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astrology - art or science?
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spock



Joined: 10 Apr 2011
Posts: 51
Location: Evansville, Indiana

Posted: Mon Sep 30, 2013 9:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Geoffrey wrote:
james_m wrote:
i mentioned in the previous post geoffrey cornelius's book as an important book for me personally as it opened up a different attitude towards astrology that is reflected in the idea of astrology as divination which i don't believe is receptive to scientific study, let alone approval.


.... as our idea of "science" stands now.

I had a long chat with Geoffrey Cornelius about this matter, and the problem is that science has nothing to say on subjective matters. But "science" and what we understand to be "scientific" is not carved in stone. Today, it is not what Newton would have understood as "science" and it is certainly not what Ptolemy would have understood as "science".

And tomorrow...? What we can say is that one of the biggest problems science is grappling with today is how to account rigorously for uncertainty - and subjectivity is just another way of saying that you cannot describe in a rigorous fashion how you came to a certain conclusion. So, I am optimistic that "science" will evolve in a way that will, one day, be able to take astrology on board.

The "problem" is we astrologers apparently don't think our claims should be objectively verifiable via procedures (statistical tests, for instance) whose legitimacy in determining validity is recognized in other fields of study. If we cannot describe how we come to our conclusions it means our knowledge is deficient, not that we are exempt from having to demonstrate that astrology works for any reason other than that we say so (i.e., because it "works for me"). The "problem" is being unable to see the verbal games we unwittingly play that make it seem to us that astrology "works for me" whether or not we have knowledge, or at any rate sufficient knowledge, of actual correspondences or parallels between our lives and the heavens. The "problem" is that when statistical studies, even those designed by or approved by astrologers, fail to support astrological claims, or appear to support astrological effects different from the ones we already believe in (i.e., the Gauquelin work), we conclude that, since we know we're right because astrology "works for me", statistics in particular and science in general is incapable of fairly evaluating astrology's claims. The "problem" is that we assume, in a breathtaking display of collective hubris, that if astrology is accepted it will be due to a revolution in science, such that they will then see that we were right all along, that astrology works just the way we say and have said it does. It apparently doesn't occur to us that the revolution that's needed is in astrology, such that we then have knowledge about connections or parallels between us and the heavens that can clearly be shown to be valid, that doesn't require a self-justifying, self-mystifying verbal razzle dazzle to impress ourselves with the blinding obviousness of the truths we are in possession of; and such that we then have knowledge, or at least a plausible account, of how the correspondences or parallels that appear to exist can exist in a post-Newtonian reality as opposed to the implicit magical reality we so regularly take refuge in. The "problem", not the solution, is books such as Cornelius' Moment of Astrology , which is a brilliant rationalization of astrology as is, of not changing astrology as we've been doing it and want to continue doing it, because we apparently think the alternative is abandoning it altogether (rather than creating a truer astrology that transcends the existing version's limitations). The "problem" is that we apparently believe, or act as if we believe, that an admission that our knowledge is less than perfect, that astrology is in fact pretty backwards in terms of developmental level as a kind of knowledge about nature, is tantamount to admitting that the idea of astrology was wrong in the first place (which it wasn't, in my opinion). Science is no more likely to take astrology in its present form on board than it is to accept the validity of reading tea leaves, sheep entrails or tarot cards. But if we create a more viable astrology it will be obviously effective in ways that don't require the imprimatur of established science.
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waybread



Joined: 05 Mar 2009
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Posted: Mon Sep 30, 2013 11:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Good points, Spock. Too many astrologers seem to think that scientists need to fix themselves in order to appreciate astrology, or that science will come around to astrology once it advances further and becomes more enlightened. Too few astrologers seem willing to take stock of the big problems with astrology, which turn off many educated people beyond the corridors of science.

I am not sure that astrology will ever be demonstrated by behavioural scientists or by statisticians. The Gauquelin studies are praised by some but criticized by others, from within the group knowledgeable about their work. And who, really, has taken up their torch since them?

I personally think astrology works best as a tool for self-awareness. This might liken it more to one of the humanities disciplines, like philosophy. Horary astrologers might disagree.
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james_m



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Posted: Mon Sep 30, 2013 11:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

sometimes it seems people are talking a different language. perhaps it is the nature of internet communication, but i am not looking for excuses, just saying what i see. polarizing the different viewpoints in a black and white manner seems like what people do in religion, so i ought not be surprised it gets expressed in astrology which seems to share some similarities with religion.. i like the connection of astrology to philosophy myself..

i don't know that the astrologers doing horary are doing the same thing that astrologers doing natal astrology are.. i think they are different enough to make it challenging to put them under a scientific microscope.. i think the book 'moment of astrology' by geoffrey cornelius is brilliant, but perhaps spock and waybread have read it and don't share my view. it is hard to convey in a few words over the net!

personally i like the scrutiny on astrology and am in favour of any attempt showing how a particular approach is able to work..i think it would be beneficial for astrology to explain how it comes to the conclusions it does.. this is one reason i am in favour of predictive astrology.. the result is either going to be correct or not. an astrologer showing a high level of success in predictive astrology must be doing something right and beyond the level of guessing. psychological astrology is indeed different and i don't know how science would measure it.. how does science do with psychology generally? is it something that ever could be accepted on a scientific level? these are general questions on my part, open to any feedback.

i like it when astrologers explain the rationale for a particular astro position. even if i don't share the way they got to the conclusion, i like it when they share the background considerations that go into forming their interpretation/prediction..

how do you measure the influence of intuition on an astrological interpretation?

i don't think astrologers are banging their head against the wall or adopting a defeatist attitude generally. it might be valid a valid opinion in a very limited context, but an unfair characterization as a blanket statement. i think a lot of them are busy doing astrology and don't really care one way or the other whether science gets round to validating it or not.. maybe i am wrong to conclude this, but that is what i think.
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Morpheus



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Posted: Tue Oct 01, 2013 7:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I wonder how would some one statistically prove love, hate, desire, depression, enthusiasm, enough to live and enjoy life.

Life as we know exists outside the 'controlled' scientific laboratories.

Astrology deals with 'uncontrolled' life.

Science or Scientists in their autistic frustration to cope with life itself, lash out at all people who turn to astrologers or religion to seek guidance instead of turning to socially incapable Scientists.
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amelia



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Posted: Tue Oct 01, 2013 9:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
I am not sure that astrology will ever be demonstrated ........... by statisticians


I think the issue is even more complex and challenging than many astrologers, scientists and lay people believe - due to the non-random nature of astrology.

I think I've said this elsewhere on Skyscript but it is relevant here so I'll repeat:

Statistical inference is grounded in the assumption that samples taken by different people at different moments in time have equal chance of being representative of whatever is being studied.

Astrology is grounded on the fact that each moment in time has unique characteristics and each person resonates to it in a different way.

So you can't prove astrology by statistics, because if astrology works, statistical sampling and inference MUST lead to flawed conclusions. To be clear - I mean not just statistical sampling of astrology but statistical sampling of anything!

Or put another way: if I toss a coin repeatedly, under statistical theory, hoping to get heads each time, eventually it should give me 50/50 heads tails. But as an astrologer the underlying philosophy states that the result of the coin toss will depend on my chart and the chart of the event - so since I am jinxed by Saturn on my south node I will get a bias towards tails Sad , Wink

This I see as a big challenge for proving astrology by statistical results. I am not saying that it isn't possible to ever get results that confirm some astrological correlations just that any such test should build into it the observer effect of the astrologer and the moment of the study. And what scientist is going to accept that tautology. leave alone the fact that everything he or she has built their life's work on to date may be groundless?
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Paul
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Posted: Tue Oct 01, 2013 11:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

What a really interesting thread, I haven't been able to read every single post in detail, I've been trying to keep up with this thread and skimmed some of the posts I had missed when I was reading them originally.

I really liked what Myriam said:
Quote:
When discussing science (even in the modern context), I think one needs to make the distinction between the scientific method and the scientific worldview. I believe in and admire the scientific method; I think that the scientific worldview is false in premise, and is actually contrary to the scientific method.
...
Astrology does not really lend itself well to the scientific method, because it is hard to isolate features in a chart and because no two charts repeat themselves.
...
Astrology is deeply threatening to the scientific worldview. For this reason, I really doubt that modern science would accept astrology no matter how much evidence was presented which would "prove" astrology.


Like others, I do not think that the dichotomy of 'art' and 'science' is very helpful - depending on how we define them of course. If we take science to just mean a broad system of knowledge, then sure, it's a science. If we take it to mean employing the scientific method then no, it's not.

I think the problem people have here is in thinking 'science' means 'rational' or logic-derived, or having a set of rules or methodologies to follow. So many see it as being 'scientific' because for them, that is what science connotes, and therefore what it means.


Waybread

Quote:
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?


More importantly, what does it matter? Do you need to have a university education in science to know what science is? On the other hand do you need one in the arts to know what art is? Do scientists or artists need to have an in-depth education, preferably university level, in astrology in order to dismiss it as not being a science or not being an art?

If not, who cares who has an MSc or a BSc?

People can still have opinions, even informed opinions, on astrology without them, and can still classify them as being art or science - all one needs is a good understanding of the English language and what the words 'art' and 'science' mean. Nobody needs to be an expert on art to know what art is. We also do not necessarily need to have a PhD or MSc to know what science is.

That's not to say it won't help, it's just not needed.

Quote:
Too many astrologers seem to think that scientists need to fix themselves in order to appreciate astrology


Actually, as a whole, the astrological 'community' has nothing much to say about science. On the other hand, the 'scientific community' does have a great deal to say about astrology - often writing it off as 'disproven'.

With that in mind, astrologers are understandably concerned and frustrated with the scientific community and feel they have not been dealt with fairly. It is not that astrologers need to fix themselves, as much as they need to try to understand a subject before forming opinions on it and many astrologers do not feel that the scientific community has made any effort to understand astrology before dismissing it.
Even when we see 'tests' we do not always see the rigour of the scientific method being applied - many scientists still reference or cite those studies which did not fall under rigorous scientific methods.

Astrologers know this. They are not saying "fix yourself" they're saying "don't comment unless you've made some effort to know what you're commenting on".

Quote:
I personally think astrology works best as a tool for self-awareness. This might liken it more to one of the humanities disciplines, like philosophy. Horary astrologers might disagree.


Well i don't think horary astrologers would care, provided you don't think self-awareness is the only way astrology works best. Obviously by 'astrology' here you mean natal astrology and obviously the focus of natal astrology is on the self. The focus of horary, electional or mundane astrology is usually not on the self to that level.
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spock



Joined: 10 Apr 2011
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Posted: Tue Oct 01, 2013 1:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

waybread wrote:
Good points, Spock. Too many astrologers seem to think that scientists need to fix themselves in order to appreciate astrology, or that science will come around to astrology once it advances further and becomes more enlightened. Too few astrologers seem willing to take stock of the big problems with astrology, which turn off many educated people beyond the corridors of science.

Yes, many astrologers feel science needs to advance in order to understand why astrology is valid, whereas I think astrology needs to advance in order to become valid. The onus is not on them to validate astrology but on us to create a valid astrology. I think so few astrologers are willing to take stock of "the big problems with astrology" because for them seeing those problems is tantamount to realizing astrology doesn't and can't work and their belief in it was a mistake. That in fact is the stance taken by Geoffrey Dean, Rudolf Smit and others who've seen "the error of their ways" and become the equivalent of reformed drunks. Astrology will advance only at the hands of those who believe in the possibility of a valid astrology even while accepting that at present we don't clearly understand which correspondences and which kinds of correspondences actually exist and how it is that they can exist. A viable causal account and a kind of astrology that can be made sense of that way are two sides of the same explanatory coin.

Quote:
I am not sure that astrology will ever be demonstrated by behavioural scientists or by statisticians. The Gauquelin studies are praised by some but criticized by others, from within the group knowledgeable about their work. And who, really, has taken up their torch since them?

I don't think so, either, but only because psychologists and statisticians are no more likely to demonstrate the validity of astrology than physicists are to demonstrate the validity of sociology or chemists anthropology. It's not their discipline. It's not what they're interested in. I do think, however, that astrologers who have a knowledge of psychology and those who have a knowledge of statistics will play a role both in discovering and demonstrating the validity of a more rigorous and powerful astrology that only partially overlaps what we have now. However, while I think that statistical knowledge has an important role to play in testing astrological ideas, and that astrological ideas should be tested, statistics is limited in its ability to generate ideas capable of passing such tests. It's more suited to the refinement and clarification of ideas derived by other means, for instance by looking for and describing recurrent developments — rhythms — in histories and biographies, and by seeing the astrological implications of the phases and turning points in the theories of cognitive developmental psychologists such as Jean Piaget and L.S. Vygotsky and in the adult lifespan work of theorists such as Daniel Levinson (Seasons of a Man's Life) and Gail Sheehy (Passages).

Quote:
I personally think astrology works best as a tool for self-awareness. This might liken it more to one of the humanities disciplines, like philosophy. Horary astrologers might disagree.

I would say self-development, which might be more or less what you mean by self-awareness. But I would add that the tool itself is knowledge of a certain sort, and is helpful only to the extent that it's more than a stab in the dark. As for defining astrology as one of the humanities, I did a quick lookup to clarify in my head how humanities disciplines differ from sciences. Wikipedia refers to "academic disciplines that study human culture, using methods that are primarily analytical, critical, or speculative, and have a significant historical element — as distinguished from the mainly empirical approaches of the natural sciences." It lists "ancient and modern languages, literature, philosophy, religion, and visual and performing arts such as music and theatre." Finally, it adds that "humanities that are also sometimes regarded as social sciences include history, anthropology, area studies, communication studies, cultural studies, law and linguistics."

At the Stanford University website I read, "The humanities can be described as the study of the myriad ways in which people, from every period of history and from every corner of the globe, process and document the human experience. Since humans have been able, we have used philosophy, literature, religion, art, music, history and language to understand and record our world." It also lists the humanities departments there, namely: Art & Art History, Classics, Theater & Performance Studies, East Asian Languages and Cultures, English, History, Linguistics, Music, Philosophy, Religious Studies, and Division of Literatures, Cultures & Languages.

In light of the preceding I suggest that astrology as part of the humanities would be the study of the astrologies of different cultures and/or the history of astrology within a given culture. But astrology as the study of the correspondences or parallels between celestial and human trajectories has more the quality of a science. Given the open-ended methodological issues characteristic of astrology — How should we go about discovering or practicing it? — it resembles the philosophical antecedents of a number of modern social sciences and might better be described as natural philosophy or proto-science.
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Geoffrey



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Posted: Tue Oct 01, 2013 4:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Morpheus wrote:
I wonder how would some one statistically prove love, hate, desire, depression, enthusiasm, enough to live and enjoy life.


Exactly so - you can't. Why not? Because these are subjective judgements and science has nothing to say about such matters.
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Geoffrey



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Posted: Tue Oct 01, 2013 5:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

spock wrote:
. The "problem", not the solution, is books such as Cornelius' Moment of Astrology , which is a brilliant rationalization of astrology as is, of not changing astrology as we've been doing it and want to continue doing it, because we apparently think the alternative is abandoning it altogether (rather than creating a truer astrology that transcends the existing version's limitations).


Actually, this is not what Geoffrey Cornelius was trying to say. Astrology "as it is" today is fundamentally based on Ptolemy's writings, which (as Geoffrey Cornelius relates) amputated the oracular leg on which astrology stood up to Ptolemy's time. Cornelius is arguing that this is an essential limb of astrology and should be re-attached.

The idea that astrology should change to be more "scientific" is not a new one. Gadbury was arguing that 350 years ago. Alan Leo transformed natal astrology at the start of the 20th century to mimic the new science of psychology. (Going the other way, hard evidence has now emerged that Carl Jung actually did use astrology as an adjunct to his psychiatric work.) Many very dedicated astrologers worked very hard through the 20th century to put astrology on a more scientific footing. It was a failed attempt, as Cornelius relates.

And why should reading sheeps entrails, or tea leaves, or tarot card, be any less acceptable to science than astrology? Cornelius would argue that they they should not....
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james_m



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Posted: Tue Oct 01, 2013 7:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

quick comment here. first off - thanks for all the worthwhile comments being made.. i have to say i really like what morpheus said!

regarding the issue of formal education and astrology or science, i would like to keep this a separate conversation,. i am going to start another thread here in the philosophical section about just this.. if it is possible to keep that particular focus to another thread that i or someone else can start, i would really appreciate that to allow for the topic at hand to not get too diverse in nature. thanks!
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waybread



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Posted: Wed Oct 02, 2013 12:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Really interesting insights on statistics, Amelia! Thumbs up

The one qualification I would give is that disciplines tend to deal with unique instances as well as instances in the aggregate-- as we do in astrology. To use an analogy from biology, supposedly each individual organism is unique in some way; as is each species or ecosystem. But evolutionary biologists can discuss them in the aggregate. Just as astrologers do when talking about Mars in Aries, or Venus in the 4th house.

We anticipate that Mars in Aries or Venus in the 4th will share some similar properties or trends across horoscopes. Across many horoscopes; even though each horoscope may be unique.

In philosophical terms, we could discuss the ideographic (the unique instance) versus or in tandem with the nomothetic (generalizations, theories.)

Paul, please do not misunderstand my question about academic degrees in a scientific field. At some level in today's societies, these are the union cards for qualifying as a scientist, like it or not. I didn't invent this fact, I am merely reporting it. We might consider two types of understanding of science: the lay person's or someone who has explored it at a much deeper level. Getting a degree (and increasingly, an advanced degree for levels beyond technician or science teacher) is what it takes to have an insider's view of what a particular scientific discipline is all about.

This isn't to say that an outsider couldn't endeavor to be kept informed. There are a lot of science media out there. But disciplines generally define their own criteria for what it means to have that membership: not the layperson.

As we've discussed before, Paul, astrology is the "wild child" in the disciploinary spectrum. Perhaps it should be, perhaps not.

Morpheus, your scientist-bashing absolutely confirms my point that few astrologers (with some notably exceptions) appear to have either a solid layperson's or an insider's understanding of science or scientists. I mean, how many scientists do you know personally?
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waybread



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Posted: Wed Oct 02, 2013 1:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Spock, I really appreciate your latest post!

I think you answered the second part of Paul's comments to me better than I could have.

Sadly, sometimes scientists do know something about astrology, like newspaper sun-sign columns, or the Jeane Dixon effect. Indian scientists were outraged when the judge declared astrology in India to be a science; and they come from a position of knowing both sides well. If astrologers can't clean up in-house, they can hardly blame scientists for dismissing the most public face of astrology.

A few historians of science, like my hero Otto Neugebauer, have taken astrology seriously-- although as a mathematician and historian. It would be nice if we could emphasize this work, not rant against scientists for misunderstanding poor little astrology. It would help if we did a decent job of communicating, instead of drawing our wagons in a circle.

Let's face it, folks. There is a big, big power differential between science and astrology. Astrologers are the mouse in bed with the elephant. As such, it behooves the mouse to become very realistic about elephants. Criticizing the elephant only reinforces the mouse's inferior position in the dynamic. It doesn't change the elephant.

I think the commonality with astrology and the humanities is precisely what you termed personal development. Ideally this is the goal of reading great literature or studying philosophy. Public historians seek to recreate the past in museums just as traditional historians seek to recreate astrological methods of the past. It would be very interesting to see a dialogue between mundane astrologers and political scientists. So help me, if predictive astrologers could accurately forecast elections or financial trends, the nay-sayers would be silenced.

So far as the social sciences go, many of them today are heavily into qualitative methodologies, based on open-ended interviews, subject involvement in research design, and participant observation. Qualitative methods may be more fruitful than top-down quantitative research.
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Paul
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Posted: Wed Oct 02, 2013 7:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

waybread wrote:

Paul, please do not misunderstand my question about academic degrees in a scientific field. At some level in today's societies, these are the union cards for qualifying as a scientist, like it or not. I didn't invent this fact, I am merely reporting it.


Right, but I'm not asking about the truth of that, I'm asking if you need to have qualifications in science to know what the word science means, and if you need to have a qualification in art to know what the word art means?

I can't help but think that there's a sense of ignoring those views of the people who suggest astrology may be akin to a science based on a lack of university accreditation.

You seem to be suggesting that one needs University accreditation in a science subject in order to be able to identify what science means. I'm curious if you apply the same thinking to art, does one need the same qualifications in art to know what art is? I'm studying for an MSc at the moment, does this make me more capable of determining and identifying what science is? If not, when I complete the course and gain the MSc in paper will I then?

Quote:
Getting a degree (and increasingly, an advanced degree for levels beyond technician or science teacher) is what it takes to have an insider's view of what a particular scientific discipline is all about.


I don't disagree, I'm only questioning whether that is needed in order to identify what science is or is not.
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waybread



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Posted: Wed Oct 02, 2013 8:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Paul, you do misunderstand me.

Let's take an analogy. I've seen you be authoritative and definitive about meanings in astrology. You do this on the basis of of your study and experience. So if I were to post that "domicile" means something contrary to your definition and explanation, you will think I don't know what I am talking about, and possibly post to correct me (in your own inimitable style.)

Why should my comments on "science" be treated differently?

Do you find my remarks elitist? If so, then why shouldn't I find your remarks on astrology definitions elitist? Hey, it's a "free to be you and me" world, isn't it? We're all post-modern, no?

You accept that the experts and practitioners in a field get to define what it means, and what credentials are needed to self-identify as an expert or practitioner of that field. Would a sensible person here accept that someone with little or no knowledge in astrology gets to define it? Probably not.

So the question is, how much expertise is necessary for an "outsider" to understand science-- as scientists themselves understand and practice it?

Obviously there are different levels to get to of understanding.

At one level is the insider's view. Normally the word "scientist" indicates a researcher (vs. a lab technician or science teacher.) In today's world, it would be extremely difficult to get to that level without an advanced degree in a science discipline. (I can go into the structural reasons for this if you wish.) So to understand the meaning of "science" as a research endeavour from an insider's perspective, almost certainly you would need higher academic credentials.

At another level might be the science teacher's understanding of "science." He might have a M. S. (M. Sc.) degree, but can probably teach chemistry to 10th graders on the strength of a B. S., or even a B. Ed. plus science course work. Here we might also put truly dedicated amateurs. For example, bird-watching is a hobby that attracts highly knowledgeable people who are not trained ornithologists. We might put national park naturalists in this category: their job might be primarily interpretation to the general public.

At another level might be someone who simply takes an interest in science. She reads Scientific American, and maybe several websites devoted to science news. Maybe she volunteers at a natural history museum.

And so on down the line of knowledge, until we come to people whose science education stopped in the 9th or 10th grade, and they didn't like it and didn't retain much of what they learned. In this category belong some strident anti-scientists, ranging from evangelical Christians fighting evolution in the schools, to conspiracy theorists, to people who imagine that whatever Isaac Newton did with the apple more or less represents modern physics.

Same thing with "art". However, this word has more loose definitions than science, so it depends what you wish to discuss. The fine and performing arts? Liberal arts? Culinary arts? The art of seduction?

I don't know what field your M. Sc. is in, would you mind saying? Then I could discuss it more directly. But I think you're looking at that "piece of paper" differently than my meaning. If you pass the courses required for the M. Sc., presumably you will know more science in your particular field than you did before you started. Otherwise you could petition for exemption from these courses. Possibly you will write a thesis based on original research and have to defend it in front of a supervisory committee. Then almost certainly you will know more science than you did before you started. If you plan to attain one of the higher levels of scientific understanding that I outlined above, then your degree may qualify you to obtain a more "insider" understanding of science.

So what do you say astrology is, Paul? Art, science, or.....?
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james_m



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Posted: Wed Oct 02, 2013 9:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

as i was saying yesterday, i was hoping the conversation about degrees and educational background and all that could get discussed on a different thread.. would really appreciate someone starting a separate thread on it if they insist on talking about it.. that is also what i did yesterday, but one can start one themselves if they don't want to add to mine. thanks.
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