Rick Miller (rdmiller3) wrote in ljskeptics,
Rick Miller

How to Silence a Woo-Pusher: Publicly Check Their Data

Recently in a Facebook comment thread there was a guy arguing that astrology is real. The guy kept posting stupid responses about tides, gravitation, etc. and obviously didn't know what he was talking about. Then he claimed to have data which proved that composers were mostly born under Sagittarius. I could hardly believe my luck when I found a copy of his data online.

Manuel Campagna:
I have done myself a much better experiment. I took the birthdates from a dictionary of classical music composers (777 of them). The results are more than convincing. Sagittarius (e.g. Beethoven) is by far the most favoured one, the distant second is Aquarius (e.g. Mozart), then meager results for the rest, Virgo coming last with only one famous composer, Dvořák, and a few less known.

I wonder if you can show us that composer data. Exactly how many of the 777 fell into each of the signs? What dictionary was it taken from? Was there a selection criteria, or did you use all the composers in the book?

People tend to remember only the data which fits their expectations. So, did you actually count how many of those composers were in each sign, or did you just browse through the book and guess?

Manuel Campagna:
I didn't keep the figures, but here is the book I used.

I found a copy of your book's list of composers, ordered by birth day:

The data says that you're wrong.

For those with known birthdays:

Aries (Mar.21-Apr.20): 54 composers
Taurus (Apr.21-May20): 51 composers
Gemini (May21-Jun.20): 46 composers
Cancer (Jun.21-Jul.20): 37 composers
Leo (Jul.21-Aug.20): 32 composers
Virgo (Aug.21-Sep.20): 36 composers
Libra (Sep.21-Oct.20): 31 composers
Scorpio (Oct.21-Nov.20): 47 composers
Sagittarius (Nov.21-Dec.20): 48 composers
Capricorn (Dec.21-Jan.20): 60 composers
Aquarius (Jan.21-Feb.20): 59 composers
Pisces (Feb.21-Mar.20): 50 composers

(Almost 250 of the composers' birth days are not known.)

Average is 45.92
Standard Deviation is 9.89
The gaps between 1st and 2nd highest scores is less than 0.1 standard deviations. None of the signs are different enough to show a statistically significant correlation with the birth of composers.

Next time Manuel, you should use numbers.

After exposing the fact that his data didn't line up at all with his claims, he finally shut up.
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