Since ancient times, man has shown great interest in the sky and the things related to it. Even cavemen left drawings of the celestial phenomena they observed. And as human civilization evolved, so did people’s interest in appearing in the sky. Let’s talk more about the study of the star and sky, and look at the difference between astronomy and astrology.
It’s no wonder that the first observers of celestial phenomena attempted to grasp the influence of other celestial bodies and phenomena on everyday life. Over time, the ancient people developed different methods of relating the celestial phenomena and events in everyday life. Each nation has aligned these methods with its overall culture, religion and mythology. In time, these methods have been modified, supplemented, or forgotten, and some of them are preserved under the common name of astrology, to this day. And that is quite different from observing the stars and planets as a scientist, which, as a practice, developed much, much later.
What is the difference between astronomy and astrology?
Astronomy and astrology are two fields of study that have common background; both study the movement of celestial objects. So what is the difference between astronomy and astrology? Astronomy is the study of celestial objects and space as a whole. Astrology is the study of the movement and position of celestial objects and their presumed influence on the events and lives of humans. The main difference between astronomy and astrology is that astronomy is a branch of the natural sciences, while astrology is considered pseudoscience. But, they share the same history.
Astronomy and Astrology in History
To understand astrology, we must go back to the ancient times when the constellations of the zodiac were formed. All available data indicates that the concept of the zodiac was originated gradually in Mesopotamia in the first millennium BC. The oldest known record of the constellations of the zodiac dates from Babylon, somewhere from VII. centuries BC. One clay tile from that time lists 15 groups of stars arranged along the path of the moon. These groups do not fit very well with today’s zodiac constellations.
The ancient Greeks and Romans actually called astronomy the astrology. Relying on Aristotle’s opinion that stars are beings with superhuman intelligence, and which, because of their purer and more divine forms, exert a certain influence on earthly life, medieval astrologers have created a superstition about the strong influence of some astral spirits on human life.
But, in those ancient times, when people first looked at the sky, the astrologer was also an astronomer. He neatly observed and recorded the celestial phenomena. Such ancient notes have a considerable scientific value today, because they allow us to determine when they were made, to track slow changes in the paths of the planets, and more. Back in the Renaissance age, observing the sky and making horoscopes often went hand in hand. But then, with the use of the telescope, astronomy developed rapidly, separated from astrology and transformed into modern science as we know it today. Astrology generally remained as it was, a gathering of beliefs.
In early times, astronomy only involved observing and predicting the movement of objects visible to the naked eye. In some places, such as Stonehenge, early cultures gathered massive objects that probably had certain astronomical purposes. In addition to their ceremonial uses, these observatories could be used to create and track a calendar and determine seasons, an important factor for knowing when to plant crops, as well as for understanding the length of the year. Astronomy also had a great influence on the development of mankind, because the knowledge and experience gathered have advanced the economy, commerce, maritime affairs.
Difference between astrology and astronomy
Before instruments such as the telescope, early study of stars and sky were invented with the naked eye, from convenient locations, tall buildings and land. Also, astrology is most famous for using a so called theoretical model known as constellations. And guess what, constellations are not real. It is just a theoretical construct.
Professional astronomers no longer use the constellations or their borders. They use only the very precise celestial coordinates (rectascension and declination) of the objects they study. Very few professional astronomers will be able to show you any constellation known to astrology. Constellations are therefore still used by amateurs to orient themselves in the firmament. It is the same with the names of stars and other celestial objects. There are no Deneb, Great Andromeda Nebula, etc. in professional astronomy magazines. There are only labels and coordinates there, e.g. SAO 49941 and NGC221.
So what is the main difference between astronomy and astrology?
Astrology determines additional information for a given moment and given person based on the position of the planet according to that person’s birth sign. Some astrologers use primitive graphical methods to determine the position of the planet, some ancient tables, and some computers and astronomical software. But there are no similarities between astronomy and astrology, simply because astronomy does not predict individual future.
Many texts have been written on the subject of astrology versus the astronomy. It has been written and discussed from various starting points – scientific, historical, religious, or philosophical.
The outcome is known – more or less always at the expense of astrology. Of course, except when this topic is written and discussed by astrologers themselves. Thus, astrology became a “reading from the stars“, or the skill to read the fate of man from the position of stars. Astronomy on the other hand, does not read fate, but it can predict events, mostly ones in the known Universe, and only by using the scientific method.
Check out more Science Reviews through Dive Deeper on WeeklyReviewer!