Monday, February 15, 2010

Compatibility of Religion and Science

Religion and Science have been at odds since long in Europe. We know from the medieval history about the famous Galileo controversy where the Catholic Church prosecuted him and forced him to disown the heliocentric theory. To counter the brutal persecution of scientists by religious groups, some illuminati(enlightened) retaliated violently as depicted in the movie Angels and Demons starring Evan McGregor and Tom Hanks.

Well, today is the birth anniversary of Galileo Galilei (Feb 15, 1564 - Jan 8 1642), one of the earliest modern scientists. As if timed for the occasion, 3 days ago Church of England's Synod passed a motion calling the Church leaders to emphasize the compatibility of belief in God and science, reports BBC :
Dr Capon's motion has come in response to what many in the Church perceive as a growing pressure on the public to choose between the merits of either religion or science.

A former lecturer in computer science, Dr Capon said atheists were misleading the public when they claimed science and religion are incompatible.

He believed that some popular science and nature programmes also repeated this line too easily, ignoring the fact that many scientists hold spiritual beliefs.
While this attempt is appreciated, one important difference remains is that the Western culture still maintains the duality between Science and Religion while the Indian spiritual traditions maintained the pure non-dual perspective on these and other issues as evident in Vallabhacharya's famous definition of devotion (Tattvartha Dip Nibandh Shastrartha Prakaran Karika 45):

माहात्म्यज्ञानपूर्वस्तु सुदृढः सर्वतोऽधिकः ।
स्नेहोभक्तिरिति प्रोक्तः तयार्मुक्ति: नचान्यथा।।

As per this verse, Science is the pre-requisite for devotion (love for God) which is the highest form of Religion. While some shallow devotees might argue that he is referring to only the scriptural or religious knowledge, the fact is if they truly believe in Vallabhacharya's philosophy of Shuddhadwait Brahmvaad, everything that is there is nothing but a manifestation of that Pure Supreme and thus even the modern science can and should be understood and appreciated and in fact in most cases it leads to better devotional steadfastness. By the same argument, even the religions other than one's own are His manifestations and thus can and should be understood and appreciated within one's capacity. Those who fight in the name of religions, can't be called religious fundamentalists as they know nothing about the 'fundamentals', they are religious shallowists!

Back to science and religion debate, here is a nice TED talk delivered by the evangelist Rev Billy Graham on Technology and Faith. It falls a little short on the compatibility of the religion and science though, as he goes overboard on evangelizing Christianity and resurrection than unifying the duality.