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The Courts Science

Bombay High Court Rules Astrology To Be a Science 478

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the magic-is-fun dept.
neosaurus writes "In India, the Bombay High Court recently ruled astrology to be 'a time tested science more than 4000 years old.' Not only does this stretch the definition of science, it also reaffirms people's faith in pseudosciences at a broader level." At least we can know for certain the people trying to get creationism taught as science in our schools have equally wacky friends around the globe.
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Bombay High Court Rules Astrology To Be a Science

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  • Comfort (Score:5, Insightful)

    by necro81 (917438) on Thursday February 03, 2011 @02:03PM (#35092628) Journal

    At least we can know for certain the people trying to get creationism taught as science in our schools have equally wacky friends around the globe.

    That isn't very reassuring.

    • by eepok (545733)

      Misery loves company.

    • ...you are a mad scientist sick of the stupidity of humans and weren't sure which countries to include in your plot for global destruction. Rest assured India made it as easy as the US does.

    • by Dunbal (464142) *
      This is exactly why we don't let judges into the lab or review papers.
  • These one-liner summaries seem to be tickling CmdrTaco's fancy today ...

  • In related news... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by tboulay (458216) on Thursday February 03, 2011 @02:06PM (#35092684)

    Sand and rocks are now drinks.

  • by commodore6502 (1981532) on Thursday February 03, 2011 @02:08PM (#35092726)

    "The Bombay High Court" ruling is about equivalent to the Georgia Supreme Court saying Creationism is a valid science discipline, or the France High Court declaring french to be the only language allowed to be spoken.

    Yes it's a surprising decision, but likely to be overturned by India's "supreme court" later on. Saner heads usually prevail at the national/ union/ federal level.

    • RTFA (Score:5, Informative)

      by mangu (126918) on Thursday February 03, 2011 @02:18PM (#35092886)

      According to TFA,

      "So far as prayer related to astrology is concerned, the Supreme Court has already considered the issue and ruled that astrology is science. The court had in 2004 also directed the universities to consider if astrology science can be added to the syllabus. The decision of the apex court is binding on this court," observed the judges.

      Apparently India's Supreme Court has already made a ruling about this and the lower court is just following orders.

      • Re:RTFA (Score:5, Interesting)

        by MozeeToby (1163751) on Thursday February 03, 2011 @02:36PM (#35093170)

        From the article: "The PIL had urged the authorities to ban articles, advertisements, episodes and practices promoting astrology and its related subjects like vastu, reiki, feng shui, tarot, palmistry, zodiac signs and rashifal." Emphasis added.

        They had recently passed a law banning certain false advertising practices for medicine and treatments (similar, I imagine, to the regulations that the FDA imposes in the US), but the law was written in such a way that it could be used to ban any psuedo-science from being advertised or sold.

        The court was left with three choices. Apply the law as written and ban the above listed pseudoscience, enraging scores of superstitious Indians across the country. Declare that those subjects were science and continue to all them (what apparently they chose to do). Personally I think, the third choice, declare those practices to be outside the scope of the law, would have been the preferred one. But I can understand why, for political reasons, they ruled the way that they did.

    • RTFA!

      >> "So far as prayer related to astrology is concerned, the Supreme Court has already considered the issue and ruled that astrology is science. The court had in 2004 also directed the universities to consider if astrology science can be added to the syllabus. The decision of the apex court is binding on this court," observed the judges.

    • but likely to be overturned by India's "supreme court" later on.

      I suppose you're hoping that India's Supreme Court will reverse its earlier ruling which recognizes astrology as a science worthy of being taught at universities, and with courses funded by taxpayers. http://www.scribd.com/doc/19043519/Astrology-Case-in-Supreme-Court-of-India [scribd.com]. Here's a relevant excerpt from that judgement:
      "Since Astrology is partly based upon study of movement of sun, earth, planets and other celestial bodies, it is a study of science at least to some extent."

      • by blair1q (305137)

        "Since Astrology is partly based upon study of movement of sun, earth, planets and other celestial bodies, it is a study of science at least to some extent."

        Wow. That's a total failure to understand what science is.

        Science isn't the things it studies. Science is the process of determining truth objectively. Apparently, India's courts have no interest at all in doing science, just in redefining it to be nonsense.

  • by tota (139982) on Thursday February 03, 2011 @02:10PM (#35092748) Homepage

    I have met numerous people, some of them quite clever and respected, who despite being well aware of various pseudo-science tricks (say homeopathy and the like) all fell for astrology. They will claim that people born at a certain time of year share some traits... (like it's some kind of scientific measurable proof. sigh)

    I have no idea why it appeals to so many, especially women for some reason. Just look at most women's magazines!
    Every newspaper has a column (all of them sufficiently vague that you can't use this to prove how ridiculous the whole thing is).

    I wonder what it is that makes so many of us susceptible to such blatant scientific fraud.
    As for India, I am not surprised... their belief system is already quite complicated and intersects with all aspects of life, science included.

    • by rjstanford (69735) on Thursday February 03, 2011 @02:17PM (#35092872) Homepage Journal

      James Randi's astrology experiment remains one of my favorites. Gather information from a room full of people, prepare a reading for each one, and have them read it (in the same room, but silently). Invariably they claim that it was 85-95% accurate, far beyond what they would believe is pure chance. Then he has them pass their readings to the next person in line. Very soon they realize that the entire room was given the same paper.

      As Heinlein liked to say, man is not a rational animal, rather a rationalizing one.

      • by elrous0 (869638) *

        It's a shame we don't have an younger James Randi around to take on the cause. Penn and Teller are about as close as we've got.

        There always seem to be new psychics and snake-oil salesmen coming along, but very few equally charismatic skeptics.

      • by LWATCDR (28044)

        I saw that demonstration once. People still argued that it didn't prove that astrology wasn't true that it just proved that James Randi was good at fooling people.
        Sad thing is that for one brief moment they had used logic and drawn a valid conclusion.
        What they didn't understand was that Randi wasn't trying to prove a negative. He was showing them how easy it was for humans to be tricked into believing astrology was true.
        It is just a shame.

    • by Sarten-X (1102295)

      I wonder what it is that makes so many of us susceptible to such blatant scientific fraud.

      Patternicity [scientificamerican.com].

    • by arth1 (260657)

      They will claim that people born at a certain time of year share some traits... (like it's some kind of scientific measurable proof. sigh)

      There are some measurable differences. Babies born during winter and their mothers have traditionally had a different diet.
      Then there's the educational system which often is year-based, and whether you were born in December or January knocks you one year off in schooling.
      Finally, there's a small correlation between economic status and when in the year your children are born.

      But month-by-month, no, I don't think there are any big differences, except between December and January.

      • by radtea (464814)

        There are some measurable differences

        The differences you are talking about are a) barely measureable; b) subject to hemispheric and cultural effects; and c) unrelated to the astrologically-relevant characteristics that most people are concerned with.

        Yet you seem to think this is somehow relevant to the discussion of astrology as a social and cultural phenomenon, when there is no evidence that the tiny differences you are bringing up are in any way related to the claims astrologists make.

        • by arth1 (260657)

          The differences you are talking about are a) barely measureable; b) subject to hemispheric and cultural effects; and c) unrelated to the astrologically-relevant characteristics that most people are concerned with.

          Yet you seem to think this is somehow relevant to the discussion of astrology as a social and cultural phenomenon, when there is no evidence that the tiny differences you are bringing up are in any way related to the claims astrologists make.

          You seem to think that you know what I seem to think. Please refrain from sputtering such nonsense.

          a: Not so. There may not be any huge differences, but they're definitely measurable and statistically significant.
          b: EVERY sociological variance is subject to hemispheric and cultural effects (and a boatload of other factors). "Because X affects Y, there can't be a correlation between Z and Y" is a logical fallacy.
          c: Of course. And I was not claiming otherwise either. I was replying to "people born at

    • by Kenja (541830)
      I gave up when we declared catsup to be a vegetable. Now we have commercials proudly saying that manwhiches (tm) contain two servings of veggies.
      • by spinkham (56603)

        The fact that ketchup is a vegetable isn't the scary part.
        For the purpose of US school lunch nutrition at least, French Fries are considered a vegetable. That is scary.

    • The wide spread belief in astrology is probably based on the Forer Effect. In 1948 Bertram F. Forer, a psychology professor, gave his students a personality profile test. The next day he handed out personality descriptions to his students and asked them if they were apt. The average score for the profiles 'accuracy' was 4.26 out of a possible 5 (perfect personality description). However, every student had been given the same analysis which consisted of statements from various horoscopes columns in the media
    • by Mr Z (6791)

      You know, when I was a little kid, I used to buy into astrology too, since my mom and her family were really big into it. They came from a very superstitious background, believing in astrology, palm reading, numerology, tarot... yeah.

      And when we went to the pizza place, there were always this machines (or sometimes a display case) were you could buy these little scrolls. Buy the one for your sign, and unroll it, and it'd have whatever the predictions were for your sign that month, along with charts and the

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 03, 2011 @02:12PM (#35092760)

    RTA, Bombay High Court didn't "rule" this way. They noted that India's Supreme Court already ruled on whether Astrology is a science back in 2004 and parroted the result of it. Seems consistent to me.

  • by kikito (971480) on Thursday February 03, 2011 @02:13PM (#35092780) Homepage

    This makes making fun of India so much easier now.

  • Bombay/Mumbai? (Score:3, Informative)

    by tessellated (265314) on Thursday February 03, 2011 @02:13PM (#35092798) Homepage

    I thought it's called 'Mumbai' now?

    from Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bombay_High_Court#History_.26_Premises [wikipedia.org]:
    "Although the name of the city was changed from Bombay to Mumbai in 1995, the Court as an institution did not follow suit and remained as the Bombay High Court."

    Wikipedia doesn't explain why that is so.

  • Who's next? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by udoschuermann (158146) on Thursday February 03, 2011 @02:25PM (#35093010) Homepage

    I'm taking bets on the next practice or belief system to be labeled and taught as a science. The reading of entrails, tea leaves, palms, or smoke columns? How about tech support by Tarot? (that one does have a certain ring to it, doesn't it?) Any others?

  • zoroastrians, the folks who actually started astrology, at one time had the largest empire in the world, the achaemenid empire:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Achaemenid_Empire [wikipedia.org]

    eventually, as their empire dwindled and islam rose, they fled persia for india, where zoroastrians became a wealthy, influential and rich minority, the parsis:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parsi [wikipedia.org]

    if you like the music of queen and freddie mercury: his background is parsi

    another thing that always struck me about parsis, the towers of silenc

    • by gtall (79522)

      Astrology probably predated Zoroastor, the early cities in Mesopotamia (e.g., Ur) settled around 2600 had built ziggarats which were Temples various gods. Zoroaster came along roughly 1600 years later. The Babylonians 1696 – 1654 probably had a form we'd recognize. But it can be traced back to early Babylonian culture (around 2400) after the culture that built Ur collapsed.

      And that's only the Western branch. The Chinese developed their own brand. If the Zoroastrians had anything to do with Astrology,

      • i am apparently falling into a western misperception going all the way back to the ancient greeks:

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zoroaster#Western_perceptions [wikipedia.org]

        One factor for the association with astrology was Zoroaster's name, or rather, what the Greeks made of it. Within the scheme of Greek thinking (which was always on the lookout for hidden significances and "real" meanings of words) his name was identified at first with star-worshiping (astrothytes "star sacrificer") and, with the Zo-, even as the living

  • by cjcela (1539859) on Thursday February 03, 2011 @02:27PM (#35093040)
    Science can certainly be regulated by law, but one cannot legislate what is or is not science. This is just sheer ignorance.
  • ...Astrology can be a science. Although not every scientist will accept the findings.
  • As "cdesign proponentsist" Behe said during the Kitzmiller v. Dover trial, any definition of "scientific theory" that would include Intelligent Design would also include Astrology.

    • by Dracil (732975)

      And that was redundant. That will teach me to read the summary more fully next time.

  • A 2010 Harris Poll shows that only 31 percent of Americans believe in astrology. But it's not a science here, yet!

    CBS News [cbsnews.com]
  • Pretty good for a "science" that states the sun is in capricorn when it actually is not.

    Did they rule if this was valid for old astrology dates or the new aligned reality based astrology with Ophiuchus or both.

  • Please read the article.
    A PIL (which is a Public Interest Litigation) is something any citizen can file.
    An organization filed a litigation in court to ban all advertisements related to astrology, feng shui and Vastu Shastra(Ancient practice of arcitechture which supposedly brings positive energy and makes inhabitants millionares).
    Court said it cannot ban them as they have been practiced in India for 4000 years.

    A USA analogy?
    Lets say you file an application in court saying ban all church advertisements promi

  • by mseeger (40923) on Thursday February 03, 2011 @02:53PM (#35093490)

    The judges didn't have any chance to rule otherwise; their horoscope said so....

  • Virgos are sceptical about such things.

  • So, what testable predictions has Astrology confirmed? I suspect none, so it's not a science.

  • Merely a semantic detail. Until the 1800s the word "science" meant "system of knowledge" and applied to philosophy, region, best practices, etc. In the 19th century science acquired its modern mean of reproduceable observations.

What this country needs is a good five dollar plasma weapon.

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