5.25.2005

The How Of It - Part Two

Part One is here.

In the days and weeks after the aforementioned discovery, I spent a fair amount of time considering my original presumption: astrology is a silly notion at best, disproven and discarded by intellectuals for good reason. I had run into a number of hypotheses about how astrology could work, of course, and most seemed to be grasping at straws as they stretched the limits of scientific plausibility.

Utterly determined not to be taken for a fool, I had thrown my lot in with the intellectuals. The irony was that doing so was purely a matter of faith. Now, in a way, I needed to reaffirm my beliefs. So, I went to look at studies and articles that refuted astrology. And there I discovered some things I had not been expecting to find.

A few articles and essays in, I realized I had learned a lot more about astrology than I was consciously aware of. I had, after all, been looking into it for years at this point. A large amount of astrological information had been absorbed and stored...much of it ignored because my aims were bent on comprehending people's belief in the system and not the actual workings of natal astrology. But that knowledge was still there, nevertheless.

What called this to my attention was the continual misconceptions upon which these anti-astrology arguments were based. One thing was becoming very clear: these very smart people (and I am not being sarcastic) had no idea how astrology worked. Don't get me wrong, they thought they did. They thought they had, at least, enough of grasp on it to debunk it. But I saw the same handful of mistakes made over and over again. It reminded me of this anecdote:

Sir Isaac Newton (allegedly...I have seen this quote attributed to Kepler as well) said to comet discoverer Halley when Halley challenged him on his belief in astrology: "Sir, I have studied it. You have not."

Whether or not this is a true quote doesn't matter...what it illustrates is right on. The people debunking astrology had not studied it, and did not understand or acknowledge its complexities. This was apparent from their sweeping and grandiose statements about what astrologers "believe" and "purport" and "posit." They only got it right in the most general of statements, and then almost inevitably spiraled off onto what more they believed astrologers believed, as though being right in those initial platitudes gave them authority on the specifics of astrology. To the layperson's eye, however, that comprehension was glaringly superficial.

I have found fault with pro-astrology studies for similar reasons. A friend once got me a book from a statistician who believed his statistical analysis had proved natal astrology worked. I found the same faults in that book. Sadly, the statistician's conclusion was false - even though it agreed with astrology, its initial basis was built upon false presumptions about the way astrology operates. This had undermined the entire study without him ever realizing it.

The other thing I ran into often is counter-argument. I respect this approach more, because a counter-argument demands of astrology that very valid scientific questions be answered. And those questions should be answered, even though astrology is not prepared enough or advanced enough to answer many of them at this time, and the general intellectual community is not prepared to have an open mind on it anyways. But the ability to create a counter-argument does not in and of itself disprove astrology. By that logic, any study that still has mysteries to be solved has been sufficiently disproven. Still, the burden of proof does lie with astrologers, not opponents.

In short, the best anti-astrology articles I read were - at most - conjectures on why astrology would not work.

All that reading led me to the next level of hesitation: doubt both claims. Those debunking astrology had failed to prove their argument. Astrologers had failed to prove theirs. Therefore, if I had to decide whether or not to give astrology credit, I would first need to have a reasonable and logical foundation. Empirical observation was not enough, but lack of hard proof did not change the fact that I had seen it apparently working...and had done it myself, no less.

For a moment, it brought to mind an old Oriental proverb: "A person who says a thing cannot be done should stand out of the way of the person doing it."

An enticing thought, but still not enough.

1 Comments:

Blogger neilemac said...

Was introduced to you by email conversation with "the pedantic pundit." After his immediate reply to my request for aid on networking (tags and links, etc.)my blog. Am an avid observer of celestial shine and answer skeptics this way: "The shine is there, it's up to your freewill to use it."

I studied with a divine head by the name of Amy (delightful, insightful Cancer) circa 1970 in the basement of "Trout Fishing of American" located in Harvard Square, Cambridge (across the Charles River from Boston), Mass.

Am a relative novice in the blogshpere but shall soon enclude a link to your site from mine. namasté

8:39 AM  

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