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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

"Astrology and Conceptual Inertia"

The ancients paid close attention to the stars. The numbers 7 and 12 are auspicious in many ancient cultures and faith traditions, a quality they owe to the fact that they number the important heavenly bodies visible with the naked eye (Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn) and the constellations through which the sun transits every year. The ancients marked their journeys through the night sky because, in the ages before literacy, the heavenly bodies were our calendar.
Aristotle coined the term "sublunary" to refer to the realm below the moon, where matter consisted of combinations of the four elements: air, earth, water, and fire. Above, in the realm of the Sun, the planets, and the fixed stars, matter was composed of an indestructible fifth element. The sublunary world was subject to decay and death, and an object's natural tendency was to come to rest. Above, objects endured forever and naturally moved in perfect circles.
Aristotle also lived during a time when the problem of change was considered of utmost importance to philosophers. Why do things change, yet still seem to obey certain regularities. Aristotle saw change in terms of matter trying to realize its essential form. Motion was matter taking form, achieving in actuality what it possessed in potentiality. But a thing cannot move on its own, and if we trace motion and change back far enough, we come eventually to a first mover.
In Aristotle's cosmology, which was later adopted by Ptolemy, and later still by the Catholic Church, the Earth sits at the center of the universe, while the Moon, Mercury, Venus, Sun, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn and the fixed stars inhabit increasingly distant concentric spheres. Beyond the stars is the sphere of the Prime Mover, or God. God imparts force, or impetus, to the spheres below him. Thus, in this cosmology the stars really do reveal our fates.
Question Presented:
Science has demonstrated that all the factual predicates upon which astrological predictions are made are false, yet millions of people still consult their horoscope and believe that the stars hold some power over human destiny. Why do ideas persist long after their foundations have crumbled?