Monday, February 9, 2009


If you want to evaluate, for example, the intellectual pretensions of astrologers there is a fine way to do it; it essentially adapts the double-blind placebo procedure used in drug research, another celebrated testing methodology. Allow a group of astrologers to agree on a set of character readings based on accurate birth charts. Give these back, shuffled, with identifying information stripped off, to the subjects of the astrological readings. If the subjects can pick out their own readings from character descriptions alone (descriptions created by astrologers on the basis of birth information only, without meeting the subjects in question), then astrology must possess at least some degree of credibility. As it happens, astrology consistently fails such tests: people will choose readings for all sorts of reasons (mainly flattery: "You're a deeply spiritual person who is liked by your friends"), but they can't actually find their own readings consistently better than chance allows in a randomly presented series.

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