Scientific astrology predictions
This happens quite often in India. Some may make rash financial decisions based on predicted good fortune. Reassuringly, it turns out that the number of people in Britain who think that horoscopes are scientific is small. And a similar proportion thinks the same across the European Union as a whole.
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However, if we ask people whether they think astrology is scientific, we see a different picture. In a Eurobarometer survey of attitudes towards science and technology, a randomly selected half of respondents were asked how scientific they thought astrology was. The other half were asked the same question about horoscopes.
The results shows a surprising disparity in opinion. In research I carried out a few years ago, I tested the hypothesis that people get confused between astrology and astronomy, and it is this that could account for widespread apparent belief in the scientific status of astrology. Even well-respected national newspapers have been known to make this mistake.
My survey also asked people how scientific they believed various activities to be. One of these was astronomy. Using a statistical technique known as regression analysis, I discovered, after adjusting for age, gender and education, that people who were particularly likely to think that astronomy was very scientific were also very likely to think the same about astrology. This points to semantic confusion about these terms among the general public. In the same study, I was interested to look at other explanations for why some Europeans think astrology is scientific and others do not. If one does not have an adequate understanding, it might be difficult to distinguish between science and pseudoscience.
So it turns out to be.
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When taking a wide range of other factors into account, those who have a university degree and who score highly on a quiz tapping scientific knowledge are less likely to think that astrology is scientific. In line with previous studies, women are more likely than men to think astrology is scientific, regardless of their level of education and knowledge about science.
The most interesting result, however, is based on an idea proposed more than 50 years ago by the German sociologist Theodore Adorno. In , Adorno carried out a study of a Los Angeles Times astrology column. What is particularly interesting, though, is the connection drawn between astrology with authoritarianism, fascism and modern capitalism remember that this was in the aftermath of WWII and the Holocaust. For Adorno, astrology emphasised conformity and deference to higher authority of some kind.
People high on authoritarianism tend to have blind allegiance to conventional beliefs about right and wrong and have high respect for acknowledged authorities. They are also those who are more favourable towards punishing those who do not subscribe to conventional thinking and aggressive towards those who think differently.
If this hypothesis is correct, then we should see that people who value conformity and obedience will be more likely to give credence to the claims of astrology. I used this question as a rough and ready indicator of whether a survey respondent was more or less authoritarian in their outlook. All horoscopes were coded and stored in safe custody by Professor Kunte at Pune University, so that neither the experimenters our group of four nor the astrologers could know the identities of the individuals. We announced our experiment at a press conference in Pune May 12, , and invited practicing astrologers to take part.
We explained that each participant would be given forty horoscopes drawn at random from our set of and would have to judge whether their owners were mentally bright or handicapped. We also invited established astrological organizations to take part, for which they would be given all horoscopes, a respectably large sample size. The press conference, which was reported in almost all local and regional newspapers, proved to be an efficient way to reach astrologers.
We asked them to send us their names, experience, and method of prediction used, together with a stamped self-addressed envelope for mailing the forty horoscopes. They were then allowed one month for making their judgments. In due course, fifty-one astrologers asked for horoscopes, of which twenty-seven from all over Maharashtra sent back their judgments. The rest did not tell us why they chose not to participate. We assured them that the skepticism of data collectors had no active role in running the experiment, and that the experiment was of the double-blind kind to make sure it was entirely fair.
But they were not convinced, and tried unsuccessfully to dissuade other astrologers from participating. A month later, at a Pune astrological seminar, we explained that tests, indeed many tests, are necessary if astrology is to establish itself as a science. In India, leading astrologers have their own astrological organizations, and so we wrote to those on our list about a dozen inviting them to judge all horoscopes.
Two responded with expressions of interest, of which one sent in its judgment. The other remained silent. Among other things he gave us a rule for predicting sex and another rule for predicting intelligence, both of which he claimed were correct in 60 percent of cases. But when applied to our set of horoscopes, the predictions were respectively 47 and 50 percent correct, which offers no advantage over pure guessing or tossing a coin.
Of the twenty-seven astrologers who participated, not all provided personal details, but fifteen were hobbyists, eight were professionals, nine had up to ten years of experience, and seventeen had more than ten years of experience. So they clearly formed a competent group. Their average experience was fourteen years. In fact the highest score was of twenty-four hits by a single astrologer followed by twenty-two hits by two astrologers. The remaining twenty-four astrologers all scored twenty hits or less, including one professional astrologer who found thirty-seven intelligent and three undecided so none were mentally handicapped!
The average for all twenty-seven astrologers was So much for the benefits of their average fourteen years of experience! Certainly no scientific theory would survive such a poor success rate! The institution whose team of astrologers had judged all horoscopes got hits, of which fifty-one were bright and fifty-one were mentally handicapped, so their judgments were, again, no better than tossing a coin.
Tragically, our statistician, Sudhakar Kunte, died in an accident in , and the security he imposed on data storage has so far made it difficult for us to perform further tests, such as whether the astrologers agreed on their judgments, whether they could pick high IQ better than low, and whether the three astrological methods used Nirayan, Sayan, Krishnamurty differed in success rate.
We hope that the access to this data will eventually be possible. In Clark twenty astrologers averaged 72 percent hits for ten cases of high IQ paired with cerebral palsy, but this famous result could not be replicated by Joseph , where twenty-three astrologers averaged only 53 percent hits for ten cases of high IQ when paired with the severely mentally handicapped. It is also consistent with the few tests of Western astrologers who practice Vedic astrology, for example Dudley Our experiment with twenty-seven Indian astrologers judging forty horoscopes each, and a team of astrologers judging horoscopes, showed that none were able to tell bright children from mentally handicapped children better than chance.
Our results contradict the claims of Indian astrologers and are consistent with the many tests of Western astrologers. In summary, our results are firmly against Indian astrology being considered as a science. The Department of Statistics, Pune University, and the Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics, Pune, provided infrastructural support while this experiment was being conducted.
A brief account appeared in Current Science 96 5 , —, My special thanks to Geoffrey Dean of Perth, Western Australia, for providing information on tests of Western astrology as well as giving me a general background of astrology in the West versus the East. Babylonian omen ideas arrived in India around BC during the Persian occupation, followed, around AD, by Greek astrological ideas based on planets.
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To these were added new ideas to suit Indian culture. The end result was largely the Indian astrology still in use today, which exists in numerous schools disagreeing over details most schools of astrology, Indian or Western, disagree over details. The main differences from Western astrology are a preoccupation with reincarnation and karma, use of the sidereal zodiac instead of the tropical zodiac they now differ by nearly one sign due to precession , exclusion of the non-classical planets Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto in favor of the two lunar nodes Rahu and Ketu, use of twenty-seven lunar mansions or nakshatras, and progressively smaller and smaller subdivisions of the signs Stein and Rao Braha , xiii warns that the complexity can be dealt with only by intuition and experience, so Indian astrology cannot be properly learnt from books.
But tests of Western astrologers have found that neither self-rated use of intuition nor experience raise their success rate above chance Dean and Kelly So why should Indian astrologers be any different? At one time Rao ran a computer horoscope service but without predictions.
According to ancient Hindu texts, each believer has 8,, rebirths from which they are released only by attaining enlightenment. At say, fifty years per birth, and no change over time, the allocated rebirths span more than million years, roughly the age of the earliest hominids. But some come close. For example Rakesh Anand used astrology to make several important decisions in his life, but the results were disastrous. So he prepared horoscopes for twenty-four celebrities and nine personal friends, changed their names, and was able to get astrologers from everywhere in far northern India to predict their life and events.
But none succeeded. For example, they predicted no political career from the horoscope of George Bush and no big money from the horoscope of Bill Gates. For details, visit www. The above chapter accused me of venturing into areas I had not investigated and was therefore ignorant of.
Does Science Back Astrology?
For example, I had made the supposedly inexcusable mistake of declaring that astrology was not a science. I hope the present investigation can set the record straight. Braha, J. Miami: Hermetician Press. Dean, G. The case for and against astrology. Farha ed. Is astrology relevant to consciousness and psi?
Journal of Consciousness Studies 10 6—7 : — Mather, and I. Stein, editor, Encyclopedia of the Paranormal , Prometheus Books.
Does Science Back Astrology? - Beliefnet
Dudley, J. An attempt to predict accidental death with Vedic astrology. Correlation 14 2 : 7— Twenty road deaths vs controls gave 11 hits vs 10 expected by chance. Joseph, R. A Vernon Clark-model experiment distinguishing exceptionally gifted high performance from profoundly retarded low performance children.
Journal of Geocosmic Research 1 3 : 55— Premanand, B. Bhatty, and M. Risbud eds. Astrology: Science or Ego-Trip?