Should We Believe Rationalists?

The inclusion of astrology in the UGC curriculum a few years ago had given rise to an intense one-sided debate from our scientific intelligentsia who seemed to be hell-bent upon stalling the implementation of such a move. This move had also been termed as a part of the “saffronisation of education” and equated with the distortions of history inducted by RSS and some of these rationalists had been outrageous enough to term the introduction of astrology as a science in the universities as the “Talibanisation of our education system” that will only serve to promote religious fundamentalism and undermine whatever scientific credibility India has achieved in the international arena so far. Leave alone the debate, what became clearer than ever is that these rationalists are more concerned with the official stand over anything that defies their imagination or to sound a little more sophisticated does not match their scientific ways. Whether the abovementioned move is politically motivated or not is a different matter altogether, what we are concerned with here is the other and the more important aspect concerning the scientific validity of astrology. Although the responsibility for the search and declaration of truths and untruths has been placed on scientists still by no means can they be taken as the sole judges of truth especially without conducting a complete and systematic study of any subject or even theory. This is exactly the case with astrology today. The declaration of astrology as a pseudo-science from the scientific community only goes to show that even scientists can be superstitious at times because of their high-strung pseudo-rationalistic attitudes.

To date, no organized scientific attempt has been made by our modern scientists so as to establish the existence or non-existence of a co-relation between terrestrial life and the movement of celestial bodies and hence is a completely virgin field of research as far as modern science is concerned. The routine assumption of the modern day scientist that science has seen any real development only in the last four centuries is because of sheer ignorance and misinformation. An underestimation of the achievements of our ancients from the modern scientist would not be in place for they have no credibility in this respect. I would like to pose a simple question, tell me the number of scientists who have acquired a good knowledge of Sanskrit and know how to erect a horoscope so that at least the base may be in the place for initiating a research into the principles of Indian astrology at the primary level to discover their truth or otherwise. The studies that are so often claimed to have been made by scientists almost invariably resulting in a negative outcome have suffered from a lack of almost any level of acquaintance with the theory and practice of Indian or even western astrology. Such studies are routinely made on the basis of the western Sun-signs and dates of births of individuals which have but no sanction at all in Indian astrology.

Such a study was published in the British Journal of Clinical Practice[1] on the alleged link between astrology and nephrology or the branch of medicine dealing with the diseases of kidney. Says the researcher S. Hughes from the department of Psychiatry at Leicester General Hospital, “Since astrologers always presume a link between the susceptibility of particular organs to diseases and signs of the zodiac, we conducted a simple test to verify the positive connection between renal diseases and the sign of Libra. We did this by studying the birth dates of patients who were consecutively admitted to the nephrology wards. No significant link was found on analysis thus disproving the traditional astrologers’ claims.” This kind of a study based on the date of birth of an individual serves to ridicule the very concept of systematic research. When we study a horoscope to gain insight into the nature of diseases that may afflict a person, it is based on a consideration on a number of factors like the strength and weakness of the house, sign and planet ruling a particular organ and the extent to which the negative placement and associations of planets may harm the native. To take sign alone into consideration, like Libra as ruling Kidneys would by any standards be sheer stupidity. This too, we study with the help of a horoscopic chart cast on the basis of the date, time and place of birth of an individual whereas this scientist perhaps did not even feel the need to go into any of the details, much less cast a horoscope, and proceeded to study the connection between renal diseases and the Sign Libra with the help of a mere date of birth which at the most could have provided him with the Sun-sign and position of planets in its relation.

Another study of 5,469 suicide cases in Nordrhein Westfalen in Germany also gives the thumbs-down to astrology- it found connection between the dates of births and the suicides. “The ratio between the distribution of births obtained and the mathematical probability ranged from 50 percent to 75 percent”, concludes researcher R. Danneel in the Archives of Psychiatry[2]. “consequently no geophysical or cosmic factor exists which could connect the dates of births of these persons with their later suicide.”

In this case the wise researcher dispensed with the trouble of taking into consideration astrology itself which was perhaps the stated subject of study and instead proceeded to study the mathematical probability distribution of dates of births of a set of suicide cases which yielded no significant clues. The strange thing is that it is accepted as scientific research among intellectuals, if such is the case, I would be reasonable then in doubting the credibility of their intellects. One thing that this esteemed scientist needs to be taught by other people of his fraternity is that mathematical probability does not inherently takes into consideration any geophysical or cosmic factor and hence his statement that “there is no geophysical or cosmic factor that links their dates of births to later suicide” is farcical to say the least. By the way, astrologically on any given date of any month every year completely different planetary combinations will obtain, only if one cares to calculate, therefore having similar dates of birth is of no relevance to astrology as such.

One argument forwarded by many rationalists is that if there are different forms of astrology, like Arabic, Hindu, Persian, Chinese and Western to name a few of them it is sufficient inherent evidence to substantiate the fact that astrology is no science but mere charlatanry or at best conjectural hypothesis. I would like to answer this question with a counter question that if there are different forms of medicine since ancient times to the most modern with a completely different set of factors for diagnosis as well as treatment of diseases, then can medicine also be taken as no science? If only Homeopathy, Ayurveda and Allopathy to name a few of the different medicine systems prevalent, may converge some day they can hope to become more scientific in the view of these scientists. The truth is that each of these medicinal systems has to be judged on the basis of their individual merit although all of them are basically designed to deal with the same body structure and diseases of humans and success or failure of any one of these systems is of no direct consequence in the judging the authenticity or otherwise of any other system. Then why can the same logic not apply to astrology as well.

Taking up the case of a couple of Indian pseudo-rationalists who make up for perfect examples of a false scholarship born out of ignorance may not be out of context at this point. One is a dumb turbaned joker and another is an astrophysicist spearheading the movement of inculcating the spirit of scientific enquiry in the young generation. They can often be seen assuming the role of astro-busters by attacking the superstitions of India with their tall scientific claims in an irrational manner. The Sikh rationalist quotes doomsday predictions purported to be made by astrologers to establish that astrology is not true. For instance, he takes up the case of 1962 eight planet combination which hogged the limelight for doomsday predictions but no credible astrologer could be found as the source of these predictions otherwise the Sikh would not have foregone giving his name instead he could only obtain the names of such people as some “Swami Narsingh Guruji Maharaj” who is quoted as saying that “the earth will be bathed in the blood of a thousand kings.” Why not the Sikh first asked him where are a thousand kings or a thousand countries to be found in this day? Another thing that he tries to prove again and again is that astrological advice has played a sinister role in bringing downfall of empires and rulers. He cites the case of Hitler as an example and goes on to state that when Germans approached decline in the Second World War they started taking astrological advice which only further facilitated their ignominous fall. To say but the least, Hitler was a great believer in destiny and had a personally appointed astrologer K. E. Krafft, who used to advice him for years on important matters with great success but when Hitler was advised against invading Poland in 1939, he sent Krafft in exile and gradually advanced towards his downfall. Any number of instances can be added here of astrological forewarnings being ignored at the cost of empires and entire dynasties.

He believes that as some historical personalities like Nehru and Vivekananda supposedly did not believe in astrology we should tow the respected line but without question. What one would like to ask is that if Aristotle favoured a geocentric model of the Universe did that stop the revolution of our earth around the Sun? As William Cowper says, “To follow foolish precedents, and wink with both our eyes, is easier than to think.” Still, to satisfy his ‘urge for knowledge’ I would like to tell that Nehru also had “Pt. Suryanarain Vyas” (The Founder of Vikram University, Ujjain) as his personal astrologer. Even the Muhurtha of Indian independence was worked out By Pt. Suryanarain Vyas and he had predicted that there will be conflicts between India and Pakistan but India will emerge victorious and Pakistan will further disintegrate within the next 50 years. The results are there for anyone to see. Some recently discovered letters written by swami Vivekananda to the maharaja of Khetri in 1893 revealed that he had consulted an astrologer who told him that his mother would die within the next 2 years and hence he desired Maharaja to take extra care of his mother.

His rational suggestion to end all this nonsense is that people should make a bonfire of their horoscopes and rejoice their newly found rationality, without reflecting for a moment that beliefs and superstitions can exist in mind alone and can only be burnt with the fire of true knowledge.

The astrophysicist mentioned earlier also leaves no stone unturned in his bid to deride astrology. He makes the ridiculous claim that astrology was started in Greece because Greeks believed that planets moved at will and hence can make or mar our destinies by being happy or in a bad mood respectively not knowing that astrology originated in the land of his own origin and that the development of astrology was preceded by enormous strides in astronomy as is well evidenced by ancient astronomical texts as “Suryasiddhanta.” According to him when the norms of science are applied to test whether astrology is a science, the answer is a firm ‘no.’ What were the norms of science applied and the what were the principles of astrology tested is not told neither asked as people are used to taking the scientists’ statements as omniscient.

He further states that in this hi-tech age we cannot afford to keep holding to outdated concepts and hence it would be quite reasonable to dispense with old superstitions like astrology. Mr. Scientist is perhaps out to instill some new superstitions that’s why he wants older ones to be thrown to the wind. It seems that the difference between fashion and science is barely perceptible to Mr. Scientist for it is only in the former field that whatever is new holds good and older concepts are discarded as trash. As far as science is concerned, it deals with the laws of nature and any theory is discarded by science only when a better one is in place or the theory is not found to give any unfalsifiable results after detailed scientific investigation. The Einstein’s theory of gravity replaced the Newton’s theory of gravity simply because it yielded more accurate results but to my knowledge no scientific theory is forwarded by Mr. Scientist or others of his fraternity to replace the ‘old theory of astrology.’ As far as the other aspect of infalsifiability is concerned, no results are derived till date based on a study of the theory of astrology by scientists based on which any judgement can be made. They rely on astrologers to make the study which they are supposed to undertake and in such a case what if one astrologer is reliable and another is unreliable as far as their knowledge of the subject of astrology is concerned. Will then astrology be judged as true or false? Scientists will merely group up the results gathered by the astrological investigations of different astrologers and collectively pronounce the success or failure of the experiment which can be as unreliable if astrology comes out to be true as when astrology comes out to be false unless they have some criteria to measure the credibility of these astrologers in their knowledge of astrology other than mere popularity. Such a scientific effort is yet to be undertaken.

To know what other scientists think let us consider the following statement which was made by a leading British astrophysicist, ” Mr. Stephen Hawking”, in a lecture organized in New Delhi when he visited India titled, ” Predicting the Future: From astrology to Black holes”. He stated that, “Real reason most scientists don’t believe in astrology is not the scientific evidence, or lack of it, but because it’ not consistent with our other theories tested by experiment.” I invite Mr. hawking to predict the future with his set of theories tested by experiments because in his view we have progressed from such a backward approach as of astrology to predict the future to the more advanced theories of black holes and the origin of the Universe and are perhaps better equipped to predict the future, failing which, he should organize another lecture titled “Predicting the Future: From Black Holes to Astrology.” The fact is that the theories Mr. Hawking is talking about, including the quantum theory of gravity, do not study the quality of time as astrology does to predict the future, although astrology has also evolved from astronomy. As far as the question of mutual inconsistency between scientific theories tested by experiment and astrological theory there cannot be such a thing because the latter has not been investigated by scientists so far. They have always tried to look for positive or negative results for astrology in practice and never in theory. First scientists should conduct research on the theoretical aspects of astrology and then only pronounce any judgements.

As far as the introduction of astrology in the UGC was concerned, we can only say that astrology or no astrology for UGC, it cannot have any impact on the truth or otherwise of astrology. What I wonder is that why as a parallel to the newly evolved term of “saffronisation of education” the final acceptance and change of the name of “Pythagoras theorem” to “Bodhayana theorem” cannot be termed as “saffronisation of mathematics” by these rational people perhaps unaware of the fact that education or knowledge for that matter cannot be classified as white, yellow, blue or saffron for it has no colours but only as right or wrong or true and untrue.

[1] “Diseases Remain Immune to Zodiac” – The Times Of India- Page-1- 21st July 2001.

[2] “Diseases Remain Immune to Zodiac” – The Times Of India- Page-1- 21st July 2001

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