Let’s take a more logical look at this age-old criticism
sci·ence (from dictionary.com)
1. a branch of knowledge or study dealing with a body of facts or truths systematically arranged and showing the operation of general laws: the mathematical sciences.
2. systematic knowledge of the physical or material world gained through observation and experimentation.
3. any of the branches of natural or physical science.
4. systematized knowledge in general.
5. knowledge, as of facts or principles; knowledge gained by systematic study.
I was a bit surprised to learn that Astrology – something I usually don’t think of as a mainstream topic – merited not one, but two Mother Jones posts this month. The reports by Chris Mooney and Kevin Drum focused on the scientific basis of Astrology or perceived lack thereof. Given that I hold Mother Jones in very high regard as a journalistic vehicle that “questions” to find the truth, I was dismayed (although not really surprised given the topic) at the ignorance displayed in these two articles.
Before I go further, let’s back up to ask what these articles even mean by Astrology? Horoscopes printed in Cosmopolitan? Descriptions of sun-signs in one-dimensional pop-culture astrology books? Are they talking about predicting the future by interpreting planetary influence in one’s life at a particular time? or the complex personality profile provided by analyzing a specific birthdate & time? Are we talking about Chinese Astrology? Hellenistic Astrology? Vedic Astrology? I have found that most people who denigrate astrology actually know next to nothing at all about it. It’s clear by the lack of interest in even defining what is meant by “Astrology” that the same holds true for the authors of both these articles. For the sake of this post, I am largely referring to the Hellenistic Astrology of personality– but I do believe the arguments would work for both predictive and personality based Astrology.
So let’s really examine the idea of Astrology as science. To help out, I’ve actually reprinted the definition of science above. I would like to call attention to the second entry which describes science as, “systematic knowledge of the physical or material world gained through observation and experimentation” and I would argue that knowledge of Astrology could comfortably fall under this definition of science. Unlike, say, particle theory, Astrology is something that ordinary people actually have the ability to observe and experiment with in the lab of everyday experience. As Kevin Drum, in his slightly less derogatory post, indicated, “It works.” People for centuries have been systematically observing and experimenting with Astrology. If it was totally unhelpful and surpassed by our more modern understanding, it would have fallen out of use like the sundial. On a more personal note, I have pointed a lot of skeptics towards astrology simply saying, “Try it out for yourself” and every single one has come back a convert. So I offer that challenge to both Kevin Drum and Chris Mooney. Try it out – go to a site like Alabe.com and get your comprehensive personal profile for free (or go look it up in a book) and then go to your local library or bookstore or whatever and pore through the books. Observe and experiment with your own personalities and those around you for awhile and compare. Take the scientific approach. 😉
Because our scientific community doesn’t understand how Astrology works, the conclusion is that it can’t work. (Note the Carl Jung quote on the front page of this blog). Thus far, the experiments that I have seen related to Astrology have largely been designed to prove that people are gullible, not that Astrology itself is inaccurate. If you are looking for an understanding of why Astrology works that sounds more ‘science-y’– how about this one? The gravitational force of the Sun is so strong that it anchors our entire solar system, the moon’s gravitational force is strong enough to have a noticeable impact on our ocean tides. Further, Mars & Venus keep our planet floating along in its own orbit. Do we really believe that we are somehow exempt from solar, moon, and planetary influence when it so clearly regulates the very behavior of our planet? We may not “notice” these influences the way we notice the tides, but that doesn’t mean there are no effects. We don’t understand what they are because we haven’t dedicated time to study and document them. Maybe a civilization that wasn’t so distracted by television and the internet had time to do that?
To bring this subject back to the theme of the blog, I just want to note that knowledge about Astrology is in no way necessary to actively walk the Spiritual Path. It can be helpful if the personality aspect of it is used as another mirror of the self to better understand and evaluate who we are as well as our interactions and relationships with others. However, I have found that, when too much time is spent on it, Astrology is more of a distraction from the spiritual path than an aid to further development. Additionally, I don’t really recommend using Astrology to predict the future. There are so many factors to consider that this type of prediction is a lot like financial market prediction; it works in a vacuum, but we don’t live in a vacuum. I think it would require an incredible amount of research and dedication to predict how a particular planetary influence is going to manifest in your life. I’m not sure it’s healthy to be that obsessed with the future; it takes you out of living in the present.