This post has a context. See: http://faljyotishachikitsa.blogspot.com/2008/05/press-conference-astrological-test.html, and the subsequent public meetings and things in the Pune press about the test.
I just wanted to note it down here that I contacted by email Dr. Jayant Narlikar (on May 18th) as well as Mr. Prakash Ghatpande (on May 20). I expressed my curiosity as well as my willingness to take part in this test. However, I have not received any reply from either of them.
This is surprising. May be, there was some part in my writing that really threw them off.
The thing is: I am an “expert” reader of “patrika”s (by Indian, I mean North Indian, I mean moden Maharashtrian, system). But, I don’t believe in astrology.
May be, it was this combination which was so rare that it threw them off… So much so that they just decided to leave me alone! LOL!!
And yet, the fact of the matter is: both the above sentences are quite true—I *really* have gone through astrology books and studied them, and yet, I don’t believe in it. I taught it myself purely out of curiosity and fun, that’s all…
Anyways, here’re excerpts from my email to Dr. Narlikar: (The excerpt is in italics, and appears here after some minor copy-editing.)
I have read books and taught myself astrology. (I wouldn’t be dumb enough to enroll in the government’s program though.) [Extra note for this blog: The BJP+ government began this program to fund astrology via India’s University Grants Commission. The Congress+ government has still not cancelled it. For further insights into this phenomenon, read Ayn Rand’s “Establishing of an Establishment.”] I have downloaded astrology software and often play with them. I can easily reproduce much of the “prediction” of what any traditional Vedic astrologer would tell you, given a “patrika.” I have surprised a lot of people with the “quality” of my “readings”. (When it comes to astrology, “quality” cannot be defined in any way other than as agreement with what other astrologers say—the agreement with observation is a non-issue, in principle.) So, I certainly am an “expert” reader of “patrika”s.
But, I don’t believe in patrika. Several reasons:
1. By way of general philosophy, I accept the premises of free-will and primacy of existence over consciousness (i.e., more generally and actually, Ayn Rand’s Objectivism).
2. The “theoretical” structure of astrology is such that its abstractions are completely floating—without any identifiable base in or with observations. Further, even as a purely symbolic sort of structure (reliant only on deductions, not inductions), these abstractions still are replete with “petitio principii” (circularity). For instance, here is one circle: It is the planet that is important. No, it is not. It is the lord of the house. No it is not. It is the other planet(s) with which the lord of the house has aspect(s). No, they are not. It is the lord of the house of *those* planets…. (The second circle has already begun in case you didn’t notice it… One can now have an infinite number of circles.)
3. There exist “shlok”s (i.e. Sanskrit verses) for interpreting [the planetary] configurations in a good or bad way (or in any given way and its opposite way). If so, how is it that astrologers come to interpret them uniformly—i.e. how come there is reasonable degree of agreement among astrologers? *That*, in turn, really speaking, is purely arbitrary. It (really) changes “desh-kaal-sthal paratve”. Thus, the relative uniformity in interpretation is obtained only by following the same school of thought or doctrine. Thus, when I say that I am an expert, I mean to say that my interpretations agree fairly well with those of Vedic astrologers generally found in Maharashtra (more generally North India, more generally, India) of our current times—that’s all!!
At the same time, I also wonder if the methodology proposed by ANS would be most suited for testing of astrology, in the sense, whether it might not be subtly biased in favor of ANS…. I mean to say, if I had a bunch of verses that came to my notice for the first time in the history of the world, and if I wanted to find out if they work out or not, if they are true or not, I would go about in a somewhat different way for testing them… But, all that’s for another day…
The excerpt clearly tells you where I stand w.r.t. this pseudo-science (and why). So, I won’t bother writing about it again.
Yet, there remains a philosophic matter which is still of some interest. It is: Whether astrology should at all be subjected to a test or not. In other words: Why can’t it be simply acknowledged that this idea of astrology itself is so blatantly ridiculous, so obviously contradictory, that it must be dismissed right out of hand for being arbitrary? (Here, the term “arbitrary” is to be taken in the specifically Objectivist sense.)
It is this above issue which is really somewhat interesting to me. If there is interest in knowing more about it, I will address it at some other time. Enough to state here that I don’t think there are enough grounds to dismiss astrology as arbitrary. (Compared to several thinkers, I tend to be much more lenient (though not lax). Here, I also wish to observe that it is far easier for thinkers in the West to oppose astrology simply because Christianity opposes it—not because they have objectively thought the merits of the issue that well…)