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Four key topics in astrological research
Testability, concepts, theories, reasoning artifacts

A summary of collaborative discourses in Correlation 1994-1999 on four key topics in astrological research, with mention of a fifth key topic (future directions for research) that folded due to lack of interest from astrologers.

Abstract -- This article is a summary of four collaborative discourses totalling 120,000 words and 200 references that attempted to reach consensus on topics in astrology that, despite their importance, had seldom been debated or even recognised. The discourses were prepared in 1994-99 by recycling each draft among astrologers and scientists until consensus was reached. Altogether they involved more than 40 collaborators. Each key topic prepares the ground for the next. (1) Is science relevant to astrology? Yes, but only to those parts testable by observation. (2) Some philosophical problems of astrology. Modern philosophers generally accept astrology as a source of sympathy and support because such astrology does not need to be true (what matters is that we believe it to be true). They reject it as a source of knowledge because such astrology needs to be true (but hundreds of tests have shown it not to be true to the extent claimed by astrologers). (3) Theories of astrology. Theories of how astrology can be genuinely true are either untestable or incompatible with existing knowledge. Theories of how astrology can seem to be true (even if it is actually false) are testable and compatible with existing knowledge. (4) Astrology and human judgement. Like everyone else, astrologers are subject to unsuspected (because largely invisible) artifacts and biasses in their judgements that can make astrology seem to be true even if it is actually false. Because artifacts in reasoning go undetected, astrologers are unlikely to learn from experience. The claim that astrologers proudly and repeatedly make, that astrology is unassailable because it is experience-based, is simply mistaken -- what they see as its strength is actually its weakness. A fifth key topic (5) Future directions for research folded due to lack of interest from astrologers. The idea was that research would be more productive if it focussed on improving the benefits obtainable from an actually false astrology, in the same way that we can improve the benefits obtainable from fake psychics. The point is, astrology offers emotional comfort, spiritual support, and interesting ideas to stimulate self-examination. There is more to astrology than being true or false.

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