Kenneth Irving | What Is Hiding in Ertel’s Tree?

What Is Hiding in Ertel’s Tree?

Kenneth Irving

The life’s work of the late French psychologist Michel Gauquelin was centered on a large collection of timed, registered birth records that he used in various studies. The core of this collection consisted of the birth data of nearly 29,000 people who had risen to success in eleven professions that, as he said, “had a direct relationship with the great poles of attraction of the mind: science, art, politics, and so on.” Significant patterns found in data gathered in France, Europe, and the United States linked these professions to the rising and culmination of the Moon, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn.

Other psychologists (even skeptics) were able to repeat these experiments with their own data, but other experiments did not come off as well, particularly one known as the Character Trait Hypothesis (CTH), which proposed that each planet could be identified by a distinct set of traits. Though his results to prove this were successful, others could not match them, setting the stage for a controversy.

In a 1986 article published in a German journal, Professor Suitbert Ertel presented the results of a comprehensive study he had made of Gauquelin’s achievements as they stood at that time. Covering each facet of the data collection, and the theories and experiments attached to it, Ertel ended the article with high praise for what Gauquelin had done. The centerpiece of that article was two hierarchical cluster analyses by Ertel. One was based on the birth positions of the five planets in the eleven professions in the entire Gauquelin database, and a second was based only on card sorts using cards with the names of the Gauquelin professions inscribed on them. The two different procedures produced almost identical tree graphs (dendrograms).

This was all to the good until, in a 1989 lecture at a research conference in London, Ertel said of the planet-based dendrogram, “This tree may be enjoyable, but it is posing a disturbing question … Applying temperamental variables does not make sense out of what you see here. Are its branches definable by Gauquelin’s characterology … Or by Eysenck’s introversion, extraversion, or something similar?” He then said that the “pattern of relations” seen in that dendrogram had raised doubts in him about the Character Trait Hypothesis.

Though he offered no theory to counter his doubts (either then or later, to my knowledge), he may have done so inadvertently at a lecture in Amsterdam that same year. Speaking in reference to students’ ability to match the planet-based structure, he attributed it to “the order our minds tend to impose on the professions.” This phrase is a close cousin to the term “occupational stereotypes,” a bedrock term in the area of psychology that deals with vocational interests – the dispositions that guide us toward what we do in life. What such interests might have to do with Gauquelin’s planets is another matter, so let us take a look at what this might tell us about Ertel’s tree, and what else might be hiding in its branches.

Gauquelin’s fundamental and reproducible findings about planets and professions are an open question, but that question has been obscured over the years by a focus on efforts looking for “causes” derived from physical science. Such there may be, but we should keep in mind that it is psychology, and not physics, that has been at the center of what we know so far about the Gauquelin discoveries.

Kenneth Irving coauthored The Tenacious Mars Effect, Biased Data Selection in Mars Effect Research, The Mars Effect Is Genuine: On Kurtz, Nienhuys, and Sandhu’s Missing the Evidence and other works with Suitbert Ertel. He is currently working on a series of commentaries explaining the technical and historical aspects of the works of Gauquelin, Ertel, and others in this field.

Join this channel to get access to perks:

Support the Society’s commitment to maintain an open professional forum for researchers at the edge of conventional science:

The SSE provides a forum for original research into cutting edge and unconventional areas. Views and opinions belong only to the speakers, and are not necessarily endorsed by the SSE.

Published on January 22, 2024