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Bill Brunelle
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Here's a fascinating video where professional skeptic Michael Shermer tries to disprove the accuracy of a Vedic Astrologer and fails quite badly.
I've had quite a bit of exposure to this Indian form of astrology and always found it to be far more precise and accurate than Western astrology.
After establishing that the guy gets a pretty high hit rate, they read the wrong readings to some of the subjects on his accuracy crashes. Hard to
describe well. But if you are truly interested in mentalism and take a peek, I suspect you'll find it quite interesting regardless of your
beliefs. Really well done.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3N1dIUTbZTo

All the best,

Bill Brunelle
alpha alex
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This is old...

here is a thread of skeptics discussing the topic
http://forums.randi.org/showthread.php?t=97980

here is what shermer said about it:

The short story is this: we ran out of time at the end of the filming day to conduct any more experiments with Armstrong. I protested that it was going to make it look like he was successful, but to no avail as I did not have final authority over what was produced for the show, Exploring the Unknown, and so I just hoped that in the editing process it would be cut in a way that dealt with that problem, but it wasn't and I couldn't do anything about it, so it aired and no one noticed back then (in 2000), but someone posted the clip you reference and now we're dealing with the fallout from it. It is an unfortunate reality of the series that I didn't have enough control over the production and filming process.

You can post this explanation if you like.
Michael
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A slight diversion, if I might. Does anyone use Vedic Astrology either for readings (cold or otherwise) or in a routine?
Garrette
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On 2011-01-15 15:47, Patanjali wrote:
Here's a fascinating video where professional skeptic Michael Shermer tries to disprove the accuracy of a Vedic Astrologer and fails quite badly

This sentence is the crux of the issue.

First, Shermer isn't trying to disprove anything; he is trying to demonstrate that the validity of astrology has not been proven.

Second, it is not the burden of anyone to disprove astrology; it is the burden of the proponents of astrology to demonstrate that it works, and a successful demonstration for a television program without the appropriate controls means nothing (just as it would not be a positive disproof if the astrologer on the show had been shown to fail miserably).

All the things that have been said regarding Bem's latest experiments (and his hypothesis of retroactive cognition) would apply here if astrology had even gotten that far, but it hasn't.

There are not properly controlled astrological studies that appear in a peer-reviewed journal. There are only anecdotes--and inconsistent anecdotes at that.

Vedic Astrology is the one that is affected by the recognition that--due to the earth's precession--there are more than twelve signs and their dates have changed.

It should ring major alarm bells for you that your astrologer was apparently successful using charts that did not actually apply to the sitters.

More than that, there is no specific claim. Even the astrologer in this link doesn't say "Vedic Astrology can do X under Y circumstances with Z accuracy." How much accuracy in birth time and location are required? Most Vedic astrologers will give readings based on loose times and locations, until they are challenged at which point they use the lack of specificity for times and locations as an excuse.

How does induced labor (and consequent earlier-than-natural birthtime) affect the chart? What about a Caesarean?

Are the two people born in neighboring rooms of the same hospital at the same time destined to have the same lives?

No, I'm afraid this video, even without Shermer's explanation of the all-too-common believer-friendly filming and editing, adds nothing to the case for Vedic Astrology's validity.

Until someone actually demonstrates otherwise, it is reasonable to conclude that there is still nothing there.
Bill Brunelle
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Hi Alex,

Thanks for the skeptics thread. I knew the video I put up was at least a few years old, but after doing a search here it appeared that it hadn't been posted before. So I posted it figuring that anyone interested in mentalism who hasn't seen it would find interesting at worst and perhaps a source of patter and real stimulation at best.

I've seen Shermer make some wonderful presentations, but other times he becomes an ideologue instead of a scientist. What I find fascinating is that many scientists aren't very scientific - they accept findings they like without much scientific rigor, and they reject findings they don't like regardless of how rigorous the science supporting them might be. They're also rather rigid. Biologists, for example, are convinced that there can't be life on other planets that don't have the essential chemical building blocks of life - as if those building blocks must be the same ones we've identified on Earth. Ditto for ESP. It "can't possibly" exist, and if experiments support it, the experiments must be flawed and/or the researcher is a fraud.

All the best,

Bill
ALEXANDRE
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The guy had statistical success under the worst possible conditions and Shermer still protests?

Doesn't surprise me.

Shermer wanted Armstrong to look stupid, he went into the show with that predetermined objective, completely biased, and when he didn't get the results he wanted ... he complained.

People can say whatever they want, this was Shermer's show, and after all of it, he still wasn't able to make Armstrong look stupid. Take it however you want, and I personally don't care for Vedic Astrology, but I just find this kind of heavily biased skepticism counterproductive.
Garrette
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On 2011-01-15 18:23, ALEXANDRE wrote:
The guy had statistical success under the worst possible conditions and Shermer still protests?

Doesn't surprise me.

Shermer wanted Armstrong to look stupid, he went into the show with that predetermined objective, completely biased, and when he didn't get the results he wanted ... he complained.

People can say whatever they want, this was Shermer's show, and after all of it, he still wasn't able to make Armstrong look stupid. Take it however you want, and I personally don't care for Vedic Astrology, but I just find this kind of heavily biased skepticism counterproductive.
Where did Shermer try to make Armstrong look stupid? He did not.

Frankly, I think the protocols do not reflect well on Shermer because he should have had a complete and proper test laid out before even starting.

All that aside, Armstrong got an accuracy of 77%. This is less than the demonstrate 84% accuracy of the Forer/Barnum effect, so I would wait before crowing about it being a marvelous success.

Of course, the astrologers have it well within their power to conduct properly controlled studies, write up the results, and present them for publication in a peer-reviewed journal. Bem's recent paper demonstrates that the journals are willing to publish such things. Then the scrutiny and replication (or lack of it) can begin.

There is still no there there.


Edit to add: There was no "statistical success." To have statistical significance, there needs to be well defined probabilities and pre-determined analytical methods in place. There was no such thing here. That's not really a problem, since neither Shermer nor Armstrong seemed to be under the illusion that this counted as a legitimate, scientifically sound study. It's just worth pointing out that your phrase is misplaced.
alpha alex
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On 2011-01-15 18:23, ALEXANDRE wrote:I just find this kind of heavily biased skepticism counterproductive.


just like I find heavily biased anti-skepticism comments counterproductive
dmkraig
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On 2011-01-15 18:40, Garrette wrote:
Where did Shermer try to make Armstrong look stupid? He did not.


Respectfully, he absolutely tried to make Armstrong look stupid.
Shermer came to this assuming that people would accept any reading as accurate.
So Shermer cheated. He gave Armstrong false information.
Shermer obviously expected the people to say Armstrong was right even when the data given to Armstrong from them was false.
Instead, they said the readings were wrong. When they received readings based on the correct data, they said it was right.

As has been pointed out, this was Shermer's show. He failed miserable to disprove this type of astrology and then played CYA with all sorts of excuses. You know, they way Geller said the lights bothered him on the Tonight show.

Shemer lost this round. What did it prove? Did it prove astrology is valid. No. Did it prove astrology was invalid? No. What it proved is that Shermer was willing to lie in an attempt to prove his position and then cover his butt when he failed.

Did it prove or disprove astrology? No.

It did prove that Shermer behaved like a total *** and in an unscientific manner.
Garrette
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Also respectfully, you haven't shown in the slightest that Shermer was trying to make Armstrong look stupid. Of course Shermer expected the accuracy to be less than it was portrayed as, but if you are to condemn someone for their expectations then you need to condemn both sides.

I agree he did this unscientifically. Then again, it wasn't presented as a scientific test.

Regarding your comment that it was Shermer's show: According to the show's credits, he was merely a cast member; the co-host. He was not a producer.

Regarding Shermer acting like an ass: if you mean during the show, then I vehemently disagree. He was quite pleasant throughout, regardless what his expectations may have been, and reported the accuracy as it was reported by the sitters as well as reporting that it was contrary to expectations.

In essence, Shermer said "We expect this." Then he conducted the tests. Then Shermer said "We didn't get what we expected; we got this."

If you think that is being an ass, then we have different definitions of it.

Or perhaps you are referring to his post-show email as the behavior that makes him an ass? That's reasonable IF Shermer is lying, which we don't know, and knowledge of how television works does not make his claim unreasonable. It doesn't prove it, either, of course.
dmkraig
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No, Shermer didn't do this "unscientifically." He attempted to cheat. He committed fraud. He showed he was willing to do ANYTHING, no matter how much he lied and cheated, in order to defend his point of view.

That's not being "unscientific." That's outright fraud. Period. Shermer has shown himself for what he really is and anybody who listens to anything he says does so understanding that Shermer is a liar, a cheater, and a fraud.

Resepctfully, asses are very nice animals until you try to have them do something they don't want to do. Then they'll resist and kick and do anything to avoid doing something that they don't believe in. That's exactly what Shermer did.

The show was part of a series hosted by Shermer. No, he wasn't the producer, he just designed everything. It was his show.

Shermer brought in Armstrong and LIED TO HIM. He did everything under false pretenses. He LIED to the people concerning giving them Armstrong's readings (they were actually reading for other people.

As I wrote, this neither proves not disproves Vedic astrology. It does prove that Shermer is a fraud and a liar, willing to do anything including cheating in order to defend his narrow point of view.
Bill Brunelle
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Wow, I really didn't mean to create a polarized discussion by posting the original link. I just thought it was a fascinating video that could provide those interested in psychic entertainment some food for thought and perhaps some material for their presentations or discussions of psychic phenomena.

Gmeister, you asked the kind of question that I thought might be promoted by the video. I can't say I know anyone who uses Vedic astrology in a mentalism context, but I do know straight practitioners of it.
You pose an interesting question. Just as with Western astrology, I think it's tough to use in a presentation without becoming at least somewhat versed in it. If you already know Western astrology, I can suggest "Ancient Hindu Astrology for the Modern Western Astrologer" as a sourcebook. Though my contacts put me in touch with a lot of specialists in this area, I myself have only a smattering of knowledge about it. I'm pretty firmly planted somewhere between the shut-eye and the skeptic.

If you're interested in things Vedic, I think the Ayurvedic system of body typing could be very useful in for readings or routines. More so than Vedic astrology, actually.

All the best,

Bill Brunelle

Bill
mindshrink
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Vedic strology is not used usually by mentalists because the readings(as I see it in India) are based on multiple permutataions and combinations.
In case of a mentalist using vedic astrology apart from a superficial reading...nothing more is possible(unlike palmistry).
Offcourse a lot of cold-reading (and maybe hot readings) does go into the readings as I have observed over the years while talking to various astrologers.
alpha alex
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DO ANY BODY HERE believes VEDIC astrology is real??
seadog93
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I thought this video was fairly interesting; especially since they were all pretty accurate except the two that where switched and once they were switched back they all were accurate.

BUT, I find most of this thread uninteresting. Just the same arguments.

I don't know much about Vedic Astrology, but the most interesting thing to me in it's incorporation with Ayurveda, yoga and other practices. Whereas western astrology (as popularly practiced now, as opposed to historically) will tell you about yourself and your future; Vedic astrology (Jyotish) will tell you those things and prescribe herbs, mantras, asana and various other practices to help you get the most out of life.

I was going to comment more on the thread, but I just recently got one of Dave Frawley's books on Vedic astrology from the library, maybe this is a good time to check it out...
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Garrette
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On 2011-01-16 17:48, dmkraig wrote:
No, Shermer didn't do this "unscientifically." He attempted to cheat. He committed fraud. He showed he was willing to do ANYTHING, no matter how much he lied and cheated, in order to defend his point of view.

That's not being "unscientific." That's outright fraud. Period. Shermer has shown himself for what he really is and anybody who listens to anything he says does so understanding that Shermer is a liar, a cheater, and a fraud.

Resepctfully, asses are very nice animals until you try to have them do something they don't want to do. Then they'll resist and kick and do anything to avoid doing something that they don't believe in. That's exactly what Shermer did.

The show was part of a series hosted by Shermer. No, he wasn't the producer, he just designed everything. It was his show.

Shermer brought in Armstrong and LIED TO HIM. He did everything under false pretenses. He LIED to the people concerning giving them Armstrong's readings (they were actually reading for other people.

As I wrote, this neither proves not disproves Vedic astrology. It does prove that Shermer is a fraud and a liar, willing to do anything including cheating in order to defend his narrow point of view.
No, it was not Shermer's show. He did not have final say on what went in or what was filmed.

No, Shermer neither cheated nor committed fraud, though you can call it lying to tell the two participants that they were rating their own readings when they were not. Of course, since it was Shermer himself who told them afterwards and who admitted that what it demonstrated was not what he expected, you will have a hard time stretching those "lies" to any kind of deceptive intent. Unless, of course, you're going to say that anyone who isn't 100% truthful is guilty of lying and fraud, in which case your net will cover nearly every mentalist.

You don't like Shermer; I get it. You don't like what he stands for; I get it, but your position suffers from the inclusion of manufactured criticism.
dmkraig
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I see you're a mind reader, Garrette. Unfortunately, you're totally wrong. I think Shermer is a very likable fellow. He talks well and presents himself well. I also like what he stands for--in the sense that people believe he stands for true skepticism and scientific inquiry.

What I don't like is the way he has committed fraud and lied to try and defend his position. Science and true skepticism do not need fraud or lies in their defense.

It's very clear what he did on HIS show. This was one of a series of shows in which he was in charge.

You can defend his actions all you like. The bottom line is what was shown: He lied. Repeatedly. He committed fraud. Repeatedly. He used the same sort of CYA excuses for his failure and those used by the people he often denounces.

There is not "manufactured criticism" here. However I do detect a whiff of a groupie.
Garrette
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On 2011-01-17 16:29, dmkraig wrote:
I see you're a mind reader, Garrette. Unfortunately, you're totally wrong. I think Shermer is a very likable fellow. He talks well and presents himself well. I also like what he stands for--in the sense that people believe he stands for true skepticism and scientific inquiry.
Then I retract that portion of my post and apologize for misreading you.


Quote:
What I don't like is the way he has committed fraud and lied to try and defend his position. Science and true skepticism do not need fraud or lies in their defense.
No fraud at all, unless you're using a definition of which I am unaware. Care to share it?


Quote:
It's very clear what he did on HIS show. This was one of a series of shows in which he was in charge.
Uh-huh.


Quote:
You can defend his actions all you like. The bottom line is what was shown: He lied. Repeatedly. He committed fraud. Repeatedly. He used the same sort of CYA excuses for his failure and those used by the people he often denounces.
And again I would like to see your definition of fraud.


Quote:
There is not "manufactured criticism" here. However I do detect a whiff of a groupie.
And you're the mind reader now?
dmkraig
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The definition my dictionary gives for fraud is "deception for personal gain."

Was Shermer deceptive? Absolutely. He lied to both the people who had their charts drawn, he lied to the astrologer, and initially he lied to the audience (he didn't admit the deception from the beginning).

Did Shermer do this for "personal gain?" Absolutely. In this case the gain was an attempt to get people to believe as he does and to make people who don't believe as he does look foolish. His fraud failed, but that doesn't mean he's didn't commit fraud.

My definition of fraud is IDENTICAL to that of my dictionary. If you want, I'll give you the name of the dictionary. What is YOUR definition of fraud?
degrandwazoo
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Garrette

You should stop talking about astrology now. Based on your comments, you understand nothing about it and should step aside.
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