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Astrology Yesterday and Today

Astrology Yesterday and Today

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Published by Hossein Heydari

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Published by: Hossein Heydari on Jun 21, 2012
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06/21/2012

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1
Astrology yesterday and today
by
Dr. Sudhir Kakar
(Psycho-analyst);
Prof. Rajesh Kochhar
(Director, Nistads) and
Prof. Ramachandra Pandey
(Adviser Vishva Panchang and Head, Jyotisha Dept.,Banaras Hindu University)Chair:
Prof. Jayant Narlikar;
Director, Inter-University Centre for Astronomy &Astrophysics, Pune.On 28 January 2003 at India International Centre
Professor Rajesh Kochhar:
In today’s dimension of science on behalf of all of you Iwish to thank and welcome our experts. You are all familiar with Dr Sudhir Kakar. I wishto add an extra bit of welcome on behalf of our city to Professor Ramachandra Pandey,from Benaras Hindu University and Professor Jayant Narlikar from Inter UniversityCentre, Pune. They deserve extra thanks because they have come to our city specially forthis evening. I am sure we will have a fruitful and exciting discussion. I also have afeeling that 100 years from now the topic will still be there, there will still be experts andaudience in discussing this in a similarly fruitful and exciting manner. I have greatpleasure in passing the mike to Professor Jayant Narlikar, who is the chairman for thisdiscussion.
Professor Jayant Narlikar
: Thank you, Rajesh although you have put me in the hot seat.Ladies and gentlemen, I welcome all of you to this discussion meeting on a topic of current interest. Astrology has always interested and attracted the Indian psyche, so muchso, that last year it was incorporated in the university syllabi. Apart from that we see dailynewspapers and some television channels giving exposure to the subject as a matter of routine. Important decisions such as when to launch a new State, when to induct ministersinto the Cabinet, when to have house-warming, etc., are decided after consulting theastrologer as to when the planets are well disposed. Even the personal decisions likechoice of a mate in marriage are left to the heavenly bodies.There are several issues that one may debate on today, hopefully in a dispassionatemanner – like; is astrology a science? Like, science, normally does, has astrology evolvedand enriched itself with the new information that is pouring in about planets and theirsatellites? For example, this slide that I have brought today specially belongs to the RoyalAstronomical Society and it has a telescope that was built by Herschel and he was thediscoverer of Uranus --planet Uranus. New planets are getting discovered, Uranus,Neptune and Pluto. Have they been assimiliated in astrology as a matter of routine? Dothey also play a role in the calculations of astrologers? How does it look upon celestialphenomena like comets, eclipses, conjunctions, etc.? Now that the science behind themhas considerably advanced since the times when they were regarded with awe and fear.Have astrologers today used the techniques of controlled experiments and statistics to seehow far their predictions come true? In short, does astrology of today differ in any wayfrom that of yester-eras when science was in its cradle and information about the cosmoswas very rudimentary?
 
2I hope our distinguished panelists – Professor Ramachandra Pandey, Head JyotishVibhag, of Benaras Hindu University will enlighten us about these things.The second aspect is about belief in astrology. Why is it that so many human beings findastrology so attractive? It is not proper to dismiss this question by saying that those whobelieve in it are illiterate or uneducated. That they come from villages which have notseen the march of technology, close at hand. No, as you will find believers in astrologyinclude the well-educated urban elite also. They even include professional scientists. Thisdespite the well-known denunciation of astrology by a large group of distinguishedscientists, including several Nobel laureates. Even going beyond science, great figureslike Gautam Budha and Swami Vivekananda had spoken against astrology treating it as asuperstition. So, it is a non-trivial question as to why people like to believe in astrology. Iam happy that Dr Sudhir Kakar is here on the panel today to say about this aspect intoday’s discussion.The third member of the panel is a professional astronomer Dr Rajesh Kochhar fromNistads, formerly from the Indian Institute of Astrophysics, Bangalore. He may enlightenus on the difference between astronomy and astrology and why he thinks the former is ascience and the latter is not. Having been a student of the history of science in India hemay also tell us about the origins of astrology. Is the subject as practised today of vedicorigin or did it come to India from outside like the west? Although I have identified a fewcrucial issues to be addressed today, the panelists are not bound to restrict themselves tothose issues only. I may have missed out important aspects which they may wish to talk on. However, as the organizers wish to have audience participation to the maximum, Ihope the panelists may limit themselves to the time allotted for their initial statement.After the panelists have spoken, I will invite questions from the audience.….Hopefully the typical question will be well focused and addressed to a specificpanelist…. In the end, I will invite the panelist to make brief concluding remarks while I,as the Chairman, will have the last statement to make in order to wind up the discussion.So this is the way we have planned this session. Finally, I wish to thank the IndiaInternational Centre for providing the opportunity to make such an opportunity. I willnow invite Professor Pandey to make his initial statement.
Professor Ramachandra Pandey :
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3
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