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Ken Ward's Astrology Pages
Is Astrology a Science?
|I am not going to put my five-penny worth in any of the
camps whether those believing that astrology is a science, or those believing it isn't.
Here, I will simply comment on some of the things that have been said by others.
As an aside, this isn't a criticism of science. Science is one of the best ways human beings have of acquiring knowledge. Scientific principles are not absolute beliefs, but beliefs we have good reasons to accept. Much of what is said below depends on the theories of Karl Popper.
The Onus of Proof of any Would-be Science is on the claimant
The error in the above statements is that there is no logical or practical way to prove any "science".
If I say there is a car in the street and you have just looked at it, then it reasonable to believe there is a car in the street. But this is only a belief. The car may have moved. We have all heard stories of thieves who spirit away things right under our noses. So just because we haven't heard anything, doesn't mean the car is definitely there (even though it most probably is).
If we are standing and looking at the car, then reasonably we can say that there is a car present. But we cannot assume the car will still be there when we are not there watching it.
We cannot prove a science. We can only disprove it, according to philosopher of science Karl Popper.
The above statement is not quite true, because we cannot prove or disprove a science. A science is a body of principles which are not pragmatic (capable of experimental demonstration). For instance,
can be demonstrated experimentally or not in specific examples but cannot, itself, be proved. Actually, it is, itself, a particular instance of Einstein's equation, and it does not work under all circumstances (this wasn't realised by scientists for 400 years). The formula is believed to work everywhere in the Middle Realm, and to this day, is used there by engineers and scientists. It may not, however, give correct results in the quantum and the astronomical-realms.
Even though we cannot "prove" or disprove the higher-level beliefs of a science, we can disprove very specific claims of a science. There are only two options: you can disprove the claim or you can fail to disprove it. You cannot prove it.
Major theories of science tend to change only when there is a major change in belief in the scientific community. As long as possible, the theories are modified and not relinquished when counter examples occur. When old theories or beliefs are so patched up and there appears an alternative theory or belief, then the old belief is relinquished and the new one accepted. Often this occurs when the old scientists die and the new ones take over, rather than for individuals to change their beliefs.
For instance, such things as scientific theories, belief in witches, kinds of social behaviour, etc, do not just disappear because of some disproof. They go because there is a Paradigm Shift. People stop believing in, for instance, witches and their beliefs just fade away. These major beliefs just fizzle out like an untended fire.
To reiterate, you cannot prove, for example, physics. You cannot prove the laws of physics. You cannot prove the theories of physics. All you can do is attempt to disprove the very specific hypotheses of physics which have been logically deduced from the theories (and perhaps from the laws).
For example, at one time physicists believed that space contained a substance called the "ether". By measuring the speed of light in two directions, physicists demonstrated that the speed was the same, so there couldn't be a drag effect for the "ether". This meant the prediction from the "ether" theory had been disproved, on that occasion. However, beliefs about the ether still lurk in physics, and while there was a paradigm shift, like other paradigm shifts, it was not complete.
Science is Empirical
If science were simply empirical, then we would end up with a number of meaningless observations. The essence of science is the discovery or creation of laws and theories. These are ideas dreamed up by scientists and cannot be proved.
One character of a scientific hypothesis is that it is possible to disprove it. That is, an experiment can be devised which could disprove it. Of course, with a viable hypothesis, the experiment fails to disprove it, so we accept the hypothesis.
If it cannot be disproved, then it isn't science. However, it cannot be proved.
These theories are not empirical. That is, you cannot observe theories and study them. They are beliefs that have explanatory power. However, the failure of an experiment to show the predictions are correct, does not disprove the theory. Nor does the success of the experiment in showing that the predictions are consistent with the experimental results prove the theory. They simply fail to disprove it.
Almost all the above is not empirical. It is logical, but not empirical. So science does depend on logic, which is not empirical.
All statements, except empirical (scientific) statements are nonsense
The above statement has a terrible weakness. Is that statement empirical? No, it isn't. Therefore, it is nonsense. However...
If it is nonsense, then it might be true. So we end up saying that if it is true it is nonsense, but if it is nonsense, it might be true!
Is science based on logic?
A fundamental theory or assumption of science is the "theory of induction." This theory says that because all our observations show that the a theory is true then it is true, today, yesterday and tomorrow. We have every practical reason to "believe" that this is true. However, we have no logical proof (and no empirical scientific proof). (You can prove things in logic and mathematics, by the way!)
The philosopher Bertrand Russell put it this way. A turkey who was also a scientist reasoned that because it had always been so in the past that he was fed every day, then he would be fed everyday in the future. However, the theory collapsed on Thanksgiving Day.
Therefore, science is based on belief and not certainty.
Although science is modern man's religion, it is merely that. It is a religion or belief system that is not absolutely true. Astrology has been around for thousands of years and will continue into the future, long after the current fad of manking with science has passed.