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Evolution of claimed evidence for astrology
Seven examples 1850-1908-1933-1936-1951-1958-1976

Abstract -- Debates about astrology are as old as astrology itself. But the procedures and inferential statistics needed to make proper tests did not arrive until after 1900, and the computers needed to apply them on a large scale did not properly arrive until the 1980s. This article looks at how the claimed evidence for astrology evolved up to the 1970s using examples from 1850s astro-meteorology, a 1908 debate between astrologers and astronomers in the magazine English Mechanic, a 1933 debate between astrologers and critics in the UK newspaper Sunday Referee, a 1936 booklet by British astrologer Charles Carter answering objections to astrology, a 1951 letter supporting astrology by Pulitzer Prize winner and science editor John O'Neill, the 1958 founding of the British Astrological Association, and a 1976 response to 186 scientists by science writer and Horoscope book reviewer Mark Feldman. The first example (1850s) shows how science was not yet ready to challenge astrology. The next three examples (1908, 1933 and 1936) show how the failure of critics to try astrology for themselves, plus the failure of astrologers to recognise the unreliability of experience, led to the usual stalemate. The remaining three examples show how speculative physics in 1951 and the AA's founding in 1958, followed by further speculative physics in 1976 and the earliest direct tests, were leading to the start of questions being answered. The above examples are a reminder of how limited our scientific understanding of astrology was up to the 1970s, and of the great advances made since then (as will be evident from the articles on this website under Doing Scientific Research).

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Full article is 67 kB, needs about 9 pages of A4, takes 20 minutes to read, has 5 graphics.