Thursday, February 20, 2014

Is Astrology Scientific? Causal vs Mythological Thought

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 Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, 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.


WiseLalia said...

I like your comparing science to air and earth and omitting fire and water as ways of knowing. How true! You could do a whole blog exploring the ways of knowing of each element, as almost everyone thinks his/her way is the only way.

Anonymous said...

Something of a belated aside: you'd written a lovely short story then said nothing more about it. Will you blog about your fiction writing? How's the class going? What are you aiming for, if anything? (An aimless writer would be refreshing...) Hoping to learn more.

Barry Goddard said...

That one short story seems to be kind of it for now. It was more like a chapter from something longer, whereas the class teacher wanted stories that were complete in themselves and was critiquing accordingly, so I stopped going! At the same time, getting feedback in that teaching context would help me keep going, so I'm slightly scratching my head about it!

Anonymous said...

Oh dear... sorry that you stopped going! Any chance of re-joining the class? But then I don't understand why the teacher would be critical, as the story works perfectly well on its own. Perhaps not to his or her taste. Tough job, this writing business, I gave up long ago. You have talent and must keep going! Best wishes

Palden Jenkins said...

Interesting though that astrologers, or natural philosophers trained in astrology, were central amongst the founders of the early universities and some key tenets of science?

I think astrology will one day become commonly used, mainstream. But it will probably take a long time. It will come when self-care and inner growth become normal and investigated in schools or the future equivalent). If this doesn't happen, planet Earth might not be a viable or nice place to live. Astrology and a sense of time and timing is critical to a deeper understanding of sustainability and correcting this world's fundamentals.

Let's hope that is acompanied by genuine psycho-spiritual change, so that astrology and related subjects don't become ideological, blindly adhered to, as science has become. Even though it started out as a liberating alternative to customary religious thought.

Greetings from Greece, by the way - where I am at present! No, not on holiday...