Is astrology really as concerned with pinpoint predictions as he assumes
it must be? Are planetary motions really meant to be the cause of everything?
(It seems that astronomers keen to blame impacts from comets and other things
for every major creation of new life and extinction of old
are more prone to this belief than astrologers.) Somehow I don't have any faith
that most of the people checking out their horoscopes are subscribing
to the beliefs he is dismissing as "astrological".
Any daily horoscope listing would have to be applicable to 1/12 of the population
anyway, so you'd have to be pretty daft to expect it to work like a scientific
hypothesis. I only expect astrology to possibly have an inkling of what type of challenges
may come up for 1/12 of the population. Those individuals who are skilful at handling
those challenges may "nip them in the bud" before even noticing any "trouble" in their lives,
while those who haven't figured certain skills out yet might be quite stuck and frustrated
with these things. Yes, a lot of generic advice comes out of these horoscopes, but then
life's solutions are often quite basic, and have been said countless times before.
Our media works in part by finding new ways to make the old classic statements
feel fresh and current, and if astrological cycles get people interested,
it could prove to be a good thing.
Besides it's not as if the chain of cause and effect begins with a person's
birth, and then we check to see how Mars and moon and the sun are "affecting" us.
It's more like the soul has certain things it wants to work out and be challenged
with in a physical life, and it is therefore drawn to be conceived at an appropriate
time and place surrounded by appropriate creatures who can play complementary roles
in any ensuing drama - and if part of that ideal environment coincides with
the position of Mars or the time of year, and whatever known or unknown energies
might be peaking or waning at that time, so be it. I agree that the people
and possibly the century have larger roles to play than the planets, but I wouldn't
dismiss the "lesser" of those influences without knowing more.
On another point, do we really know that "the gods" were based on actual celestial bodies,
rather than ancient astronauts mentioning where they came from?
Is it perhaps only modern scientists and archaeologists
who believe that ancient man couldn't tell the difference?
Perhaps it's harder for modern man to tell the difference,
if he refuses to believe that either "the gods" or ancient astronauts exist.
All that said, I too would prefer reading a weekly astronomical column. Perhaps
the challenge there is that it's less often that something truly fresh and fascinating
can come out which also can withstand all the accompanying scientific rigour.
At any rate, Sagan pretty much has to dabble in astrology to tell this story,
because it is the ancient astrologers who held all the meticulous observations
and data out of which the new science of astronomy could be extruded. In other
words, there was a time when no one cared about the difference between the two
ideas. What astronomy largely removed was in fact superstition. I think the
more we can target superstition, assumption, and jumping to conclusions as the
antagonist of this tale, the cleaner we'll be able to tell it and enjoy it.
And though the audio and visuals are still cool during the opening,
it isn't until Sagan begins to explore different interpretations of
constellations around the campfire that his story actually gets good and enjoyable,
and takes off into excellence.
I particularly like the section contrasting
the geocentric (Earth-centered) view of the universe championed by Ptolemy with
the heliocentric (Sun-centered) view championed by Copernicus,
especially when the very nifty mechanical machine prop is used to demonstrate
the difference and the various angles of line-of-sight between Earth and Mars.
A classic sequence.
But it is indeed a very strong backbone to the episode when the story of
the life of Johannes Kepler takes over just before the midpoint. I often wonder
exactly what directors Geoffrey Haines-Stiles and Tom Weidlinger had to go on
in creating the basic gist of the scenes here, if indeed the mostly voice-over script
wasn't written by Ann Druyan and Steven Soter until AFTER the scenes had been
shot across Germany, Austria, and the Czech Republic. Would our writing team
have wanted anything significantly different? Did some sections deserve more focus or less?
At any rate, the end product is a gripping tale of perseverance for meticulous
detail and accuracy, and a tale of tragedy, triumph, and revelations both true and false.
It is a statement of the struggles of science, and of the Human condition. It paints
a fully-rounded dramatic picture.
"Harmony of the Worlds" remains one of the signature episodes of the original
"Cosmos" series, and a highlight to look forward to as one goes through the show.