Kelly's Questions, Michael's Answers
5. Is Astrology a real science or did someone just make it up?
Link-to: | Question 1| Question 2| Question 3| Question 4| Question 5| Star-Trek analogy|
Received: from istar.ca for email@example.com Date: Sat, 29 Mar 1997 15:28:05 -0500 (EST) Dear Reader, For my eighth grade English report I chose the topic of Astrology. I have to interview three people, and I was wondering if you could answer some questions for me. My report is due on April 10, so it would help a lot if you could reply before then. Here are the questions...
Since sending my email reply to Kelly with answers to her questions about Astrology, I have edited and added to the original answers to create this series of Astrology FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) pages for the STAR SIGNS Astrology Zine website. Her questions about Astrology were good ones, and probably represent the kind of questions many children, teenagers, and adults ask about Astrology and horoscopes. I hope that my answers based on my experience with Astrology will be helpful to the many people who may read them here on the world wide web. These are one astrologer's opinions, and you are welcome to take what truth you see here, or to ignore what does not resonate with your personal view of what is true for you.
-- Michael Star, Astrologer
I'm glad you wrote to look for some answers to your questions, as it has stimulated me to write quite a long explanation, as you will see...
5. Is Astrology a real science or did someone just make it up?
Link-to: | Question 1 | Question 2 | Question 3 | Question 4 | Question 5 |
Michael's ANSWER 5:
First, you should decide for yourself what "science" really is. I see it as a system for investigating and understanding things, using observation of perceived phenomena. You observe what appears real, then form a theory about what causes the phenomenon, then test your new theory by using it to predict what "should" be observed the next time in some experiment -- IF your theory is correct! We should always remember that many "scientific" theories have proven to be wrong, and many others have had to be changed to accomodate new evidence observed at a later time. Newton's Laws of Mechanics were found to be true only in a limited sense when Einstein's Theory of Relativity was proposed around 1905. Even then, Albert Einstein was "persecuted" and condemned by the majority of scientists until his Theory was finally accepted as being valid and he was awarded a Nobel Prize for it nearly 17 years later.
Science is based on some form of a "Law of Cause and Effect". It is believed that whenever there is a particular Cause, there will also be a particular Effect which follows naturally from that Cause.
So scientists want to be able to "see" or sense in some way, using the five physical senses, the Cause of the Effects they can see or sense. And when they cannot actually sense the Cause (can you "sense" Gravity?), they expect to be able to at least measure the Effect in some way. They can calculate how fast an object will fall when dropped from a certain height in the air, and that gives them the idea that they have "proved" that Gravity exists, and that its Effects can be predicted consistently in repeatable experiments. Scientists do not consider a new scientific theory as valid unless other scientists can "repeat" the same experiments as the originator of the theory and get the same observed results. The idea is that if the theory is true, it will be true in all cases. Once they find a case where a different result is observed than was predicted by the theory, they suspect the theory is false and cannot be relied on to give accurate predictions or explanations of observed phenomena.
But Gravity is a "Cause" which cannot actually be seen, touched, tasted, smelled or heard -- it is only "real" in the sense that its Effects can be observed. It is especially "real" to a scientist when he has a nice hypothesis and some formulae that let him calculate the Effects of Gravity, and when he can use them to accurately predict what particular Effect it will produce in any particular case. Yet he forgets that he still doesn't really understand the Cause, because he does not know WHY Gravity makes things fall down!
Why doesn't Gravity make things fall up instead? Scientists cannot answer that question. They cannot EXPLAIN Gravity, they can only observe and predict its Effects. The Cause is still a mystery, even though they are under the illusion that they know all about Gravity. We, the public, are led to believe that the scientists know all there is to know about Gravity, because they forget they don't really understand the Cause, and they forget to tell us that they don't. So everyone ASSUMES Science has all the answers, and is the final authority on what is real and what is not real.
If it can be observed and measured, they think it is real. If it can't, then they think it is not real. But they forget that they do not understand, and cannot measure, their own thoughts in their own brains; nor can they observe or measure the one thing they all must believe in without any proof -- that they LOVE someone. Love is real, yet it cannot be sensed with the five physical senses or measured with scientific instruments. Yet I would bet that most scientists would never dare to proclaim that Love is not real, or that they do not believe in it themselves.
So is Astrology "real" and is Astrology "a science"? First, we must decide exactly what "Astrology" is, before we can compare it to something we call "Science". There is something called "Astronomy" -- the study of the stars and other heavenly bodies like the planets and moons and asteroids. Most scientists, and most everyone else, would call Astronomy "a science", and I would too. But what is the difference between Astronomy and Astrology?
Astrology is the study of the RELATIONSHIP between the Sun and Moon and Planets (and even the asteroids) and the human Psyche. This is seen by scientists and the general public as some kind of Cause and Effect relationship. THEY think we Astrologers believe that those heavenly bodies actually CAUSE people to be the way they are, and CAUSE events to happen when and how they happen. THEY want to make Astrology or "the stars" or "the planets" the Cause, and make the predictions the Effect.
But Astrologers who really understand Astrology know that this is not the case at all. We see the motion and relative positions of the heavenly bodies (ie. Sun, Moon, Planets -- Astrologers call them all "Planets" for convenience) as an Effect, and also see the individual differences in humans and the events in their lives as Effects too. But one does NOT cause the other. Planets don't MAKE people the way they are or MAKE events happen, any more than people MAKE Planets or MAKE them move the way they do.
Something ELSE is the Cause of BOTH Effects, and we really don't understand exactly what that Cause is. You might call it "Cosmic Law", or "The Universe", or "The Force" (as in the Star Wars movies). Or you could call it "God" or "Allah" or "Jehovah" or "The Tao". The Cause is not known. But we can observe the Effects. Some Cause makes the Planets circle the Sun and the Moon circle the Earth. Astronomers and scientists call it a combination of forces known as Momentum and Gravity. But what causes Gravity to exist and act the way it does? Is it some greater "Prime Cause" like a God or a universal Force?
Astronomers study the Planets and have discovered theories which allow them to predict how they will move and where they will be at some time in the future. Yes, Astronomers predict things too! All the early Astronomers were actually Astrologers who were only interested in observing and predicting the motion of the Planets so they could make practical USE of the correspondence between those planetary positions and particular happenings ON EARTH -- events and outcomes of events.
This correspondence is called "Synchronicity" -- a word invented by the great Swiss psychologist Dr Carl G. Jung (who was once a partner of Sigmund Freud). Now you know where the title of that record album "Synchronicity" by Sting and his band "The Police" came from!
Two events which are "acausal" (one does NOT cause the other) but which do appear to occur simultaneously in time, are called "synchronistic" events. They are not just "coincidences", but are "meaningful coincidences" -- they coincide in Time, but may also coincide in their original Cause. They may exist in a different Space (occur at separate locations) but exist in the same Time (occur at the same time). It is possible that synchronistic events are Effects which are manifestations of the same Cause. Let's look at some Synchronicity between heavenly bodies and conditions on Earth.
When the Sun and Moon are positioned at exactly opposite sides of the Earth (an event), at the same time when the highest tides occur in the oceans of the world (another event), then these two events are "synchronistic" -- they always occur together in Time. In Astrology and Astronomy, when two heavenly bodies are exactly opposite each other, their 180-degree angular relationship is called "an opposition" or they are said to be "in opposition". In Astrology we call the "angle" between the positions of two Planets an "aspect" between them. Only ceratin angles between Planets (like 0, 30, 60, 90, 120, 150, 180, and others) are considered "aspects" in Astrology.
An "opposition aspect" between the Sun and Moon is also known as "a Full Moon", and it means that the Sun and Moon are positioned on opposite sides of the Earth. It also means that if you were born at a Full Moon, your natal (birth-time) Sun and your natal Moon must have appeared in opposite Signs, since their position in the Signs is just a way of measuring where they are located in relation to Earth, which in this case happens to be opposite each other, on opposite sides.
Scientists say that the Sun/Moon opposition CAUSES the highest tides, due to differential gravitational effects. But remember, they still cannot EXPLAIN Gravity, only obeserve it and predict its observed effects. Perhaps it is just as reasonable to consider that some unknown Cause is what causes BOTH the Sun/Moon opposition AND the highest tides?
This view can also be taken when we notice that whenever there is this Sun/Moon opposition -- which we also call a "Full Moon" -- certain OTHER things happen synchronistically. Many changes occur in Nature when there is a Full Moon: in the tides, in plants, in animals, and in humans. Our blood gets thinner and does not coagulate as quickly when there is a Full Moon, so it is not a good idea to schedule surgery at that time because the risk of bleeding is greater when the blood will not coagulate and help heal the cut arteries and veins as quickly. Ask any policeman, bartender, cab driver, emergency room doctor or nurse, or psychiatric ward worker, if people are affected at the time of a Full Moon. Ask yourself if you don't feel a little unusual, even a little weird, at the time of a Full Moon. Ask a medical researcher if the average number of days in a woman's monthly menstrual cycle is not actually the same as the number of days in the Moon's Lunar cycle. I think you will see a connection.
Does the Full Moon cause people to feel or act differently, or does some other Cause do that, and ALSO make the Moon align itself on the opposite side of the Earth from the Sun? Many people THINK Astologers believe the former answer -- yet many Astrologers actually believe the latter! I believe that the relative positions of the Planets occur synchronistically (simultaneously) with certain changes in the psyches and physical bodies of human beings. I believe the Cause is still unknown to us, but the Effects are things we can observe and predict.
If we know that certain relative positions of the Planets (including the Sun and Moon, by the definition of "Planets" astrologers use for the sake of convenience) occur synchronistically with certain influences on human beings (tendencies, motivations, drives, emotional states, even biological changes like blood-thinning) -- then we can "predict" that whenever the planetary Effect occurs, the human Effect will also occur at the same time. We do not NEED to know the Cause if we can assure ourselves from repeated observations that the one Effect always occurs at the same time as the other Effect.
And since Astrologers have been observing and carefully recording planetary positions for over 5000 years, and have been observing the correspondences of certain positions to certain events in human lives or certain influences on human characters; we can pretty much rely on any prediction that human decisions and actions, and the events that follow from them, will occur simulaneously when certain alignments of the Planets occur at any given time in space.
That is pretty much like the way "a science" uses its accumulated observations to form its theories, and uses accumulated repeated tests of its theories to predict certain Effects, and uses repeated successful outcomes to validate their faith that the theory will continue to make accurate predictions the next time, and the next time, and always. So because of that similarity in using repeated observation and repeated experimentation and repeated testing of theories, I would say that Astrology is very much like "a science".
But most scientists would disagree. Many do not WANT Astrology to have the status of a science, because they cannot explain HOW it works, and have great difficulty devising experiments to even OBSERVE it working, much less MEASURE how it works. It is much more difficult to measure PEOPLE than to measure things like objects and energy. And I think they find it a little embarrassing to know that many great discoveries in the field of Astronomy were made by men who were only studying the heavens to be able to do Astrology.
These scientific-minded astrologers like Copernicus and Tycho Brahe observed and kept records of the motion of the Planets (a word which meant "wandering star" in ancient times) only to be able to make predictions of events on Earth, and they were supported by kings and wealthy individuals who wanted to use their astrologers' knowledge and skills for their own benefit. This is pretty much what is happening in modern times when corporations support scientific research to be able to use the knowledge and skills of the scientists for their own purposes, to make profits.
You see, Astronomy is a study of stars and planets and THINGS we see in the heavens; but the field of Astrology is a study of HUMAN BEINGS -- living, thinking, feeling, intuitive creatures who have conscious awareness of themselves and have Free Will to make choices for themselves. They are much more complex than falling rocks or other natural phenomenon, and are very, very difficult to measure. Humans may all be composed of the same chemical compounds, but people can be different in many other ways. And when it comes to how people think or feel, they are almost impossible to MEASURE. So it is no wonder that almost every attempt by scientists to measure the Effects of Astrology in experiments has failed to give any conclusive evidence that it "works" -- or that it doesn't work.
Scientists and "scientific" types of people often conclude that their failure to observe and measure it means that it doesn't work; when really it is their failure to design an adequate experiment or study of its Effects that doesn't work. We are dealing with the human mind here, and the scientist doesn't even know how his OWN mind works. How can he tell if the Planets and their positions have some effect on his mind and his behaviour, if he cannot tell how his own environment and food and his own perceptions and beliefs and subconscious memories affect his own mind and his own behaviour?
The study of the human PSYCHE (which means "soul" in Greek) is a science called Psychology, and in this "science" the observations and measurements are not so nice and simple as in a study of falling rocks or moving planets. People are complex, their physical make-up varies considerably, their reactions to certain chemical compounds and natural substances vary widely, and any studies of Cause and Effect on human beings is rarely 100% this and zero % the other. In Medicine and Psychology the experiments do not produce nice neat results like in the other sciences, and the same goes for Astrology because it also deals with human minds and human bodies.
Yet "scientists" seem to want Astrology to be proven by experiments that have nice neat results, so they can use statistical analysis to determine what works and what doesn't. Since they have not been able to do this, and have not really made very many attempts to try, they like to ignore the whole thing and just assume Astrology must be a lot of bunk, and certainly not "a science". When they do attempt an experiment to prove or disprove the validity of Astrology, they often go into the experiment with a preconceived bias which leads them (consciously or unconsciously) to set up the experimental factors in ways which bias the experiment towards the conclusion they want it to prove.
Once, when a scientist did a very scientific experiment which actually demonstrated a statistically significant relationship between the birth times and planet positions of successful people in various fields like sports and writing and science, other scientists criticized and condemned him and challenged his results, then conducted their own experiment which appeared to disprove his theory. Later, one of the scientists who participated in the experiment which "disproved" the relationship admitted that the group of scientists had falsified the data to make the experiment's results disprove the other scientist's findings that there was some validity to astrology in predicting occupations. You can read about this in "The Gauquelin Effect" -- a book by Michel Gauquelin, a French psychologist and statistician who did extensive experiments with Astrology. Originally he set out to DISprove the validity of Astrology, but he was a good scientist who did not let his own bias keep him from performing a valid scientific experiment.
Michel Gauquelin was a respected statistician, and his methods were precise and scientific enough that no scientist could find a flaw in his methods or question the validity of his experiments. It was the results of his experiment and the implications it raised about Astrology that the scientists did not want to accept. A valid scientific study had revealed a statistically significant link between time of birth and certain occupations chosen by human beings who were known as the best in their chosen field -- such as athletes, writers, and even scientists!
When a medical doctor uses chemical analysis and electronic measuring devices and x-ray equipment and other "scientific" stuff to diagnose an unknown illness in a patient, most of us would say that the diagnostic process is "a science". There are observations, experiments, and theories being used here, and logical conclusions are being drawn to make the "predictions". This is "real science".
But what if there were some great doctor who used all the same scientific tests and equipment to diagnose a patient, yet also used his own sense of intuition to add extra insights -- and by doing that he could always come up with the correct diagnosis, when other doctors who did not have such good intuition occasionally mis-diagnosed or could not diagnose the cause of the symptoms of the illness?
Would you say that this great medical diagnostician had turned his ability to diagnose illnesses into "an art"? I would say so, and many might agree. He would be using the tools of "a science" to give him data on which to base his decisions, and may be using scientific methods to arrive at his decisions; but if he ALSO listens to his intuition and takes it into consideration when making his decisions, then is he not combining "a science" with "an art" -- the "art" of good medical diagnosis?
An artist cannot "explain" his artistic talent or his artistic "inspiration" -- it just comes to him and he "knows" it without knowing HOW he knows. Often, artists and writers call this unknown source of inspiration their "Muse" (the Muses were mythological beings). But one does not HAVE to know HOW it all works to be able to USE the artistic inspiration or talent to create works of art. And neither does an Astrologer have to be able to know HOW or WHY Astrology works to be able to USE it and believe in it as a valid tool for self-undertanding. He does not have to "prove" it to anyone but himself; although many Astrologers seem to need to feel "validated" by scientific theories, or feel that Astrology is "acceptable" to society, and they would love to have the scientists pronounce it "a science" so they can feel that their work is an accepted field of study and that they are accepted and respected in the ways that "scientists" are accepted and respected.
I felt that way for some time, wanting to use my own scientific training (I studied Electrical Engineering in university) to get the "scientific" types of people to see the validity of Astrology. Now I don't really care, and only try to explain things, like I have done here, when someone is interested enough to ask and open enough to listen objectively. If some people don't want to accept Astrology, I can accept that. It works for me, and as long as it continues to work, I will continue to use it.
This is how I see Astrology -- a combination of "a science" called Astronomy and another "science" called Psychology, and both of these combined with symbolic and intuitive thinking; so that the end result is elevated to "an Art" that is based on "a Science".
Astrology is not limited to being "a science". A science is a STUDY. An art is an APPLICATION. Science is about investigating and making logical deductions to arrive at a rational conclusion. Art is about just doing and not knowing why you do it, and just knowing HOW to do it without having a rational explanation for it. Some truths can be known without rational thinking -- intutition and inspiration are often non-rational, meaning they give you the truth without having to use the "rational mind" to figure it out. You just KNOW it is the truth, even if you cannot explain how you know. And often it really IS the truth, and still you don't know how you knew it. Does it matter, as long as you got the truth?
In Science, there are some truths which are called "empirical" -- meaning that they are accepted as true even when you cannot really prove by logic that they must be true. You just know from observing them that they must be true. That the Sun rises in the East each day is an empirical truth. That an unknown force called Gravity acts to make physical objects attract each other is accepted as an empirical truth. Scientists accept this as the truth even when they cannot actually prove WHY it is true. They observe the effects of this unknown force and assume that it must exist. Yet when Astrologers have observed the effects of planetary alignments coinciding with human behaviour (for over 5000 years now), the scientists do not want to allow this as an empirical truth. Does this sound like a "scientific" way of seeing things without personal bias or preconceived notions? Does it even seem logical or rational to believe that planets can attract each other by some mysterious "gravitational" force, yet not accept the fact that some mysterious force which does affect the planets may also affect human beings?
Logic and intuition are two different ways to get to the same truth, and either one is equally valid and useful if it gets to the truth. Unfortunately, in our society we have been trained to put more emphasis on rational thinking, logic and reason -- and less on intuition and insight and other non-rational ways of knowing. If we want to maximize our ways of knowing things, we could choose to use BOTH methods and make our final decisions based on which one we feel should be given the greatest consideration in any particular situation.
If you are a fan of the TV series called "Star Trek, The Next Generation", I would like to show you an example of how both logic and intuition can be used to make practical decisions. On the Starship Enterprise, Captain Picard is the one who makes the final decisions in any important matter concerning the ship and its crew, such as their survival when faced with the arrival of an alien warship. When facing the captain of an alien ship in a confrontation, Captain Picard would consult his highly intelligent and logical android, Commander Data, who had the most advanced "positronic brain" like a super-computer. Data was entirely logical and rational, and could analyze all the input from his sensory devices and process it logically and give a verbal report of his recommendations or his analysis.
Sometimes, when facing an alien ship for the first time, there just wasn't sufficient observable data or stored information about the aliens, or past encounters with them, on which to judge their behaviour or likely intentions. Then Captain Picard would consult with Counselor Troi, a betazoid "empath" who had a "psychic sense" and could read the emotions of humanoids and most alien species from a distance. She could tell Captain Picard, "He's lying" or "He's afraid" or "He's bluffing" when there was really no way to know using the usual senses like visual observation or listening to the alien's voice. Counselor Troi's knowledge did not come from any "rational" or "logical" analysis of observed phenomena -- she just "knew" by using her intuition or psychic sense which is called "empathetic sense" or "clairsentience". Basically, she sensed "feelings" and "emotions", as many average humans can do on this Earth "in real life", myself included.
On several occasions, Captain Picard had to rely on Counselor Troi's "non-rational" way of knowing the truth because there was "insufficient data" for Commander Data or anyone to know the truth by using logic and "rational thinking" alone. To use this scenario as an analogy or "allegorical" comparsion, Counselor Troi symbolizes our "intuition" or "non-rational mind", and Commander Data symbolizes our "intellect" or "rational mind". We have both of these functions, in the right and left hemispheres of our human brain. Captain Picard symbolizes that part of our mind, our "Conscious Mind" which is able to make choices and decisions based on information from both "intuition" and from "intellect".
If we consciously choose to, we can call on BOTH parts of our brain and then decide how much weight to give to each source's recommendations in any particular case. Sometimes we can logically deduce the truth using intellect alone; but other times we can only rely on our intuition to make the best decision. How can you tell if that used car salesman is telling you the truth about how many miles that car has been driven, when you cannot tell if the odometer has been turned back or not? You have to rely on your intutition to decide if you can trust him or not, for there is no other way of knowing until after you have made the decision to buy the car and are stuck with it!
When we simply do not have enough data to make a rational decision, it would be inappropriate to try to use logic and reasoning. We should be like the computers we program to say "Insufficient data!" when there isn't enough data to use a logical process. That's a time to use intuition, for it is all we have to go on.
Science cannot predict what human beings will consider a good painting or a good poem or a good song -- it is not qualified to do so. And I don't think Science is qualified to judge Astrology either, for Astrology is more an Art than a Science, and does not have to be "scientific" or obey the rules and regulations of Science. I would challenge any scientist to "prove" the existence of Love, even though he probably "believes" in that very thing which cannot be proven by scientific methods or "rational" explanations. If a scientist cannot "prove" that he or she loves his own wife or husband by scientific means, then I think it is pretty arrogant and unrealistic for the scientist to think that an Astrologer has to "prove" that Astrology works according to some scientific evidence before he is allowed to use Astrology to help people understand their motivations and choices better, and to help them predict the LIKELY effects of the choices they may make when they are influenced by certain motivations.
My view is: "If it works, use it, even if you can't prove why it works!"
(c)1997 by Michael Star
Four other "Kelly's Questions" were answered in each weekly issue of STAR SIGNS Astrology Zine, starting Monday, May 26 1997. See the list below for links to the previous questions.
Link-to: | Question 1| Question 2| Question 3| Question 4| Question 5| Star-Trek analogy|
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First Published on www JUN 16 1997. Updated MAR 26 1998 14:00 EST.
(c)1997 Michael Star, Astrologer
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