Archive for October, 2009

Astrology – A Test

Posted: October 20, 2009 by Tim Barclay in astrology
Tags: , ,

A little while ago I wrote this piece about astrology, or more specifically about horoscopes. I explained that I believe any apparent correct predictions arrived at through the practice of astrology are due to a combination of vagueness the Barnum effect,  and wishful thinking on behalf of the reader, among other things.

Michelle Gregg, a consulting astrologer, disagreed with my analysis of her trade in the comments, explaining that I was being simplistic in writing off all of astrology on the basis of newspaper horoscopes, which she agreed are mostly for their entertainment value. 

So, based on Michelle’s defences of the specificity and accuracy possible in more in-depth astrological readings, I challenged her to take part in a little experiment, the details of which we have been hashing out for the last month or so.

I am pleased to announce that the test is now going ahead and, in the name of transparency, I will outline the full protocol being used here.

From a group of four people1, the time and date2 of birth of one person has been randomly selected3 and sent to Michelle. She will then give a reading for that date, attempting to make it specific and accurate enough that it would only apply to a person born at that time on that date, and send it back to me. 

I will circulate the email around the other three people in the original group and each of us will indicate whether we think the reading describes us. We will all do this without seeing each other’s responses. 

The test will be called a success for Michelle and for astrology if only the person whose date Michelle read for identifies him or herself in the reading.

In the case of any other result, the test will be deemed failed.

If nobody identifies themselves in the reading, or if the incorrect person does, the reading must have been wrong. If more than one person identifies themselves in the reading, this can be seen as support for my point about the “something for everyone” nature of Barnum statements.

The details have been sent today, so the test is now underway. We will keep you informed.


1: The group includes myself and theenglishradical as well as two unidentified others.

2: All times and dates were given in their GMT equivalent to avoid any potential confusion regarding time zones or daylight savings adjustments.

3: To do this, I set up four web pages, each of which contained one time and date. I emailed the four numbered links to a third party, nominated by Michelle, so that she could choose a number, click the corresponding link and send those details on to Michelle herself. This would blind the test by ensuring that neither we nor Michelle could know for whose date the reading was being done.


Righteous Indignation – Podcast

Posted: October 11, 2009 by newhavenlse in Groups and organisations

As a great fan of Podcasts here is another one I would like to share with our readers – Righteous Indignation.

The Podcasts website states:

Righteous Indignation is the pod­cast that aims to crit­i­cally exam­ine extra­or­di­nary claims and the peo­ple who sur­round them. These include ideas related to con­spir­acy, the para­nor­mal, the super­nat­ural and attempts to rede­fine the bound­aries of sci­ence and understanding.

It’s well worth a listen and laced with jokes and double-entendre. dirty humour