Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Is Astrology Scientific? Causal vs Mythological Thinking

I don't know where to begin with this one. Astrology News Service, which claims to be sponsored by august bodies such as the American Federation of Astrologers and the National Council for Geocosmic Research, is rejoicing that more Americans think astrology is scientific than did a few years ago. It reminds me of the time the Sun newspaper took a poll of its readers as to whether Princess Diana had been murdered, as if those readers were qualified to make a judgement.

It's not just that. Anyone whose studies astrology quickly comes to see, in my opinion at least, that astrology is NOT a science, not in the modern, narrow meaning of the word. Nor are poetry and music and psychotherapy and a lot of other things.

That's why I said I don't know where to begin unpicking this one. Astrology sometimes needs saving from its friends rather than its enemies! Though personally I think those enemies can be a good thing, they keep us on our toes.

It would be interesting to find out what people mean when they say they think astrology is ‘scientific’. What they really mean, I suspect, is that they think astrology works, but science has such epistemological authority for them that saying astrology is ‘scientific’ amounts to the same thing. 1000 years ago they might have said they thought there was room for astrology in the teachings of the Church, and I can’t see there’s much difference in the two statements.

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I think what overlap there is between astrology and science is incidental, because their ways of thinking are inconjunct. Science is based on cause and effect and repeatability, along with an explanatory mechanism (except for the privileged disciplines of Evolution and Psychiatry). Astrology is based on sychronicity, "the experience of two or more events as meaningfully related" (Wiki). In this case, earthly events and heavenly events.

Astrology is not based on cause and effect, you could call it 'mythological thinking', it is how early people thought. They would, for example, see some unusual behaviour in nature and reflect that it must therefore have a meaning for them. (Source: Chippewa Cree friend). I think that the reclaiming of this way of thinking is potentially astrology's most important contribution to the world. Astrology in itself is a rather specialised and improbable subject that I don't think will ever be mainstream. But I love it :)

Like Bremainers and Brexiteers in the UK, and Democrats and Republicans in the US, astrology and science need to learn to live with each other. I don’t think, however, that it is an equal relationship: astrologers can understand how science sees the world, but science finds it much harder to understand astrologers. We need to be patient, even indulgent. After all, we see reality through all 4 elements, whereas science concentrates on Air and Earth as means of knowledge, it is limited. Its basic method tends to disregard Fire and Water as means of knowing and valuing. The proper place for science is that of a speciality within a more all-encompassing culture that includes astrology. Causal thinking needs to take its place within the broader context of mythological thinking. 
(First published 2014)

1 comment:

Faye Blake-Cossar said...

There are many astrologers trying to prove astrology is scientific - whatever that means. Astrology can never be proven in my view. And I thing finally the academic scientific world is tackling subjects that can't be answered causally. So that might eventually to more understanding. But I agree - they are two different things. Astrology is just a study like biology or any other ology. It can be studied scientifically - that's a method! A lot of astrology research is terrible procedure wise and that's a shame. The biggest problem in my view is that we try to fit our research into a materialistic science framework. In my view we need to develop our own research methods - as Gauquelin did. Astrology is not numbers it's a language so what we could (and should do imho) is narrative research on astro techniques. That would lead to better astrology I think too!