astroNOMY & astroLOGY – The Divorce

A lot of people always mixed up these two terms – astroNOMY and astroLOGY.  They thought they are the same thing.

Yes, they are the same, but that was the story of once upon a time. Actually astronomy starts from astrology, but over the time they “divorced” and become a field of their own.

AstroNOMY is a science; it studies everything beyond Earth; from objects in our Solar System, out to objects in our Galaxy and other galaxies, out to the edge of the universe, to the first moment when our universe is born. It is linked with other sciences such as mathematics, physics and chemistry.

AstroLOGY is a pseudo-science; it is a belief system. It believes (without proof!) that the position of the Sun, Moon and planets or even the stars will influence our personalities and shape our lives. It tried to relate what happens in the sky, some sort of force from the heaven, to our daily lives (and it is wrong!)

Since astrology is just a belief system, so it depends on which sources you want to believe. The predictions and conclusions from different sources can say very different things. It is just the matter of which source you want to believe, if you ever believe what they predict… (I’ll write another post later why astrology is wrong)

On the other hand, astronomy is a science, thus it must be based on facts and figures. Every source must say the same thing (provided that the fact has been proven right). Open any astronomy textbook and they will tell you that the Sun is shining because it is converting hydrogen into helium. You will not find that some textbook say the fuel is hydrogen, some say is oxygen and some say is carbon.

Many may not know it, but astronomy is the oldest science, much older than physics or chemistry or biology. When ancient people look at the sky, they saw the Sun, they saw the Moon, and they saw the stars. Occasionally they saw some meteors and comets.

And they also realised that some stars were fixed and some stars were wandering, which they called them “planets” (the wanderers). Then, due to human’s curiosity, they seek to understand why. Some they can understand, but some they cannot. Those that cannot be understood turned into fear.

So they start worshipping the celestial objects, hopefully that the celestial Gods will be happy and bring peace to Earth. If a disaster happens, meaning that the God is dissatisfied and sacrifice must be made.

They also monitor the stars, and by using their imaginations, they connected the stars to form the figure of Gods, heroes, monsters, animals and so on and give names to them. And thus constellations were born.

Emperors, kings and rulers of the ancient civilisations always thought that they were from the heavens, and there was a place among the stars that belongs to them. Hence, if a meteor or comet passing close to this region of sky, it will be treated as a bad omen and something had to be done to counteract this threat.

So to make sure that they always response at the first instance to anything that “went wrong” in the sky, they engaged a group of “experts” to monitor the sky, to make predictions and to advise what should be done to counteract any threat from the heavens.

And so, these ancient astronomers/astrologers start to carefully monitor the positions and movements of planets and stars and record any unusually event in the sky such as solar and lunar eclipse, appearance of comets, meteor showers and supernovae. These were very scientific observations. Even until today, we still find some of their records very useful.

Unfortunately, such scientific observations were turned into unscientific predictions.

For example, a prince was born when Mars was retrograde and seems to stand still in a particular constellation. This was abnormal; planets should be wandering and not standing still. So the prince was predicted to have this character. Then it may further said that this character contradict with the current ruler and foreseen that he will kill his father the King when he grows up, thus this prince had to be thrown far far away from the kingdom or even may not be allowed to born.

This is where astronomy and astrology do not have a clear cut.

Humans are learning and improving. Over the time, people start to realise that “things up there” can be explained and can be understood. There is no divine power at work. All work according to scientific laws. Our job is to find the laws that govern them.

So, astronomy and astrology divorced.

Astronomy chooses to walk the path of facts, and becomes a branch of science. Astrology still maintains as what it was thousands of years ago, using outdated astronomical data to predict your life and my life.


~ by thChieh on April 24, 2008.

2 Responses to “astroNOMY & astroLOGY – The Divorce”

  1. […] Original post by Chieh […]

  2. […] 1st reaction:  “so you can tell the future lah…”, “you can predict people’s behaviour lah…”, “so you are expert in the horoscope thing lah…”.  A lot of people still cannot differentiate between astroNOMY and astroLOGY.  Once upon a time, astronomy and astrology are the same thing, but not now anymore. […]

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