8.30.2004

I Do Know I Don't Know

I have a couple questions to ponder: how could gravity have existed before Newton made scientific laws to explain it? And how could people have ever worked with it, lacking a good physics lesson?

Astrology seems farfetched to many people, and many of the cautiously curious find the idea of planets affecting personality or events Way Out There. It just does not seem to make much sense, and so the natural response is typically to ask the self-proclaimed professionals (astrologers) how it is possible that huge chunks of rock and gas billions of miles away could affect the personal character of a biological lifeform on Earth.

It's a good question. A fair one, and worth answering. But I don't know the answer. Theories abound, and given the varied degrees of ego out there, those theories range from serious and possible (or even probable) all the way down to the pit of fantasies which serve mostly as self-aggrandizement. However, a truly concrete answer that can be widely understood in scientific terms has yet to surface. Such an answer would do a lot to validate astrology, but unanswered questions do not automatically invalidate a study.

After all, astrology can be used even without knowing why it works. A lot of things are like that.

Perhaps, if you are a master computer design expert, you know how each part of your computer interacts with the rest to enable the entire machine to work. And maybe you think in binary code, understanding the software even as you use it. For the rest of us simpletons, lacking all that information has not stopped us from being able to operate a computer. Sure, we may not know everything about it and may make mistakes or do something wrong from time to time, but we more or less know how to run it once we've had some practice.

The same thing goes for using astrology without having the answers many of us would like to have. The difference is that humans did not create whatever forces lay behind astrology; they created the mathematical tools and mental translations by which to operate it. It's hardly the first time that has happened in human history, where observation has led to use long before we knew what the heck was going on.

Personally, I remember a card trick I learned when I was in my mid-teens. It involved no sleight of hand, just a specific method, and it worked every time, no matter who did it, as long as it was done according to instruction. I was very curious about how the trick worked, because it involved random card placements but achieved a rather difficult outcome, and - unlike the other tricks I knew - it did not require me to deceive perception. When I showed it to a science teacher it surprised him, and out of the same curiosity he helped me examine it step by step. Finally figuring it out required a mathematical algorithm, but there was an actual mathematical reason it kept coming to the correct outcome. But the process made so many hidden mathematical moves that it confounded logic when simply seen.

And that was the trick of it. It did not fool the eyes, and it didn't even fool the mind. Visual logic simply could not follow the complicated process that was going on mathematically.

It happens.

2 Comments:

Blogger VW said...

Your article reminded me of trying to explain ‘intuition’ to a colleague (when I worked as a professional outside the home). He couldn’t understand how I was able to pin point a possible answer to a problem that I had never seen before. I then explained I had been in the field for 15 years and over time you will find that you see an answer without being able to explain it. It is knowledge that has been stored in your brain over a period of years and it helps you ‘intuitively’ find what is going wrong. Somewhat like knowing how to throw a ball to a person. You ‘intuitively’ know how hard with what type of arc to get it the right distance to reach the person on the other side.

What is this all about? Most people know how to throw a ball without knowing the physics about it. There is no reason why people can’t learn astrology without knowing the science behind it. Some people will be better at it than others, just like people are pitchers on a baseball team because they are better at throwing a ball. And a lot of time if you ask a pitcher how they do it, the answer is that they ‘just know’… it’s intuitive.

So what you wrote made perfect sense to me. Thanks for putting it down in words and helping me understand more of what astrology is about.

4:41 PM  
Blogger Lasciate said...

That's another good example, VW, and I very much agree. Thanks for commenting, too :)

6:24 AM  

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