Astrology in science education, including medical course


The very design of saffronization of education that the central BJP government is in avid pursuit of to regiment the thought process and inculcate irrationality in the minds of the students is further evident as the formulators of disastrous National Education Policy 2020 have now introduced astrology, a pseudo-science, in the syllabus of Ayurvedic Medical Course as part of the so-called ‘Indian Knowledge System’. Reportedly, about a thousand candidates have already applied for this course.
However bogus and ludicrous the move might look, the protagonists of saffronization are not in short supply of trash arguments to justify their sinister acts. Dr Sanjib Sharma, Vice Chancellor of the National Institute of Astrology, observed that the inclusion of Astrology in Ayurveda Medical Science would immensely help students because the positional change of the planets and the stars exert a direct effect on the body and mind of a human being depending upon his or her natal chart. Hailing the proposition, Dr Sunil Sharma, chairman of the Indian Council of Astrological Science, said, ‘‘Many diseases that occur due to the imbalance of wind, bile, and cough can be diagnosed by studying the position of the planets’’.
The designers of the proposed 10-month course of Astrology, which comprise, inter alia, 25 video lectures, have also claimed that one can identify an array of diseases like stomach upset, heart diseases, and TB, as well as the cause of any fever by studying the planetary position and constellation details of the concerned patient based on his or her birth details and accordingly medicine and aetiology, could be prescribed. There is a proposal from some quarters that an Astrology desk be opened in each hospital so that patients’ horoscope details can be noted down in advance and passed on to the concerned doctor to facilitate proper diagnosis and treatment. Naturally, a question arises whether the inclusion of Astrology in medical education would enhance the standard of medical care or it would be to the contrary.

Astrology and Astronomy are not the same

At the outset, we must understand that astrology and astronomy are not the same. Astronomy is the study of everything in the universe beyond the Earth’s atmosphere that we can see with our naked eyes, like the Sun, the Moon, the planets, and the stars, as well as objects we can only see with telescopes or other instruments, like faraway galaxies and gas-and-dust clouds called nebulae. Such studies are conducted with the help of higher mathematics. So, astronomy is a part of Physics, the branch of science that deals with the structure of matter and how the fundamental constituents of the universe interact. On the other hand, in astrology, both the Sun and the Moon are considered planets. However, as has been established by modern science, the Sun, a hot ball of glowing gases, is the star closest to the Earth and the only one in our solar system. The Moon is the natural satellite of the Earth. As per Astrology, the influence of the objects in the sky, especially the nine planets—the Sun, the Moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, Saturn, Rahu and Ketu—have a definite influence on the human body and life. However, Rahu and Ketu are two imaginary entities that have no existence in reality.

Jyotish Shastra of ancient India was a rudimentary form of Astronomy, not Astrology

It is also pertinent to note that the Jyotish Shastra of ancient India and what is meant by Jyotish or Astrology today are different. Jyotish Shastra helped in developing mathematics, particularly geometry and trigonometry, in an endeavour to objectively study the motions, positions and behaviours of the planets. The earliest Jyotish literature of India, Vedanga Jyotish, in a rudimentary form, is a book of geometry, trigonometry and astronomy of that time, albeit alongside many false and fanciful ideas due to limitations of scientific understanding in those days of the infancy of civilization. But despite that, the books of the Vedic age did not mention any link between planetary motions and the pattern of life of a human being through zodiac signs or ‘calculating’ the future of a man with the help of a horoscope. One can find the postulates of Astrology in the Siddhanta Jyotish books written centuries later. So, Astrology is neither Vedic nor ‘old science’ as highlighted by the saffron brigade.
To state briefly, with the development of the idea of an omnipotent supernatural entity, the presumed creator and conductor of the universe, at a definite period of social development due to specific socio-historic reasons, the idea of ‘destiny’, i.e., the fate of a man, had arisen. At that time, people believed that the entire world was only an expression of the will of a supernatural entity or God. Men were nothing but helpless instruments to carry out God’s will or abide by his commands. This thought contributed to the development of astrology, the practice of forecasting the future of a human being or pre-determination of his or her fate, based on lines on the palm or a diagram of the relative positions of planets and signs of the zodiac at a specific time (as at one’s birth).

Astrology is diametrically opposite to the science of cosmology

As stated above, astrology believes in the existence of nine planets. There is no existence of Uranus, Neptune and Pluto in Astrology, while science has proved the existence of these three planets in reality. Besides, if, according to Astrology, there is the influence of the Moon on mankind, how is it that the satellites of Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune, some of which are larger than the Moon, exert no such influence? Astrology has no answer to this question. Because at the time the idea of Astrology (the first authentic book of applied Astrology is Pancha Siddantika by Baraha Mihir which was written in the 7th or 8th century) was mooted, the existence of those three planets and other satellites was not known as they were not visible to the naked eye. Only after the discovery of the telescope about 4,500 stars could be seen. Astrology, however, holds even today that only 108 stars have an influence on man’s fate.

How come the other stars do not affect the life and mind of human beings?

Astrology glaringly contradicts the Heliocentric concept of the Universe of Copernicus in which the Sun is assumed to lie at or near a central point of the solar system or the universe while the Earth and other bodies revolve around it. The fact is that, because of limited knowledge in the ancient world, India included, people believed in the geocentric concept of the universe (i.e., the structure of the solar system or the universe in which Earth is assumed to be at the centre of it all). But, even when the school students of this day are familiar with the heliocentric universe, the astrologers continue to stick to the geocentric concept. In an effort to project themselves as scientists, some astrologers even use modern computers in their chambers, as if computers facilitate astrological calculations. But that does not mean that astrology is a part of modern science and technology. A computer is only a piece of electronic equipment that works on what data is fed to it and what process it is asked to follow to analyse the data. Seeing the computer and hearing the jugglery of words of the astrologer, many believers think astrology works on a scientific basis. But such is not the case. Astrology is a pseudo-science which, backed by the forces of religious backwardness, obscurantism and superstitious beliefs, finds its sustenance in the blind religious faith of man.

Imaginary thought of planets influencing human life and fate

Let us now delve into the matter a bit more to see whether the planets, stars and constellations can influence the body and mind of a human being. If not, then how can that improve the standard of medical treatment? Those who have studied science at the school level know to some extent that tides occur in rivers due to the gravitational force of the Sun and the Moon. It is an experimentally verified scientific truth. But, according to Astrology, an unknown powerful force is emitted from the planets and stars lakhs of crores of miles away, which influences the body and mind of a human being. This influence, Astrology holds, cause many diseases like arthritis and psychic disorders. Incredible, no doubt!
Modern science has proved beyond doubt that no force other than the gravitational force, which is very feeble, works equally on every object, including man. Now if astrologers say, ‘No, it is not gravitational force; it is some other force’, then what is that force? By which experiment has its existence been proven? What scientifically verified laws govern the effect of this unidentified or imagined ‘force’ on the body and mind of the human being? How does the cause-and-effect relationship work here? In this regard, Astrology is conspicuously but expectedly silent.
In his essay ‘‘Applied Astrology’’, Ramendra Sundar Trivedi, one of the forerunning personalities of the Indian Renaissance, wrote: ‘‘Tides occur due to the attraction of the Moon; arthritis aggravates in full Moon, and new Moon etc., are a fallacy, not arguments. ‘The storm yesterday caused a jackfruit to fall in my garden, so why wouldn’t Haricharan be affected by cholera?’ —such arguments are fruitless.’ ‘Are the planets moving from this zodiac to that zodiac without reason if there is no relationship between their movements with our wellbeing?’ — such arguments are also flawed’. What he meant, and rightly so, was that inserting ‘because and hence’ in the postulates does not prove anything scientifically. Every earthy phenomenon is bound by cause and effect relationship. Unless the causality is unravelled, hypothetical assumptions stand nowhere. The fact is that there is no scientific basis for assuming that stars and planets influence human bodies and minds.

The astrological belief that psychic diseases are due to the influence of the Moon is wrong

Another proposition of Astrology is that cause of psychic diseases is the influence of the Moon on man. Is this proposition proved correct when examined on the anvil of science? In ancient times, when man had tried to frame a concept about the cosmic world based on what could be watched in the sky, there was a curiosity about the Moon in his mind. The change of shape and daily movement of the Moon in the sky had prompted man to frame a slew of queer, unreal and unsubstantiated conceptions about the Moon. At that time, man had no idea about the cause-and-effect relationship operative behind the changes in shape and movement of the Moon as observed from the Earth. The limitation of scientific knowledge of that period or the objective limitation of the material condition worked behind the germination of such fancied thoughts.
The process operative behind such assumptions was the comparison of other phenomena in nature with those of the terrestrial world and then arriving at a conclusion based on viewed similarities. For example, the proponents of Astrology noticed that a psychic patient behaves erratically and eccentrically. Similarly, the shape and movement of the Moon were also perceived to be strange and inexplicable. So, they concluded that the influence of the Moon is the cause of psychic diseases. It was through this process of drawing an analogy or parallel between two different phenomena—that is, following the logic of resemblance —that the votaries of astrology concluded that the cause of the psychic disorder is the effect of the Moon on the body. Owing to a lack of correct scientific knowledge in that period of the infancy of science, such flawed ideas were nurtured. In the course of advancement, the branch of psychology in medical science could, at a conducive material condition, categorically detect the reasons behind psychic disorders and also find treatments. Now psychology as a science is much more advanced. So, the views of the astrologers have been proved wrong. Had there been the possibility of a psychic disease occurring due to the impact of the Moon, then all the astronauts who have stepped on the Moon or have travelled near it would have turned lunatics. But that has not been the case. The word ‘lunatic’ originated from the word ‘Luna’ (i.e., the Moon), which has its root in the wrong conception of the yore. Still, astrologers have been holding onto that old incorrect presumption of 1500 years back. So, it is anti-science and hence to be brushed aside.

The cycle of arthritic pain does not follow the new Moon and full Moon

There is another misconception. It is believed by astrologers and even many superstitious people that aggravation of arthritic pain takes place during the new Moon and full Moon. But modern medical science has proved the futility of such a thought. The reality is that arthritic pain soars and ebbs periodically because of physiological reasons. It depends on the patient’s physical condition and the disease’s severity. Had arthritic pain aggravated during the full Moon or the new Moon, there would have been long queues in front of the doctors’ chambers during the lunatic cycles, or there would have been an increased demand for pain-relieving medicines. But that does not happen. The long-reared belief about the relation of arthritis with the Moon also obsesses some patients so much psychologically that though not having any aggravated pain in reality, they develop an impression of increased pain. If Astrology now enters the field of medicine, blind faith will be strengthened, which would obstruct the scientific process of treatment and cure.

Not reason but blind faith provides the fulcrum of saffronized education

What is then the real intention of the BJP-led government behind strong advocacy in favour of astrology? It is to encourage the study of pseudo-science and mythical beliefs in the name of science and thereby inhibit the growth of reasoning faculty and rational bent of mind, which foster a real quest for knowing the truth and gathering proper knowledge. Apologists of astrology claim that science also makes predictions, and hence astrology, which also makes predictions about the future, cannot be dismissed as faulty. Scientific predictions are entirely different from astrological foretelling. For example, astrophysics can predict, based on scientific calculations, on which date and at what time an eclipse would occur or the tide would come into the river. The accuracy of such predictions based on a causal determination of a probable occurrence in future depends on whether all relevant factors that come into play have been considered. In such probabilistic predictions, the methodology of science is more important than the predictions themselves because these are based on determinism and not pre-determinism or fatalism. For example, if one goes to an astrologer, he is taught that his future is pre-determined, imprinted on one’s palm or forehead, which can be ferreted out by astrological calculations based on planetary movements. Suppose it is read from one’s palm lines that a disaster is in the offing in one’s life. But at the same time, the astrologer says that if one wears a particular gem, the disaster can be averted. How contradictory! If everything is pre-determined and pre-ordained, how can a gem frustrate the inevitability? However, the astrologer is clever enough. Suppose the gem proves to be of no avail-which is the objective reality-and the client returns with that complaint. In that case, the astrologer says that the client did not wear the gem with absolute belief. Hence, it did not work. This is how leeway is kept open to escape the blame on hypocritic astrological forecast.
The BJP government, through its prescript of studying the utopian ‘Indian Knowledge System’, is trying to mould the educational system in the so-called eternal Indian tradition premised on Hindutva, the essence of which is ‘don’t argue, only believe’. Believe that our sages in the dim past were wise enough to say each and everything of life and knowledge, including the recent discoveries of modern science. They had a spiritual insight to see everything, even what would happen thousands of years later. As if, as Rabindranath Tagore had once taunted, the law of evolution and newer revelation work everywhere except India.
So, the BJP PM himself claims that the elephant head of Lord Ganesha indicates the existence of plastic surgery in ancient Indian land. The birth of hundred sons to Queen Gandhari, as described in the epic Mahabharata, holds testimony of the availability of stem cell technology in the 3rd century BCE. Pushpaka Ratha (a chariot driven in the sky by a horse with wings) described in the myths, testifies to the existence of aeroplanes then and so forth. Even particular breathing exercise in Yoga is equated with the Quantum Theory. The Hindutva camp propagates that Yoga and quantum physics draw upon the same timeless wisdom. Yoga is one of the few ways to realize the ultimate truth in Vedanta and the universal energy field in quantum physics. So, it is inferred that quantum physics existed in the Vedanta and Upanishads. Incidentally, the idea of a unified field in quantum mechanics is still theoretical and has yet to be explicitly proven.
But all such bizarre theories and claims are propagated with alacrity, and all are exhorted to obey and believe these without raising any questions. Who knows, tomorrow, the vendors of bigoted Hindutva might abolish the course of modern medicine and replace it with a study of ancient Ayurveda, that too in a distorted form.

Pioneers of Ayurveda, Charaka and Sushruta were all for evidence-based reasoning

People in the ayurvedic medicine field have also raised their voices to protest against these motivated steps of the BJP government. They hold that introducing astrology even in Ayurveda is a regressive move as it pushes Ayurveda towards faith-based practices, away from evidence-based reasoning’, said G.L. Krishna, an Ayurveda physician and Homi Bhava Fellow at the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore. ‘‘Introducing medical astrology as an elective in Ayurveda is a bad idea. It promotes superstition among students, diverts them from the scientific pursuit of health and disease’’, said Kishor Patbardhan, professor of physiology at the Institute of Medical Science, Banaras Hindu University. ‘‘Nothing can be more damaging to science than such belief’’, observed Subhas Lakhotia, a distinguished professor at Banaras Hindu University.
Lakhotia said the move to offer astrology in Ayurveda ‘‘unfortunately disregards guidance even from Sushruta and Charaka who advised that ‘pratyaksha’ or direct evidence and ‘anuman’ or inferential evidence and ‘yukti’ or logic should be preferred over ‘Shabda Pramana’ or textual narratives. They all feel, and rightly so, that introducing Astrology in Ayurveda would dilute the very treatment process.
But ignoring all these protests from the scientific community, including Ayurveda Medical Science, the government is going ahead with the inclusion of Astrology in Ayurvedic medical treatment. In the very first chapter of the Astrology course, it is reportedly mentioned that in the case of a patient, the particular position of Mars in his birth chart might contaminate the bone marrow. By such education, what else would the student learn, save charlatanry?

Foil this heinous conspiracy

According to the RSS-BJP, the existing education system is an alien or colonial one. So, in order to Indianize, nationalize and spiritualize education, they are rolling out the National Education Policy. Some non-scientific views may exist in society. But when a government, which prattles avowal to democracy so loudly, instead of counteracting the influence of superstitious ideas, takes the initiative to systematically promote non-scientific thoughts and medieval views through the education system, it becomes a dangerous attempt to put the clock back. So, this evil design must be foiled and its hideous underbelly exposed.
C V Raman, the Nobel laureate scientist, had said in the Convocation of the Bombay University in 1932: ‘‘Let the dogs of conservatism, ignorance and fanaticism bark, but the glorious caravan of the Indian nation will move on with irresistible force.’’ That ought to be the spirit. It is heartening to find that not only renowned physicians and researchers of Ayurveda but many eminent scientists, educationists, various mass organizations and science bodies have come forward to raise their voices of protest. They have appealed before the masses, saying, ‘We believe that this downward movement of Indian education would cause irreparable loss to our nation and the future generation’. We appeal to the citizen not to sit idle spectators of this drama but to build a mass movement to protect the education system of our country.

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