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Were Ancient Babylonian Stargazers Scientists?

May 8, 2017

By Edward Snow   

Maybe, but science writer Philip Ball doesn’t seem to think so

British science writer Philip Ball suggests there are three reasons why ancient Babylonian astrologers should not be considered scientists.

For one thing, they never sought a mechanism (for how astrology might work). And their motives were not to understand the cosmos but to search for practical or pragmatic information or clues a king might factor into decisions related to governing the realm.

Also, Ball believes, the ancient astrologers’ model was faulty. Case closed.

British astrologer Robert Currey isn’t so sure. On his 21st century website he writes that for more than six hundred years before the birth of Christ the scholars of Mesopotamia in various civilizations (like Babylon and Assyria) observed the heavens and meticulously collected the data in menologies or diaries on fired clay tablets.

“From this database they developed mathematical and astrological theories and applied the same rigor in developing astronomical theories. This is the earliest known empirical experiment conducted on a huge scale and the results in terms of mathematics, time-keeping, agriculture and even psychology and religion still have a huge impact on our lives,” he said.

Currey has been a professional astrologer since 1981 and consults, writes, lectures, conducts research and develops astrological software. Also, he is Science Editor for the Astrology News Service (ANS).

He says the mechanism ancient astrologers believed to be responsible for planetary movement envisioned gods with human or animal-like qualities.

“This was a perfectly reasonable assumption given the limited amount of information available to ancient stargazers. But the same applies today when cosmologists tell us we live in a universe of meaningless and purposeless physical forces.

“This model may well prove to be misguided by future generations,” he said.

Currey says that long after the Babylonians, astrology remained a stimulus for scientific advancement. Johannes Kepler discovered his third law as a result of his quest for a harmonious pattern in the solar system based on astrology. And Isaac Newton learned geometry while studying a text book on astrology.

“I believe that those who still take astrology seriously are upholding the ancient Babylonian tradition. A scientific approach to modern astrology would be to take the claims of serious astrologers seriously, and to investigate them with an open mind before drawing any conclusions,” he said, adding:

“Good scientific practice requires a spirit of open inquiry and critical thinking rather than simply following accepted wisdom without investigating the evidence.”

More articles by Currey can be found on his website,

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