makes good all the things he complains about, so there is no chance of us doing it wrong. But it is not what we got. It is not even remotely what we got. Vague speculations, yes, specific tests, no.

For example earlier he suggested the need for a case study approach (of what? he does not say), while later he suggests testing mundane claims (how? he does not say), and ideas that astrologers have found to work (like what? he does not say). Elwell accuses us of doing it wrong but cannot specify a single test that would do it right. Obviously this is not helpful. It turns the exchange into a farce.

As for safeguards, Elwell claimed they were not needed, implying that his judgement was above criticism. In his first article he says “Give me mature judgment”, implying his own, “developed by experience of the world, and you can keep your critical thinking skills.” When we pointed out that the very extensive research into human judgement suggested he could be fooling himself, which means that safeguards are essential, Elwell continued to claim the way he did things was fine. Safeguards were to be observed by us but not by him, period.

Does this reflect a genuine interest in resolving issues? We think not. Elwell’s strategy is to find fault but never suggest improvements, to brush aside or ignore what doesn’t suit him, and to bury everything else in torrents of words. In other words to be as unhelpful as possible. There is no attempt (as we have done) to list issues to facilitate discussion, or to summarise arguments to facilitate progress. A genuine interest in bridging a gulf would get progressively more focussed, but each new Elwell article rushes off on tangents of his choice. Like his opening paragraph above.

The result is sheer futility. After four articles totalling 41,000 words, Elwell has still not told us what tests we should be making, and he still brushes aside the need for safeguards. Instead he delivers only an unproductive mix of abuse, attacks on our integrity, errors, evasion, unsupported assertions, and ignorance of science. Eloquence, maybe, substance, no, bias, yes. For example (see below) it is simply not true that we urge “abstracting single factors from the totality”, and we have pointed this out every time he argues this way, which is all the time. Clearly Elwell is neither listening nor does he want to listen. The parallel with dogmatic fundamentalism could not be clearer.

The point is, nobody who is genuinely interested in resolving issues behaves like this. Elwell’s articles read more like muck-raking journalism than serious enquiry. Issues are less important than showing how clever and amusing he is. But don’t take our word for it. As you read what follows, keep focussed on the issues of tests and safeguards, and ask yourself if progress is being made. Are you getting a clear idea of the tests to apply and why Elwell’s astrology does not need safeguards? Are these issues being resolved? Is the gulf being narrowed?

Now back to Elwell and his irrelevant time-wasting tangents.

In so doing, you opted for the glare of the public arena. You might prefer to stick your heads above the parapet, take a few pot shots and duck down again, but that is not how it works. Unless you were prepared to take some return fire, you should have kept your opinions to yourselves. You claim to speak for science, so your ability to reflect the scientific view is fairly up for discussion. You claim to know enough about astrology to be able to dismiss it, so your proficiency in that area is likewise relevant. Your claim to possess superior reasoning inevitably invites scrutiny of your performance in this department, which as I shall shortly demonstrate is not great.

Adopting this high profile and making the claims you do, people are entitled to know who you are, and what you are. Fame has its price.

For some reason Elwell doesn’t tell you that these details appear in Year Zero page 218, and of course on the Astrology-and-Science website.

It is relevant that you are connected with CSICOP, those relentless rationalists.

Elwell seems to be implying that to be rational is to be an enemy of astrology. Would he prefer us to be irrational? But this is guilt by association. Presumably Elwell would complain if we said something like “it is relevant that he is connected with the Astrological Association, that conclave of the hard of thinking”, but when he uses a similar approach, it is deemed appropriate.

It is pertinent that, while professing to take a stand on science, in these exchanges you shy away from the spirit of openness and trust that science takes for granted.

But how relevant and pertinent is all this to telling us what tests we should be making, and why safeguards are needed by us but not by him?

Smit publishes results allegedly unfavourable to astrology but hugs his data as if they were the crown jewels. Dean reluctantly admits to subterfuge with his birth data and heaven knows what else besides (what was he doing, this arch sceptic, lecturing recently on “unaspected planets” to Edinburgh astrologers?). And then there’s Kelly, giving nothing whatever away, thereby failing to progress the discussion, and complaining when I do.

Smit regrets very much that in his years as a practising astrologer he was so naive as to freely give his birth data to anyone who asked for it. He never thought that so many people would abuse his chart. Thus when he was a prominent astrologer, his chart often led to glowing comments, but later, when he was more critical, his chart suddenly showed the most nasty qualities one could think of — it easily showed how he was a traitor, a Judas, and so on (no matter that these easy indications had earlier escaped notice). Just one example of how a chart can be made to fit anything you like after-the-event. Here is another from a skeptical journalist, the late Piet Hein Hoebens:

“In my newspaper column in De Telegraaf I have occasionally discussed astrological topics. Mr Gieles, a well-known astrologer in The Hague, responded to my critical writings by publishing my horoscope, which, not surprisingly, revealed that the stars and planets had conspired to make me a critical journalist hostile to Mr Gieles’s claims. Everything fitted beautifully except one detail — poor Mr Gieles had used the wrong birth date.”

What Dean was doing in Edinburgh was presenting research on unaspected planets. The reason Kelly was giving nothing away was to encourage proper astrology, one capable of analysis, not Elwell’s after-the-event impossible-to-analyse kind that would have resulted had Kelly given everything away. It seems that the only discussion Elwell wishes to progress is the same useless get-nowhere kind that fills his previous articles, and (as you will see) this one as well.

There are many who wish they could control what is said about them in print, and what facts are presented. Biographers often have to find information without their subject’s consent. Birth data are not private, but belong to the public record, and you are not the arbiters of who obtains them and how. It is absurd to talk of ethical issues, and “going behind your back.” Why not simply come clean and make things easier for future historians of astrology?

Note how Elwell does not respond to our points but dismisses them out of hand. We answer his question by repeating our previous explanation of why people might not wish to divulge their birth data. Readers can now judge whether Elwell’s cavalier dismissal amounts to fair debate:

There are several good reasons. These days birth data is used to check the authenticity of phone enquiries about anything from bank statements to electricity bills. So you are foolish to give it out. Also, critics sometimes meet people who claim they can guess sun signs (Kary Mullis was an example of this). If they can guess accurately then it could be the start of something big — but not if your birth data is already out there. Others may clam up because it could be embarrassing, like April 1st, or because it might expose them to unwanted taunts about their sun sign or their age. Elwell seems unable to understand that people could have perfectly legitimate reasons for keeping their birth data private.

Elwell claims to be a friendly astrologer. But do friends go behind your back to get private information you preferred not to divulge? Do they discuss you in public? Of course not. Indeed, if divulging your birth data is so honourable, why are a handful of astrologers contributing to Year Zero keeping quiet? Why is Elwell not denouncing them too? To us Elwell’s actions merely demonstrates his ambivalence on ethical issues and his unwillingness to put his ideas to a proper test.

Assuming your fears on this point are not feigned, you should be reassured that the date of birth is the least vital item in the ID package, and the explanation lies in the ease with which I obtained Kelly’s birth information (and indeed mother’s maiden name). A determined identity thief (or indeed an investigative journalist) can find out a surprising amount. Some companies sell such legally acquired information.

The crucial point here, though, is that I did not expect to have to go to the trouble of searching the public record. In the spirit of the debate on planetary signatures I hoped Kelly would supply his data, or failing that, that you would put your heads together and tell us what astrologers in their misguided way would seize on in this meaningless chart, as the signature for an interest in combat helmets.

Since I did not have his birth certificate at that time, this was a before-the-event experiment, and it was your failure to cooperate that made it what you call “yet another worthless exercise in after-the-event astrology”, of which more later.

Are you now suggesting that the date I have is incorrect? You say there is no contact between Uranus and Pluto in Kelly’s true chart.

What we actually said was “Does Uranus aspect Pluto in Kelly’s chart? No it does not.” The context makes it clear that by aspect we mean a major aspect (thus Elwell had just referred to McVeigh and Henley as “both born under a conjunction of Uranus and Pluto”). Below, Elwell says there is a contact by parallel and septile, but these are not major aspects or even minor aspects (or even minor aspects according to some authorities, for example Charles Carter says “no known aspects are derived from Seven”).

On the date I assumed to be correct (which involved a search of three decades) these planets were in both parallel and septile. Perhaps your confident contradiction is due to a lack of carefulness on your part? If that is unthinkable, the production of the true data would set the record straight.

This parallel and septile business is a copout. In our experience few astrologers use parallels let alone (and despite John Addey’s urging) such aspects as the septile. Indeed, Ronald Davison’s frequently-expressed opinion was that if you found the traditional mix inadequate then you were simply incompetent, because properly used it was entirely adequate. Elwell seems to be an example of those astrologers who, if they cannot find what they want to find with traditional tools, resort to all sorts of inventions (extra house systems, zodiacs, aspects) until they find it. He fits perfectly the comment of Australian astrologer Austin Levy, who at the time (1982) ran Australia’s largest chart calculation service: “I often get the feeling, after talking to astrologers, that they live in a mental fantasy world, a kind of astrological universe where no explanations outside of astrological ones are permitted, and that if the events of the real world do not accord with astrological notions or predictions, then yet another astrological technique will have to be invented to explain it.” (Australian Astrologers Journal 6(3), pages 19-23, Spring 1982)

NOT CAREFUL ENOUGH

You may be wearying of this exchange, and who shall blame you. It may explain the flippant point-scoring in some of your recent comments. A really careful debater would not argue over language without a decent dictionary to hand. It is not tautology to speak of “air fuelling combustion”, because the chief definition of combustion is simply burning. It is not tautology to speak of “valid knowledge”, since my dictionary defines knowledge, among other things, as “the facts, feelings or experiences known by a person or group of people.” (Webster’s speaks of “intuitive knowledge”.) You quibble that “invalid knowledge” is a contradiction, so I suppose that when astrology is described from your side of the fence as a pseudoscience that is also self-contradictory.

Combustion defines combination with oxygen, so air is a tautology. It is also wrong (air is not a fuel). Elwell implies that astrology is knowledge, a view he later denies as “not necessarily”. Notice how all this is totally irrelevant to the issues of tests and safeguards. Rather than focus on what matters, Elwell is wasting your time and ours.

I said that the assassinations of Lincoln and Kennedy were separated by a multiple of days to the fourth power of seven (i.e. a multiple of 2,401 days). What is so difficult about that? Why misrepresent what I actually said by implying that I believe Kennedy to have died only 6.5 years after Lincoln?

What Elwell actually said was: “What seemed suspicious was that the period separating these two Fridays [ie the two assassinations] was not just a multiple of seven, but of 7x7x7x7. Seven raised to the fourth power gives a period of some six and a half years.” How is this not saying that Kennedy died 6.5 years after Lincoln?

(There is a more familiar period of seven times 52 days, and since you do not recognise multiples you must save yourselves a fortune in diaries.) By the way, I have seen the CSICOP attempts to explain away the remarkable set of coincidences between these assassinations, by comparing pairs of other public figures, and pretty feeble they are. Probability is stretched even farther by the astrological dimension, of which ordinary coincidence-hunters would be unaware.

Your razor wire defensiveness seems to indicate an inability to let any observation, however harmless, get past you unchallenged.

It is hardly our fault that Elwell makes so many mistakes. The supposed coincidences between presidental assassinations are described by those mathematicians who have studied them as nothing more than might be expected given the vast pool of choices. Instead of actually challenging their position with calculations of his own, Elwell rejects them with the mere “pretty feeble they are.” As for the stretching of probability by the “astrological dimension”, we previously pointed out that the number of astrological choices is so large that the supposed stretching is unlikely to exist. We even gave a reference to help Elwell make his own calculations (Diaconis & Mosteller, Methods for studying coincidence, Journal of the American Statistical Association 1989, 84, 853-861). Did Elwell consult it? Evidently not. Is this the action of someone genuinely interested in resolving issues?

Noting this hyperactive tendency I mischievously expressed a view of statistics: “According to my understanding, statistics cannot prove any hypothesis, they only fail to disprove it. That is to say, a theory that might survive a statistical test is only provisionally true because it has so far resisted all attempts to falsify it.”

Right on cue, you came back with: “Elwell is confusing statistics with nonfalsifiability.”

The Encyclopaedia Britannica (Economics: testing theories) says: “The science of statistics cannot prove any hypothesis, it can only fail to disprove it. A theory that survives a statistical test is not true as such; it is only provisionally true because it has so far resisted all attempts to falsify it.”

Perhaps Britannica will be hearing from you.

First, statistics alone is only part of a study. Others are quality of data and, very importantly, the design of the study. What can be inferred from the statistics depends largely on the latter.

Second, Elwell is missing the point. Look again at the Encyclopedia Britannica statement, “A theory that survives a statistical test is not true as such, it is only provisionally true because it has so far resisted all attempts to falsify it.” The point is that astrology has not survived statistical tests. Such tests have repeatedly falsified a number of astrological claims (see the interview for details) but this has had no impact on astrologers like Elwell, who reject all falsifications as inappropriate — ie astrology is true, period, therefore any falsification has to be wrong, only positive results count.

Third, how is all this relevant to the context (which was the need for controls and adequate design)? Notice how Elwell is ignoring these important issues in favour of rushing off on tangents.

Especially flippant are observations like why aren’t steel helmets made of lead, or why don’t cows get BSE in their necks. If this was going to be the calibre of comment you could long ago have revealed the stupidity of astrology by inquiring, since Jupiter is related both to the liver and to tin, why isn’t your liver made of tin? The same with your copper kidneys and your heart of gold.

I know you intend this as a jocular exposure of the nonsense of symbolism, or more correctly correspondences, but what you are actually demonstrating is your shaky hold on the simplest rules of reasoning. You should revise the logic of identity. If you draw some Venn circles, a big one for Jupiter containing others for the liver and for tin you will see they need not even overlap, let alone be coterminous. To put it another way, I can pour water from a jug into two receptacles, but that does not make them the same size, shape and substance - all they have in common is the water.

We made out point very clear. It was that being selective after the event can make anything fit. See how Elwell is evading the issue.

You are also confusing two separate categories, namely function and form. Function dictates form. You could form a liver from tin, but it would not perform its Jupiter function. Similarly given the encasing function of Saturn, when it comes to helmets steel fulfils that function better than lead. (Against shrapnel at any rate, lead would be a better shield against radiation.)

But maybe these were throwaway remarks not intended to be answered seriously?

In his Cosmic Loom Elwell assures us that Saturn has to do with lead. Now he assures us that Saturn has to do with steel, and implies that the discrepancy is not serious.

“ELWELL DOES NOT TELL US.”

It is easy to expose the fragility of this mantra, which appears repetitiously in your “Researchers respond” stand-alone.

We come back to this supposed fragility at the end of this section.

“What is this gravity, which us supposed to be everywhere? Newton does not tell us.” “How did the apple get up there in the first place? Newton does not tell us.” Replace with any surname, any omission, ad nauseam.

In other words Elwell wishes to be compared to Newton?

In the civilities of debate one generally expects to be addressed on what one actually says, because there may be a good reason for avoiding a direct question, or wanting to answer in one’s own way.

In a scientific debate we call this supposed evasion “not knowing”.

For one thing it cannot be assumed that the questioner possesses the background necessary for understanding the answer, as when the infant asks why the sky is blue, and complains “Daddy didn’t tell me.”

But our questions are not like this. (Notice how Elwell is not complying with what he just said about referring only to “what one actually says”.) The questions we actually asked will be found in our stand-alone summary. They include the following:

- How can astrology be both obvious and difficult to prove?

- What tests should we be applying?

- How could we test whether Elwell’s views of signs are correct?

- What are the authentic yardsticks that Elwell uses?

- How does he know they are authentic?

Nothing here is in the same league as gravity or blue skies. No special background is needed to understand Elwell’s answers. But in the deluge of words that follow, Elwell still doesn’t tell us.

Some perceptions can only fall on a prepared mind. I respect your competence within your own specialities, but I would suggest that astrology represents a standpoint totally alien to your thought process.

This is a curious comment given that (as explained in Year Zero) we have been intimately involved with astrology for nearly three decades, that one of us was research co-ordinator for the Astrological Association for eight years, and that two of us were full-time practising astrologers and frequent lecturers at national and international astrology conferences and won an international award for contributions to astrology. Elwell is setting himself up as the spokesman and authority for what is and isn’t astrology.

The universe according to astrology is at least as peculiar as the quantum universe, and is not easily summarised. I hear you guffaw, but the reason the books you thoughtfully recommend appeared at all is because their ideas could not be written on the back of one of your matchboxes. You already accuse me of being prolix, yet a proper discussion of some of the points you raise would place a strain on everybody’s time and patience. I have had to content myself with pointers to the right direction for investigating astrology, and how it differs from the direction you naturally adopt.

Not only does Elwell not answer our questions, he also goes on and on over points that are simply not true, like his next point. It is simply not true that we urge the methods he says we urge. Our pointing this out every time he argues this way, which is all the time, has made no difference. Elwell is not listening nor does he want to listen.

In summary, the methods you urge on astrologers involve abstracting single factors from the totality, whereas this is a subject in which single factors lose their significance in isolation. Your thought process, which you represent as scientific, is to exclude, while mine includes more and more.

No, we do not exclude. Quite the reverse — we have been demonstrably active in promoting studies in which astrologers are asked to look not at single factors but at the whole chart, and nothing but the whole chart. Once again Elwell is unwilling to let truth stand in the way of a good story.

Yes, of course mainstream science has always been aware of networks of interconnections, nevertheless scientists nowadays are increasingly stressing the value of an integrative approach, a term that is perhaps more acceptable than holistic, with its trendy New Age connotations. You have found it difficult to grasp that I too recognise the significance of isolates within the wholes, while declining to give them supremacy. Obviously I have studied the planets and other indices singly, but when things start to happen it is their interconnections within a wider scheme that become important.

But if single factors “lose their significance in isolation” then their study is very problematic, to say the least. To study them is necessarily to exclude, which Elwell condemns. It is sheer obfuscation to say that what matters are the interconnections — if the whole ends up as something quite different from the parts, then looking at the parts is futile, but not otherwise. So which is it? Elwell does not tell us. He wants it both ways — parts that are legitimate enough for studying but not legitimate enough for testing. But he cannot have it both ways. Which one does he want?

As I say, these matters are more deserving of books than brevity. However, when I made a list for myself of what Elwell is supposed not to have told you I found that most if not all of the matters you raise have at least been touched on, and I may be able to fill in any gaps in what follows here. In asking for details of tests that would confirm or disconfirm astrology

Here Elwell cites the question, leading us to expect an answer, then immediately sidetracks to anything but an actual answer.

you say the results of your own tests explain why you see astrology nowhere. You may be confusing tests with speculations that happen to have proved negative. There are tests, and there are trials. To give an example of the difference, The Gemini Syndrome (Culver and Ianna) lists “Some diseases and medical phenomena found to be independent of Sun-sign.” These range from acne to whooping cough, 42 conditions in all. We learn that if you get fractures, or sprains, or diabetes, or constipation, or the common cold, your Sun-sign is not to blame. Well, well.

These exercises would become tests only if it had been claimed that there was indeed an uneven distribution of these particular conditions among Sun-signs.

But it has been so claimed by some astrologers such as Howard Cornell MD, who for instance terms diabetes a Libra disease. Notice how the same approach is defined as a test if the findings are positive (eg Gunter Sachs) but dismissed as a trial or an exercise or a speculation if the findings are negative.

Moreover, as someone who also respects the need for controls where they are applicable,

Who is this someone? Obviously it cannot be Elwell, but who it is is not stated.

there is no evidence that these conditions vary significantly when you slice the total population in ways other than according to Sun-signs. True, males will be less susceptible to uterine bleeding, and bald males less inclined to dandruff, but there is nothing to suggest that these medical conditions are themselves other than discrete populations independent of other groupings.

Astrologers themselves make experiments (since theirs is no more a ‘finished’ science than any other) and some seem to work, others not. If they seem to work, we have a proposition which can then be tested under various conditions.

But what are these experiments, where are they published, how well have they survived critical review, and how have they affected astrological practice? Given that tests and safeguards are major issues in this exchange, such information could hardly be more relevant. Naturally we are anxious to know the details, as will any reader who (following our earlier prompting) is focussed on these issues. But Elwell does not tell us. Which supports our view that he has no genuine interest in resolving issues. Parading his opinions is all that matters, regardless of their rampant inconsistency, as shown next.

Above all this means testing propositions in their own right. Careful researchers will be at pains to separate astrology qua science from the activities (and perhaps inadequacies) of its practitioners and consumers. For example, in the case of the R101 it does not really matter what Naylor said or did not say. The issue is whether the eclipse to which he drew attention actually pointed to a disaster of that kind, regardless of whether Naylor or any other astrologer was around to comment on it. Here we are testing a proposition that goes back to Ptolemy, who said: “The first and most potent cause of [such] events lies in the conjunctions of the sun and moon at eclipse and the movements of the stars at the time.”

See how quickly Elwell forgets his point that single factors “lose their significance in isolation”. Furthermore, in a rare moment of clarity, he has actually identified a concrete issue, so we now wonder how to test it. But Elwell does not tell us. So what has been communicated to us? Nothing.

At the start of this section Elwell said it is easy to expose the fragility of “Elwell does not tell us”, that is, it is easy to show that Elwell really does answer all our questions. Obviously the best way of doing this would be for Elwell to quote (1) our questions and (2) his answers, then let readers judge for themselves. What could be simpler?

But Elwell does not do this. Instead he opts for smokescreens. He argues that the statement “Elwell does not tell us” is fragile because we are not informed, our viewpoint is alien, the answers would be longer than we would accept, factors lose significance when isolated, interconnectedness is important, most of the points have at least been touched upon, we confuse tests with speculations, astrologers make experiments, and we need to test astrology on its own terms.

He adds that, if anything remains unanswered, he “may be able to fill in any gaps”. But he does no such thing. In terms of providing answers to our (by now many) questions, Elwell STILL does not tell us. To us this means he either cannot or will not. Such a determined resistance to the spirit of debate is extremely disappointing.

ENTER THE LADY BULLS

I have mentioned one proposition that is amenable to testing. It is that the values of a sign will appear when that sign is on the meridian or ascendant of a “mundane” chart, and is simultaneously switched on, as if on a toggle, by receiving a close major aspect or a symmetrical conjunction or opposition. The whole configuration of which the sign forms part then prefigures the outcome. I gave the example of Taurus, combined with Mars-Pluto, in connection with the brutal destruction occasioned by foot-and-mouth in Britain.

We showed how such after-the-event astrology was too self-selective and too problematic for establishing the validity of astrology. So it needs safeguards whereby these problems can be avoided. But Elwell does not listen and now delivers more of the same. So what is this exchange achieving? Nothing. But we can at least see how Elwell’s aims are not the resolution of issues.

A more recent example of the principle is the eclipse preceding the twin towers catastrophe which, set for Washington, had Mars and Pluto bracketing the lower meridian, in opposition to the Twins midheaven. Mars and Pluto were in Sagittarius, a sign associated with the Arabs.

According to Ptolemy, who had no knowledge of the Americas, Australia, China, or the thousands of islands in the south seas. Ptolemy could only apportion the lands he knew, and he did this by cutting the world into four quarters which were then assigned to the triplicities. Obviously the same approach applied today would give very different sign rulers, always assuming we could be persuaded that they meant something, which for Elwell is evidently not a problem. In our view if he can believe this sort of thing then he can believe anything (as indeed he seems eager to demonstrate).

For this terrible event and its consequences Saturn became standstill in Gemini on that same meridian. Since cosmic outworkings tend to be multiplex we note that Gemini is also pertinent to attacks (by anthrax) through the post.

I can hear you murmuring why, if it was so clear, a prediction was not made. Myself, I do not routinely draw up charts for every capital city in the world, but yes, those US astrologers who write regular forecasts should have been more alert. However, the physical event itself was not already in place, only the forces that produced it, which in theory might have been precipitated in some different way. I do not refer here to cosmic forces, but to the humanly generated political and other traffic for which the cosmic patterns merely provide a highway. These could have been diagnosed in advance, as part of the intelligence input, and it is no exaggeration to state that had they been acted upon the disaster might have been averted. To go back to our testable proposition, there is one proviso, which I suppose - with dreary predictability - you will call an evasion. It is that events can take place without attracting public attention. I have a number of cases where the outworking of a chart was not realised at the time, only much later. But often, knowing from the chart what to look for, you can dig out facts that may have escaped the headlines. In this context the planets truly become spies in the sky.

You have drawn attention to a new moon figure, which I find especially interesting because it illustrates several points. Astrological causation

Interesting terminology for a supposedly non-causal situation.

automatically produces convergences which (if we noted them, and that is seldom) would make us exclaim: “What an odd coincidence!” Rationalists admit coincidences, but explain that in a world of such diversity they are only to be expected, and arise from pure chance. But there are coincidences, and coincidences. Some, like noticing familiar numbers on your bus ticket, may indeed be just chance. There are others, however, which are triangulated, with some cosmic factor standing at the third point and thereby, so to speak, legitimising the connection of the other two.

Not so, when the “triangulations” are searched-for connections not defined in advance and which can be easily found after-the-event because of the flexibility of astrological symbolism. To put it another way, validity in social science is generally not accepted unless it can survive disconfirmation. But as far as we can see, nothing in Elwell’s astrology would count as disconfirmation. Mutually disagreeing approaches or interpretations would not count, nor would the failure of any prediction. Elwell tells us disconfirmation would occur if “my hands-on experience, virtually on a daily basis, were to start consistently letting me down”. That is, if he could consistently not find a match between situation and chart. But as we have repeatedly stressed, chart symbolism is so flexible, and the number of choices is so large, that a match can always be found for any situation. So the situation of astrology-letting-him-down is not going to happen.

Which leaves Elwell without grounds for his claims. As we pointed out in our response to Elwell’s first article, just as you cannot tell when a TV set is working if you cannot tell when it is not working (otherwise you cannot tell the difference), the same with astrology. If it cannot be proven wrong then it cannot be proven right either. As we pointed out in our response to Elwell’s second article, this is essentially the wrong chart issue, which astrologers in Year Zero pages 118-119 refer to as particularly threatening, i.e. if control charts work as well as authentic charts then what price astrology?

Elwell repeatedly rejects the use of such controls, for example in his articles he says "the real scientific safeguard does not lie in setting up controls so much as replication ... it is surely overly pedantic to disqualify any conclusions merely because controls were not in place ... for those astrologers who see astrology as divination, controls can hardly enter the picture ... the right conditions [for demonstrating astrology] need not include experimental controls ... if you limit knowledge to phenomena that can be the subject of controlled experiments you will finish with a very threadbare version of reality", generally dismissing the whole idea as "this unrealistic demand, this control freakery". Nevertheless what matters is whether an authentic chart fits the situation better than a control chart. Since Elwell rejects the use of such controls, he has no way of knowing.

If you go back over our responses you will find that we have repeatedly raised the wrong chart issue, which Elwell then repeatedly ignores and is still ignoring. This is a good example of Elwell’s strategy of brushing aside what doesn’t suit him. Nobody genuinely interested in resolving issues proceeds by ignoring them.

When this happens the number and complexity of the factors involved makes probability calculations absurd.

We already addressed this one in our response to Elwell’s second article, but again Elwell is not listening. The question is, why should the fit be seen as special when it could be merely the unremarkable result of after-the-event selection from many alternatives? One good reason would be because the relevant calculations show that chance is not a plausible option. But until Elwell makes such calculations we have no reason to believe his claims. He has had two opportunities (ie in his third and fourth articles) to present such calculations, but he has not done so, preferring instead to repeat his unsupported statements as if readers were somehow too stupid to notice. Again, this is not what we expect of anyone with a genuine interest in resolving issues.

On 28 November 1995 the British government announced a ban on the sale of meat from cows’ backbones, to reduce the risk of cross-infection to humans of “mad cow disease.” The same evening, also in London, the Turner Prize was awarded to the installation artist Damien Hirst, best known for his works featuring animal carcasses preserved in formaldehyde. This particular offering, controversial and much publicised, was of a cow and her calf split down the middle, exposing the spinal cord. It was as if the Government was providing the words, and Hirst the graphics.

Notice how, again and again, we have pointed out how such after-the-event astrology is too self-selective and too problematic to mean anything. It needs safeguards whereby these problems can be avoided. But Elwell’s response to problematic examples is to carry on providing more of the same problematic examples.

The coincidence was prefigured at the new moon a few days earlier, to which astrologers are referred. At London the bovine Taurus ascendant (do you have a problem with the concept of lady bulls?) received an exact aspect, and was hence “switched on”. The triggering aspect was from a conjunction of Venus and Mars. If you ask astrologers what is the planet of art, they will say Venus. If you ask what is the planet of butchery, they will say Mars. Here the planet of art exactly conjoined the planet of butchery in the house of trauma, death, and danger, and the conjunction made a precise quincunx, an aspect connected with health, to the Taurus ascendant.

The question here is whether the indications of this new moon worked out in events specifically in the UK, and within the appropriate timescale. You raise the objection that since each day has many events one can pick those events that suit the argument. Only if they’re there to be picked. But the events described were not confined to a single day, they belonged to the weeks covered by this new moon, and received ongoing media attention. The Turner exhibition had opened earlier in the month, and the shortlisted Hirst exhibit was already being noisily debated, not least by animal rights activists. Similarly, the government announcement did not come out of the blue, but was in the context of a continuing dispute, weeks before and after the 28th, about the handling of the “mad cow” crisis after it was suspected that the disease had crossed the species barrier.

In fact the aspect just mentioned received a fillip on the 28th itself, when Venus and Mars, separating from their conjunction, formed an antiscion.

And if not an antiscion then a midpoint, a planetary harmonic, a parallel, a nodal link, a helio contact, whatever, all after-the-event and therefore not to be omitted from the list. But why should it mean anything more than the unremarkable result of after-the-event selection from many alternatives? Elwell does not tell us.

You make further objection that no planets were in Taurus on the 28th. Not in the solar zodiac certainly, but I am on record as to the legitimacy of a complementary lunar zodiac measured from the moon’s north node. These events can also be viewed against the background of this “draconic” zodiac, when a very striking Taurus representation will be found. The new moon chart itself has seven bodies in Taurus. I hear the familiar cry of “escape hatch!” go up from your camp, but there are many situations outside astrology where different schemes of reference are routinely overlaid. In any case, it is not a matter of either one zodiac or the other, but of both working together to produce information they do not contain separately.

Sure, and if this combination does not work, you will easily find another. For example, bring in the many thousands of asteroids. Obviously this sort of thing is an exercise in silliness unless we impose safeguards against drawing wrong conclusions, but to Elwell such things are not needed because his mature judgement is enough. Yes, he would never make the sort of errors that everyone else on this planet makes, take his word for it.

You declare that if one is looking for Taurus activity there are “dozens” of other charts to choose from. This objection is another instance where you really should have been more careful. Did you check that the charts to which you refer, the previous eclipses and ingresses, did contain a Taurus stress? True, the solar eclipse the previous month included a Mars Pluto conjunction in draco Taurus, which I would claim certainly belongs to the events described. But if you do not allow me the luxury of two zodiacs, even that point in your favour goes out of the window.

The charts we were referring to are not the ones Elwell says we were referring to, nor were we disallowing his several zodiacs. So what follows is beside the point.

Does the lunar eclipse of October fulfil your expectation? No. Does the previous (Libra) ingress? No. Does the Cancer ingress? No. Does the Aries ingress? No. Does the preceding Capricorn ingress? No. Therefore your glib “if we want Taurus we can have Taurus” does not stand up. Am I correct in thinking that these “silent” charts, to which you yourselves have drawn attention, serve as controls for the indications of our new moon?

Elwell seems to be saying that none of these charts (which are not the charts we were referring to) had anything in Taurus. No angle, no planet, no midpoint, no antiscion, no nothing. Who is he kidding? The problem is quite simple: For major events one should not have to resort to the many tens of additional chart types that the average astrologer has at their disposal. The standard charts should do the job.

Even more baffling is your observation that various key government figures involved in the crisis might currently have been experiencing personal Taurus activation. As indeed they might, appropriately enough, but how does this become an objection? Here again, you do not know what was or was not happening in the charts of these named dignitaries, or whether it typified the nature and extent of their involvement. What can I add, except that those who bluster with sweeping and unsupported statements are seldom numbered among the careful ones.

Elwell’s own unsupported bluster is missing the point. In any case, if there is anyone uncareful here then it is Elwell. His four articles provide irrefutable evidence of this.

Your diatribe then catalogues a list of astrological factors which this new moon configuration did not contain. I suppose it is useless to insist that you should confine your attention to what a chart actually says, not what it doesn’t say. Your incaution here has resulted in a ragbag of irrelevancies, although I dare say it may not seem so to you.

Ditto. Our point was that whatever it contained (Taurus or no Taurus) could still be made to fit after the event.

In fine, I do believe this interesting triple coincidence, with the heavens standing at the third point of the triangle, illustrates the sort of confirmation which cumulatively represents evidence for astrology. You ask what results I would accept as disconfirming astrology. Put simply, I would have given up astrology if I found it failed to work. For a very long time it has been virtually a daily activity for me, and I think I would have noticed.

But given that astrology can fit anything after the event (as Elwell so ably demonstrates), there is no way it could fail to “work”. Ironically Elwell dismisses the only things (controls or other comparison groups) that could decide whether there is something really there or whether it is all self-delusion. Once again these are not the actions of anyone with a genuine interest in resolving issues.

More recently, I have been following the astrology of sporting contests, an exacting discipline. To keep a record of success/failure I make a practice of placing bets when the indications seem to justify it. (Bookmakers are not much impressed by after-the-event analysis.) Needless to add, a depletion of funds would not escape attention. To become a millionaire by this means probably requires as much application as becoming a millionaire by more orthodox means, such is the complexity and number of the variables. But I believe a cut down technique, over time, can produce an attractive return on your investment, which in the UK at least is tax free.

Dealing with bookmakers is certainly less vexatious than arguing with scientific opponents. If I did not realise it before, our exchanges convince me that any wooing of science (c2001) is futile, and that it is essential for astrology to sidestep the sceptics by creating an otherwise inexplicable phenomenon, one which (unlike the overrated Gauquelin results) has immediate practical implications, preferably financial. Would the production of a bookmaker’s account convince anybody? Perhaps your response would be: “Clairvoyance cannot be ruled out.”

Elwell really ought to study the relevant literature before going on like this. Such as Ceci & Laker (1986). A day at the races. Journal of Experimental Psychology 115, 256-266.

To go down this avenue becomes all the more important because your killer objection, hinted at in your latest and spelt out in the “Key Topics” piece recently republished on Smit’s site, is that nothing is allowable which does not conform to Science As We Know It.

Elwell fails to quote the actual words, forcing you to take his word for it. In fact what we actually say (for examples see *) is nothing like what he says we say. Here is another instance where Elwell seems unwilling to let truth get in the way of a good story.

(* In astrology the scientific approach is relevant “only to those parts testable by observation ... no claims to accuracy can be justified unless astrologers make proper experiments AND distinguish between alternative explanations AND have independent reasons for thinking that astrological effects exist ... there are many non-astrological reasons why astrology should be seen as valid, none of which require that astrology be true”. These are summary statements of material presented in detail in the original collaborative articles.)

This makes your position unassailable.

But not if Elwell had quoted us correctly, see next.

Futile to point out that astrology’s importance is that it might change the prevailing paradigm, precisely because it is an anomaly. Or that the danger of astrology is that, while establishment science holds itself aloof, its relevance may be recognised by minds less hidebound, with consciences less keen.

Which astrology is an anomaly? Given that there are many astrologies resting on very different assumptions (different zodiacs, house systems, bodies, techniques, interpretations), many of them contradicting each other, which ones are anomalous and which ones are simply wrong? They cannot all be right.

In any case, Elwell is assuming that astrology is beyond science, and that any appeals to science will therefore be missing the point. But the assumption is implausible. Astrology is an anomaly only if it has no ordinary explanation. So the issue is whether astrology can deliver anything beyond that provided by ordinary (ie non-astrological) factors. A few decades ago this would have been a difficult issue due to lack of research, but no longer (the answer seems to be no, for details see Year Zero and our later comments below). Unfortunately Elwell does not explore this awkward point but simply ignores it, which again is not what we expect of anyone whose interest is supposedly genuine. Indeed his view begs the issue, as did his earlier description of astrology as “what to many is an important, and to some a sacred, truth”. As always, Elwell assumes his case and shows no interest other than lip service in testing it, all the while branding those with a genuine interest as seeking to undermine it. The parallel with dogmatic fundamentalism could not be clearer.

Recently we read a long comment from a former Catholic woman who had become a Muslim. She was pointing out how hard it was to converse with other Muslims about their (and now her) faith. “I was used to being able to criticise parts of Catholicism, and although of course I had to endure counter-criticism, the fact that I had doubts and expressed them was never attacked. However, among Muslims any kind of criticism about the Muslim faith is absolutely unacceptable. Having doubts means being an apostate [one who has abandoned the faith] hence with ill intentions. Having discussions with them was, and is, impossible.” Again the parallel with Elwell could not be clearer. Our doubts alone are enough for Elwell to accuse us of having ill intentions, and for him to find as absolutely unacceptable anything along the lines of Recent Advances. As the now Muslim (but formerly Catholic) woman found, and as we are finding, having a meaningful discussion is impossible.

OBSERVATION, DEDUCTION, PREDICTION

Before leaving the lady bulls I must refer to a substantive point I made about scientific evidence. I said that if the sign Taurus was observed to be prominent and stressed when bovines were making bad news, then when they made the headlines in the future the same markers could be expected to be present. It seems to me that a limited prediction of this order is all the scientific method requires.

But all that Elwell presents is more after-the-event astrology. It does not accord with scientific methodologies because “the same marker” does not have the same meaning as it does in science, where they are defined in advance and are usually of known validity and reliability. In astrology it means a symbolic theme with many levels of interpretation usually determined after the event. Because such astrological markers are so easy to match to anything, their use requires safeguards against drawing wrong conclusions, so we now expect safeguards to figure prominently in what follows. If we are serious, that is. But they do not. In fact they do not receive the slightest attention.

Fortuitously we did not have long to wait to test the hypothesis because in September it was announced that “mad cow” disease (BSE) had reached Japan, its first appearance in Asia. At the Aries ingress Saturn in Taurus opposed the ascendant at Tokyo. It became clear that the disease had already been recycled widely in Japan, which had acted too late, despite a warning from European Commission scientists. (Japan promptly banned bonemeal cattle feed, and bonemeal has to be a very Saturn-Taurus commodity.)

This was not the only new appearance of BSE in 2001. In mid-January it was reported, amid much consternation, that it had been found in Italy. At the Capricorn ingress Saturn in Taurus was conjunction the ascendant at Rome. The Taurus ascendant itself was symmetrically opposed (i.e. switched on) by Mercury in the 8th house and Mars in the 6th. These two sectors are of significance where public health is concerned.

Other charts pointed in the same direction. For the Japanese outbreak, the previous eclipse saw the cusp of Taurus on the ascendant receiving a hard aspect from Mars and Pluto, both in the 8th. Pluto was additionally in parallel to the ascendant. Again, its Cancer ingress found the Sun in the 8th semisquare Venus in Taurus in the 6th, with Saturn at their midpoint. The eclipse of 21 June saw the Sun in the 6th semisquare Venus in Taurus (Saturn at their midpoint).

This geometry will only be meaningful to astrologers, but it shows that what is expected to happen astrologically was indeed happening, and moreover it had been flagged up in advance. I realise such observations are somewhat removed from handy matchbox-size tests, but some sciences are not structured for our convenience. Astronomy is one, and these charts do represent astronomical events.

But Elwell does not tell us what was expected. Details of what the ascendant should be doing were not specified in advance, they were discovered only after the event. (You are now nearly halfway through, and Elwell’s next section supposedly looks at tests that might work, so are you still focussed on the issues of tests and safeguards?)

TESTS THAT MIGHT WORK

In pursuit of a test you can put in your pocket, you refer half a dozen times to a challenge in which astrologers are given two charts and asked to decide which chart belongs to person X.

What could be simpler! In passing I note that here again you are describing a test of astrologers, not astrology per se.

So what? Astrology does not exist in a vacuum. It has to be applied by someone, and it has to be judged by the result of that application, just as we judge a flight by the airplane and crew. If on every flight the plane cannot get off the ground or crashes, would we travel on it just because we believe in engineering and aerodynamics? Of course not. So why should astrology be any different? Elwell does not tell us.

You omit to explain how the astrologers are to come by the quality and quantity of information about X on which to base a judgment, and that is the crux of the exercise.

This is a copout. Since it is Elwell who is complaining about approaches like this one, we expect him to know the details so his complaint can be soundly based. But here he is admitting he does not know the details. In other words he has made up his mind prior to examination. Exactly the same applies in those cases where his knowledge is lacking (as in issues of human judgement or statistics), or out of date (as in most issues of psychology or astro research). When we point out the errors due to Elwell’s prejudice and lack of knowledge, does he correct them, re-address the issues, and thus improve the level of debate? No he does not. He simply carries on as if nothing had happened. So much for a genuine interest in resolving issues.

Not only that, the same information needs to be supplied for the person for whom the “fake” chart belongs. Even if generated randomly the bogus chart would belong to an unknown somebody and probably a number of unknown somebodies. And one of those somebodies might be uncannily like our test subject, by pure chance.

Elwell is setting up straw men. In an actual test all these problems would be taken care of, usually in collaboration with astrologers to make sure the test has their approval.

But I agree that matching tests could be instructive, given the resources to conduct them. It would be necessary to scout around for a formula that produced a positive result. We may not have it yet.

So only positive results count? Since we may not have them yet, it follows that astrologers are left with nothing more substantial than unsupported beliefs. This is like saying we believe in antigravity, that our belief would be supported if apples fall upwards, but if apples fall downwards it doesn’t count. No rational person argues like this. To date a total of 45 matching tests have been made, most of them by astrologers or in collaboration with astrologers, and each time the expectation was for a positive result. It was only afterwards, when the result did not support the expectation, that the astrologers found fault with what they had previously approved. Nevertheless, in the face of evidence that they could not do what they claimed to do, did they make any changes to what they did or what they claimed? A (very very) few gave up astrology, the rest carried on as usual.

At this point I hear Kelly, currently hatching an essay on how astrologers make astrology unassailable, cry that whenever astrologers draw a blank they always move on to another test that might work better.

The point is not that astrologers move on to other tests, but that only positive results are deemed to be meaningful (Elwell is showing us how). In fact negative results are just as meaningful as positive results, otherwise we could never know what is useful and what is not. For example it was negative results that led to the discovery of oxygen, of nylon, of Neptune, of relativity, and of more other things than you might imagine. Similarly in astronomy new theories are developed to accommodate negative results, whereas in astrology negative results are ignored. Which is why astronomy advances and astrology stagnates, and why much of modern astrology but almost none of modern astronomy would be understandable to Ptolemy.

But this happens all the time in science. The situation is no different from that of Edison, who experimented with hundreds of different substances to produce a dependable filament for his light bulb, rejecting most of them. Just as the bulb had to go on working, in endless replication, once the winning formula had been found, so would a workable “matching” procedure for astrology.

This is a misleading analogy. For Edison the problem was not finding a filament that worked (many filaments worked, leaving no doubt that electricity could generate light) but finding one that would last a long time. For astrologers the problem is to find something that works in the first place, see previous comment. In effect Elwell is saying that astrologers may not yet have reliable evidence that a chart matches its owner. After several millennia of astrological practice this would seem to be telling us something.

You will be aware of one matching experiment that may have come close, conducted by Martin Berzins(Footnote 1) and his associates, in which a live interview was conducted between astrologer and subject. He claimed a success rate of over 70 percent, but it seems that neither the funds nor the interest from the astrological community were forthcoming for a replication. A possible improvement on this technique would be to provide, rather than two charts and one subject, a single chart and two subjects, so there would be a three-way conversation involving the astrologer in which the subjects explored their similarities and differences.

The Berzins test was not without problems, nevertheless it was included in our meta-analysis, which failed to show any evidence for astrology once sampling errors were accounted for. Nevertheless let us consider the details that Elwell is keeping from you.

Berzins’ experiment began in 1986 and was as follows: An astrologer is presented with a subject and two charts. One chart is authentic, the other is for one year before or after, chosen at random. Neither chart bears any personal cues such as names or dates. The subject has no knowledge of their chart other than sun sign, has never read an astrology book, has never visited an astrologer. The astrologer interviews the subject for a maximum of 40 minutes and then tries to pick the authentic chart. The astrologer must not ask time-related questions, e.g. time of birth or dates of events, and subjects must not give such information. The interview is observed by a third person to make sure these rules are followed. All persons are blind as to which chart is which. By July 1992 a total of 39 subjects had been interviewed by a total of 8 astrologers (only one per subject), and the authentic chart was picked 28 times vs 19.5 expected. During the next 15 months three more subjects were tested, bringing the totals to those given in Elwell’s note (29 hits out of 42).

Although it is an ambitious design, it assumes the expected hit rate is 50%, which it might not be. For example induced births (which tend to peak in office hours) were not excluded, so by simply picking births in office hours (= Sun above the horizon) a hit rate exceeding 50% could be obtained without astrology. Another factor is sensory leakage of cues — yes, subjects were supposed to have no cues to leak, but most interviews did not occur until many months after the first contact, ample time for subjects to have overcome their professed lack of astro contact. Our suggested improvements included preventing these things by computerising the whole test — have the subject enter their birth data, answer questions about astro experience, and rate pairs of computer-generated interpretations from authentic and control charts. Then plot hit rate vs astro experience. The whole thing could be automated, thus allowing large samples at almost no cost. But it was never followed up, at least not by Berzins.

However in 1983, unknown to Berzins, a very similar test had been conducted by Terry Dwyer, then a tutor with the Mayo school of astrology, who had refined his Starword computer program until ratings showed its chart interpretations to have reached maximum accuracy. So here was a computer program, developed and field-tested against actual people by one of the UK’s most able astrologers, and known to give interpretations of the best possible accuracy.

Then came the test proper. A total of 30 subjects received two interpretations, one for their authentic chart and another for a chart calculated for a birth time 5 years and 6 months before the authentic time, except that the sun sign was kept the same to avoid giving clues to subjects familiar with their sun sign meanings. Each interpretation took the computer 45 minutes to produce and was divided into seven sections (e.g. mentality, career, relationships) which the subject rated for accuracy. The test was thus almost identical to the Berzins test except that it was better controlled (e.g. no concerns about sensory leakage could arise), and the picking of the authentic chart was made by the subject and not the astrologer. At the end of the test, 15 subjects had picked the authentic interpretation as the most accurate, and 15 had picked the other interpretation as the most accurate, which is the result expected if astrology does not work.

Similar tests using astrologers instead of computers were no better. For example in 1985, in an American test run in collaboration with the NCGR, no less than 83 subjects were given three interpretations (one authentic and two controls) individually typed by experienced professional astrologers judged by their peers to be highly competent. Each interpretation occupied several pages and was representative of the best professional practice, yet again there was not even a slight tendency to pick the authentic interpretation. Because such tests eliminate the risks present in the Berzins test (e.g. of sensory leakage), our suspicion that the positive Berzins results might arise from non-astrological factors is increased, so Elwell’s enthusiasm for these results seems premature. We come back to this point in our next comment.

Regarding tests, it is a disappointment that you did not respond to my invitation to discuss those examples of the evidence against astrology which you had found particularly convincing.

A search of Elwell’s four articles reveals no such invitation. Had there been such an invitation we would have responded. No matter. Perhaps the fundamental problem with astrology is that there is no evidence it can deliver anything beyond that provided by non-astrological factors. That is, when these factors are controlled (as in the tests described in our previous comment), astrology suddenly fails to deliver.

This was precisely the problem addressed in 1984 in the $US5000 Astrology Superprize, where astrologers around the world were invited to provide “convincing evidence that the accuracy of chart interpretations cannot be explained by non-astrological factors”. The prize money was underwritten by a total of twelve sponsors including the AA, ISAR, ACS, Matrix, and Recent Advances. The rules were established by progressive recycling among interested persons and were approved by all sponsors. It was publicised in astrological journals in eight countries and reached many thousands of astrologers. Over 60 intentions to enter were received from a total of 14 countries. Of these 34 subsequently sent in entries totalling some 1500 pages.

Each entrant had to demonstrate that the accuracy of chart interpretations could not be explained by non-astrological factors. The interpretation could be of any kind, for example it could cover personality, health, vocation, compatibility or events, but the subjects had to be typical of those who visit astrologers. In this way the results would be of maximum relevance to everyday practice.

Many kind comments were received from entrants. For example “Eminently fair and remarkably flexible” (USA), “A very great idea for stimulating people to write” (France), “May this superprize bring forth many new scientific proofs for astrology” (Germany). There were also many critics. For example Elwell claimed the prize was unwinnable because appropriate tests could not be designed and the judges were not impartial, while others claimed the rules were stacked or the sponsors would never pay out. Obviously the entrants did not agree.

Of the 34 entries, only one satisfied the panel of judges and would have won the prize, except it was a fake entry (it showed a 0.5 correlation between transits and life events) designed to test the superprize’s winnability and the impartiality of judges (some judges provided constructive comments and one even offered to help with a replication). So the claims of critics like Elwell were simply wrong. Although no genuine entry won the superprize, six entries were awarded consolation prizes of $US200 each. But that was not the end of it.

The remaining money was enlarged to nearly $US3000 and was made available for a new prize to be devised and administered by interested astrologers who claimed the superprize had got it all wrong and ought to have been done differently. In other words the sponsors provided the money, the astrologers did the rest. What could be fairer? The only provisos were that the new prize be addressed to validating everyday practice, that it have the approval of the sponsors, and that the entry details be published before the end of 1986 (which allowed two years lead time). Alas, there were no takers, and the offer lapsed.

In short, this massive international incentive for astrologers to devise suitable tests of everyday practice ended up with nothing useful. Full details of each entry were published in the Astrological Journal during 1986 and 1987. They contain relevant lessons, so we might reasonably have expected Elwell to survey these entries as a preliminary to telling us what acceptable research should consist of. But here, as then, he prefers to be negative and unhelpful. It is not the attitude we expect of anyone genuinely interested in resolving research issues.

The tests that persuaded Dean and Mather to leave the astrology fold would have been a start, but I detect that your confidence in some of this early data may not be so buoyant as it once was. You explain that as knowledge advances one can look back and see flaws that were unsuspected at the time. Your brand of truth seems to have a remarkably short shelf life!

Elwell’s sneer is plain silly. As studies progress we obtain better information, which guides further studies, and so on, so inevitably the associated picture will change. To refer to this as short-lived truth is ridiculous. In any case, science by definition never claims to have “the truth”. Not so Elwell.

You present an argument that is audacious if nothing else.

Elwell is mixed up again, “confusing isolated studies of astrology with the thousands of scholarly studies of human judgment skills.” With the boot on the other foot you would call that an evasion.

What Elwell actually says is “You say I attempt to refute isolated studies which have proved negative, those ‘thousands of scholarly studies’ that suggest I might be fooling myself.” Our reply was “Elwell gets into a muddle, confusing isolated studies of astrology with the thousands of scholarly studies of human judgement skills.” That is, they are not the same studies yet Elwell is saying they are the same studies. It is not clear how Elwell can link this to evasion unless it be his own.

Obviously there is right and wrong reasoning, but any debate on any subject whatsoever would come to a swift conclusion if one side were to maintain that the other held a different opinion on account of inferior judgment. In the old Soviet Union dissenters were incarcerated as mentally ill because they failed to grasp the obvious, namely the truth of communism.

More silliness. Elwell’s opinion of astrology may well arise from his inability to recognise and control reasoning errors, and so might ours, but we don’t have to take anyone’s word for it — we can find out the true situation by controlling reasoning errors, something that Elwell is evidently not the least bit interested in. And when reasoning errors are controlled, as in the tests described above, astrology ceases to work. Elwell’s analogy with mental illness and grasping the truth of communism is simply irrelevant.

I had hoped you might have called as witness my favourite astrological investigation which must represent the worst muddled thinking in its genre. This was carried out by Eysenck and Nias,

It is an exceedingly brave person who mentions “muddled” in the same breath as “Eysenck”, the most influential psychologist of his time, revered by his peers for exceptional erudition, clarity, and lack of muddle (see The Scientific Study of Human Nature: Tribute to Hans J Eysenck at Eighty, Pergamon 1997). Indeed, given Elwell’s own unrelenting muddle in these articles, and which is one reason we need so many comments to unmuddle them, we might immediately suspect that, to use Elwell’s analogy, what was intended to be a roll of drums is the sound of him falling into the orchestra pit. And so it is, see next comment.

with Dean’s unstinting help, to determine whether people familiar with the traits attributed to their Sun-sign tended to pick that description of themselves. In other words, if they acknowledged astrology it was not because astrology was true, but merely because of what they had read. (Astrology - Science or Superstition?, Eysenck and Nias, 1982).

To dismantle this piece of research comprehensively is tempting, but it would be tedious, therefore a sample will indicate its overall quality. Dean supplied six alleged personality traits for each sign, and included in the list for Aquarius was “low integrity”. Now if there are any streetwise academics out there, they would instantly understand that to include low integrity in a shortlist of traits is unlikely to promote an instant recognition of one’s character. It would be a sticking point, steering the mind elsewhere.

The joke is that had I been designing this research I should have insisted on controls and safeguards, the very stuff I am supposed to despise. Astrology aside, I should want to know how many people in the general population would raise their hands for low integrity. Ideally, I should want to apply the same test to those of established low integrity, say in the prison population. Without this data we cannot attach any significance to whether Aquarians confess or otherwise to low integrity. In fact we are not told how many Aquarians did own up (yes, the devil is in the detail), and whether those who did were also tested for a sense of humour.

My guess is that Virgos would similarly back off from seeing themselves as “interfering”, Taurus as “grasping”, Gemini as “two-faced” (whatever that means), Pisces as “confused”, and so on. Such loaded terms would skew the whole experiment.

Another safeguard would be to ask, say, 50 astrologers to list, without prompting, six traits they would most associate with each Sun-sign. I believe this would expose the shortcomings of the traits subjectively chosen by Dean.

But maybe this Eysenck-Nias-Dean experiment is another of those that has failed the acid test of time?

Elwell gets full marks for muddle and shameful misreporting. No, the study was not made with Dean’s unstinting help (in fact he played no part in it) nor did he supply six alleged personality traits for each sign. The traits used were from Recent Advances and had been obtained by taking the traits given by leading authorities (mainly Carter, Hone, Mayo, and Davison) and selecting those which were the most representative and which best distinguished one sign from another. To control for social desirability each sign had three positive traits and three negative traits, but Elwell fails to tell you about the former. The controls that Elwell says were absent were not absent, as anyone who cares to read the original will recognise (pages 54-57). Neither was the safeguard of consulting other astrologers, who were automatically involved during the compilation of Recent Advances.

It gets worse. In a recent issue of the Astrological Journal Elwell refers to Recent Advances as setting out “to undermine astrology’s fundamental tenets” and being “assisted by many believing astrologers, blind to its devastating intent.” This is wrong, an inexcusable untruth. As Elwell should know full well, Recent Advances was essentially Charles Harvey’s idea, not Dean’s or Mather’s or anyone else’s, and in Charles Harvey’s own words the idea was:

“to bring together all possible work that had been done on astrology, not necessarily critical, but attempting to see how astrology works, trying to understand better the principles behind astrology. ... [To prepare Recent Advances] the first thing we had to do was to contact as many people as possible. So we put out feelers. The Association already had a very good network of contacts with all the main European and American astrologers. We started writing and started a dialogue with every key person we could find. What did they know of that we hadn’t got? And we would circulate the text that we had already. Astrology had to catch up with the 18th and 19th centuries in one fell swoop.” (from an interview in Astro*Talk 1985, 2(2), pages 1 and 15-18)

In short, Recent Advances was a massive collaborative effort that was encouraged and supported by the AA and its leading lights every inch of the way. For Elwell to declare that it was all posture and deception is defamatory, insulting, and at variance with the facts. It seems to show only the depths to which a vested interest will sink to bolster dogmatic fundamentalist views, as if educated people could be persuaded by abuse and defamation in lieu of scholarship and proper enquiry.

We are now at the end of Elwell’s section on “tests that might work”. But after nearly 1000 words the only relevant thing that Elwell has told us is that “matching tests could be instructive” provided they “produced a positive result”, which reduces to “matching tests might work provided they work.” So what have we learnt that is useful? Nothing. At the end we say more about Elwell’s failure to deliver.

DEFINING A PERSON

Lists of traits are not conducive to a dynamic concept of human nature, and certainly they present only a tiny receptacle, close to matchbox size, into which the richness of astrology is supposed to be poured. There is the added problem, as we just saw, of subjectivity.

I mentioned that in his investigation of astrology for Recent Advances Dean had a choice of a number of approaches, but chose trait words because they seemed amenable to counting. I suggested he might have produced a very different book had he followed the recommendations of Gordon W Allport, given that academic’s reputation in the field of personality.

More misreporting. This was not an investigation of astrology as such nor was there a choice of approaches. It was a look at sign trait words as given in every astrology book, so only a trait word approach was feasible. If signs relate to fundamental dimensions of personality then their trait words should reveal it.

You commented: “Note how Elwell gives no details, so readers have no way of judging anything for themselves. They have to take his word for it.” Well, don’t take his word for it. A discussion of how the astrological picture of mind as microcosm relates to the many theories of personality would occupy a lot of cyberspace. Let me just say here that to the extent that trait psychology trivialises human nature it conflicts with the picture offered by astrology, and more especially with this summation by Allport himself:

“...the most comprehensive units in personality are broad intentional dispositions, future-pointed. These characteristics are unique for each person, and tend to attract, guide, inhibit the more elementary units to accord to the major intentions themselves. This proposition is valid in spite of the large amount of unordered, impulsive, and conflictful behaviour in every life. Finally, these cardinal characteristics are not infinite in number but for any given life in adult years are relatively few and ascertainable. This fact should encourage psychodiagnosticians to seek methods more appropriate than some they now employ.” (Becoming, 1955)

As for techniques, Allport advocated the case study approach as “the most comprehensive of all, and lies closest to the initial starting point of common sense. It provides a framework within which the psychologist can place all his observations gathered by other methods; it is his final affirmation of the individuality and uniqueness of every personality. It is a completely synthetic method, the only one that is spacious enough to embrace all assembled facts ... Properly used it is the most revealing method of all.” (Personality, a Psychological Interpretation, 1937).

Allport (1897-1967), acknowledged by his colleagues to be one of the founders of trait theory, was one of the first to examine the range of trait words (dispositional terms) that people use to describe others. He found that although we use a large number, most of them are synonyms. After collapsing redundant traits, he found that most people use between 3 and 10 traits to describe people they know. Elwell seems unaware that Allport’s dispositions are the same as traits, so it is meaningless for him to say that Dean should have looked at dispositions rather than traits. But back to Allport.

Despite this commonality, Allport assumed that each individual had a unique trait structure. However later work, using approaches more sensitive and more powerful than those available to Allport, has shown that there is a common structure to personality. Individuals have their own individual amounts of each component, but these amounts can now be determined empirically to give a far more objective measure of individuality than Allport’s case study approach. The methods are much improved over those available when Recent Advances was being compiled, but even so the approach used in Recent Advances was fundamentally more sound than Allport’s dated case study approach.

It comes down to what you select, what you reject.

Indeed. Why select outdated views from half a century ago when improvements due to the intervening research could be quoted?

Dean took away the notion of falsifiability from Popper, but not his endorsement of a view of human nature compatible with the astrologers’ view. Popper once wrote: “In his many ways very important book A Theory of Justice (1971) John Rawls introduces the idea of a plan of life to characterise the purposes or aims which make of a man ‘a conscious, unified moral person.’”

For the astrologer the birth chart is just such a plan of life, and the issue is whether it makes the person more comprehensible.

I suppose this is where you go into matchbox mode and ask what tests would confirm the concepts of a plan of life and Allport’s “broad intentional dispositions, future-pointed”. Not forgetting how such claims might be treated statistically, what tests would disconfirm them, and what safeguards and controls would guarantee freedom from error. Alas, Allport does not tell us.

Unsurprisingly, because research at that time had not progressed far enough. Today it is different (check any modern textbook of experimental psychology). Bear this in mind as you read what follows. Also, the ordinary readily-understood notion of a “life plan” advocated by Popper and Rawls are quite different from the notion of astrologers that presumes some vague “underlying structure” to the universe in which symbolic interconnections reflect human life across history and cultures. Both Popper and Rawls would reject this as historicism, the belief that natural laws govern historical events.

You might be able to figure out why for yourselves. His definition of personality requires that it be discussed, judged and applied in its own terms. Anyone who wishes to pursue another theory of personality is at liberty so to do, but one theory cannot be used as a yardstick for another. Likewise, the astrological picture of human nature, which at the same time implies a world view, demands to be evaluated in its own terms. Your insistent complaint is that it is not being evaluated, or indeed validated, in your terms, but it is not immediately obvious why your terms deserve the attention you claim for them.

Theories are tested against nature as well as against each other. Einstein’s theory is tested against nature and Newton’s theory. Similarly astrological claims can be tested against nature (thus if astrology says a person is X then we test for X) and against other theories, whether those of a different astrological school or of another symbolic system. We asked what testing astrology “on its own terms” means, but Elwell did not tell us. We all know what testing medicine or engineering or physics means, so why should astrology warrant such obscurity? As we have pointed out, many astrologers do not share Elwell’s problems with testing astrology on scientific grounds, so Elwell needs to clean up such internal differences before setting us up as having a totally alien standpoint. In any case, if our approach is not good enough, then we want to know what should be done to improve it, but despite our repeated requests Elwell is not telling us.

PROSPECT AND RETROSPECT

Our human situation is like riding in a train with our back to the engine. We can see where we have been, and where we are, but the scenery ahead can only be conjectured. That is the way our minds are forced to work, yet you demand that astrological minds must work differently, and imagine that you are justified in dismissing everything that is after-the-event.

You point out that while memory is always retrospective “that does not mean it is accurate or valuable.” Yet reasoning, on which you set such store, is as much an after-the-event process as memory, and even when it is directed to the future it depends on past data. If we could think futurity we should pass our days in prophetic visions. Like memory, reason it is not automatically “accurate or valuable”, but we have to do the best with what we’ve got.

There cannot be any objection to astrologers revisiting and reassessing events, and it happens in science all the time. When you imply that nothing can be believed unless it is in advance of looking, you seem to be making a special case of astrology, and loading it with a handicap that applies nowhere else. Why don’t you tell astronomers that you will only believe their crazy theory about rocks falling from the sky if they can predict a time and place where it will happen? Because once it has happened, it is disqualified. You will retort that the case is different because meteorites are accepted by science - but it was not always so. Again, it seems we cannot believe in supernovas because they are after-the-event, both in their reporting and their occurrence.

Elwell is displaying absolutely no grasp of the issue, which is that the finding of unspecified factors in a large population of factors means nothing. This is after-the-event astrology, which for Elwell seems to be the only possible astrology. Note the totally inappropriate analogy with rocks from the sky and supernovas. Elwell is confusing after-the-event with retrospective. His zero grasp of the issue continues below.

Would not astronomers reply: “What do you think we are, clairvoyants?”

Elwell seems to have no idea how astronomy works as a science. Of course astronomers cannot predict precisely where and when a supernova will occur. But they have obtained a fair idea of their frequency of occurrence in an average galaxy, and so far they have not been too wide of the mark.

Regarding astrology, after the event the correct scientific question is whether it was there to be seen, not whether any astrologer saw it. Useful subsidiary questions might be to determine what precisely was there to be seen (and conversely what was not), and if it was there to be seen why did astrologers fail to see it?

The problem is that if after-the-event analysis confirms a long-held tradition then astrologers will say “see, I told you so”. But if there is not, they will either change the rules or invent new ones to make the system fit (as Elwell did with his parallels, septiles, and multiple house systems and zodiacs). Recall Austin Levy’s remark here.

On the latter point, you seem to understand (in connection with BSE) that any set of events involves a whole raft of charts, incalculable in number. They indicate a hyperconnected reality. But whereas for you this means confusion, for me it means the possibility of confirmation. These charts are not in the alternative but together form a network of mutually interacting indicators, and the astrologer who is looking for concrete answers has to find where the charts are supporting each other, and telling the same story.

See again how Elwell is missing the point, which is that the finding of unspecified factors in a large population of factors means nothing. It is like dealing two hands of cards, finding they both contain clubs (or if not then hearts or diamonds or spades), and declaring they indicate a hyperconnected reality.

It is a difficult task, unless the context can be narrowed. Astrologers are expected to have eyes everywhere, but it is often the case that to find a burglar under the bed you have to look under the bed. The search can be delimited by focusing on an area of special interest. Thus a counter-terrorist agency could work through the charts solely to gauge the probability of such activity, because there are indeed times and places where the cosmos opens windows of opportunity to those with this intent.

Here Elwell is saying that charts containing significators of X will indicate X. Later (look for “all men are Greeks”) he stresses how charts containing significators of X do not necessarily indicate X. Indeed, he is most definite about it, which seems to contradict what he says above. So which is it really? Elwell does not tell us.

That said, a wealth of detail can be unwrapped after the event that was not seen in advance, simply because it was not there to see. From the standpoint of physical events cosmic factors are indicative but not definitive. Casting around for metaphors, I can predict that in summer there will be more hours of sunshine than in winter, but I cannot tell you how many, or which locations will be sunnier than others. It is neverthelesss useful to know about the seasons. Again, if I set up a lamp on a dark night I shall trap flying insects, but I cannot tell you in advance how many and what kind. Nevertheless a lepidopterist would not dismiss the exercise merely because counting the night’s catch came after the fact.

Here we find ourselves discussing yet another instance where you seek to apply to astrology criticisms that would be palpably absurd elsewhere. Not unlike a lamp attracting moths, a planetary configuration in the future infallibly draws to itself events appropriate to its nature, a process of convergence. The nature of the attractor may be understood but the end results cannot be known with the same certainty. We should rejoice in that, because were it otherwise we should lose any prospect of exercising freedom, and live in a mechanical universe where everything moved on preordained tracks.

Indeed, from what Elwell says later (see previous comment), the end result cannot be known with any certainty at all. Also, these infallible planetary configurations don’t seem to know that “single factors lose their significance in isolation.” So how can Elwell be so sure that astrology is everywhere when it is so uncertain and self-contradictory? Elwell does not tell us.

The situation becomes clearer when one considers the physical basis of the astrological indicators. I mentioned an eclipse in connection with the twin towers. Because of the predictable regularity of planetary movements that eclipse was already built into the system, long before there were any twin towers, any Washington, any America. Its elements were in place, awaiting to be clothed in the appropriate garments, which did not then exist save in a notional sense.

Thus the cosmic is only half the story. On the other side of the equation is a take-up factor. It is not unlike the parable of the sower, and as planetary configurations come and go the question is whether there is any fertile soil where they can take root. Therefore we cannot adopt a philosophy of naive determinism, which astrologically would be akin to gipsy fortune telling.

But many modern tests of astrology, including those of Gauquelin, satisfy these criteria. Even so, what philosophy should we adopt instead? Elwell does not tell us.

HARD HATS, EVEN HARDER HEADS

I fear I can award you only four out of ten for astrological acumen. You are advised to steer clear of bookmakers.

On the question of finding the signature for collecting combat helmets in a given chart you say Elwell twists the situation, and dispute that, in advance of looking, astrologers would know what to look for. If you were being careful you would realise that here you can be shown to be blatantly in error.

How would astrologers go about locating the signature? They would turn to the familiar planetary and sign associations, which have been in currency for a long time “in advance of looking”. I refer you to a dictionary of such correspondences, The Rulership Book, by Rex E. Bills. Here we find that Mars is helmets, combat, armour-plate, the head, and iron. Under Saturn is listed relics, defensiveness, history, the skull, precautions, protectiveness, shelter, concussion. Aries is the skull and face. Scorpio embraces death, and things made of iron.

Bills gives an alphabetical listing of rulerships for everything from abandoned places, abberations [sic], abbeys, and abbreviations to zinc, zones, zoos, and zymurgy, including about 300 meanings for Aries, 1000 for Mars and 1500 for Saturn. No wonder the handful of meanings picked by Elwell fit so well — they are picked after the event from a very large pool of meanings. Furthermore, a chart with Mars and Saturn in Aries could indicate any of 1000 x 300 x 1500 x 300 = 135,000,000,000 combinations, with presumably a fair chance than some of them would fit anything we liked. But how could Mr Bills be so sure about these hundreds and thousands of individual meanings if, as Elwell stresses earlier, “single factors lose their significance in isolation”? Obviously he couldn’t. Indeed, he couldn’t be sure whether 1000 trait words fitted his best friend let alone a planet. In other words his book by definition is filled with unsupported assertions. But this does not stop Elwell from treating it as gospel, see next.

This must surely silence your doubts on whether astrologers would agree on what to look at. What else would they be looking at?

They would look at any other planet that had “helmets” listed in their 1000+ keywords, at the ruler by occupancy of Aries, of Scorpio, of 8th house, of 12th house, of the 8th from the 8th, and so on, all of which can be symbolically justified. But how can Elwell so unerringly choose the right one from such a bewildering choice? By now the answer should be obvious — by doing it after-the-event. So where is the problem?

To put it another way, with any chart in one hand and the Bills book in the other, and provided the chart contained Mars and Saturn, we cannot fail to find links with “combat” and “defensiveness”. This is the strength of after-the-event astrology — it cannot fail to work. Of course Elwell will argue that it needs more than the mere presence of Mars or Saturn, it needs something like an aspect or harmonic or parallel or midpoint or antiscion or whatever, exactly what cannot be specified in advance, but give him the chart (in several house systems and zodiacs) and he will certainly find something that fits. This of course will surprise nobody. What matters is whether the fit is better than the fits found in control charts, or whether the fit can be specified in advance of looking, where we fail if we predict Mars conjunct X but find Mars conjunct Y. That Elwell displays no interest in these simple safeguards speaks for itself.

They would expect a permutation of some of these factors. Now it is your turn to twist. You focus on a particular combination, Mars in Scorpio, and consult a few texts for quotations which will show that “Elwell seems to be inventing things to fit.” However, as usual you are being selective. Your sources certainly do not use the word “defensive” in connection with Mars-Scorpio. Yet Tadd Mann does list “survival instinct” (as does Ebertin) and “indestructable”, which you may think hand waves in the right direction. Arroyo’s Chart Interpretation Handbook speaks of “the need for self-protection” in connection with Mars in Scorpio, and Hamaker-Zondag attributes self-defence mechanisms to Mars itself. But my most telling quote from this haphazard dip into the bookshelf is from The Astrologer’s Handbook (Sakoian and Acker) which tells us: “The two hundred Spartan soldiers who held off the entire invading Persian army are an example of the Mars in Scorpio principle.”

So astrologers disagree on fundamental meanings. Is Mars in Scorpio defensive or not? How could we find out? If “single factors lose their significance in isolation” how could astrologers know what it means in the first place? Elwell does not tell us.

I rather resent your remark: “See how important the usually ignored parallel suddenly becomes when it suits Elwell’s purpose, which is to find a link (any link) between Mars and Saturn...” Ignored by whom? The parallel of declination has never been ignored by me, nor my students, so you are mistaken to imply that I am scrabbling around to find some technique to fit the purpose of the moment. In the books from which I learnt my astrology the parallel was not an optional extra, it was part of the whole picture. In America it went out of fashion for a while, but interest has recently been revived (see for instance the publications of the Magi Society) perhaps because computer programs make the calculations easier.

Moreover I was not looking for a link (“any link”) specifically between Mars and Saturn in Kelly’s chart. It could have been some other combination of the above mentioned factors.

So any link would do. That is what after-the-event astrology is all about.

I have tried to keep things simple, because I know if I introduce the smallest complication you will jump up and down and say complications are not allowed. While learned professors can fill a blackboard with equations, when it comes to astrology sceptics always try to impose on it a spurious simplicity. Let me test you. You will be aware that no sooner did the concept of a twelvefold zodiac come into being, than it was subdivided into decans. Each sign has three subdivisions, each of ten degrees.

So what? We know of an astrologer who divided each degree into 12 parts, each representing one sign, with each part being divided in turn into decans. The same astrologer also claimed there were 360 planets, one for each degree, which of course makes good symbolic sense. The point is, any astrological system can be made to show good symbolic sense, but clearly this is absolutely no reason to believe one rather than another. So why should we believe Elwell’s system? Elwell does not tell us.

There have been various ways of determining the inflection of each decan, and I use a method of the Greeks, which in effect constructs three mini-zodiacs, each beginning at zero degrees of the three Fire signs. Thus sign Aries has an Aries decan as its first third, Taurus as its second, and Gemini and its third. For Kelly Saturn falls in an Aries decan, which chimes in with our theme. His Aries decans also contain Venus, and possibly the Moon. (My other helmet collector, Tagliavini, has Mars in an Aries decan. My control chart, for Dean, shows nothing in Aries decans.)

Now before you launch into your usual protest about astrologers making anything mean anything, are you really saying that, astrology apart, subdivisions of influence do not exist in the recognised disciplines?

Yes, but they were thoroughly tested. In any case, Elwell does not specify what we were saying (as opposed to really saying), so we have no idea what he is talking about.

Moving on, you seize on the fact that in Kelly’s chart Mars and Saturn are forming their parallel of declination from opposite sides of the equator. Leo’s Dictionary of Astrology says of parallels: “In the zodiac, these are equal distances from the equator, or having the same declination; whether one is North and the other South, or both North or both South, makes no difference.” You then assert (goodness knows where you got the idea from) that bodies on opposite sides of the equator contradict the usual interpretation, so that Kelly’s Mars-Saturn means the opposite of what I say it means. Frankly that is nonsense, and I would refer Dean and Mather to page 432 of their own book for a summary of what astrologers have said on this topic.

Symbolically it makes sense, in the same way that the difference between a conjunction and opposition makes sense, as when Charles Carter sees the one as active and the other as passive. And in astrology symbolism is king. Of course the symbolism may seem strange at times, but as Elwell stresses, the cosmos may not operate in the same categories as we do, so symbols need to be flexible. How dare Elwell call it nonsense. Or is he arguing that passive is not the opposite of active?

You then play your strange game of creating your private hypothetical universe where, as in Alice’s Wonderland, everything means what you say it means. Why Mars-Saturn for helmets, why not Venus-Jupiter? Well, why aren’t pigs birds, or grass red? Your refusal to accept the distinctions and differentiations made in astrology itself rules out any honest effort to evaluate it in its own terms. I suggest you consult our referee, Rex Bill’s book on rulerships, and figure out how Venus-Jupiter can mean combat helmets. Writing this, I realise how extremely tedious it must be for readers, as indeed it is for myself, to find that every piddling point has to be wrangled over.

We already explained how (“via the ancient warlike Venus and the Jupiter-like German expansion”), always assuming that Hitler’s invasion of Poland was not a sign of restriction and limitation in disguise. This is no fanciful invention. The warlike nature of Venus reflects the contentiousness of Libra, a point noted by Charles Carter among others, while according to James Jason Francis’s New English Astrological Thesaurus the elements of protection and preservation come from Jupiter not Saturn (which provides barriers and fortification). Indeed, in a recent editorial in the Astrological Journal a case is made for Venus as an indicator of war. Contrary to what Elwell says, we are not refusing to accept the distinctions made by astrologers, we are applying them. In any case, since the cosmos may not operate in the same categories as we do, how does he know Bills is right? Funny how an issue that to Elwell was previously central is now piddling.

It is happening because you try to turn every point into an occasion for derision,

It seems that Elwell’s style is contagious.

and - since silence gives consent - I cannot allow it. With one of your little smirks you issue another “Readers, watch this space” challenge. Just tell us, you say, where astrology predicts Aries to be in Kelly’s chart. I reply, somewhat wearily, that I am ashamed for Smit, that he should allow this cheap gambit to appear under his name.

The point is that here is an opportunity for Elwell to demonstrate how well his astrology works, this time in advance of looking, so it will mean something. The notion of meaning something is evidently so intimidating that Elwell has to sneer it away as a “cheap gambit”.

When he worked as an astrologer he specialised in chart “rectification”, i.e. discovering an unknown or uncertain birth time. As Smit well knows, it’s the hardest thing to do, even when you have all the information you need about the subject and their biography. Saying where Aries might be found in Kelly’s chart is to attempt to discover a birth time when only the day is known (you have even hinted I may have the wrong day, though I doubt it) and without access to any information to work with.

However, it is my turn to put you on the spot. My answer is that astrology predicts that in Kelly’s chart Aries will be combined with some of the other elements mentioned above in a “combat helmet” signature. I further predict that you will deny it.

Yes, but which elements and how combined? Elwell has predicted nothing specific, so there is nothing to deny (and prediction #2 fails).

Then what? Even if you produced a chart for Kelly how should we know it was not a spoof? I should add that to recognise the chart as genuine there would need to be an additional astrological factor, indicating the impulse to collect, which in Tagliavini’s case involves his Cancer ascendant.

Based on a noon time, the midpoint of Mars and Saturn in Kelly’s chart falls half a degree from the opposition of zero Aries, which some astrologers regard as important in its own right, regardless of any sign associations with the head and so forth. This is as exact as it needs to be, yet you claim it is not exact “so Elwell’s emphasis is misleading.” Quite a few things have surprised me about your contributions, but nothing more than your misguided comparison between the charts of Kelly and Tagliavini, which you introduce with “Let us do what Elwell ought to have done and make a systematic tally.” This piece of nonsense offends against fundamental laws of logic, which accounts for Elwell’s omission.

How to say it? If two things are drawing on a third thing they may or may not share the same attributes, despite the common origin of the attributes each possesses. Imagine the factors that might appropriately combine in a signature for combat helmets as colours on a painter’s palette. Using the same palette two pictures can be painted with totally different colours, or alternatively with some sharing of the colours.

For a more formal explanation one would turn again to that pioneer in probability, the redoubtable Reverend John Venn. Draw a circle to represent the horoscopic factors that might be associated with steel helmets. Another overlapping circle represents Kelly’s horoscope. Since there is more in Kelly’s horoscope than is involved in steel helmets this new circle will merely intersect with the circumference of the other, not be totally within it. Now draw a similar circle to represent Tagliavini’s horoscope. Part of this circle too will overlap the original circle, but it may or may not overlap Kelly’s circle.

I hope it will be clear that you can only do a tally where the three circles overlap. That is the iron logic of it, and to burble on about ballpark expectancy, and hits or misses, is merely pretentious, although I realise it might impress the impressionable.

Elwell is saying that there are many factors that could signify steel helmets. Some will be in Kelly’s chart, and some (possibly quite different) will be in Tagliavini’s chart. So they are not free of ambiguity, and differences (which is what we found) do not necessarily mean anything. OK, but when Elwell first introduced this helmet business he assured us there would be “an unambiguous signature of the helmets”, and later that it “would be an unmistakable signature”, whereas here they are suddenly anything but unambiguous and unmistakable.

In any case, Elwell misses the point. He says that Tagliavini’s circle “may or may not overlap Kelly’s circle”, which reduces the situation to one of probabilities, to which our probability calculations (dismissed by Elwell as “pretentious”) are the only relevant approach. They assume nothing about the extent of overlap, and they show that the outcome is little different from that expected by chance.

There is a further point. The number of “horoscopic factors that might be associated with steel helmets”, compared to all possible horoscopic factors, has to be in proportion to the incidence of helmet collectors in the population. For example suppose that in Canada there are 300 actual helmet collectors in a population of 30 million, or 1 in 10^5. The significators of helmet collecting involve Mars and Saturn (2 out of 10 planets) and Aries or Scorpio (2 out of 12 signs, or 3 x 2 out of 12 if we have 3 zodiacs), or something like 1 in 10 charts overall, which is too large by a factor of 10^4. Of course there is no problem if in Canada there are 3 million helmet collectors, but this is unlikely since there would be more collectors than the entire German army. In other words Elwell’s significators are implausible. This implausibility has been there from the start but Elwell has ignored it, even though it is the first thing that his Venn diagrams (properly used and understood) would have brought to his attention.

There is another axiom of clear thinking which you persistently flout. You may not have grasped what Euclid meant when he enunciated the principle that because a proposition is true, it does not necessarily follow that its converse is true. If all Greeks are men, it does not mean all men are Greeks. Yes, I said I would expect to find an unambiguous signature of combat helmets in Kelly’s chart, and indeed the charts of other keen collectors. That is a straightforward proposition. Apropos of controls, I also said that other charts containing the type of planetary combinations that might signify combat helmets did not necessarily make them the charts of collectors.

In other words, in other people the same planetary combination can signify a range of other things, i.e. the converse of my statement is not necessarily true.

Note that “not necessarily true”. See next comment.

I pointed out that you might innocently and accidentally pick such people as controls, thereby drawing the wrong conclusion. You mistakenly took this as an admission that my “unambigious” had suddenly become ambiguous.

As indeed it has. If helmet significators can signify things other than helmets then they are ambiguous. Elwell’s assertion that they should be unambiguous and unmistakable is, by his own admission (they are “not necessarily true”), unfounded.

Let me interpose here that I do not think for a minute that these principles of sound reasoning are strangers to you.

So Elwell could not have been thinking when earlier he referred to our “performance in this [reasoning] department, which as I shall shortly demonstrate is not great.”

In an argument on a neutral subject you would apply them routinely enough. But when we are pushing for a certain outcome the rules tend to be bent, and I dare say the same holds true for me.

Now that I have reminded you of the converse rule you will be able to accept that while I would expect all collectors of combat helmets to have indicators of steely defensiveness in their charts (and maybe other indicators like a collecting tendency) it does not follow that everybody with those same indicators collects helmets. I have to mention this because you have had some fun with my own chart, presumably enlisted as a control. In effect you have added my circle to the Venn diagram, fitting me in between the circles of Kelly and Tagliavini, with some overlap with both. There we hang, like beads on a necklace, a tribute to Boolean logic.

But not to common sense. We have the circle of helmet-collecting significators overlapped by the circles of Kelly, Tagliviani and Elwell. The overlap in each case is about the same. Which ones are the genuine helmet collectors? Elwell is saying that we cannot tell just from the overlap. So how can we tell? Answer: by asking. If any of the circles are helmet collectors, astrology is proven. If they are not, then astrology is still proven (check what Elwell says below). Only astrologers like Elwell could countenance such rampant silliness.

It gets worse. Elwell expects to find a significator of X in the chart of an X person, but the same significator in another chart does not necessarily mean the person is X, because “in other people the same planetary combination can signify a range of other things”. This is not the traditional view, which sees X as always meaning the same thing but being affected by the rest of the chart; indeed, a chart could not be synthesised otherwise. Note the problem — if X does not necessarily mean what it is supposed to mean, we can never find out what it is supposed to mean (which would be of no use anyway), nor could we ever test it, nor could we synthesise a chart. At which point the whole idea of astrology is reduced to absurdity.

Of course a given factor can indicate various things depending on how the symbolism is interpreted (is Saturn limitation or the father?), and the outcome will depend on the support or opposition from the rest of the chart, but we never heard that it could mean different things in the way Elwell seems to be saying. Thus if Saturn-is-limitation in chart A we expect Saturn-is-limitation in chart B. We could hardly synthesise a chart if the meanings varied all over the place.

You are at least right that I do not collect helmets. I was nine when Hitler’s war broke out, and I would be haunted by the fate of the poor devils who wore them. Besides which, I am not a collector by temperament. I remember helping father build a family “helmet”, an underground air raid shelter with a roof of steel plate, which would have taken anything but a direct hit, and of counting the sticks of bombs as they thudded nearer. Those years were filled with defensively warlike images. Weekends, the Home Guard (“Dad’s Army”) trained in our garden, so I was firing automatic weapons at 13. The house was littered with the paraphernalia of war, yes and tin hats. I was an aircraft spotter. I belonged to the school’s army cadet corps. After compulsory national service I volunteered for civil defence. I took up judo, taught unarmed combat.

I won’t bore you with the rest, but my life has been combative, with a few good scraps. You will have noticed that lately I have been defending astrology, and I hope with some spirit. So your diagnosis of my chart goes to prove how accurate astrology can be.

And how all men really are Greeks. We thought the significators for helmet-collecting were about being defensive, but now they are suddenly about being combative. This is an example of how symbolism can be made to fit after the event — Elwell is not a helmet collector, yet these helmet-collecting significators can be made to fit. To put it another way, if we can find the same significators in the charts of helmet collectors and non-collectors, as is the case here, they cannot be seen as helmet-collecting significators. Elwell has to try again. Attentive readers might also wonder how all this combativeness sits with the supposed instinctive-urge-to-do-things-in-a-particular-way of Elwell’s Pisces sun sign towards understanding and sympathy (Davison’s keywords), an urge which is rarely evident in his present articles.

Mind you, your hands-on technique could be improved. Antiscions are not signs but points - in America they call them solstice points. So it is not especially significant that the antiscion of my Mars is found in Scorpio, but it is significant that it falls on the east point, the ascendant at the equator. I should mention, also on the matter of accuracy, and in defence of Harvey’s observation, that the midpoint of Dean’s Mars/Saturn does indeed fall at 27-05 Aquarius, which is on an axis not specifically astrological but associated with what one might call a sense of the cosmic.

Now this is where it gets interesting. In the chart of a dedicated collector like Kelly the “helmets” signature will be something of a permanent fixture. But other people, like Dean and myself, can have a passing association with helmets, as has been happening recently, and it would be no surprise to find this indicated in the current planetary climate. So I find it meaningful that when Dean was born it was possible to say that in the year 2001 he might be engaged in the issue of combat helmets, among a range of similar things. The solar return is a recognised technique,

As if “recognised technique” meant it was valid. In its day phrenology was a recognised technique, but it was totally invalid. Why should solar returns be any different? Elwell does not tell us.

and at Dean’s last return the Aries ascendant was switched on by an aspect from Mars in Scorpio. Since this was a quinxunx, it would be nice to think that embroiling himself in this argument might have saved him from a crack on the head.

Here again the contradictions. Previously Elwell argued that for helmet collecting to show in a chart it had to be an established hobby, one “closer to one’s heart” so it was a “more eloquent indicator of ourself than professional matters.” If Elwell thinks for one moment that this descent into time-wasting could be closer to anyone’s heart than professional matters, he could not be more wrong.

Secondary progression is another recognised technique, and Dean’s progressed Mars is now in Aries and contacting (by septile) its birth position, which gives a little surge to Mars activity. Progressed Mars in Aries is also square the node, the latter tending to bring issues into prominence. Incidentally it also conjoins the only Aries planet in my chart, a timely piece of networking not inappropriate to our clash of views. It is particularly relevant that my own progressed Mars is also in Aries, and making significant contacts, because I initiated the helmets debate. This was deliberate, with an eye to the aspects, which I consult all the time much as one might weather reports. As I have said, it is possible to be proactive in astrology, thereby making its testing strictly pragmatic, and giving an argument a push in this or that direction is the least of it. At number of critical times in my own life, knowledge gained through astrology has proved decisive, and others have complained at my unfair advantage.


Note how Elwell is citing isolated factors despite his repeated insistence that this is not how astrology is done. Note also how he says “it is possible to be proactive in astrology”, which means that a chart factor must necessarily mean something definite (else proactivity would be impossible), whereas above he was telling us the exact opposite.

WORKING WITH THE RIGHT MODEL

Your comments on President Kennedy throw the differences between our standpoints into sharp relief, which made it a useful detour.

The mindset from which you are coming is naturally numerical, even though matters of psychology and destiny are more likely to call for a qualitative rather than a quantitative approach. Kennedy had the Sun in the 8th, and although his death was not accidental your liking for counting noses leads you to mention Carter’s figures on accidents.

You query whether “a large sample” of violent deaths would show an afflicted 8th house Sun more than some other configuration. There is only one way to find out, but I doubt the answer would be astrologically meaningful. A violent death, or for that matter an accident, and can no more be separated from the totality of the biography than any other life event.

No matter that Elwell has been doing precisely that.

Astrologically it is integral to the case study which, as Allport said, is the final affirmation of the individuality and uniqueness of every personality. Statisticians are uncomfortable with uniqueness, but in this field their techniques of abstraction are apt to create a private and artificial reality.

I have noticed that you dislike differentiations, and that any statement of uniquenness is met with the objection “everybody is like that!” So everybody is a path-carver, although in the real world there are doers and spectators, leaders and followers. The majority would probably define life as something that happens to them, but you announce that “most people would agree that they are master of their fate.” I suspect not, but you’re the researchers, so why not count them. You might start, over coffee, with friends and family, and Kelly is fortunate to have his students to consult. Such assertions leave me wondering about your powers of observation. If you cannot see the obvious you are unlikely to distinguish the more subtle differences between, say, the Aries people you encounter and other signs. Which explains a lot.

Social desirability and the agreement with Barnum statements have been well studied, and the results leave no doubt that most people do agree that they have free will and are masters of their fate, just as most people agree that they have a sense of humour.

It is also true that in the real world events are contingent. Your “large sample” might be the 5,000 people killed in the twin towers. I don’t know whether all their birth charts - or perhaps more importantly their current aspects - were individually indicative or whether they were subsumed under some overarching indicator. Or both. There is only one way to find out. Again, although we may be unique, our life is a circle in a Venn diagram, overlapping other circles to a greater or lesser degree. One person’s violent death will be an identifiable strand in the astrological biographies of others.

My reason for introducing Kennedy’s 8th house Sun was to cast doubt on your after-the-fact objection. My contention is that if the astrological ingredients in a retrospect have been documented in advance (as indeed happened with the significators of combat helmets) they cannot be so easily dismissed, because it shows they have not been invented to fit the special case. I should have welcomed your agreement or disagreement in principle. Clearly, if you had agreed (do pigs fly!) the question of documentation becomes crucial, although the definitive interpretation of such factors may not yet have evolved. You have consulted sundry astrological cookbooks to see if they support the indications I quoted from Robson. In passing I should say that if they all agreed it might point to no more than copying from each other. But what worries me, and not for the first time, is that you wilfully misrepresent the facts, by selecting what suits you.

Predictably you find nothing in your sources to confirm Robson’s indications, which were: “Extravagant marriage partner. Honour after marriage. Fame at or after death. Danger of death in middle life. If afflicted, violent death.” Yet in a capsule interpretion in Leo’s The Horoscope in Detail I find: “Gain or honour through marriage or partnership. Some danger of death in middle life.” I glean from Llewellyn George’s book that there may be gain by marriage, that fame often comes at death, that about the 45th year may be critical, and that the partner is apt to be extravagant. Among other pertinent remarks, March and McEvers mention an extravagant partner.

Yet you say (footnote 2) the description in these sources is in terms of legacies, mysticism, and an interest in sex. Gentlemen, you bring scholarship into disrepute.

The focus of Elwell’s interest is premature death, which is not consistent with a non-afflicted sun in 8th (and Venus and Jupiter) regardless of side issues of wifely extravagance. Also, what March and McEvers actually say is “With challenging aspects, you could have financial trouble, either through mismanagement or an extravagant partner.” So it needs more than Sun in 8th.

I fear you will have no sympathy with what I am about to say, and no willingness to understand, but it may interest others.

It is a mistake to assume that the astrological is all the time expressing itself equally everywhere. The process is not mechanical, and I have already mentioned the take-up factor. There are reasons why some people’s lives express the cosmic more vividly than others, which is inconvenient if you are thinking statistically and giving each individual equal weight.

This of course is precisely the result we would expect if astrology was without validity and relied only on accidental after-the-event matches. It is a point that anyone genuinely interested in resolving issues would now follow up, but Elwell never gives it a second thought. The idea that there could be explanations other than astrological ones is evidently too ridiculous to contemplate. Why? Because his mature judgement says so. Ours is not to reason why but simply to believe without question. Otherwise we are traitors. Simple isn’t it? So much more fun than having to think.

Some lives will express eloquently what is silent in others, or finds only stammering expression. Moreover there are individuals who are destined to stand out as beacons of the Zeitgeist.

What is operating here is something like Gauquelin’s eminence factor, but much more powerfully. Whereas it may be assumed that the Sun, for example, functions equally all the time in everybody, in fact the qualities denoted by the Sun will be evident only to the degree that we attain some position in which we can shine. As we shine more brilliantly the more we become locked into the solar mode, and whatever the Sun signifies in our chart is likely to be enacted more dramatically.

Whatever happened to that “not necessarily” that Elwell was previously so insistent about? In which case how can Elwell be so sure that what he says is actually true?

So when considering the 8th house Sun I would not think statistically, because Mr and Miss Average, keeping their low profile (wisely perhaps!) may not be typical. Besides Kennedy you mention President Truman, another luminary, who became president on the death of Roosevelt, and is remembered for Hiroshima.

You wanted to know if Truman et al had extravagant wives, and were best remembered for their manner of dying. The answer is no, but here again it is advisable for you to revise the logic of Venn circles. A big circle will contain all the possibilities of the 8th house Sun, while its circumference is intersected by the smaller circles of individual lives. Those smaller circles, each overlapping the big circle, may themselves overlap, or they may not.

We saw previously how Elwell had failed to recognise implausibilities uncovered by Venn diagrams. This occasion is no different.

The problem for you in these discussions has always been your unshakeable prejudice, which skews your judgment in whatever direction suits. A final example among many: I mentioned how appropriate it was that President Kennedy should have the Sun in the 8th house, and you retorted that the fit was “negated” by the presence of Venus and Jupiter in the same house, giving a different reading. I think this negating business is something you have made up. But giving you the benefit of the doubt, answer this: “If there is any negating going on, why shouldn’t the Sun be negating Venus and Jupiter?

No we did not make it up. Read again our original comment. As for negating, the sun is not afflicted so it has nothing to negate with. It is like wanting a hot pizza to be negated by an oven.

THE LAST WORD

It seems to me that we have come to the end of our exchanges. It must be the first time in history that an astrologer and sceptics have stood toe to toe and traded blows.

Elwell’s terms are telling. By definition a skeptic, from the Greek skeptikos, is one who looks about, considers, observes. No claim is rejected out of hand, and no conclusion is drawn unless supported by a proper evaluation of the evidence. Skeptics go wherever the facts may lead. According to Elwell, astrologers are different. So they can only go in a different direction, presumably away from the facts — an unflattering description but one that Elwell himself is confirming.

From my side, I believe it has been worth while. Some issues have emerged better defined, yet the gulf between “science” and astrology seems as unbridgeable as ever. Assuming anybody else has been listening, it is for them to decide if their opinions have been changed. Gentlemen, I thank you for your courtesies and forgive the occasional rough treatment, and hope you will do the same.

Elwell’s idea of trading blows seems to involve ignoring questions and never listening. His supposed reason for starting this debate was to tell us how we and the critics were doing it all wrong. So what should we be doing instead? This of course is the crucial question, but Elwell’s 41,000 words have left us none the wiser. Does this reflect a genuine interest in bridging a gulf? We think not.

A genuine interest would get progressively more focussed with a view to mutual consensus, but each new Elwell article ignores these things in favour of raising smokescreens. We came to these exchanges in good faith but were not met in kind. Indeed, his articles are an affront to serious research and to the idea of constructive fair debate. Their only merit is that they provide website visitors with (sadly) a typical example of what serious researchers have to endure, for Elwell is not the first astrologer unable to specify improvements when challenged. But at least we should thank Elwell for so bravely putting ammunition where skeptics can find it, and whose response (if they can stay awake) is likely to be less charitable than ours.

At the end of the day, Elwell has been fairly challenged to specify tests that meet his requirements, and to amend his own approach to include safeguards, but he does not respond. He claims that astrology is everywhere, but cannot specify a single test that would disconfirm it. The reason seems clear: He does not respond because he cannot. He has no idea how to test his ideas. The risk of having his vested interests exposed as delusion is evidently too great.

However, Elwell does promote the “test of experience”. You look at the situation, you look at the chart, you notice the match, and voila, astrology is proven. He is claiming that the match cannot be explained by non-astrological factors. As he is the claimant, he (not us) has to show that his claim is valid by controlling non-astrological factors. But he does not do this. As we have repeatedly stressed, and Elwell has repeatedly ignored, what matters is whether an authentic chart fits the situation better than a control chart. The research to date has found no compelling evidence that this is so, regardless of whether the research is by scientists or astrologers. Elwell disagrees, but since his astrology is beset by non-astrological factors every inch of the way, and since he rejects the use of controls, he has no way of knowing what he is talking about. His 41,000 words count for nothing.

In short, his four articles reduce to bluster 1, utility 0. A pity he did not terminate this waste of time earlier.

Ends

Elwell material is © Elwell, 2001

Foototes:

1: Martin Berzins - Canadian astrologer, who organised the Astrology Hamilton Matching Experiment in the late 80’s (29 correct matches in 42 attempts). He linked to a previous instalment of this dialogue, with the search terms ‘general semantics’ and ‘astrology’.

2: It can be noted here that Elwell is taking issue with a comment in the previous contribution from Dean/Kelly/Mather/Smit, and is disputing their comments about what is and is not said in certain astrological texts by quoting from these sources. Their original comment runs as follows: “Standard works such as Leo, Hone, Davison, George, March & McEvers describe Sun in 8th in terms of legacies, mysticism, and an interest in sex, with the Sun tending to increase vitality and prolong life, unless it is afflicted (which is not the case here) when the spouse may suffer a premature death. Nothing exactly supportive of Robson here.”