April 10, 2021

Interdisciplinary Discourse

Forum for KU Academics

Science and Superstition: Reflections on Astrology

Pushpa Raj Adhikary
One area where science and superstition clash and confuse is astrology.  The clash and confusion stem from a popular misconception that astrology is the same scientific field as astronomy. In this article I will try to shed lights on the different facets of this misconception. 
In fact, the same ancient people, who made sense of the worldly things, also observed the sky, calculated the positions of prominent stars and planets and other heavenly bodies with respect to the earth and acquired the knowledge, which could predict the occurrences of solar and linear eclipses. Thus emerged the knowledge of astrology which mainly dealt with predicting the impacts of the positions of the sun, moon, planets, and stars on the events which occur on earth and the future lives of living beings.
Do the position of stars and planets in the sky, at the time of birth of a child affect the future of the child’s life and career? Astrology says it does. But how? The systematic and formulated knowledge accumulated so far does not have a rational reason to correlate a position of a certain planet or a star with that of life and career of any person. If so, then why and how does this strange belief of correlating the stars and planets with our future exist in our society? This belief persists in our society because of the curiosity of human beings to know whether some natural phenomenon brings about the well-being of particular person or persons. The astrologers come with their explanation to convince us that the position of a planet or the position of the sun in a particular constellation (rashi) at the time of their birth does affect the destiny of the new born. As a proof of their claim they asked: if astrology is not true or not a science, how can an astrologer predict the phenomenon of eclipse?
Of course, people wanted to know and also record the time of the birth of their children. Without a clock or the calendar how would people do it? The most obvious way of doing this was to record the time with respect to the position of the sun in a particular group of stars, which we call rashi, or the position of a planet, or a star. We have these positions recorded in a paper called the ‘horoscope’ or kundali. An astrologer reads time recorded in kundali and predicts the future of a person. Now a days, with such a large population on earth, it is most likely that several persons may be born at a particular time of the day. But do you have any record of such persons born at a particular time having identical habits, attitudes, or career? During the time of the election two different astrologers predict different outcomes for the same candidate. Is this not the proof that an astrologer’s prediction is a wild guess but not the outcome based on rational thinking?
Let us now briefly discuss about the subject called astronomy. Astronomers also observe the sky, record the position of planets and stars. They not only record the positions of the planets and stars, but also try to understand how stars and planets move in the sky, why they look different at different times of the year. Astronomers also study why stars are different from the planets, why stars are hot, how stars are formed, how long the stars survive, and most importantly, where all of these stars, planets, comets and other bodies in the sky come from. Does any book on astrology explain or answer any of these questions? Astronomy is a science and it keeps growing once we understand more and more of nature’s secret. But do you have the similar expansion of knowledge in astrology except something about the position of planets and stars and their impact on human beings? A branch of knowledge which does not improve continuously but becomes more and more perfect, and above all, satisfies the intellectual quest of human beings is not a science and is also irrelevant to us. And astrology is one of such branches of knowledge whereas astronomy, since its beginning to the present time, is equally interesting, challenging and requires greatest intellectual power of human beings to understand the material bodies and their interactions resulting in the form of natural phenomena.  
Our ancestors who studied sky and tried to understand the planet, stars, and their motion in sky did not necessarily do so to link their knowledge in predicting the future of human beings on earth. They studied the sky as part of human curiosity to understand about their surroundings and satisfy the intellectual quest. But somehow this knowledge, instead of growing as a science has grown to a pseudo-science misleading the society. These days astrologers not only tell you about your future but they predict whether you go abroad or not. Astrologers have even started to make a horoscope of a country. Would we, as rationale beings of a new millennium, like to be the citizens of a country whose fate is decided by astrologers?
Astrologers try to influence us in almost all of our activities including the area of our economy by predicting the rise and fall of stock market. They have even fooled politicians by making them more prone to astrological consultations. But how often do the predictions of astrologers come true? Have you had any record of how many predictions of astrologers have come true? The belief in astrology is thus based on a motive for a quick gain without any hard work. In fact, we should start taking astrologers to task for making false predictions which would affect the life of many.
It is true that science does not have answers to the many unknown phenomena in our lives. The efforts of scientists are directed to understanding the reasons for observing the objects around us  which are not explained through the existing knowledge. But astrologers may have answers to many questions which science does not have because they would not need reasons and logic to answer these questions. They put blame on some unknown planet or star and try to convince us this particular star or planet has determined our action or future. If you are a rationale human being you would not believe anything of it and discard this as total nonsense and regard astrology not as a science but superstition.
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