Comets Kim

From the age of premodern societies, people have used sightings of comets as a supernatural sign that foreshadowed an event soon to come. It was up to a human to assign meaning--whether good or bad--to the appearance of a comet on a case-by-case basis.

Prior to the introduction of advanced astronomy and astrophysics, civilizations interpreted comets as random, unpredictable events that were indicative of a significant event to come. While there was human input that interpreted the comets, the diviners had to wait for unscheduled events in order to make a prediction. However, with the introduction of greater scientific discovery, specifically with the introduction of Newton’s Principia in 1687, comets have become a more deterministic prediction system. The appearances of comets has become measurable due to the conception of gravity and their repeating pattern. This prediction system’s origination was heavily reliant on observation of data, particularly looking at a sky awaiting a comet to pass by. With such prediction systems that do not necessarily involve scientific observation, the actual predictions may be very ambiguous as a large part of the system is derived from human interpretation. This system was hardly evaluated for accuracy, and often the predictions were made following an event’s occurrence, meaning the system did not change until comets were understood to be a repeating event.

The system applies to various different levels of people. Because comets are objects that can be seen across the world, each human could have made their own predictions based off of their own interpretations of what the comets mean. Diviners did not necessarily have to be any special person like oracles, but rather could be any laymen person. In addition, many cultures and societies took these “unexplainable” events as signs from the divine, making them very significant objects to be interpreted. Specific groups that believed in a god took them as signs of important events that occurred or were to occur in the near future.

The predictive system of comets has had implications for both determinism and free will. Since the beginning of observation of comets, people believed that they were related to a divine source that predetermined a person’s life. As such, this meant that comets themselves were deterministic entities. Of course, with the inception of scientifically backed astronomy, this connection to “randomness” was debunked, thus causing some scientists to rethink the association with determinism. Due to advanced scientific observation, there is a general shift towards the idea of free will, although one can never be particularly sure of whether either side of the argument is correct.

If you are interested in learning more about comets as predictive systems, click here.