Showing posts with label postmodernism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label postmodernism. Show all posts

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Association, causation and the purely random: ideology and astrology in the classroom



Since the replacement of the octagonal mahogany dining tables with pine benches you can never be quite sure who you'll end up sitting down beside during the lunch break in the Senior Common Room.

Yesterday, Dr Ptolemy Macrobius, Reader in Paranormal Psychology, was expounding some of the key advances that had taken place in reaction to the limitations exposed in Theodor Adorno's dialectical materialist debunking of the topic in The Stars Down to Earth and other Essays (1952-3 / 1994).

Yet this work deserves a little respect! I responded:

“It pretends to a higher level of scientificness than the supposedly more primitive forms of esoteric wisdom without, however, entering into the argument itself: the lack of a transparent interconnection between astronomical observations and inferences pertaining to the fate of individuals or nations… Astrology attempts to get away from crude and unpopular fatalism by establishing outward forces operating on the individual’s decision, including the individual’s own character, but leaves the ultimate choice to him… Astrology undertakes the constant encouragement of people to take decisions, no matter how inconsequential they may be. It is practically directed towards action in spite of all the lofty talk about cosmic secrets and profound meditation. Thus, the very gesture of astrology, its basic presumption that everyone has to make up his mind at every moment falls in line with what will later come out with respect to the specific content of astrological counseling: its leaning towards extroversion.”

--- I said --- reading from the Amazon site on my iphone, 'Still relevant?'

In fact, looking at this topic from another angle, I've always considered the curious micro-narratives of astrology as an artful shorthand that repay close critical scrutiny, especially during those yawning intervals in cultural studies seminars, when the grand narrative theories have come crashing down, and one needs to begin the creative task of rebuilding - scaffolding - from more experiential and pragmatic foundations.

And the role of the aleatory in creative foreplay has long been accepted in postmodernist circles, has it not?

Although there's not much on astrology and pedagogy in the research literature, I was curious to discover that the scientists are still conducting their own research in this field:

 Treating astrology’s claims with all due gravity.
Steven K. Lower

“I teach an introductory science class at my university, which typically enrols many non-science majors. During a lecture on the gravitational force, I imply that if planets such as Mars exert a force on any object, including humans, then perhaps there is something to astrology’s idea that celestial bodies exert a force of influence on our lives. I encourage my students to undertake a test I have designed for this notion.
I present the students with 12 randomly numbered horoscopes from the previous day, with the corresponding signs of the zodiac removed. I ask each student to record the horoscope that best describes the day she or he had, and the astrological sign (for example, Aries) corresponding to her/his birthday. My scientific hypothesis is that planets may exert a force on our bodies, but it is purely random — 1 out of 12 (8.3%) — whether a horoscope foretells the events of one’s life.
I am pleased to report that, as Shawn Carlson has noted, “astrology failed to perform at a level better than chance” (Nature 318, 419–425; 1985). The results from my classes are: 8.0% (n = 163 students), 8.4% (n = 155), 7.0% (n = 143), 8.0% (n = 138) and 8.0% (n = 100). In other words, as John Maddox has commented “astrology is a pack of lies … There is no evidence that the positions of the planets can affect human behaviour” (Nature 368, 185; 1994)./”

Nature 447, 528 (31 May 2007).

Further information, prior to reaching a tentative conclusion and provisional predictions

"... Multivariate analyses of results based on a random sample of individuals support the medical
encounter and postmodern hypotheses and show that the set of postmodern values, in
comparison to dissatisfaction with the medical encounter, is by far a better predictor of attitudes ..."
See: Siahpush, Mohammad. "Postmodern values, dissatisfaction with conventional medicine and popularity of alternative therapies." Journal of Sociology 34.1 (1998): 58-70. 
'This condition implies a new form of cybernetic control, governed by the aleatory play of the code.'
 See : Clarke, David B. "Consumption and the city, modern and postmodern." International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 21.2 (1997): 218-237.
'He embraced multiple serialism, aleatory technique and electronics, but he is best known for his pioneering explorations in music theatre, radio play, film and mixed media.' See:
Heile, Bjorn. The Music of Mauricio Kagel. Ashgate, 2006.

Conclusion?

I confidently predict that we have not yet witnessed the terminus of astrological pedagogies and aleatory methodologies, nor the sublime of big data, nor the sinister predictability of the commercial algorithm that perpetually haunts each keystroke of social media participation.