Science and Astrology

We are a democratic country. We also try to be secular and, to keep pace with the time, scientific! No one can surely say how far we are successful but our efforts are on. Every one accepts that there is a need to brush our scientific temperament, particularly after union Human Resource Minister Murli Manohar Joshi proposed to introduce astrology as a subject in universities. Electronic media has exploited the new idea to their best. Thousands of articles have been written, and are still being written on this topic since then. A common man, who does not want to put on a mask of a thinker, when interviewed, found to be in-tact with his belief in astrology. The media campaigners statements aimed to prove how the entire astrology is based on wrong presumptions, failed to convince the reader, even the rational class of society, as they do not touch upon the nerve of those who believe in astrology. Proving that the methodology being followed by the astrologers would not serve the purpose, as astrologers themselves do not claim it to be a perfect and pragmatic science. It is normally termed as partial science. Let's first get the faces strength in understanding the term science. The word science comes from a Latin word 'scientia' meaning 'knowledge' which is derived from the verb 'scire' meaning 'to know'. 

Dictionary of contemporary English published by Oxford University press (1989) defines science as organized knowledge esp. when obtained by observation and testing of facts, about the physical world, natural laws and society. In simple words science can be defined as the process of knowledge which has some theories, which are proven with examples or concrete evidences that can lead to a rational conclusion. Today science is taken only as empirical science like physics, chemistry, biology etc. Crusaders of so called science initially declined to accept sociology, political science, history and other non-empirical sciences to be accepted as sciences.

A significant discovery was made in such field towards the end of 19th century when Sigmund Freud proposed his theory of Psychology. These theories are not experienced all the time as expected by science. But still, having a strong base of maximum percentage of proven theories, the field of study was accepted as science. Same was the case with Herbert Spencer's social theories or Charles Darwin's theory of evolution. 

Entering into the field of empirical sciences, many theories have been changing over the period. In Physics, for example, the theory of nature of light proposed by Newton was discarded in the latter period. It was replaced by the wave theory. Let us take a view towards the chronology of how theories of nature of light have been changing over the period.

Prior to AD 1666 ? Before this year it was supposed that dispersion of light produced color instead of separating already existing colors.

AD1666 ? Isaac Newton was the first to discover that sunlight is composed of a mixture of light of different colors in certain proportions and that it could be separated into its components by dispersion. Newton explained it by the assumption of a corpuscular theory of light. According to this theory a luminous body emits swarms of corpuscles that travel in straight lines through the all- pervading ether.

AD 1676? The ancients believed that light traveled at infinite speed; its finite speed was first discovered by Danish astronomer Ole R'mer in this year. 

AD 1678? Christian Huygens, a contemporary of Newton, (in The Trait? de la Lumi're/Treatise on Light, 1678) formulated a wave theory of light, but Newton's great contributions to the knowledge of light, combined with his great reputation, caused his theory to be favored.

AD 1801? Thomas Young, British physicist, physician, and Egyptologist revived the wave theory of light and identified the phenomenon of interference. 

AD 1821?French physicist Augustine Jean Fresnel refined the theory of polarized light. Fresnel realized in 1821 that light waves do not vibrate like sound waves longitudinally, in the direction of their motion, but transversely, at right angles to the direction of the propagated wave.
Augustine Fresnel and Thomas Young established Huygens's theory by the evidence of their experiments on diffraction and interference.

AD 1873? James Clerk Maxwell, Scottish physicist, went on to infer that light consists of electromagnetic waves. He also established that light has a radiation pressure, and suggested that a whole family of electromagnetic radiations must exist, of which light was only one. (Treatise on Electricity and Magnetism 1873)

AD1888 ? James Clerk Maxwell's electromagnetic radiation theory was confirmed with the discovery of radio waves.

AD1900 ? Max Planck, German physicist, framed the quantum theory. He proposed that radiation is emitted or absorbed by atoms in discrete units, or quanta, of energy.

AD1905?Albert Einstein used Planck's quantum theory as an explanation for photo electricity.

AD1913 ? Niels Bohr, Danish physicist, advocated quantum theory of light. He postulated that emission or absorption of energy occurs only with electron's transition from one stable state to another. When a transition occurs, an electron moving to a higher orbit absorbs energy and an electron moving to a lower orbit emits energy. In so doing, a set number of quanta of energy are emitted or absorbed at a particular frequency.

Similarly the absorption of light, and in particular the emission of electrons from metallic surfaces illuminated by light (photoelectric effect), was explained by the quantum theory. Certain properties of light, however, are explained only on the hypothesis that light is propagated as electromagnetic waves. Thus the quantum theory accounts for the photoelectric effect, while the electromagnetic wave theory accounts for the interference of light. The relation between these two theories can be approached in terms of Werner Heisenberg's uncertainty principle. His uncertainty principal (or indeterminacy principle) says ?In quantum mechanics, it is impossible to know with unlimited accuracy the position and momentum of a particle. The principle arises because in order to locate a particle exactly, an observer must bounce light (in the form of a photon) off the particle, which must alter its position in an unpredictable way.? He gave a theoretical limit to the precision with which a particle's momentum and position can be measured simultaneously: the more accurately the one is determined, the more uncertainty there is in the other.

All possibilities of the discovery of new theory proving light to be something else than what we believe today are fairly in chance. 

There have been many theories about the structure of an atom, which were contradictory to each other. To ask a practical question, has any human being ever seen a nucleus by any means? Or can anybody photograph the DNA as double helical, which was proposed by James Watson on the basis of illusion seen during the sleep?

But still we spend thousands of crores of dollars for further study in it. We cannot deny all these facts merely because we cannot see them. For many things we have to rely on the experimental results. In a nutshell, science gives scope to all rational possibilities in understanding of any subject.  Gone are the days of monarchy when Galileo was forced to change his opinions based on his organized and systematized study. We are a democratic country with democratic way of life and expression. But those who threatened Galileo with death for denying what was believed then were called orthodox and unscientific in the latter period. The reason behind was they did not allow new concepts to creep in. Today astrology is believed to be a partially scientific branch of study. Are we not courageous enough to let the scrutiny go on over this subject by making it popular and draw the conclusion after the complete comparative study is done? Are we not becoming orthodox in an opposite way? Thorough study will be the only way to prove or disprove any branch of knowledge. Not an autocratic control of not giving exposure to the subject. If it has an element of truth, it will survive by the nature's law of survival of the fittest, else it will extinguish giving more perfect ways to study the human destiny. 

Another base on which astrology has survived through the ages is that there is no method in (empirical) science which would answer the questions of destiny of a person or forecast the fortune.  This was the inspection of Astrology through the lenses of so called science. Beyond this, in fact, astrology has a lot to do with human need of belief. By adopting astronomical basis for it, we are giving more scientific base to our beliefs. 

To put it in another way, Astrology is a study of destiny. Theories in it are merely tools to reach to the conclusion. It is not just dreaming about the promotion or getting married to a beloved girl, but it has a deeper aspect of natural charges governing human life. Let us not be finicky by simply denying it because all theories or predictions do not come true. We will have to discard all the methods of gathering national statistical data and the branches of study like History, Sociology, Political science and Economics etc. if perfection of experimentation is the only criterion applied.  Let us find out the theories in astrology, which are being experienced as true and try to reason out them as to why are they experienced. Only then we will be truly called people with scientific temperament.

Astrology is an art having a base of science. Like surgery, after a certain level one has to lift himself above technicalities and achieve skill of doing the thing swiftly. That is one of the sciences through which one can read fortune. There are many other sciences like palmistry, Numerology, Face Reading, Ramala Shastra, Nadi Samhita, Chhaya shastra and so on. Some occult sciences like Tantra, Aghori Vidya, Karna Pishaccha, Mantra Vigyan and intuitions, are also used to know the fortune. Astrology provides larger base to all other skills. All these are only means to read the fortune, and are not unchangeable. The theories in these all sciences have changed over the period. Like every other science it is also moving towards perfection. In the olden days Astrological skills were the basic qualification for any high-ranking post in the king's courts or Army. King Samudra Gupta and Vikramaditya are well known for their skilful courtiers. But in the latter period, particularly after the industrial revolution, all these sciences went on the back burner. Obviously the development slowed down and people in general started thinking, with their boasted confidence that man can create and destroy the things he feel alike. But now in the age of uncertainty these sciences, Astrology or Vastushastra are being refreshed. 

As one can find a cure for fever in Homeopathy, Allopathy, or Ayurveda or even in Naturopathy. These all branches of medicine have their own method of treating diseases. Some of them are contrary to each other but still capable of curing diseases. Same is the case with all branches of Astrological sciences. 

Now, a question remains, even if it is a branch of study, should it be introduced in Universities? What is the use of this study in terms of productivity? Answer is simple- examine what contribution is made by historians, philosophers, sociologists and those practicing other branches of arts. If you find that they have made, be optimistic that some day with his study some astrologer would guide our nation on the path of prosperity like Kalidasa did in the time of King Vikramaditya. And if just hope doesn't satisfy you, ask an astrologer -- or else simply disbelieve everything you have read till here and call the writer vicious. You can surely do that, remember, we are a democratic country.



More by :  Ashish Khandekar

Top | Astrology

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