I’ve been thinking about the classification of astrology as a “pseudoscience” ever since the now well-known study appeared that indicated an “unsettling growth” in the belief in pseudoscience such as astrology and visits by extraterrestrial aliens.
In the first place, the lumping together of astrology with extraterrestrial alien visits is puzzling, but this is likely the result of the media and most scientists believing that sun sign “horoscopes” are astrology, and then horoscopes and alien visits become fodder for tabloid journalism.
Richard Tarnas in his excellent book Cosmos and Psyche writes that as human intelligence has become more scientific there has been a loss of a sense of connection with the natural world; a loss of a sense that the universe is magic and soulful. (For a fascinating philosophical discussion of this book and its implications see this debate on an Amazon discussion board.) As we astrologers know, everyone is wired differently; some of us have strong Neptune/Pisces influences that impel us to seek out experiences beyond the realms of “reality.” Some have strong Uranus/Aquarius influences that require a logical basis for their belief system.
Popper considered astrology to be pseudoscientific simply because astrologers keep their claims so vague that they could never be refuted, whereas Thagard considers astrology pseudoscientific because its practitioners make little effort to develop the theory, show no concern for attempts to critically evaluate the theory in relation to others, and are selective in considering evidence.
I confess to being one of these practitioners that shows no concern for critically evaluating whether astrology works or to prove it to others. For me and most other practitioners the question is this: Does it help me? Can it help people to better understand themselves so that they can break free of patterns that limit their ability to enjoy a meaningful life? I am not one who must know the reason why something works in order to accept that it does if I see irrefutable evidence of its efficacy. Yet I consider myself to be rather a skeptic on many other things, such as the ability to predict the future, to channel Mother Mary or some other dead entity, or that during the Rapture only Christians will be saved.
The question we must ask ourselves is whether we need to classify astrology as a science at all. The tropical system used in astrology is not astronomically correct, and even our interpretations of the symbols evolves over time. The integration of the symbols in the birthchart into a meaningful whole is more of an art than a science and indeed, there is a bit of magic to the whole process as there is to all of life. Scientists and skeptics assume that we know all there is to know about our existence, when nothing could be further from the truth.
Update: After writing this I found Dharma’s post from yesterday which includes this gem:
Reality is much bigger and deeper and more mysterious than the 3-D box we need to function through to make everyday life possible; a 3-D Box that the orthodox religion of our time, Science, declares to be the only reality. This wider reality is not directly perceptible through the 5 senses, but through feeling/intuition. It is a faculty that naturally grows through time, through the experience that somehow we are being helped, protected and looked after. And that if we reach out to this wider reality, if we live it, in turn it will reach back to us and help our lives unfold in exactly the way they need to.
Our side of the bargain is Saturn: there are things we need to take care of. God’s side of the bargain is Neptune: there are things he takes care of. (I don’t believe in God, it’s just a way of putting it). Saturn-Neptune is about the dance between these two, knowing when it is time to act, and when it is time to get out of the way, so that our limited understanding doesn’t get in the way of the deeper patterning of life. And this deeper patterning is a positive power, it’s tangible, and it runs through everything.