Class Warfare Blog

July 31, 2020

Astrology Has an Interesting History

Filed under: Culture,History,Reason — Steve Ruis @ 10:09 am
Tags: , ,

Astrology goes way back so I assume it has a pre-history (going back 6000+ years or so) but there is little we can learn about such beliefs before there were written records of what they were. In any case we can learn two things from this long-standing belief. For one, people looked up and studied the points of light in the night sky and the other is that they knew fuck all about what was really happening.

In our western tradition it seems that astrology took off with the ancient Greeks, four to five centuries BCE. It seems to be founded on a belief that the gods or a god set “the heavens” in motion and that those same gods mapped out human destinies onto those motions and positions.

Okay, time for a little science. The vast majority of the planetary bodies formed from an accretion disk that was rotating around our star. Consequently, all of the planets formed in that manner exist in the same plane (roughly) and orbit the Sun in the same direction. Consequently mapping the positions of the planets against the circular horizon (circular in appearance any way) gives a reasonable structure as to the positions of the planets in the night sky.

Also, all of the other stars are so far away that their motions are imperceptible from here, they are the “fixed starts,” meaning fixed into positions. They rotate about an axis viewed from where we are, many videos show this phenomenon and these appear frequently on our TVs. This rotation of the “fixed starts” is an illusion, of course, based upon the fact that the Earth rotates once per day on its axis. (And for those looking for deity designs in that one day per rotation fact, that is just where we got the time term of a “day.” Light to dark and back to light seemed to repeat and it did . . . because of the Earth’s rotation. (Which is slowing down, by the way, by 1.78 milliseconds per century!).

So, the positions of the fixed starts didn’t change in relation to one another. The only things that changed positions were the planets and moons of the planets. And back in the Greeks hey day, there were five known planets (Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn) and the Moon and the Sun. The Babylonians, apparently, invented the zodiac, being sets of fixed stars wrapping around the skies equator, to provide locations in the night sky that (a) could be referred to, and (b) found. The planetary bodies were then mapped as they made their way around this circle.

To believe in astrology, and let me be clear, almost everyone did back then and possibly many, many still do, one has to believe in predestination, that is a destiny for each of us has been ordained (usually by the gods or a god), and you have to believe that your destiny has been mapped by the gods onto the positions of those planetary bodies around the zodiac. (Those “bodies” positions, btw, are perfectly predictable using the laws of science, so changing someones destiny would require a god to shift the position of a planet or two and then change everyone’s memories and all records of that change. (Whew!)

While there has been much written about and claimed for astrology, no mechanism has been given for the direct influence of the planets on our lives, so the gods have to be behind this, ordaining what will happen and then expecting us to seek security through secret decoder rings or whatever.

Knowing what was going to happen to one in a time in which life was far from predictable was very much to be desired, so people consulted astrologers frequently, especially when large undertakings were in the offing. If such an undertaking were fraught with danger and loss, well, destinies were in the control of gods and there were rituals and sacrifices to gain a change in fate. These practices fit hand in glove with the thinking of those people at that time.

The astronomers of the time, who also believed in astrology, didn’t see a connection between their mathematics-based exploration of the skies with astrology, but if they had, there is one thing they could have discovered.

If one plots the positions of the planets on the horizon, as is apparently done in serious German schools of astrology to this day, you can get certain arrangements of the “planets” around that circle and various interpretations can be made.

But, how many unique “prognostications” can be made from these arrangements for any particular day? Hundreds, thousands, maybe. But circa 500 BCE there were roughly 90-100 million people alive on Earth. If they were all to ask for a horoscope to be cast on a particular day, would they each get a forecast unique to them as an individual? I doubt it. There are not enough “heavenly bodies” being tracked and positions they could be in to cover that many people.

Now there are 7+ billion people on Earth. We are not limited to the five observable with the naked eye planets as were the ancient Greeks, but even if we include all of the planets and many of their moons, are we going to come up with 7+ billion unique horoscopes? (Inquiring minds want to know. Note For those not of a certain age, this phrase was used to market a supermarket tabloid, called the National Enquirer. They were famous for defending themselves, in court, during a libel suit by saying “Everybody knows we make this stuff up.”)

So, in order for one to continue to believe in astrology, one has to believe in: determinism, our destinies are created by a god or gods which have the power to change those destinies, and that somehow, some way, 7 billion different horoscopes can be created on any day of the year.

This is why astrology qualifies as a religious belief, a belief in the absence of evidence, not because of the evidence.

 

 

 

 

2 Comments »

  1. Interestingly, astronomers didn’t just once believe in astrology, they were astrologers. Astro-nomy (star math), was essentially the mathematical branch of astro-logy (star knowledge), essentially providing the calculations for (supposedly) better horoscopes. It’s hard to remember that early modern astronomers such as Copernicus, Tycho Brahe, or Galileo, were also astrologers. In their view, astrology was applied astronomy.

    It was in the 1600s, and the rise of the mechanical philosophy, that astrology lost its credibility, at least among the people we now think of as scientists.

    Whether or not it counts as a religion, it’s definitely a pseudoscience.

    Like

    Comment by SelfAwarePatterns — July 31, 2020 @ 12:23 pm | Reply

    • It is definitely pseudoscientific but I went ahead and called it a religion … because it ticks all of the boxes and so qualifies.

      On Fri, Jul 31, 2020 at 12:23 PM Class Warfare Blog wrote:

      >

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by Steve Ruis — July 31, 2020 @ 12:57 pm | Reply


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