Astrology by Hand Week 2
Rectifying Science and Astrology
Last week I described the efforts to make astrology capable of being examined by science. This week we look at a major problem with that whole effort.
A Problem with the Scientific Approach: The Gauquelin Data
Beginning in the 1950s, two French Psychologists, Michel and Francoise Gauquelin began doing research of tremendous importance. The details are too complex to go into in this column, but in general they discovered that planets did affect individuals who were born with those planets in certain specific places in the chart. The results they obtained were extremely statistically significant with odds against chance that were very much greater than the minimum usually considered necessary to establish a statistical correlation.
Almost everyone who has studied the Gauquelins’ work has concluded that their results confirm the existence of some kind of astrological effect, that is, planets do seem to have some influence in determining an individual’s character or behavior. This is radical enough in itself, but most of those who have examined the results have overlooked the most radical implication of the results.
The Importance of the Birth Moment
In astrology, we take the moment of birth as the beginning of life. The natal chart is erected for the moment of the first breath or cry after the child is completely out of the mother. This has always been a source of controversy because of conception. Doesn’t the life of the individual actually begin when the egg is fertilized in the mother’s womb? Even in ancient times this fact was recognized, although ancient astrologers did in fact give very good reasons for using the birth moment. They did not just ignore the objection.
But with our modern understanding of genetics, the argument for the time of conception over the moment of birth seems even more compelling. This argument has often been used by astrology’s critics as a reason for rejecting astrology, at least as we practice it. However, the Gauquelin results were obtained using the moment of birth, not conception. This is a strong confirmation of the standard astrological practice, even if that practice seems against logic from a modern point of view. That is point number one!
But point number two is even more radical. Even if we grant that the planets somehow influence our lives, why should one moment of that influence be so important? Conception makes a little more sense than birth because one could argue that the arrangement of the planets at conception might affect which sperm unites the egg and therefore what the genetic make-up of the individual is going to be. But at birth the individual that is born is fully-formed genetically. Only the results of environment are left to have an effect. But those influences should be the continuing product of the motions of the planets at any time.
There is no reason why the birth moment should have any continuing effect on how the individual reacts to the ongoing planetary influences. Yet this is exactly what astrology claims, and the Gauquelin data demonstrates. This is the main hurdle that any would-be ”scientific” explanation of astrology has to overcome. If geomagnetism affects people, why should the geomagnetism of the birth moment have a continuing effect?
And It Gets Worse!
All of this is also only taking the birth chart into account. What about some of astrology’s other methods of prediction such as progressions, and directions that do not even use real-time celestial motions, but rather celestial motions in a kind of symbolic time? All told, either the methods that astrologers use are completely bogus (which is obviously not my experience), or it is going to be very hard to make astrology into a new kind of science without making some radical changes in our notions of science.
This is my point: For science to accept astrology in anything like the form in which it now exists, the fundamental philosophical assumptions of science have to change radically. I think that scientists, even those who know very little about astrology (which is most of them) intuitively recognize that astrology and science, as they both are now, are completely incompatible.
We can do scientific-type investigations of astrology. The Gauquelins did. We can find things that are truly astounding. But I do not think that we can incorporate astrology into the theoretical and philosophical structure of the sciences without abandoning most of what constitutes astrology. I believe that science will discover more and more that there are correlations between planetary movements and terrestrial phenomena, but that will be about it. They will declare that this is not astrology, or that it is the ”real” astrology, and that what we do is bogus.
In the next several articles we will look some more at this question and also look at some other theories and explanations concerning astrology.
Next Week: I plan to look at whether or not astrology is a form of magic.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Rob Hand, author of Planets in Transit and other works, is now involved in the translation and publication of texts regarding ancient and medieval astrology through ARHAT Media Inc.