Qualitative Time and Non-Causal Phenomena
In Astrology Have No Place in Science
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The Problem Posed by a Qualitative Concept of Time
As insurmountable as these philosophical hurdles to a scientific practice of astrology are, they are at least hurdles that we share with other helping professions. The last two hurdles I want to mention briefly in this article, cut more specifically to the core of what is unique about astrology.
First, astrology is predicated on the idea that each moment in time is qualitatively unique. The birthchart is like a 10-handed clock, with each hand moving at a different rate of speed. If you consider the asteroids, or trans-Neptunians, or hypothetical planets, you can add an almost unlimited number of hands to this already complex clock. I haven’t worked out the mathematics, but obviously it would take a very long time for all the hands of this clock to be lined up in exactly the same way as they are right now. It may never happen again – which means this moment in time is utterly unique. Through our observation of the planetary positions and the pattern of interplanetary relationship in a birthchart for this moment, we can describe the quality of this moment. This is a truly amazing feat, though one we probably take it for granted.
The problem here is that science neither recognizes the uniqueness of the moment, nor its qualitative dimension. There is some room in scientific circles for understanding time as a cyclical phenomenon, but very little room, if any, for discussing the quality of the moment. Time in the scientific sense is a uniform, consistent unit of quantitative measurement. Period. In a post-quantum world, time has become a bit more bendable, but not qualitative. Because there is no way for science to measure quality objectively, to talk about time in qualitative terms is distinctly non-scientific. This is a problem for astrologers whose stock in trade is an assessment of the quality of the moment.
The Ever-Elusive Causal Mechanism Behind Astrology’s Usefulness
A second very large philosophical hurdle is that nobody really knows how astrology works. How is it that “as above is reflected below?” How is it that the apparent arrangement of astronomical objects in space can have any relationship whatsoever to phenomena on earth? Do we have a cogent explanation for this? Do we have an explanation with a body of research to back it up? We do not.
Hard scientists – those that consider astrology a bastardized version of astronomy – demand a causal explanation, one that has undergone rigorous testing. Aside from a few tantalizing bits of research showing the correlation of lunar phase with a wide range of phenomena (1), or planetary influences on metal salts in solution (2), or aspect patterns and radio interference (3), there is very little hard evidence to support the idea that a birthchart or anything in it causes anything. Could some physical causal explanation for the validity of the astrological premise ever be discovered that would satisfy science? Maybe. But it does not yet exist, and given the glacial rate at which scientific paradigms shift, if a causal explanation for astrology were discovered tomorrow, it would take decades, if not centuries to do the necessary research to validate the hypothesis. In the short term, this is not going to help us much in gaining credibility within scientific circles.
Most astrologers now believe that there is a non-causal mechanism – such as synchronicity – that more accurately explains how astrology works. But again, unless we are prepared to show how the principle of synchronicity itself works, then more specifically how it works in an astrological way, giving rise to a wide range of diverse phenomena in the same moment, then we are dead in the scientific water. Simply stating that in our experience it does work, or even pooling our collective anecdotal voices in a very loud declaration that it does work, will not be sufficient. Science demands a rigorously tested hypothesis, and until we have one, we are paupers at the gates of the castle without the necessary invitation to the wedding.
(1) Townley, John. “Can the Full Moon Affect Human Behavior?” Inner Self. 5 November 2009.
(2) Dean, Geoffrey and Arthur Mather, eds. “Planets and Metals,” and “Planetary Effects on Chemical Reactions.” Recent Advances in Natal Astrology: A Critical Review 1900-1976. pp. 228-232.
(3) Ibid. “Nelson’s Work,” pp 307-312.
The last post in this series is Astrology: If Not Science, Then What?
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