Editorial Note: In a thought provoking article, reversing the gaze on Science from a layperson perspective, Abbakka raises some very important points about the nature of “Modern Science”, especially the influence of its roots and evolution. Just as adherents of Christianity claim it to be the Religion of Love (RoL), and the adherents of Islam claim it to be Religion of Peace (RoP) , are the adherents of Science not equally hypocritical about their Religion of Science (RoS). As the most dominant “force” today , we need to examine Science for what it has been, what it is, and what it will become if we do not engage with it on OUR own terms, the terms of Dharma. Those in power and with the ability to influence future polity, need to take note, the future of billions of humans and that of the planet is in your hands. Where is “the Science” really leading us?
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When we learn science in schools, we are taught to believe that the western science we are learning, is the only secular and logical path to scientific truth. That is why it is not even referred to as western science, but it is “The Science”. On the other hand, Indian Science (Shastra) whether it is Ayurveda or Yoga or anything else, makes a lot of references to deities or mantras.
It is quite evident that science and religion are integrated with each other in case of Sanatana Dharma. From the point of view of western science, it is supposed to be ridden with superstition and blind faith.
But is it true that western science does not depend on any religion?
Or are there any characteristics
of The Science that match with Christianity or Abrahamic religions in general ?
And how about blind faiths or dogmas?
This is an attempt to bring out some common characteristics between “Science and Christianity”. The comparison is more with Christianity because most of the science was developed in Europe / America which are primarily Christian regions.
Abrahamic religions believe that there is only one path to truth which is the path described by their specific religion. The belief is like “my religion/God is the only religion/God and everyone else is worshiping false gods”. In case of science it translates to “my science is the only science, everything else is superstition/quackery/placebo/pseudoscience”. On the other hand, Dharmic traditions are inclusive and the same can be seen in case of science. We do not have Indian sciences denigrating sciences developed by some other culture. Also, the “tolerance but no mutual respect” attitude (i) is carried into science – In case of medical science, those who accept non-allopathy sciences call them “alternative medicine” or “wellness studies” rather than respecting them as another science.
People of the Book
Abrahamic religions consider their books as authoritative texts whereas Dharmic ones have multiple books and all of them can be questioned. The Bible is infallible and incapable of error in matters of faith and practice. It also represents the inerrant word of God written down by humans in its perfect form. (ii) And the Abrahamic kind of advice is passed on by science teachers. The advice is that whatever is written in a book is very much truthful and orally transmitted knowledge is not to be trusted, sometimes even teaching students to disregard advice from their families which is “superstitious” because it does not match what is written in their books. In case of Hinduism there is no such blind faith in mode of communication. Knowledge passed on orally is also highly regarded and that written down in books can also be questioned.
We also have government spreading “awareness” about health and hygiene on TV. This advice is mostly limited to “modern science”. (iii) But they don’t just limit themselves to talking about the advice from western science, they go on to tell people how it is wrong to follow the knowledge that has been passed on from their ancestors, essentially trying to erase other knowledge systems. The same is the case of science teachers and doctors who are unaware that the negative part of the advice they are giving, is designed to eliminate other cultures.
Quest for Immortality of the “Body”
The physical body is of utmost importance in Christianity and one will have eternal life in the same body, even in heaven. (iv)This principle has highly influenced western science and its research primarily aimed towards longevity. As is the norm in hospitals, there are extremely sick patients, and doctors cannot let them die even when they know that the patient cannot get better. They must somehow keep the patient breathing, even if the “medical treatment” is a torture for the patient. On the other hand, physical body is not so important as per Dharmic philosophies as the Atma is permanent. The Atma can leave the physical body whenever the physical body stops serving its purpose. If not imposed with the Christian Science, euthanasia would not have been an issue for the Hindu population at all. This is also the reason why parameters of development focus on number of deaths rather than quality of life.
Conquering of Nature
In Hinduism, the aim is to live in harmony with nature. Even a disease is not termed as “attack” or “war”. But as per Christianity, God is not part of nature but separate from nature so there is an aim to conquer nature. (v) Following are some sections from the Book of Genesis of the Old Testament
(1.28) God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” (vi)
(9.2) The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth and upon every bird of the heavens, upon everything that creeps on the ground and all the fish of the sea. Into your hand they are delivered. (vii)
(9.3) Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things. (viii)
Now that our daily lives are dominated by “The Science”, all of us have become destroyers of Nature.
Beyond the Senses
Hinduism believes in the existence of extra-sensory truth (the indriyas are classified in a much more deeper way as jnana-indriyas and karma-indriyas) – accepting that there could be things that cannot be perceived by the five senses of human beings. Whereas western culture believes that human senses can perceive everything that exists in the world. Hence, western science does not accept something until scientists do not see it through a telescope or microscope or some other instrument. As they limit themselves to 5 senses, they cannot verify anything beyond that, and rejecting something without verifying is also a blind faith. This is also the reason why western researchers cannot understand Hindu sciences like Yoga, Ayurveda and no one cannot benefit from them if approached using the limited methods of science
Just like Hinduism, Ayurveda is decentralized whereas Allopathy is controlled by centralized global institutions. Allopathy medicines are “protected intellectual property” , only “licensed” to be manufactured by pharma companies and hospitals play an important role in treatment. This is quite opposite to the advice of Yoga, Ayurveda which mostly prescribe treatment at home. Even the recipes for medicines are shared, although these days most Indians have lost the art of making medicines at home and end up buying Ayurvedic medicines.
The western way of thinking is predominantly binary – true vs false, God vs Satan, Good vs Evil whereas the Indian way of thinking is more complex with a varied range of truths. (ix) Even the devas are not completely infallible, and rakshasas also have some good qualities. This distinction can also be observed in the science – we see some food ingredients being villainized by western science e.g. wheat, salt, sugar, rice, coconut, milk and some ingredients being glorified e.g. oats, eggs, avocado, etc. The list keeps changing from time to time. This contrasts with Ayurveda, where there are no such extreme conclusions about properties of any food. Every ingredient has various properties and whether it helps, depends on not just the ingredient but also other factors like weather, how the ingredient is processed and what other ingredients are combined with it. Ayurveda also uses some poisonous substances because they can have some useful characteristics if used in the right way. (x)
One size for all
Abrahamic religions have a particular set of principles and rules to be followed by every person in the world. Hinduism teaches swadharma and the dharma keeps changing from person to person, situation to situation. Similarly, Ayuvedic advice is customized for each person depending on prakriti, age, gender of the person and surrounding climate; whereas allopathic advice is mostly universal whether it is about medicines, diet or exercise.
If you talk about non-allopathy medical science, you will always find some people trying to “save” you. They will react as if you are getting into some disaster or leading the entire human race into some disaster. But it is not their fault, they are actually doing it with a good intention just like evangelists think they are doing it for the good of the non-believer and the rest of the world (It is important to note that a believer in multiple truths is also a non-believer because of the exclusivity clause). Another example is that of doctors and scientists visiting schools for free checkup or lectures (we can see the parallels with evangelical behavior) , whereas such organized outreach is not part of the Vaidya parampara.
Schools teach pluralism when it comes to religion – we are taught to respect all religions. But our education is not pluralistic in the case of science. We are taught only 1 type of science and we are not even introduced to other types of sciences, in fact we are taught to hate them and poisoned against them.
The problem with modern Indian education is not just the way history is taught but also the way science is taught, a much more deeper and insidious problem ..
It leads to brainwashing children to think in a certain way and makes children believe that science is a “western” thing, that a good future and progress means we need to “follow” and “copy” the West.
- विभिन्नता (Being Different), 31.
- Myth of Hindu Sameness – Rajiv Malhotra https://rajivmalhotra.com/library/articles/myth-hindu-sameness/ – “Western linear progression in history: After the Enlightenment in Europe, the Biblical linear historical narrative from evil to good became replaced by the linear ‘progress’ narrative from primitive to modern. Here, modern has a specifically European meaning. This is why the teaching of world history and civilization in America is unable to incorporate more than a limited amount about ancient accomplishments, as these refute the linear history, especially when these accomplishments are from non-Western cultures”
- How Christianity leads to Ecological Disaster ? – Shrirang Godbole : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iaodVCRwfpE&list=PL23muNovzfcIV0luRintJ9KXXZlXIw1sO&index=18
- विभिन्नता (Being Different), 180.
- Ibid., 209.