Astrology Aims for Respectability
Thin Evidence Hasn't Hampered Brisk Business
NEW DELHI, India, JUNE 13, 2004 (Zenit) - Astrology enthusiasts recently won a battle in India in their efforts to obtain academic credibility. The nation's Supreme Court upheld a 2001 decision by the University Grants Commission (UGC) to introduce courses in Vedic Astrology leading to undergraduate and postgraduate degrees, the Indian magazine Frontline reported in its June 5 issue. The court decision, handed down May 5, rejected a challenge to the UGC approval brought by several academics.
In their petition to the court the academics argued that Vedic Astrology cannot be considered a part of scientific study because astrology lacks the basic attributes and tenets involved in the pursuit of science. Specifically, they argued, astrology does not use the accepted scientific method of inquiry that is characterized by fallibility, verifiability and repeatability.
In 2001 the UGC invited applications from universities to set up astrology departments. Out of 41 submissions the UGC accepted proposals from 20 universities. The article termed the Supreme Court decision "a serious blow to the efforts of the scientific community and rational-minded people who have been relentlessly campaigning against the pernicious move."
Nevertheless, the writer took solace in the recent defeat of the Bharatiya Janata Party in India's national elections. The BJP, observed the article, gave backing to astrology and other similar practices as part of its support of traditional Hindu culture.
Defenders of astrology are not limited to India. On May 16, Britain's Sunday Times reviewed a book published by a Royal Astronomical Society member, Dr. Percy Seymour, in which he lends some credence to astrology. Seymour, former lecturer in astronomy and astrophysics at Plymouth University, stated that he does not believe in the validity of star-sign horoscopes. Yet, in his book "The Scientific Proof of Astrology," he maintains that brain development may be affected by the Earth's magnetic field, especially during a child's growth in the womb. This magnetic field is affected by interactions with the sun, the moon and other planets.
The review did note, however, that Seymour is a lone figure in scientific circles in his defense of astrology. Sir Martin Rees, the Astronomer Royal, has described astrology as "absurd," noted the Sunday Times. "There is no place for astrology in our scientific view of the world; moreover its predictive claims cannot stand any critical scrutiny," commented Rees.
Payoff, but no proof
An example of this scrutiny was a decades-long study of more than 2,000 people, reported on in the British newspaper Telegraph last Aug. 17. The study involved a group born in early March 1958. Many of the babies were born within minutes of one another and, according to astrology, should have many traits in common.
Researchers examined more than 100 different characteristics, including occupation, marital status and IQ levels. In their findings, published in the Journal of Consciousness Studies, the scientists reported no evidence of similarities between those born at the same time.
One of the researchers, Dr. Geoffrey Dean, said the results undermined the claims of astrologers, who typically work with birth data far less precise than that used in the study. "They sometimes argue that times of birth just a minute apart can make all the difference by altering what they call the 'house cusps,'" he said. "But in their work, they are happy to take whatever time they can get from a client."
But while scientists may scorn astrology, the general public flocks to read what the stars have to say. Writers of astrological columns in major newspapers can expect pay packages in the range of 250,000 to 500,000 pounds ($458,000 to $917,000), the British newspaper Guardian reported Jan. 12.
And this is just for starters. On top of this comes the income from telephone lines. Newspaper reports put the overall income of Daily Mail astrologer Jonathan Cainer at more than 2 million pounds ($3.6 million).
In Italy, according to the Jan. 25 issue of the weekly magazine Famiglia Cristiana, the nation's 22,000 astrologers and assorted seers enjoy a combined income of around 550 million euros ($613 million). Periodic revelations of fraud and tax evasion have not diminished the popularity of the occult in Italy. A government decree in 2002 sought to introduce restrictions on television spots selling astrological and fortunetelling services, especially common on the 600 or so small stations that reach local areas. But the effects of the decree so far have been limited.
Those looking for arguments against astrology and other assorted superstitions now have a handy resource in the just-published "Debunked!" The book was originally published in France two years ago. The authors, Georges Charpak, a physicist at the European Center for Particle Physics in Geneva, and Henri Broch, a teacher at the University of Nice-Sophia Antipolis, deal with a wide variety of themes.
The book notes that some people defend the accuracy of horoscopes, arguing that they have accurately predicted events. Yet, the simple occurrence of predicted events does not validate astrology, contend Charpak and Broch.
What happens, the authors say, is that such people are convinced they are dealing with horoscopes written specifically for them. But what is at work is what the authors term a "well effect." Horoscopes typically use vague generalizations, making it easy for people to recognize themselves in what is described. These descriptions "are only deep in the sense that a well is deep -- deeply hollowed out, that is, empty," write the authors.
Such descriptions are not, in fact, based on what astrologers know about people, but on what people wish were true about themselves. Added to which, astrologers count on the public quickly forgetting past predictions. Supermarket tabloids, for example, regularly publish end-of-year predictions, such as of assassinations, which are simply repeated annually.
The book also cites examples of affirmations by popular astrologers that reveal a lack of basic astronomical knowledge. One astrologer argued that two people born under the sign of Capricorn -- one on Jan. 9, 1924, and another on the same date in 1960 -- would be under the same planetary influences because the sun is in the same place in the sky. But, the authors observe, this is not true at all and there is a difference in the Earth's orbit around the sun between these two dates of no less than 780,000 miles.
In fact, the zodiac birth signs so common in astrological columns, along the supposed personal qualities for those born under them, are mostly based on astronomical positions traced out thousands of years ago. The problem with this is that the axis of the Earth's rotation is in continual change. The axis pivots, in a way similar to a spinning top, completing a revolution in about 25,790 years. As a result the zodiac signs in use today by astrologers do not correspond at all to the constellations represented when the charts were originally drawn up.
The book goes on to debunk other phenomena such as levitation, walking on hot coals and metal bending. Regarding events which some regard as unusual coincidences, and therefore require some paranormal explanation, the authors recommend that the public should study probability theory, which quickly reveals that many supposedly unusual occurrences actually fall within the bounds of probable events.
The authors conclude that society is now infested with unscientific thinking, which has allowed the occult to transform itself from a local affair to the realm of big business. It seems modern society isn't so rational and scientific after all.
http://www.catholic.org CA, US
Catholic Online - Publisher, 661 869-1000
Astrology, Catholic, Tradition
More Catholic PRWire
Showing 1 - 50 of 4,718
A Recession Antidote
Monaco & The Vatican: Monaco's Grace Kelly Exhibit to Rome--A Review of Monegasque-Holy See Diplomatic History
Dna. Maria St. Catherine Sharpe, t.o.s.m., T.O.SS.T.
A Royal Betrayal: Catholic Monaco Liberalizes Abortion
Dna. Maria St.Catherine De Grace Sharpe, t.o.s.m., T.O.SS.T.
Embrace every moment as sacred time
Mary Regina Morrell
Letting go is simple wisdom with divine potential
Mary Regina Morrell
Father Lombardi's Address on Catholic Media
Pope's Words to Pontifical Latin American College
Prelate: Genetics Needs a Conscience
State Aid for Catholic Schools: Help or Hindrance?
Scorsese Planning Movie on Japanese Martyrs
2 Nuns Kidnapped in Kenya Set Free
Holy See-Israel Negotiation Moves Forward
Franchising to Evangelize
Catholics Decry Anti-Christianity in Israel
Pope and Gordon Brown Meet About Development Aid
Pontiff Backs Latin America's Continental Mission
Cardinal Warns Against Anti-Catholic Education
Three words to a deeper faith
Relections for Lent 2009
Wisdom lies beyond the surface of life
Mary Regina Morrell
World Food Program Director on Lent
Pope's Lenten Message for 2009
Keeping a Lid on Permissiveness
Glimpse of Me
The 3 stages of life
Sex and the Married Woman
A Catholic Woman Returns to the Church
Modernity & Morality
Just a Minute
Catholic identity ... triumphant reemergence!
Edging God Out
Burying a St. Joseph Statue
George Bush Speaks on Papal Visit
Sometimes moving forward means moving the canoe
Mary Regina Morrell
Easter... A Way of Life
Papal initiative...peace and harmony!
Proclaim the mysteries of the Resurrection!
Jerusalem Patriarch's Easter Message
Good Friday Sermon of Father Cantalamessa
Papal Address at the End of the Way of the Cross
Cardinal Zen's Meditations for Via Crucis
Interview With Vatican Aide on Jewish-Catholic Relations
Pope Benedict XVI On the Easter Triduum
by Catholic Online
- Daily Readings for Friday, October 20, 2017
- Profit For The Common Good
- Prisoners use lunch with Pope Francis to escape HD Video
- Daily Reading for Saturday, October 21st, 2017 HD Video
- St. Paul of the Cross: Saint of the Day for Friday, October 20, 2017
- Respecting life demands linking all life issues
- Cardinal shares the Five Keys to Catholic Education
- Deacon Keith invites you... HD
- It was the Clintons! Clinton family took millions in bribes from Russia to sell off U.S. uranium HD
- Daily Reading for Friday, October 20th, 2017 HD
- Daily Reading for Thursday, October 19th, 2017 HD
Learn about Catholic world
Inform - Inspire - Ignite
Catholic Online Saints
Your saints explained
Catholic Online Prayers
Prayers for every need
Catholic Online Bible
Complete bible online
Catholic Online News
Your news Catholic eye
Today's bible reading
Products and services we offer
Catholic Online Shopping
Catholic medals, gifts & books
The California Network
Inspiring streaming service
Learn the Catholic way