Is Science a Laborious Vanity? — Part 2 —

The article continues from….Is Science a Laborious Vanity? — Part 1

starsMany atheists arrogantly proclaim that they are more than happy to believe in God if only someone would prove that God exists. Yet it is often these very same people who are so willing to place their lives into the practice of open evilness, of destruction or hatred.

With the scientific worldview, Science has indeed become the god of our age, worshipped both by scientists and by non-scientists, everywhere.

Science of astronomy and astrology.

St. Basil talks about astronomy. He says this “far-famed astronomy, a laborious vanity.” Let us look into the science of astronomy and astrology as examples, to understand further to “Is science a laborious vanity?”

St. Basil says, “These men who measure the distances of the stars and describe them, both those of the North, always shining brilliantly in our view, and those of the southern pole visible to the inhabitants of the South, but unknown to us; who divide the Northern zone and the circle of the Zodiac into an infinity of parts, who observe with exactitude the course of the stars, their fixed places, their declensions, their return and the time that each takes to make its revolution; these men, I say, have discovered all except one thingthe fact that God is the Creator of the universe, and the just Judge who rewards all the actions of life according to their merit.”

From the very beginning of time man has been fascinated by the stars and he has always tried to find some links between them and his own destiny (which according to modern science is known as astrology). His observation of the stars and their movements gave rise to the area of study, known today as astronomy. It is considered a pure science which is concerned with the measurements of distances, the evolution and destruction of stars, their movements, and so on. Modern astronomy seeks to find answers to the still unanswered questions regarding the origin of man and the final, possible end of his existence as a member of the human race.

The latest example in the field of astronomy is the discovery of “anthropic principle”. As per this discovery it is said that there really is an infinite, or a very big, ensemble of universes out there and we are in one. This ensemble would be the multiverse. In a multiverse, the laws of physics and the values of physical parameters like dark energy would be different in each universe, each the outcome of some random pull on the cosmic slot machine. The scientists say “We just happened to luck into a universe that is conducive to life.”  There is growing and grudging acceptance of the multiverse, especially because it is predicted by a theory that was developed to solve one of the most frustrating of fine-tuning problems of all—the flatness of our universe. The urge to understand our universe from first principles and not ascribe it to some divine force compels many scientists to seek scientific explanations for what seems to be an incredible stroke of luck.

In days of old, astronomy was synonymous with astrology. The etymological meaning of the word astrology is almost the same as that of astronomy; and there was no clear definition made between the two branches until the time of Galileo. All ancient advanced civilizations (China, Central America, Mesopotamia, India,) treasured some form of astronomy-astrology. The great astronomer, Kepler in the 17th century, the discoverer of the three great laws of planetary motions, believed in and proclaimed astrology as a true science. Kepler, to whom Newton is indebted for all his subsequent discoveries, was mathematician to Emperor Rudolph II of Hungary, and in his official capacity of Imperial astronomer is historically known to have predicted to General Wallenstein, from the position of the stars, the issue of the war. His friend, protector and instructor, the great astronomer Tycho de Brahe, believed in and expanded the astrological system. He was forced to admit the influence of the constellations on terrestrial life because of the constant verification of facts. Scientists today record the periodical events of meteors and comets, and prophesy, in consequence, earthquakes, meteoric showers, and the apparition of certain stars. They are not soothsayers but learned astronomers. Its influence and scope have been brought into connection with practically every known science which has survived from the past — botany, chemistry, geology, anatomy, medicine. Colors, metals, stones, plants, drugs, and animal life of all kinds were associated with the planets and placed under their tutelage. The Zodiac was (exoterically) considered as the prototype of the human body, the different parts of which all had their corresponding sections in the Zodiac itself.

Today, there are distinct boundaries between the modern science of astronomy and the pseudoscience known as astrology.  But in ancient times, these boundaries were not so clear.  Both fields of study used a common set of astronomical observations – but for different purposes.

Long before the invention of the telescope, ancient observations and predictions could only be of celestial objects visible to the naked eye.  This restricted astronomical and astrological studies to the stars, the Sun, the Moon and five planets – Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn.  (The Earth was not counted as a planet until much later).

The word zodiac comes from the Greek word “zoion” meaning animal.

There are two basic types of zodiacs. One is the zodiac defined by astronomy and the other is defined by astrology. Astrology assumes and attempts to interpret the influence of the heavenly bodies on human affairs. Astronomy is the science that deals with the material universe beyond the earth.

The practical purposes of ancient astronomy were celestial navigation and the development of calendars of seasonal dates and events (such as the flooding of rivers) for the planting of crops.  In contrast, the purpose of astrology was to interpret celestial phenomena as signs of divine communications.

Vedic (Hindu) astrology is considered to be more scientific and uses the sidereal zodiac that loosely matches modern real world sky charts. It is considered that this astrology at least knows where the stars and planets are located and places some value on modern astronomy charts.

Although astrology was not as popular in ancient Greece as it was in Egypt and Mesopotamia, belief in astrology continued through the Roman period and the Middle Ages.  Through most of its history, astrology was considered a scholarly tradition. It was accepted in political and academic contexts, and was connected with other studies, such as astronomy, alchemy, meteorology, and medicine.  At the end of the 17th century, new scientific concepts in astronomy and physics (such as heliocentrism and Newtonian mechanics) called astrology into question. Astrology thus lost its academic and theoretical standing, and common belief in astrology has since largely declined.

From the above text (as taken from different non-Christian articles) it is clear that though there is an important distinction in astrology and astronomy today; the practices of astrology and astronomy have common roots.

An example of Modern astrology:

“For the time will come when
they will not endure sound doctrine,
but according to their own desires,
because they have itching ears,
they will heap up for themselves teachers;
and they will turn their ears away from the truth,
and be turned aside to fables” (2 Tim 4:3-4).

Astrology was originally a religion. The Greeks learned it from the Chaldeans and Persians. Each planet was a god that had a divine personality and controlled the life and destiny of man. In spite of the fact that today’s astrologers generally deny that their “art” has anything to do with religion, modern astrology is nothing more than a disguised ancient pagan religion.

The average person today likes to think of himself as a product of the scientific age. He often flatters himself with the thought that he is superior to his ancestors, not standing in awe of the natural world, having no fear of the unknown, and being free from superstition. He is reluctant to believe anything that cannot be proven logically or scientifically and rejects what he often refers to as “myth” in religion: man’s creation from nothing, his fall, the promise and the coming of the Savior, salvation and life in the world to come. Twentieth-century man has been described as man “come of age”, too sophisticated and knowledgeable to accept these things as literally true and he takes this description of himself very seriously. He doubts that the Supreme Being, whoever He may be, could have any interest in or plan for man and the rest of creation. For the advocates of twentieth-century, man is entirely on his own and has to work out his own destiny and the meaning of his existence.

In rather glaring contradiction to all this theorizing and self-satisfaction of modern man and his exaggerated ideas about himself, stands one unquestionable fact: …man is as superstitious (today) as at any time in recent centuries. There are more “psychics” and “mediums”, more “seers of the future,” more “fortune tellers,” now than at any time in recent centuries. Hundreds of publications, usually available not only in newspaper and magazine stores, but even in the super-markets, carry the “predictions” of self-styled “clairvoyants,” tales of the supernatural, accounts of communication with the dead and experiences with demonology.

One of the areas in which this fact is most evident is the widespread interest in astrology. Practically all newspapers and magazines dedicate a considerable amount of space to the advice of charlatans who pretend to be experts in reading the stars. It is a million-dollar business, and hundreds of self-proclaimed astrologers, many of whom would not know one star from another, have become wealthy on the gullibility of the public. There are books and pamphlets in the bookstores, drug stores, five and dime shops, airport gift shops, and many other places, large books especially dedicated to the “virgos” and “scorpios”, and pocket-size books that treat the subject in a general way. All of this worthless “literature” is filled with platitudes that are about as serious and useful as the little bits of advice found in a Chinese fortune cookie. In fact, most of what they tell their readers could be said by anyone and applied to anyone. Imagine taking these “gems of wisdom” as revelations from observations of the movements and conjunctions of the stars: on a given day, to an Aries: “You will have new incentives given to you. Use them to your advantage;” to a Taurus: “You can profit from this day by showing your serene and happy personality;” to a Gemini: “Work out a suitable program, and plan what phase you will develop first.” And yet, millions of people apparently not only consult their horoscope daily, but base their day’s activities on what the stars supposedly tell them to do. They eagerly test all the events of a day and deceive themselves into believing that things turned out just the way the horoscope said. Many claim it is only an innocent pastime, and others see nothing in it contradictory to religion.

Evidently some Orthodox Christians do not know that the Church, in the Bible, the canons and in the writings of the Fathers, condemns the practice of Astrology.

Isaiah, for example, says (47:13-14), “Let now the astrologers, the star-gazers, the monthly prognosticators, stand up, and save thee from these things that shall come upon thee. Behold, they shall be as stubble; the fire shall burn them; they shall not deliver themselves from the power of the flame…”

Jeremiah writes: “Thus saith the Lord, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them. For the customs of the people are vain…”

In Daniel (2:27-28), we read: “Daniel said, the Secret which the kind hath demanded cannot the wise men, the astrologers, the magicians, the soothsayers, show unto the king; but there is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets.”

In his Epistle to the Galatians, St. Paul, finding that even some who had become Christians were holding to their former practices: “But now, after ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements (the Greek word means ‘rudiments of religion’, such as astrology) whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage? Ye observe days and months and times, and years. I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labor in vain.” (4: 9-11)

It is interesting to read what some of the Fathers of the Church have had to say about the subject.

St. Cyril of Jerusalem (Catechetical Lecture IV, 18) says: “It is not according to the date of your birth that you sin, nor is it by the power of chance that you commit fornication, nor, as some idly say, does the confluence of the stars compel you to give yourself to wantonness. Why do you hesitate to confess your own evil deeds and ascribe the blame to the innocent stars? Pay no attention to astrologers; for concerning these divine Scriptures say: “Let now the astrologers, the star-gazers, the monthly prognosticators, stand up, and save thee from these things that shall come upon thee. Behold, they shall be as stubble; the fire shall burn them; they shall not deliver themselves from the power of the flame…”Isaiah 47:13-14

St. Gregory the Theologian (Oration XXXIX, v) speaks of “…the Chaldean astronomy and horoscopes, comparing our lives with the movements of the heavenly bodies, which cannot even know what they are themselves, or what they shall be.”

St. John Chrysostom (Homilies on First Corinthians, iv, 11) shows how the faith of the Christians of his time had been weakened by the revival of this pagan practice: “And in fact a deep night oppresses the whole world. This is what we have to dispel and dissolve. It is not only among the heretics and among the Greeks (pagans), but also in the multitudes on our side (the Christians) with regard to doctrines and to life. For many entirely disbelieve the resurrection; many fortify themselves with their horoscopes; many adhere to superstitious observances, and to omens, and auguries and presages. And some likewise employ amulets and charms.”

Christians should not practice astrology nor consult horoscopes because it puts faith in created things rather than in the Creator; it thus undermines faith in God and His redeeming economy (plan) for mankind; it denies freewill and attributes all that happens to fate; it relieves man of the responsibility for his sins; it weakens and finally replaces, however subtly, the faith of the Church, which is the doctrine of Christ, with a pagan philosophy or religion.

The purpose of the coming of the Savior was to reveal the truth to man and to destroy this very kind of futile faith that people had put in the course supposedly determined for them by the stars.

      bio-orthodoxyWhat we must always remember is that, whatever its many and undoubted achievements are, science is a fallible enterprise conducted by sinful men. Therefore, scientists individually and collectively are not immune from deception, and should apply to themselves the words of the wise Solomon: I am Thy slave and the son of Thy handmaid, a man who is weak and short-lived, with little understanding of judgment and laws; for even if one is perfect among the sons of men, yet without the wisdom that comes from Thee he will be regarded as nothing… For a perishable body weighs down the soul, and this earthly tent burdens the thoughtful mind. We can hardly guess at what is on earth, and what is at hand we find with labour; but who has traced out what is in the heavens, and who has learned Thy counsel, unless Thou give him wisdom, and send Thy Holy Spirit from on high? (Wisdom of Solomon 9:5-6, 15-17). 

Is Science a laborious vanity?

The article continues……

2 thoughts on “Is Science a Laborious Vanity? — Part 2 —

  1. Pingback: Is Science a Laborious Vanity? — Part 1 — | Orthodox Christian Life (of being and remaining in orthodox way of life)

  2. Pingback: Is Science a Laborious Vanity? — Part 3– | Orthodox Christian Life (of being and remaining in orthodox way of life)

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