Ancient Science at Modern Universities
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 Indias
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
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
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 cant 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.
Einsteins 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 Einsteins 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
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 Newtons
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 Newtons theory.
They succeeded in finding the planet Neptune that meant Newtons
theory was still viable. If the new planet had not been found
scientists would have had to discard or modify Newtons theory.
This did happen in the early 1900s when the orbit of Mercury could
not be explained in terms of Newtons theory. Newtons
theory was then replaced by Einsteins 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 couldnt 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. Einsteins theory of quantum mechanics
came into being only because Newtons 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 nations
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
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
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. ¦