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The Science and Astrology Debate

January 18, 2011

By ANS   

The late Arthur M. Young was a mathematician, physicist, engineer, inventor, philosopher and astrologer whose life’s work included notable accomplishments in both physics and metaphysics.  He was, for example, the inventor of the Bell helicopter.  But he also was founder of the Institute for the Study of Consciousness in Berkeley, California.

Mr. Young once noted that in the three hundred years since the Copernican revolution, when science got its start in Galileo’s and Newton’s discoveries of the laws that account for the motion of the planets, science has repeatedly revised its theories to accommodate new discoveries or facts.  In the pattern that has emerged over centuries, science has progressed by revising its beliefs, not by insisting on them.

Examples abound.  Although his claims met with initial resistance, Edwin Hubble’s discovery that the universe is expanding marked the cosmological end for the almost universally accepted “steady state” theory.  And earlier in the 20th century, Max Plank’s major finding that light was radiated in “quanta” or units of action, such that their energy divided by the frequency was always the same, was not generally accepted for more than two decades.  However, once again, theory was forced to yield to facts.  Quantum theory, which recognizes uncertainty, replaced the determinism of classical theory.

The Institute for the Study of Consciousness founded by Arthur Young remains philosophically committed to the idea that science (and our concept of universe) should not be exclusively limited to that which can be physically measured.  Young studied astrology for many years and once made the point that thoughtful people who study the subject find sufficient evidence for its validity.  Despite a lack of quantitative precision comparable to some science, there is general agreement among those who practice astrology that they can employ the same rules and get the same results.

Art Young was not content to leave it at that.  He also suggested that since the objection of science to astrology is theoretical (astrology could not be true because there is no explanation for it) it must eventually follow that the facts of astrology would win out and make it necessary for science to revise its theories, as has happened so often before.
How likely is this?

Astrology is in the unenviable position of having once been “disproved” by science based on a simple but profound discovery:  the planets and even more distant stars are a lot farther from earth than once believed.  In fact, the distances are so great that no mechanism known to science (gravity, electro-magnetic energy, etc.) could account for the discipline’s curious claims, or so it seemed.  But then along came the next major scientific revelations and with them festering doubts.

It was bad enough that quantum physics was able to demonstrate that in the unseen world of particle physics every subatomic particle knows what every other subatomic particle it has ever interacted with is doing no matter how great the distance between them becomes.  Once subatomic particles become entangled (bump into each other) the simple act of measuring a particle at one location will instantaneously produce a response in its “correlated” pair.  The particle twin might be sitting in the lab next door or embedded in surface dust on the dark side of the moon.  Or it could be floating aimlessly somewhere in the Ort Cloud; it doesn’t matter.  If something causes an entangled particle in one location to spin in a certain direction its entangled particle twin will instantaneously spin in the opposite direction.

This phenomenon, which Einstein called “spooky action-at-a-distance,” provided spectacular physical evidence that the cosmos is interconnected in ways not previously imagined.  And then, as the 20th century was drawing to a close, cosmologists began to converge on the idea that most of the universe is comprised of mysterious dark matter and energy.

That the universe contains more than the physical matter we can see and measure was first suggested by Swiss astrophysicist Fritz Zwicky in 1934.  However, his idea was ridiculed and corroborating evidence didn’t begin to turn up for another 40 years.  Today, cosmologists mostly agree that unseen dark matter and dark energy are what’s holding galaxies together in tight clusters while expanding the fabric of space.

Although no one knows what either is, according to some estimates these invisible forces are believed to account for about 90 percent of everything in existence.
Among other things, what this would appear to suggest is that the formidable  scientific case against astrology is solely based on the 10 percent of reality that can actually be measured by the tools of man.  Which, by scientific standards, is a relatively paltry sample size upon which to hang one’s hat.

So is it possible that astrology will win out and science will revise its opinions on   the subject anytime soon?

It will probably take more than dark matter, dark energy and “spooky action at a distance” to cause a seismic correction in scientific thinking on the subject.  But this doesn’t change the fact that, in the current era, cutting-edge research continues to expose serious flaws in the physical arguments scientists have used for centuries to debunk astrology.  Simply, as methodologies and technologies have improved, researchers have been finding that few of the interesting new things they’re able to observe in the natural world fit existing scientific theories all that well.  Increasingly, the evidence reveals a cosmos that is more coherent, connected and “informed” in ways not previously imagined.

Of course, none of this necessarily “proves” the validity of astrology; kicking the props from under dated scientific arguments is only the first step in a process.  But its also true that many of the new revelations occurring in the fields of physics, biology, cosmology and the new field of consciousness research are more fundamentally compatible with basic astrological assumptions than some would have us believe.

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