Astrology Is Not a Science; So What Is It?

Tuesday March 29th 2011

Our lot often gets hot under the collective collar when scientists diss astrology. Recently the British Astrological Association wrote to the BBC asking Auntie to be a bit nicer please and stop saying those mean things about us.

I signed the thing, because I thought I should support my fellow astrologers, but afterwards slightly regretted it.

What do you think? Is it you?

“Why?” I hear you shriek, clutching your purple turban and gathering your kaftan closer. “It’s vital that the establishment accepts us.”


Because I don’t care what scientists say about astrology. The scientific view is useful – antibiotics, teflon, the internet, evolution – but it is only one way of looking at the world. And it’s terrible on human nature, the numinous, the mystery of life, God.

Science answers the question how, not why. How did we humans get here? Because we evolved from apes. Why are we here? Science will never have an answer for that. The contorted arguments of  evolutionary biologists on this point only show how trapped they are in mental loop. We need to look to art, poetry, religion, astrology for answers to the question why. And the truth is, and this is the mystery and beauty of life, that we may never truly know why we are here.

Currently there’s a fight going on at Wikipedia about the astrology entry – because astrologers have been banned from editing it. The accusation is that astrology is a pseudo-science.

It can’t be because astrologers are not speaking the same language as scientists.

“Dastardly Jimmy Wales,” you mutter, taking a drag from you hookah and leaning back into your nest of cushions. “They’re always trying to make us look like fools. When will they ever realise what astrology has to offer?”

Some day, maybe never. But we need to stop trying to play by their rules.

There should be no pretense that astrology is a science. You cannot prove an astrological point using the scientific method of double-blind tests; you cannot prove astrology in a lab. This is for one simple reason. Astrology is too complex. Even on the most basic level, it’s impossible to narrow down one trait to one astrological signature.

Yummy

As an example and since we are in the month of Aries, let’s examine a quick temper. In a person’s chart, this could be shown by Mars on the ascendant, Mars-Mercury (conjunct, square, even trine or sextile), Aries rising or even on the desc, Sun in Aries etcetera. That’s why in astrology we have the “rule of three”. That is you look for the same characteristic or set of circumstances in three places in the chart before you’re dead sure of it.

“So what are we then? Who are we?” you ask – a little aggressively I feel – and drop a dripping piece of baklava into your mouth.

An astrologer synthesises observations of the natural world, tradition, mythology, storytelling, intuition, psychology and diplomacy.  The most important skill is listening, attentiveness. The most important qualities are an open mind – sometimes hard to maintain – and curiosity. Now those are two things we share with scientists.

Astrology is a discipline. Not an art, not a science. That’s nice and simple.

Enough for today – and besides you need to go and have your Turkish bath.

The real deal in Istanbul.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    I just don’t agree with you. Astrology is a science. It’s based on direct observation of nature – and if we collect enough data I know we will be – one day – have proof that astrology works.

    By the way, the Wikepedia thing is just symptomatic of a profoundly suspicious attitude to astrology most people have.

  2. Christina says:

    Astrology uses astronomy as a jumping off point, but then we add a whole lot of other stuff to the mix.

  3. Sophia says:

    “Science (from the Latin scientia, meaning “knowledge”) is an enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the world.An older and closely related meaning still in use today is that of Aristotle, for whom scientific knowledge was a body of reliable knowledge that can be logically and rationally explained.”

    That’s how Wiki defines science. Surely astrology fits those definitions.

  4. Christina says:

    Hmmm – but is astrology always rational? Isn’t there sometimes an intuitive leap of faith?
    And I suppose my argument is this: how easy is it to test astrology? Is it testable at all?

  5. Charlotte says:

    I remember this happened on Wikipedia awhile ago. The astrology article was up for Article of the Day but it was struck down due to squabbling between skeptics and astrologers. You’d think the astrologers would know better than to engage in Wiki editing during Mercury retrograde anyway!

    Also I completely agree with you. Astrology is holistic and all the “rational” people out there dislike that it cannot be qualified, labeled or fit into a specific genre of study. I don’t think astrology is “testable” in the modern sense but ancient man observed that certain celestial events corresponded to terrestrial ones. I think most scientific revelations also began that way. Science and astrology have more in common than they do differences. That makes people uncomfortable though so, eh let em have their way.

  6. Sabrina says:

    I smiled when read this post, and agree with you: Is a discipline, maybe an art? It feeds from science, but also from intuition, and a lot of other things that can’t be measured.

    It can somewhat be tested. just not in a linear, tight scientific way, but otherwise, why we’d care about transits and progressions?

    Even my seriously scientist husband has started to ask me more about ‘what’s going on with the planets’, he’s being always respectful, but now he’s getting curious.

    And basically, like you said, I don’t care much about arguing. Is simply another way to see/explain the world, and I just like it!

  7. Christina says:

    “eh let em have their way” – I think that too, Charlotte.

    Sabrina, I agree about the testing. Astrology ought to be tested a lot more than it is and the scientific method doesn’t get us very far.

    When I read astrology books I’m often amazed at the sweeping generalizations that are made with no evidence at all.

  8. Em says:

    If astrologers got the money, grants, awards and so forth that scientists get for some of the stupidest things (thickness of ketchup springs to mind) we would have more data to discern this with.

    That said, I agree that it is a discipline. As most science is. When you watch a truly skilled medical diagnostician leap to diagnoses that most doctors wouldn’t come up with, there’s something more than simply plugging information in going on. The same is true for astrologers. I know good, solid astrologers. And I know genius astrologers who elevate astrology to an art.

    But, truthfully, I long ago stopped arguing with scientists. (Although, truthfully, my way of stopping arguments short, is get a nice firm birth-time and just read their 8th house. People tend to be rather shocked that one can peek into the bedroom with such ease. And the Scorpio in my chart gets a nice, discreet giggle from it.)

  9. A day late and a dollar short, but I thought this thought when I read the headline in my inbox. I had to get the thought, the computer, and the internet connection all in the same place at the same time. Curious that I finally got that in the very next wreckury mertrograde!

    My thought is this: Astrology is a science to the exact same degree that quantum physics is. Astrology has a much better head start, but all these ineluctable connections — including Em’s example of the really gifted diagnostician — are best explained in terms of quantum physics. Once two molecules touch, they acquire the same spin; neutrinos zip through any matter as if it were candyfloss, but what do they do on the way?; solar wind affects radio transmissions; the planets fall into gaps described by musical intervals; and so on.

    We ARE all part of one greater reality, and that is true whether individuals among us are comfortable with the idea or not. Christina’s extraordinary insight and brilliance with astrology has been fed by a lifetime of immersion in some of the precursors of quantum physics: travel, art and myth, leavened by practical history. This wide, deep insight into the psyche of such complex physical/spiritual beings as humans, is a damn good starting point for understanding the Greater Reality, especially given her gift for pattern recognition.

    I say astrology IS a science, and to say it’s less is to denigrate the real depth and magnificence of science — not astrology. Astrology remains slightly out of reach, ultimately indescribable, because we really don’t know enough about the universe to elucidate the connections between Out There and Down Here. Doesn’t mean those connections don’t exist, though.

    I like Em’s 8th-house technique for shutting scientists up. It’s a dirty trick, but someone’s got to do it 😉

  10. Christina says:

    And I like that: “I say astrology IS a science, and to say it’s less is to denigrate the real depth and magnificence of science — not astrology.”

    Ha ha – next time I run into Richard Dawkins, I’ll try popping him with that one.

    Seriously though, thanks for the puff. You are too kind. Pattern-recognition: the asteroid Pallas (allegedly) about whom more soon because she is the tutelary deity of Aries.

  11. Ricardo says:

    Very late to the discussion, but I was just thinking about this and I found it in google. I agree with you, Christina. If astrology were a science then, wouldn’t we all have to agree in our interpretations? That would be kind of creepy.

  12. Roslyn Ross says:

    Astrology is most definitely a science. It is also an art.

    It is not materialist/reductionist science as much of what we call science is today, but science in a pure form it is.

    sci·ence

    /ˈsīəns/

    noun

    noun: science

    the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment.
    “the world of science and technology”

    synonyms: branch of knowledge, body of knowledge/information, area of study, discipline, field
    “the science of criminology”

    •a particular area of this.
    plural noun: sciences

    “veterinary science”

    •a systematically organized body of knowledge on a particular subject.

    • Christina says:

      By that definition, it certainly is, like say the “social sciences”. But that’s not how most people understand the word science.

      I prefer the phrase “system of knowledge”, then there’s no misunderstanding that we want to be next door to the physics department.

      • Christina says:

        I’ve just re-read this piece — it’s been a while — and your def is why I’ve written “astrology is not science” not “astrology is not a science”. Subtle but important. Thanks for the comment though.