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Saturday, January 12, 2008

Astrology Science or Pseudo-Science

Frankly I don’t know if Astrology is “science” or a “pseudo-science” but I do know from personal observation that psychic capabilities are real and that what passes for astral influence may be nothing more than a manifestation of psychic ability by the Astrologer. . (I am not an astrologer so I speak from limited knowledge here). Today Astrology is largely regarded as a pseudo-science and ignored as a topic of scientific investigation by scientists on the basis that it has not survived any test using the scientific method. But this has been true of psychic phenomena as well and there are many skeptics who maintain that it is hogwash, even in the face of demonstrated cases.

The crux of the argument against Astrology seems to rest on the lack of evidence of any known mechanism that would present a causal relationship between celestial bodies and events on Earth. Of course the operative phrase here is “known mechanism” because it is quite possible that – don’t laugh now – that we don’t know everything about the universe or the mechanisms that drive it. After all scientists are already struggling to explain what “dark matter” and “dark energy” are although they are pretty sure that these are not evidence of any divine influence. At a more mundane level there is still some gaps in our understanding of gravity, magnetism, and light. So it would seem that it is possible that there are some energy flows that are yet unknown.

A well known French skeptic (Gauguelins) conducted a critical analysis and discovered a statistical correlation between athletes and the position of Mars in their natal charts. This was described as the “Mars Effect”. In follow up studies the Mars Effect was not demonstrated but these results were disputed because the sample included people of mediocre athletic ability rather than athletes of recognized ability. Gauguelins also found statistical correlations between the position of Jupiter with actors and Saturn for scientists. Although Gauguelins findings were later demonstrated by the Belgian Committee PARA, but these were later rejected on a technical basis regarding how the position of Mars was determined and the controversy rages on. Skeptics maintain that the accuracy of astrological predictions is no greater than chance and that people tend to emphasize the positive “hits” while ignoring the “misses”.

The skeptical view is fully understandable but it seems to me that Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle seems to apply here, because Astrology like all other predictive techniques only show the “potential” for something to occur and do not describe the absolute. In the case of Natal Astrology the position of Mars cannot be taken in a standalone fashion but it must be evaluated in relation to all of the other planets. In astrology each planet has specific influence but must be viewed in relation to all others. However, any horoscope only presents the situation at that time but the future is always uncertain so accuracy can never be 100%. The Natal Horoscope is slightly different because it describes the individual’s personality, character traits, and potentials but contrary to the skeptics it does not provide a “cast in stone” view of the individual. Because these variables exist the scientific community dismisses Astrology because it fails to meet the scientific expectation of repeatability and verification. But the reality is that the future is not fixed and destiny does not exist because each of us is granted free will so our decisions – both great and small – determine our future and our condition.

The result of all of this is the dismissal of Astrology by the scientific community as “pseudo-science” because it cannot and never will meet the rigors of the scientific method, because of its innate variability. Therefore, Astrology rightfully cannot be described as a “science” similar to Astronomy or Astrophysics but then it should not be dismissed as fakery either. Therefore, I view Astrology as a “meta-science” similar to “metaphysics” because metaphysics investigates reality that transcends traditional science and explores the intangible and the realms outside of physical science – just as Astrology does. Science cannot demonstrate or prove precisely how the universe came to be or why. Science cannot prove many aspects of science so dismissing Astrology because it cannot be proven doesn’t mean it has no validity, it just moves it into the realm of meta-science.

Metaphysics deals with the nature of reality, why the world exists, and does the world exist outside of our mind. In effect metaphysics deals with God, the inner person, and the purpose of it all. So it isn’t much of a stretch to think that Astrology, which deals with the inner person, life potential, and purpose, is all that different from metaphysics.

3 comments:

Pam said...

Thanks so much for this post! I too am concerned about scholars presenting theories as facts.

I have just started a blog that I think you will find interesting; please visit me at academichatecrimes.wordpress.com.
The purpose of my blog is to provide evidence of unethical practices in the fields of Near Eastern archaeology and classical studies. I have been researching this issue for over ten years.

Hoping to dialogue with you about this and other topics of mutual interest,

Pam Green

actualastrology said...

As an astrologer, not a scientist, I agree with your suggested line of thinking. Astrological interpretations do not have a currently definable physical mechanism to explain them. Neither does poetry and yet poetry plays its role in our social workings and has had decided historical influence. This thought-provoking and even soul-stirring stuff has yet to be proven to exist from a scientific point of view. No Duke University testing by a Dr. Rhien measured the moment or circumstances of inspiration, or the means by which a poet breaks the rules of his art to redefine it. Still, that's the very substance of poetry. Likewise, the scientifically unproven efficacy of astrological calculations also plays social and historical roles. I agree with you that such calculations are most likely not the workings of scientific formulae as much as the unlocking of the astrologer's own avenues to insight.

But please don't leave off there, Royce. The origins of astrology date back to the middle eastern cultures of some 5000 years ago. What those struggling intellects managed by marking out astral positions in mud was no less than the invention of the scientific method. Direct observation over hundreds of years, comparing their celestial observations with earthly doings, i.e. wars, river levels, market fluctuations, dreams and more, made up the body of knowledge which became lore.

Astrology will always have adherents, even as it wanes and waxes in favor. Students of history, sociology, and even science do not, however, always have access to pertinent information. Langdon, Sayce, Kugler and far too many other early Assyriologists fall from print and are lost in the modern mantra that we have learned so much more that we need not look to those earlier days. Astrologers defensively support their work with ridiculous arguments while would-be critical thinkers use propaganda rather than reason to debunk it.

Hard science is certainly not the standard of some of astrology's more vociferous critics. If you haven't already done so, please see: http://www.icsahome.com/infoserv_articles/astop_astrology.htm. Dr. Rory Coker, of the University of Texas at Austin, claims a hard science background but in preparing his "fact sheet" on astrology for ASTOP (Austin Society To Oppose Pseudoscience), he uses blatant propaganda techniques. This last inflammatory statement is more than substantiated at noapologyforastrology.wordpress.com.

It is easy to appreciate the motives for defensive reactions by astrologers. Plumbing the motives of the ilk of Coker is a somewhat different and more relevant matter.

Thanks for adding your note of sober reason to the hue and cry of emotionalism.

noapologyforastrology.wordpress.net
magician@actualastrology.net

Anonymous said...

You obviously were mistaken