Statistics

Gauquelin's Mars effect finding[1]

Statistics is a branch of science or mathematics concerned primarily with the collection, analysis, and interpretation of numerical data. Statisticians gather information on a sample of a population that is too large to be studied in its entirety; and from this smaller collection of data, they draw inferences about the population as a whole. Statisticians often look for correlations or relationships between data sets. Unless one is dealing with invariable scientific laws or an essential definition, most correlations will not hold true 100% of the time, so statisticians have devised methods to determine whether correlations nevertheless are significantly higher than might occur through random chance. The field of statistics includes wide range of methods, ranging from simple counting to highly complex. Each method involves its own set of assumptions, data requirements, and limits as to what conclusions may be safely drawn from the results of its tests. The term "statistics" also refers to numerical data gathered and analyzed on various topics.

Statistical Tests of Astrology

Some astrologers try to verify astrological claims by looking for clear statistical correlations between planetary placements and human behaviour or events on earth. They hope to demonstrate (or sometimes to disprove) an objective basis behind astrology. Non-astrologer sceptics have also used statistical tests to discredit astrology; though not without counter-criticisms by astrologers or other supporters of impartial unbiased research.

Karl Krafft

History

Before World War II, Paul Choisnard (Paul Flambard), and Leon Lasson from France, and Karl Krafft from Switzerland were the first researchers to gather statistical data with which to test the validity of astrology. They separately published surveys with apparently positive results.
Researchers in other countries at that time were Schwab, Klockler (Germany), Carter, Sunley (UK), Bradley, Tobey (USA).
After 1950, devoted astrological researchers were (a.o.) John Addey, Patrick Davis, Michael Munkasey, and Edith Wangemann.

Mars Effect: the Gauquelins' Findings

The psychological statistician Michel Gauquelin, who to this day is considered to be the most significant statistician in astrological studies, and his wife Francoise Gauquelin, in the beginning built on the work of Choisnard-Krafft-Lasson. The Gauquelins were the first to carry out systematic investigations to test the astrological laws. Eventually their data contained many tens of thousands of cases all with birth certificates.

Being social scientists, they initially thought they would disprove the legitimacy of astrology. They constructed hundreds of individuals' natal charts from official French birth records as the basis for their work. Because it would be extremely difficult to identify psychologically meaningful personality traits for such a large sample, they concentrated on finding correlations between their research subjects' planetary placements and chosen profession, as identified through published biographical sketches of notable men. They included doctors, scientists, athletes, writers, actors and military people. Surprisingly, they found that Mars tended to be dominant in the charts of athletes, Jupiter in those of actors, and Saturn in the horoscopes of doctors and scientists. Geoffrey Dean : "These results were consistent with Mars = activity, Jupiter = outward show, Saturn = inner thought, which more or less fitted astrology."[2][3]

Gauquelin concluded that the primary indicator of a planet's dominance was at close proximity to either the ascendant or Medium Coeli, with secondary importance being attributed to planets close to the descendant or Imum Coeli. However, the signature planets for the professions were usually in a cadent house, not in an angular house as professional astrologers would have predicted.

In order to verify his findings Gauquelin also studied the charts of numerous individuals with no particular professional ambitions as a control group, and found that the above mentioned placements were generally absent in their horoscopes. In tests with new (foreign) data his results could be replicated with statistical significance.

Michel Gauquelin

Negative Conclusions

In 1970 Gauquelin's overall conclusion was desillusioning, though: "Every attempt, whether of astrologers or scientists, to produce evidence of the validity of astrological laws has been in vain. It is now quite certain that the signatures in the sky which presided over our births have no power whatever to decide our fates, to affect our hereditary characteristics, or to play any part however humble in the totality of effects, random and otherwise, which form the fabric of our lives and shape our impulses to action."[4] And in 1991, after 45 years of heroic work he stated: "Having collected half a million dates of birth from the most diverse people, I have been able to observe that the majority of the elements in a horoscope seem not to possess any of the influences which have been attributed to them."[5]
Dean's summary of Gauquelin's findings is negative, too. In his view astrological "signs and aspects are without useful effect. That is, they do not mean what astrology books say they mean." On one side, Gauquelin's results "are replicable and highly significant, typically p=0.0001 for sample sizes around N=2000. But significance levels tell us little about how big an effect is. As N increases, even the most trivial effect will eventually reach astonishing significance. Gauquelin's hit rate of around 52% is of no practical use."[2] In 2000 he had already said that artifacts can explain the Gauquelins' results: "Planetary effects have tiny effect sizes, and it does not need much of an artifact to produce a tiny effect size."[6]

Studies Following

Other social scientist have used Gauquelin's work as the basis for further investigations, including the psychology professors Suitbert Ertel and Hans Eysenck, and Peter Niehenke. Ertel studied planetary placements in relation to the sex of the individual, whereas Gauquelin, with his study of eminent people dating back to the 19th century, usually referred to the horoscopes of men. Ertel concluded that women needed to be more self-assertive to succeed in professions traditionally considered to be the domain of men.

Towards the end of the 1990s, a study by Gunter Sachs in association with the University of Munich caused a stir. He explored whether it would be statistically possible to prove a correlation between typical behavioural patterns and individual star signs (sun sign) in English-language astrology.) Sachs came to the conclusion that an individual's sign had a significant influence on their choice of partner. Sachs: "At the end of our work, after the computer analysis of millions of data, there appears to be statistical proof that of all the possible influences we studied a person's star sign does have a measurable effect on their behaviour." Astrologers nevertheless criticized the study for only taking the sun sign into account.

Continuing Controversy

Peter Niehenke came to the conclusion that it is virtually impossible to affirm astrology through statistical studies. To date, the usefulness, value, interpretation, and methods of statistical studies of astrological data remain a topic of debate. For every study that seemingly supports or refutes the objective legitimacy of astrology, both astrologers and sceptics are liable to criticize its methodology. Richard Vetter is strictly opposed to statistical testings and validations of astrology. He states: Because of its quantitative view of numbers statistics are most inadequate to test the truth of astrology. The primary supposition of statistics - that accidental distributions are present everywhere - is fundamentally opposed to the astrological conception. ... In statistics particularities are systematically excluded and eliminated. In statistical testing all the things that are unique and special will fall outside of the table - though, in astrology´s view, individuality is the world´s central building-stone.[7]

Anyway, studies carried out so far have not managed to lessen scientists' scepticism of astrology, nor convince the more humanities- or spiritually-oriented astrologers of the applicability of statistics to their work. Perhaps the problem is that statistical analysis only confirms those things that allow themselves to be confirmed using this method of analysis.

Avoidable or not?

Bibliography

• Shawn Carlson (1985): A Double-blind Test of Astrology Nature, 318: pp.419-425
• Currey, Robert, 2011. U-turn in Carlson's Astrology Test?, in: Correlation 27 (2): 7-33
• Ertel, Suitbert, 2009. Appraisal of Shawn Carlson's Renowned Astrology Tests, in: Journal of Scientific Exploration, 23 (2): 125-137
• Michel Gauquelin (1969). The Scientific Basis for Astrology. Stein and Day Publishers. New York, 1969. Paperback version: National Book Network, 1970 ISBN 0-8128-1350-2
• (1991). Neo-astrology, a Copernican revolution. Arkana. Paperback. 193 Pages. ISBN 0140193189
• Hans Juergen Eysenck & David Nias: Astrology: Science or superstition? 244 pages. Maurice Temple Smith, London 1982 ISBN 978-0851172149

Notes and References

1. Showing the relative frequency of the diurnal position of Mars in the birth charts (N = 570) of "eminent athletes" (red solid line) compared to the expected results
2. Dean, The Gauquelin Work (2008)
3. The athlete phenomenon has come to be known as the "Mars Effect"
4. Michel Gauquelin, Astrology and Science 125,138
5. Michel Gauquelin, Neo-Astrology p.20
6. In: Astrology's Paradigm Considerations XV:4, p.86-96, 2000 online