Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Astrology -the psudoscience

“An Indian without a horoscope is like an American without a credit card”
- Sashi Tharror

There are lot of astrological web sites that promise you instant prediction, remedies (parihara) etc. By the click of the mouse you can remove the effects of Mars or Kethu, all you have to do is give them your credit card number! I find it surprising.
There is a lot misinformation and misuse of scientific terms to justify Astrology. For example I find constant reference to Nava Grahas ( 9 Grahas) as 9 planets. One web site claimed that Indian Astronomers discovered 9 planets long before Europeans or Americans had any knowledge of it. I want to point out that not all the Nine Grahas are planets. Out of the Nine Grahas, only five are planets, (Sun is a star, moon is earth’s satellite, and Rahu and kethu are not even celestial objects, they are lunar nodes!). When it comes to Planets even the modern day astronomers don’t have a common agreement. It is only recently the International Astronomical Society has come up with a definition for Planet. As a result of the new definition, Pluto is demoted from the Planet status. So there are only 8 planets as we speak. The five planets that Indian astronomers observed were known to the Greek, Chinese and other civilizations that existed at that time.

It is interesting to note that Earth, one the major planet in the solar system is not considered in the horoscope. If Mars, Venus etc can cast an influence on humans why not earth, after all we are living in it (it is the only planet that seems to have life forms as we know)? . Is it because ancient astronomers thought that the earth was the center of the universe and every thing revolved around the earth (Geocentric theory)? For some reason, the earth is not taken in to account in Astrology, which I find it strange.

How can Grahas (Celestial objects), Nashatras (stars) etc influence individual human life?

Ancient astronomers probably studied how different celestial bodies influenced the Earth. The Sun and Moon in particular can exercise influence over the earth. Seasonal changes, tide actions etc are a result of relative position of the earth in relation to Sun and Moon. Therefore it is important for them to predict the relative location of some of the celestial objects so that they can plan their life around in ancient days. So if you are a farmer, you need to get advanced knowledge of seasonal changes to decide what is the best time to start you plantation and what is the best time to harvest. To predict seasons you need to understand the movement of the Sun around earth (as it appears to an observer on Earth). In those days there was no calendar or weather forecast so this is the only way they can organize their life.

However, you have to understand that the impact of the celestial objects on earth is specific to a region. For example if it is summer, it is summer for every one living in that area. So the force or influence exerted by a celestial object cannot be specific to an individual. Scientifically the celestial objects cannot exert different force to different people living in the same place on earth. For example the Sun cannot emit one level of UV radiation to you and a different level of UV radiation to me when we are both living in Madras.

Even if they exert a force that is not yet discovered by the scientific community, it can only exercise that force over an area on earth and not to each individual. We have so far concluded that any physical force (gravitational, magnetic, radiation etc) if exerted by celestial objects can only be specific to a region and not specific to an individual within a region.

What about Spiritual force? Spiritual Forces can exercise influence over any person, any place, and any time. Generally the supernatural or spiritual forces do not obey any natural law and they can do their own thing! But you cannot quantify or even prove the existence or non-existence of these supernatural or spiritual forces. Any way, for the time being, let us accept the theory that such spiritual forces exist. That means each Graha (celestial object) has some sort of spiritual force within it. At this point, we move from Astronomy to Astrology!

With the above assumption, let us look at the Horoscope or Birth Charts

When a child is born, the astrologer will produce a birth chart called Horoscope. This contains all the information (specially the location of different Celestial objects) as observed on a particular day. For example, at the time of birth the Nakshatra of that day will be designated as Jannma Naskhatra (home star). Bye the way, a Naskhatra is not a star but a celestial zone along the path of the moon. I will try to give a simple explanation of Nakshatra. Draw a large circle, and at the center of the circle draw a small circle. Now the small circle is the earth and the large circle is the apparent path of the moon around the earth. (You can use a collar button as moon and move it around the large circle to be dramatic). Divide the large circle in to 27 segments (just like the way they make Pizza slices). Each segment is a Nakshartra and they are named after the star or group of stars that exist within the segment. As the moon moves around the earth, it moves from one segment to the other. So if you look at the Panchankam it will tell you the Nakshatra for a particular day. Because the Lunar day does not synchronize with the calendar day, you might have two Nakshatras in a single day. The panchangam will tell you at what time the switch over form one Nakshatra to the other happens. Like wise you can establish rasi, thithi, yogam etc . In a nut shell the horoscope produces a snap shot of the sky with some key celestial objects at that time of birth. The belief is, depending on the location of these various celestial objects at the time of birth, the personality, character, who they will get married to, when will they die, etc will be decided.

There is a fundamental problem with the above theory. Because every thing is decided at the time of birth, if you are a clever person you can manipulate the time of birth to produce the right horoscope, a custom made horoscope that produce this super child. A caesarian section for example can be carried out to suit that exact moment. A simple way to cheat the mighty and powerful supernatural force. After all you can control your child’s destiny if not your own!

Let us look at the horoscope form the perspective of a Graha. Let us take Mars for example. Mars is happily going around the sun as its usual routine, and suddenly it gets a signal, a child is born. It needs to record the Child in its database, the exact time and date, and its relative location with respect to the Child’s coordinates (Latitude and Longitudes) on earth. This information is key data for Mars because later on it needs to decide what it is going to do to this child comparing to an other child which is born one hour later (who inherits a different horoscope by the way). A child is born every 3 secs or so and there are lot of babies born across the world. So Mars should have a sophisticated process of keeping track of all the babies and adults as they grow up. If this Graha is that intelligent and powerful to perform a complex operation like this, will it not know that you have tricked the system by delivering the baby before it was due? If I were Mars, I would quickly found out this trick and call it bluff! . Therefore, the time of child’s birth which is the important element of a horoscope does not appear to be the best system from the Graha’s point of view as human beings can manipulate it.!

In a small region in India, on average over 10,000 babies are born within a time interval of 5 mins. All the 10,000 babies will have identical or similar horoscope. In theory they should grow with identical life style ( get married on the same day, die on the same day, suffer flue and constipation on the same day and so on!). We know that no two persons life style is same. Identical twins are classic example. For years, Child Psychologists have been debating whether the Child’s character and personality is as a result of Nature (Genes) or Nurture (by upbringing). This has resulted in extensive study of Twins. Studies have shown that twins who are separated at birth develop distinctly different character, life style and personality from each other. As a part of the Epigenetic studies, scientists are studying identical twins in which one of the Twins suffers a life threatening disease while the other leads a normal way. They are trying to figure out what makes them different even though they are of the same genetic make up. Dr Manel Esteller led a group of scientist in Spanish National Cancer Center in Madrid, to carry out a study on identical twins to understand why one of the twins developed a cancer while the other one did not. So Twins, even though they both may have identical horoscope, they could have different life style (one gets cancer and the other doesn’t). How can we explain this?

One astrologer told me that the time difference between the births of the two twins could have made the difference and a good astrologer will take that in to consideration and actually device a different horoscope for each twin. Some of the twins are born minutes apart. Is the horoscope that accurate to minutes or seconds?. If that was the case, most of our horoscopes were not exactly correct. How many of you can guarantee that the time of birth recorded in your horoscope is accurate to minutes and seconds? In most cases of birth, the person who records the time of birth is the Midwife or Nurse and they are not too bothered about recording it to the exact minutes. In most hospitals in India only medical professionals are allowed in the labor ward. The only way a family learns about the child's birth is when the Nurse or a hospital attendant comes to the family and announces the birth of the child. It is only the Nurse’s word and no other proof exists about your time of birth. For all you know the Nurse might have spend some time after the child’s birth (chatting to a fellow nurse for example) and then came and told you about the child’s birth. So in actual reality the child might have been born a few minutes (or even 10 –20 minutes earlier) earlier than the time the family came to know about the birth. In most cases, once the child is born, the priority of the mid wife would be to examine the child, cut the placenta, clean the child, attend to the mother and so on. I don’t think there is any one present in the labor ward with a stop clock to capture the exact moment of birth. If horoscope should be based accurately on time of birth (to minutes and seconds accuracy) than 90% of the folk’s horoscope is wrong. When I asked one astrolger about this, he said the time of birth does not have to be that accurate. He said that as long as it is within one Nazhikai ( about 1 and half hours) it is OK! They keep changing the criteria for establishing horosocpe to suit their arguments!

If accurete time of birth is required for generating a horoscope then most people's horoscope is wrong! If time of birth doesnot have to be that accureate, then we need to explain why it doesn't work with Twins.!

If life is predetermined by birth, your actions and deeds are pointless. No matter what you do, if you are born to be screwed by Grahas, you will be screwed any way. This is kind of a cynical view of life; it does not offer any hope. It is highly pessimistic (if you happen to inherit a wrong horoscope by no fault of yours!). The astrologers can however argue that by doing some Pariharas (remedies) you can defend yourself against the forces of the grahas. This usually involves doing some special poojas to please the Grahas. Why should the Grahas change their mind if you offer some Puja?. It is more like bribery. So you could be rapist or a murderer, but as long as you keep pleasing the Grahas you can keep getting a good life style. So it looks like bribery and corruption is hard wired in to us through the Grahas.!

What is the role of God in all this?. If the Grahas have some powers, then God must have vested those powers to them. Right? After all GOD is the only source of power. To give a crude analogy, Grahas would be more like MLAs where as God is the chief minister. So why can’t you deal directly with the Chief Minister?. So in theory, by having a good report with god, you should be able to shield yourself from the Grahas, right? If you have complete faith and love for God then it shouldn’t matter what kind of horoscope you have. After all wouldn’t GOD favor his disciples?. From a truly spiritual point of view, there is no need to analyze your horoscope. Right ?

A lot of people accept my arguments but say, “ How come then what ever my astrologers says come true? Every thing he has told us so far has been right and he predicts things with 100% accuracy. You should go to the right astrologer” So from their personal experience they think Astrology is correct even though they accept that logically it sounds wrong.
Why is that an astrologer's prediction turns out to be accurate for those who believe in astrology but not for people like me? To answer this question one should understand the psychology and social mindset of people. Deep inside they want the prediction to come true and they make it happen. It has got nothing to do with astrologers. I will write about how it works for beleivers in my next blog!. I have developed a model to explain how it works. Watch the space.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Science behind Numerology- an Indian Context

Numerology is becoming a big hit in India, especially with the middle class. Now names like “Karthikeyan” are spelled as “Kaarthykeeyen” to fit in with the Numerology. I decided to give this relatively new phenomenon a thorough exam. Before I get in to the nitty-gritty of understanding the numerical value of alphabets and their spiritual significance, I wanted to analyse how the thing would actually work.

Suppose we assume that there is a great force (shall we call it God?) out there some where we cannot see, and this force controls humans. So God (or sub GOD, or one of God’s department - let us say the Numerology department of God) constantly scans people’s name and establish a number based on a pre-defined algorithm, and then its decides either to screw or bless people based on the outcome of this analysis. So an unlucky Karthikeyan becomes super fortunate by changing his name to Kaarthykeeyen (Even though Kaarthykeeyen may not have done any good deeds or done any philanthropic work). The mere fact that that his name now confirms to the Numerological process is sufficient to reward him. This appear to be a very bureaucratic system, pretty much like the way Government departments work with a check sheet!. There are over 3 billion people or so on the planet, so this programme will have to scan all people’s name every day to analyse their name against a set of rules. You can arugue that it may be difficult for a supercomputer, but not for some one like God as he is super powerful and can run a whole set of angles to carry out this task. right ? So far we have some logic ( in an absurd way). But my next question is:

Why does GOD carry out this pointless task? It seems odd to me that a superpower full supernatural stuff would waste a lot of time in scanning people’s name.

Why is this divine cosmic energy so obsessed with people’s name?

You mgiht say God works in mysterious ways and we cannot understand the rationale behind his actions. Ok, so I accept that GOD for some reason scans people’s name. So without questioning the rationale behind the numerology department of God, I move on to my next question.

When the supernatural force scans name, what name does it actually scans?

We as individuals have different names. For example my Spiritual name is Neelakandan. This is what my mom registered in God’s data base during my naming ceremony. But I don’t relate to this name and won’t even respond when some body calls out this name. After the first registry with God it was never used in my life. After registering this name with God, my mom registered me as Rajkumar in school and then decided to call me Raja at home!. I also had several other nick names during my school, collage and at work. After I moved to the west I became Rajkumar Subramanian. Most official correspondence that I get these days is addressed as Mr. Subramanian which happens to be my father’s name! I then shortened my name to Raj to make it easier for the western folks. Even with this attempt they still miss spell me. The Polish guy that I work call me Rag, some time Reg, or some time Rej. In one mobile phone contract they had my name as Mr.Submarine (some how they got this confused with Subramanian). So which name does the God’s numerology department takes in to consideration when they scan?. It is the official name as per the passport, or as per your school records or just your first name or is the name by which you are known?.

Why does numerology works mostly with English language?

Is there numerology in other languages? I don’t know, but I doubt if there is. I think it is because the English language is so weird. It doesn’t have a proper set of rules that govern spelling. In the word “Walk” for example, the alphabet “l” is silent, but when you say “bulk” it is not. And no one will tell you why this is case. It works pretty much like the God’s numerology department!. It is probably because of this that Numerology works mostly with English language. So when Indian folks change the spelling of their name as per Numerology, they only do it in the English language and not in their own mother tongue. To test this, try adding an additional “sa” (ச) or “ka” (க ) to your name in Tamil, Hindi or any other Indian laguage. It wouldn’t make any sense. When writing names in English you can throw a whole set of vowels and you can make it work. I just wonder how you can apply Numerology to a language like Chinese which has got over 10,000 or more alphabets. You need to a computer to figure out a Numerology system! The system is unfair that Numerology appears to be mostly favouring native English speakers or people who can speak English. The English speakers can figure out how best to arrange the spelling of their names and get the favours from God, where as a poor guy who don’t speak English cannot do this to get the same favour from God. In a weird kind of logic you can argue that this is the reason why English speaking countries like the USA and UK are well developed and prosperous comparing to other Non-English countries. The flaw in this argument is that we assume that every one in English speaking countries follow numerology. Even if we accept that hypothesis, the argument falls down when you take equally propoerous Japan or France in to consideration where most folks do not speak English. ( do they practice Numerology over there?)

Why does name matter so much to god when his own name (at least in Hinduism) is not spelled properly?

In the context of Hinduism, let us examine how Numerology will work with the set of Hindu Gods. For example Lord Ram in Hindi will become Rama in Telegu and becomes Raman in Tamil. Most of the North Indian names are customised with an “n” in the end in Tamil to make it compliant with the Tamil grammar. For example, Krishn or Krishna is turned as Krishnan in Tamil. So which is the right spelling for the God? Is it Ram, Rama or Raman? Most ancient Indian spiritual literatures do not attribute a great deal to names. It fact they repeatedly tell you not to argue about names. They go one step further and actually give a single God "thousand names”. So Vishnu alone has got thousand names (Sahasra namam) . So when Gods don’t care about how their names are spelled why would they enforce it to humans? The concept of obsession with name and phonetics doesn’t appear to be compatible with Hinduism.

After all this analysis, I have decided I am not even going to bother understanding the principles of Numerology. After all, if God is silly enough to evaluate me based on the spelling of my name without considering my actions and behaviours, he is not God but an Idiot. For those of you who get offended by this statement, I reprhase this. God is not an idiot and so God will not evaluate some body based on the spelling of his/her name. (I think I may have cooled down the spiritualists!). If God doesn’t understand me as a person, instead only look at how my name is spelled in English, what difference does it makes between God and a racist who judges people based on their skin colour?

Any comments or views email to: traffic_raj@hotmail.com

About Me

I am an Engineer by profession. Spritual and Anit-guru advice is my part time job!