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Old 9th September 2019, 01:29 AM   #1
Susheel
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Request for a Double Blind Protocol for an astrologer

Hi there. I was hoping if someone would help with suggesting a double blind protocol for astrology. Nothing too elaborate and with a sample size of maybe ten subjects. A baseline protocol would also be appreciated. Thank you very much.
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Old 9th September 2019, 01:37 AM   #2
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Is this for someone that is claiming to produce useful astrological information, or for someone that believes already published information is useful?
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Old 9th September 2019, 02:02 AM   #3
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This is for someone who insists that his astrologer is the genuine one and all the ones I have met and interacted with were frauds. He has challenged me to prove him wrong. I suggested that if he is so confident I would recommend a simple test that he could administer. I am sure this guy just threw the ball into my court expecting me to balk. I, honestly expect him to do the balking once the protocols are sent.
So a simple but reasonably effective protocol would be sufficient. I have a feeling that the moment I insist that the astrologer should have no contact whatsoever with the subject apart from knowing a date, time and place of birth would give him second thoughts.
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Old 9th September 2019, 05:03 AM   #4
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I think this could be done in such a way that he is writing a horoscope for a specific person he has never met but his birthdate and time are known to him. The horoscope is then shown to 10 people, who, based on the horoscope, must decide whether they are the one the horoscope was written for. So the horoscope must be very specific in order to have only the addressant raise his or her hand (if it works). This should be repeated several times.

To go one step further, ask another person to write up an entirely bogus horoscope for no specific birthdate whatsoever, again ask the target group, who feels that this is his or her horoscope.

Of course the target group should not know which one is the real and which one is the bogus horoscope. Then define an expected deviation of the hit- and miss-frequencies of these that would count as "success" as opposed to chance (should be significant), and off you go.
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Old 9th September 2019, 05:19 AM   #5
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I found one shared by Pixel42 some years ago. I am reproducing it below. Any suggestion/modifications will be welcome:
Quote:
Pre-Test Protocol
1. Select 10 volunteers will be selected. They will be unknown to the claimant, born in the same year but of different signs. At no point will the volunteers and claimant interact due=ring this phase of the test.
2. The claimant will be given the date, time and place of birth for the 10 volunteers (identified only as subject A, subject B etc) and will draw up their detailed horoscopes, marking each with the appropriate subject identifier.
3. The claimant will create a list of questions which will enable her to match the subjects with their horoscopes.
4. The 10 subjects will be randomly allocated numbers 1 to 10 by an adjudicator (either you or an independent third party) who will produce a list as follows:
• Volunteer name: First volunteer: subject [x]
• Volunteer name: Second volunteer: subject [y]
etc
and seal it into an envelope.
On the day of the test
1. The claimant will sit in a room with the adjudicator, who will have with them the sealed envelope produced above. The 10 volunteers will enter one at a time, in the order allocated above. The claimant will have with him the ten horoscopes, his list of questions, and pens/paper to make notes.
2. The claimant will go through her questions with each volunteer in turn, and note their responses. The volunteers will answer specifically to the questions and will not be required to volunteer information beyond what was asked. The claimant will not be allowed to ask leading questions.
3. Once all interviews have been completed the claimant will analyse the answers and match the subjects to the horoscopes.
4. When he is satisfied she will produce a list of this sort:
First volunteer: Subject [x]
Second volunteer: Subject [y]
etc
5. The adjudicator will then unseal the envelope and they will both compare the list in it with the one generated by the claimant
6. The volunteers will return to the room and tell the claimant their names and dates of birth, so he can verify the information that was given before the test
Anything above five correct matches might suggest some truth to astrology.
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Old 9th September 2019, 05:20 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by Tommok View Post
I think this could be done in such a way that he is writing a horoscope for a specific person he has never met but his birthdate and time are known to him. The horoscope is then shown to 10 people, who, based on the horoscope, must decide whether they are the one the horoscope was written for. So the horoscope must be very specific in order to have only the addressant raise his or her hand (if it works). This should be repeated several times.

To go one step further, ask another person to write up an entirely bogus horoscope for no specific birthdate whatsoever, again ask the target group, who feels that this is his or her horoscope.

Of course the target group should not know which one is the real and which one is the bogus horoscope. Then define an expected deviation of the hit- and miss-frequencies of these that would count as "success" as opposed to chance (should be significant), and off you go.
This is interesting...much more simple.
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Old 9th September 2019, 07:20 AM   #7
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Has an astrologer even submitted to being tested in this(or any) way by anyone who isn't already a believer?
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Old 9th September 2019, 07:26 AM   #8
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How does one eliminate the dreaded "negative energy from skeptics messed with the results!" factor?
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Old 9th September 2019, 07:35 AM   #9
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Frankly, the guy challenged me that he could prove his astrologer was the genuine item. I told him that no astrologer has ever agreed to a double blind test to empirically prove their skill. He said he would do it. I told him i could send him a protocol. I don't think he expects me to deliver. I will take it forward once I send it. The back and forth will itself be quite educational....atleast for me.
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Old 9th September 2019, 07:38 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by Susheel View Post
Frankly, the guy challenged me that he could prove his astrologer was the genuine item. I told him that no astrologer has ever agreed to a double blind test to empirically prove their skill. He said he would do it. I told him i could send him a protocol. I don't think he expects me to deliver. I will take it forward once I send it. The back and forth will itself be quite educational....atleast for me.
If this guy delivers the protocol to his psychic, I can predict the most likely outcome:

"The spirits will not submit to be tested".
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Last edited by Czarcasm; 9th September 2019 at 07:40 AM.
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Old 9th September 2019, 07:49 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by Tommok View Post
I think this could be done in such a way that he is writing a horoscope for a specific person he has never met but his birthdate and time are known to him. The horoscope is then shown to 10 people, who, based on the horoscope, must decide whether they are the one the horoscope was written for. So the horoscope must be very specific in order to have only the addressant raise his or her hand (if it works). This should be repeated several times.

To go one step further, ask another person to write up an entirely bogus horoscope for no specific birthdate whatsoever, again ask the target group, who feels that this is his or her horoscope.

Of course the target group should not know which one is the real and which one is the bogus horoscope. Then define an expected deviation of the hit- and miss-frequencies of these that would count as "success" as opposed to chance (should be significant), and off you go.
I would remove the bogus horoscope writer. Your test would be reliant on their personal skill at making generalized horoscopes, and that's not what you want to measure.
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Old 9th September 2019, 08:06 AM   #12
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A good protocol would depend on what exactly this astrologer's claim is. What are they saying they can do?

Are they saying that they can tell something about the personality of a person based on their astrological charts? Are they making predictions about certain events?

Start by getting the astrologer to make a specific claim.

Once you've got that, a protocol has to deliver a result that can be judged numerically, even if there is some subjectivity in the process (like participants judging a horoscope as describing their personality). The final results also need to be beyond the realm of chance. If someone claims, they can make a coin land how they want, and your test is flipping a coin once, then there's a 50% chance they were just lucky. That's not a great demonstration of a power.

I think the MDC challenge put it at something like 1/1000 odds from chance? That would be tricky with such a small sample as 10 people, but I think you could get to a 1% chance of success by random luck, which would be good enough for this case.

If you could chose 10 people that the astrologer would agree are honest and impartial (this part may be tricky) Have the astrologer come up with... whatever the astrologer does for each of them. Have them supply their information on a written form and not meet the astrologer. Give the astrologer the information in a typed spreadsheet, so they can't even glean personality info from handwriting. Then, have each of them pick which of the ten predictions is theirs. There would be a 1% of all 10 picking their own by chance.

There are of course, a bunch of complications. I don't know how long this astrologer takes to make one prediction, what those predictions look like, or who they would consider an acceptable participant.

If their predictions are along the lines of "Some day ending in a y, you will experience heartbreak" then they're pretty much untestable and your time is better spent explaining that to your friend.

If the astrologer insists on being paid for 10 horoscopes, then they win even if they lose, it's money they want in the end anyway.

And since most tests of astrology would require participants to be honest about either personal knowledge or subjective feelings, it's also likely they may reject the participants or the results, crying bias.
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Old 9th September 2019, 08:10 AM   #13
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For the OP: Does this astrologer do personal readings, or does she/he generalized horoscopes my month or year? If the former, then blind testing will be very difficult.
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Old 9th September 2019, 09:11 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by Cavemonster View Post
... Then, have each of them pick which of the ten predictions is theirs. There would be a 1% of all 10 picking their own by chance..
Are you sure? Each has a 10% (0.1) chance of picking their own. I suggest that under reasonable assumptions it is a binomial distribution with p = 0.1, n = 10 giving:
x P(X > x) to 3 sig figs
1 0.651
2 0.264
3 0.0702
4 0.0128
5 0.00163
6 0.000147
7 0.00000912
8 < 0.000001
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Old 9th September 2019, 09:13 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by KAJ View Post
Are you sure? Each has a 10% (0.1) chance of picking their own. I suggest that under reasonable assumptions it is a binomial distribution with p = 0.1, n = 10 giving:
x P(X > x) to 3 sig figs
1 0.651
2 0.264
3 0.0702
4 0.0128
5 0.00163
6 0.000147
7 0.00000912
8 < 0.000001
You're probably correct, the math isn't my strong suit.
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Old 9th September 2019, 09:17 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by KAJ View Post
Are you sure? Each has a 10% (0.1) chance of picking their own. I suggest that under reasonable assumptions it is a binomial distribution with p = 0.1, n = 10 giving:
x P(X > x) to 3 sig figs
1 0.651
2 0.264
3 0.0702
4 0.0128
5 0.00163
6 0.000147
7 0.00000912
8 < 0.000001
Thank you! I was going to suggest the same protocol, but knew my math wasn't adding up (my probabilities weren't summing to 1, that's an issue in this universe). I was trying to figure out the probability and gave it up, then refreshed and saw this post . I had "0 correct" and "10 correct" right, but wasn't sure how to do the middle bits.
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Old 9th September 2019, 09:24 AM   #17
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Originally Posted by KAJ View Post
Are you sure? Each has a 10% (0.1) chance of picking their own. I suggest that under reasonable assumptions it is a binomial distribution with p = 0.1, n = 10 giving:
x P(X > or = x) to 3 sig figs
1 0.651
2 0.264
3 0.0702
4 0.0128
5 0.00163
6 0.000147
7 0.00000912
8 < 0.000001
Whoops! Copy-paste borked my "greater or equal" sign. Please see corrected table above.
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Old 9th September 2019, 09:37 AM   #18
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Can we first agree on which astrological signs to use? The historical ones, or the actual?
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Old 9th September 2019, 09:45 AM   #19
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Originally Posted by The Great Zaganza View Post
Can we first agree on which astrological signs to use? The historical ones, or the actual?
It has to be whatever is used by the astrologer being tested, otherwise she/he can claim that the abilities claimed aren't the abilities being tested.
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Old 9th September 2019, 10:01 AM   #20
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Not sure what the questions in pixels protocol are for.
I would ask the astrologer whether the following will be suitable

Give 10 dates, time and place of birth to the astrologer who draws up 10 'readings' for the volunteers who should be of a similar age from a similar location.

Readings edited to remove all references to date, time and place of birth!

Each of the 10 subjects pick their one 'reading' from the 10.
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Old 9th September 2019, 10:05 AM   #21
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Originally Posted by Susheel View Post
Frankly, the guy challenged me that he could prove his astrologer was the genuine item. I told him that no astrologer has ever agreed to a double blind test to empirically prove their skill. He said he would do it. I told him i could send him a protocol. I don't think he expects me to deliver. I will take it forward once I send it. The back and forth will itself be quite educational....atleast for me.
Again, knowledge on how this astrologer operates is essential-without this knowledge a proper test cannot be designed.
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Old 9th September 2019, 10:43 AM   #22
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Originally Posted by Lothian View Post
Not sure what the questions in pixels protocol are for.
I would ask the astrologer whether the following will be suitable

Give 10 dates, time and place of birth to the astrologer who draws up 10 'readings' for the volunteers who should be of a similar age from a similar location.

Readings edited to remove all references to date, time and place of birth!

Each of the 10 subjects pick their one 'reading' from the 10.
I can't see the reason for those questions either.

One possible (likely?) confounder - which I can't immediately see a way round - is that volunteers may be aware of the commonly attributed traits of their own star signs (e.g. "Scorpio personality traits include mysteriousness, intensity and relationships built on trust") which the astrologer may include in the 'readings'.

Last edited by KAJ; 9th September 2019 at 10:44 AM. Reason: punctuation
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Old 9th September 2019, 11:05 AM   #23
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Originally Posted by Susheel View Post
I found one shared by Pixel42 some years ago. I am reproducing it below. Any suggestion/modifications will be welcome:

You would need to be very careful about the possibility of hot reading. It is not inconceivable that, given date, time and place of birth, someone could identify the subject, or at least narrow it down to one of a small number of people, by mundane means.
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Old 9th September 2019, 11:21 AM   #24
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Originally Posted by Lothian View Post
Not sure what the questions in pixels protocol are for.
Neither am I. I don't even remember that protocol, let alone where I got it from.

Quote:
I would ask the astrologer whether the following will be suitable

Give 10 dates, time and place of birth to the astrologer who draws up 10 'readings' for the volunteers who should be of a similar age from a similar location.

Readings edited to remove all references to date, time and place of birth!

Each of the 10 subjects pick their one 'reading' from the 10.
This seems adequate to me. The success criteria should be agreed in advance. Someone whose maths is less rusty than mine could work out the hit rate that would be statistically significant, probably 4 or 5.

You could use fewer subjects, but then the percentage of hits would need to be higher to be significant.
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Old 9th September 2019, 11:22 AM   #25
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Originally Posted by Czarcasm View Post
Again, knowledge on how this astrologer operates is essential-without this knowledge a proper test cannot be designed.
Seconded.
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Old 9th September 2019, 11:46 AM   #26
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Originally Posted by Susheel View Post
I told him that no astrologer has ever agreed to a double blind test to empirically prove their skill.
Lots of tests have been done.

http://www.astrology-and-science.com/D-rese2.htm

Section 7 lists some blind tests.
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Old 9th September 2019, 09:24 PM   #27
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So...if the goal is for the astrologer to write profiles that the person it is about could identify, wouldn't knowing the birth location and date make it very easy to include bits of information that would be clearly recognizable?

The similar test from the James Randi challenge that I'd read about gave the "psychic" no information about the subject at all.

Perhaps pick more specific pieces of information that astrologer claims to able to know and focus on their ability to predict just that info?
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Old 9th September 2019, 09:45 PM   #28
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This all really depends on what the astrologer claims he can do, and what he says he needs to cast a horoscope. So any definite suggested protocol will have to wait on more complete information.

Does the astrologer need exact time date and location of birth? Conception, as some astrologers do? Is an actual interview necessary? Will the astrologer have to take the information, or can it be done right there? How long will this take? This all has bearing on how difficult it will be to prevent cheating.

What sort of information will the horoscope provide? Past, present, or future? How specific?

The point being, the test should be crafted to confirm or deny what the claimant says they can do, not what we imagine they should be able to do.

Last edited by Pope130; 9th September 2019 at 09:48 PM.
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Old 9th September 2019, 10:50 PM   #29
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We did one a number of years back on this forum (IIRC)

Basically they got people volunteer and provide a Birth Date and Place.

The volunteers were broken up into groups four so that each member's birth date and place were quite different.

The Astrologer was then given all of the birth dates and places to create a horoscope for the volunteers.

Each volunteer was given the horoscopes for the four members of their group and had to determine and report back on which they felt fit them the closest.

With a 25% random chance it was determined that anything over a 40% correct value would show that there maybe be something to it.

To the best of my recollection, no one in the test group selected their own horoscope.
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Old 9th September 2019, 11:22 PM   #30
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The horoscope must obviously only include information obtained using astrology. Anything the astrologer includes that could be worked out from the information he or she requires to create it (e.g. the subject's age) must be redacted before all the horoscopes are given to all the subjects for them to choose the one they think is theirs.

I think some people are getting unnecessarily paranoid about how the test might be subverted. These tests have been done many times (I did one for a Tarot card reader years ago). They never think they need to cheat to get a positive result, and they never get a hit rate better than chance.
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Old 10th September 2019, 10:52 AM   #31
GodMark2
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Originally Posted by Lothian View Post
Not sure what the questions in pixels protocol are for.
The Pixel Protocol allows(forces) the claimant to make all the decisions. They won't have the 'out' of simply saying "your volunteers chose the wrong one on purpose to make me look bad". Additionally, they can't make the usual 'generic horoscope' that anyone would think could apply to them: they have to make specific enough determinations that they could make the matches themselves. As the claimant is making all the decisions themselves, there are no fuzzy 'value judgements' outside of their control for them to object to.
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Old 10th September 2019, 02:06 PM   #32
The Common Potato
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I can't see why an astrologer couldn't create a horoscope that's based in the past. I mean, take a person unknown to the astrologer, give the date of birth and other requested details, then ask the astrologer to draw up the horoscope for a time that has already happened. Then one could check with the horoscopee to see if the predicted events actually happened.

Repeat a few times.

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Old 10th September 2019, 02:12 PM   #33
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Originally Posted by Susheel View Post
This is for someone who insists that his astrologer is the genuine one
Then this is a pointless exercise.

To be fair, the old MDC challenge threads make it clear that it's a pointless exercise even when the astrologer themselves requests a protocol.

But this asking for a friend of a friend thing? What's the point? All this effort to come up with a draft protocol that you're not going to use. Your friend isn't going to use. That astrologer sure as **** isn't going to use.

Where's the closure? Where's the payoff? What's the point of going through this exercise?

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Old 10th September 2019, 02:29 PM   #34
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
What's the point of going through this exercise?
What's the point in you even posting the above in this thread at all?

Or any of us ever posting anything anywhere on the internet, for that matter?
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Old 10th September 2019, 02:38 PM   #35
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Originally Posted by kellyb View Post
What's the point in you even posting the above in this thread at all?

Or any of us ever posting anything anywhere on the internet, for that matter?
I have no opinion about that.
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Old 10th September 2019, 09:54 PM   #36
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Originally Posted by Susheel View Post
This is for someone who insists that his astrologer is the genuine one and all the ones I have met and interacted with were frauds. He has challenged me to prove him wrong. I suggested that if he is so confident I would recommend a simple test that he could administer. I am sure this guy just threw the ball into my court expecting me to balk. I, honestly expect him to do the balking once the protocols are sent.
So a simple but reasonably effective protocol would be sufficient. I have a feeling that the moment I insist that the astrologer should have no contact whatsoever with the subject apart from knowing a date, time and place of birth would give him second thoughts.
If you really want help, we need more information than the fact that he is an astrologer.
Is he a personal astrologer, or does he just do a general column?
Does he need to be in contact with the person he is "reading"?
Does he need the person he is "reading" to respond in any way?
Is there a particular type of astrology he must use?
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Old 10th September 2019, 09:58 PM   #37
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Originally Posted by The Common Potato View Post
I can't see why an astrologer couldn't create a horoscope that's based in the past. I mean, take a person unknown to the astrologer, give the date of birth and other requested details, then ask the astrologer to draw up the horoscope for a time that has already happened. Then one could check with the horoscopee to see if the predicted events actually happened.

Repeat a few times.
Repeat it until the cows come home...but if the astrologer says she/he can't do it that way, you've gone through all that trouble for nothing.
Rule #1 is always "You must know what the claim is before you can design a test for that claim".
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Old 10th September 2019, 11:04 PM   #38
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Ok...sorry I was away. I sent him Pixel's protocol as a tentative starting point. He almost immediately game back stating that it was too complicated. He was however willing to share his own experience. I told him that he cannot be considered a reliable narrator to provide an objective account of his experience. And his narrative could not even be considered a data set of one, but more an anecdote. After a brief back and forth he said that he had nothing to prove and he believed what he wanted to believe. I told him that we can probably work with a more simple protocol. He has sulkily agreed to this. But his earlier confidence in the infallibility of his astrologers has begun to wane in the sense that he has realised that there is no way he can scientifically prove the efficacy of the predictions.
No...the astrologer is a "true vedic astrologer"... not the "******** western astrology type", He is of the cow-dung variety.
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Old 10th September 2019, 11:13 PM   #39
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Originally Posted by Czarcasm View Post
If you really want help, we need more information than the fact that he is an astrologer.
Is he a personal astrologer, or does he just do a general column?
Does he need to be in contact with the person he is "reading"?
Does he need the person he is "reading" to respond in any way?
Is there a particular type of astrology he must use?
My responses:

1). He is one of those "vedic" personal astrologers who generally draw out personal horoscopes for a fee.

2) and 3). I am quite sure he does. But the person I am interacting with is quite confident that he does not need to. He claims that this man had predicted the assassination of Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi accurately and shared some newspaper clippings (published weeks after the events in question) as proof. Classic textbook claims.

4) Vedic (for whatever bull crap that adjective may refer to...many who espouse this have no idea what constitute the Vedas or when they were written, let alone what is in them).
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Old 11th September 2019, 07:12 AM   #40
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Nothing worth testing here.
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