17 January 2011

Responses to the Science/Astrology dialogue

After my last blog post, I received a number of comments, most of which I published. Some were simple attacks on astrology, quite full of invective, and not really worth passing on. The purpose of this blog is not to defend astrology, but to present and elucidate elements of astrology that were developed before the Enlightenment. In doing so, I hope to show how they are superior in most ways to what passes for modern, psychological astrology. When commenters address specific items that actually appear in the blog posts, I'm happy to engage, at least in a limited way, in a conversation about those facts, even if we disagree (as long as everyone is respectful).

One particular commenter made a few extended comments, so rather than try to jam them all into a comments box, I've decided to publish them, along with my responses, as a new post. The following comments are from Eric.

[Eric] It looks like there is a word limit, and I'm a little too long - so I am breaking this into two parts:

Part I: 
Thanks for not moderating me out of existence (on another -completely unrelated- board, I was moderated out of existence for a question that didn't even deny their basic ideas, but those were right-wing politics people...)
Again, when commenters, even those who disagree, are 1. respectful, and 2. discuss the actual content of the posts and other comments, I'm happy to engage in the conversation.
[Eric] So - you say that, "scientists who are making the claim to which I refer in the blog post have made no investigation of astrology at all, yet are seeking to influence it", but I think you are mistaken - scientists in general have no interest in 'influencing' the practice of astrology.

I believe that scientists DO have an interest in influencing astrology - that is, to influence it right out of existence.
[Eric] The article seemed more interested in pointing out the inconsistency of current astrological practice with astronomical facts about the actual locations of the sun, planets, etc. in the sky. Thus pointing out that (modern, at least) astrology has no basis in any kind of fact.
I disagree that this "finding" points out that astrology (modern or otherwise) has no basis in fact. Astrology has always been a symbolic system, though based on a few specific astronomical realities. The fact that tropical astrology is based on is the alignment of the Earth and the Sun at the Spring Equinox. From there, much of it is symbolic, and always has been.

[Eric] I respond to some more of your comments below (yours are prefixed with your initials and in quotes).

[CL] "In order to predict well, one must approach astrology from a world view that allows for it."

[Eric] So - if I do not accept astrology in advance, you cannot make any predictions for me? Why should my belief in astrology affect *your* predictions? Or am I misunderstanding you.
I think that you are misunderstanding. I am not referring to the potential client's belief. I'm referring to the practice of the astrologer. Astrology is based on a neo-platonic principle that Spirit gives rise to Consciousness, which gives rise to Matter. The modern scientific world view is nearly the opposite: that Matter gives rise to Consciousness. The neo-platonic philosophy allows for the reality that material occurrences may be caused by non-material (spiritual or consciousness) causes. The modern scientific view rejects that possibility. If an astrologer also rejects that possibility, then he or she may do fine as a psychological astrologer (modern type), but will ultimately fail at any type of prediction.

[Eric] It seems that belief shouldn't play a role - it either works or it doesn't. I don't need to believe in the scientific method to use the physics equations derived via the scientific method to predict physical behavior. It works whether I believe in it or not.
Right. And I have seen astrology work well, when done correctly, according to the traditional rules that predate its modern marriage with psychology.

[CL]"The deeper issue is that not everything in life is or should be subject to the "scientific method". True, if one is going to predict, one should have a certain level of accuracy and consistency (though it seems that we allow well-paid meteorologists to be consistently wrong with no major consequences)."

[Eric] Why not? Why should some knowledge be accepted 'because you say so', and other knowledge be susceptible to testing? How do you tell the difference between one type of knowledge and the other? Again - the process of the scientific method is used to separate out what is true from what isn't. Why should any truths not be subject to that level of scrutiny?
Well, there are all sorts of things that are not subject to scientific scrutiny that many people accept as true. The existence of some deity, values such as loyalty and love, emotions, and so forth. There is the sociological maxim that What is perceived as real has real consequences. So something that may not even be "real" in a material sense may in fact affect material reality. This is not something that is testable in terms of the scientific method.
My point here is that just because we can't always point to the mechanism by which something physical occurs and say "aha! there it is!", that doesn't mean that it isn't real or true.

Let us also separate 'weathermen' from 'meteorologists'. In general, I find the NOAA weather website to be very accurate, especially over short periods of time. Modern mathematical theory explains the impossibility of predicting the weather with any accuracy more than a few days into the future (although large-scale trends may be fairly accurately predicted up to about 18 months in advance). Within the limits of measurement and predictive models, weather prediction falls well within the error it should have from the mathematical models used.
And I know astrologers who specialize in weather prediction who can get pretty accurate years in advance, since we can cast the charts well in advance.

But each of these is a specific kind of astrology too: natal, weather, mundane, horary questions, and so forth, and not all astrologers do all these kinds of astrology. Modern psychological astrologers who try to do predictive astrology without having studied it as such are sort of like modern psychotherapists trying to do calculus without any special preparation.

(Note: to date, I have not received Part II that was indicated; so it's lack of appearance is not due to my not posting it.)

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