The disciplines of ‘astronomy’ and ‘astrology’ often confuse many people. And it’s not just because they sound so similar. After all, they both share a common origin and a deep connection with the celestial heavens. Furthermore, both studies continue to increase in popularity with each passing year. Most everyone, for instance, knows their zodiac sign and each year astrology sites perform millions of readings for true believers or those looking for some kind of guidance from above. Meanwhile, popular astronomy sites continue to attract millions of unique visitors each and every month.
Definition of Astronomy vs Astrology
“Astronomers examine the positions, motions, and properties of celestial objects. Astrology attempts to study how those positions, motions, and properties affect people and events on Earth.” (skyandtelescope.com).
Is there any science behind astrology?
It’s astrology that tells you what kind of day you will have every time you go through that ‘horoscope’ section in your newspaper. However, modern-day astronomy has nothing at all to do with human behavior. In other words, there is no way you can imagine an astrologer working at NASA!
Astrology is more of a pseudo-science that revolves around the belief that the position of planetary objects, such as the Sun, Moon and planets, during an individual’s birth have a major role in determining that person’s present and future. In addition to horoscopes, the field of astrology extends to tarot cards, psychic reading, numerology, and palmistry. Nevertheless, astrology, makes no attempt to measure its predictive human behavior results. Astrology not being a science also means that universities do not offer accredited degrees in the subject.
Is astronomy a natural science?
Yes, astronomy is a natural science that studies celestial phenomena and objects in the universe, and the processes that govern their life cycles. As such, it is possible to obtain an accredited college degree in the subject. University students majoring in astronomy are also expected to have an aptitude for physics and mathematics.
They will also encounter a range of other related scientific subjects during their studies. These will include celestial mechanics, astrophysics, nuclear physics, chemistry, biology, geology, and cosmology.
Astronomy makes no attempt to link human behavior and terrestrial events with what is taking place beyond the Earth’s atmosphere. Instead, scientists believe that the study of psychology, sociology, and medicine provide a better understanding of human behavior. Similarly, they believe meteorology, geology, and oceanography more directly influence human events. Finally, astronomy rigorously attempts to measure and verify its findings. Over the years, it has subsequently devised many instruments to aid in this pursuit. Including optical telescopes, radio telescopes, and diffraction gratings.
Communal Roots of Astronomy and Astrology
Astronomy is a science. Astrology, on the other hand, is an ancient belief system. However, they both share historical roots and it wasn’t until the 17th century and the Scientific Revolution that a definitive split took place between these studies. Before then, religious doctrine determined the development of science. As mentioned, both astrology and astronomy share common roots. And for millennia one of the main driving forces for improvements in astronomy was the desire of astrologers to produce more accurate future predictions.
Why was astrology created?
Throughout history, a conscious effort has been made to measure, record, and foretell the seasons. And importantly determine the right time of year for people to plant or harvest their crops. Astrology subsequently became the means by which to predict the recurrence of various celestial events.
Ancient people also believed that their gods lived amongst the stars. And each night when they looked up to the sky, they would make observations of the celestial bodies, wonder as to their origin, and create stories associated with their religious beliefs. Over time, the stars were organized into constellations. Those appearing in the Sun’s path (ecliptic) were deemed especially important, and were arranged into twelve 30 degree divisions known as the zodiac. Astrologers assert that whatever zodiac constellations the Sun appears in an at the time of a person’s birth, known as their zodiac sign, will determine their personality.
History of astrology timeline
In the East, India and China developed intricate systems for using the position of the planets and stars to foretell the future. In the West, astrology originated in Mesopotamia around 1950 BCE. Its influence then spread westwards to Ancient Greece following the conquest of Asia during the reign of Alexander the Great (336–323 BCE). Finally, the practice traveled on towards Rome, the rest of Europe, and the Middle East.
In Mesopotamia , the ancient Babylonians were famed for their knowledge of the heavens. Although, back then astrologers were not assigned separate roles for predicting celestial phenomena (astronomy), or interpreting their divine meaning (astrology). Instead, astronomer-priests performed both functions. A Babylonian priest could apparently divine what the gods were planning by observing and interpreting the movements of their gods represented by the various celestial bodies. This includes the Sun (Shamash), Moon (Sin), and the five planets of Jupiter (Marduk), Venus (Ishtar), Saturn (Ninurta), Mercury (Nabu), and Mars (Nergal).
From 600 to 130 BCE, the Greeks changed astronomy from a religious observational study into a theoretical science whose prime concern was discovering the structure of the universe. Nevertheless, astrology continued to enjoy popular support and was commonly practiced throughout history. Its acceptance or rejection, however, fluctuated with the fashion and taste of royal courts and other powerful figures of the era. By the 17th century and the ‘Age of Reason’, astrology had fallen out of favor with the intellectual elite. These scholars, academics and scientists increasingly viewed the practice as being superstition, and lacking any evidential support.
Astrology’s academic and theoretical validity has been questioned due to an absence of supporting scientific evidence. The subject has attracted further criticism recently due to its commercial nature and claims to predict life events.
Needless to say, scientists frequently contradict the claims and predictive value of astrologers. Therefore, verifiable tests will have to be produced to measure their effectiveness if astrology predictions are ever to be taken serious. In the meantime, astrology and horoscopes will continue to be thought of as a bit of harmless fun and a form of entertainment by most people. In addition, one cannot completely dismiss astrology’s observations of the stars. After all, these are usually based on careful records, or calculations from astronomers.