Sunday, December 31, 2006

Astrology Vs Science I

There are many out there who would like to consider Astrology as science. This is completely illogical. While it can be considered a craft, an art or a hobby, it has no elements to qualify it as a science.

The reason why many think it is science is because it deals with stars, constellations, mathematical calculations which are the tools or ingredients of the prevailing sciences. This is a ridiculous argument. Using goat’s entrails to predict whether it would rain does not make it biology or meteorology. Stopping oneself from entering the street because the cat has crossed your path does not make it zoology. Just because one has built an elaborate scheme using astronomical data to predict things that happen to members of one single species on an insignificant planet revolving round an ordinary start in one of billion billion galaxies does not make it astronomy or a science. 

I would like put forth the following points for people to ponder. (If you don’t want to know the details just go the point # 6 which gives you a comparison).

1. There are four forces in the Universe.
a. Gravitational force,
b. Electromagnetic force,
c. Strong Nuclear force and
d. Weak Nuclear force.
Both Strong Nuclear and Weak Nuclear force work within the confines of atoms and hence I will rule them out in the following discussion since it involves celestial objects and behavior of humans.

2. It leaves us with two forces to deal with- Gravity and Electromagnetism. The electric charge of most of the planets is very minimal compared to their mass, thereby making it insignificant. Venus and Mars have no magnetic field while Mercury has 1/1000 of Earth’s magnetic field. Only Jupiter stands out amongst Sun’s planets with a very strong magnetic field that is 20,000 times stronger than that of Earth while Saturn has 500 times stronger field. Uranus is 50 times stronger while Neptune is 30 times stronger. Pluto has no magnetic field.

3. Mass of Mercury is 1/20 of Earth, Venus is 0.8 of Earth, Mars is 1/10 of Earth, Jupiter is 300 times of Earth, Saturn is 100 times of Earth, Uranus is 15 times of Earth, Neptune is 17 times of Earth, and Pluto is 0.9 of Earth.

4. Farther the planet weaker its strength. Magnetic field falls rapidly inversely proportional to square of the distance. Mars is 800 million km, Venus is 400 million km, Mercury is 900 million km, Jupiter is 630 million km, Saturn is 1300 million km, Uranus is 2700 million km, Neptune is 4400 million km, and Pluto is 5700 million km.

5. If the Earth gravity and magnetic field were to be at Center of Earth, then the effect of these planets on a human being is almost negligible. Almost all the effects are less than one-billionth compared to Earth, exceptions being, gravities of Venus and Jupiter which are 0.2 and 0.3 of millionth of Earth (still very negligible), and magnetic fields of Jupiter and Saturn which ware 2 and 0.1 of millionth of Earth.

6. In all respects, either it is magnetic or gravitational, Earth influences humans million times more compared to any planet out there. In fact, if you are standing next to a truck of 80,000 pounds, it would be influencing you 300 times more than what Mars would. If you are using an electric shaver you would be influenced 16 million times more than what Jupiter would, and if you are close to a transformer in a building, you would be influenced 100,000 times more than what Jupiter would.

The above discussion suggests that no planet can influence a human more than the objects closer to you. None of the forces that these planets can influence have an effect on humans in any significant way. There is no recorded evidence of any other particles traveling from any of these planets or any stars which can influence one human while avoiding another. 

Some proponents of Astrology make another case. They say there are other kinds of influences not known to science. There could be certain ‘cosmic rays’ or rays that travel faster than light and so on. If one were to assume that it is the case (which it is not) we still come to the same conclusion. Take the case of a variant of cosmic rays that seem to affect human beings. They are supposed to have an influence on a newly born baby. When asked how they go inside a hospital building, the proponents of astrology attribute it to their property to penetrate buildings.  

According to them, they penetrate every planet and matter and hence they can pass through the building of a hospital. So, the question is, if they can pass through the building, shouldn’t they pass through the baby as well, without producing any influence on the baby? If one were to assume that these rays only affect the living bodies thereby sparing the building, how do these cosmic rays know the difference between the mother and the baby? If we do assume that they pass through building but stop at living bodies, the question is will they not influence the baby when it is inside the womb? If they can travel through millions of light years penetrating everything that is on the way only to stop at a baby, why should they not penetrate the womb of the mother and influence the baby while it is inside, why is the moment of birth so important? What is birth according to these stars and planets, the moment of conception or the moment of seeing the outside world, or is it when the tether at the baby’s navel is cut off from the mother? Is the boundary of such termination just the skin of human or is it something more (like heart, brain or soul)? So, are we to assume that these planets are aware of each individual who is born on earth? If so, are they aware of each living species on the planet? There would be many billions of living beings on the planet, would they consider the fate of each of those living organism? Or these planets are especially interested in humans only? What about our cousins the chimps, gorillas and orangutans? 

Astrology fails all tests of science and reason. However, people tend to believe it as ever and may be with renewed vigor in these post-modern societies. There is no single scientific proof, reason or theory which suggests Astrology is a predictive science. Most of the success stories of astrology are in fact attributed to mere coincidences, human psychology and human’s wishful thinking. Just because the predictions turn out to be right does not make the mechanism a scientific mechanism. One may observe that each time it rains the goat is inside the house and conclude that they have direct correlation. Next time, to make it rain the man may bring the goat into the building but for some reason there is no rain- that’s when the theory fails. Most of the astrological successes are coincidences based on vague patterns which seem to hold true given a good number of sample cases (like one can always predict that a man is 5’8” in a country if one were to know that it is the average height. He may turn out to be right more than 30% of the time, which is a good success rate).

Also, people tend to look at the predictions that have turned out to be true rather than look at the times they tend to be completely false. That is the nature of humans and nothing to do with any scientific theory. For example, a newspaper articles writes about an astrologer who has predicted again and again many events- like change in governments, death of presidents and prime ministers, aircraft accidents, and even 9/11 disaster. How come he was not taken seriously when he made those predictions in the first place? How come we look back and then say, ‘Yes! He is right’. He may have predicted 200 other events which may not have come true. Nobody bothers to look at those. If indeed he is right, as Munnabhai suggests, he should select the Indian Cricket Team for each game, by picking up only those players who score centuries and take six wickets. 

Given the number of astrologers that we have and each one making thousands of predictions, some of them are bound to be right. Just take a class of 50 students and ask each of them to make ten predictions each for the coming year. We will have 50 predictions. And after the year has elapsed, we may find some of them are indeed right (like India winning the World cup, or a leader of a state getting killed or a major disaster happening in Indian Ocean). Do such success stories make these students astrologically superior? Some, who have got it right more than others (say two out of ten have turned out to be true) may be considered good predictors. What if only those chosen students are asked to make more predictions for the next year. Will they come out right? Most probably no! The reason they came out right was because we had many predictors and hence statistically it was possible that some of those events would turn out right, but once the size of these predictors is shrunk drastically the pool size is small and the chances of getting it right go down as well.

One can go on writing against each aspect of Astrology and completely debunk it. However, people will continue to believe in it. What is sad and also dangerous is not that any people believe in it- nowadays, the most learned, even those graduating from universities with PhDs, believe in this. Astrology is another of the pseudo-sciences which will prevail throughout human history. It may change shape or form and differ in methods, but as long as the man is curious about his future, astrology or any of the predictive hobbies will prevail. What needs to be combated is how it is entering the domains of scientists, PhDs, engineers, doctors, graduates and eminent academicians. Astrology in India is another aspect of growing love for India’s glorious past. Astrology alone is quite harmless, but when combined with other potent forces such as numerology, vaastu shastra, Vedic sciences, etc, tend to feed into supporting the cause of the fascist forces which seem to bank on such grand theories to establish their credentials and bolster their cases to support Aryan supremacies, explain away caste differences, legitimize superiority of certain classes, and glorify their religion vis-à-vis other religions.

Links: Astrology Debunked [Added in 2013],  


  1. //1. There are four forces in the Universe.//

    There are four forces in the Universe that we know off

    For example, in 1200 AD, were all these forces present. Just because we don't know about any force, does it mean that it is not present

  2. I agree with Sujai, but still I believe that there should be scientific investigation of all the hypotheses put forth by astrologers. Not because I feel that it would encourage astrolgers but I believe that once scientists start to design experiments to debunk these hypotheses, very soon vast 'undecided majority' would be willing to see the reason and logic.

  3. doctor bruno,

    It is unfair to compare the current day with early stages of scientific investigations. Even with your argument that there are only 4 known forces now, it is quite easy to see that Astronomy is fake and it is not science. It fails in the basic necessity for science. Lack of reproducibility. The issue ends just there.

    satyanveshi, do you really think that scientists should waste their time debunking something that is practiced by a group of crackheads? It is just a waste of time. Scientists don't claim that Astrology is science. It is the claim of astrologers to gain some backdoor legitimacy. Under such circumstances, the burden of proof lies with Astrologers. if ordinary people believe in such claims, it is their problem. It is not the aim of science to prove someone wrong. The aim of science is to understand truth. Today, someone will want scientists to disprove astrology, tomorrow another person will want scientists to disprove Ramadev's claim that his teachings are scientific, day after tomorrow, another person will want scientists to prove the claims of Swami xxxguru Maharaj to be wrong. Do you really think that it is the duty of scientists to debunk these nutheads. They have better things to do than wasting their time on these people. If ordinary citizens go by what these jokers say, it is their own funeral.

  4. I agree with Krish to an extent. I don't think it is necessary for scientists to debunk every pseudo-science. Sometimes, scientist have come together in the public interest to debunk some pseudo-sciences- such as telekinesis (after nearly 30 years of its popularity), etc.

    Many a times, such pseudo-sciences are mixed with religion and in those cases, its better scientists keep away from debunking them. One cannot combat such faith. faith has to combat itself.

    There are many studies done which prove that astrology is bogus. In one such test, a magazine published the predictions for sign for another sign, but still people believed the altered predictions.

    There are many accounts of how astrologers failed in their predictions, how it is completely statistical, and many a times psychological.

    However, people do not read those reports because they don't want to.u

  5. Hi Sujai,

    will you agree that a set of examples are not enough to prove a theorem?

    how can you say that it is not science by just giving some heuristic arguments like that. wouldnt you agree that it is a subject which is similar to any other science, but the people who mastered it are less (ex: medicine is a subject but only few ppl are masters in that)

    drawing conclusions on anything by just arguing with examples is not good. what ever we believe today can turn out to be wrong by some theory later(happened so many times). who knows we may end up detecting an element which is related the forces mentioned in astrology.

  6. Anonymous:
    How else would your prove that 'a cat crossing one's path' has nothing to do with one's fate?

    Which element do you think we would discover to make astrology right? Scientists around the world would love to hear more about these elements.

    If you have known the periodic table, you would know that the table was formed based on certain ground rules, and realized that there were few elements missing, and when searched, they found those elements. Can you put your new element in that table?

    Or is there any example of an element that does not fit on a period table?

    Whatever we believe could go wrong, but it is usually replaced by a more comprehensive and more complete theory. But when most experiments further the theories, they are considered true- which is the case with the present day science. It is being tested more rigorously than ever before, fine tuning it, make it more robust than ever before.

  7. Hmm...its not that if I and you can't prove something, that doesn't mean nobody else can prove it.

    I hope you know that the riddle related to chicken and eggs got solved finally...i guess you and me wouldn't have given a correct answer to that problem.

    in the last paragraph of ur answer, you mentioned a good point. yes, may be in future so many existing theories may fail or may find strong supports.

    on your lines i will try to give you a convincing example. somany times in our school/college we (atleast me)were proven wrong, because we used to think only on some dimensions, but when somebody came up with a different point, we would have realized our mistake.

    infact in mathematics, many theorems will fail in higher dimensional space, or many theorems will hold only in higher dimensional space. So what I am trying to say is that the people who came up with the rules for periodic table might have missed some thing. I may be wrong, but I am just giving some possible case.

    Finally, you may like to read this

  8. Anonymous:

    Agreed. A theory in Science can be disproven, enhanced, modified, extended, or even stultified.

    If you see the progress of Science, you will see that a new theory or hyposthesis is scrutinized, experimented against, verified, cross-verified, cross-examined, in an effort to better or reject it.

    Though we concede a theory can always be rejected, there are few theories who stand the experiments and observations of time long enough to be passed on as almost truths- such as Theory of Gravity (for all small speeds, small accelerations and low gravities). However, there could always be another theory to extend this Theory of Gravity (like higher dimensions, near-light speeds, Black Hole kind of gravities). That does not mean Theory of Gravity become invalid.

    Would Scientists ever concede that there might be a new theory that would bring back the old notions of Halley Comet spelling the doom for kingdoms on the Earth? Not really. Would there be any scientific theory that would explain how entrails of a sacrifized animal would tell the outcome of a war, of the flight of a bird will determine the sex of king's unborn kid? Will any scientific theory be explaining how a Halley Comet is the sign of God or the harbinger of success/doom for a kingdom? Not really.

    In the same vein, no matter what the knaves tell us, Astrology will never become part of Science. At the most, it will always enjoy the attention of mainstream the same way the urban legends do, the same way palmistry, superstition, alien abduction, always seem to have a great following.

    I think you should go back to basics to appreciate how periodic table is prepared. Is there a room for squeezing in a new elements into the midst of already exisiting elements? An understanding of the basic nature- of how atoms exist, how periodic table is defined, etc, would allow you appreciate its beauty without any dose of mysticism. For some people, mysticisim bring beauty, and for some sheer rational explanation brings the beauty. Science seems to bring the latter to us while the religion and superstition seems to dwell in the former.

  9. Hi Sujai,

    I just got banned from a vedic astrology forum, where I had posted a rather famous lecture of Swami Vivekananda debunking predictive astrology.

    I had posted the link to this post of yours along with other sources debunking astrology. I had quoted Dante (your favorite quote). They associated me with your blog & got kicked out. They have stereotyped me as someone who debunks hinduism.
    In their own words >>> " The blog which this person used to advertise is
    totally anti-hindu, anti-vedic, and infact the blog openly supports
    islamic-terrorism and threatens hindus to stop idol-worship and convert to islam
    or chrishtianity. The blog uses super argumentative skills to insult hindus.
    This person is covertly adopting the debates of astrology v/s science to break
    the backbone of our ancient culture and convert all Indians to other abrahamic
    religions. I bet that in next decade, such persons will even start arguing that
    we dont need temples as they are "unscientific". Hence its upto all of us to be
    pro-active in replying aptly to this person rather than ignore. Otherwise the
    day is not far when laws come into force (with the
    help of such intellectuals) that debars hindu religion and temples and all our
    ancient culture." <<<

    Meanwhile as someone who knows the principles of vedic astrology inside out, I will take it upon me to debunk it point by point. Though you have effectively debunked it outside-in I would like to do so inside-out.

    This would be in the interest of the desperate indians who are swayed by such beliefs.

    Although I agree, by doing so we cannot give (false) hope to the hope seeker, we can stop them from being led astray.

    Swami Vivekananda debunks it thoroughly here-->

  10. > "damir.miric"
    Hello all,
    > "At JREF, we offer a one-million-dollar prize to anyone who can show,
    > under proper observing conditions, evidence of any paranormal,
    > supernatural, or occult power or event."
    > Do we have anyone here who would be able to take that challenge and
    > prove astrology to be right once and for all ?
    > Best,
    > Damir

  11. If you do not believe in James Randi, I would offer all readers a more
    "credible" Indian source with lesser prize (Rs. 20 lakhs!).

    The challenge by Prabir Ghosh:- On behalf of Science and Rationalist
    Association of India, Mr. Prabir Ghosh will pay Rs. 20,00,000 to
    anyone who claims to possess supernatural power of any kind and proves
    the same.

    The Science and Rationalists' Association of India (Bharatiya Bigyan O
    Yuktibadi Samiti) is predominantly a rationalist group based in
    Kolkata, India. It was established on March 1, 1985 by rationalist
    Prabir Ghosh, which happens to be the international rationalists' day.
    The association has prominent philosophers like Khushwant Singh and
    Paul Kurtz as its members, and preaches against irrational blind faith
    and superstition.

    Challenge to miracle and astrology

    The group offers a prize of Rs. 20,00,000 ($50,000) to anyone who can
    demonstrate "supernatural power of any kind" or make accurate
    astrological predictions/calculations under proper observing
    conditions. Many godmen and astrologers have accepted this renowned challenge and have been defeated.


  12. Dear Sir,
    You are somewhat behind the time.Astrology has been scientifically proven long
    Thank You for your time
    Have a nice day

  13. You nailed it Sujai. I can't agree more with you. People who say that you can't say something doesn't exist because you cannot prove it are right to some extent. But as with most speculations most of them tend to end up being heap of garbage theories, beliefs and practices.

    So far, the astrologers have given arguments on the basis of 'rays', 'gravitational forces', and/or 'other forces'. But those scientifically verifiable forces have proved beyond doubt that astrology is nothing but a sham to fool people. Charlatans like Bejan Daaruwallah have made millions and astrology has become a multi-million dollar business around the world.

    Now, will the irrationally inclined agree that God is there and can be proved by Quantum Physics?

    Please, please, please READ THIS LINK

  14. Hello Sujai,,
    wonderful post...
    I empathize with you. Just a few days back, the Bombay High Court denied a Public Interest Litigation filed by an NGO (Janhit Manch) claiming "Astrology is Science". I guess you won't be surprised at this. I arrived at your post with the google search keyword "should scientists keep away from debunking pseudo sciences" and boi was I lucky to stumble upon your meticulous blog-post. If this comment pops up in your RSS reader, I wish you could share your opinions on the HC verdict issue at the TOI link below:\\//

  15. science is is going toward believe in ultimate truth btestrology is to scare and cheat has no scientific base.astrology say that earth is not a planet bt everybody know that earth is a which is truthful and says about RAHU, these planets dont exist who believe in astrology is a phool.

  16. Guys.. some of you believe in astrology.. U can.. it's totally ur choice.. but plz, answer a simple question for me. plz.

    There are millions of stars in this galaxy. Most of them are even larger than our SUN. Why don't the astrologers calculate their powers??

    If you believe in astrology, plz answer this..

  17. Samkhya Karika is the mother of Yoga, Ayurveda and Astrology. Any Indian Science if you take will be based out of a philosophy. Samkhya philosophy deals with evolution of the cosmos and way forward. There is no philosophical place for a creationist God in this system. Buddha just did some value addition to this system of philosophy and spread it to millions in languages which dey understood. The Yoga school derives its ontology and epistemology from Samkhya and adds to it the concept of Isvara.To see the relation between Ayurveda and Samkhya u can use this link The dualistic metaphysics of various Tantric traditions illustrates the strong influence of Samkhya on Tantra. Shaiva Siddhanta was identical to Samkhya in its philosophical approach, barring the addition of a transcendent theistic reality. Samkhyavadin believe that the effect is pre-existent in the cause. Early Astrologers wud hav been seers who tried to solve and understand the Law of Cause and Effect karma and fhal and dey used planets and stars to fix the time of occurrence of events, like we say minutes hand was at 9 nd hour hand was somewhere between 6 and 7, similarly Mr. X was born wen sun was in this constellation and moon was here etc. But Astrology is still not science cos science still has a lot of catching up to do


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