Saturday, May 16, 2009

Dr. Roy got it wrong. Does it make him a fraud? Or In Defence of Astrology

Astrologers sometimes get it right. At other times they get it wrong. Astrology cannot be faulted just because they aren't always able to get it right. There just aren't many experts in the field of astrology.The real experts do not predict poll results. Nor are they interested in a mundane "challenge".

The Science and Rationalists' Association of India has issued a challenge to astrologers. If an astrologer correctly forecasts the results of the 2009 parliamentary elections, he or she will be awarded prize money of Rs.25 Lakhs (USD 50,000).In order to win the challenge, the astrologer must correctly answer the following questions:

1. "How many seats will be acquired by Congress, BJP, TMC, CPI(M), BSP, RJD, Samajbadi Party, DMK, AIDMK?"
2."How much differences in votes will remain to win/lose for Manmohan Singh, Sonia Gandhi, Lalkrishna Advani, Mamata Bandopadhyay, Laluprasad Yadav, Ramvilas Paswan from their respective nearest opponents?"

If an astrologer makes an exact prediction the Science and Rationalists' Association of India (SRAI) will give her/him an amount of Rs. 25 lakhs The Association will also shut down (presumably because their raison d'etre is proved wrong)

In order to qualify, astrologers must forecast the results on 14 or 15 May 2009.

Meteorology is a science not considered to be in the same genre as astrology. Meteorologist have to predict the rain, among other things. So, using an array of hi-tech instruments are Meteorologist able to predict the weather exactly? Today's prediction,for Bangalore, from the Met Department is: "rain/thunder showers likely in the evening".If the " likely" prediction come true then the prediction is 1.4 mm of rain. Further, the Met Department has predicted that the monsoon will set in, in Kerala, on the 26th May. Will this prediction come true? I don't know. However, I do know that Met Department predictions are significantly off the mark, frequently. The Rationalists' Association of India (SRAI) must make a similar offer to the Met Department too.

Let alone the Met Department. Can you give me (predict) the right (exact time ) even by looking at your watch? Unlikely! Your watch cannot give the exact time. In India,official time signals are generated by the Time and Frequency Standards Laboratory at the National Physical Laboratory in New Delhi, for both commercial and official use. The signals are based on atomic clocks and are synchronised with the worldwide system of clocks that support the Coordinated Universal Time.The time by your watch is several seconds (or even minutes) ahead or behind the official time. Does this make time keeping an inexact science - from a commercial view point? Does it matter if you cannot tell the time with split second accuracy.

Rationalists questioned the very basis of astrology when the new planets Chiron and Sedna were discovered. They asked, 'how could predictions have been made without factoring in the effects of Chiron and Sedna'? Simple. Just take away the seconds hand from your watch. Can you still tell the time? Of course! Accurate to the last minute instead of to the last second. Do the seconds matter? Not in daily life nor in daily astrology.

An artists impression of Sedna

Even Psephologist get the results of elections wrong. They get this wrong even after using the most advanced statistical techniques and the most powerful computers. Should we debunk Psephology just because the results of the elections is vastly different, in many cases, from the predictions based on exit polls? The NDTV exit poll gives the UPA 216 seats and the NDA 177 seats. Compare this with the final results when they are known later today.

Dr.Prannoy Roy - Master of His Craft

The next time around,SRAI should make this offer to people or organizations who use scientific models to predict the weather, earthquakes, election results and corporate bottom-lines but often get it wrong.

Astrology is an exact science which, like Psephology,we haven't mastered yet.

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