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Is astrology pseudoscience? Talking from Science, History and Philosophy

 Foreword: I am a typical Libra personality.

“What zodiac sign are you?” “Libra, what’s up?” “No wonder! I guessed. You are a typical Libra personality.” Since middle school, I have experienced dozens of similar conversations. Second, when encountering similar topics later, I mostly acquiesce in my own zodiac personality; but in fact, I don’t believe in zodiac signs, and even think that any numerology number is pseudo-scientific and unreliable; it’s just that I know that this topic cannot end in truth The answer is false or not.

Recall, have you ever done an online matchmaking test? Or play a game test of “Which celebrity heroes are similar to” on Facebook? Even if you don’t believe it, you can’t help but test your future fortune? Mankind’s thirst for information on personal character and destiny opportunities has never ceased. During the ancient civilization of mankind 3,000-4,000 years ago, our ancestors had already invented a so-called rigorous test method: Astrology.

In 1975, the scientific community jointly signed a statement that astrology is a pseudo-scientific superstition.

Horoscope is just a decadent version of ancient astrology. Ancient astrology claimed that the movement of celestial bodies is closely related to the events of all things on earth. Therefore, astrologers are strictly required to carefully observe the movement of celestial bodies in order to accurately predict human personality and destiny. Of course, this is like nonsense in today’s age of upholding science. After all, what is the relationship between Mercury, which is tens of millions of miles away, and your personality and destiny?

But astrology did not disappear because of science but became popular in the 20th century. Astrologers even claim that astrology has a scientific basis: it has observations, statistics, and theories. Isn’t it like science? However, scientists do not sell it. In 1975, 186 American scientists (including 18 Nobel Prize winners) jointly issued a statement, accusing astrology of pseudoscience and leading to superstition.

But this statement has not been approved by all scholars who support the spirit of science. The famous astronomer Carl Edward Sagan refused to sign. This is very surprising. He explained afterward that it was because the statement could not provide solid evidence to refute astrology and was only an arbitrary statement. (Quoted from IJ Kidd, 2016)

The philosopher of science Paul Feyerabend (1978) was more radical than Carl Sagan. He criticized these scientists for failing to study the history and methodology of astrology in-depth, so he asserted that astrology is pseudoscience and has no scientific contribution. The scientific spirit of seeking the truth is completely contrary to it. Feyerabend even more rudely satirizes these 20th-century scientists, whose scientific spirit is far behind the 15th-century Holy See.

The history of astrology is not mentioned in the general history of science textbooks. Scientists used to study astrology.

In fact, Feyerabend, like Carl Sagan, did not believe in astrology to oppose this statement. He only proceeded from the perspective of the history of science and philosophy and believed that there is no basis to characterize astrology as pseudoscience. He mentioned that astrology has provided considerable contributions to astronomical discoveries in history, and astrologers, like today’s scientists, will engage in observation, prediction, and seek new evidence to modify theories. If astrology is pseudo-science from beginning to end, what is the appropriate criterion for dividing “science/pseudo-science”?

Feyerabend’s criticism is by no means aimless. Before the 18th century, there was no strict distinction between astrology and astronomy. In the West, from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance, universities have specialized courses to teach astrology. Many people of insight will study astrology, such as well-known scientists who are familiar with, Copernicus, Galileo, and Kepler all have professional knowledge of astrology. (Paul R. Thagard, 1978; R Vermij, 2017). However, the general history of science textbooks rarely mention these histories; any mention of astrology is simply regarded as a representative of pseudoscience.

According to historical descriptions in the past, astrology is a kind of superstition and fantasy, so when modern science and rational enlightenment rose in the 17th century, astrology belonging to fantasy superstition naturally declined. But more and more contemporary scientific historians are trying to vindicate the historical status of astrology. They generally regard astrology as a kind of “rational activity” or “early science” to study its origin and development. (R Vermij, 2017; Daryn Lehoux, 2004)

The origin and history of astrology: from Babylon to ancient Greece, combining ancient Greek philosophy into a theoretical theory

As early as the ancient civilization, astrology has appeared. In India, there is a record of observation of celestial bodies in oracle bone inscriptions, has mentioned that the imperial court has official positions “to hold the stars, to aspire to the changes of the stars, the sun, and the moon, to observe the movement of the world, and to distinguish the good and the bad.” In the Mesopotamia region of Babylon, people generally believe that the stars represent the gods, and observing the stars can understand the divine purpose.

However, at that time, Babylon did not have a systematic theory of astrology. Most of them only achieved witchcraft purposes by praying, chanting mantras, and putting on amulets. After the introduction of astrology into ancient Greece, it combined the Stoics (ie determinism), the Pythagorean school (ie celestial mathematics is the source of everything), and the neo-Platonist school (ie the tendency of mysticism, the movement of celestial bodies). It is a manifestation of the harmony and order of the universe), and then gradually developed a systematic theory.

Ancient Greek philosophy mainly needs to overcome the two major problems of “the origin of the world” and “how to live happily”. The ancient Greeks deeply understood the impact of fate, opportunity, and personality on life; in this regard, astrology provided a set of astral logic to explain personality and unfair encounters, and also made fate and opportunity a predictable discipline. These factors constitute The reason why the ancient Greeks accepted astrology. They carefully observe celestial phenomena in order to obtain mysterious information about celestial bodies. In ancient Greek, “astrologia” and “Astronomia” are often interchangeable, and there is no clear distinction between the two.

Of course, some ancient Greek philosophers opposed the ontology and fatalism implied by astrology on the grounds of skepticism and free will. But this does not prevent the widespread of astrology. The famous astronomer, mathematician Claudio Di Wusi. Ptolemy (Claudius Ptolemy) combined Aristotle’s knowledge of natural philosophy and astronomy and wrote the first astrological book in Western history: Tetrabiblos. Many of the astrological concepts we are exposed to now originate from this book.

In this book, Ptolemy not only discussed typical astrology, but also proposed the relative motion theory of the sun, moon, and planets, as well as a methodology for studying celestial bodies: using the natural characteristics of celestial motion to study the changes of things around them (for example, The impact of the earth’s weather and tides) and make predictions. These theoretical methods are very avant-garde. It can also be seen that the “Ptolemaic System (a picture of the universe in the geocentric theory)” of his another masterpiece “Astronomy”, the ultimate goal is to lay an important foundation for this book. Since the establishment of the Thomas system, ancient Greek astrology has also begun to spread to Islamic cultural regions, ancient India, and other countries. Astrology is popular all over the world.

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