Astrology: Science, Faith or Superstition?
Astrology depends on an ancient assumption that the positions of stars and planets in the sky influence the character and development of human beings and the hour of important events in their lives.
The origin of astrology cannot be determined with precision. Humans have always been fascinated by shining stars, the moving planets, the movement of the sun across the sky, and the changing phases of the moon. The heavenly bodies were worshipped as gods, just as various figures and pictures were seen in the pattern of the stars – but different pictures in different cultures. We know that in ancient Mesopotamia (Iraq) as well as in Egypt 4,000 years ago they had a kind of "art of star reading" with the aim of predicting when the great rivers would overflow and thereby determining the right time for sowing and harvest. From this assumption it seemed possible to proceed to the supposition that the distant stars and planets "governed" all life on earth – including the destinies and actions of humanity.
Since antiquity, astrology has been almost forgotten for varying periods. But at other times it has again attracted people – usually in times of uncertainty and crisis, just as have the gift of prophecy, spiritism and religious sects with a magical dimension.
The Birth Horoscope
The birth horoscope is absolutely essential in astrology. The Astrologer checks when and where one was born, by longitude and latitude.
Then the astrologer draws up two circles, one within the other. The circles are divided into twelve equal parts, following twelve selected constellations (although these constellations do not take up equal amounts of space, and though they have moved since the map was made and they were assigned their meaning).
This procedure produces the subdivision of the two circles into "the twelve houses." The next step is to calculate the exact position of the various planets at the time of birth.
The horoscope is divided into twelve equal pieces according to the twelve constellations. Now the astrologer draws up a diameter pointing to the star (or degree) that rose at the rising point of the sun at the moment of birth (the ascendant); and another diameter pointing to the star (or degree) standing in the noon position of the sun (medim coeli). Departing from these two diameters, the circle is then divided into another twelve parts, the so-called "houses," which represent various social networks, i.e. family, work, etc. Then the position of the various planets at the time of birth is drawn up.
Now a complicated calculation follows. Lines are drawn between the constellations, distances and angles are measures etc. to procure the base for working out, with computers and tables, exactly which combination of qualities the person in question has received from planets and stars. Every planet and constellation has been assigned a number of "personal qualities," very much the way people in the dark ages worshipped them as gods with "certain characteristics."
Astrology is applicable in all areas of life
On the background described above, astrologers also undertake the responsibility of predicting and counseling people concerning their selection of partners (synastic astrology), favourable dates for commencing work or for proposing a new idea (electional astrology), management advice, financial advice e.g. buying and selling on the stock exchange (astro-economy), political advice, societal development, and cultural affairs (mundane astrology), etc.
Some companies, especially in the USA, have hired astrologers for recruiting "the right people," chosen for their horoscope and not their education and skills.
Examinations and tests of astrology
Astrology has had the problem from antiquity onwards that planets were assigned different meanings and that constellations were shaped differently by different cultures. People have found themselves able to make their predictions according to the different claims of the astrologers, and often they have felt that "there was something to it." Previously, even some scientists took astrology seriously, but today hardly any serious scientist is willing to do so.
If the claims of astrology were correct, the midwife would be able to ask the parents, star map, stop watch and scissors in hand: "Do you want a child with musical gifts or one with more mathematical abilities?" And then "zap!" – all the inherited genetic predispositions would be changed. The child's destiny, talents, risk of diseases, temper, etc. would go in a direction defined at that very instant.
Today, most people should probably be able to grasp with a minute's reflection that the basic claims of astrology are false.
If you are still not convinced, consider the question of identical twins. They are genetically similar and show convincingly common traits throughout their lives within all areas – yet, they practically always have different birth horoscopes drawn, because they are born at different intervals, often several hours apart.
As astrologers put forward claims of a natural scientific nature (cause and effect, or syncronicity between movements of heavenly bodies and events in human lives), so their claims have also been scientifically researched. In the United States, for instance, exact horoscopes have been drawn for 331 persons who had committed suicide, and 331 persons who lived happily. Then astrologers were asked to sort the mixed heap of horoscopes into two piles: one for the people who have had difficulties in their lives, and one for the people who have had no major problems. The results were completely random. Those who committed suicide as a result of depression were judged by the horoscope to be in for a "long and happy life," and people who were supposed to be happy were often described as "having a lot of problems and prone to accidents." The leader of the experiment said afterwards, "we might as well have tossed a coin."
Science, Faith or Superstition
Today we can say without contradiction that astrology is not a science. What we mean is that "influences" or "connections" claimed by astrology between stars and planets on one side and the development, life events, and the character of human beings on the other side are not scientifically proven. Certainly, more and more astrologers have gradually admitted this fact.
And yet many persons would claim that astrological statements still frequently seem to be true. Often it does look that way. The reason for this may be found in techniques of communication and psychology. During the conversation about the interpretation of horoscope, the astrologer tunes into the statements which will be the easiest for the client to accept by observation and good listening. And astrologers come up with very "broad statements" in which most people will find "something true." The listener or the reader of a horoscope himself performs what is called "filter listening or "filter vision," whereby only the "hits" are really remembered and make an impression.
Furthermore, "self-fulfilling prophecies" play an important role. If you are told that you tend to be this and that – then you simply arrange your behaviour and your attention accordingly.
This has nothing to do with stars and planets – it is something you do yourself or register in such a way as to make it fit.
Since astrology can be disproved scientifically, then what's the use?
Some astrologers have said that astrology is a "conversation about the symbols of heaven which function as psychological advice." But in that case it is a highly manipulative psychology, since planets and stars already have been assigned features and meanings, and their location already has been assigned different "force" to each human being.
Apart from this it is alarming that the astrologers believe they can use computers, calculations of angles, and measured distances on a piece of patterned paper to reveal anything about the deeper mental life and imagery of human beings.
At best it is an expression of a deceptive "technical humanism," of a reduced and simplified conception of human beings.
It has also been claimed that astrology is "a faith" or "a belief." In that case it must be "a faith in destiny" or "a technical faith." Faith, in the real religious sense of the word, cannot be seen as a possibility – unless perhaps in the sense of animistic religiosity (belief in the spirits inside the planets and the souls in the constellations). Astrology is in every way incompatible with the Christian faith, its ethics and understanding of human beings.
Some modern philosophers consider astrology a kind of "surrogate religion." They are supported by social scientists who have pointed to the fact that modern, Western culture, to a degree, is marked by anxiety as to what the future will bring, by doubts of its own values, and by a general quest for meaning in life. This makes room for a "searching" naivity, a readiness to believe, which would also explain the wide spread surrender to bits and pieces of foreign religions, new religions, new sectarian movements and the misuse of modern science to "prove" that all kinds of superstition you want to believe in are probably true – all of which we see simultaneously and particularly with astrology.
If one was to place astrology somewhere in this marketplace, the most precise characteristic would be pseudo-scientific superstition.