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|Why is astrology a pseudoscience?|
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Of all the sciences only astronomy has been given the "honor" for millennia of having a scientific-sounding "shadow", astrology. And although essentially their paths diverged long ago – astronomy has become one of the most precise sciences and astrology has been turned into a "social narcotic" for comforting the gullible – they are strongly associated in the mass consciousness, inasmuch as they have almost merged in form and everyday word usage.
The Shadow of Astronomy
In 1995 I wrote a book "Astronomical Olympiads". When the books were printed and delivered from the printer's I saw with horror in the bundles of books the printer's labels with the stamp: Surdin, V. G., "Astrological Olympiads" by V. G. Surdin. I vividly imagined the shame of 10,000 copies and was almost stunned. Fortunately, the error was only in the printer's label. The book was printed correctly.
In 1997 Yu. Yu. Balega, Director of the Special Astrophysical Observatory in the Caucasus (SAO RAN [Russian Academy of Sciences], where a 6-meter telescope is in operation) said that in the financial documents of the bank which serves the observatory it is carried as the Special Astrological Observatory and it was impossible to change anything [because] they don't return financial documents.
In the "Guide to the Internet" (Moscow, Sintez, 1995) prepared by A. Gurin and others on page 79 we read "You can find out much about quasars, new stars, etc. in the Smithsonian astrological observatory system in Cambridge. Of course, this refers to the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in the US.
An announcement in one of the Moscow newspapers "A competition is being held to fill the vacant position of professor in the astrology department of the Moscow State University Physics Faculty". In reality, it was the astrophysics department.
In the catalog of public libraries of the Western District of Moscow  the completely reliable popular science journal of the RAN "Earth and the Universe" landed in the "Astrology. Occult Sciences" section. As we see, the compilers of the catalog have completely identified astronomy with astrology. By the way, please note that the section is entitled "Occult Sciences". For, as everyone knows, "occultism (from the Latin "occultus" – secret, concealed) is the general name of sciences which recognize the existence of hidden forces in man and the cosmos inaccessible to ordinary human experience but accessible to "the dedicated"…Occultism is the polar opposite, the antithesis of scientific thinking" .
The confusion of words and concepts sometimes gives birth to surprising fancies: in the Moscow newspaper Tsentr-Plyus (N? 14, 1999) we read "Astrophysicists have managed to discover a real astropological window into the world".
We aren't goinrg to continue this list; probably every reader can add his own examples to ours.
But here's a question: are these simply typos of inattentive typesetters? Probably so. But unconscious mistakes say a lot. And now let us look at the result of conscious choice. In 1999 my survey of 11th graders of Moscow college preparatory school N? 1543 showed that a fourth of them considered astrology to be "a science which studies the Earth and space". I note that a majority of these are children of science researchers, all of whom after graduation without exception entered the best higher educational institutions of Moscow.
Is the identification of astronomy with astrology an exclusively Russian phenomenon? Of course not. In 1990 a survey of 2000 Canadian adults showed that 45% of them consider astrology at least a rather scientific discipline. In 1991 a survey of 1500 freshman of York University in Montreal showed that more than 92% of those surveyed know their zodiac sign; more than 20% from time to time even made decisions based on a horoscope; more than 45% of students in the humanities and 37% of students of schools in the natural sciences agree with at least some of the principles of astrology, that is, they believe in astrology. At the same time more than half of social scientists and just under half of natural scientists consider astrology to be a science . It is curious that this situation has been practically unchanged for several decades (see table).
What social groups are most caught in the "astrological shadow"? Survey results show that women are considerably more attracted to astrology. This result is also preserved in specially selected groups where the level of education in the natural sciences is the same for men and women. Generally, the association of this level with immunity to pseudoscience is not so obvious.
Although several pedagogues say that there is sufficient deep scientific research to establish the growing popularity of pseudoscience the obvious facts show that this is not so. Formal instruction in the natural sciences without stress on the distinction between their method of studying nature from religious, occult, and mystical methods of knowing does not create a reliable immunity against the irrational. The reader rightly asks who needs such immunity. I reply, the public is entrusting technology of increasingly destructive force which functions according to especially rational laws to people who have received an education in physics and mathematics. Therefore even from a purely pragmatic point of view it is desirable that the consciousness of such people not to be affected by mysticism. Besides, there are also other arguments. But let us return to astrology.
Science and astrology in the past
Having its origin in ethnoscience, the ancient astrology of augury was an unavoidable stage in the development of the natural sciences. It emerged and was used to predict the connection between the annual rotation of the Earth around the Sun and periods of drought and rain, the abundance of food and fodder shortage, and the weather in general. It was then not properly separated from the "integrated package" of knowledge about nature. Astrology acquired its appearance, its individuality, and its contemporary meaning only when it engaged in predicting the character and fate of people. The boundary between it and science appeared from this moment and has not disappeared. Even in 370 B.C. the ancient Greek mathematician and astronomer Eudoxus wrote that "one ought not trust the Chaldeans and their predictions and statements about the life of man based on the date of his birth to the slightest degree". .
But at that time the essence of astrology was still not so evident; in any event it stimulated astronomical observations and a search for patterns in the motion of the planets. Claudius Ptolemy, one of the greatest astronomers and mathematicians of antiquity, was also the author of Tetrabiblos, which still serves as the main textbook of Western astrology. Astrology which was widespread in Europe in the late Middle Ages and Renaissance also served as the driving force of several astronomical discoveries of that period. But then the attitude of scientists toward it was ambiguous.
For example, the principal critic of astrology, philologist George Trapezuntius (1395-1483) wrote a tractate "Concerning charlatanism" and the dissertation "Why astrological information is mostly false". Prince Giovanni Pico de Mirandola (1463-1494), the author of "Research in Astrology" and "Explanations and Refutations of the Works of Ptolemy", who caused, so they write, much trouble to its priests, was a consistent opponent of astrology. At the same time one of the most brilliant scientists of the 15th century, Johannes Muller (1436-1476), known in astronomical literature as Regiomontanus, undertook a revision of astrology: he introduced a new division of the celestial "houses" and a method of calculating the astrological influence of heavenly bodies which completely dislodged the astrological system of Ptolemy .
It is often pointed out that even Kepler and Galileo were at times astrologers (see , for example]. As regards Johannes Kepler (1571-1630), there is no doubt that he drew up horoscopes for influential people. However, the circumstances of his life and how he assessed his actions needs to be taken into consideration: "Of course, this astrology is a stupid daughter, but my God, where would have become of the wise old mother, astronomy, if she had not had a stupid little daughter. For the world is much more stupid and so stupid that the daughter should chatter and lie for the sake of its wise old mother. And the salaries of mathematicians are so negligible that the mother probably would have starved if the daughter had not earned anything" .
Earning his meager bread as an astrologer, Kepler sometimes spoke of this art quite scornfully: "Astrology is a thing on which one ought not spend much time, but in their ignorance people think that a mathematician ought to". He didn't like country fair fortunetelling. "Astrologers", wrote Kepler, "created the division into 12 houses in order to answer the questions which people seek answers differently. But I think such a way of acting is impossible, superstitious, prophetic, and the basis of Arabian magic because this way there is a confirmatory or negative answer to every question as soon as it pops into a person's head". And all the same in his own search for world harmony and the driving forces of nature Kepler considered a rejection of the observations and comparisons accumulated by ancient science to be incorrect. In one of his works he cautioned researchers "so that they did not throw out astronomical superstition with the baby's bathwater in ill-considered rejection".
It is necessary to note that Kepler had reasons to speak this way for there were twists in his battle against astrology. For example, Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) did not accept Kepler's hypothesis about the influence of the moon on high and low tides; the negative attitude that Kepler took toward astrology played no small role in this. (Galileo himself organized a shop to manufacture telescopes to earn an income). One can only regret that a superficial familiarity with the history of science allowed a number of authors to class Galileo with astrologers.
With all respect for the scientific authority and mutual sympathy toward one another evident from their correspondence, Galileo and Kepler had polar opposite thoughts about the world: the rational mind of Galileo did not accept the mystical designs of Kepler. A profound expert of that era, Professor N. I. Idel'son, writes that "for Galileo the astrology so apparent to Kepler did not exist" . In "Dialogues About Two [Main] World Systems" describing his theory of tides in Salviati's mouth Galileo writes, "Among all people who have discussed this remarkable phenomenon I am most surprised at Kepler most of all; being a person of free and sharp intellect and knowing the theory of motions ascribed to the Earth he then began to devote attention to and agree with the opinion about the "influence" of the Moon on water, about hidden qualities, and similar childish inventions".
Galileo himself developed another "purely mechanical" theory of tides based on a combination of the daily and annual movements of the Earth supposedly causing periodic speeding up and slowing down of the water on its surface. In Galileo's opinion, they serve as the cause of the main twice-daily high tides, whose maximums come every 12 hours. "To admit that the moon and the sun have an effect here and that this causes similar phenomena, all this completely sickens my common sense" [7, p. 133] – with such indignation he rejected any possibility of cosmic influence on the Earth (in the process "throwing out baby with the bathwater").
In a letter of 21 May 1611 Galileo deftly spoke ironically about astrologers, discussing for example whether or not the moons of Jupiter, whose very existence no one knew of before Galileo discovered them, "influenced" the life of people on Earth. Generally, as we see, although Galileo's comments about celestial "influences" did not always do honor to his scientific incisiveness (as in the case with tides) but they point out quite unambiguously his complete rejection of astrology. Galileo declared war on Middle Age doctrines; he could not admit anything mysterious in the foundation of his knowledge. Thus modern science was born.
But astrology still retained its popularity among intellectuals and the ordinary public even to the end of the 17th century, that is, up to the beginning of the era of the Enlightenment. There is a statistic concerning this – the number of astrological works published in different centuries is: 15th century- 51; 16th century - 306; 17th century – 399; 18th century – 108; and 19th century – (up to 1880) 47 . As we see, the vigorous development of science in the 17th and 18th centuries pushed astrology from the area of interest of the educated public. But in the 20th century, in an era of universal literacy, when everyone could read but [only] a few could think critically, astrological literature was again in demand. It is curious, will anyone be able to count the number of astrological works published in the 20th century?
In the 20th century astrology again became popular. It regained its position in Europe, especially in Nazi Germany. Right now astrology is experiencing its first peak in popularity in western Europe since the 17th century. In contrast to previous eras modern astrology has nothing in common with astronomical research.
What is astrology today
As a social phenomenon modern astrology is less complex than, say, sports. Hearing of a stranger, that his interests lay in the field of sports, you cannot immediately understand what he does for a living: he runs, he jumps, he coaches athletes, he captains a team, he organizes competitions, or writes about sports.
Right now the concept of "astrology" has become as multidimensional and nonspecific as "sports". There are practicing astrologers with purely commercial interests who are mainly engaged in quite rigid dividing up of the mass media and film makers. Their knowledge of astrology is limited to the routing assembly of vague phrases and the ability to handle simplistic (and not of their making) software for calculating horoscopes.
There are astrologers of the academic frame of mind who are more engaged in self-affirmation than in commerce. Their commercial activity is limited to teaching students in courses and in academies of astrology and also in consulting to small firms. Their main interest is associated with self-education, with winning prestige among colleagues, preparing training aids, and speaking at conferences. This was the picture: in 1996 the United Russian Astrological Congress was held under the slogan of "Professionalism in Astrology". Almost without exception these were people with a university education; one could often encounter among them people with candidate's and even doctoral degrees. But they are categorically devoted to the idea of astrology and have finally broken with their natural sciences past.
Finally, ordinary scientists (astronomers, physicists, and biologists pronounce the word "astrology" with some embarrassment. There are few of them, but they exist. These scientists admit that they are interested in astrology as a point of departure and possible a "database" for researching cosmic influences on the Earth and its biosphere. Of course, we are omitting the historians of science, sociologists, and psychologists. For them astrology is a subject of study.
Do we have each of the astrologies in mind when we talk of the need to combat it? Yes, it is very simple, that which is not science and disguises itself in its clothing. Modern science relies on firmly established facts; that is its strength as well as its limitation. As long as there is no reliable experimental or observed cases a scientist cannot engage in fantasy; there are other specialists for this (in our time for some reason they are lumped together by the term "creative intellectuals", as if a scientist or an engineer were not worthy of this).
By the way, "relies on firmly established facts" in no way means blindly following truths discovered by someone at some time. Just the opposite: engineering developments based on the laws of physics test these laws daily and hourly, they are verified in differing combinations and in new, unexpected conditions. As soon as even a hint of a departure from current scientific theory appears in the operation of our machines or in observed natural phenomena, they are immediately updated, generalized, or even completely overturned. Experiments constantly compete to be first to notice this "hint" and theoreticians to propose a more accurate model of the phenomenon based on the observed "hint". Therefore the limitation of contemporary science is not at all that it lacks creative potential but in the requirement of a firm factual foundation under all constructs. We will look at what is known today about the influence of the cosmos on the Earth.
How the stars and planets influence us
In recent years cosmic influence on the Earth and its biosphere became a commonplace: they write about it, they make films about it, and they fear it. Now human fears are being exploited by many people and by those who engage in the study of space. Some scientific groups, deprived of financing from the military, try by various means to draw attention to themselves and to support their work. I'm not talking about the sale of stars to the population; this is being done by out-and-out crooks. I mean real scientists who are genuinely concerned for their work and who at times go to extremes in dealing with the public exclusively from a desire to draw its attention to their unquestionably important research.
But as a result the asteroid danger has been fanned to inappropriate dimensions (who hasn't seen on television how a poor dinosaur runs from a meteor shower!), the faces of Australian children protected from the sun in fear of the ozone hole, daily predictions of geomagnetic storms (to which it is convenient to ascribe disruptions of communications), and long-range predictions of solar activity (invariably with dramatic intimations in the voice). All this makes our life like a trip in a fragile little boat in a stormy sea: any minute "the terrestrial echo of solar storms" will smash it into pieces.
Of course, the Earth does not exist in a vacuum; meteorites and cosmic rays fall on it, and the sun, planets, and stars shine on it. Their influence on the biosphere is being studied. If we leave aside the obvious connection between life processes and sunlight, then all the remaining "influences" are of an ill-defined, unpredictable, or even unproven nature .
The most competent astrologers already understood that it is best not to talk about the direct influence of the stars and planets on the Earth [as] it is so insignificant. Now they prefer to invoke a type of "cosmic rhythms", "star clocks", and other indications of indirect and non-physical associations between the biosphere and the starry sky. However, I want to return to the topic of the cosmic influence of the planets and stars on the Earth so that the reader is left with no doubt on this score.
Of all the types of physical interactions one can only talk about gravity at all seriously; the remaining fields, streams of particles, and radiation from stars and planets are so weak in the proximity of the Earth that it requires great effort to record them even with sensitive modern instruments.
In order to perceive the gravitational influence of the moon on the Earth it is necessary to measure the difference of the lunar attraction at several points on the Earth. It is small: the closest point to the moon of the Earth is attracted 6% more than the furthest. This difference of forces elongates our planet in the Earth-moon direction. But inasmuch as the Earth rotates relative to this direction with a period of about 25 hours a double tidal wave, two "peaks" run through our planet with the same period in the direction of elongation and there are two "valleys" between them. The height of these "peaks" is small in the solid matter of the planet and in the open ocean, a total of about half a meter. Therefore, we cannot note tides either in the ocean or on land. And only on a narrow coastal strip can high and low tides be noted thanks to the fluidity of ocean water which flowing to shore in a tidal wave (the speed is not slow, hundreds of meters per second!) can rise to a height of 16 meters through inertia.
sun, which has greater mass but is farther away than the moon, also acts on the Earth in the same way. The height of solar tides is half that of lunar [tides]. During the new moon and full moon when the Earth, moon, and sun are in a single line, lunar and solar tides have an cumulative effect. But in the first and last quarter of the moon these tides weaken one another inasmuch as the peak of one coincides with the valley of the other. Lunar and solar tides are a quite conspicuous and important phenomenon in the life of the Earth . For example, under their influence the Earth is gradually slowing its rotation; the length of the day is increasing. The Earth's tidal force on the moon is even stronger; for a long time it has slowed its daily rotation so much that one side constantly faces us.
Gigantic tidal effects influencing the motion of planets give rise to the illusion that small living bodies have long been controlled by them. As a result we hear naive statements from the creators of "scientific astrology": "The moon causes tidal effects in all fluid systems of the Earth, in the ocean, in the semi-liquid Earth's core, in each cell of an organism, and in all intercellular fluids" . They try to explain the phenomena of sleepwalking, very popular in astrology on the basis of similar assertions; they propose a "biological theory of tides". Thus the level of argument is this: "The moon causes the tides in the sea and people are almost entirely composed of water [so] this means that they ought to experience a related influence" [12, 13]. Of course, here water has nothing to do with this: the Earth's surface, as we already know, is deformed by tides just like ocean [tides]; the difference is only that dry land cannot flow and therefore the tidal wave flows to the shore. But as a whole, from the standpoint of physics, the "biological theory of tides" seems simply laughable, for anyone next to you, for example a neighbor at a desk, exerts a gravitational tidal influence on you about a million times greater than the moon.
Statements about the direct tidal influence of planets on the Earth seem even less serious; for this, it is sufficient to look at the table shown below. The total effect of all the planets cannot cause tides on Earth greater than 0.045 millimeters. But their influence on a specific living being distorts its form by no more than the size of a single atom!
Now we touch on a somewhat more complex issue, the indirect influence of planets on the biosphere of the Earth here the sun is used as the "amplifier". In the 1920s A. L. Chizhevsky, the pioneer of heliobiological research in our country, wrote: "We know that the periodic activity of the sun is not a fully independent process. There are significant reasons to think that it is to a certain degree dependent on the arrangement of the planets of the solar system in space, their constellation relative to one another and the sun…Thus, earthly phenomena, too, dependent on the periodic activity of the sun, stand under the control of the planets, so to speak…Research conducted for the purpose of identifying the influence of planets on the activity of the sun has produced completely positive results: in periods of solar activity periods of planetary movements are observed" . After many years we understand that Chizhevsky had exhibited unjustified optimism: repeated attempts to associate solar activity with the arrangement of the planets simply did not lead to the expected result.
What is the real influence of the planets on the sun? It is evident from the table presented above that even if all the planets are arrayed in a chain and their tidal influence is added, all the same the height of the tidal "peak" on the surface of the sun is no more than 3 millimeters. In spite of the insignificance of this value journalists regularly frighten a credulous public with "parades of planets".
In 1974 a book by J. R. Gribbin and S. H. Plageman [called] "The Jupiter Effect" was published in the US. It says that in 1982 all the planets will end up on one side of the sun and this "parade of planets" will cause disturbances on it fatal to the Earth. The 10th of March 1982 came, the moment of maximum approach of all the planets. And, of course, nothing terrible happened, neither on the Earth where natural catastrophes occurred in the usual order, or on the sun: its activity did not change under the influence of the planets. They promised a new apocalypse on 11 August 1999 when a "parade" coincided with a solar eclipse. Then "the end of the world" was to be in May 2000: "When Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, the sun, and the moon are all in one line the Earth will shudder", reported Izvestiya on 29 May 1998 (N? 97) with reference to the Sunday Times. We will hear such predictions which exploit the basic instincts of people, one of which is fear, time and again.
For fans of physics who have a habit of catching journalists in incompetence we note the naivety of the very concept, "parade of planets". Tidal deformation stretches a body along one axis to different sides of the sun (remember, lunar and solar tides are cumulative during the new moon and full moon). But modern astrologers take no note of this. About 70% of the tidal influence on the sun is exerted by Jupiter and Saturn. The maximum height of the tide is achieved when they are aligned with the sun. This happens about every four Earth months; however, no changes in solar activity have been noted with this periodicity.
Yes, it is hard to expect a notable effect from the tidal influence on the sun: for the energy of the deformations, which is dissipated in its interior every second, is a thousand times less than its thermonuclear power. But even this does not mean that every "parade of planets" increases the luminosity of the sun by 0.1% inasmuch as the thermal lag of the sun's matter is millions of years and flattens out all such fluctuations of luminosity.
Finally, having turned attention to cosmic matter located beyond the solar system we will not burden the reader with exercises in physics but simply say that the influence of the stars on our biosphere is so meager that no customary scales are at all comparable to them.
How Can Astrology Be Exposed?
For a person who understands rational arguments the exposure of astrology is not difficult: it is sufficient to familiarize oneself with the statistics of the correctness of its predictions. Here are the results of some studies .
Psychologist B. Silverman from the University of Michigan studied the influence of the zodiac sign corresponding to the birth of each of married couples and the probability of their marriage or divorce. Data about 2987 weddings and 478 divorces registered in Michigan in 1967-1968 were used. The scientist compared the real information with the predictions of two independent astrologers against a favorable or unfavorable combination of zodiac signs for the married couples. It turned out that there was no coincidence between the predictions and reality and therefore Silverman concluded: "The position of the sun in the zodiac at the moment of birth does not exert an influence on the formation of personality".
Astrologers say that with the aid of a horoscope one can determine a person's predisposition to a particular profession. If this is so, it promises a great economic effect. It is possibly, therefore J. Bennett and J. Barth, economists from George Washington University, tried to find whether the position of the planets relative to zodiac signs influences the professional inclinations of people, in particular the frequency with which young people enter military service. The signs "controlled" by Mars were studied especially carefully. This research of astrological predictions was not confirmed. American physicist J. [MacJervie] researched the distribution of dates of birth of 17,000 scientists and 6,000 political leaders relative to zodiac signs. It also turned out to be completely random.
The quality of a complete prediction of a person's character by astrologers was also studied. Chicago psychologist J. McGrew turned to the Astrologers Federation of Indiana for this purpose. Six experienced specialists in astrology were called upon to participate in experiments. At McGrew's request 23 volunteers filled out a questionnaire which contained both astrological and traditional questions about the qualities of their character, work, etc. Then the time and place of birth of the volunteers were reported to the astrologers and six members of a control group who were ignorant of astrology. The following results were obtained: the astrologers' predictions turned out to be no more accurate than the predictions of members of the control group and neither [group's predictions] correlated at all with the real qualities of the volunteers being tested. The most curious thing was that the characteristics of the very same volunteers themselves and the information from the various astrologers differed from one another in the strongest fashion.
It should be noted that the verification of the predictive power of astrology is not done by astrologers themselves, but by "outsiders". A majority of scientists think of astrology as a prototype of all the pseudosciences generally uninterested in a precise validation of its principles. This not so much irritates scientists as it does disturb them: they simply do not understand: how can a pseudoscience like astrology flourish in the most technically developed society in all the history of mankind?
Professional scientists who try to find a rational core in astrology think  that the most interesting results in this field were obtained by the Parisian statistician M. Gauquelin . Gauquelin studied archival data containing the date, time, and place of birth of 41,000 European residents, among them 16,000 famous scientists, artists, writers, athletes, etc., and also 25,000 "ordinary" people. He compared the positions of the planets and constellations at the moment of a person's birth with his personality type and kind of occupation. It turned out that the horoscopes were completely wrong: there was no connection between the character and the personality of a person and his zodiac sign and the position of the planets at the moment of birth. Therefore Gauquelin consigned astrology to the ranks of conjecture. However he managed to observe some curious regularities which gave, so he thought, the right to consider his work the cornerstone of a new science, cosmobiology.
It turned out that the moments of birth of "ordinary" people did not depend on the configuration of the planets but [those] of notable people did. Taking into account the regularities of the frequency of birth of people on different days of the year and at various times of day which are well-known to demographers Gauquelin established that the outstanding representatives of a profession are born predominantly at a certain position of several planets relative to the horizon. He showed that the position of the sun, Mercury, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto do not influence the profession but that of the moon, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn do. For example, in a group of 2088 famous athletes many were born when Mars was in the ascendant or near the upper culmination. The same holds true for famous military men, but only with respect to Saturn.
Gauquelin's conclusions have been repeatedly double-checked: some researchers have partially confirmed them and others have refuted them. Gauquelin himself is searching for a chance to explain the regularities he found at the level of genetic information which, in his opinion, might be controlled by rhythms unique both for biological subjects as well as for the universe. Well, all right then, the search is a noble cause; however, there are as yet no serious results on this route.
Need astrology be "fought"?
Thus, from the point of view of the natural sciences astrology is a sterile flower, a soap bubble, deprived of rational content. Where it is possible science creates predictive methods and does not shroud them in mystery, and does not offer empty hope like astrologers. Science is not on the same path as astrology. And if astrologers did not unconscionably confer on themselves the high reputation earned by science, particularly astronomy, then there would be no articles like this one and we would not devote special attention to them nor select any of the host of other manifestations of mass culture. But when a television announcer says that "according to the astrological calendar today is the shortest day and the longest night" and a bearded astrologer "sets" a solar eclipse for the next day, you want to shout: 'People, what's astrology got to do with this here?' These are the results of normal scientific calculations made by astronomers (show me an astrologer who is able to independently calculate even the length of the day, not to mention the circumstances of a solar eclipse!). People, do you really think that if an astrologer could read about tomorrow's eclipse in an astronomical calendar that he might also be easily able to read the book of your fate? For you don't buy this book in a store, as opposed to an astronomical calendar".
It happens that its followers call opponents of astrology "dogmatists and scholastics who are unable to sense the genesis of a new science". I leave it to the reader to judge the justice of these accusations.
That which we are accustomed to call the "struggle against astrology" is not at all the same as trying to root it out. In this case the position of a scientist is the desire to defend science, its "author's rights", its deservedly won authority from infringements of "uninvited guests" who are eager to exploit this authority for their own profit.
It is well known that scientists are skeptics and believers are dogmatists. That is why science and faith are incompatible. They can supplement one another but do not have the right to dictate their principles to one another. This thought, which is now obvious to we Russians, it would seem is pushing science and faith (in the broad sense, but not just the religious [sense]) in different directions, not leaving them common ground. But this is not so.
The problem is that the positions of science and faith are substantially different. Science has practically no opponents on its field: it is completely obvious that it has proved its ability to solve problems which have been raised. Attempts to proclaim "alternative", "unofficial" sciences [such as] UFOlogy, parapsychology, and those of this ilk barely touch real science.
In the area of faith there is a completely different situation: the fiercest competition is found on this field. And the fact that astrology that exists in society belongs in just this field even scientists who are favorably inclined toward it admit: "Far from all people need truth as it is understood in science. Currents of an occult and mystical persuasion have been present in astrology from the most ancient times. If a person feels comfortable within the bounds of such an ideology and it helps him to adequately bear the burden of life, then such an ideology has the right to exist (as long as it does not contain obvious antisocial elements)" .
Not being a science astrology looks for its niche, its original model, and finds it in the path of mimicry, disguising itself in scientific clothing, surrounding itself with computers and scientific-sounding terminology, but in the process completely failing to recognize the scientific method.
It is hard to agree with the statements of A. L. Chizhevsky that "astrology, if you throw out all its mystical errors, teaches [us] about the connection of all things and phenomena" . Astrology without mysticism is no longer astrology but something else – cosmobiology, heliobiology, rhythmology, and finally, philosophy. If the content of some concept is continually changed then it finally becomes generally empty. Today, as always, astrology is understood as a method of predicting the fate of an object through the relative positions of stars and planets at the moment of its birth. Different content requires different terms.
Western astrology was born in ancient Sumeria when people who did not understand the causes for the phenomena which occurred around them began to first grope around for associations between apparently random events. This motivation, generally speaking, even in our time stimulates an occupation such as science as well as its surrogates (if a person does not want or cannot "play according to the rules" of science).
Pedagogues have ended up face to face with this problem: scientific knowledge does not create a dependable immunity against pseudoscience. It is obvious that part of instruction time ought to be devoted to the critical analysis of pseudosciences. By simple experiments one will be able to easy convince oneself that horoscopes are not able to predict events on a level above coincidence. Instructors ought to try to understand the reasons for the attraction of astrology if they want to effectively combat this pseudoscience which aspires to the title of a science without being one.
1. Consolidated catalog of periodicals in the stocks of the centralized library systems privately-held corporation of the city of Moscow Website: http://library.ru/catalog/zao
Translated by Gary Goldberg
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