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Astrology Is not Science

Updated on February 28, 2014

A comet

Astrology came ahead of physics or astronomy but is it a science?

Neelu sinha asked:

"Should we believe on future predictions made by astrologers? How true they can be?

"Astrologers make predictions through one's date of birth or by looking at ones palm or for head. Is it a science based on facts or just we are bi fooling us?"

We understand the questions as follows:

“Should we believe in predictions made by astrologers?”

“How true can they be?”

A clarifying premise: “Astrologers make predictions based on date of birth or palm or head.”

Another question: “Is astrology a science?” Alternatively: “Is a prediction made by astrology based on facts?”

We will attempt to give answers with science as framework. Let’s start with the question “Is astrology a science?"

There are several definitions of science. For one, I understand science in terms of hypothesis or theory. A hypothesis and a theory have the same elements. They differ in that a hypothesis is a guide for conducting research; a hypothesis when proven graduates into theory. A theory consists of concepts and relationship(s) among concepts (Einstein, A. Ideas and Opinions. 1954).


We turn to determinate items, massive and observed as individual, like a comet.

"A comet is an icy small Solar System body (SSSB) that, when close enough to the Sun, displays a visible coma (a thin, fuzzy, temporary atmosphere) and sometimes also a tail... Comets have been observed since ancient times and have traditionally been considered bad omens" (Wikipedia).

"In 1705 the English astronomer Edmond Halley published a work that included his calculations showing that comets observed in 1531, 1607, and 1682 were really one comet and predicting that comet's return in 1758. The comet was sighted late in 1758, passed perihelion (closest distance to the Sun) in March 1759, and was named in Halley's honour. Its periodic returns demonstrated that it was in orbit around the Sun and, thus, that at least some comets are members of the solar system" (Encyclopedia Britannica 2008).

We can derive some concepts and relationships from the above quote.
Comet - as defined above; one is named Halley’s comet.
Orbit - path of a comet around the sun
Sun - a heat emitting massive star, center of the solar system.
Free fall - Halley’s comet reached a hyperbolic height relative to the sun when it was jettisoned by a force like explosion. More of this below.

Big Bang - this is an assumption. The Big Bang was the first explosion that jettisoned Halley’s comet together with the sun, and planets like earth, Mercury, Venus, etc. I have a Hub “Big Bang Theory, Origin of the Universe: What is the Mystery.?”

We can make a hypothesis out of these concepts and relationships, as follows:
“Halley’s comet free falls around the sun.”

The concepts are Halley’s comet, orbit and sun.
The relationship are “free falls,” and “around.”
To repeat, one assumption is the Big Bang theory. The reason is that we are not going to prove the Big Bang theory. Proving it belongs in another field of astrophysics. Suffice it to say that it is derived from the prediction by Einstein that the universe is expanding in his general hypothesis of relativity. Such expansion was discovered by astronomer Edwin Hubber that turned Einstein's hypothesis into a theory. The reasoning is that, if the universe is expanding it must have started from a point that exploded. This explosion was proposed by a British astronomer, calling it Big Bang. The latest research discovered the Higgs boson, an elementary particle. When it interacts with the negative charge of space it acquires mass (Kluger, J. The Cathedral of Science. Time. July 23,2012:28-31; Randall, L. In Search of the God Particle. Newsweek. Dec. 26,2011/Jan. 2,2012:54). This might be the mass that exploded. Big Bang jettisoned Halley’s comet to a hyperbolic height above the sun then this comet began to fall. But it is a free fall because it does not impact on the sun. The reason is that its trajectory matches the curvature of the sun.

The National Aeronautics and Space Agency (NASA) and even North Korea, (South Korea attempted it) has been doing what Big Bang did to Halley’s comet in launching satellites. In my Hub “How to launch a satellite” I elaborate as follows:

“The acceleration of the satellite to 26,230 km/hour or 437.33 km/sec is more than enough to launch it to a free fall. In fact, an acceleration of 8 km/sec will do. One reason for having a great acceleration is to make the path of the satellite reach infinity making it an open parabola. Reaching a hyperbolic path, our satellite will escape earth’s gravity (Swinerd, G. How Spacecraft Fly. 2008). It will be weightless. The thrust left it enough energy for a constant speed around the earth.”

The free fall of Halley’s comet is constant and its position is governed by general theory of relativity. That is, it does not follow Newton’s law of gravity. It is weightless. Its orbit that is not a perfect circle is also governed by this general theory of relativity. Since its speed is constant, height relative to the earth varies insignificantly, we can predict its location and its visibility to us on earth. In general theory of relativity, gravity is a curvature of space-time; it is not a force.I added in the above Hub:

“Halley observed this comet matter-of-factly that people got excited about it and expected its return. That is, the concepts and relationships are verifiable and not taken on faith. The doomsayer, the Roman Catholic church, could no longer hold people from believing in comet Halley as a scientific phenomenon not as a sign of the end of the universe.”

What is the proof that our hypothesis, “Halley’s comet free falls around the sun.” is true?
Astronomer Halley had provided the proof by observing Halley’s comet and verified its appearance to human observers. He made predictions of such appearances and his predictions were verified.

Therefore, the above hypothesis graduates into a theory.

A theory must contain the least vocabulary. It should be short (Russell, B. Human Knowledge: Its Scope and Limits. 1947). A longer proposition could be made: "Halley's comet free falls around the sun along an orbit." that is still correct. However, "along an orbit" would be redundant because it is implied in "around/" ['Proposition' is a more formal term than 'statement' in theory making.] A theory predicts (Campbell, Norman. What is Science? 1921).

Predict and watch Halleys' comet

Let's make a prediction based on the theory "Halley's comet free falls around the sun."

Let's start with premises. "Comet" is already defined, and Halley's comet fits this definition.

The "sun" is a massive body compared with Halley's comet that casts a space-time curvature around itself influencing smaller bodies like comets and planets like the Earth, Mercury, Venus, etc. This was one of the predictions of Einstein's general hypothesis of relativity that was verified by Sir Eddington in 1929. (Light bends in the vicinity of a massive body.)

"Free falls" means that no significant diminution of its mass or no additional force is exerted on Halley's comet that changes its altitude and speed. It has been observed (based on the above quote) that it completes one trip around sun in 75 or 76 years. "Around" implies an orbit that has not been a perfect circle (oblong) such that it has a farthest point and nearest point to a reference point like the sun or the earth.

Halley's comet was again closest to the sun in February 1986 (Internet. December 17,2012); about 88 million kilometers. Its distance from the sun when farthest from it is 5.2 billion kilometers. We make a prediction:

"Halley's comet will be closest to the sun again in February 2061."

Let people who will be around in 2061 verify this prediction.

You can watch Halley's comet like what David Lewett and G. Edmond Danielson did on October 16,1982. They used a 200-inch telescope mounted in Palomar, California. Knowing that the sun is the center of Halley's comet orbit, and given its path as nearest the sun at 88 million kilometers and as farthest the sun at 5.2 million kilometers, the path of Halley's comet can be plotted by integral calculus. Its speed can be calculated; 75 years around the sun. Making markers as February 1986, distance from the sun and speed you can calculate the spot where to locate Halley's comet in the sky. That is, discounting any changes in its mass and disturbance from planets and the sun. You can make a game of predicting where Halley's comet is located. Verifying your predictions will be fun.

Given that you discovered a new comet. You can measure its distance from the sun when nearest and farthest from it and the duration of its trip around the sun. You can plot its location. Make a report, have it published in an astronomy journal, putting your name on this planet.

What about astrology?

Its concepts are based on “date of birth,” or on “palm,” or on “head.” We can add, calendar. The definition of the concept palm is not based on facts, for example. In some cases the definition is based on facts, in other cases they are not. There is no certainty. In science the degree of certainty is very high, 5% or 1% degree of error.Relationships in astrology are not certain either. Some are verifiable, others are not. The concepts and relationships do not make for a high degree or accuracy in prediction. That is why astrology is not science.

To the question: “Should we believe in predictions made by astrologers?”

Suppose you do not know the craft of astrology and you go to one for a prediction. If you are predisposed to believe in a fortune teller you will believe in his predictions. If you are predisposed not to believe in a fortune teller, you will doubt his predictions.

Suppose one of his/her predictions the first time you went to a fortune teller came true. You will give a high degree of belief in his/her predictions the second time around that you go to him/her. On the other hand, suppose one of his predictions the first time you went to him/her did not come true. The next time you go to him/her you harbor a high degree of doubt. You might not go to a fortune teller anymore.

There is a high degree of hit-and-miss. Suppose the fortune teller had sensed the thing that you wanted to hear. S/he will give that to you in a fortune-telling encounter. And you believe in him/her.

Sometimes, the fortune teller plays the role of a soothsayer, of a moral booster, or confidence builder. What they say are welcome.

Suppose your fortune teller will tell you that the world will end on December 21,2012?

I bet I will still be around by December 25,2012. My basis is that the Mayan prophesies are not based on facts.


Submit a Comment

  • profile image

    An AYM 4 years ago

    It confuses me how much scientific credibility Astology is given in the modern world.

  • conradofontanilla profile image

    conradofontanilla 4 years ago from Philippines

    An AYM,

    Not everything is explained in the modern world, not yet. Some facts have not yet collected into some definable concepts. For example, hot temperament of a person. Is there a gene for hot temperament? Hot temperament is not yet fully defined and given to a concept. There are occurrences we don't have any handle simply because concepts and relationships that make them have not yet been defined. We make a guess of these undefinables and make predictions based on them, just as astrology does. To repeat, the method of science of making hypothesis, creating concepts and relationships is employed. However, verification of these concepts and relationships is lacking. The result is a failed prediction. The astrologer claims power of verification that the common man does not have. However, in the way of science, verification is replicable.

  • profile image

    An AYM 4 years ago

    This is true about the undefined facets of the world. It irks me when those groups confidently claim the answer rather than comfortably accepting that they're shooting in the dark like all the rest of us. Not that there's anything wrong about being incorrect, just how we treat the occasion.

  • conradofontanilla profile image

    conradofontanilla 4 years ago from Philippines

    An AYM,

    Someone said that one who is always certain is s/he who does not doubt anything.

  • profile image

    An AYM 4 years ago

    I like the quote! I love doubt, there's so very much to think about in this world.

  • Kathryn L Hill profile image

    Kathryn L Hill 4 years ago from LA

    This is very interesting and reveals a lot of thought. Thanks for sharing.

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