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Ancient Science at Modern Universities
Jyotir Vijnana

Anshumalee Sood

In response to an initiative to start astrology as a regular subject of study in the Indian universities, a lot of hue and cry has been raised by sundry groups as well as individuals claiming to be scientists or rationalists. The Indian English language press has shown its vulgar prejudice against astrology by highlighting the objections of the self-styled rationalists while refusing to publish the views of the scientific astrologers. Virtually all the critics of astrology happen to be those who have never studied astrology and are, therefore, unqualified to comment about this grand subject. Such lamentably unscientific attitude of the so-called educated class in India augurs ill for the Indian intellectuals. That they wait for an approval from the west in all matters of intellect only emphasises their state of deep intellectual slavery. The good news, however, for the believer in ancient Indian wisdom is that the west too has noticed merit in this wisdom and has started adopting it in a big way. Thus we see that even in Britain, there is a move to study the relevance of astrology. We do have an apprehension that if the principles of Vedic astrology are not judiciously applied in a given study, the results may not be convincing enough. But we do derive solace from the fact that the era of astrological thinking has arrived. Already in the USA, a great movement in favour of Vedic astrology has started. There are over five hundred established Vedic astrologers in the USA. Regular international astrological meets are organised there which are attended by astrologers from widely separated parts of the world. A new enthusiasm about Vedic astrology in the Western world is converting more and more practitioners of Western astrology to the more authentic Vedic astrology. While these developments take a more concrete shape, we do pray to the Lord Almighty to shear our unscientific scientists and pseudo-rationalists of their slavish overhang. – Editor

Is astrology a science?

This was a headline in one the leading dailies recently. The newspaper report went on to state that following India’s lead in the matter Britain too is contemplating the introduction of astrology as a mainstream subject at the university level. It is indeed likely and ironic that consequent upon such a development, those in the front ranks of the critics, having no basis of their own, desiring to be identified with the so called educated class under the influence of western culture and slavish overhang, with imported learning and natural ignorance of the rich Vedic heritage, will tend to temper down. Though the debate has been on since a long time now, however it has been brought to the forefront yet again as a result of a recent decision by the University Grants Commission of India (UGC) to introduce astrology as a mainstream subject in the universities in India, as Jyotir Vigyan, at graduate, post-graduate and doctoral level. The so-called independent print media too is apparently biased against for reasons best known to them. While the negative side put forward by the so-called eminent personalities of science is put forth, the rebuttal of the same by the members of the very same scientific community is not even acknowledged by the media. The irony of it all is that the so called scientists are only managing to express their ignorance of the subject and are going about doing so in as blatantly non-scientific manner as may be possible. Is there a possibility, howsoever remote that the ‘scientific’ community and may be the media too are feeling a wee bit threatened of being exposed?

As a result of all this I have been meaning to express my views on the matter. The catalyst was provided by a recent mail from a fellow astrologer Sarajit Poddar and some of the credit for the views in the article must go to him. Before going into the merits of the debate as to whether Astrology is a Science or not, we must understand what is science? How science is defined ...

A Brief Definition of Science

Science is a process of searching for fundamental and universal principles that govern causes and effects in the universe. The process itself is a method of building, testing, and connecting hypothetical models to describe, explain and predict the outcome. The method includes hypothesis, repeatable experiments and observations, and new hypothesis. The prime criterion in determining the usefulness of a model is the ease with which the model correctly makes predictions or explains phenomena.

Valid predictions/results are those that are verifiable by independent observers and whose causes and effects do not change in time and/or space. If forces cause accelerations today, we must assume that this was so a thousand years ago. The fundamental causes and effects that exist today existed in the past and will exist in the future, allowing us to understand and agree upon past events. If we do not share consistency of cause and effect, then it will be impossible to test all theories explaining past events and falsify them. The process will then cease to be a part of science.

Science as a process

Science is not a collection of facts and theories. The process by which we develop theories is science, not the theories themselves. The fact that objects accelerate on earth under the influence of gravity at 9.8m/s2 is not science. The theory from Newton that predicts objects accelerate at this rate is also not science. The process used to develop the theory is science.

Theories must be subject to falsification

There must be a way to prove the theory wrong. If we can’t prove it wrong, then it is not a scientific theory. This idea of a theory being subject to falsification is one of the most important aspects of science. The theory, “beyond Earth there is intelligent life in the universe,” may be true, but it is not a scientific theory since there is no way to prove it false.

Theories must be able to predict

All science theories must have some predictive nature. Even if a theory does not in itself make predictions, it does have consequences and can be used to make some sort of predictions. Einstein’s theory of relativity, which he developed in the early 1900s, predicted changes in the passage of time for objects travelling at extremely high speeds. Much later than the time of Einstein, we can now confirm that electronic watches carried on the space ships show altered timings when compared with the terrestrial watches. This is how the validity of a theory is confirmed. This is how a valid theory is able to predict.

It inspires more confidence when two independent theories confirm one another. Cosmic rays create new particles high in the upper atmosphere. It was noted that according to a theory of radioactive decay, particles should not be observed to hit the surface of the earth because the “half life” was too short. Observations showed that the particles did hit the earth. By using one of Einstein’s equations in relativity theory it was shown that time slowed down for the particles traveling toward earth. The theory matched experimental results and both the theory of relativity and the theory of radioactive decay were supported.

Experiments must be repeatable

It is not acceptable that only one person or only one group can obtain results that support the theory. Anyone using proper procedures must be able to achieve the same results.

Confidence in Theories

We have degrees of confidence in theories, sometimes very strong, but none is absolute. The more a theory has been used successfully in the past, and the more it seems to fit in with other theories, the more confidence scientists have in it. There are occasions when evidence seems to indicate a theory is false, but scientists do not abandon the theory immediately. However, if the negative data remain unexplained, the theory must be replaced. For example, scientists had a high degree of confidence in Newton’s theory (“law”) of gravitation. When Uranus’ orbit was seen to be different than predicted by Newton, the theory was abandoned right away. Scientists looked for other explanations for the orbit that would be consistent with Newton’s theory. They succeeded in finding the planet Neptune that meant Newton’s theory was still viable. If the new planet had not been found scientists would have had to discard or modify Newton’s theory. This did happen in the early 1900s when the orbit of Mercury could not be explained in terms of Newton’s theory. Newton’s theory was then replaced by Einstein’s theory of gravitation.

In a like manner, many theories in science have been replaced or modified, such as the ones dealing with the structure of the atom.

From the above article we might infer that no theory is an “absolute theory”. All the so-called scientific theories are the outcome of series of observations. From these observations when some kind of high correlation of occurrence of two subsequent events is found, causation is inferred from them i.e., the preceding event causing the succeeding event. However, can this correlation prove with certainty whether the theory about the causation is correct? No. Not until it is mathematically verified. However the limitations of the mathematical process itself must be acknowledged here. While we are subjecting some hypothesis to mathematical rigour, there might be instances when the mathematical proofs are not possible as it might require further advancement of the mathematical principles.

But this is something about what we call exact science such as Physics. However, if we take some science such as Biology or physiology, do we subject the theories to similar mathematical rigour? The answer is in the negative. There we try to explain the cause of some disease merely on the basis of statistical probability. Consider this, when all the doctors found the same germ Salmonella Typhi in the blood of all the patients suffering from Typhoid, they concluded that Typhoid is caused by Salmonella Typhi. This is nothing but an instance of high correlation between occurrence of two events viz., occurrence of Typhoid and finding of Salmonella Typhi in the blood of such patients. Leaving the non-exact science such as Biology and Psychology that are empirical, even the so-called exact sciences are vulnerable. This happens many times in the physical world. Some past theories couldn’t explain some events and henceforth the theory is modified. For instance, Einstein said that nothing in this universe could travel faster than light, which is no longer true. Einstein’s theory of quantum mechanics came into being only because Newton’s theory of mechanics failed to explain some events of time and space. Thus it is only a matter of time. Any theory that seems absolute for the time being may well be modified with new discoveries.

Any theory is said to be credible based on objectivity, repeatability and last but not the least, predictability of the experiments. Objectivity implies an unbiased observer and repeatability implies that the experiments, not necessarily restricted to a laboratory situation, should give the same results irrespective of who is conducting them including the collection of samples according statistical principles and their analysis. What is the use of a theory without predictive validity, i.e., the theory only explains past events and is unable to foretell what would happen next under certain specific circumstances.

Given the background above, the stage has been set to address the opening query, whether Jyotisha is a science. Applying the yardstick arrived at earlier, we observe that Jyotisha passes all the test criteria of validity for qualifying as a science. Like any other scientific theory, Jyotisha has similar attributes, namely repeatability and predictability. No matter, who sees the horoscope of an individual, the variation in the prediction by various qualified astrologers will be well within the tolerance limits as defined. There is no dispute to that.

Consider this: if physics/applied mechanics, etc., as a science accurately calculates the path of a rocket to be launched under certain conditions like a given atmospheric temperature, pressure, gravity, wind, etc., Jyotisha also is a science that can predict that a person having a trikona and a kendra lord together will have Rajayoga under specific conditions, which are a matter of detail. Leave aside individual predictions, at the mundane level no predictive tool in the area of conventional science, statistics, probability, etc., can match the arsenal of astrology. It may not be inappropriate here to mention that the author has an engineering background having a masters degree from Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi. Having experimented with various theories including fuzzy logic, etc., the direction of the stock market movement could only be correctly predicted using astrology. The outcome of the recent US Presidential election drama was correctly forecast including the various unusual scenarios, again on the basis of astrology. However, if the contention is that Jyotisha is not accurate in all the cases, the answer would be that neither is science. We do not need to scratch our heads on this one, recall the recent Indian GSLV launch failure. I am sure that the nation’s scientific community had used its entire might to ensure the success of the launch and yet it failed. The nation would have saved itself a large amount of money and the scientific community a lot of prestige if the timing of the recent launch of the Indian GSLV had been better selected using astrological principles, of course within the existing constraints. Detailed articles on all the subjects referred to hereinabove are available in the earlier issues of the Vedic Astrology and can also be referred to at our website www.VedicAstro.com

Let us not forget that we have passed through two centuries of British rule, preceded by many more centuries of Mughal rule. During this period astrology was consciously and willfully put down by the rulers. The populace at large was encouraged and rewarded to dissociate from astrology. Those who expressed their support for astrology were scoffed upon and subjected to harassment. A lot of valuable literature and ancient scriptures have been damaged and destroyed, lost perhaps for all times to come. In the process astrology as a subject has suffered. Further as a result of the circumstances the principles enunciated by the ancient sages are not understood completely and interpreted properly, and the specific conditions, etc., under which those principles could be applied
are to be rediscovered. I suspect that a large part of the current day criticism emanates from the slavish overhang on the psyche and the remaining out of ignorance of the rich traditional heritage. We have never encountered criticism of astrology from anyone who has actually studied the subject and then alone found it to be irrelevant.

The author has maintained a consistent view that the independence won in 1947 was merely political. Subsequent to 1947 we as a people of India have not been able to come to terms with our identity and the centuries of alien domination has left a distinct mark on the psyche of the nation that is proving hard to undermine and erase from our memories. Understandably so since the period of domination extended to several centuries. As mentioned earlier in my articles on the stock market the economic and financial independence is round the corner, perhaps the time for intellectual, spiritual, religious and cultural independence has arrived too. Times are changing fast and developments appear favourable for emergence of independence in thought and action. Permit me to mention a laudable act on the part of our illustrious judiciary. A writ petition was filed in the Honourable Supreme Court of India against the introduction of Jyotir Vigyan (Vedic astrology), Sanskrit, etc., in the universities by one of the leading societies normally espousing the cause affecting the common man. You will be glad to know that the Honourable Supreme Court expressed its unwillingness to entertain the matter.
Coming back to the topic at hand, it is but an inevitable conclusion that the impression about Jyotisha not being a science is nothing but prejudice of so- called 'rational minded scientists,' who are compelled to comment on subjects beyond their domain thereby exposing their limitation and non-scientific approach. It is little wonder that the progress in the conventional scientific spheres is not what it should be. I take this opportunity to congratulate the Honourable Minister for HRD Mr. Murali Manohar Joshi, the HRD ministry and the UGC on the initiative to introduce astrology as a regular mainstream subject in the universities. Hence the answer to the opening query is a resounding YES. ¦