A former student of mine who is a diehard supporter of the BJP and its radicalism wrote on Facebook: “So some of the political parties in my country has (sic) a stern view that 'Astrology' is no science.” I don’t know if the political parties in India have really stern views about anything, let alone astrology. Isn’t politics, particularly the kind one finds in India, all about opportunism? Even the BJP, my student’s own party, would have made all kinds of flip-flops had it not won the absolute majority in the Lok Sabha elections, hugging strange bedfellows and cooking up a bizarre coalition. The drama that unfolded in Maharashtra after the Assembly elections is a mild indicator of the nature of politics in India.
The stars in the heavens do not alter their positions a bit while such dramas unfold all over the world.
Do the stars affect our lives in any significant way? When the Earl of Kent said in Shakespeare’s King Lear, “It’s the stars, / The stars above us, govern our conditions,” did he really mean that the stars determine our destiny? Or was he expressing his pathetic inability to understand why evil strikes down good people? Maybe, he was plunging desperately into escapism due to wretched helplessness. Earlier in the play, another character (Edmund, “the bastard son” of the Earl of Gloster) says, “This is the excellent foppery (foolishness) of the world: that when we are sick in fortune (often the surfeit of our own behaviour), we make guilty of our disasters, the sun, the moon, and the stars; as if they were villains by necessity.”
I go with Edmund. Astrology is not science but a good means of throwing our guilt, inability or sheer mistakes on to some other entity. The stars are a good place to throw them since they are far enough to do anything about our shamelessly irresponsible acts.
Science follows rigorous rules. It can prove what it claims. It can prove it anywhere, anytime, under the stipulated conditions. Astrology cannot do that. Hence it is not science. QED. My logic is as simple as that.
That does not mean astrology should be thrown lock, stock and barrel into the garbage bin. Science is essentially an attitude of openness. Science is the relentless quest for truth. As such, science can research into the claimed impact of the stars and the planets on human lives or whatever. I support research, inquiry and quest for truth. But I sternly oppose unwarranted assertions of truth.
Everything in the universe is interconnected. There are laws that govern the positions and movements of the planets and other heavenly bodies. The laws connect the heavenly bodies to one another. The bodies attract one another with forces beyond our earthly imaginations. The oceans on the earth respond to the pull of the moon, for example. Lovers too do, it seems. There’s much connection between the moon and romance in poetry, at least. But poetry is not science! When I was a boy I used to hear my villagers speaking about the relationship between the full moon and the mating season of the cattle. That’s not poetry, I guess because the villagers had empirical evidence.
There are many things that science may not have understood yet. That’s a limitation of science. But that is also the strength of science, I know. Astrology lacks that strength. Hence it is not science.
But I’m a greater lover of literature than science. Hence I admire the stars and the poetry they communicate. I can hear the music of the heavenly spheres if I care to stand quietly in the right place. The stars and the spheres can alter my feelings and attitudes. To that extent, astrology is valid for me. But is that the astrology that the BJP will include in the curriculum it is proposing?
Scientist Carl Sagan said in his book Cosmos, “The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of starstuff.” There is science and poetry in the utterance. The first sentence is science. The second is poetry. I love both. Where does astrology lie?