AN INTRODUCTION

What is Science?

The Academic Press Dictionary of Science and Technology defines science as “the systematic observation of natural events and conditions in order to discover facts about them and to formulate laws and principles based on these facts.” It also says “the organized body of knowledge that is derived from such observations and that can be verified or tested by further investigation” is also a possible definition of science. In layman’s parlance we can define science plainly as observation and hypothesis.

What-constitutesSince the time of Newton, science has held that all phenomena can be described (at least in principle) in terms of measurable quantities that can be calculated using simple mathematical laws. This premise, which we can call the principle of reductionism, implies that reality is essentially simple and that human beings, through the power of their minds and senses alone, may ultimately be able to fully understand the nature and origin of all phenomena in the universe. Even though the principle of reductionism is certainly unprovable to start with, it has provided the underlying strategy for scientific research, and as scientists have gone from one success to another, their faith in the universal applicability of this principle has grown stronger and stronger.

What Constitutes Science?

As aforementioned, science refers to a system of acquiring knowledge. This system uses observation and experimentation to describe and explain natural phenomena. The term science also refers to the organized body of knowledge people have gained using that system. Less formally, the word science often describes any systematic field of study or the knowledge gained from it. The requisite condition would be that the field of study under discussion should follow the underlying principles of science such as universality, generality and repeatability.

Science-7-spirituality-intrFor instance, we have learnt in school that a combination of Hydrogen and Oxygen molecules produces water molecules. This is theory unless we perform an experiment in a laboratory to prove this theory. This is called the experimentation phase. This experiment will work in India, in America, or on the moon, Venus or Pluto, provided the governing environmental conditions are favorable. Thus we can say that this phenomenon—of Hydrogen and Oxygen producing water—follows the principle of universality.

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The same experiment may be performed by anyone—a man, woman, Negro, American, Greek, Russian, a Viking or a Neanderthal. The result would always be the same. Two molecules of Hydrogen and one molecule of Oxygen would not yield anything other than two molecules of water. Thus this observable fact follows the principle of generality too.

You may repeat this experiment once, twice, a ten times, thousand times, a million times, or a two billion thirteen thousand six hundred and seventy five times. The result would always be the same: Oxygen and Hydrogen combine to produce water. Thus we can say this phenomenon passes the test of repeatability too.

Any field of study or system of knowledge is to be accepted as science or to be scientific if these three governing conditions are satisfied by the postulates, laws or rules governing that field or system.


Read more to understand about consistency of modern science and Spirituality as a science.

Is Modern Science consistent?

We all know modern science has evolved over the last few centuries. Many an ideology and theory that were hailed as scientific realities and were extremely close to the hearts of the scientists of the yester years have been dumped today as irrelevant and unscientific. Contradictions regarding the universal structure and the insufficiency of Newtonian Physics are just a couple of examples.

ConsistentThere are also instances where a discovery or an invention of great scientific significance had initially been pooh-poohed. In 1872, Pierre Pachet, a professor of Physiology at Toulouse said, “Louis Pasteur’s theory of germs is ridiculous fiction.” David Sarnoff’s associates, in response to his urging for investment in the radio in the 1920s said, “The wireless music box has no imaginable commercial value. Who would pay for a message sent to nobody in particular?”

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“Science alone of all the subjects contains within itself the lesson of the danger of belief in the infallibility of the greatest teachers in the preceding generation…. As a matter of fact, I can also define science another way: Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts.” These are the words of Richard Feynman, the famous Nobel-prize-winning physicist, in The Pleasure of Finding Things Out as quoted in the American Scientist.

Max Born, another popular Nobel Prize-winning physicist, is quoted in Gerald Holton’s Thematic Origins of Scientific Thought thus: “There is no philosophical high-road in science, with epistemological signposts. No, we are in a jungle and find our way by trial-and-error, building our roads behind us as we proceed. We do not find sign-posts at cross-roads, but our own scouts erect them, to help the rest.”

James Bryant Conant wrote in his Science and Common Sense: “The stumbling way in which even the ablest of the scientists in every generation have had to fight through thickets of erroneous observations, misleading generalizations, inadequate formulations, and unconscious prejudice is rarely appreciated by those who obtain their scientific knowledge from textbooks.”

In The Logic of Scientific Discovery, Karl R. Popper wrote, “I think that we shall have to get accustomed to the idea that we must not look upon science as a ‘body of knowledge’, but rather as a system of hypotheses, or as a system of guesses or anticipations that in principle cannot be justified, but with which we work as long as they stand up to tests, and of which we are never justified in saying that we know they are ‘true’.”

In the words of scientists themselves, empirical modern science is “belief”, involves “trial-and-error”, consists of data that are “erroneous, misleading and inadequate” and is to be looked upon as “a system of guesses”. It doesn’t augur well for science, does it? Thus we can safely conclude that modern empirical science, in the words of its own practitioners is not a systematic and consistent body of knowledge. And for any body of knowledge to qualify to be termed scientific, requires it to be consistent.

Is Spirituality Science?

Students of the Vedic scriptures would be able to appreciate and revel in the highly organized and structured wealth of knowledge available in them. The Vedic scriptures describe different ways of acquiring knowledge. Detailed explanations of these are covered under the section “Acquiring Knowledge”.

Spirituality-scienceThese literatures not only talk of phenomena like consciousness and the soul that are still unknown to the modern empirical scientists but also describe in incredible detail many of the scientifically observed phenomena. These literatures are historically known to be at least five thousand years old and those, according to modern empiricists, were days way ahead of rational thinking and scientific reasoning. Some such phenomena are covered in great detail under the section “Vedas on Science”.

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Let us put one of the many fundamental postulates mentioned in the Vedic scriptures to test. It is mentioned in these literatures that any living entity in this world goes through six transformations—birth, growth, sustenance or existence, reproduction or transformation, dwindling and extinction or death. We can very well see that this postulate will easily pass the triple test of universality, generality and repeatability. This law applies to every single living entity on this planet (universality), irrespective of the form of life (generality) and we are yet to see someone who has not transformed, dwindled and died (repeatability) in the millions and billions of years of this planet’s existence.

In the Fourth Chapter of the Bhagavad-gita,  Lord Shri Krishna, says something that is startling yet revealing. He had been describing some of the laws mentioned in the Vedic scriptures to Arjuna,  who was his friend and disciple. During the discourse, the Lord mentions that He had instructed the same knowledge to Vivasvan, the sun god, some millions of years ago. This is more than a certification for the system of knowledge represented by the Vedic literatures being consistent over innumerable ages. This is what can be truly termed as science.

Can Science explain God?

If there is God or a supreme intelligent designer of the universe, He must exist in a dimension beyond the material time and space that He generates and controls. Just as the engineer working at a television station operates in a more sophisticated environment than the person watching the television at home; there may exist in the universe higher and lower dimensions of material reality corresponding to different levels of material perception.

Can-scienceEssentially modern empirical science deals only with observable physical phenomena that are perceivable to our gross senses. Anything that doesn’t fit within this window is discarded and rejected as untruth. How illogical? This unscientific proposition has been reasonably handled under the topic “Four Limitations of the Conditioned Soul”.

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Scientists have been engaged for centuries in a philosophical quest for an ultimate unity underlying the variegated universe. Today this takes the shape of the physicists’ search for a grand unified field theory to explain everything from subatomic particles to galactic clusters. Such endeavors to find a unifying material principle have, however, not been successful. Trying to explain a phenomenon of a higher dimension using experiences in a lower dimension will only lead to frustrating results. But we can understand the existence of such an ultimate unified phenomenon or God using reason and logic, which has been presented under the section “Does God Exist”.

Finally a call is submitted under the section “An Open Challenge” to all men and women possessing intelligent rationality to seek out the answers to the basic questions in life by pursuing the path of truth and knowledge. Only an enlightened human society can help save us from the dangers that are looming large over our heads.

ACQUIRING KNOWLEDGE

THREE EVIDENCES (PRAMANAS)

Means for acquiring Knowledge

Pramana is evidence or proof. The term refers to sources of knowledge that are held to be valid. The three pramanas or the methods of acquiring knowledge can be broadly classified into the following three categories:

• Pratyaksha-pramana (Direct sense perception)

• Anumana-pramana (Theories based on evidence)


• Shabda-pramana (Hearing from a bonafide authority)



Pratyaksha-pramana

Pratyaksha-pramana refers to the process of acquiring knowledge by direct sense perception. Certainly it can be taken as a means of observing the truth, but unfortunately sometimes such perception is also subjected to defects and thus mistakes.  Therefore pratyaksha alone is not a very good source of finding the truth.
Here are some prime examples of people who by their own small vision made statements; they would’ve wished that they could take back.

"Computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons." 
— Popular Mechanics, forecasting the relentless march of science, 1949

"I think there is a world market for maybe five computers."
— Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM,1943

"Drill for oil? You mean drill into the ground to try and find oil? You're crazy."
— Drillers who Edwin L. Drake tried to enlist to his project to drill for oil in 1859.

"Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?"
— H.M. Warner, Warner Brothers, 1927.

"640K ought to be enough for anybody."
— Bill Gates, 1981

Anumana-pramana

Anumana means - you see one event and you see another event, and because of your previous experiences of the world, you infer. Okay something like this must have happened in between, therefore this has happened. So this is called Inference. In fact in the inference also, the fire on the hill is inferred by its smoke. But the relationship between the fire and smoke is perceived with the naked eyes only.

Similarly other means of knowledge are also based on the perception only. We find so many scientists all over the world and they are seeing the world and all these different scientists, give different understanding of how life was created, about how the whole creation came about. They all differ in their opinion and each of them claims that "I am right". How can it be possible?

A practical example of Anumana Pramana, or wild speculation, is Darwin's theory that proposes the idea that human beings might have evolved from Apes. Darwin tried to find out how life came into this universe with all his researches, when he couldn't make out, he admitted that he resorted to wild imaginative speculation. This he himself says in the introduction to his book, “The Origin of Species".

Shabda-pramana

Shabda-pramana refers to the process of acquiring knowledge by hearing from a bonafide authority. Out of three kinds of evidences, the shabda-pramana, or the evidences received from the Vedas, are accepted.

Knowledge is received by hearing. It is not experimental. We cannot understand that which is beyond our sense perception by experiment. We cannot understand who our father is by experimental knowledge. One cannot say, “Let me find out who my father is by experiment.” Our father had existed even before we existed, and it would not be possible to understand by experimental knowledge that this or that man is my father. The real authority is the mother; therefore Vedic knowledge has been likened to the mother. Therefore our Vedic injunctions are very supreme evidence.

For example, in India cow dung is accepted as very pure. So in one place of the Vedic injunction you will find that "Any stool of animal is impure." That's a fact. Everyone knows.  But in another place it is said, "Exception is given to the cow's stool, cow dung. That is pure." It is so pure that if you apply on some impure place, it becomes pure. That's a fact. In India, still, especially in villages, they mop the floor with cow dung, and it is so nice and so fresh. Now modern science also accepts that cow dung is pure i.e., therapeutic & antiseptic.

FOUR LIMITATIONS OF THE CONDITIONED SOUL

A living being in this material manifestation has four defects: (1) Imperfect Senses; (2) Tendency to be Illusioned; (3) Tendency to Commit Mistakes; and (4) Tendency to Cheat. A common man with all the four defects of human frailty is unable to teach that which is worth hearing.  Let’s analyze them individually in greater detail.

1 IMPERFECT SENSES

Our senses have a very limited range of perception. Our eyes can neither see distant objects, nor the objects closest to them - our own eyelids; we cannot see beyond the wall. How can we be proud of the eyes made of flesh, blood and water, and expect to see the truths beyond the matter, when we cannot even see this world properly?
Our ears have a range of 20 Hz to 20 kHz. If we blow a dog?s whistle, we ourselves cannot hear it, although all the street dogs will be able to hear it and will come running. Thus every one of our senses has inherent limitations.

Visible-spectrumEx: We have limited vision range, limited between the Infra red rays and UV rays.
Yet we are very proud of our eyes. Often, someone will challenge, "Can you show me God?" But do we have the eyes to see God?

2 TENDENCY TO BE ILLUSIONED

You see mirage in the desert, think there is water. So, the eyes sometimes will be under illusion. This is what we mean by saying Optical Illusion. You may hear a sound, think that my friend has come and you may open the door and realize that there is somebody else. This is also called illusion.

Thirsty-animalsOur senses are limited. Many a times they see some illusion or you hallucinate something. When one takes a pain killer medicine, one thinks in illusion, "I am alright now. My disease is gone". But the pain killer tablet doesn't cure the disease. As the effect of the pain killer comes down, one feels the pain again and observes the same old symptoms of disease, and then one realizes that the medicine has just covered the problem temporarily, like covering an untidy room with a blanket to make it look nice.

3 COMMIT MISTAKES

We may mistake a rope for a snake due to illusion. Science, with all its dramatic successes, has from its beginnings also generated widely incorrect accounts; the brain was considered to be an organ to cool the blood just as there is a radiator in a car to cool the hot water. This is a dramatic deviation from what we now see as truth. Now when scientists commit a mistake, it can affect millions of people who faithfully follow them.

RopeDuring the bubonic plague in Europe, scientists found the cause of plague spreading to be the cat. So, the government at once ordered all the cats in the whole country to be caught and killed to avoid the spreading of the epidemic. But within a few days after this the scientists realized their folly and said that the cause of plague was not cats, but rats! But it was too late. Rats started multiplying in large numbers as all cats were wiped out.

4 PROPENSITY TO CHEAT

To err is human", the saying goes. But unfortunately, human sometimes go beyond innocent error and deliberately propagate untruths. Scientists are not immune to this short coming. For many years, text books on evolution routinely sited the Piltdown man as evidence that human beings have descended from an Ape like ancestor. In 1912, archaeologists excavated a human like skull and an ape like jaw from a gravel pit at pilt down, in the British Isles. Bones were deemed part of the same creature, which was dully reconstructed in full and placed in the British museum as an example of a transitional face between ancient ape and modern man. In 1953, however, investigators discovered that the jaw bone of the Piltdown man was actually of very recent origin and had simply being filled to look like a fossil. In other words the Piltdown man was a fraud, apparently engineered by one of the original "Discoverers".

Stock-marketEx: Harshad Mehta, who was riding the stock market with no liquid assets to back his artificially inflated market boom.

VEDIC KNOWLEDGE

The Torchlight of civilization

Of all the scriptures known to mankind, the Vedic literatures are the most ancient and its place in modern society and in the lives of the people in general are being debated time and again. Among the munis or learned men conversant in Vedic knowledge, Vyasadeva (Vyasa) is the greatest because he explained Vedic knowledge in many different ways for the understanding of the common mass of people in this Age of Kali. And Vyasa is also known as a literary incarnation of Krishna.

Bhagavad-gita is also known as Gitopanishad. It is the essence of all Vedic knowledge and one of the most important Upanishads in Vedic literature. All Vedic knowledge is infallible, and Hindus accept Vedic knowledge to be complete and infallible. But, is this knowledge only meant for the Hindus? Nay, rather it is meant for the entire humanity. The Bhagavad-gita is widely appreciated for its timeless message of morality. It also gives instructions for mankind to lead a principled centric life. The messages contained in the Bhagavad-gita are also present in other scriptures such as The Holy Koran and The Holy Bible, but there are many other instructions found only in Bhagavad-gita.

Proof of the Vedas

Vedic knowledge is not a question of research. Our research work is imperfect because we are researching things with imperfect senses. We have to accept perfect knowledge which comes down, as is stated in Bhagavad-gita, by the disciplic succession - Parampara. We have to receive knowledge from the proper source in disciplic succession beginning with the supreme spiritual master, the Lord Himself, and handed down to a succession of spiritual masters. Vedic knowledge is received from transcendental sources, and the first words were spoken by the Lord Himself.

For example, Bhagavad-gita states, “That which pervades the entire body you should know to be indestructible. No one is able to destroy that imperishable soul.”

As far as the soul's existence is concerned, no one can establish his existence experimentally beyond the proof of Shruti, or Vedic wisdom. We have to accept this truth, because there is no other source of understanding the existence of the soul, although it is a fact by perception. There are many things we have to accept solely on grounds of superior authority. No one can deny the existence of his father, based upon the authority of his mother. There is no source of understanding the identity of the father except by the authority of the mother. Similarly, there is no source of understanding the soul except by studying the Vedas. In other words, the soul is inconceivable by human experimental knowledge. The soul is consciousness and conscious—that also is the statement of the Vedas, and we have to accept that.

Origin of the Vedas

Vedic knowledge is not imparted by defective living entities. It was imparted unto the heart of Brahma, the first created living being, and Brahma in his turn disseminated this knowledge to his sons and disciples, as he originally received it from the Lord.

There have been many Sanskrit scholars, who have found it difficult to decipher the meaning of the Vedas. This priceless knowledge, however, can be understood by a different process. As, stated by the Shvetashvatara Upanishads "Only unto those great souls who have implicit faith in both the Lord and the spiritual master are all the imports of Vedic knowledge automatically revealed."

Purpose of Vedic knowledge

So one must be intelligent enough to understand the purpose of the Vedas, without being attached to the rituals only, and must not desire to be elevated to the heavenly kingdoms for a better quality of sense gratification. It is not possible for the common man in this age to follow all the rules and regulations of the Vedic rituals, nor is it possible to study all of the Upanishads and the Vedanta thoroughly. It requires much time, energy, knowledge and resources to execute the purposes of the Vedas. This is hardly possible in this age. The best purpose of Vedic culture is served, however, by chanting the holy name of the Lord, as recommended by Lord Chaitanya, the deliverer of all fallen souls. Vedanta is the last word in Vedic wisdom, and the author and knower of the Vedanta philosophy is Lord Krishna; and the highest Vedantist is the great soul who takes pleasure in chanting the holy name of the Lord. That is the ultimate purpose of all Vedic mysticism.

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