Pseudoscience & Religion

Planetary combustion in astrology: Lack of meaning and evidence in tradition

My daughter’s wedding date has been set for in mid-May this year. Being a man of rationalist disposition, I do not much believe in the customs and rituals of date setting that are normally observed in traditional weddings. However, after the fixture of the wedding date, the groom’s father was worried about a certain astrological point called Sukra asta, a period of around 74 days starting from the last day of April, 2016. It appears, as per astrological tradition, no auspicious ceremonies are to be performed during this period. Not aware of my rationalist leanings he expressed his concern on this issue during one of the conversations with me.


Venus Combustion

Out of curiosity I browsed the net for understanding the meaning of Shukra asta. The search revealed that, according to astrological texts, during certain part of the year some planets come very close to the Sun. As a result they lose their brightness or luster with respect to Sun. This is symbolic of a planet losing its strength. In astrology this is termed as combustion of a planet. Such an occurrence with regard to the planet Venus is called the Sukra asta, the combustion of Venus. The astrological interpretation drawn is that it would rob away the beneficial effects of the planet. As a philosopher, and that too a philosopher of science, I wanted to understand the meaning of this idea of strength of the planets. It turned out that it meant the intensity or brightness of its light. The planetary strengths or brightness symbolized certain good and bad effects on the human being. I was a bit intrigued by this because any planet does not have a light of its own. It only reflects the light of the Sun. So where is the question of its having a brightness of its own? Therefore,
to talk of the brightness of the planet being blunted because of its nearness to the Sun seems meaningless.

Peter Achinstein, a philosopher, has written a book titled ‘The Book of Evidence’. The book delineates the different conceptions of evidence, particularly with regard to the relationship that an experimental observation has to a scientific hypothesis. Whatever be the concept of evidence that Achinstein was trying to delineate, the whole of idea of evidence seemed to be lacking in such kind of stupid and obscurantist beliefs in astrology. Not only is the concept of evidence lacking but also the idea of meaning seems to be absent. What exactly does the strength of a planet mean as far as human beings are concerned is also not made clear. Meanings in such case have to be made clear in empirical terms, i.e. by deriving meaning from observational correlations.

Such analytical demands for meaning and evidence is usually met, as I was told in this particular context by the groom’s father, by appealing to something unquestionable called “tradition”. A judgement or a statement of belief is open to question only by appeal to reason and empirical things. But tradition is easily invoked as a shield whenever there is any move to get rid of age old beliefs like Sukra Asta that disregards the rational sensibilities of human beings. If such tradition is taken as a ground for belief, a ground where neither reason nor empirical thinking operates, then tradition gets connected to ignorance. Such ignorance is the root of all superstitions that are stubbornly held to be sacrosanct by the use of the term tradition. It is time that a society guided by such baseless tradition is abhorred. It is time that TV channels stop airing such nonsensical programs on astrology.

Tradition is something that is mostly construction of beliefs, which are handed down over a period of time in oral or written forms. Unfortunately, whatever is handed over never ever makes a remote reference to the rational or empirical components that played a part in the construction or origin of beliefs. This is the lacuna of tradition that a man clinging to such outdated and irrational notions fails to understand.

About the author

S K Arun Murthi

I am a philosopher with rationalist bent of mind. I am a faculty in the Department of Humanities and Social Science, Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER, Mohali). I did my PhD from National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bangalore. My area of work is philosophy of science, rationality,ethics and epistemology.

Dr. S K Arun Murthi
Faculty (HSS)
IISER, Mohali.


  • Not only TV channels allot huge chunk of time and space for weekly astrological details and predictions, number of seperate’ channels churn out astrological and divine discourses the whole day. People of all walks of life waste their precious time in listening and watching the programmes and calling to the astrologers to enquire about their future and auspicious days.
    Astrology is also being promoted in post- graduate levels by establishing departments in astrology, palmistry, ‘nadi’ jyotishyam, etc. In South, the universities in Hyderabad and tirupati offer post graduate, diploma and doctoral courses in mythology and astrology. Politicians and political parties patronise astrologers. Traditions are being followed by people without rational thinking.
    While the problem cannot be solved within short time, the efforts to scientifically educate people must be stepped up. People should understand that luck or divine presence does not make their future but concrete planning and clear understanding of events shapes their future.
    Various planets coming near the sun and reflecting more light as they come near should be enjoyed. Astronomy must replace ” astrology” . The sky must be source of Inquisition and not introspection of past and future human lives. Marriages can take place any day. Horoscopes and ‘ Lucky’ and ‘auspicious’ days do not make perfect marriage. Mutual love, concurrences of ideas, humanity transcending caste, gender and religion make perfect marriage. Marriages are not made in heaven, but they are made on earth. When patriarchy and male chauvinism are wiped out and both couples respect each other, earth will be more beautiful than heaven.
    Nehru did not believe in superstitions. Kalam when asked about auspicious day for filing nomination papers for president election said that the earth rotates around itself and revolves round the sun for the whole year. So, everyday is auspicious.
    Let science rule the world! Let ‘ scientific marriages’ rule human beings!!?

  • No other society on this planet is as obscurantist and hypocritic as Hindu s Rrich and well educated girls are married to a plantain tree first If mars and saturn are on 7th,,&8th place in their Horoscopes One Arun Murthy and Jayant Narlikar can not influence the minds of
    millions of people with infected brains. All scientists & Rational Thinkers should come together and tell the youth of the country that they will loose control over their brains If they believe Astrology, via all Media,

  • When science overcomes challenges from traditionalists, know power can stop it from being a dominant force. This is possible if every question posed by traditional superstition followers is answered cogently with patience.

  • Of course it is fear of the uncertain future which makes people believe these things. But that is only part of the story. There are others who are materially crazy of aggrandizing wealth by foul means of exploitation and oppression. For this they consult astrology. For example will I be rich if I buy this share/stock? Can I buy this plot of land? (Never mind even if it is speculation). In fact in my experience the religious people are the most materially crazy, but cleverly shield their pretensions of being materially crazy by appealing to what I have mentioned above-“tradition”. These so called religious people justify gender and caste inequality by invoking tradition. These people have to be directly exposed ruthlessly.

  • This astrology is really hurting my life.. I don’t know why these astrologers write useless planetary positions in their websites and create a big fuss to the public.. It should be made only for entertainment.. Doesn’t the human being has no right to make decisions on his own will or the planets have to decide.. Murthi sir I like your article on this…

  • I think what author referring here is shukra moudhya. Mostly I heard about budha (mercury) moudhya only. When planets are there in same rashi as sun very close to it this happens. But astrological influence of planets is neither gravitational or some rays. So the logic that since mercury or venus does not shine its own and hence when it comes near sun its brightness cannot be reduced does not hold good. it is its planetary strength that getting reduced. How? I don’t know because astronomy part of astrology is scientific not its prediction part. That is a truth which people experience and reason is unknown.

    Also Shukra moudhyam I don’t think has nothing to do with marriage muhurtha although Shukra is a karaka of marriage, relation with other gender ,lust , pleasures , spouse etc

  • Kindly note that astronomy is not part of astrology. Astronomy is a science and astrology is superstition. However, this nonsense claim of of equating astronomy to astrology is actually made by astrologers and sympathizers of obscurantist and stupid views. And this, only to give a scientific halo to astrology, which definitely it does not deserve.

  • @Anand,

    I will paste here.
    In general, contrary to what skeptics say, astrology does have astronomy. When Sun, moon and lunar node (Rahu or ketu) comes in one rashi , one star solar eclipse occurs. If Rahu or ketu is not there it would be just a new moon.

    Astrology cannot be scientifically proven because, it is not quantifiable. Anything related to mind, sins, good merits, blessings etc are not measurable and quantifiable . But statistically if you see, whatever Varahamihira says in hora is 100% true.

    Besides this, of course good karma can change the astrological effects. So does blessings of Gods and Godesses and great saints/ elders etc

    Yes I agree it is geo centric. Astrology is all about relative movement of sun, moon, lunar nodes (Rahu and Ketu) and five planets around earth. But how come you say it is pre-scientific and incorrect without any knowledge. As I told, moon , sun and lunar nodes come together, astrologers calculate the solar eclipse correctly. The panchangam clearly says time of eclipse. it is not based on modern scientific calculations. And I don’t believe in western astrology or its calculations. Do you know except sun and moon all other 5 planets have retrograde (ie they move backwards sometimes) . This proves that the movement is relative to earth.. Do not spread misinformation without knowing.

    Regarding how Saturn or mars affect us, I cant prove scientifically. It is not gravity or some invisible rays. But it does affect whether you believe or not.

    Now question of me providing proof. I know it personally. But it is personal to those people. SO how do you except me to share. You will believe only if you have problem and you approach a true astrologer and his predictions come true.

    ok Ravi. Even I said planet moving backward is relative to earth not in actual terms. Astrology is motion of planets across zodiacs and it is relative to earth.

    You observe the moon on your star birthday (not DOB) every year. The moon will be of same size (full moon, new moon, partial moon etc).

    On 14th Jan 1761 makara sankranthi Marathas decided to break Abdali’s en-circle at panipat. The point to be noted is 14th Jan is makara sankranthi/pongal for so many years. If our astrological calendar has only 365 days, makara sankranthi would be behind atleast by 50 days by now. The indian astrological calender is as precise as gregorian calender or even more accurate. Vishu/ Astrological new year is celebrated on april 14th since ages. The significance of this day is this is the day sun enters aries (mesha rashi). The calender is based on sun’s movement through 12 zodiac signs and it is so precise. The months are based on time adjusted to days.

    refer panchangam and identify whether moon is in same rashi as jupiter, venus or mars and you can precisely see with naked eyes that planet near moon . Btw stars (light years away) blink but planets do not. You can verify without any telescope.

    The great seers had calculations on plantetary movements which are called ganitam-golam (math). panchamgams are calculated with this. it would be available for another 100 years or so. I dont think there are any astrologers left who knows ganitam-golam(math) part because, panchangam needs recalculations from time to time.

    My bit of advice to you is just do not reject the hard works of great seers . If you had knowledge of below works and then rejecting astrology I am ok.

    Jatakadesham- excellent elementary book on astrology
    Sage Parashara Hora
    Great Varahamihira’s Brihat jatakam
    Prashnamarga (Prashna is available only in kerala now)
    Bhrigu saravalli
    chamatkara chintamani
    Kalidasa’s uttarakalamritham
    Mantreswara’s Phaladeepika
    9 . Thalakulathu Bhattathiri’s bhashyam (commentary) on Varahamihira’s brihat jataka known as dashadhyayi (also in sanskrit)

    Lastly psycology is also not scientific. So is astrology. But that doesn’t mean it is irrelevant. Twins born with same horoscope will have very similar life experiences. I have witnessed . But as Varahamihira himself says period/age/century , caste, culture, country, religion factors must be considered in analyzing horoscope.

    Hey Ravi- Two children born within 2 hours gap have most probably same lagna (ascendant) and same horoscope unless there is no transit for planets (es moon which stays only 2.25 days in a rashi). They should have similar life although other factors (like community, family) may come to play. I haven’t done the study but the great astrologers/astronomers I mentioned earlier did. In fact they did empirical analysis as you told (regarding psycology). Some authors quote from previous authors, some even deny. EG:- Kalidasa was considered the best Sanskrit composer ever but his work uttara kalamritam is no where near Varahamihira’s works.

    Back to astrology, the practical purpose of it is to caution some one and give hope to people. One is facing hard times. He will be filled with hope if he come to know that there is a good time ahead. So he will work hard with hope. If a person is having good times, he have to keep self restraint otherwise he cannot cope with future bad times. Rarely some one will be having bad time always, such a person has no other option but to work hard and keep himself /herself self restraint ,all the time.

  • Just one more bashing without putting any effort to know astrology in detail.
    Forget astrology, in general
    What does your rational mind tell about these questions
    1. Does planets (Astrological incl Sun & Moon) have influence on earth
    2. If so, is there a possibility of them influencing water bodies, atmosphere etc of earth
    3. If so, is there a possibility of influencing the lives of animate and inanimate things.

    Btw – In the above article you have totally mis-understood even brightness.
    Here brightness means the way humans see the planet when sun is near them. They actually have a reddish tinge than their usual color. If Neptune were as close to sun as mercury, then we would be calling Neptune as red planet ( because of heat)

  • @kondu
    – Gravity is something that is entirely dependent on the masses of the bodies in question and (inversely) the distance between them.
    – If you weigh as much as the earth or the oceans (in which case, you should really go on a diet), then of course the planets will have similar effects on you.
    – Everything around you also exerts a gravitational field on you… a passing fly and the furniture in the room… and in many cases, they exert more gravity on you than Jupiter since they are much closer. Good luck “rationally” modeling those for your predictions on when you would make a business profit, effects on your love life etc.

    “If the planets’ positions affect the baby’s personality traits, so should the Doctor’s position, the OB Technician, the position of the heart monitor, the CT machine down the hall and the size of the hospital and the amount of people in it.

    So, unless Astrologers are willing to take these components into account when they produce your “Chart”, it seems their claims are plain silly.”

  • @Vijay@Kondu

    I am just surprised at such a poor response only to defend astrology. These guys have nothing new to offer but the same old emaciated and sickening response that has been offered from the 1960’s and I get tired of responding to these responses. But anyway,

    First response: they say: “You have not studied astrological texts”

    My response: Is it necessary to read some gibberish that some ancient people produced just because they contain lengthy and copious narratives (which may rich in terms of literary descriptions containing metaphors) which do not make any sense literally. For any subject to work, the premises of this subject should point to a definite cause effect relationship. And these causal relationships have to be tested. None of these texts have done this. These defenders of astrology only say “You have to read the text”. But can any one of them tell, what is the premise in terms of the causal relationship of the planets on the FATE of human beings? (Mind my capitalized word). Further, why only on human beings? What about the planetary influence on other animals? These causal relationships have to be literal and not metaphorical. Most of them give metaphorical descriptions of these relationships as the above responses have shown, like “Neptune is a red planet”. Otherwise they try to appropriate some scientific theory and try to give an explanation which is equally ludicrous. Like the three points above whether the planets have any influence. Ravi has answered it along with a link and I need not repeat the same.

    Second response:

    But even, if for argument sake (it will really appear humorous), we consider that these heavenly bodies have an influence in terms of gravitational forces (as Ravi mentions the mass of these bodies have to be huge for the effect to be felt). How do these gravitational forces have effect on our love life, marriage, business and profession and other material and mundane aspects of life? Can you establish a causal relationship literally, not metaphorically? Now marriage, profession, property dealings and love life, success and politics are human activities and aspirations. I suppose other animals do not have these issues and, therefore, perhaps astrology does not matter there. But then, that is precisely the point. How can there be natural influences on our socially constructed practices and behavior, the evaluation of which is again socially constructed? For example, what is success or failure is something, the standards for which our society has evolved. How can these planets guided by natural laws say whether the individual will meet the socially evolved criteria? Any answer to this question will be a bizarre explanation or no explanation at all. Has any text answered this question? Even if it has answered it will only resort to metaphors.

  • By the way it is common knowledge that Planetary system of Indian astrology makes no mention of planets Uranus and Neptune. They consider Sun and moon are planets (which according to modern astronomy it is not) and do not consider Earth as a planet. And consider earth as the center of the Universe. If the basic starting point is itself faulty how can we even make a start with such trash.

  • @Arun Murthi-

    Earth is where humans live. Probably when some one is born in moon or mars, his horoscope may have earth. I already said that sun, moon , lunar nodes Ketu and Rahu besides 5 planets are considered the 9 Grahas in astrology. We are well aware that they are not “Planets” of solar system. Do not equate grahas with planets.
    Secondly I already told that it is neither gravity or some invisible rays from these planets affecting our life. No astrologers are making any such pseudo scientific claims. I already had a lengthy debate with Ravi on the other link “Fraud of nadi jothidam”. All I said was the relative movement of these 9 grahas around earth is accurate in India astrological calculations. That part I can prove.

    Regarding predictions, in the experience of many it is experienced as true. If you believe it then believe otherwise forget it. I agree that it cannot be scientifically proven

    Lastly regarding Uranus and Neptune whether they influence or not? Answer is NO!! None of Vedic astrological texts as far as I know talks about Uranus or Neptune. Why? Because astrology is based on experience, perception and beliefs. It is as absurd as asking a theist why (if God exists) there is any anti God? We can extend this question on the new planet scientists recently discovered beyond pluto or even moons of gigantic planets.

    Some argues that Gulika or Maandi (Son of Saturn) which is perhaps the tenth graha in Indian astrology is Saturn’s moon Titan. I do not agree to this. Had it been Titan then Gulika must be always in same rashi as shani (Relative to earth they should stay together). But that is not the case if one observe Gulika’s movement.

    But your aversion towards anything Sanskrit, Vedic or Hindu is condemnable

  • @Vijay, I cannot even follow your explanation. You are supposing that Vedic astrological texts are accurate and unquestionable. You also seem to have a doubt whether God exists! But, you are not clarifying Arun Murthi’s question of where is the causal relationship?

    I find this quite irritating with theist and superstitious people. A logical argument is always followed by counter-arguments that are only gibberish.

  • @ mcsenthil – Can you elaborate your point?
    I am a person who only believe (in the existence of) God.
    Arun Murthi may be asking what is the causal relationship between planets and human life. Well answer is I cannot prove it scientifically but it is observed and predicted by some one who know astrology and it is working

  • @ mcsenthil- At least Vijay is frank enough to admit that astrology works on faith and not on the basis of reason or cause effect relationship. That is fine because every one has the RIGHT to hold a WRONG view.

  • @ Arun Murthi – Thanks for your understanding. Everyone believes in something, or hold some views which may not be scientifically proven. That doesn’t mean their views are wrong.
    Regarding astrology, my acquaintance and observation shows it is remarkable and working. If you know astrology yourselves you can also observe it.

  • @Vijay

    Everyone believes in something, or hold some views which may not be scientifically proven.

    Not everyone, but most people in the world believe in things that have been scientifically debunked. That was how the world always has been and will remain so for the foreseeable future.

    Astrology has been scientifically debunked. Case closed. But you have the right to hold on to unscientific personal beliefs despite the scientific evidence.

    That doesn’t mean their views are wrong.

    No, it means their views ARE wrong (scientifically and factually speaking, not legally or morally). But you still have a right to hold wrong views… not recommended, but a right, none-the-less, as per our social norms. All of us hold at least some wrong views about some thing or the other. While it may not be wrong to unknowingly hold wrong views, wrong views are wrong views (wrongness – as determined by systematic study… aka science).

    Regarding astrology, my acquaintance and observation shows it is remarkable and working.

    While EVERY scientific (systematic/quantitative/bias-adjusted) observation shows that it does not work at all. What do you think is more likely?

    1.) Researchers (I already cited Carlson, Narlikar and Forer elsewhere) don’t know how to construct experiments to validate astronomy that obviously works, according to you.

    2.) You just don’t understand (like most people) why researchers construct the experiments the way they do or how you are being effected by cognitive and logical biases in the determination of whether something works?

    I think you should look up Prof. Jayant Narlikar’s various articles on Astrology. He is a leading astrophysicist who writes on and did science on Indian astrology.

  • Let me add to what Ravi has so correctly articulated in his response. I would like to draw upon what the philosopher Karl Popper had said of astrology. For him, it is unscientific and irrational because it cannot even be FALSIFIED. For Popper, a theory to be scientific or acceptable has to say under what conditions it will go wrong. Astrological theories (they are actually not theories but some mumbo jumbo) are so flexible that any instance of anything can be accommodated within its prediction and one can say (in fact that is what the astrologers say) that that instance is compatible with the astrologer’s prediction. Perhaps, it is in this sense that Vijay thinks that astrology works. Let me give a couple of instances on this (and one from my own experience).
    I studied metallurgical engineering but never liked the discipline (liking and disliking are matters of personal taste). I also got a job soon after in a steel company. But I never had an interest in this job as I had some other plans. Since getting a job during those days (it was some 35 years back) was difficult, my parents consulted an astrologer and he said that all through out my life I will work in a company and will be associated with metals. See the statement. It can mean any thing. Later I switched over to a computer company and I settled there. When the astrologer was asked about this, pat came the reply. “I told that you will be associated with metals in your profession. The outer cabinet of the computer is made of metals”. Now what do you say. This is what Popper meant. By this logic they can never be falsified and never go wrong.

    One more example. This is from Vir Sanghvis interview of astrologers. This was a programme in Doordarshan some 25 years back debunking astrology. He caught hold of one astrologer who had predicted that the government will change in Bihar. But the same party came back to power. When he confronted the astrologer on this it is surprising what the astrologer said. The government that will now be formed is a new government so it has changed. But then this is obvious that after election that there is always a new government. We do not need an astrologer for this.
    In psychology there is an idea called positive reinforcement. Once you are disposed to believe in something you will selectively look for those things that corroborates your belief. As Ravi says, this may legally and morally be not wrong but it is false belief nevertheless that will dangerously ruin ones life. To paraphrase from the statutory warning on cigarettes “Believing in astrology is injurious to mental health and well-being”.

  • Well the kind of astrology I am accustomed with , is not like the above two examples given. In Bihar election case, one must understand that only people have horoscope not party or country. I know some people predicting Indian republic’s future based on midnight 1947 Aug 15 planetary and ascendant position which sounds ridiculous to me. Whether Akhilesh or nitish will win in 2016 or 2017 or Modi will win in 2019 and become PM again can be predicted with carefully observing their horoscope. If there is not much drastic change in Modi’s dasha and apahara before elections and after, for some time we can safely argue that his position will not change drastically and he may continue PM. Something of that sort. Otherwise to tell whether SP or BJP win in 2017 or 2019 there should be a prashna.

    A true astrologer will not predict like the examples given above.

    Similarly if some one’s star falls under Meena (pisces) zodiac sign, some one can say their work will be related to water (pisces is two fish looking each other) , but that is too generic.

    My observation is not based on these popper.

  • @Ravi,

    Astrology is not scientifically debunked. I am not ok with the test you may refer. You need to test with real astrologers who have proper understanding of it.

    Secondly it is for people. Horoscope cannot be used to predict things like what colour bead is hidden inside a pack or something like that

  • Ravi and Arun,

    Simple test:-

    Give me some DOB with exact time of birth (not necessarily yours). I will create online horoscopes and predict something with my limited knowledge. See for yourselves if I am telling correct or not.

    Don’t give me just bunch of DOBs alone like narendra nayak (king of rationalists) gave . I need time of birth.
    Also stick to 1 or 2. I don’t have time to analyze more

  • @Vijay

    Whether Akhilesh or nitish will win in 2016 or 2017 or Modi will win in 2019 and become PM again can be predicted with carefully observing their horoscope.

    So according to you, elections are not decided by the public perceptions of problems facing the community, state of the economy, incumbency factors, public perceptions of the candidate, his perceived character and charisma etc… but by candidate’s birth date & time? So the party that simply fields the optimal birth-date candidate will win?… irrespective of their track record, policy and promise? Why have a democracy then? Why bother with elections? Fortunately, we don’t live in this fantasy land.

    A true astrologer will not predict like the examples given above.

    Ever heard of the No True Scotsman Fallacy?

    Astrology is not scientifically debunked.

    It has been. Read the Carlson paper on western astrology and the Narlikar paper on Indian astrology.

    Carlson, Shawn. “A double-blind test of astrology.” Nature 318.6045 (1985): 419-425.

    Narlikar, Jayant V., et al. “A statistical test of astrology.” Current Science 96.5 (2009): 641-643.

    I already cited these in the nadi forum.

    I am not ok with the test you may refer.

    Merely not being OK is not enough. Of course, you don’t like scientific facts that you don’t agree with. When is that making an argument?

    But you can state any methodological issues you have with the tests. You don’t get to pick your own convenient “test”. You rise to the proper test provided. There are reasons why tests are structured the way they are. If you think a test is unfair, make a systematic case on why you think that is so.

    You need to test with real astrologers who have proper understanding of it.

    These studies were conducted with “real” astrologers. Carlson study especially recruited astrologers that were regarded as reputable by other astrologers and astrologers were happy with the study design… until perhaps the results came in. What more can you do for fairness?

    “In order to satisfy both the scientific and astrological communities, we decided to
    choose as advisors people held in high esteem by their respective communities.” – Carlson paper

    In Narlikar study, some astrologers refused to participate. The authors obviously could not drag them into the study against their will.

    Secondly it is for people. Horoscope cannot be used to predict things like what colour bead is hidden inside a pack or something like that

    People-testing is what they did. They asked astrologers to predict about real people. Testing for beads is a test for charlatans who claim psychic powers, not astrologers who make system claims, not (usually) psychic claims.

    Give me some DOB with exact time of birth (not necessarily yours).

    I already explained to you that this is a meaningless test by scientific standards due to Forer’s effect. Did you read about Forer’s effect? If you did, explain to me how you plan to adjust for it in your remarkably simple-minded test proposal (I think it literally cannot be any more unscientific).

    Simple test:-

    No, do it this way: Ask your friend to get natal data from 10 people, but not tell you anything about them. Make 10 horoscopes. Make 10 copies of each horoscope. Give 1 copy of each horoscope to each person (in an unlabelled envelope, horoscopes stacked in the same order and shuffle envelopes before handing them) – so each person gets 10 different horoscopes. Now see if they are able to pick their SINGLE correct horoscope from the lot after reading all. If they can’t, it means the horoscopes are useless and you are making non-specific predictions that apply to many, if not most people (Forer’s effect). Now have this replicated by other people (not by just your friend) before you can be taken seriously.

    See for yourselves if I am telling correct or not.

    I already told you earlier that what I consider “seeing for myself” is quite different from someone who does not understand science. I require statistical rigor, replicability etc… not mere instances and anecdotes.

    Also stick to 1 or 2. I don’t have time to analyze more

    Please read up about probability theory to understand why it is silly to propose tests based on 1 or 2 instances. If you refuse to acquire basic scientific literacy (I am not asking you to become a scientist. I am asking you to be aware of the basics), I am talking to a wall. If you want to learn, I can point you to freely available, general, good-quality, online university resources (that have nothing to do with astrology). Developing scientific temper helps you every day, in our world replete with delusions, not just in this case. Contrary to what you think, you are not helping your case by this 1 or 2 case pseudo-trial proposal. You are just demonstrating that you don’t understand how to critically examine – the exact reason why people fall into belief in astrology.

  • I think Ravi has said it all and sealed the debate once and for all. To add to what he has said about No True Scotsman Fallacy. The defenders of astrology and such other obscurantist beliefs will keep changing the definition of science as well as astrology to such an extent so that the indefensible (“Astrology is science”) becomes the defensible.

    Further, the predictions that the astrologer makes is so general that one will assume that it correctly applies for himself (an implication of Forer effect). For example, the typical thing which an astrologer says is “You are going through a bad phase”. Now which human being does not have a problem? And so he thinks he has said it correctly. Invariably one goes to an astrologer only when times are bad and even the astrologer knows it and he plays on this.

  • Ravi, Arun,
    I am not claiming astrology (just prediction part, not astronomy part of it) as scientific. For that reason it cannot be scientifically disproved as well. You don’t know what is astrology to test it first of all.

    Your ” simple test ” referred is ridiculous because there is no actual horoscope and fake horoscope. Every second 3 children are born in India. Btw how are you making horoscope? If you put the date of birth and time in any online portal you get one. Then you will know it is fake or not. If in a horoscope if venus or mercury is exactly opposite rashi of Sun then I can say it is incorrect because relative to earth they cannot be in opposite directions. Or suppose lunar nodes Rahu and Ketu are not in opposite rashis (zodiac signs) then surely the horoscope is incorrect

    Regarding Modi, akhilesh or Nitish’s good work or anti incumbency, if there is a drastic change in dasha or apahara period just before or after election result date, and if it is positive or negative it is easy for astrologer to predict that there will be a fall in position or rise. But if they are not less evident only a real astrologer with extreme knowledge can predict.

    I am just asking a simple test here. give me two DOB and time of birth of two persons you know very well. If the two are having much contrast in terms of success or failure, my job will be easy because with my level of knowledge I can do a comparative analysis but not accurate predictions. I do not need their names or any other details . I am challenging you guys.

    If you are not ready , then all I can say is you don’t understand how astrology works and thus you cannot disprove it scientifically. Do not use science for testing something which is unscientific!!

    Ravi- Did any one proved God does not exist scientifically? Just asking out of curiosity since I know you are a person good in science. If you present that findings will any theist stop believing God?

    If you can prove God non existant using science then I will agree that you can prove astrology wrong.

  • @Vijay

    Did you read any of the papers linked? I don’t get the feeling that you did. Did you learn about the Forer effect? It does not appear that you did since you are touting your “test” again. Did you understand the No True Scotsman fallacy? Again, you do not seem to have understood it since you are saying this: “only a real astrologer with extreme knowledge can predict”.

    I am not claiming astrology (just prediction part, not astronomy part of it) as scientific.

    Of course, astrology is not scientific.

    For that reason it cannot be scientifically disproved as well.

    Non-scientific claims can absolutely be scientifically disproved – that is what debunking pseudoscience is all about. If your non-scientific claim concerns the natural world, the scientific method can validate the claim. Astrology is unscientific, but makes claims about the natural world. Those claims can be scientifically tested.

    Did any one proved God does not exist scientifically?

    Science does not get into the business of completely imaginary concepts. Science cannot disprove the Batman or Easter Bunny either, because the idea of disproving universal negatives with regard to empirical claims is silly.

    But if you claim that whatever god (small g, capital G, does not matter) effects the natural world in a more or less definitive way… that claim about the natural world interaction can be tested.

    If you present that findings will any theist stop believing God?

    Not as long as the said theists are using emotions and not thinking logically and rationally, which is usually the case.

    Btw how are you making horoscope?

    I won’t be making any horoscope and I don’t particularly care about how you make it either, as long as you are blinded to the subjects. Nor do I care about your rules about the internal consistency of the horoscope – that is for you to take care of, not me. I am only concerned with the validity of the claims made via the horoscope and whether they are attributable to chance and bias – and they entirely are.

    BTW, the test design I gave you was close to the minimum baseline for critical inquiry.

  • @Vijay

    Forget scientific. You do not seem to understand how even how basic reasoning works. This is common sense. When somebody makes a claim the burden of proof is on the person who makes a claim. If somebody claims “God exists”, and then if I disagree with that statement, the burden is not on me to prove the negative. Please read Richard Dawkins’s book The God Delusion. He gives lot of examples along these lines. If somebody claims that there is broken teapot in some remote corner of the universe then a person who does not believe it need not give a proof for its non-existence.
    This is the problem with astrologers. They do not even have basic common sense. They just want to fleece the gullible people who are in distress and use some imaginary narrative and try to sound profound, when actually what they are giving is utter gibberish and non-sense.

  • Ravi ,
    you already said it. ” Science cannot disprove the Batman or Easter Bunny either, because the idea of disproving universal negatives with regard to empirical claims is silly.” Astrology based theories are also the same. It is an indication and no astrologers can give measured values.

    And for Arun- You said burden of proof is on me . I am ready to accept it but you need to provide two DOB of known persons with exact time only then I can prove how it works and what it is since you don’t have any idea of what astrology is and your mind is prejudiced against it you have to come to my terms for this test!! unless you are not ready for that I will keep saying astrology is correct and you will keep saying it is not.

    And on burden of proof, I am not the first person saying astrology is correct. In this country its been used for ages so burden of proof is on you if you now say it does not exist!! This is the country of great Varahamihira and Thalakulath Bhattatiri

  • Noam Chomsky the great philosopher linguist gave an example of a sentence where it is grammatically correct but makes no sense and that is “Colourless green ideas sleep furiously”. Such a sentence is neither true nor false as they just mean nothing. Vijay’s responses are now becoming like that. It sounds just plain garble as he does not seem to have understood the questions raised in this post by me and Ravi. One can only counter what is false or wrong conceptually or an incorrect argument/explanation but not what is garble.
    By the way what test are you talking about? These tests have already been performed by many (Ravi has mentioned it) and I have also done it for so many times in the past. Because every astrologer comes and says the same thing as you say: He is not a “true” or “real’ astrologer and I am the true one and every time he is refuted. Let us call them past Vijays. Now you tell you are the “real” astrologer and so will again test. Again tomorrow, after sometime, one more future Vijay will come and claim that he is the “real” astrologer and again ask for a test. You think I have no another work but keep testing some idiotic ideas under the shield of great heritage of country, great sages, great past and all that non-sense.

    You say “In this country its been used for ages so burden of proof is on you if you now say it does not exist!!”. How can that become a burden of proof on me? Another example of a garble. For ages people held the idea that heavier bodies fall faster to the ground than lighter bodies under conditions of free fall. This Aristotelian idea was held for 1500 years till Galileo came and refuted it. Just because something is followed for ages does not mean that you have to keep following it even if it is wrong. If you are happy following it then please go ahead and follow it. My original intention of writing this article in this Nirmukta site was that this site was given for rational people. And my original story was an objection to anybody imposing an idea, that too an irrational one, on somebody else who is rational. If you have your pet ideas please go ahead but do not impose on others with garbled responses.

  • @Vijay

    Astrology based theories are also the same.

    You said it then: Astrology is about as real as comic book characters and children’s fantasy stories. I agree with that. Astrology is real for people with rational and reasoning abilities of children.

    It is an indication and no astrologers can give measured values.

    Astrologers can’t give any indications either. See the Narlikar paper. Astrologers were not asked to predict IQ as a continuous variable. They were simply asked to “indicate” whether the child is poor in intelligence or high in intelligence – basically, a yes or no question. They performed worse than flipping a coin… and like you, they were completely oblivious to their failure and thought they were doing great. Our country as a whole, is illiterate about basic inferential statistics. This needs to be taught by high school.

    In this country its been used for ages so burden of proof is on you if you now say it does not exist!!

    You don’t understand burden of proof. Burden of proof is based on evidence, logic and reasoning, not on the length of practice of pseudoscience and superstition.

    One of the points of science is overturning long and deeply held misconceptions. Unfortunately our public generally thinks the job of science is to validate their superstitions.

    You said burden of proof is on me . I am ready to accept it but you need to provide two DOB of known persons with exact time

    No, you prove it according to the protocol (a rather basic one, I would add) I provided you. You are arguing like a kid who we can imagine going to a 10th standard math exam and insists that all he should be asked is adding 2 single-digit numbers, and that the approximate answer of which he would then insist is proof for his mathematical competency at 10th grade.

    You don’t get to choose your test. You address the test provided to you.

    Vijay, you basically never learned the proper processes of thinking. This is not an insult. It is an acquired skill, it was not taught to you and you never bothered to learn on your own. Just about every fallacy is apparent in you. You cannot be tutored in a forum and you have little interest to inform yourself even when presented with the material.

    The sad thing is, most people in India are like you and you think it is the normal and proper way to think. Common – yes, proper – no. Education in India has a long way to go.

  • @Vijay

    Ravi has rightly written the following words:

    “Vijay, you basically never learned the proper processes of thinking. This is not an insult. It is an acquired skill, it was not taught to you and you never bothered to learn on your own. Just about every fallacy is apparent in you. You cannot be tutored in a forum and you have little interest to inform yourself even when presented with the material.”

    Let me suggest some book to enable you learn thinking (if you care to inform yourself). Please refer to “Introduction to Logic” by Copi and Cohen published by Prentice Hall India. The book refers to all the fallacies that is “apparent in you” and how to avoid it.

  • Ravi and Arun,
    May be I don’t know how to think. But I still say astrology has a purpose to serve . I don’t use jargons and special words to confuse people.

    All I am saying is simple things. May be it (astrology) is 2nd standard tests and not 10th standard tests as Ravi mentioned. Because astrology is not quantum mechanics or something like that . it is much less simple.
    What astrology says is like below:-

    Example- If moon is 3-4 days before purnima or full moon, moon will be in a zodiac sign fifth from sun. People born during this time should have more mental strength than say people born one day before new moon. Other things also need to be considered, regarding mental strength, but this works. I haven’t conducted any test myself but I am sure if we test 10 samples each this will come true

    If Jupiter is transiting 5th zodiac sign from your moon sign (sign in which moon was occupying when you are born) you naturally benefit happiness concerning progeny , mind as 5th sign is dealing with progeny and mind.

    Similarly 7th is souse related. When Jupiter is in 3rd from your moon sign , generally it is bad for all people . Btw Jupiter is in kanya -virgo now . Usually it stays for an year in any rashi. Check for yourselves and see if you can correlate

    Note- Moon sign must be determined from your birth star. I hope you know the basics

  • Here is what you say of astrology: I do not how to think (of course with a qualifier may be), I do not know how it works (because you are not able to give a causal relationship), but it works. Let me tell you it just does not work. This ghost in the machine attitude towards astrological beliefs only shows that it is a dogma to which you hold but not something born out of conviction.

  • Arun Murthi- I know how to think , but how astrology works is beyond me and your thought as well.
    I say it will work (with conviction) . You will say it won’t.

    Nirmukta may be an atheist site, but I will still comment here until moderator blocks me completely when I see non sense written here.

    Other guys who are reading this may give me DOB and time of birth for one successful and another not successful and I will determine who is successful and who is not. Simple test.

    Btw with this test I cannot prove everyone. Only the person who knows them well will get convinced.
    Arun has no courage to do so .. May be others who are listening here can?

  • Who has no courage? I am asking you to show the causal relationship. And you have no courage to show that and then asking for some spurious test. You are forcing me to say the same things again and again what I have said in my earlier post and again I am pasting it here (It is confirmed now that you do not know how to think). Do not come back to the same question again and again and I repeat:
    “These tests have already been performed by many (Ravi has mentioned it) and I have also done it for so many times in the past. Because every astrologer comes and says the same thing as you say: He is not a “true” or “real’ astrologer and I am the true one and every time he is refuted. Let us call them past Vijays. Now you tell you are the “real” astrologer and so will again test. Again tomorrow, after sometime, one more future Vijay will come and claim that he is the “real” astrologer and again ask for a test. You think I have no another work but keep testing some idiotic ideas under the shield of great heritage of country, great sages, great past and all that non-sense.”

    If astrology works beyond somebody’s thought then fine let it work in that transcendental plane. Why are you arguing it on the phenomenal plane because Nirmukta is site for reason playing out in the phenomenal world. One has no business to talk about the transcendental world in the phenomenal world. I hope you understand the distinction between the phenomenal and the transcendental.

  • @Aarun murthi,
    If Nirmukta’s rule is only to discuss “phenomenal” things and not “transcendental” to which astrology belongs according to you, then you don’t talk about astrology . I will not interfere Nirmukta articles if you are only talking about phenomenal world

    Phenomenal tests cannot be conducted on astrology. When a person really look astrology for directions, he get when he approach a learned astrologer, only he will be convinced. Lets forget the prediction part of astrology (which is transcendental) . If some one has any doubt on the correctness of relative positions of 9 planets around earth, let’s discuss that then

  • Exactly. At last you got the point. My writing of this article is to show that astrology does not hold at the phenomenal world. But there are people who believe that astrology holds at the phenomenal world and can be explained as scientific (You may not be one of them). And My article was targeted towards them. I hope you know there are many people who hold the view that astrology is scientific (so phenomenal). I say no. Full stop. Arguments and reasons do not support that view.

    Basically your one liner is: Astrology just holds. No arguments no reasons. If you want to hold it as faith, I have again said the same thing: Please go ahead. But do not impose it on rational people. If you see my original article my objection was somebody imposing it without arguments and reason. I cannot accept it without reasons. If you or for that matter anyone wants to hold it who is stopping you.

    I hope finally it is clear to you.

  • Thanks Arun. I respect your opinions. In fact Varahamihira was a great astronomer of his times. I am not comparing him with modern scientists though. He also wrote the Hora which is the Bible (or rather Vedas) of Indian astrology. He didn’t talk about any “rays” affecting our lives or some pseudo scientific claims like some IR rays or invisible cosmic rays affecting child’s brain development or something like that. If some astrologers are saying so that’s nonsense.

    If you think that some one claiming , God is there and God’s will shall only be done in this world ; or soul is present in body and it ascends to some realm after death where it receives another body etc as “transcendental”, then astrology too is transcendental. But then you must not support these tests conducted to prove it wrong. If at all some tests need to be conducted, do the test which I suggested

  • Please visit and that may be helpful to many to find answers to their questions. Blessings to all.

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