Is astrology a science? The difference between astrology and astronomy.

Are Astronomy and Astrology the same?

The short answer is, "No."

So what is the difference between the two?

Astrology is the study of relationships between humanity and objects in space beyond the human world. Various celestial movements and alignments are used to define, explain and/or predict events involved in human lives. Celestial bodies are directly connected to the totality of human experience.

Astronomy is the study of objects in space and the relationships they have to one another, primarily as can be described and confined mathematically. There are no causal relationships in Astronomy between the physics of the universe and the day to day lives of people living on the Earth in either fortune or spirituality - outside of obvious impacts like solar activity as it relates to droughts or the moon acting upon the tides and so on.

Few highly regarded scientists working at reputable universities or other institutions hold Astrology to offer any significant source of "scientific fact" outside of Astrology's having accurately charted the movement of planets and other celestial bodies with great care (as did many other practitioners of various belief systems around the world). Believers in Astrology claim to have insights from the universe that transcend what human science comprehends.

Astronomy

The essence of science is to pursue lines of inquiry through controlled observation and experimentation to derive verifiable and repeatable results. A scientist gets an idea that he or she believes might describe or define some new universal phenomenon and will then formulate that idea into what is called a "hypothesis," which is essentially a declaration that goes something like "when X is exposed to condition Y, Z will occur."

Once a particular phenomenon can be proven to function in a certain way, the scientist(s) write about the successfully tested hypothesis and pass it around the scientific community. As more and more scientists toy with and perhaps find the hypothesis to work in their own experiments, many of which are specifically designed to do nothing BUT prove it wrong, that hypothesis can begin to move from the realm of being merely a "hypothesis" into the land of "theory" instead.

Once something is considered to be a theory, that idea holds greater sway, but it still remains suspect until all attempts to disprove it finally exhaust themselves over time. Eventually, once all kinds of scientific disciplines have confirmed the theory just cannot be disproved, finally that theory becomes what is called a "law," like Isaac Newton's "Law of Gravity." (You will notice that Einstein's incredibly useful ideas regarding "relativity" were put out in the opening years of the 20th century and now, over a hundred years later, the "theory of relativity" is still only counted as a theory and not a law.)

Astronomical universe (our solar system drawn larger than in reality)

Note that humans don't play a significant enough role to show up.
Note that humans don't play a significant enough role to show up.

Astrology

Astrology does not hold up to this kind of scientific rigor, nor do its practitioners really try. Much of Astrology is faith based, as most spiritual endeavors are. Trying to limit Astrology to the field of science does it a huge disservice, as that is not precisely what astrologers try to do. Astrologers look for behavioral connections between human beings and the alignment of planets and assorted movements in the skies. A good Astrologer can astound a user with perspicacity and profound metaphysical and psychological insight. However, and perhaps unfortunately, they are often unable to duplicate this result consistently or for everyone with statistically significant accuracy, which is why science just can't use Astrology to inform its meticulous discipline. Believers in Astrology will defend its significance vehemently despite inconsistent results, much as will believers in Palmistry and Tarot.

Ignorance or failure to properly grasp astrological meanings and signs are frequently attributed to the uncertainty inherant to this kind of predictive enterprise. It is the shortcomings of the interpretation that fails rather than any flaws in Astrology itself.

Astrological Universe (illustrates concept, and not intended to represent Astrological charts)

Humans are on the universal radar here.
Humans are on the universal radar here.

It comes down to meaning.

Ultimately, the difference is that Astronomy is entirely based on science, the scientific method, as a means for discovering things. Observations are made of the heavens, as is done in Astrology, but nothing is extracted or interpreted as having meaning or prophetic powers for anything beyond that which physics can mathematically predict based on established evidential trends. Astronomy is concerned with mathematically quantifiable facts that can be accreted into, eventually, astronomical laws, which will then serve as foundations for the conception of new hypotheses and so on until science eventually figures out how the universe works. Astronomical science does not put forth any claims or assertions about how humanity behaves or will behave based on how the celestial objects move about. A scientist might observe a meteor heading towards the Earth and begin calculating its velocity and mass based on movement of light and assorted other measurable details, and he or she might go on to predict where it might land and how big a crater the impact will create based on the ground density of the impact zone and other factors in that vein. That scientist might even attempt to calculate the number of deaths likely to occur based on census details for the region too. But if that astronomer is a good scientist, he or she will not be attaching any meaning or causation of that impact to humanity. In Astronomy, there is no connection to be had. An astrologist might have a different view.

Therefore, Astronomy is a science based primarily in - and arguably limited to - physics and math. Astrology is a belief system that involves interpretation of meaning from movements in the sky and other natural events. Astrology does not carry any weight in the scientific community. Astronomy does.

It is not the purpose of this article to discredit or credit either field, but merely to make clear the differences of approach.

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Comments 52 comments

An Again profile image

An Again 8 years ago from Boston

Good answer!


Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 8 years ago from California Author

Thanks, An Again. I saw the request and though, how fun would that be to write about? It was. Appreciate the read.


Boborrama 8 years ago from Oahu, Hawaii

Dude no offense. but uhhh..... I hope you had plenty of the intoxicationg Goose before you actually came up with this topic. And I quote, "Is Astrology a Science"? Uh yeah why don't I go and sacrifice some people out on my altar to try and figure out the forcast by looking at somebody's liver, then you can call me "The Weatherman". Screw Doppler radar!! By the way save the conclusion of your ramblings towards the end of your despicable rant, so at least if somebody actually reads this the least they can hope for is a mysterious ending answer instead of the resounding "No" you put in the very FIRST sentence. You could've just stopped at that and I would've not been writing this. You can only have yourself to blame. Peace!!


Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 8 years ago from California Author

Thank you Bob for your remarks. The topic was a prefab pulled from the request list, but I suppose I could edit it up a bit. The requester may not have had English as a first language and I didn't want his/her question to be lost under my didactic editorial bootheel. :P


Boborrama 8 years ago from Oahu, Hawaii

Hmm, requested you say? In that case I may have been a tad hasty on my criticism (writing style nonwithstanding). Also I can understand about the second language bit if something was lost in translation. Oh my, now my mind is churning about future topics for you to write about....


Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 8 years ago from California Author

Scary!


AEvans profile image

AEvans 8 years ago from SomeWhere Out There

Interesting topic I am glad that you clarified the difference. Great hub keep them coming.


Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 8 years ago from California Author

Thank you AEvans. The difference seems obvious to some, but they do sound awfully similar and confusion, particular for the young, is common. Both have their uses though. Appreciate the comments.


JYOTI KOTHARI profile image

JYOTI KOTHARI 8 years ago from Jaipur

Dear,

Thanx for answering my request.

I wish you to clarify it in details as Indian astrologers used to calculate astronomical positions of cellestial bodies and that too near accurately since last 2500 years. I have explained this little bit in my hub regarding astrology and gemstones.

Thanx,

jyoti


Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 8 years ago from California Author

I enjoyed writing about it, Jyoti. And yes, I touched on that briefly regarding the charting of celestial motion. Not only the Indian astrologers, but Egyptian, Incan and Aztec cultures did too. There is also some excellent information out suggesting the druids in Europe did as well, with some attachments linking Stonehenge to that very thing. Truth be told, I am not an authority on these cultures, so I would not presume to espouse expertise, but I know the curious will find the information as they find themselves so inspired.

Thanks for the comment, and appreciate the request. It was a good one.


boborrama 8 years ago

As a matter of fact old meso-american cultures pre-dating both the Incas and the Mayas created a formidable calender around 3,000 B.C. that is only 6 years off from the modern and accurate Gregorian calender we use today (not counting those nuclear radio-isotopic clocks they use nowadays). It has been shown throughout their history a change from a solar-seasonal type calender to a more "cosmological" Milkyway calender based on the movement of constellations in the night-sky. As a matter of fact when the summer solstice coincides within the galactic center (the Milkyway) the Incas say "the world will achieve a remarkable transformation". Scientists say it's somewhere around 2012...makes you think if they knew something we didn't...


Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 8 years ago from California Author

We're about to find out. LOL


Mezo profile image

Mezo 8 years ago from Egypt

I don't beleive in astrology,i don't think it's a science, neither the zodiac signs,

thnx for the article..that was useful


Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 8 years ago from California Author

Glad it was of some help. Thanks for saying so too.


Pam Roberson profile image

Pam Roberson 8 years ago from Virginia

Bravo again to you Shadesbreath. This hub is insightful, understandable, and written very well. I enjoyed it, and I agree with you.

I've studied astrology off and on for about 7 years now, and while I don't consider myself an astrologer, I do enjoy it a great deal. There are so many incredible variables in analyzing a natal chart that it's quite daunting at times, and it's very interesting to see how those variables can be interpreted differently by astrologers.

The amazing thing about astrology is that the basic meanings of the planets, signs, houses, and aspects are very accurate. The problem is that the process of putting all the different possible combinations together to form an accurate whole can lead one to an inaccurate conclusion.

I joined an astrology forum about 4 years ago, and we used to do "mystery charts" where we would try to figure out specific things about anonymous charts....like, out of 3 charts, which one is the chart of a serial killer, which one is of a star athlete, and so on. The outcome was always fascinating because there were so many different views and conclusions, and many of us were often wrong.

What's my point? Heck, I don't know. Somebody drank the last beer out of my hub fridge, and I'm a little cranky. ;)

Thanks for another good one. :)


Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 8 years ago from California Author

I think Astrology provides an interesting window into the soul. I hear people argue that there's "no such thing as magic" and stuff like that when they talk about Astrology, but I think they just don't get it. You don't have to call it magic if that word doesn't suit you. Insight, introspection and lots of other words can suit the purpose just as easily.

Woah, your last beer? Who would so such a thing? /looks innocent and horrified


Pam Roberson profile image

Pam Roberson 8 years ago from Virginia

Yes, that's a very good way of putting it, "window into the soul." Calculating a birth chart and figuring out aspects between the planets in relation to the moment and place where you were born is considered by most astrologer's to be a science. I do see that side of it as well.

Hmmm, yes, I was horrified over the beer incident too, but all is well now. It's a good thing you're so good at looking innocent. ;)


Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 8 years ago from California Author

It's a gift. lol


JohnAthens profile image

JohnAthens 7 years ago from Athens, Greece

Lots of people confuse these two terms. Etymology is usually the best way of clarifying the meanings of various terms. Let's take a closer look at these two terms:

1) Astronomy.

The term astronomy comes from the two Greek words ASTRON (Star) and NOMOS (Law)(feminine suffix -NOMIA). So, astronomy examines the LAWS of the STARS. In this case, Law has to be understood as "the natural law". So, astronomy is a science, since science is evidence through experiment.

2) Astrology.

The term astrology comes from the two Greek words ASTRON (Star) and LOGOS (Word) (feminine suffix -LOGIA). The word LOGOS is difficult to translate into English. It usually is translated into Word, but not in the grammatical sense of the word, but in the spiritual one. Logos in Greek means "a verbalized mental or spiritual concept". The word logic-al is also derived from Logos. So, astrology is a symbolic language, the language of the stars.


Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 7 years ago from California Author

That's an intersting addition to the conversation. Thanks, JohnAthens. Learning Latin used to be required only a generation or so ago. Frankly, I wish I'd been made to take it. Having the foundation of the language under one's hat would go a long way to ironing out the wrinkles in usage (not to mention spelling).


Astrologer 6 years ago

Hi, I work with the vedic astrology portal atoot.com and I was happy to read your article about the planets and explaining the effects to astrology. I feel that the arguments that you make are correct mostly but not comprehensive. For over 10,000 years, astrologers in India have been studying the effects of the planets, and have reached a good understanding of the effects that they make. However, due to the lack of astronomical tools in those days, they couldn't always explain the concept in terms of atoms and molecules. However, even science is still only beginning to scratch the surface of these concepts at the quantum scale. String theory and several others are being researched and challenged everyday. It will take science more time to fully grasp the relation between mass, energy and their effects and reason on living matter.For more in depth understanding please also read from our distinguished astrologers' blogs.


simhachalo profile image

simhachalo 6 years ago from BERHAMPUR-760004, INDIA, Ph 09337784745

"A STEP TOWARDS MODERN ASTROLOGY"

SIR, YOUR ARTICLE IS VERY INTERESTING ONE. HERE, IT IS TO MENTION YOU THAT I AM A RESEARCHER IN ASTROLOGY, WHERE I HAVE DEVLOPED & INTRODUCED A NEW CONCEPT THAT PLANETS OF OUR SOLAR SYSTEM INFLUENCE OUR NATURE THROUGH LIFE CENTER POINT. I HAVE TAKEN THE GEOMETRIC METHOD OF EXPLANATION WITH REFERENCE TO MODERN ASTRONOMICAL DATA. KINDLY READ THE ARTICLE THAT PUBLISHED IN HUBPAGES.COM -WHAT IS NEW IN ASTROLOGY OR SCIENTIFIC ASTROLOGY WITH THE NEW CONCEPT. REQUESTED TO ENDORSE YOUR COMMENTS.

WITH REGARDS

SIMHACHALO PADHY(INDIA)


Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 6 years ago from California Author

Hi simhachalo, Thanks for stopping by, and I will go have a look at your article. Sorry about your broken capslock key, by the way. :)


constantia11 profile image

constantia11 6 years ago from haelen

Astrology is wrong. Astrology should be right and right according the same data's as astronomy. Astrology seen as the law should be right and pricesely according astronomy and they should work as one and not seperated since god is one and not seperated. astrology should work with astronomical facts. This happened long time ago. It is for a short period people forgot to adjust the emphemeris what is a data book and not the same as looking directly into the night sky ofcourse. The data in emphemeris are no longer up to date.

For example, if you think your sun is in taurus you are wrong. This is what you read in the emphemeris. Yet if you could look at the night sky in reality with a telescope you could see that your sun is in reality in aries. We have no telescope yet we have the computer and so we can work as astrologers with the night sky an astronomical computer program.

Wrong data, even by mistake, is corruption under the law and it is clear astrologers who like to be payed for making horoscopes for others do not want the world to find the world out about their corruption eventhow, they know they work with wrong facts. For example, how can they not know. Since in India, astrologers keep their emphemeris up to date according real astronomical facts. They keep the emphemeris up to date every 72 years. We should do the same every 66 years since we work with the sun sign the 12 houses and not with the celestial boundaries as they do in India. Yet in fact, it comes to the bottem line that we would also have the real astronomical facts. PEOPLE SHOULD KNOW THEIR REAL ZODIAC SIGN. We are suppose to know the law and act in truth and we in the west need no longer no more curruption.

Even astrologers know they are wrong also how they work under law what causes hell on earth, contineu with their corruption. If they had a heart they stop immidiately. But that is if you ask money, for work you suppose to do for god as we did in the past where relgion was holy to us, and when we knew what we are doing. Any way, the Church is pro astronomy facts and for the truth. We should with Jesus stay on the right path. It is time you all go back to the house of your Father.

Follow Jesus, and be honest and do not disoppoint Moses no more. Love to you all. Peace to you all. Stay strickt in the truth and lose no longer the track of life and stay courages and other virtues.


Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 6 years ago from California Author

Well, Constantia11, you said a mouthful there. I appreciate your passion and commitment to your beliefs. Thank you for sharing them with me and with any who come along and read them. Peace.


lightning john profile image

lightning john 5 years ago from Florida

Hi Shades, yes it is amazing the number of people that think Astronomy and Astrology are the same thing. I enjoyed reading this, and all of the comments. Thank you.


Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 5 years ago from California Author

Hi Lightning John. Yeah, this hub was one of the first I did, responding to a question one day when I was bored. Had no idea it would keep on chugging like it has. Picks up some interesting readers every now and then. :)


larryprice5372 profile image

larryprice5372 5 years ago from Long Beach, California

Very useful ideas expressed here.

I don't see Astrology as a science. It does not have any attribute a true science requires. An understanding of science is necessary to grasp astrology at certain levels of involvement, but it's not a science in itself.

This was a wonderful article. I enjoyed reading it and thinking on the subject.

Keep the good hubs coming, this rates as good.

Larry


Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 5 years ago from California Author

Thank you, Larry. That is very kind of you to say. I find both fields interesting, but you are quite right that astrology is not a science. If it were it would be disproved immediately. In my mind, it's more religion than anything else.


saesha profile image

saesha 5 years ago

i like this hub! really informative and clear.


Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 5 years ago from California Author

Thank you, Saesha. :)


Boban Joseph 5 years ago

I would like to state here the sincere effort to proove true science of Astronmy. Astrolgy based on the belief has become a global business, whereby profits to some cunning Astrologers.


Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 5 years ago from California Author

There is no question that astrology has a massive business side, just as many religions do. Selling insights into the supernatural is big business. Look how big the Catholic church got.


wbraxton 5 years ago

the problem with astrology is that if a person claims to be say...a leo,they may not actually be,due to the changing over time of the stars that they claim link them.therefore,astrology can never be precise.


Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 5 years ago from California Author

Seems I read they added (returned) an old sign that had come back into existence, Ophiuchus. Not sure if that stuck, but seems that I read it had. I don't really follow that sort of thing, but you're quite right about change.


WillSteinmetz profile image

WillSteinmetz 5 years ago

Very well said comparison between astrology and astronomy. It's very informative.


Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 5 years ago from California Author

Thanks, I tried to stick to the facts.


shabbychicunique profile image

shabbychicunique 5 years ago

I wrote a paper similar to this. It was called the "Validity of Astrology". My professor promised me an F but I managed an A. Astology and Alchemy may be considered pseudo science today. However, it was science 2,000 years ago. Great topic!


Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 5 years ago from California Author

Yeah, back in the day, they were making observations and correlations as best they could. No different than we do today. It all builds on itself, just some people decide which parts count as building blocks and which don't in sometimes willy-nilly fashion. Not always with scientific method in mind.


srikanth G N 5 years ago

Great numbers of Galaxies are being found. we are able to witness farther and farther Cellestial dance. It would be very novice to believe that only solar system will have an effect on human beings. Sir, modern 19th century authors of India and visionaries have discarded astrology by terming it as a sordid game of priests who enforced it on people so that they can earn their livelyhood


karthikkash profile image

karthikkash 4 years ago from India

I would disagree that Astrology is complete belief and there is no science involved in it. I am neither an astrologer nor do I run my life around astrology and horoscopes. But I have been researching about astrology for a year now out of curiosity. People often confuse that astrology is a mere horoscope strip which appears in the paper. This is not true. Astrology is much more than that.

Astrology is based on movement of planets and their influence on us. Some may argue that planets don't have an effect on us. But let us use science here. It is a well known fact that moon has effects on people's mind, especially during the eclipses. In the same way, astrology deduces that all the nearby planets in the solar system have effect on a person to a certain extent.

Of course, everything is not science. It is unfortunate that most of the modern astrologers do not spend enough time to learn the deep science involved in astrology. What is science? Something that has proof and is verifiable? It uses physics and mathematics for calculation? So does astrology. Have you ever taken enough time to study astrology?

By the way, it is still a nice article which encourages discussion. Thanks for it.


Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 4 years ago from California Author

Thanks for that great comment, Karthikkash. Your points about eclipses and the moon are true, as there certainly is evidence of human events and experiences around full moons and lunar and solar eclipses. Scientists and psychologists and even forensic-minded historians will credit those human behaviors and emotions to the interpretation and meaning assigned to the eclipse or the full moon etc., more than to some scientifically backed physical or chemical imperative operating as a requirement of natural laws pertaining to those lunar and solar events. A scientist will point to the complete cessation of said effects in cultures where belief systems pertaining to the events has been dispelled or replaced by other beliefs (in old Europe, for example, they believed the full moon could raise wolf spirits in humans, but now, as people have a better scientific understanding of the event, only but a tiny fraction of people still suffer the fear and practice the protective behaviors that used to take place as a real consequence or, to use your term, effects on people's minds. That incidents of murder and mayhem coincided with the increased light afforded by the moon was also measured as part of the underlying violence from whence the legends were spawned as reason took the place of spiritual explanations).

But there can be no denying that people who believe there is power in an eclipse will experience the effects of that power. That is the essence of faith, and there are far too many people in the world who swear to it for me to attempt to say I can say it is anything but true. My purpose here is to keep the two terms in conventional alignment for people who simply get the terms confused in conversation. They certainly are vastly different when viewed in that light, I'm sure you would agree.


karthikkash profile image

karthikkash 4 years ago from India

well said :)


manu6076 profile image

manu6076 4 years ago from Hong kong

That's a great answer.


Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 4 years ago from California Author

Thanks, Manu.


theastrology profile image

theastrology 4 years ago from New Delhi

Hi Shadesbreath, Its really a great information about astrology and astronomy..

Thanks for sharing great information!!


Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 4 years ago from California Author

Hi theastrology, thanks for reading and commenting. Glad you liked my article. :)


Harry 4 years ago

Too bad deep space exploration doesn't seem likely in the near distant future. How depressing, if only i could be awoken from a frozen sleep without becoming a vegetable. So many possible galaxies and civilizations in the universe.


Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 4 years ago from California Author

Hah, you are right, Harry. It is almost depressing to think what we are going to miss out given where we are in time. However, you can't look at it like that. We live in a time of explosive discovery, so, at least you get to know what you know and see what you will see. Put yourself in Socrate's shoes, or Galileo's, anyone with an imagination from back in time. You know they were probably thinking what you and I are thinking back then, and would happily have switched with you or me. So, enjoy today for their sake, and, well, perhaps our future counterparts will enjoy 2390 or 3100 for you and me.


Vita Taylor profile image

Vita Taylor 4 years ago from North Carolina

Without Astrology, we wouldn't have Astronomy at the levels we do today. Though I find Astrology to be completely based on fiction, it is what truly inspired much of the drive behind Astronomy early on. Thousands of years ago, it was faith-based, but now, Astrology is actually closer to a lack of faith. It is putting your belief and faith in the alignment of stars and planets at random and your ability to read them. Still, without this want to predict your life and future based on the stars and the mystical, wondrous sky, we wouldn't have Astronomy.


Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 4 years ago from California Author

Hi Vita. Thanks for reading and leaving a great comment. And I agree that early astronomy was intricately tied in with astrology. The observational discipline of watching and recording movements remains essentially the same, the main difference is the interpretations of meaning has morphed into two things, verifiable interpretations and unverifiable. I think 2,000 and 10,000 years ago, they didn't have enough physics and chemistry to do much of the first one, so unverifiable was all they had to work with. Can hardly blame them. And a lot of the stories seem pretty reasonable in a psychological sort of way, so, it had its value back then, for sure (when not corrupted for the purposes of power, as religion so often is, then and now).


ParadigmEnacted profile image

ParadigmEnacted 3 years ago

Astrology is everything that Astronomy is, utilizes the same precepts and tools, but attempts to take it a step further by noting the celestial correspondences in terrestrial events. Other than that they have common origins and an Astrologer would reject no part of better understanding the universe.

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