Debunking with caution – cleaning up Mars effect research

Author: Ertel, Prof. Suitbert
Abstract: In 1979, CSICOP–skeptics tried to replicate Gauquelin’s Mars effect using a sample of 408 U.S. athletes. Their first intermediate result (from batch 1 of 3 sub-samples) which was not made public confirmed Gauquelin’s effect, i.e., an excess of athletes was born when Mars was rising or culminating. The main researcher, Paul Kurtz, enlarged the sample (by batch 2 and 3) and ended up with a deficit of athletes born with Mars in the sensitive zones. Suspicion of data manipulation that might explain why the Mars effect changed significantly and even reversed within an ongoing research process arose in CSICOP’s own circle. Gauquelin and others expressed like concerns, but none had scrutinised the data. The present study reanalyzes CSICOP’s athletes data and reveals two anomalies (1) For athletes of batch 2 and 3, citation counts – which is an eminence indicator – decrease significantly (athletes must be eminent for a Mars effect to become manifest), citations would hardly decrease under proper sampling conditions. (2) An unattended additional indicator of a Gauquelin Mars effect, namely an excess of birth counts for secondary Mars sectors 36 and 9 (no. 36 preceding Mars rise sector 1 and no. 9 preceding culmination sector 10) did not change, remained unaffected from batch 1 of the initial sample, to batch 3 of the enlarged sample. In 1979, birth counts in secondary sectors were not yet considered effect-indicative. Thus, empirical evidence supports the hypothesis of data manipulation. My attempt to get permission to check the US athletes data in Buffalo in CSICOP’s headquarters in order to verify this hypothesis remained un-acknowledged. The present account of this case of doubtful data treatment adopted CSICOP’s own guidelines:” Debunking should not be abused, but should be used with caution; it should be based on an arsenal of facts” (Kurtz, 1986). Another case of debunking in the field of Mars effect research, by J. W. Nienhuys (1997), is shown to fall short of this admonition.
Keywords: Mars effect, Gauquelin, CSICOP, data manipulation
Publication: Correlation: Astrological Association Journal of Research In Astrology
Issue: Volume 18 Issue 2
Dated: 1999/2000
Pages: Pages 9 – 41

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