Astrology
#1
Astrology is an ancient "science" of India. It is noted in the Upanishads as "lower knowledge." We all grew up depending upon astrological predictions and charts. It was very much part of our daily lives and we did not bother to question its veracity. This is a much abused system in India and also abroad. Most astrologers are good mind-readers and they know what to say to soothe the minds of people who consult them.

Here let me share with you all four encounters I personally had with astrology. I feel compelled to share these experiences here even though I am a rationalist.

1. In 1956 my father took over the general managership of a bank from another gentleman who claimed to be an amateur astrologer. This elderly man never charged anyone for his predictions. This man drew an astrology chart on my father and my older brother. Some years later, after training as a chartered accountant, my older brother opened a practice at Udupi. The old astrologer called him on his own as said, "You will not practice in Udupi. Your horoscope says you will pracrtice in Mangalore." My brother ignored him. A week later, my brother's ex-boss, under whom he had trained suddenly died from a massive heart attack at age 39. His father came to my brother and pleaded him to take over his ex-bosses practice. His second son trained under my brother. My brother has been practicing as the leading chartered accountant for 48 years now.

2. The same old astrologer called my brother around 1970 and told him, "Your father's chart shows that he would be critically ill on such and such a date in 1971. You better be with him." My brother made a careful note of the date. He took time off from his work and came to stay with my father on the predicted critical date. My brother stayed with my father in his room all night. Around 5.30 next morning, my father suddenly became sick and he could not talk. He had a stroke and he had left sided paralysis. Immediately my brother rushed him to the hospital where my ex-boss, a cardiologist, treated him. Even though the paralysis resolved 90%, he had residual symptoms.

3. My grandfather knew of a well-known astrologer in Mangalore. He told my grandfather that he would die at the ripe old age of 90 on a certain date in 1971. My grandfather informed my brother about it. As the day of his predicted death, the old man arranged all his papers and stuff. On the predicted day he died in bed.

4. On June 15th 1974, my older boy was born in a hospital in Middletown, CT. The doctor delivering the baby gave us the worst news any prospective father could hear, "You son has a birth defect in his left leg due to the medications given by your wife's doctor to control vomiting." It was a shock of my life. My mother in law who was with us hid the information from my father in law in India. As per Brahmanic requirement, we gave my father in law the exact date, time, location, etc. to draw a horoscope on my son. The man who drew the horoscope was my ex-professor of physics, who was also an amateur astrologer. He never charged anyone any money. The next day we got a call my my father in law in which he said, "Mr. Achar says the child has a birth defect in his left leg. Is that true?" My mother in law did not want to upset my father in law. So she said, "No. The child is doing very well!."

The next day my father in law called again and said, "Mr. Achar says he is baffled. He re-charted the horoscope. He says it shows a birth defect in the child's left leg." Once again, my timid mother in law held back her tears and said, "Mr. Achar must have made some mistake. The child is just fine!"

A met with Mr. Achar several years later. He was rather upset with me saying, "You know, you made me look like a liar when you lied to your father in law!"

The rationalist in me has no way to explain these personal experiences. Now, let me ask you guys, what is your opinion of what have written here?
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#2
(26-Apr-2010, 06:24 AM)K. P. S. Kamath Wrote: The rationalist in me has no way to explain these personal experiences.

I have the same thing to say. The only thing I think of is to do a double blind experiment with the astrologers involved and see if their predictions are always correct or if it is just a coincidence.
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#3
1. A general statement and just got lucky. I would have been impressed had it been some remote village in Sullia instead of Mangalore.
2 and 3. It appears in both cases persons were aware of the predicted danger. What would be their psychological state? May be astrologers were responsible for the heart attack and the death. We do know sometimes over excitation lead to heart attacks.
4. This is curious case. It appears there was a genuine medical reason for the birth defect. Pardon me for being too critical. I suppose that astrologer might have received the information somehow.
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#4
Dr. Kamath,

Over the past 3 years of researching into how these phenomena work, the one thing I've realized is that the most rational of thinkers are the most easily fooled by tricksters. In fact, this is something that James Randi, arguably one of the greatest tricksters alive, says all the time. The reason for this is simple. The most rational minds think in predictably rational ways. Your brain expects to see something where it rationally should. This is made use of by tricksters to fool them. Over and over, Randi has demonstrated that scientists are amongst the easiest to fool with tricks, deceptions, sleight of hand and illusions. Kids are amongst the hardest.

Of course I don't have answers to your anecdotes. But they are anecdotes, not conclusive evidence. What I can provide instead is a link.

http://www.badastronomy.com/bad/misc/astrology.html

The most common reason for why people get fooled by astrology is that they tend to remember the hits and forget the misses. The other reason is that stories when they are told and retold over many years get various details added and removed. This happens naturally because our memories are not perfect. We are constantly changing our memories. I'm sure you know all this better than I do, from your medical training, but I have to say it anyway because at the bottom of this phenomenon is the human capacity to deceive and be deceived. If you look at the science, there is no way astrology could work.

Here's a relevant point. Where are all these great genuine astrologers when the million dollar prizes are announced every year? Confused
"Fossil rabbits in the Precambrian"
~ J.B.S.Haldane, on being asked to falsify evolution.
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#5
(28-Apr-2010, 01:37 PM)Ajita Kamal Wrote: The most common reason for why people get fooled by astrology is that they tend to remember the hits and forget the misses. The other reason is that stories when they are told and retold over many years get various details added and removed. This happens naturally because our memories are not perfect. We are constantly changing our memories. I'm sure you know all this better than I do, from your medical training, but I have to say it anyway because at the bottom of this phenomenon is the human capacity to deceive and be deceived. If you look at the science, there is no way astrology could work.

Here's a relevant point. Where are all these great genuine astrologers when the million dollar prizes are announced every year? Confused

Ajita Great post. I could not have said it better. Ignoring misses and counting the hits is a common fallacy. Is this self deception some kind of an evolutionary trait necessary for survival?
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#6
Dear Dr.Kamath,

After reading about the encounters with astrology in your life, I have come to the following conclusions. The case where your father will be sick and your grand father will die, It is purely coz of the fear. The fear of these claims must have lurked into their mind. And due to the fear about this bad news, these incidents might have occurred. I would say the main cause for all your encounters is placebo. We try to relate all our happenings with the claims of the astrologers. If you analyse their claims, it will be mostly vague and can be applicable to all.

Balaji
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#7
You see, being a rationalist, if I defend these personal encounters I would look deluded. So, suffice it to say that these experiences were true. For example, there was no way the astrologer could know that my child was born with a birth defect when even my father in law did not know. The astrologer had no phone at his home. Within a two hours after the birth in the U. S., we provided my father in law the date, time, and place of birth. My father in law took it to the astrologer and he told my father in law, "This child has a problem with his left leg." My father in law called us back asking to verify. We lied to him that the child was all right. Once again, my f-i-law called asking if the child was OK. We lied again. This is the true story. I look ridiculous even to rewrite it. But this happened in my own life. I can't explain this rationally. That does not mean it did not happen.
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#8
(01-May-2010, 09:16 AM)K. P. S. Kamath Wrote: You see, being a rationalist, if I defend these personal encounters I would look deluded. So, suffice it to say that these experiences were true. For example, there was no way the astrologer could know that my child was born with a birth defect when even my father in law did not know. The astrologer had no phone at his home. Within a two hours after the birth in the U. S., we provided my father in law the date, time, and place of birth. My father in law took it to the astrologer and he told my father in law, "This child has a problem with his left leg." My father in law called us back asking to verify. We lied to him that the child was all right. Once again, my f-i-law called asking if the child was OK. We lied again. This is the true story. I look ridiculous even to rewrite it. But this happened in my own life. I can't explain this rationally. That does not mean it did not happen.

It must have been a traumatic time for you....
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#9
Very traumatic. But my personality is such that I always face every problem with determination to solve it. I never went after the doctor who gave my wife nausea medication, nor the drug company which manufactured it. My child had tobe operated on 26 times. I took him to Boston, New York, etc. for treatment. I never ran away from problems, not blamed anyone for it.
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#10
By the way, the two astrologers I mentioned in my first narrative never accepted money from us or anyone else. The first one contacted the family on his own and he was a wealthy man due his inherited properties. He was a family well wisher. The second one was retired physics professor. Being a truth seeker myself, I cannot blindly dismiss every 'supernatural' phenomenon as bogus without giving a fair trial. I must say that it appears to me that astrology is a quackery as it is practiced now, no different than psychiatry is a quackery. The vast majority of psychiatrists in this country are just quacks, pill pushers.
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#11
(01-May-2010, 06:11 PM)K. P. S. Kamath Wrote: By the way, the two astrologers I mentioned in my first narrative never accepted money from us or anyone else. The first one contacted the family on his own and he was a wealthy man due his inherited properties. He was a family well wisher. The second one was retired physics professor. Being a truth seeker myself, I cannot blindly dismiss every 'supernatural' phenomenon as bogus without giving a fair trial. I must say that it appears to me that astrology is a quackery as it is practiced now, no different than psychiatry is a quackery. The vast majority of psychiatrists in this country are just quacks, pill pushers.

Not all do it for money, some do it for reciprocity and to wield influence over the subject and family. I have known couple of people like this who had well paying jobs but dished out free advice even over the phone to friends and their friends. But in my experience it was cold reading and eliciting information.

So this person must have been very close to your family and do you think he had more information about you than you thought?
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#12
(01-May-2010, 06:06 PM)K. P. S. Kamath Wrote: Very traumatic. But my personality is such that I always face every problem with determination to solve it. I never went after the doctor who gave my wife nausea medication, nor the drug company which manufactured it. My child had tobe operated on 26 times. I took him to Boston, New York, etc. for treatment. I never ran away from problems, not blamed anyone for it.

My goodness ! 26 operations !!! That's terrible. Your personality is commendable Dr. Kamath, I don't think I could be that forgiving...
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