| [Freeing the Mind][Self Development Contents]
Ken Ward's Astrology Pages
Astrology What Is This Thing Called Mathematics, Science, Medicine, Astrology...
|There has been, for many decades, a discussion or claim that
astrology is a science. Of course, many astrologers might wonder what the fuss is about
and ask who cares whether astrology is a science or not. On this page I want to discuss
the kinds of subjects or "things" that exist in the realm of knowledge.
On this page:
In a simple way, we might say that a subject, such as astrology, is either an art or a science. We can learn more about this by noting how universities describe first degrees. British universities usually offer first degrees of bachelor of science or bachelor of arts. Thus generally separating the subjects studied into arts or sciences. Yet some universities, such as Oxford, offer only a bachelor of arts as a first degree, even in chemistry! However, mostly, subjects are regarded as arts or sciences.
But where there is some doubt, the first degree offered may qualified with a description, as in BSc (Comm) for a degree in commerce. BM, for a degree in medicine. A BLL in Law. Or a BSc(Eng) for a degree in engineering. This indicates that the degree in question is not completely regarded as a science. Often a first degree in mathematics is a BA, bachelor of arts, strictly because mathematics isn't a science. Of course, sometimes mathematicians are given science degrees.
Also skilled workpeople have been regarded differently from academics or professionals. They are regarded as artisans, perhaps, and there is no confusion over whether they are scientists or artists because the question does not arise. Here lies the clue to astrology's nature, but first we will continue our examination of artisans or crafts-people. One reason they are regarded differently is in part due to some snobbishness, because craft workers learn how to do things, such as install a bathroom, re-wire a house, or build furniture, etc. Their knowledge is in their ability to do, which resides in their hands rather than in books. And so their training is naturally thought of as different from the universities. Strictly speaking, if we had to include them in either arts or sciences, we would include them in the arts.
University subjects which are not clearly sciences, and do not want to be arts include economics, engineering and medicine. They are distinguished from the crafts by being called "professional". Economics is, if anything, a young science, but it could be said not to be a science in the sense Karl Popper used the word "science" because it is largely based on observation and has only recently begun to do experiments. But as in astronomy, it is difficult to actually carry out controlled experiments directly. And certainly, the law and accountancy are not sciences at all.
The main thing to note about the above is that because medicine, economics, engineering, and accountancy are not sciences, does not mean they are nonsense or useless, far from it!
It may be appropriate to mention that medicine is not a science. There is such a thing as medical science, which is a science and is scientific. Medical scientists are normally regular scientists and not medical doctors. However, medicine itself is not a science and was not developed through scientific methods. In fact, it has been claimed that only about 10 percent of medical practices have been scientifically validated. Medical doctors are not scientists (hopefully) and do not practise science; they practise medicine.
To put this into perspective, plumbing isn't a science. Plumbers aren't scientists. But when you have a leak and water is gushing into your house, you don't care. Because the plumber can repair the leak, and that is what you want.
The point of all this is that many useful arts or practices are not sciences at all. In fact, it is likely that the most beneficial subjects in a society aren't sciences but arts or crafts. For instance, building, farming, medicine, law and order, etc, are some of the most important subjects in a society and none of them are sciences.
Quite clearly, if astrology isn't a science, it isn't that important and does not detract from its value to society. Further, even if astrology is a science, it is quite certain that most astrologers are practitioners and not scientists.
The answer to the question, "What is mathematics", is probably unknown. The true nature of mathematics is unknown. It isn't a science, because it does not normally do experiments. And mathematical proof is claimed to be certain, whereas, proof in the sciences cannot be obtained in any logical manner.
In numerical systems with a base greater than 4, the following is true:
This might not sound very profound, but in fact it is very profound. You cannot disprove the above nor can you cannot prove it through experiment (science). The above, 2+2=4, is true even in universes with less than 4 things. The fact that 4 might not have any existing instantiation is irrelevant to mathematics, just as infinity does not have an instantiation in our universe.
There are subjects, such as mathematics, which are not sciences, yet provide certainty. Whilst science can only be probably true or conditionally true, mathematics is certain. Astrology may be more akin to mathematics than science.
Much of science is based on the law of induction, which has no logical proof. For instance, if every human being dies before they are 200, we might conclude there are no human being alive now or dead who are 200 years old. It is impossible for a human being to live to 200, according to this reasoning. Yet this belief survives only so long as we fail to find anyone aged 200. The instance we do, the belief is disproved. This is the law of induction. In every case we have observed something, certain results were found. Therefore, in every case we observe something, these same certain results will follow.
For instance, in every case a swan was observed in Europe and in the known world, it was found to be white. By induction we conclude that all swans are white.
However, on discovering and exploring Australia, black swans were found disproving the thousand-year belief in Europe that "All swans are white".
The belief was always found to be the case over thousands of observations, yet as soon as a black swan was reported, the long-held belief was immediately disproved.
This seems to be true of all scientific laws and hypotheses. For 300 years or so, Newton's laws were shown to be true, but Einstein appeared and the long-held laws of physics were shown to be wrong (or at least not completely right).
And Einstein claimed the speed of light was constant and the maximum possible speed in our universe. This was held for some decades, but the quantum physicists claimed it was untrue, and recent experiments have shown that it is, in fact, untrue.
While a scientific belief or law may be held for a long or a short time, the very next experiment may show it to be false. Scientific belief is always conditional.
This doesn't mean of course that scientists immediately give up their wrong theories. They try to patch them up and generally keep their old beliefs (like everyone else) until they just can't patch them up any more or someone comes along with a better theory. Normally, the old scientists who believed in the old theories eventually die off and the new ones appear raised on the new theory, just as, for instance, old surgeons continue with their old ways until they die off and are replaced by new surgeons trained in new ways.
While the law of induction in science is not logical, the method of induction in mathematics is logical and does result in certainty. The method of induction shows that something is true for all possible values or cases. Having proved something by the method of induction, we know it is true.
Mathematical principles seem to apply to our universe, even though they are not based on science, observation or experiment.
For thousands of years, Euclid's geometry was used to measure the earth, the continents and to calculate mundane things related to the geometry of buildings, surveying the land, etc. Yet it is something based on a few common sense assumptions and the use of reason to develop proofs of many relationships. Even though it is based on a few ideas, it seems to have almost universal application, at least in the practical world. In other worlds, it does not apply. Yet it is amazing that it is used so widely in the common everyday world of life and science.
It has been suggested that Euclid was just lucky that his geometry worked. And it is true that many of his theorems were known to builders and others. Euclid didn't exactly discover these theorems but produced a systematic proof of them using logic. Like some things in astrology, the theorems of Euclid were devised after the fact. But they proved to be predictors of sizes and relationships in practical geometry and structures, and these theorems are used today in the mundane world (except in quantum mechanics and relativity).
As with astrology and mathematics in general, no one knows why they work, and mentioned before, some suggest it is just change or luck that mathematics and astrology do work.
In the case of the sciences and other subjects, prediction is considered very important. A good test of a theory is its ability to predict in the future.
Physics, by its nature is particularly good at predicting what will happen in a given experiment, but is less effective when the prediction is made in the real world. For instance, we might calculate the place where an artillery shell might land if fired at a given angle and a given velocity.
We can do this, using mathematics, or physics quite easily, but the answer won't be quite correct. The reason for this is that we have to take into account the effect of the air on the shell. We need to know such things as "drag", wind velocities and even things such as squalls. In a practical sense we aren't likely to know all these things, so our predictions will be slightly inaccurate.
In chemistry, we can predict the reaction of one chemical on another in the laboratory. In the real world, our predictions are less accurate because we might not know the effects of other chemicals that might be present. Of course, if we knew all the possible causes, we could predict accurately. However, even though chemistry is a well-developed science, there are still new or strange things that happen. However, mostly we can predict with reasonable accuracy, and when we are wrong, we can give reasons why this might be.
The sciences of physics and chemistry are quite well developed because the conditions under which the experiment is carried out can be controlled. Other subjects find it much more difficult to control the experimental situation and yet more sciences cannot carry out experiments at all, at least in their area of study.
In human medicine, for instance, experiment is limited in their subject, which is human beings. This has not always been so, and a few thousand years ago criminals were sentenced to death by dissection. Doctors would dissect the criminals alive and observe the effects of cutting nerves, etc. In this way, sadly, a great deal was learned about human physiology, which could not easily be learned through animal experimentation. Much of this knowledge was used in medicine for thousands of years.
So in human medicine, the scope for human experimentation is, happily, limited. This, of course, restricts the amount of knowledge that can be obtained. Unlike physics and chemistry, experimentation is limited. And new knowledge can only arise by accident (literally).
While experimentation is limited in human medicine, it is extremely difficult in subjects such as economics and sociology. While small scale experiments can be carried out, experimentation in the economy or in society is somewhat limited.
Whilst all scientific beliefs are conditional, in sociology, economics, medicine, etc, the beliefs cannot be tested as they can in physics and the ability of sociologists and economists to predict is much more limited than the ability of physicists, for instance to predict.
To some extent, this is the same with astrology. Astrologers cannot really carry out experiments to test their ability to predict. For instance, it would not be ethical to deliver a baby a month earlier, to test whether it adopted the traits of the planetary positions at that time rather than the time of what would have been its natural birth.
Another problem with subjects such as astrology, economics, sociology, psychology, and medicine is knowing whether the prediction is true or not.
Physics in particular tends to make predictions which are numerical and which are accurately measurable. Predictions made in physics experiments are usually measurable, so the physicist is sure that the prediction has worked or not. In some cases the prediction is extremely precise and the measurement accords with it exactly, or varies only very slightly. A repeated experiment should give broadly the same results.
In other subjects, this isn't so. For instance, sociologists might claim that if the disadvantaged people in a community were given more access to education, then the crime rate would decrease in that community. However, it is unlikely that the prediction would actually say by how much.
If the measure were taken, then the crime rate might, indeed, decrease. But as crime rates vary, it could be claimed the crime rate decreased by chance.
If the crime rate increased, the sociologists might claim that it was because crime rate was increasing anyway and that it would decrease the next year. And the increase is much less than it would have been without the changes.
If the crime rate increased so much that it was hard for anyone to believe it was just a blip, the sociologist might claim that the increase was just a blip because when people are given more freedom, they tend to go over the top as they get used to their opportunities, and that soon the crime rate would decrease.
The point is, that all the above could be true in the various circumstances. But in this particular subject precise prediction is impossible, and we can never be sure what other factors come into play.
For instance, Hertz did not report the size of the room he used to test Maxwell's equations, and this accounted for a small error in the results. While scientists try to report all the facts related to an experiment, they might not know that some facts are significant, and so they do not report them. It seems that, normally, scientists do not report the size of the laboratory and many other things which they think are not relevant.
When predictions are made about the real world, we cannot be sure what other factors might come into play, factors which we have not accounted for, and ones that affect the results.
For instance, a vocational counsellor might test a candidate and recommend them for a certain kind of job. Even if this recommendation is based on good principles, the counsellor cannot be sure that the advice given is the best.
Lets say a group of candidates are considered. We could compare them with a control group. We use our skills to advise the experimental group and give the control group random advice. Of course, this is horribly unethical!
We want to compare the two groups. We might give them a test on whether they are happy or not. We might record whether they have a job or not. We might ask them how much money they are earning. There are many things we might want to measure.
If we find that the experimental group are earning more money and are happier than the control group, we might think the advice given was valuable. However, in this kind of experiment there are always variations... some of the real-advice group members earn less than the random-advice group, etc... so although we might claim our advice is on the whole better for people, it might be worse for some.
If our advice did not work for some people, we might reasonably claim that they either didn't follow our advice, or they couldn't get a suitable job, or they couldn't or wouldn't do the necessary training.
The point is that it is sometimes difficult to carry out an ethical and effective measure of our predictions. It may be that a vocational counsellor uses effective techniques to help people. But if it is shown that those who receive this kind of vocational advice do better than those who don't, we aren't sure that those who come for vocational advice aren't the kind of people, for example, who take good advice and are open for help, whilst those who do not come for vocational advice are the kind of people who would not benefit anyway.
We might be unsure what is the kind of thing we should measure. In the vocational counselling example, we might think of status, money or happiness. It might be they don't go together, so someone might do well in terms of status, but not be happy.
To extend this, we might find that people who do eventually do well in the vocation we recommended do worse than the controls in their home life.
The point is that we cannot really take all factors into account and in subjects other than physics, chemistry and certain areas of biology, etc, we might not really have a way to test if our predictions work out.
What is true of other sciences, is also true of astrology.
To take a naive example...
Suppose we notice the Moon square Mercury. Just looking at this aspect, we might draw many conclusions.
There are, of course, many other interpretations. However, they are all on a theme. The astrologer cannot really say, with conviction whether some or all of these may be applicable to a particular chart-owner. The rest of the chart might make this clearer, though. This situation is very similar to that of the vocational counsellor, and with the sociologist who makes predictions for society and communities. It is also similar to some cases in physics.
For instance, a physicist can calculate the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of a quantity of water to boiling point. But the physicist cannot say, of a particular quantity of water, whether it is currently boiling (unless the temperature is known) and the physicist cannot say how much heat is required to make the water boil, unless the current temperature, weight, air pressure, etc, are known. If the water came out of a pond, or out of the sea, the answers would be different and unless all the factors are known, the physicist cannot predict.
There is no doubt that physics can predict more accurately than most other subjects, but the point is that merely knowing a formula or a theme does not allow you to know about the matter concerned, if you do not know the present situation of the matter under consideration.
The theme, as in astrology, or the formula, as in physics, are known, but how these will work out depends on other factors. In the case of physics, many of these factors are known, whereas in astrology, they may not be.
This article considers how subjects might be described or grouped. The main classification seems to be between science and art. However, some subjects do not neatly fit into this scheme. In some cases, it is better to describe a subject as a practise, rather than a science or art.
It was claimed that mathematics is one subject which gives certainty, but is not a science. And it is also unknown why mathematics works in the physical world we know. Also mathematics is certain, but science is conditional, and parts and theories of science could be discovered to be false in the near or distant future.
Induction was mentioned for both mathematics and science, and the difference pointed out. In mathematics induction is certain, but in science, it is not.
The ability of different subjects to predict was also considered. Noting that subjects, apart from physics, chemistry and certain parts of biology, are not able to predict with precision. Astrology is similar to these.
Finally, the ability to measure predictions of sciences was considered, where it was suggested that it is difficult to measure the predictions of some sciences, and sometimes it is difficult in physics too. The predictions of astrology can be measure. However, it was pointed out that this is true in other practises and sciences too.