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astrology - art or science?
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james_m



Joined: 05 Dec 2011
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Location: vancouver island

Posted: Thu Aug 15, 2013 5:17 pm    Post subject: astrology - art or science? Reply with quote

i tend to think it is a bit of both, but i thought i would ask others here if they would like to share their own views on this.

there are so many astrological theories to choose from. the followers of these different theories claim they have some type of validity.

i am reminded of the philosophical idea that there are many different paths that can reach the top of the mountain.

i was reminded of this ongoing debate after reading a post today about 'orbs'.. one can fall back on a system that has been put in place from the past, or watch the interaction of the planets to see how it works in their own chart. observation is the basis for a scientific approach. i think we're handicapped by our own subjective approach in only being able to really consider our own experience in relation to astrology. this is why i think astrology is more art then science. i do think it is a bit of both though and there are certain astronomy laws that mirror dynamics in peoples life which is why i am a believer in astrology.

for me there's a obvious connection between astrology and psychology. both are outside the realm of 'hard' science in so far as they are difficult to impossible to reach objective 'scientific' conclusions on..
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amelia



Joined: 17 Jun 2004
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Posted: Thu Aug 15, 2013 10:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

When I saw this I thought I liked the question until I began to ask myself what is art and what is science? I think we need to try and tie that down first before slotting astrology into one or the other

Let's start with some definitions


Science

putting aside the obvious fact that the work science just means knowledge , here are some modern interpretations obtained by (the dubious method of) random googling:

Quote:
a branch of knowledge or study dealing with a body of facts or truths systematically arranged and showing the operation of general laws


Note it doesn't say these laws have to apply 100% - just generally


Quote:
[the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behaviour of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment
- of course this then begs the question what is the physical and natural world..... Wink


Quote:
systematized knowledge in general
-

so pretty much anything in a text book!

Now clearly this is an area of some debate, so much so that.....
some scientists in 2009 came up with a new definition

Quote:

Science is the pursuit of knowledge and understanding of the natural and social world following a systematic methodology based on evidence."


http://www.theguardian.com/science/blog/2009/mar/03/science-definition-council-francis-bacon



art

Quote:
not scientific


helpful eh?!


Quote:
A system of principles and methods employed in the performance of a set of activities .... A trade or craft that applies such a system of principles and methods


pretty vague and broad, could be applied to any activity repeated more than once - i.e scientists are all practising an art!


Quote:
the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, (typically [but is implied not always] in a visual form such as painting or sculpture), producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power
and
Quote:
imaginative skill as applied to representations of the natural world or figments of the imagination


so presumably anything that is a creative representation rather than the 'real' world

and to confuse things even more
Quote:
Learning; study; applied knowledge, [bold]science [/bold], or letters.


So, having initially thought it was a useful area to explore, I am now of the opinion that scientists practice an art and art can include science. So maybe we need to re-phrase the question in terms that are less overlapping?
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james_m



Joined: 05 Dec 2011
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Posted: Thu Aug 15, 2013 11:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

hi amelia,

thanks for offering your perspective here!

i had thought of this. the definitions of these words are not so simple.. on a somewhat related note - i am in the middle of reading a book by taleb nassim called 'antifragile'.. on the bottom of page 225 there is a footnote with a short quote connected to the text that i am going to share here as it captures asmall part of nassim's and my own thinking.

"It is just that what many call science is highly unscientific. Science is an anti-sucker problem."

i often make parallels with music and astrology due having spent much of my life involved in music. although there are rules in music connected to harmony and rhythm, knowing the rules makes for a good staring point but ultimately it is the sound that one wants to create that decides whether it has merit artistically to a composer/musician writing the music and especially for a listener.. listeners don't care whether musical rules have been followed or not!

an astrologer acts like a musician in some respects in bringing ideas to a person who is interested in what astrology might offer on any particular topic. some might say much hinges on the astrologer, as opposed to the astrology. perhaps the chemistry between the astrologer and person interested in an astrological perspective is equally or even more important here as well.. this is a bit like getting different results putting different musicians together..

those are a few more of my thoughts on this. perhaps you'd like to frame the question differently? if so - go ahead! i am still curious on yours or others thoughts on all this..
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Morpheus



Joined: 21 Mar 2007
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Posted: Mon Aug 19, 2013 8:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

james_m,

I would call 'Astrology' as an 'Art' for a simple reason. Smile

By calling it an 'Art' we would not be bothered by 'pseudo-scientists' who are not competent to make an 'inch' of progress in their own selected fields, however, they think that it is their prerogative to comment, discuss and pronounce judgments against the minority and helpless sections of society.

Our life in 20th and 21st century has been made easy by 'Inventors/ Technicians' rather than 'Scientists'.
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waybread



Joined: 05 Mar 2009
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Posted: Wed Aug 21, 2013 2:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Unfortunately, the average lay person (including the average astrologer) would not know what science really means if s/he fell over it and it whistled Dixie.

Astrologers are consumers of the portions of astronomy and psychology (aka behavioural science) that suit their particular purposes. Unfortunately many are unable to distinguish between current science, pseudo-science, and outdated science.

How many people here have a B. S. (B. Sc.), M. S. (M. Sc.), let alone Ph. D. in a scientific field from an accredited university? If not, what is the depth of their scientific education?
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james_m



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Posted: Wed Aug 21, 2013 4:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

sorry waybread, but i just couldn't resist!

Unfortunately, the average lay person (including the average scientist) would not know what astrology really means if s/he fell over it and it whistled Dixie.
Scientists are consumers of the portions of knowledge that suit their particular purposes. Unfortunately many are unable to distinguish between current astrology, pseudo-astrology, and outdated astrology.

How many people have a B. A. M. A., let alone Ph. D. in an astrological field from an accredited university? If not, what is the depth of their astrological education?

waybread wrote:
Unfortunately, the average lay person (including the average astrologer) would not know what science really means if s/he fell over it and it whistled Dixie.

Astrologers are consumers of the portions of astronomy and psychology (aka behavioural science) that suit their particular purposes. Unfortunately many are unable to distinguish between current science, pseudo-science, and outdated science.

How many people here have a B. S. (B. Sc.), M. S. (M. Sc.), let alone Ph. D. in a scientific field from an accredited university? If not, what is the depth of their scientific education?
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waybread



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Posted: Mon Aug 26, 2013 1:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

James, it's not a great joke, and it misses my point.

I don't think you mean to rehash the old unproductive argument that runs something like, "Why should we be nice to scientists if they won't play nicely with us?"

It would be nice if more astrologers had degrees from accredited universities and colleges.
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Morpheus



Joined: 21 Mar 2007
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Posted: Mon Aug 26, 2013 6:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
I don't think you mean to rehash the old unproductive argument that runs something like, "Why should we be nice to scientists if they won't play nicely with us?"


The proof is not demanded by the main stream scientists. They have life.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Now_You_See_Me_(film)

'Bradley' is a mediocre magician, unable to attain something in his performances, he turns to debunking them in order to earn some fame and money.

Everybody ought to be nice to Scientists as human beings only. We should only be wary of not throwing bones to the losers.
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james_m



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Posted: Mon Aug 26, 2013 4:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

hi waybread,

i am not opposed to rehashing anything really.. but it seems counter productive to try to prove something to someone who has their mind made up anyway.. that is how i see some people in this world for better or worse.. they have a viewpoint and they are unreceptive to a different or alternative way of perception and sometimes indignant that someone would have a different view on life and the nature of our world.

i'm not sold on formal education all the time either where someone has an abbreviation after their name with special letters and that gives them some more dignified or rarefied knowledge about something either.. i don't think formal education is all that it's cracked up to be!

waybread, speaking of missing the point, what are your thoughts on astrology as art or science?
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waybread



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Posted: Mon Aug 26, 2013 5:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Astrologers are consumers of some a narrow band of scientific information, but unless they happen to have actual credentials in a scientific field, they are not scientists. Science today is usually divided amongst the physical sciences (physics, chemistry;) natural sciences (biology, geology;) medical sciences; and perhaps behavioural science (the prefered term by some psychologists.) Of course, there is a lot of overlap between these broad-brush divisions. But astrology does not fit into any of them.

Science today is very different from what it was in Newton's time or even Einstein's time. It is usually done in teams of researchers, in laboratory or field situations, and the collected data are usually run through statistical tests. (Ahem. Usually, not always.) Psychologists (aka behavioural scientists) also use rigorous methodologies. Yes, there is theoretical work, and some famous scientists branch away from their true expertise in evolutionary biology or entymology to expound on more social topics, but they are not conducting science-- narrowly defined-- when they write books for mass audiences.

If we are working with the rigid binary of "art vs. science" you would have to classify astrology as an "art."

However, I don't think "art" is the exact word. There are many empirical fields that are not sciences. A historian or post-modern cultural anthropologist may be very concerned about getting her facts correct and subjecting them to rigorous analysis but this doesn't make her a scientist.

I think of astrology as an eclectic field similar in nature (though not in rigour) to the various "studies" fields out there, such as environmental studies, Canadian studies, or Renaissance studies. Or similar to fields with eclecticism built-in, such as comparative religion or urban and regional planning. Since astrology is usually (not always) applied, probably a discipline like planning would be the best analogy.

People who dismiss degrees often don't have them. The degree isn't about walking across the stage to pick up a diploma. Rather, the process that got the graduate to that point involved (or should have involved) honing of critical thinking skills and the ability to defend one's assertions with logic and evidence. This is true even for an arts field like theology or English literature.

Because astrology was orphaned from the academy for so long, it never really was required to develop along similar lines. It is coming back into a couple of British universities now, but as one of the humanities, not as a science.
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james_m



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Posted: Mon Aug 26, 2013 7:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

thanks waybread.

i liked what you had to say and would agree with the view astrology is more art then science. i like to think of it that way as their is less emphasis for something to be proven, although i think at some point astrology will be seen as valid by a larger audience including the more skeptical, it is going to take a long time and a lot of curiousity on the part of anyone who makes a serious inquiry into astrology. most folks other then those with a love of astrology, don't approach it with the same level of curiousity and appreciation for the many ways it can be understood.

as for my comment on formal education - it's not just about the degrees but about the sale of institutionalized education around the planet at present.. it is not the only way to learn about something.. i am motivated partly by your comments and from reading a book at present called 'antifragile' by nassim taleb. he discusses this same issue and while i have to agree with his observations on this which i haven't articulated, it is a conversation for another topic perhaps.. it is interesting though to think of the astrological schools that have popped up in the past 10-20 years and the direction that this is taking astrology.
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Morpheus



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Posted: Mon Aug 26, 2013 9:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It is evident that people championing the cause of 'Science' have degrees in the Science. Only limited number of them do some useful laboratory work to have some distinction, the rest of them sour as they age because they have no other option but to teach. Advanced degrees in Accountancy give many options in life/career.

'Philosophy', is the only subject which sharpens reasoning and critical faculties. Majority of the scientists I know in life are racists, judgmental, having a myopic point of view and marked erroneous sense of self-importance.

I am also not impressed by those degrees in 'Astrology' where they assume you to be a working astrologer and what they actually offer is 'psychology, anthropology, cultural and historical studies. Individual astrologers offering courses where they teach/groom a limited number of students have more usefulness then the 'Institutionalized degrees'.
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waybread



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Posted: Mon Aug 26, 2013 11:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Morpheus, I don't know where you are getting your information about scientists, but it doesn't jive with my personal experience. I worked in a university for many years, where I rubbed shoulders with a lot of them. My ex husband was a scientist. My brother is a scientist. I sat on committees with scientists and sometimes discussed their research with them. Some of these scientists are members of visible minorities. I certainly didn't detect any racism from the ones who are white.

Some of them have big egos, but you find that amongst any crowd of well-educated ambitious people. Others are pretty self-effacing. I sure didn't see any "sour as they age" unless they had some personal extenuating circumstances (like not getting along with co-workers)-- and not many of those.

You find a lot of scientists in non-academic settings such as government-sponsored research laboratories. I worked at a graduate degree-granting institution where the scientists were expected to maintain a vigorous research program. Part of their teaching involved lab and field work with scientists-in-training.

Are scientists only human? Sure. They are subject to biases, likes and dislikes, opinions, &c. Consequently it is important to distinguish between science as an endeavour, scientists as human beings, and scientism as the belief in the primacy of science.

Philosophy is not the only field that sharpens critical thinking! How do you build a better bridge and what went wrong with the one that collapsed? How can you best save the whales? Did Richard III really kill the princes in the tower? What are the legal precedents for a particular case?

Are many scientists prejudiced again astrology? Sure. But too few astrologers truly help our cause. I am prejudiced against pop-schlock astrology, as I imagine most traditional astrologers are, as well. I give a lot of credit to Nicholas Campion, whose books on the history of astrology are top-drawer and show that yes, astrologers can cut it in the academy if they are willing and able.
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Geoffrey



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Posted: Sat Aug 31, 2013 8:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

waybread wrote:


How many people here have a B. S. (B. Sc.), M. S. (M. Sc.), let alone Ph. D. in a scientific field from an accredited university? If not, what is the depth of their scientific education?


Well I do. I have a Ph.D. in physics from the University of London and spent 10 year doing research in physics at Imperial College and Lawrence Livermore Labs in the United States, where the Americans develop and test their nuclear bombs.

And I can say that very few working scientists actually think about the scientific principle very much - if at all.

The philosophical basis for "science" is Logical Positivism and simply stated, it has two fundamental pillars upon which the scientific method rests.

The first is that any theory or principle in science is only an approximation, which will work well within a certain set of boundaries. But beyond the limits of that "phase-space", the theory or principle will be found not to work or not to work as well as it should.

The validity of a scientific theory or principle is tested by experiment to see what the limits of the boundaries or "phase-space" is for that theory or principle. This is what experimental physicists spend their time doing. In consequence the second pillar is that if experiment disagrees with theory, it is deemed that theory is wrong and experiment is correct. Theory and principle must then be adjusted to accord with experiment.

It follows that it is unscientific to say that astrology does not work because its principles are contrary to the laws of any of the hard sciences, which is what many scientists like Professor Brian Cox proclaim. That is arguing from the wrong end and denies the second 'pillar' as mentioned above.

The point is that if astrology 'works' in a practical sense, then a true scientist has to accept that and 'science' has to be recast to include astrology - regardless of the fact that all the other laws of science say it should not work. That is a very big step and it is not surprising that few scientists are willing to contemplate that.

The problem is that when we say that astrology 'works', we are not being totally scientifically objective in that assertion. Scientific tests demand that those tests should be objective and not dependent on the time, place or person conducting the test and that simply is not true for astrology - especially horary astrology.

This impasse between science and astrology will persist until some way is found to measure subjective value judgements in a way that scientifically valid. That is a very interesting field of research which has been barely touched on as yet.
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waybread



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Posted: Mon Sep 02, 2013 11:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

How super to see a card-carrying scientist here, vs. the all-too-frequent science-bashing, Geoffrey. Are you still doing physics?

You are probably familiar with the work of Paul Feyerabend on astrology.

http://thekindlyones.org/2011/02/14/astrology-and-its-problems-popper-kuhn-and-feyerabend/ (good commentary from D. Houlding!)

He argued that most definitions of science don't actually hold up, because astrology actually meets many of the criteria.

Some scientists have taken astrology seriously because they are historians of science, specifically of astronomy; and they understand how much astronomical knowledge was collected for astrological purposes (notably Otto Neugebauer.)

I don't think logical positivism is still current in the philosophy of science; mostly because of its extreme claims that scientific testability was really the only criterion for knowledge: a proposition that fails by its own definition. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/logical-empiricism/
I think you've got a good, solid explanation of scientific thought (and even of common sense,) but I wouldn't call it logical positivism.

You wrote, "It follows that it is unscientific to say that astrology does not work because its principles are contrary to the laws of any of the hard sciences... " I agree totally. I think the hard science/astrology comparison is wrong-headed in the first place.

You wrote, "... if astrology 'works' in a practical sense, then a true scientist has to accept that and 'science' has to be recast to include astrology - regardless of the fact that all the other laws of science say it should not work. That is a very big step and it is not surprising that few scientists are willing to contemplate that."

Again, I don't think hard science is the comparable. It might be one of the social or behavioural sciences (which in their qualitative branches, would not actually qualify as science.) Some sociologists and anthropologists, for example, study New Age groups or cultural astronomy (ethnoastronomy) and I think they would not only be somewhat more sympathetic, but actually better fitted to the task.

But I agree with your main point. Many scientists are not being scientific enough, in the sense of keeping an open mind about a subject with little unbiased serious scrutiny.

There is a large body of legitimate qualitative work in the social sciences. There is a large body of empirical work in the humanities. As I noted above, historians and legal scholars gather and interpret facts, but nobody calls them scientists.

I think we need to move beyond the hard science/astrology binary. Most unhelpful.
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