Karl Popper, Thomas Kuhn and many philosophers argue that astrology is a pseudoscience, although they have different explanations as to why it is considered a pseudoscience. Arguments vary from issues of Popperian’s variability and falsifiability, to questions of progress and Kuhn’s normal science, to the different sorts of tests raised by the scientific community.
However, in establishing the arguments it is necessary to understand what constitutes a pseudoscience and what astrology entails (Thagard 223). Astrology is an ancient practice and is a collection of systems, traditions and beliefs that argue that the relative position and movement of heavenly bodies can dictate human life and other worldly occurrences.
According to Popper, the apparent problem with astronomy is that it is unfalsifiable and that an astrologer cannot make predictions that if disgruntled could lead him/her to own up his theory. Thus since it is not falsifiable, astronomy is not scientific. Popper notes no observation statements are corrigible, that is, methodological decisions about what can be tampered with are required to block the escape from falsification.
Thus, falsification only takes place when a more reliable theory grows, and it is only an issue replaceability by another, and because astronomy is in principle replaceable by another theory, falsification gives no reason for rebuffing astronomy as pseudoscience. Astrology can used to predict about statistical methodologies, but the absence of these regularities does not imply falsification of astrology, although astrology appears equal to the scientific theories that too are not falsified until better theories come up.
On the significance of semantic meticulousness in science, Popper cautions: “criticism will be fruitful only if we state our problem as clearly as we can and put our solution in a sufficiently definite form-a form in which it can be critically discussed” (as cited by Curd & Cover 5). Popper emphasis that the entire scientific enterprise is common and natural, by giving the examples of the exploits of a Copernicus or Einstein, which to him make a better reading than those of a Brahe or Lorentz.
Contrary in defining astrology as a pseudoscience, Kuhn uses a demarcation criterion, which considers: the theory community and a historical context of science.
He argues that an astrologer is concerned with the procedures by which science emerges and seems to be convinced that “emergence” occurs not largely by growth but by the revolutionary overthrow of an agreed upon statement and its replacement by a more developed one. Kuhnians explain that a theory is rejected only when: it has faced anomalies over a prolonged duration; and when it has been challenged by another theory.
He goes ahead and explain that a science is pseudoscience if and only if: first, it has little progress than alternative theories over a prolonged duration and faces a great many unresolved issues; and secondly, the theory does not draw the attention of the scientists thus no efforts are made to evaluate the theory in comparison to others. According to Kuhn, astronomy is painfully unprogressive and little has ever changed since the era of Ptolemy.
According to Kuhn, there are alternative theories of personality and behavior available, and he quotes that “one need not be an uncritical advocate of behaviorist, Freudian, or Gestalt theories to see that since the nineteenth century psychological theories have been expanding to deal with many of the phenomena which astrology explains in terms of heavenly influences” (as cited by Thagard 230).
Kuhn says that there are sorts of “statements” or “theories” which astrologists do repeatedly subject to systematic test. He labels these tests of sort as “normal science” or “normal research”, an enterprise that account for the substantial greater part of the basics undertaken in basic science.
He notes that what makes astrology pseudoscience is the lack of the paradigm-principled puzzle-solving activity characteristic of what he terms “normal science.” However, Popperians criticize Kuhnians’ “normal science” as being unscientific, and argue that it only becomes pseudoscience only when an alternative paradigm has emerged.
Popper argues that those that are taken to explore the limitations of agreed upon statements subject a current statement to a strainous limit, and goes further to give examples like, “Lavoisier’s experiments on calculation” and “the eclipse expedition of 1919,” which’s both outcomes were destructive. However, Kuhn disputes the destructive outcome of some experiments and calls these occasions “extraordinary research” (Curd & Cover 87).
Nevertheless, Kuhn and Popper agree on the point that an assessment of the development of scientific knowledge ought to take into consideration the means through which science has really been applied. Although they differ in that Popper argues that “a scientist whether theorist or experimenter, puts forward statements, or systems of statements, and tests them step by step.
In the field of the empirical sciences, more particularly, he constructs hypotheses, or systems of theories, and tests them against experience by observation or experiment.” While Kuhn believes that Popper’s argument is null and void as it fails to specify which of the two sorts of “statements” or “theories” are being tested, and this can lead to the generalizations which are historically mistaken.
In conclusion astrology faces many unresolved issues, although it cannot be criticized as a pseudoscience on the principle of Popper’s verifications or falsifications or Kuhn’s demarcation criterion, it remains significantly a relevant study.
Curd, Martin & Cover, Jack. Philosophy of Science: The Central Issues. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1998. Print.
Thagard, Paul. Why Astrology is a Pseudoscience. PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association, volume 1. (1978): 223-234). Print.