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Why Astrology is Science
Definitely don't believe it! (book review)

By Geoffrey Dean

Book cover Tapan Das PhD
Why astrology is science: Five good reasons
iUniverse New York 2009
150 x 230 mm, soft cover
167 pages, no index

The author is an Indian presently living in Canada. He earned a master's degree and a doctorate in electronic engineering (he does not say from where), and has worked in this field for 35 years. His family background created a strong interest and evident belief in astrology, so he was disappointed that astrology was seen as a pseudoscience. Therefore after retirement he devoted five years to researching the case for astrology, which research consisted mainly of reading books in libraries. His aim was "to establish a solid scientific explanation for astrology", ie to prove that astrology was a science. He devoted so much time to this that his wife "was wondering whether I had really retired from full-time work". He is "thankful to the editorial staff of iUniverse for editing my manuscript" (all from p.vii).

Despite good intentions, his book is too one-sided and too uninformed to be useful. Most of it is taken up with uncritical explanations of statistical analysis, social science, alternative medicine, cosmic energies and quantum mechanics (his "five good reasons"), which are then related to astrology. A typical reason for why astrology is a science reduces to something like: astrology involves counting, so does science, therefore astrology is a science. Whoever did the editing should have known better.

Entirely absent is a discussion of the characteristics of science (a critical spirit dedicated to eliminating error) and whether they apply to astrology (they do not). Thus astrologers seldom subject their claims to controlled tests, they refuse to believe that their experience could be unreliable, they brush aside unwelcome evidence, and they dismiss critics as bigoted and close minded. Many books and articles have examined astrology and found it to be a pseudoscience -- something that masquerades as science but refuses to play by the rules. Even astrologers acknowledge that "Astrology is almost as confused as the earthly chaos it is supposed to clarify", Dobyns & Roof, The Astrologer's Casebook, TIA, Los Angeles 1973:4). In short, astrology is about as far from a science as it is possible to be. And this book does nothing to reduce the gap.

Dr Das claims that "astrology was developed by collecting data of the positions of the stars and planets in the sky and relating those data to human life and events on earth [and thus] assigning attributes to Sun signs, planets, and houses" (p.30). Evidently a doctorate in electronic engineering was no safeguard against embracing obvious nonsense. Compare his claim with this comment:

"Even if one were to admit that it is just possible, as regards the Signs, that the ancients noticed that babies born one month turned out one way and those born in the next month some other way, and that they found these characters corresponded with shapes that they could see in the stars -- how did they find out about the Houses? Just how was it ever decided which position in the eastern sky or the western sky, and above the horizon or below it, was in charge of a man's mother, or a woman's father (or vice versa), or investments, or spouse, or declared or hidden enemies, or houses and estates, or small and large animals, or uncles and aunts and cousins and all the rest of it? Astrologers never give us an inkling of how this could possibly have been done." (Anthony Standen, Forget your Sun Sign, Legacy Publishing, Baton Rouge LA 1977:31.)

Of course not. Planets do not exist in isolation, so the only things that can be observed are combinations. Each planet can appear in 12 signs and 12 houses and make 9 kinds of aspect (5 major, 4 minor) to the other 9 planets, so it has 12 x 12 x 9 x 9 = 11664 unique combinations without including the sign and house position of the other planet. For ten planets this gives a total of (1166410)/2 = 2 x 1040 unique combinations (we divide by 2 to avoid double counting), with various exceptions because they cannot occur (eg Sun trine Mercury) or change too slowly to be relevant (eg Neptune sextile Pluto), so the total number of combinations is more like 1028, that is 2 x 1040 minus the exceptions, or much more if you want to include say the Ascendant, Midheaven, midpoints and asteroids. Even 1028 combinations at just one typed line each would require a pile of A4 larger than the Earth. But forget this tinsy inconvenience. We must now relate this huge number of combinations directly to the almost infinite variety of human behaviour in order to derive meanings for each planet, sign, house, and aspect. It would be like having to match stars in the sky to grains of sand in the Sahara. Obviously it cannot be done. Astrology cannot possibly be based on observation.

By way of hard evidence to support astrological claims, Dr Das devotes his chapter 3 to cherry picking. He cites Gauquelin's Mars effect, seasonality of schizophrenia, earthquakes, red hair vs Mars rising, and the Sara Ridgley PhD thesis on sun sign vs work-related accidents, all of which are now known to arise from effects other than astrological ones. Despite his five years spent in libraries, and his belief that "intensive statistical analysis study should be taken to place astrology on a firmer scientific basis" (p.33), he gives no hint that hundreds of such studies exist with consistently negative results. To put it another way, no astrologer could embrace science and stay in business.

Dr Das even states "Astrology has not been scientifically shown to be invalid" (p.140), which will be news to anyone who returns to the undeceivingourselves home page and clicks on Rudolf Smit's epic Astrology my passion, my life.

Dr Das provides 60 references mostly without page numbers, all clearly selected (eg in lunar effects) to support the case. Although Gauquelin's 1969/1970 book Astrology and Science is cited, there is no mention of his convincing negative findings for signs, aspects, and transits that occupy his chapter 10, yet presumably Dr Das must have read it. There is no index despite the (vanity) publisher's website stressing its importance. (For hundreds or thousands of dollars iUniverse will get your book into print and on to book lists read by 25,000 retailers world wide.)

The book ends in wishful-thinking style by proposing that astrologers work closely with social scientists, astronomers, physicists, and practitioners of Alternative Medicine. The aim would be to assemble a huge file of birth data and client characteristics so that the attributes of Sun signs and planets (ie stars vs grains of sand again) can be regularly updated after analysis "by an expert panel assigned by the astrology community" (p.145). The astrology community should also monitor the results from The Large Hadron Collider because "newly discovered particles and energies may provide further insight into the relationship between human behaviour and cosmic energies" (p.146). And if they don't? Yes, why have tests of astrology when you can have obfuscation?

In summary, the book is yet another opinionated promotion of astrology as science to the uninitiated. If you are looking for an impartial and informed review, forget it. Whatever we may think of astrology, it deserves better then this. There are far superior reviews available for free at

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