Tuesday, January 18, 2011

AA Response to Anti-Astrology Propaganda

Sign the AA Petition
The Association is at present collecting the names and email addresses of all those who wish to make known their objections to the misrepresentation of astrology by astronomers specific to the BBC programme Stargazing Live. The Association will be requesting that the BBC make a public apology and a statement that they do not support the personal views of Professor Brian Cox or Dara O'Briain on the subject of astrology. We also request that the BBC commit to making a fair and balanced representation of astrology when aired in the futurel


  1. Thanks for setting up this site in response to the frustration we all feel. I hope to come back and post some personal comment later, but just wanted to say that I'll be adding links to your pages from Skyscript and my Facebook page, encouraging the astrologers I know to support you in your actions.

    Thanks for taking a stabnd on this,
    Deb Houlding

  2. how do we sign the petition? I'd like to add my name - lizzievee@hotmail.com

  3. Thanks Deborah

    Please everyone share your thoughts here.

    What was announced on the BBC by Cox and O'Briain is outrageous and frustrating for astrologers. It is important we make a stand and the more support a complaint has, the more serious the BBC will have to take it. Thanks to all those who lend their support.

    Wendy Stacey

  4. Hi Lizzie,
    Please go to www.astrologicalassociation.com/pages/bbc/submit.php
    you can enter your name there and submit it. You will receive a confirmation email and your name will be written to a text file that stores the names of everyone who signs electronically

    Thanks for this


  5. Comment from Roy Gillett re: further misrepresentations of astrolgoy

    Recently a group of astronomers in Minnesota, USA have received much publicity by announcing that many people have different Sun Signs and other planetary positions due to the precession of the equinoxes. Below is a brief explanation of the main facts that show astrologers have always known this information and how they use it.

    To study the heavens from the Earth, we project from the Earth to infinty to form a Celestrial Sphere. This is divided into twelve segments like the pieces of an orange. These are the signs of the zodiac named after the constellations of the star groups nearest to them at the time of the tropical zodiac's origin. However, this system is not saying the star groups themselves "do anything", they are just used for naming. It is the elements of the frame projected from the Earth that makes the important differences. These are the signs of the zodiac that astrologers refer to.

    If the Earth was perpendicular on its axis, these would always stay the same each year. Because it is tilted, the actual sign appears to move backwards making a complete cycle in nearly 26,000 years, staying in each sign for approximaltely 2,160 years.

    Indian astrologers make yearly adjustments to allow for this. Most western astrologers do not. Both methods are valid, because in a fundamental sense, each year the Earth is in the same relation to the heavens as whole, it is just our perspective that is subtlely adjusting. (Compare using mirrors to make an object appear invisible.)

    Most astrologers use this discrepency between the Tropical (fixed) and Sidereal (changing) zodiacs to explain epoch changes. EG The Classical Age of Aries (Aries appeared as Aries), the Christian Age of Pisces (Aries appeared as Pisces) from the 3rd century CE and the approaching age of Aquarius (Aries will appear as Aquarius) in the coming centuries.

    Deborah Houlding has written a brilliant answer to both the Minnesota and Cox criticisms. We encourage you to visit her website. Also pass the link on to as many people as you can. It really does put the distortions of those who claim to be experts in the perspective. Astrologers, it seems, are the people who really know how this part of the heavens work.

  6. I was just pondering today how both Brian Cox and Dara O’Briain both have names that are similar to the word ‘brain’ – but not quite. Just an observation.

    Frances, it’s great that you’ve put the word document on the petition page to use as a template for complaints - I used it today but ended up changing the text into a 5-page letter of complaint, outlining a number of reasons why their comments were unfair and misrepresentative, so it will be interesting to see what they come back with. Have cc-d a copy to the AA council.

    One suggestion I have (another one, sorry …!!) is whether there could be a link on the petition page to this related blog page, and from this blog page back to the petition page. That would be really useful if it could be done.

    And just to let you know, I have personally received quite a few emails from astrologers, thanking me for covering the prejudice of the BBC in the article I published on Skyscript and stating that they are so pleased to be able to support your petition. It’s obvious that a lot of astrologers feel very insulted by what’s been taking place, and there’s a strong sense of satisfaction that the AA are taking this so seriously and acting as it is on behalf of us all.

    Thanks for all your hard work!

  7. Thanks for the suggestion Deb. There are now links to the Petition page from the post

  8. Good to see astrologers working together like this.

    Where can we see the offending programme.


  9. Hi AA, recently Psychologies Magazine published a poorly researched,one sided trigger happy piece on horoscopes. I blasted them off a letter, outlining the complexity and depth of psychological astrology (I thought this would appeal more given their readership),the training that goes into being an astrology, the marriage of alchemy and astrology, Jung and so on. they very kindly published a few sentences (mostly attributed to Jung rather than myself. One small step...Linda Bermingham.

  10. How interesting that Dara NO'Brain has mentioned the AA petition on his Twitter page, encouraging his Twits to spoil it with spurious entries. I hope this hasn't caused too much trouble to you Frances; at least we can see that its put him on the backfoot.

  11. Thanks Deb. There are have been numerous hoax signatures to the petition and a few attempts at offensive posts here. Quite honestly, they are so infantile that they just play into our hands. If the BBC are monitoring the tweets of the people they employ, they must feel quite embarassed now.

  12. More BBC prejudice from the web: On October 29 2010 BBC astronomy presenter Mark Thompson pointed out the reasons why the very basis of astrology is out of whack:

    "Taking the concept of the signs of the zodiac, I was born in July which means that when I was born the sun was in Cancer. Wrong again. Originally yes, the sun would have been in Cancer when the star/sun charts were produced about 2000 years ago. But in reality, the wobble of the Earth on its axis -- which we call "precession" -- has led to them being all out of sync.

    In fact, when I was born, way back in July 1973, the Sun was in Gemini. News Flash: you're all reading the wrong star signs! All those astrology columns you've read that seemed spot-on were a fluke. Surprising eh?"

    Can someone confirm if this ran on the BBC or independently of it?

  13. Trouble is that here, in this forum, you are preaching to the converted. Surely there should be a system through the AA or other groups where we insist on the right to reply - it has worked with the Pagan Federation but there has been a lot of hard work. Instead of trying to prove that astrology works to sneery scientists, surely the way to go is to try and get them into a rational argument as to how they can prove it doesn't.
    Surely it is better to say that we are happy that it works because we have studied it and worked with it, they are the ones baking the outrageous sweeping comments, let them prove that it is a load of old tosh, not by opinion but by studying it and working with it.
    Does the AA not have a media officer who is responsible for this?

  14. Read Peter Sissons take on the BBC in todays Daily Mail. Thought provoking to say the least. It tells you all you need to know about BBC's mindset. Seems a few big wigs "upstairs" tell everyone else what to think, say, and do. How very unhealthy! A good outcome would be more transparency following his disclosures, but I am not holding my breath !!!!

  15. Jessica, thank you for posting.
    You seem to be confusing the constellations with the tropical zodiac used by the majority of Western astrologers. For an explanation of what the Sun in Cancer means in astronomical terms can I refer you to the Skyscript website:
    The concept of the precession of the equinoxes is well know to astrologers since ancient times.

  16. The pervious comment is signed anonymous, as I have fallen foul of my inability to faff around with URLs and the like. My name was considered by your in house Martian as "illegal!
    Signed Aannabel Herriott (not illegal!)

  17. Sorry about that Aannabel, and thanks for introducing yourself

  18. Mary, you make a very good point. I will pass this suggestion to the rest of the council at the next council meeting
    Thank You

  19. The BBC has done it again! Friday night (21st Jan 11) on QI, they were looking at the hand writing of the 4 contestants and at the end of this topic Steven Fry stated that graphology is rubbish along with astrology. (Sorry, I don’t have the actual quote) They had not been talking about astrology at all, but he just added in this unfair statement.

  20. I do not know what O'Brain said about astrology, but everything Brian Cox said was factually accurate and correct, so I don't know why you're complaining.

  21. You're legally required to state that any astrological "readings" are for entertainment purposes only... and with good reason.

    I'm sorry if you feel you're being victimised, but petitioning for fair and balanced treatment of astrology is effectively asking the BBC to ensure that Brian Cox et al continue to deride astrology as nonsense, as that is the fair and balanced scientific position on astrology. I wonder if we should petition the BBC to be kinder to flat-earthers too?... No? I thought not.

  22. Astrology has give us a great starting point for our observations of the stars. It was seen as very meaningful for generations of people, like consulting oracles, examining animal entrails and prayer.
    Gradually many people have turned to a more rational, scientific and testable series of rules and ideas, as opposed to the 'non-science' (sic) ones. Like homeopathy, graphology, acupuncture, chiropractic, etc, astrology will always interest certain people, but please look at the evidence - they are all unproven at best.
    Science knows it doesn't have all the answers and there are mysteries in the world still, but please try not to waste other people's time with what will be a pointless petition. It might make your members feel better, but I would put money on the fact that the BBC will not even give you the time of day. Good luck anyway!

  23. Mike, thank you for posting.
    However I have to argue with your statement that the scientific position on astrology is fair and balanced. I would like to quote Dr. H. J. Eysenck from his book 'Astrology: Science or Superstition?'.
    Referring to the experiments carried out by scientist on the validity of astrological claims, particularly the work of the Gauquelins, he states, 'We have come to the definite conclusion that the critics have often behavied in an irrational and scientifically unusual manner, violating principles they themselves have laid down, failing to adhere to their own rules, failing to consult the Gauquelins on details of tests to be carried out, or failing to inform them of vital points of the results.... We do not feel the 'scientific' community emerges with any great credit from these encounters.'

  24. Another instance: Stephen Fry on QI last night stated clearly his view that both graphology and astrology were worthless. The insiduous and unacceptable nature of both this and Brian Cox's remarks is that they assume that everyone agrees with them. And to anonymous: astrology is a symbolic system of interpretation, and therefore not provable in the sense you mean. The symbolic imagination is of another order entirely to that of scientific method.

  25. If you can't prove anything about astrology then it is on a par with religion and homeopathy. You are perfectly entitled to believe in it, but don't try and make any claims that it is true. It's value is purely in entertainment, but has no other practical value. Why has it no practical value? Well, unlike scientific theories, you cannot predict anything because you have nothing that can be prove or disproved. That's why real science has value and this has been demonstrated by all the things you use in everyday life: cars, computers, medicines (not homeopathic ones) and surgical procedures.

    Brian Cox has every right to make the comments he did. I applaud him for doing it so publicly.

  26. 'Anonymous' ought to realize that it is only media misrepresentation which makes him/her believe that “everything Brian Cox said was factually accurate and correct”. The point of complaint in my letter to the BBC was that the pertinent demonstration was deliberately misleading, intentional false and astronomically incorrect information. But if this person does not even know what Dara O'Briain said then how can they possibly know that "everything Brian Cox said was factually accurate and correct" since Dara O'Briain's comments were central to the coverage(?) Obviously this person is not posting from any kind of open-minded or informed position.
    Some of these new 'anonymous' posters are missing the point that the program presented prejudiced and inaccurate information. I believe that everyone has the right to freedom of speech, but I also believe that supposedly demonstrated arguments delivered on the BBC ought to have some element of fact within them.

  27. Presumably none of you are saying that Cox and Dara shouldnt have their own opinion on this issue? In which case why cant they host shows where they present these opinions? Everything is someones opinion and if you had to present a balanced argument everytime you discussed an issue such as astrology then television would become tediously dull. Opinions are there to make you think, question and investigate further. Not to be supressed, the BBC is not there to make everyone happy, it is there to entertain and challenge

  28. Thank you for the post James. One of the petition's requests is that the BBC make a statement that these views were just the views of Cox and O'Briain.

  29. To Everyone who wishes to post:
    From here on I am not publishing anonymous posts. Please leave your name. In addition, because of the number of posts we are receiving on both sides of these arguments, I am not posting anything that is simply repeating what has already been said. We welcome informed argument but abuse or unsubstantiated claims and sweeping statements will not be published

  30. "the program presented prejudiced and inaccurate information"

    What exactly was prejudiced or inaccurate?

  31. But surely Frances that is completely unecessary, from the mere fact that they spoke the words it should be clear to anyone that it is their opinion and not necessarily fact. It comes down to the viewer having the intelligence and inclination to question this and form their own opinion.

  32. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  33. "We welcome informed argument but abuse or unsubstantiated claims and sweeping statements will not be published "

    This is ironic. Astrology is entirely about unsubstantiated claims ans sweeping arguments. And the Ad Hom approach towards Dara O'Brain has been interesting.

    More than a whiff of hypocrisy I think.

    Now, will they have the courage to publish this?

    BTW, my name is David

  34. David, have you ever spoken to a real astrologer or are you assuming you understand astrology based on the reading of sun sign columns? Most of the abusive emails I have received make it clear that their authors know nothing about the subject they feel they have a right to insult in such an offensive and aggressive manner. Many make reference to gravitational effect. I don't know any astrologer who believes gravitational effect has a role in astrology. I am not saying people can't decide they do not believe in astrology. However to make conclusions about a subject they have never studied or observed, let alone understood is not exactly in keeping with the scientific method they claim to revere. And let me also say, the vast majority of astrologers do not claim that astrology is a science. However some of us believe that the world of science has its place but also its limits. To fanatically cling to the notion that anything outside of the current scientific world view is not valid, is short-sighted.

  35. James, to answer your question:
    The Agreement that accompanies the BBC Charter requires in Section 44 - Accuracy and impartiality that
    (1) "The BBC must do all it can to ensure that controversial subjects are treated with due accuracy and impartiality in all relevant output”

  36. Astrology is controversial then? I thought it was just made up nonsense.

    In fact, I know a guy who used to make up horoscopes. He didn't even get paid for it, he just did it to help out his girlfriend who also had to make up the crossword.

    The history of astronomy is obviously to be found in astrology. But then the history of chemistry is deeply connected to alchemy, but no one is seriously suggesting living your life by ancient alchemical laws. I would mock anyone who did in the same way that I mock those who follow astrology. I value dearly the right to offend people (we call this "free speech"), and I'm sure Dara, Brian and the BBC do too.

    My name is Liz, by the way. I'm a Virgo. I have intestinal problems, but that might be more to do with the massive meal I just ate, rather than the look of the heavens when I was born 33 years ago.

  37. Unbelievable that people should think that someone just sat down and ‘made up’ astrology, rather than understanding it as part of the story of the development of science, culture and civilisation. As a fringe group, astrologers care deeply about freedom of speech, but what essential difference is there between Liz’s fight for the right to be offensive (or not), and the AA’s request for astrology not to be the subject of misrepresentation?

    Accurate reporting is important to anyone who has a genuine, objective love of truth. I am happy for anyone to say that, in their opinion, astrology is a load of twaddle. That’s just a personal opinion and we all have them. I am also happy for people to laugh at astrology, if they wish, because there are elements of the modern media-presentation of the subject that call for a sense of humour. What is not acceptable, is to have a BBC science program introduce the subject of astrology for no reason; then introduce (and demonstrate) a completely incorrect account of how astrologers are supposed to conceive of the Cosmos. And then, on the basis of that factual inaccuracy alone, claim that any argument in favour of astrology has now been proven to be rubbish. And then underline that false reasoning again, and again. Media representatives simply need to get their facts right, or allow for an opportunity for correction. Or they should steer clear of contriving opportunities to introduce their bias towards topics that are not part of the advertised theme of the program, and which they clearly are not qualified to discuss.

    Astrology is rubbish for what reason now? Oh, because Liz with the intestinal problems knows a guy who used to make up horoscopes.

    Sorry Frances, but this is my last post on this thread until it stops being the vehicle for uninformed bias that it has become since Dara O'Briain used his 300,000 Twitter page following to encourage disruption to the AA’s poll and whip up a frenzy of anti-astrology scorn. A demonstration of why he has no real objectivity, concern for truth, or desire for any kind of freedom of speech except his own.

  38. To Macspider,
    David, I have recieved your post but I am not publishing it. The points you raise have already been dealt with either in earlier posts or in links to the Skyscript website.
    As I mentioned earlier and as Deb pointed out, we are not prepared to keep answering the same questions again and again. Please use the posts above and the links to inform yourself on what astrology is about and what our objections are to the comments made on the BBC.

  39. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  40. I find it hard to believe that Brian Cox is qualified to be a professor.

    Technically, he probably is and I don't doubt his IQ, but I do question his level of human understanding. Has he room for other people and not just his own oppinion?

    If they were unknown people, I wouldn't worry but Dara O'Briain and Brian Cox are very well-known on tele. How can Cox and O'Briain riducule astrology, and then when an organization wishes to complain, they use their position to encourage the mob (Twitter followers + more) to harrass the AA website?

    O'Briain may be a comedian, but Cox is not acting in a professor-like or professional manner

    My name is Poul Madsen, Denmark

  41. I have just been sent a quote from the book 'Why does e=M22? (2009) which Professor Brian Cox co-authored (with J Forshaw), stating, "It is worth remembering not only that scientific hubris has often been shown to be folly in the past, but also that the perception that we somehow know enough, or even all there is to know, about the workings of nature has been and will probably always be damaging to the human spirit."


    Wendy Stacey

  42. Just putting a toe in the water here...
    Much as the ignorance of Cox and O'Briein (or however he spells it) causes me to become incandescent at times, I wonder if there aren't a couple of points we may be missing here? One is the "what is astrology?" question e.g. is it divination (pace Cornelius and friends).
    On the other hand the media (not just the Beeb) can be given to a bit of social manipulation at times. In context, I had the distinct impression that Dara and Brian were basically putting across some propaganda to the effect of "Lets not worry about all those end of the world type Mayan predictions for 2012!".
    What are the official, bite sized and agreed AA responses to "What is astrology?" and "The end of the world is nigh in 2012!"??
    Janet Saunders

  43. Alright, so we can all agree that my star sign no longer has anything to do with the actual position of the sun when I was born. And we can all agree that it's not the gravitational pull of the stars and planets that influence me and my life. Could anyone then tell me what the actual mechanism is through which astrology is supposed to work? In one or two sentences? To me it seems obvious that there is no way that astrology *can* work, but I'm willing to learn.

  44. So, to be clear, you're complaining that Dara O'Briain's comment "Let's get this straight once and for all, Astrology is rubbish" and Brian Cox's "in the interests of balance on the BBC, yes astrology is nonsense" are misrepresentations of astrology?

    There is no mechanism known by which celestial bodies could influence people in the ways predicted by astrology (a gravitational effect would be dominated by the moon, electro-magnetic would be dominated by the sun, and the other two known forces are essentially irrelevant at anything larger than sub-atomic scales. Reference: Phil Plait's Bad Astronomy: Misconceptions: Astrology) This same link describes why an unknown force that behaves in a way similar to known forces could not explain astrological predictions.

    In addition, "A large-scale test of persons born less than five minutes apart found no hint of the similarities predicted by astrology. Meta-analysis of more than forty controlled studies suggests that astrologers are unable to perform significantly
    better than chance even on the more basic tasks such as predicting extraversion." (Source: Is Astrology Relevant to Consciousness and Psi? by Geoffrey Dean & Ivan Kelly.)

    And Phil Plait reports (Phil Plait's Bad Astronomy: Misconceptions: Astrology) an experiment in which horoscopes were produced for each member of a group of students, who were asked to rate the accuracy of those horoscopes. Almost all of the students rated those horoscopes as highly accurate, despite the fact that they had all been given exactly the same horoscope.

    In short, there is no known mechanism by which astrology could work, and experiments show no predictive power for astrology.

    It seems to me that it is perfectly accurate (i.e. not a misrepresentation) to describe something which does not work and cannot work as "rubbish" or "nonsense". So, what's the basis for your complaint to the BBC?

  45. Deborah Houlding wrote:

    "Why must there be 12 divisions and not 13? Because the zodiac was purposefully created as a precise astronomical measuring device, to allow mathematical definition of the annual circuit of the Sun, [...] divides the Sun's annual apparent circuit into twelve exact and equal divisions [...]"

    Essentially it says "there are 12 signs because we divide it into 12 equal parts."

    So the actual constellations in those positions have no effect, is that right? Because if they had effect, then Ophiuchus would have to be included in your calculations. If the 12 signs of the zodiac are merely a shorthand to represent a specific amount of Right Ascension, then whence comes all the talk about the stars influencing your life? Why 12, if 12 is unrelated to the actual presence or absence of stars at any of those co-ordinates?

    Angela Cornish wrote: "I was furious with indignation [at the implication] that Astrologers do not know their basic astronomy and that the planets all orbit at different speeds - what an insult to our intelligence."

    Dear Angela ... No. They weren't insulting you, they were insulting astrology. Please read for comprehension. They didn't say anything about astrologers' understanding of planetary orbits, they merely pointed out that the pseudoscience of astrology is nonsense.

    Deborah Houlding compounds this logical error with "Why does the BBC allow (evidently encourage) this disgraceful misrepresentation". Nothing has been misrepresented. If you think astrology is anything other than complete nonsense, please post your evidence. Something more compelling than "there are 12 signs because there have always been 12 signs", please. You could start with an exact definition of astrology - if, as above, the actual stars in the constellations are of no account then please clarify this, and if that is the case then on what basis do different signs of the zodiac have different effects?

    Also if the planets of the solar system have such a big effect on people, then how come no astrologer noticed the gravitational effects of Neptune on your charts before astronomers found the planet?

  46. ''If they were unknown people, I wouldn't worry but Dara O'Briain and Brian Cox are very well-known on tele. How can Cox and O'Briain riducule astrology, and then when an organization wishes to complain, they use their position to encourage the mob (Twitter followers + more) to harrass the AA website?''

    This is the problem! If they were unknown people with an opinion - or celebrities at home etc - then freedom of speech defends their right to be baffoons. But when it comes to celebrity comments, being aired on TV, to get one point made and another point ridiculed; well then, where is the justice in that? It's propaganda and should be defended at all costs. The cause is pure & true. Never mind the fact that the 'proffessor's' demonstration was factually incorrect!!!

  47. Andrew and Nick Andrew,
    I'm assuming you are two different people, but both of you refer to gravitational effect. Please read my comments above. Astrologers do not believe that the planets have gravitational effect.
    Nick Andrew asks for a definition of astrology and an explanation of some of its mechanics. This thread is not intended to teach astrology. If I believed your interest to be genuine I would suggest various places where you can learn as much as you would like about astrology. However I fear that you have already decided that astrology could not valid without really knowing what astrology is.

    Despite my statement above that I would not publish posts that clearly had not read the rest of the thread, I have published both of your posts because of their methodical nature, and unlike most of the posts from the science side of the science vs astrology debate, they contained no abuse or obscenity

    Andrew, once again, astrology does not claim to be a science. Some astrologers in the past have wished to present it as such, but as you point out, it does not do well in these type of tests. We all know this, we are not arguing against this. If you are genuinely interested in this area, I recommend you read "Astrology: Science or Superstition", by H. J. Eysenck and D. K. B. Nias. I assume you consider them reliable sources. What they say may surpise you.

  48. I have been an astrologer over 30 years and for all that time I have known that science has a bias against our art, (which is why I never call it a science). I have signed the petition but really am aware that whilst we are still complaining that we are being hard done and insulted to and trying to justify to those that think they know it's rubbish we are going to be on the back foot all the time.

    They will always have a clever answer. It is cool within scientific circle to 'dis' the non-tangible and they are liable to get trotted out again and again on chat shows to spout their ill informed opinion. They will not listen to our arguments because they don't want to - it is not in their interests and by complaining we are giving them another lucrative career.

    WE know it works because if you are like me and work with clients and can tell them what is happening in their life just by looking at the chart, we don't need to prove it to anyone else and we aren't evangelising to get clients. If it didn't work they wouldn't keep coming back.

    Why don't we change tack, ssnd the petition but don't expect a positive response and stop making excuses or trying to explain. The'I have studied it, you have not' phrase works perfectly well to me and when they start spouting about studies say that you are perfectly well aware that the way a hypothesis is written can have an outcome on the results and that when they come up with a study using REAL astrology then they are in a position to argue.

  49. Hi Frances,

    It strikes me that reading through all these posts you have on several occasions said 'astrology does not claim to be a science' yet for some reason you want it to be discussed 'fairly' on a science program.

    The reason you have attracted so many anti-Astrology comments to your web site is that your petion has effectively asked for Astrology to be compared with Astronomy when you know the two cannot be reconciled.

    The nature of personal belief and rational enquiry are quite different and as such Astrology has no place in a scientific program, just as religious programming is not subject to scientifc challenge.

    Having said that, it's clear that Brian Cox and Dara O'Briain were being deliberately provocative, probably a result of your complaints about the previous Wonders show. You're best just to keep out of it to be honest.

    Daniel Norton

  50. Hi Daniel,
    We are not asking for astrology to be discussed on any programme at all. We are asking for it not to be misrepresented. Neither are we asking for any comparisons. Asking for it to be treated fairly, in this case, means finding out what it is about before making statements. Cox claimed that the precession of the equinox undermines astrology as he assumed the constellations were the basis of the astrolgical chart. This is factually incorrect. To then claim that 'astrology is rubbish', based on this, is not acceptable.

    When a scientist makes a statement it is usual to back it up from an expert in the field. Thus Brian Cox's behaviour is unprofessional and a poor application of the scientific method.

    You may be right about Cox and O'Briain being procovative. Their behaviour since then, particularly O'Briain's leaves much to be desired.

  51. Hi Jacco

    Good question. It's to do with symbolic correspondences and synchronicities underpinned by philosophical ideas found amongst Neo Platonists. Hermeticists, Archetypal Psychologists etc. We aren't talking about causation here, in a mechanical scientific sense. I'm a hard nosed radical materialist with a serious and long term interest in the subject.


  52. For Daniel Norton,

    You say, '...it's clear that Brian Cox and Dara O'Briain were being deliberately provocative, probably a result of your complaints about the previous Wonders show. You're best just to keep out of it to be honest'.

    I agree entirely with your first sentence and beleive that the BBC have deliberately ensured and probably taken great amusement at these statements being aired repeatedly. Thank you for acknowledging this propaganda. I assume your last sentence is not a threat but I am unclear why you would expect anyone to 'keep out of it' when all we wish to do is make a peaceful protest and exert our democratic right to object, particularly as you have pointed out - when the motives behind these statements are so transparent.

    Wendy Stacey

  53. What always amuses and riles me the most about this debate is the fact that every person I have ever heard denigrating astrology actually knows nothing about the subject. In my opinion, newspaper horoscopes have probably done more harm to astrology than anything else, because people read them and assume that's all astrology is. Claiming a horoscope is a fair representation of astrology is like claiming a Christmas cracker joke is a fair representation of comedy (perhaps an analogy Dara O'Briain might grasp?).

    I wouldn't declare quantum mechanics to be nonsense simply because I don't understand it. I wouldn't even consider debating it if I knew nothing whatsoever about the subject. Why, then, do people assume they can both dismiss and debate astrology when their ignorance of the subject is so blatantly obvious?

    For the record, I love science. It fascinates me beyond anything else. And it really frustrates me when so-called scientists dismiss topics that, as yet, have no definite scientific explanation. Where would science be today if everything that was unexplained was dismissed as nonsense? I can clearly see the sun going around the earth. Should I call astronomy nonsense when it tells me that's not how the solar system works?

  54. Well I have just read the link to the Guardian. It's got people talking, mostly saying it's rubbish but then they would wouldn't they? No rational argument - just rubbish. Should we not treat it with the contempt it all deserves and remember there is no such thing as bad publicity. We have weathered James Randi and will weather the Cox/O'Briein totally unscientific comments. AStrology has been around too long and proved itself to too many people to be dismissed out of hand, and this is what worries the (non)scientific community enough to keep on ramming the point home. What's the saying - 'Methinks the gentlemen protesteth too much'

  55. Hi Frances,

    Thanks for the response (and for the book recommendation, although it appears to be rather tricky to get hold of.)

    If I may, I'd like to follow up on your (and others') statement that astrology isn't a science and so shouldn't/can't be subjected to scientific-style analysis.

    Is it reasonable to say that astrology makes predictions about the future? If so, then those predications can be tested to see how accurate they are - at a simple level by comparing the prediction with actual events, for example. (And this is, of course, true of any form of prediction, regardless of how scientific the method of making the prediction is said to be.)

    And by looking at the results of large numbers of predictions, one can answer questions such as "how accurate are a particular astrologer's predictions?" or "how accurate are astrological predictions as a whole?" And if the answer to those questions is that they are significantly better than chance, then there is something going on, and whether or not there is scientific explanation for that "something", it is an effect that can and should be studied.

    I imagine that you will counter that you know astrology doesn't stand up to this kind of test, because it's not a science. But my point is, it doesn't matter whether or not a method of making predictions is scientific, you can use the same methods to look at whether those predictions are accurate. (For example, one could test how accurate a horse-racing tipster is, or a strategy for playing poker, or the prediction "I think that Fred will send me lots of links to YouTube videos of cats being cute". None of which are particularly scientific. (And then you're RickRolled by Fred.))

    On another point, I suspect that part of why you've attracted quite a bit of heat about this (including, from what you say, childish behaviour like submitting nonsense names to your petition) is that, at first glance it looks like an attempt to tackle critics by shutting them down (and there've been quite a few of those recently), rather than by engaging in debate. Obviously, a complaint to the BBC Trust is less serious than suing someone, and clearly you are engaging in debate here, but it does have a "here we go again" feel to it.

  56. Hi Andrew,
    Astrology: Science or Superstition? is available from amazon.co.uk. I just checked and they have second-hand versions from £0.01.

    Thank you for the key points you made in your last post. This is exactly the kind of discussion we would welcome. To engage in it properly and devise appropriate ways of investigation, it is vital that the exact nature of astrology, and the claims about what it can and cannot do, are considered fully. Hence further study is needed on all sides.
    The reason for our petition is that Prof. Cox on three high profile occasions (March and November 2010) and January 2011 - see
    has suggested that astrology (which he does not define) is so stupid that it is not even worthy to answer his criticisms. He is actually claiming the right to be heard unanswered (because he is a scientist). While we respect Prof Cox's knowledge, we feel such hubris is going dangerously too far. Do watch the extracts and, if you agree, sign the petition, so we can get down to the debate that you are asking for.

  57. For the record, and because I expect the points to get lost in the flood of emotive prejudice that Martin Robbin’s distorted ‘Guardian report’ has generated amongst his repondees, I am posting below a copy of my most recent comment on that page:
    [PGUK] ... takes me back to my original point. Yes the language of Cox and O'Briain when describing astrology was not that of scientist but flippant entertainers.

    As so many have pointed out, their credentials (Cox’s in particular though O’Briain’s training as a physicist keeps getting mention) gave them the apparent authority to speak as presenters of factual information.

    [PGUK] … the only problem is their program was designed to popularise science and be entertaining and not be dry and scientific.

    Not so long ago the TV program ‘On the buses’ was considered entertaining, and many couldn’t recognize at the time why it was perpetuating intolerance by building the comedy upon prejudice. It’s only because people fought for a fairer policy that we can watch clips now and realise how distasteful and inappropriate the humour was. ‘To be strictly scientific’ all the BBC need to do is stick to the advertised theme of the programme, and make their own subject entertaining whilst also being factually correct and free of bigotry. But it is obvious that the subject of astrology was targeted by design, and deliberately set up with false information, purely to demonstrate the BBC’s desire to stick two fingers up to the existing complaint about misrepresentation on earlier programmes. That’s why the phrase ‘in the interests of balance on the BBC’ was used, to stick those fingers right up in the air as far as they could go.

    Someone made the point earlier: why should Dara O’Briain, who is a subject of the complaint, be allowed to prejudice the complaint before it gets considered? And why is it OK for him to encourage the destruction of the petition that is legitimately calling for support to get the complaint properly handled? Brian Cox has done the same, by showing his endorsement of repeated twitter feeds, which illustrate visual proof of the petition being sabotaged, showing how he condones it. The very sincere (non-celebrity) individual who volunteers her limited free time to help the Astrological Association collect that poll, has not only had to spend endless hours sorting out the spurious data, but has also had to deal with the emotional disturbance of having her private email address hunted down, and being the recipient of a totally vile and utterly disgusting torrent of hate-mails. I’m sure Cox and his clown O’Briain must think that is very funny – and they probably believe that was OK too, since some of their Twitter followers found it all so entertaining. But this is media bullying against a small group with a fair point, the complaint of which is now being targeted on science forums with an attitude comparable to football hooliganism. Dara O’Briain should not be allowed to use his comedian celebrity status to prevent the airing of a legitimate complaint, and Brian Cox should not be allowed to use his pop-group history and popular media appeal to encourage ‘laddish’ disregard for BBC editorial policy; either during the program or afterwards in publicly aired encouragement to sabotage the complaint.

  58. Continued ....


    [PGUK] If scientific programs have to offer "dry proofs" for everything they say then its only reasonable that "non-scientific" programs do the same... including astrologers when they appear on TV.

    I’m OK with that argument being explored. Obviously comedy is comedy and some programmes are intended to be light-hearted, and astrologers are not seeking political correctness to the point of absurdity – we are able to laugh at ourselves and others. I dislike the trivial media presentation of popular astrology more than you do. Remember that (as some have shown here) often the media will use unqualified staff to ‘make up’ something that is supposed to be astrological. This campaign is about preventing misrepresentation reaching serious levels of distortion, but keep this in mind – the media is not beyond making things up; and sometimes that is more inappropriate than others.

    [DH] It has taken me about 25 years to get a sound understanding of astrology’s philosophy and logic, and the complexity of its argument. Do you think that can be adequately summarized in a comment box in response to a torrent of criticism and prejudice?

    [PGUK] In fairness you probably cannot.... But there again it difficult for me to provide a rbuttal in the same space.

    Which is why the AA is asking the BBC to balance misrepresentation with a more exploratory program. It could show why so many intelligent individuals (academically trained in various fields) do consider the subject worthy of deeper appraisal. They could do this through exploratory coverage of some recent independent reports which teeter on the balance of mainstream scientific acceptance. I believe that this would be of public interest and in the public interest.

    BTW, many astrologers feel as I do, but will not add comment to a biased blog like this. I am replying because the snip taken from my article was extracted at the point where it makes the complainant look ridiculous, instead of showing the justified outrage of a viewer who actually does understand and respect her subject, and knows that her intelligence was insulted in the most disingenuous manner.

    If anyone still reading this thread has any genuine interest in science and information please take note - this is not ‘BBC wake-up!’ It’s “wake up the rest of you!” Because what you are condoning is not in the interests of science; it’s in the interest of bigotry. True science is investigative and open-minded. It doesn’t close down all opportunity to allow any kind of reasoned debate, at any time, in any format.

    And yes beckyfh, the historical comments made by Robbins are wrong. I didn’t want to go there, because his ignorance is too apparent. The respect that Islamic scholars held towards the deeper principles of astrology was a driving force behind many of their scientific developments. And nearly all of those who hold a position of honour in the history of science have also held the rationale of astrology in honour. The rationale is still a sound one to those who have made the intellectual effort to discover it, understand it and appreciate the extensive and comprehensive nature of its logic. Like any integrated philosophy it doesn’t respond well to a reductionist system of measurement, but that does not mean that the subject is devoid of researched elements that offer verification for its principles.

  59. Here is a link to a much more balanced report of the problem, which doesn't support astrology, but which fairly explain the issues behind our complaint (and shows why we do have a cause for complaint):


    Well worth a read, even despite the author being anti-astrology-in-practice.

  60. I read the Guardian article: http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/the-lay-scientist/2011/jan/24/1
    Amazing how many people have decided that they already know what astrology is - presumably from what they have seen in newspapers.

    The point I want to make is that Evangeline Adams and her commercialisation has reduced Astrology to its current popular misconception. Maybe somebody should simply point out that Astrology is largely concerned with the Sun in its season. And before there was a reconciliation between science and Nature, in Roman times, the calendar would drift, so that the months no longer corresponded with the seasons. Some discussion also about the importance of astrology - as seasonal clock - for farming should be emphasised. -- jorjun

  61. Can I repeat my request for people to leave a a name when they post. There have been some interesting and relevant posts that I have not been able to publish as they are anonymous

  62. The current debate has Prof Cox and assorted sceptics on one side of the argument and astrologers on the other. Cox has certainly adopted a dismissive attitude towards astrology and has gone as far as implying (in his 2010 Huw Wheldon lecture) that the views of non-scientists on such subjects should not be given air-time. He has even criticized fellow scientists who philosophize about their subject.

    But perhaps it should not be forgotten that less intellectually arrogant scientists have made serious attempts to test the tenets of Astrology. A fairly well-known example was Michel Gauquelin (1928 – 1991) who was a statistician and psychologist. After extensive research he discovered significant correlations between the positions of certain planets in birth charts and eminence in certain professions. To quote from his last book:

    "Subsequent results only confirmed and amplified my initial discovery about the physicians. On the whole, it emerged that there was an increasingly solid statistical link between the time of birth of great men and their occupational success. ... Having collected over 20,000 dates of birth of professional celebrities from various European countries and from the United States, I had to draw the unavoidable conclusion that the position of the planets at birth is linked to one's destiny. What a challenge to the rational mind!" (Neo-Astrology, 1991)

    As might be expected, attempts were made to discredit Gauquelin’s work but other researchers have since followed his lead. Anyone wishing to gain more insight into Gauquelin’s pioneering studies can purchase some of his books second-hand via Amazon. There are at least three titles on offer – currently ranging in price from £0.01 to £8.47 + postage.

    The statistical studies mentioned above did not address the question of a possible mechanism for Astrology. In this context the work of Dr Percy Seymour is well worth a look. Percy Seymour is a former principal lecturer in astronomy and astrophysics at Plymouth University who has been a researcher at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich. In his controversial book, The Scientific Proof of Astrology, he supports the claims of astrologers by suggesting that the Earth's magnetic field is affected by interactions with those of the Sun and the Moon, together with the other planets, and that such interactions might have an effect on human development. He doesn’t say that the planetary positions cause individuals to be born with certain characteristics. His thesis is more along the lines that individuals with particular innate traits tend to be born when the magnetic fields generated by certain planetary configurations resonate with those individuals’ bio-magnetic fields.
    Seymour says: "It means the whole solar system is playing a symphony on the Earth's magnetic field. We are all genetically tuned to receive a different set of melodies from this symphony." His claims have infuriated other astronomers. They have suffered the humiliation of seeing astrology rising in popularity with top astrologers' earnings surging beyond those of even the most eminent of researchers. Until Seymour’s books were published they at least had the comfort of being able to dismiss any suggestion of scientific support for the idea that people's lives and personalities are influenced by the planets.
    However even Professor Dawkins – arguably Cox’s predecessor as arch-sceptic & passionate advocate for science – is reported to have said that although he had not read the book Seymour's ideas sounded interesting.
    What price an open mind ……..?

  63. Hi Andrew
    You said 'Is it reasonable to say that astrology makes predictions about the future? If so, then those predications can be tested to see how accurate they are - at a simple level by comparing the prediction with actual events, for example'

    Trouble is, in my experience astrology is more about predicting trends. Some people have predicted specific events, Dennis Elwell for example, but that takes a lot of time and research. When I am dealing with individuals I am looking at developmental trends and how that individual is experiencing what is happening to them. As you can understand, that it hardly double blind testable. I also take into consideration a lot of other things about the person, what has happened to them, how their experience colours their outlook and how certain actions and attitude to things can change outcomes. If I told a person they would meet a brown haired, blue eyed person, then they could miss the blond haired green eyed person who was actually in front of them. My work with them is a discussion of possibilities based on their chart, amongst other things, their choices and possible outcomes.

    If you can scientifically test that then I would be amazed.


  64. On the bright side, it's the type of publicity that can potentially carry charge towards reinstating astrology as a valid science and useful art. People are interested, and they generally don't trust the like of Cox anyway.

  65. Hi Frances

    Just adding news of another blog headed “Astrology and Ridicule” published today at http://billynojob.wordpress.com/2011/01/29/astrology-and-ridicule-2/

    A relatively calm and reasoned blog; but it makes a dismissal of astrology from another angle. I added my own response in the comment box earlier today.


  66. There was a Discovery programme focussing on astrology recently which gave it a very fair hearing. If that programme could be identified , the contrast in treatment could be part of the submission.

  67. Can you tell me what is happening with the petition, has there been any feedback yet

  68. Hi Mary,
    An update on the petition will be included in the June edition of Directions

  69. About this subject created by this american astronomer in 2011, i read all of yours answers and i was very surprised by the fact than all of yours forgot elementaries basis.

    I explain.
    Observing planetaries moves in space need 2 things : a temp scale reference, and a spatial system of representation. It is what we larn in France. Because i am french.
    Till mid of XVIIIe century, astronomers and astrologers used the same system : for time the gregorian scale, and ecliptic as space referential. In the XIXe century astronomers changed, and they use equator for space mesure, and they begin used the julian time year.
    In astronomy now exist near 5 differents new systems of measures, the last is radio galatic frequencies.
    So all western astrologers work on gregorian time calendar, and ecliptic scale referential. When astronomers now use julian year, and equator scale.
    The first result is that julian year is late, especially sun positions near 30° less that the same position in gregorian calendar. And this dishonnest american professor mixed the two referential systems and said how astrologers are stupids because signs and planets not at the same places. Honest professor, should begin to recognize that astronomy have different system of value and mesures. For that explanation equinox precession subject have no place.
    And now about constellations. At any time this professor explained that the UAI after WWII took an international decision for changing the stellar catalogue, and new mesures about constellations. This catalogue is named Delporte system, name of belgian professor of astronomy, who decided to use positions knowed in the sky of the year 1875. You can verify by yourself if you want all i wrote there easily.
    So astrologers use a time system corresponding at the actual calendar, it is the society convention of rules. And for exemple Vernal Point used for 0degre of aries is exactly a real move of sun observing in the equinox day spring, when sun moves frum south part of oerth to north.
    By this event astrologers work with a good time system.
    The julian, came directly from Julius Caesar reform of roman calendar. Because in this time it was a religious responsability to Ceasar to correct the time. After this reform Sun continued to be late with season, and it was necessary to adapt Sun moves with seasons, especially for christian Easter. For that reason the gerogorian time reform rules our calendars.
    After WWII the UAI (union astronomy international)decided to modify the julian calendar, and they create a theorical julian year system named J2000, with theoric position of sun, still late of course with gregorian system. It is the main reason of all this discuss created in begining of 2011.
    Now we should consider another thing. One of the authors of the messages of this blog talked about indian an Vedic system. Yes of course they use sideral time reference, according to the last Julian Calendar. It is only an old fashionned time scaling. But, behinh Vedic astrology it exist a religious system and another religious mind. I think Vedic system is something against our occidental values, even we stopped for plenty reasons believe in god. We should preserve and defend our western astrology system because it is a deep part of our cultur. Even for plenty reasons astrology system created by greek not perfect, and we should re discover and study the sky writting system invented by sumerians.
    thanks for your patience and sorry for my bad poor writing.
    claude thebault
    astroemail editor


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