The Divergence of Astrology & Astronomy

The Divergence of Astrology & Astronomy

“Astrology and astronomy were archaically treated together, and were only gradually separated in Western 17th century philosophy (the “Age of Reason”) with the rejection of astrology. During the later part of the medieval period, astronomy was treated as the foundation upon which astrology could operate.

Since the 18th century they have come to be regarded as completely separate disciplines. Astronomy, the study of objects and phenomena originating beyond the Earth’s atmosphere, is a scienceand is a widely-studied academic discipline. Astrology, which uses the apparent positions of celestial objects as the basis for the prediction of future events, is defined as a form of divination and is regarded by many as a pseudoscience having no scientific validity.”

“Astrology was widely accepted in medieval Europe as astrological texts from Hellenistic and Arabic astrologers were translated into Latin. In the late Middle Ages, its acceptance or rejection often depended on its reception in the royal courts of Europe. Not until the time of Francis Bacon was astrology rejected as a part of scholastic metaphysics rather than empirical observation. A more definitive split between astrology and astronomy in the West took place gradually in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, when astrology was increasingly thought of as an occult science or superstition by the intellectual elite. Because of their lengthy shared history, it sometimes happens that the two are confused with one another even today.”

“For a long time the funding from astrology supported some astronomical research, which was in turn used to make more accurate ephemerides for use in astrology. In Medieval Europe the word Astronomia was often used to encompass both disciplines as this included the study of astronomy and astrology jointly and without a real distinction; this was one of the original Seven Liberal Arts. Kings and other rulers generally employed court astrologers to aid them in the decision making in their kingdoms, thereby funding astronomical research. University medical students were taught astrology as it was generally used in medical practice.”

“Astronomy and astrology diverged over the course of the 17th through 19th centuries. Copernicus didn’t practice astrology (nor empirical astronomy; his work was theoretical), but the most important astronomers before Isaac Newton were astrologers by profession – Tycho Brahe, Johannes Kepler, and Galileo Galilei. Newton most likely rejected astrology, however (as did his contemporary Christiaan Huygens), and interest in astrology declined after his era, helped by the increasing popularity of a Cartesian, “mechanistic” cosmology in the Enlightenment.

Also relevant here was the development of better timekeeping instruments, initially for aid in navigation; improved timekeeping made it possible to make more exact astrological predictions—predictions which could be tested, and which consistently proved to be false. By the end of the 18th century, astronomy was one of the major sciences of the Enlightenment model, using the recently codified scientific method, and was altogether distinct from astrology.”

[Above are excerpts from ]

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