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                                        Interactive science series: 15 :Why Astrology is pseudo-science

I participated in several discussions and debates on pseudo-science. I am adding here one such deabte between me and people who practice and believe in Astrology.

The discussion started with the Q " Do Scientists too believe in Astrology as it is science?"

Krishna: Majority of them don’t.

If anyone from the scientific community still believes in irrational things, that means the person is unable to overcome his or her cultural/ religious/emotional conditioning of his/her mind with scientific reasoning and cannot do full justice to his or her field.

DD (an observer): What if he/she is convinced that Astrology is not logical, not science but a matter of faith and belief. he keeps them separate from his scientific thoughts. What then?

By an extension of what you said does a scientist believing in God or religion also “ …..is not fit to be a scientist.” ?

Note : I am not in favor of astrology, However I feel that a person can keep faith and profession insulated. I am not challenging what you said. Just seeking clarification on your views.

Krishna: True scientists cannot tolerate cognitive dissonance ( science doesn't allow for the holding of two contradictory positions). They must choose the facts and stick to them.

You shouldn't reason backward from belief to evidence because that will subject you to numerous cognitive biases and you risk fooling yourself about the nature of reality. And if a scientist is after facts, irrational thoughts would definitely interfere with his cognitive abilities as a scientist.

Read my article on this here: Science and Spirituality

It is extremely difficult, especially when one is facing difficult times, low in confidence and in a high confusion state to keep things separate. They will definitely interfere with one another. Why? Read here: Science's rules are unyielding, they will not be bent in any way fo...

DD: Thanks for the reply, Dr. Truly convincing!

SJ (A person who practices Astrology): Generally humans believe in Astrology, be it a scientist or a doctor ..just because you achieve a Ph.D does not give anybody a right to disbelieve a proven science. . Ignorance  is a bliss. .... personally have seen many scientists and doctors ..professors  wearing gemstones. ..well that does not make them into a lesser individual. Look here I am providing lists of professors and scientists who visit us.

Krishna: Astrology is  pseudo-science, not a proven science.

Some scientists do believe in irrational things because they are not trained properly in critical thinking and are unable to overcome fear, confusion and chaos in their personal lives. That is why we are in such a situation here. And they give you ammunition to fight with us who are trained in the right way.

If some scientists ( doctors are not scientists ) are doing what you say, it means they are unable to think critically which is essential for scientific research and that makes them unfit for the job. As a person belonging to the research field I know what is essential and what is not here.If a person cannot differentiate between science and pseudo-science, facts and irrational beliefs, how can s/he do justice to her/his job and trained field?

NT (An Astrologer): Pseudo science?? Well I know the modern scientist doesn't believe much in what our  ancestors say but many practices were based on Shastra including astrology.

Those scientists were far knowledgeable than today's scientist. Many people studying astronomy in India do refer to astrology to find out the position of stars and planets as on a particular day and time. And as far as having its effect on us do try to refer the following linkYoga, Vedanta, Vedic astrology, Ayurveda, Karma, Dharma, Buddha, Jy...

Atleast read the last two paragraphs regarding astrology and how science is involved in it.

I know you don't like to argue much ; but telling astrology as a pseudo science is a wrong thing. By saying that you meant to say that our forefathers scientist even before vedic period were fools as compared to current scientist. No they weren't. And I have met a profound astrologer who could correctly tell the death of a person also. It's about having knowledge about astrology and people who dont have it laugh on it.

Krishna: Oh, my! I don't want to argue but there is no other way to defend science here.

You must first understand that the word 'shastra' doesn't mean 'science' in modern terms. Science is evidence based and you have to show proof. Just saying something you believe in doesn't stand up to modern science. Astrology is about 3,000 to 5,000 year old and it continues to use astrology charts that are thousands of years old. As the earth rotates on its axis, the stars move from the East to the West around the point in the sky above the north and south poles. If the north and south poles are moved, then the motion of the stars change.

Thanks to Earth's wobble, astrological signs are, well, off the mark! (Or even more rubbish than you might expect.) Astrological signs are determined by the position of the sun relative to certain constellations on a person's day of birth. The problem is, the positions were determined more than 2,000 years ago. Nowadays, the stars have shifted in the night sky so much that horoscope signs are nearly a month off! Astrology tells us that the sun is in one position, whereas astronomy tells us it's in another position! The shift is caused by precession, the wobble in the Earth's axis caused by the gravitational attraction of the moon to the Earth's equator. The gap between the astrological and the astronomical view is huge.

The Earth is like a wobbly top. As it rotates, its axis swings in a circle, pointing in different directions. As the Earth's position shifts, so does our perspective of the night sky.

Using the sky charts used by most astrologers, the sun is not where it is supposed to be. For example, according to astrology on August 27th (my birth date), the sun is supposed to be in Virgo. It is actually in Leo! So ancient astrology says I am a Virgo, but the new study says I am a Leo! According to recent thinking and observations, 86% of people in the world  now have new Zodiacal signs! Aha! In its educational page for children (Space Place , Ref 1), NASA discusses how 3000 years ago the ancient Babylonians were keen sky watchers and thought that the changing positions of constellations throughout the year could be linked to certain behaviours or events on Earth. These thoughts of course have no scientific basis what so ever. Astrology is not Astronomy! But some people still think Astrology is very scientific.

And so they invented the zodiac - the circle of 12 constellations based on the apparent path that the Sun takes across an imagined celestial sphere over the course of the year. 

"So, as Earth orbits the Sun, the Sun would appear to pass through each of the 12 parts of the zodiac," Space Place explains. "Since the Babylonians already had a 12-month calendar (based on the phases of the Moon), each month got a slice of the zodiac all to itself." 

But seeing as this happened 3,000 years ago, things were a bit arbitrary, and for whatever reason, the Babylonians left a constellation out of their zodiac - Ophiuchus. 

"Even then, some of the chosen 12 didn't fit neatly into their assigned slice of the pie and slopped over into the next one". To make a tidy match with their 12-month calendar, the Babylonians ignored the fact that the Sun actually moves through 13 constellations, not 12.

Because of a tiny wobble in Earth’s axis, the constellations are no longer in the same position in the sky as they were 3,000 years ago. This wobble in the axis is super subtle - it takes 26,000 years to wobble around once - but the effects can build into something noticeable.

"On the June solstice 2,000 years ago, the Sun was sitting almost halfway between Gemini and Cancer. On this year’s June solstice, the Sun will be sitting between Gemini and Taurus. In the year 4609, the June solstice point will pass out of the constellation Taurus and into the constellation Aries."

Watch this video to learn how complicated the earth's movement through space is...

So, how can you fix something and connect it to people's destiny? Impossible!

Even if the astrological signs were stable, there's no evidence the stars have anything to do with people's day-to-day existence. One 2006 study published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences used data from more than 15,000 people and found no relationship between date of birth and personality . Despite the complete lack of scientific and observational evidence for astrology, several people believe in it.

Many scientific studies have been made, and they all show that astrology is no more accurate than chance would have it in making predictions.

Some Indian scientists too have tried to test astrology predictions (2). Their experiment with twenty-seven Indian astrologers judging forty horoscopes each, and a team of astrologers judging 200 horoscopes, showed that none were able to tell bright children from mentally handicapped children better than chance. Their results contradict the claims of Indian astrologers and are consistent with the many tests of Western astrologers. In summary, their results are firmly against Indian astrology being considered as a science.

And I stick with science, not pseudo-science.

Another thing I want to point out here ... According to Einstein's General Relativity, gravity bends light. So the stars, other celestial bodies and constellations  may not actually be there where we see them! If the object which deflects the light is quite massive, you have a phenomenon called strong gravitational lensing by which the image of an object is displaced from its original position. A typical example of such an object is the so called Einstein Cross (so named because the phenomenon finds an explanation in Einstein's general Theory of Relativity).

Sir Arthur Eddington observed such light deflection by the gravity of our own sun by looking at the star field near a sun during a solar eclipse, one of the first experiments to confirm effects predicted by General Relativity. The effects are minimal for viewing most objects within our galaxy. 
It is possible to observe extreme instances of it in distant galaxy clusters where the light from distant objects behind the cluster may be severely bent, so much that multiple distorted images of the same object may  appear in the sky!

According to Physicists - when we look at the sky we use the apparent (angular) positions of things to infer something about their location in space.  In so doing we assume that the spacetime along the line of sight has the same properties as spacetime on average, which is to say flat, or asymptotically so.  If this assumption is false, say because of local mass concentrations along the line of sight, then you will get an incorrect estimate of the object's location.  It's not unreasonable to describe this situation as "the object is not where we see it."

Objects distorted by gravitational lensing are "not where we see them" in the same sense that "Objects in mirror may be closer than they appear."  That is to say, when you look at a distant object, you reconstruct its position based on the light you are seeing and on assumptions about the path that the light took to get to you.  If those assumptions are wrong, then the position you infer will be wrong too.

 

white_dwarf

Photo: NASA, ESA, and A. Feild (STScI)

Thus, if you assume that your rear-view mirror is flat, when it is in fact curved, you'll infer the wrong position for the car behind you (it's "closer than it appears").  Similarly, if you assume that the line of sight to a distant galaxy is empty of mass, when in fact it is not, you might make incorrect inferences about its shape and position.  So, maybe a better way of saying it is that gravitational distortion may cause you to misinterpret what you're seeing.

Moreover, the answer to the Q "Are stars literally in the same place we see them to be?" the answer is no, even without considering relativistic effects, since they've moved some distance in the time taken for their light to reach us here on earth. When you look into the night sky, you are looking back in time.The stars we see in the night sky are very far away from us, so far the star light we see has taken a long time to travel across space to reach our eyes. This means whenever we look out into the night and gaze at stars we are actually experiencing how they looked in the past.


If instead, the question means "were stars literally in the same place we see them to be ?", the answer is again no, and perhaps a good example is distant quasars, where the bending of light doesn't just change the position of the image, but creates copies, so that we end up seeing multiple images of the same object.

In such situations it becomes somewhat difficult to see exact positions of stars and their constellations in the sky  like the astrologers want to see at the time of birth of a person to predict his future  based on this. All that we see is actually an illusionary picture! 

(However, astrophysicists can calculate the exact location of a celestial body despite gravity lensing but not ordinary astrologers)

AG ( An observer): I cannot even begin to surmise how grateful and delighted I am after reading Dr. Krishna's answer and ALL the comments that she has made on this thread. I have been reading this topic and questions on this topic for about an hour now. Truly, the answers by Astrologers are more depressing than the question : Moolan Shastri, Sarp yog, manglika and what not. Krishna's answers, however, are like a beacon of light shining out of a Black Sea of ignorance…

Dr.Krishna, your answers made my day! You have convinced me that Astrology is a fool's paradise. I am banning it from my life forever.

Krishna : Glad to hear that. Thanks and need I add you too have made my day?!

One Astrologer: Astrology science is pseudo in nature, because it deals with too varied a subjects like fate, destiny, psychology etc etc and unites them together. This is unique, which science is not able to do. So 'Pseudo' is actually a feather in the cap of Astrology, than the normal science!

Krishna: Wah! Wah! What a comment!

Other Astrologers: Silence!

                                              SCIENTISTS' STRONG RECOMMENDATION

Go for a genetic horoscope matching not an astrological one before getting married:

http://kkartlab.in/group/some-science/forum/topics/scientists-stron...

Some of the Indian Astrologers say Indian Vedic Astrology is different from Western ones and is based on science. But what they themselves don't know is the phrase Vedic Astrology is an oxymoron since the prefix Vedic has nothing to do with the Vedas, the ancient and sacred literature of the Hindus, which do not mention astrology in the way we know it now! Go find out by reading vedas if you don't believe the scientists. In fact, scholars agree that the usual planetary astrology came to India with the Greeks who had visited India since Alexander’s campaign in the third century BC (2).

And even Indian scientists conducted experiments on Indian vedic astrology and found that it is pseudo-science. You will find the details here: An Indian Test of Indian Astrology - CSI

and here: A statistical test of (Indian) Astrology ...

 http://www.currentscience.ac.in/Downloads/article_id_096_05_0641_06...

The term “Vedic” is often used to express the idea that this astrology is a sacred science, which was revealed by the Rishis, the founders of Vedic wisdom, more than 5000 years ago and was handed down from generation to generation without any changes until the present day. For example, when the astrological textbook Bṛhat-parāśara-horā-śāstra claims to be a revelation by the Vedic seer Parāśara, it is taken at face value. In reality, however, the oldest part of this work was written only about 1400 years ago. And contrary to what one would expect considering its current popularity, it was widely unknown amongst Indian astrologers before the 1980s.The supposedly great antiquity of this work is challenged by the fact that ancient authors did not write commentaries on it and apparently did not even know of it; moreover by the fact that the Vedic scriptures themselves tell us of quite a different kind of “astrology”. While Indian astrology may be “Vedic” in that it is part of today's Vedic tradition, it is in fact a lot younger than the Vedas and has many elements which were not developed in India but in Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Greece (3).

The Vedas themselves, the core corpus of sacred writings of Hinduism (śrutiḥ), are mainly interested in the position of the moon in the 27 or 28 lunar mansions, as well as in the lunar phases, eclipses, the solstices, and the equinoxes. Planets play practically no role in the Vedas, zodiac signs are completely unknown. Observations of the sky were important only for the Vedic sacrificial cult, as is expressly stated in the Vedāṅgajyotiṣa, the oldest textbook on astronomy and calendar calculation. It is only interested in the cycles of the Sun and Moon, whereas planets and zodiac signs play no role in it. There is no evidence for a natal horoscopy as we know it today in the Vedas. The zodiac was imported from the West (3).

References:

1.  http://spaceplace.nasa.gov/starfinder2/en/

2.  http://www.csicop.org/si/show/an_indian_test_of_indian_astrology#fo...

3. http://www.astro.com/astrology/in_vedic2_e.htm

PS: I want to add here an interesting real story told by one of my colleagues...

It seems a very famous astrologer's wife was about to give birth. While she was being taken to a lobour room in a hospital, the astrologer gave   money to one of the nurses and asked her to throw a lemon outside through the window - which should not be done actually - as soon as the baby was born. 

The nurse obliged. Based on the  time the lemon was thrown out of the window, the Astrologer prepared a horoscope for the girl. According to the astrologer's prediction, the first husband of the girl would die just two months after the marriage. Then she would marry another man and lives a very happy life. 

Then when the girl was about 18, the astrologer thought ... 'Anyway the first husband of my daughter would die, why should I make her marry a good and healthy person? Let me get her a mentally retarded person who would be of no use  and if he dies, nobody would be unhappy. After this person dies, I can search for a good groom and bring him as my second- son-in-law'. So he searched a for such a mentally ill person and got his daughter married to him. 

But... his mentally challenged son-in-law didn't die even after several years making his daughter suffer all through her life! 

The astrologer regretted his bad decision based on his worst prediction throughout his life.

That is what Astrology is! 

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Replies to This Discussion

2009

This's what a famous astrologer predicted about Indo-Pak match (Champions Trophy, 2017): 

Stars aligned for Team India’s victory!

Superior horoscope of Captain Virat Kohli compared to captain Sarfraz Ahmed of Pakistan.

Team India is likely to win the Champions Trophy on Sunday, according to renowned astrologer Greenstone Lobo, who predicts the results based on modern research and scientific methods. In an exclusive interview, he explains why India is likely to win the tournament.  

1 Superior horoscope of Captain Virat Kohli compared to captain Sarfraz Ahmed of Pakistan. He has ‘Planet-Z’ (2008 FC-76) in deepest exaltation, which comes once in about 60 years. He is also going through a fabulous time now. His not winning the recent IPL tournament has kept his “karmic balance” intact.

Better astrological “balance” in the Indian team. Team India’s players are of the “right” age to win a tournament of this magnitude. Pakistan has too young a player in Shadab Khan, which tilts the balance.

3 The horoscope of Indian coach Anil Kumble is better than that of Pakistan’s coach Mickey Arthur.
Lobo adds, “Pakistan was destined to make the path easier for India. If England were the finalists against India, the team would have found it difficult to overcome them.” He further says, “The Pakistani team is very strong and can win an ICC tournament in the future, but for that, they would need Umar Akmal in the squad. His absence will impact the current event.”

http://www.deccanchronicle.com/lifestyle/viral-and-trending/170617/...

Then after reading that I predicted that India would lose based on a scientific analysis. 

And my prediction came true much to the annoyance of my friends and relatives!

- Krishna

Hmmm!

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Scientists just figured out what's causing Earth to wobble
Robert Ferris |
Saturday, 9 Apr 2016 |
Earth does not always spin on an axis running through its poles. Instead, it wobbles irregularly over time, drifting toward North America throughout most of the 20th Century (green arrow). That direction has changed drastically due to changes in water mass on Earth.
Source: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Earth does not always spin on an axis running through its poles. Instead, it wobbles irregularly over time, drifting toward North America throughout most of the 20th Century (green arrow). That direction has changed drastically due to changes in water mass on Earth.
Droughts are causing Earth to wobble on its axis, according to new research.

Scientists have long known that the axis on which the planet spins is prone to wavering, but some of the reasons have escaped understanding.
But researchers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory say droughts and heavy periods of rain in different places around the planet are causing Earth to shake in space.
"We are going through this massive global-scale climate change, to such a degree that the change in climate has been strong enough to affect the rotation of such a giant planet," said study co-author Surendra Adhikari of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
Since 2000, the Earth's axis has jumped eastward by about 7 inches a year, a "massive swing," Adhikari said. Another pattern of wobbling that occurs every six to 14 years has been vexing scientists for more than a century. The researchers examined both in their study.

The movements of the Earth's axis are crucial to understand, since they affect the performance of satellites and global positioning systems. The polar axis also could become a powerful indicator for scientists studying climate change, Adhikari said.

The team published its findings Friday in the peer-reviewed open access journal Science Advances.
https://www.cnbc.com/2016/04/09/scientists-just-figured-out-whats-c...

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https://www.quora.com/Why-is-astrology-science-considered-a-pseudos...

http://www.udaypai.in/is-vedic-astrology-the-worlds-oldest-con/

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