March 21, 2009

Astrology : Correlation, not Causality

A widely held perception about astrology states that astronomical bodies influence events in human life and this influence can be benefic or malefic. This CAUSALITY is extremely difficult to justify in scientific or rational terms and has led to vague and vacuous explanations in terms of mysterious "rays" that emanate from planets -- and can be focused by gems and jewels -- or in terms of as yet unexplained gravitational and electromagnetic "action-at-a-distance" mechanisms.

But strangely enough, even though astrology does not lend itself to a rational explanation we find that some of the most rational and scientific people on the planet, many of them renowned mathematicians, have a strong belief in this phenomenon. How is it that very rational people subscribe to this apparently irrational body of knowledge ?

The answer is very simple if we replace CAUSALITY, as the operating principle of astrology, with the concept of CORRELATION.

What does this mean ? Suppose I find your car parked outside a shop then it is very likely that you are inside the shop. But it would be stupid to believe that the presence of the car outside the shop has CAUSED you to be present inside the shop. But you would have no difficulty in accepting the fact that the presence of the car outside the shop is strongly CO-RELATED to your presence inside the shop. The relation between the two events (a) presence of car outside shop and (b) your presence inside the shop : is not causal but co-relational. So in sense, I can "predict" your presence inside the shop by scanning for the presence of the car outside the shop.

So is the ability to "predict" certain events in a human life based on the presence of certain other events : in this case the presence of certain astronomical bodies at certain points of the zodiac. Why are these events CORRELATED ? I do not know, nor do I care. But if I can spot a pattern of correlations then I am in a position to "predict".

The difficulty lies in the fact that the number of possible patterns is very high. With nine bodies and twelve position the number of patterns defined in terms of positions, aspects and conjuncts is very, very high. It needs a person of almost super-human mental ability to figure out which of these astronomical patterns are correlated to corresponding human events. Quasi mythical sages like Parashar were known to have this super-human mental ability.

Fortunately, normal people like us who have the benefit of living in the 21st century can use computer technology to enhance our mental ability and "computer" astrology is now very widely used. But in all these cases, the role of the computer program is limited to the calculation of planetary positions -- which is a good starting point but is of very limited use when we need to process patterns.

The real usage of computers would lie in the ability to store and retrieve these patterns in a manner that can be used to validate what Statisticians refer to as a NULL Hypothesis :
  • If [ patterns x ] exists then [ event Y ] is very likely to happen
The current technology of computer astrology is clearly inadequate to even formulate let alone address this challenge. Having spent over two decades with computer programs and having a strong interest in this subject, I have tried to create a scheme through which this challenge can be addressed. Based on the mathematical concept of sparse matrices, this scheme uses Excel spreadsheets and a mySQL database to capture patterns in a way that can be subsequently analysed through an inference engine.

I still have a long way to go but if anyone is interested in the mathematics, the algorithms or the software you are welcome to take a look at the Parashar21 website and give your comments.

Jai Parashar and have a very happy Vernal Equinox !

1 comments:

nishajain 11:39 am  

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