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Q: Definition of science ( Answered 4 out of 5 stars,   8 Comments )
Subject: Definition of science
Category: Science
Asked by: jgaughan-ga
List Price: $25.00
Posted: 31 May 2005 13:43 PDT
Expires: 30 Jun 2005 13:43 PDT
Question ID: 527845
Are numerology and astrology considered to be
sciences by the general scientific community? If not, why not?
Subject: Re: Definition of science
Answered By: justaskscott-ga on 31 May 2005 15:55 PDT
Rated:4 out of 5 stars
Hello jgaughan,

The short answer is that numerology and astrology are not considered to be
sciences by the general scientific community; rather, the general
scientific community considers them to be pseudosciences, because they
do not comply with the scientific method.

"Numerology and numerological divination was popular among early
mathematicians such as Pythagoras, but is no longer considered to be
part of mathematics and is now regarded as pseudoscience or quackery
by most mathematicians.  This is similar to the historical development
of astronomy from astrology, and that of chemistry from alchemy."

* * *

"To date, there is no scientific verification for the validity of
claimed numerological principles.  Numerology has thus been classified
as a pseudoscience, and most scientists regard it as either deluded
quackery or deliberate fraud.  True science, as recognized in modern
society, is based on the scientific method and requires that
assertions answer to the regular and replicable use of this method to
be considered as scientifically verifiable fact."


"Given that astrology claims to be able to make predictions about
future events, it should be possible to construct an experiment that
measures its accuracy.  No such experiment has ever been able to
clearly demonstrate the objective validity of astrology.  In addition,
scientific double blind tests (example)
( have shown that
even the best astrologers fare no better than random chance when
matching astrological charts to personalities."

"There is no viable scientific case for astrology, and there are
currently no credible scientists who support the idea.  There are
various claims by astologers that distant planets affect us through
either gravitation, electromagnetism, or some other as yet undetected
force.  However, scientifically we know of no force whatsoever that is
caused by distant stars and planets that is capable or affecting our
lives and personalities here on earth."

"validity of astrology"

See also:


"scientific method"

"astrology" [section of links on "Validity and usefulness"]

Please let me know if you need any clarification of this answer.

- justaskscott

Search strategy:

I searched for the following terms in various combinations on Google
and other search engines:

"scientific method"

[Note: Thomas Kuhn and Karl Popper were two of the twentieth-century's
leading philosophers of science.  I used their last names as search
terms in order to find thoughtful discussions of this topic.]

I also browsed after the foregoing searches lead me to a
couple of the articles cited in my answer.
jgaughan-ga rated this answer:4 out of 5 stars
This is just the level I was hoping for. Many thanks to Scott.

J. Gaughan

Subject: Re: Definition of science
From: mongolia-ga on 01 Jun 2005 17:37 PDT
Dear Justaskscott.

So your answer could be summarized by say that both numerology and astrology 
are a lot of bull.


Subject: Re: Definition of science
From: alexinia-ga on 07 Jun 2005 09:02 PDT
Well, if you want to be scientific, I'd suggest exploring the subject
of astrology yourself and doing your own research.  I have no idea how
it works (which of course as a very strong advocate for science and
logic bothers me), and I used to think it was a waste of time, but
every time I've received an astrological reading by a professional
I've been blown away by the specific accuracy regarding how I relate
to people, the challenges I have in life, and my natural talents. 
There are few areas out there that help people deepen their
self-knowledge -- a lot of personality tests are a waste of time. 
Astrology doesn't offer the final answers but over the years I've
found it to be useful tool when trying to understand both who I am as
well as other people.  But don't just take my word for it.  A good
place to start is by getting a free reading at  Good
Subject: Re: Definition of science
From: lucien86-ga on 09 Jun 2005 03:23 PDT
Are astrology and numerology are sciences?    No.
The real question though is which areas of 'hard' science are not
totally safe from the pseudo-science label themselves.
One could start with cosmology, archaeology, or General Relativity and
other theories that rely on or make unprovable or untestable
assumptions.  (Archaeology is the classic example because a lot of it
has to be based on guesswork, general relativity has fundamental
weaknesses, and cosmology can never be much more than a guess.)
As someone who's studied neurology I would add it and a lot of medical
'science' for exactly the opposite reason, people do a great deal of
(high quality) experimentation but often without systematic or logical
theories behind it. Ridiculous experiments that serve little or no
purpose are one of the hallmarks of medical science. Just look at the
medieval practice of testing drugs for humans on animals like mice.

If the above are not weak enough for you why not move on to the
'human' sciences. Psychology and Sociology, the true archetypal
pseud?s. Nothing in these sciences is truly fixed, and the whole
theoretical framework regularly gets thrown out.

To be truly strong a theory must be logical, provable, repeatable, and predictive. 
Good examples of truly strong theories include (most of) relativity, evolution,
quantum mechanics, Newtons laws, chemistry (practically all),
metabolic theory, or the theory of computation.
Subject: Re: Definition of science
From: mongolia-ga on 10 Jun 2005 17:49 PDT
Dear lucien86
I think cosmologists, archaeologists, and General Relativists would
not be too happy having their fields of study/research compared to
Astrology. Most legitimate fields of research including the areas you
have mentioned below still have open questions. Also some areas of
science still present more open challenges than others including
Cosmology and General Relativity. (I cannot speak to Archaeology as
other than the fact I know it is a legitimate science, my knowledge is
almost zero on the subject)

However all areas of legitimate science are different to Astrology in
that people who research and study them will for the most part always
question the current theories. All theories of legitimate sciences are
subjected to  experimental and observational scrutiny.

In fact General Relativity has been subjected to a number of tests
ever since Einstein proposed the theory in early part of the last
century. To my knowledge none of these tests have ever refuted General
(There is an excellant article in this Month's Sky and Telescope
discussing just this subject)
With respect to Cosmology, The Big Bang has been a cornerstone theory
to this subject. While not absolutely proved all the observational
evidence in the past 50 years has pointed to the Big Bang theory been

Dear Alexinia
As you see from my above comments I am the ultimate skeptic when it
comes to Astrolgy. This probably derives from an early interest in
Astronomy where astronomers go to great lengths to deride the subject
(Of Astrology).

Other than elaborating on its complicated system of how planets
supposedly influence us , any books I have read on Astrology do
nothing to justify their claims. I know I will never convince you but
perhaps you should consider the following:

- The positions of Uranus, Neptune and Pluto are used all the time in
Astrologer's predictions Why were these planets not discovered by
Astrologers long before they were discovered by Astronomers?

- When a baby is born the only known force exerted on the baby by the
planets are the planets' gravitational force. It can be calculated
that the gravitational force from the doctor delivering the baby is
greater than that of any of the  planets.

- No reputable university anywhere in the world offers Astrology as an
approved  degree subject.

- Every science has world renowned and known experts on the subject
(For Cosmology Stephen Hawking comes to mind). For Astrology I am not
aware of anyone who has gained world wide stature.

Many Thanks

Subject: Re: Definition of science
From: pinkfreud-ga on 10 Jun 2005 18:06 PDT
>> every time I've received an astrological reading by a 
>> professional I've been blown away by the specific accuracy 
>> regarding how I relate to people, the challenges I have in 
>> life, and my natural talents.

When I was an undergraduate, one of my professors asked how many of
the students in the class believed that there might be something valid
in astrology. More than half the students raised their hands (I was
not one of them). The professor then asked us to fill out cards with
specific information about our dates, times, and places of birth, and
said he'd deliver to each of us a custom astrological reading so that
we could see how accurate astrology was or wasn't. I decided to take
part in the experiment, even though my expectations were not positive.
Those of us who chose to participate received our astrological
profiles in class a few days later. People were stunned. There were
many remarks about how insightful and accurate the profiles were, and
how well they described the individuals who received them. Several
nonbelievers were so impressed that they were ready to concede that
astrology might be valid. Even I had to admit that my profile was a
very good match for my personality and my life experiences (although I
was far from convinced that this indicated anything in particular
about astrology).

Then the professor let us know that we had all received EXACTLY THE
SAME 'PROFILE'. The material was written in such a way that almost
everyone found it to be appropriate and insightful to his or her
Subject: Re: Definition of science
From: thalaron-ga on 06 Jul 2005 12:40 PDT
the question that u've put here is both very simple and impossibly hard :
simply : current scientists will not agree to any say which will
include those two as sciences, all the reasons above are good.
hard : the clarty of what is actually science is a little lost in the
last one hundered years, while most people will agree that physics and
chemisty are sciences there is a long debate in the philosophy of
sciences that argues that even the most hard core sciences are none at
all due to the necessity in science to be one in which the observent
of the experiment does not interfear with the outcome but certin
experiments in quantom physics have showen that in some way the added
value of the scientist performing the experiment changes the outcome,
thus even physics will not be considered a science, mathmatices is the
only science that will be saved from this due to it not being
empirical science, but again most of its application in the world will
be devalued as sciences as well.
Subject: Re: Definition of science
From: severoon-ga on 07 Jul 2005 10:38 PDT
There is one particular feature of science that allows you to clearly
separate what many believe are grey areas from "real" science:

The purpose of science, simply, is to make predictions. That means if
you can't predict something based on a conceptual framework, like
astrology or numerology, then it isn't science. Many people further
believe that the purpose of science is to explain why things are the
way they are. A side effect of scientific research is that, in order
to make good predictions, we must understand how things happened in
the past, but just to be clear this is not the fundamental purpose of

If you approach things this way, you can clearly see what category
numerology and astrology fall into. All you have to do is see if
predictions of either occur more frequently than random chance would
allow. This approach to understanding science also allows one to
understand the difference between evolution theory and "creation
science". While the Theory of Evolution, or Darwinism, is a scientific
theory based upon the fact that evolution occurs (note that the Theory
of Evolution and evolution, the fact, are different things...and
anyone can see the fact of evolution with a Petri dish, some bacteria,
and a few drops of toxin), Creationism cannot be called a scientific
theory because, while it explains nicely how things came to be the way
they are, it doesn't allow for accurate predictions of any kind.

The other important feature of a scientific theory is that its domain
be defined. Nearly any statement at all could be cast as a "scientific
theory" if its domain is restricted enough. A popular example that
makes this point is Newtonian physics. Certainly we now know that
Newtonian physics does not explain many natural phenomena--but this
doesn't mean it's a "bad" or "wrong" theory, it simply means that the
scenarios in which one can apply the theory is restricted. Einsteinian
physics is a "better" model because it predicts things more accurately
over a larger domain, but this doesn't mean, if the problem falls into
the domain of Newtonian physics, that Einstein's theories are always

So, when trying to determine if something is a science or not, ask the
following questions:

1. Is a domain in which the theory applies clearly defined? If not,
you could be dealing with a flim-flam artist who shows that a theory
works in one area, and them misapplies it to another area in which it
doesn't work, and draws false conclusions.

2. Does the theory allow one to make predictions when applied in its
domain? If so, how much better are the predictions than random chance?

If a theory clearly defines a domain of application and allows one to
make predictions far better than random chance, it is a scientific
theory (still, though, only when applied in its domain).
Subject: Re: Definition of science
From: mongolia-ga on 10 Jul 2005 14:09 PDT
The following website may be of some interest with respect to this question :-) 


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