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Unread 12-29-2010, 08:54 PM
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waybread waybread is offline
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Re: research guidelines?

Good points, Mark. As a sceptic towards most things in life, I reserve judgement on "the one truth" but will be interested to see what you come up with.

Also, I am really impressed that you are getting a solid university education in psychology.

I think a big problem with a lot of astrological research is that the astrologers do not have the background in research design; notably in statistics and in some understanding of common pitfalls in research design and data interpretation. Geoffrey Dean has done a great job of outlinging a lot of these potential pitfalls at: http://www.astrology-and-science.com/hpage.htm . [Click on his "Artefacts in data" and "Artefacts in reasoning" articles.] Then the people with the research credentials seldom have a solid background in astrology.

I have access to on-line academic journal indexes, courtesy of my former employer. You probably do, as well. Some of the published tests of astrology by academics are real howlers. One example concerned a comparison of university students' career goals with their sun signs. Unsurprisingly, no correlation was found. Apparently the author was clueless about the role of the 10th house, ruler of the MC, and so on. It seems that humanities professors are more able to publish and even teach decent material on astrology, through the back-door of history and literature, rather than testing astrology's truth-claims. It's a start, however.

I agree totally that scientific rigour would be a huge help in many, many astrological studies. [I don't know if you've ever seen my posts sticking up for science against astrologers' broadside attacks.] But not all sorts of research are amenable to rigorous application of the scientific method, depending upon the question being asked and the stage of the research. A small pilot study would be one example.

Also, I don't see qualitative research as necessarily analagous to putting the drapes on the windows of a building designed by engineers! [i.e., "mere window dressing"?] In the example I gave above, of problems with "top down" quantitative research, I do see astrology today as saturated with assumptions and "received wisdom" that are problematic and are probably best initially approached by viewing them from alternative perspectives.

For example, let's suppose we really wish to learn something about how individuals with the sun and a stellium in a particular sign express its purported attributes, if these people do. If I want to learn about how life looks to a hyper-Scorpio, I am probably better off at least starting with an open-ended, qualitative set of interviews with such people, and asking them to suggest how I might get at my topic.

I was alerted to the problems of the "received wisdom" in astrology after reading umpteen published descriptions about Scorpios as "intense", "jealous", and "vindictive." Hardly flattering, and probably not written by a hyper-Scorpio. Then I read an interesting thread where posters who identified with the sign talked about understanding themselves as administering just desserts to friends who behaved badly in some way. To them, the retribution wasn't negative insofar as it reflected on them, but was entirely justifiable according to an internal gyroscope that related to justice in inter-personal relations.

Another thread alerted me to how important privacy is to many people identify with the sign of Aquarius. This is something that the "god trick" or "god's-eye view" of the conventional quantitative researcher might miss; because it isn't an attribute commonly ascribed to this sign.

And again, a rigorous quantitative study is no better than its initial assumptions. If they are inappropriate or simply wrong, then the whole edifice of a technically sophisticated study falls down.

We haven't yet touched on the "-isms" that take aim at the taken-for-granted assumptions underpinning both science and society, such as post-modernism.
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