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Is Astrology Considered Science Philosophy Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Philosophy
Wordcount: 877 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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At the first instance, one tends to agree with the contention of the author that astrology is not science because the astrological predictions suffer from deficiencies such as (i) they are not supported by sound and verified scientific research, for e.g., statistical studies, (ii) they are not based upon collected data and carefully controlled objective observations, (iii) they are not based upon falsifiable predictions, which are tested and re-tested, by independent observers and researchers, etc. Hence, astrology does not qualify as a study based on scientific theory because it is neither logically consistent internally (all its predictions must be consistent with each other) nor logically consistent externally (unless there are good reasons, it must be consistent with theories which are already known to be valid).

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Nevertheless, it may be appreciated that lots of theories in various disciplines don’t make common sense either. For instance, Einstein and many other contemporary scientists had proposed all kinds of absurd and seemingly ridiculous ideas such as space is curved, that time is really a fourth dimension and not separate from space, that looking at something alters its position, etc. etc. These ideas also don’t make common sense, and sound like the objects of science fiction, but they are taken seriously by scientists not as science fiction but as valid and serious scientific theories. In short, it is not necessary for an idea to make common sense to be scientifically sound. A theory only needs to fit the data. For e.g., Einstein propounded the theory of relativity in 1907-1915 but it was initially considered to be absurd and ridiculous by many till it was corroborated by vast amount of evidence consistent with it. And so far nothing has contradicted it.

Hence, though it may be argued today that astrology is not science, one may have to change his views once its findings are validated, which is currently not being done because of lack of willingness to invest the resources required to validate the studies.

Take away from the Karl Popper’s paper entitled “Science: Conjectures and Refutations.”

The central theme of the paper is how to distinguish between science and pseudo-science. According to Popper, science is distinguished from pseudo-science by its method of analysis – i.e., endeavour to falsify as opposed to expedient adjustments. In a scientific endeavour, a hypothesis is first put forward and observable predictions are deduced from it. Thereafter several attempts are made to refute it. While Popper provides a more broad definition, the basic idea is that the demarcation criterion proposed by him is essentially different from the usually accepted inductive differentiation of science from pseudo-science, and the foundation for a solution to the problem of induction (inference based on repeated observations). From this demarcation criterion, Popper concludes that induction is simply a myth and that the real procedure of science is through conjectures and refutation rather than generalizing from the evidence.

Popper argues that since science repeatedly uses and proposes laws there is no conflict between the problem of induction (that it is impossible to justify a law by experiment or observation) and the principle of empiricism (“that in science, only observation and experiment may decide on the acceptance or rejection of scientific laws and theories”) [1] as any hypothesis accepted by science is tentative only, restricted to the results of empirical tests. Thus, there is only deduction and hence, no problem of induction exists.

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There are, however, two basic problems with Popper’s proposition. Firstly, there is a logical problem that lies at the core of Popper’s demarcation criterion and falsification method. The method suggested by Popper is just too simple; in reality a single conjecture cannot be verified/examined in isolation but rather with many secondary assumptions, including other hypotheses and conjectures. Actually, if the prediction made by the conjecture fails, then all it is possible to say is that either the hypothesis is false, or the other secondary assumptions are false, or both. Just as there is no reason to accept induction, similarly there is no reason to accept falsification also, since in reality, its ability to falsify is severely limited. Secondly, the practical difficulty with Popper’s proposition is that it simply cannot overcome logical problem of induction. Popper’s advice to avoid induction and prefer the predictions of the best corroborated theory, and act as though it were true is not totally correct; there are no reasons for assuming it is true, but, because it is the best verified/validated, we have least reason to assume it is false. The problem though, is that ultimately there is an inference from past experience to the future – and this is induction. The instant any preferred future course of action is deduced from past experience is the moment an inductive jump must be made.


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