Astrology is a controversial topic for many scientists.
They often believe that its claims are wrong-headed, dangerous even, and have been disproved. Unfortunately these arguments are scarcely ever based on actual research. There has in fact been very little serious research into astrology and its claims and what work has been done has produced mixed results.
Some astrologers claim that astrology is a science because it is based on empirical evidence: experience and observation. Quite simply, it seems to work. According to traditional definitions of science, astrology is scientific because it is a discipline which uses set rules to explain natural phenomena. Also, the Greek word ‘scientia’ simply means ‘wisdom’. Some astrologers claim that traditional astrology is a science, while others want to create a new scientific astrology separate from traditional practices. However, modern scientific method usually requires that theories be tested through experiments under controlled conditions.
There have been few real experiments conducted in astrology and the results are mixed – some are positive, others negative. Many experiments are badly designed or damaged by bias, including some which produce negative results and others which produce positive ones. Some astrologers think it should be possible to ‘prove’ astrology experimentally, but others argue that no two people have the same horoscope and that we are all unique, so it’s a mistake to imagine that we can gather large numbers of horoscopes together and test astrology’s validity statistically. Others say that the astrological process exists only while the astrologer is reading a horoscope, and that artificial experimental conditions cannot hope to capture the magic of the moment.
The position is also confused, however, by the use of the term ‘occult science’: such a description is anathema to most modern scientists, for ‘occult’ means ‘hidden’ whereas science deals with things which we can see and measure. But it is unwise to take a dogmatic position. The truth is that sometimes astrology appears to be scientific, based on rules and regulations, while at others it is clearly an art, dependent on the astrologer’s creative reading of the chart. Some astrologers call astrology ‘an art and a science’ but it’s probably best to avoid such descriptions: perhaps it’s misleading to try and describe astrology in terms of other disciplines. In the end each astrologer arrives at a personal understanding of astrology based entirely upon his or her own experiences. So is astrology a science or not? Ultimately it’s all a matter of definitions! Realizing that this is the case some people, both for and against astrology, are beginning to argue that the key question is not whether astrology is provable, but whether it is useful.
The most significant statistical research into astrology in the twentieth century was conducted by the French statistician Michel Gauquelin. He came up with a number of results linking parents’ horoscopes to children’s charts, and other results which linked individual planets to outstanding professional success. The most famous of these is the Mars Effect, which linked the planet Mars to major sporting achievement. Scientists have spent over forty years arguing about this – and the jury is still out.