editorials

Lively, insightful commentary on contemporary issues facing spiritual practitioners.

reviews

Book, film, and audio reviews of contemporary Gaudiya media, as well as a wide variety of media of interest to the spiritually minded.

news

News from around the world with an emphasis on alternative press that is especially relevant to spiritual practitioners.

classroom

Excerpts from classical Gaudiya texts, with and without commentaries, hosted by teachers with whom readers can interact and ask questions.

philosophy

Philosophical articles on Gaudiya Vaisnavism that focus on the tradition’s scriptural conclusions as well as its feeling for the nature of ultimate reality.

Home » video

Has science replaced religion?

Submitted by on June 25, 2015 – 4:12 am9 Comments


9 Comments »

  • Prema-bhakti

    Absolutely brilliant!!!

  • Bimbadhara das

    Material science accepts that the subjective and objective dichotomy even requires two different concepts of time.

    • Could you elaborate on that?

      • Bimbadhara das (ACBSP)

        Yes, Chapt. 7 of “A World Without Time” -Palle Yourgrau, 2005. discusses the problem of T and t or A-series time and B-series time as J.M.E. McTaggert called them. In short, as Swami Tripurari has noted, science concerns what did happen and what will happen but spirituality concerns what IS happening. I recommend reading Chapt. 7 for the fascinating story of how Einstein’s general theory of relativity seemed to offer a way of depicting “T” time vis-a-vis space-time geometry and how Kurt Godel showed the flaws in that approach, reasserting the fundamental dichotomy between subjective and objective.

        Srila Prabhupada has mentioned that one can attain an intellectual realization of Brahman. Surely this would be
        the “junction point” of science and religion.

  • Towards the beginning Tripurari Swami says that science and religion are two separate spheres of inquiry, and then towards the end he says there is a junction point. Also, there are means for science to study consciousness by measuring brain states. States of consciousness can be inferred by brain states. So consciousness is not an exclusive domain of religion but can be accurately studied with tools like MRI and CT. Another thing, since consciousness is qualitatively private affair, how are objective public truth statement to be asserted? And if there is scope for true and objective statements in connection to consciousness, then why would scientific inquiry be locked out of it?

    • When you speak of MRI and CT tools you do not speak of tools for studying the purely subjective nature of being or consciousness proper. “States of consciousness” are more about perception than they are about consciousness itself as defined by Vedanta. More often that not scientific study of the nature of consciousness is studying something other than what Vedanta refers to when invoking the word “consciousness,” a unit of enduring existence, cognizance, and ecstasy. In the scientific and philosophical community more often that not consciousness is conflated with various psychological and neurophysical phenomena such that consciousness—first person subjective experiential reality—itself is completely eluded. The focus of cognitive science is almost entirely on functional properties of individual or mechanisms that relate to an individual’s operation. As such these mechanisms can be explained in terms of how the organization of a physical system such as the brain allows it to react with the environment, process information, and generate behavior in appropriate ways. Such study focus for example on reportability, awareness, attention, intentionality, perception, wakefulness, and so on. The ontology of such psychological properties is not metaphysically baffling, and there is reason to believe that they could be explained in physical or functional terms. Consciousness, however, as I am referring to it, is not a functional property or even individual qualitative experiences (qualia). It is the subjective existence in which these experiences manifest. As the International Dictionary of Psychology defies it, consciousness is “impossible to define except in terms that are unintelligible without a grasp of what consciousness means.” Thus with words we can only offer some calcification, and much of that as to what it is not, neti neti. It can only be defined in terms of itself because it is like nothing else, no “thing.” Thus the method for understanding it lies not within the scope of modern science.

      That said, we have to rely upon first person reporting, which arguably should not be excluded from scientific inquiry. But this is then where science and meditation meet. However, first person experience of consciousness proper as described by mystics should result in observable evidence in the physical and mental dimensions of the adept doing the reporting/meditating. This would take the form of the ability to harness the mind and human passions, which in and of itself is arguably evidence of the supernatural, an observable supernatural.

      • Thank you for taking the time to reply.

        I’m still unclear on what advantage spirituality has over science in the study consciousness. All the objections on how science is limited to the field of “things” can also be directed towards spiritual methodology. If consciousness is “subjective existence in which experiences manifest” – then by definition this “subjective existence” is within the purview of itself and extends no third party access. So if consciousness is to be defined as such, then would it not elude religious methodology as much as scientific?

        Also, you mentioned that the spiritual methodology relies on “first person reporting” because consciousness will “result in observable evidence in the physical and mental dimensions.” Isn’t this also exactly the means of how the scientific method studies consciousness? How is the observation of physical and mental dimensions different from the study of “things”? Since as you’ve said consciousness is not a “thing”, then observation of these symptoms is not a direct study of consciousness.

        I know that in the Gaudia Vaishnavism tradition there is a checklist of symptoms of what devotees at various levels exhibit, and what is this list of symptoms if not “things” from which a state of consciousness can be inferred? There are also devotees who are accepted to have achieved the highest state of consciousness but exhibited perplexing symptoms. So even within this tradition there is an indirect understanding that symptoms alone may not necessarily be a reflection of consciousness.

        Another thing, science is said to be the “ascending” method whereas spirituality is the “descending” method. I don’t see how it’s possible to have a purely “descending” methodology without relying on the ascending process first. Pure knowledge may descend from a pure source, but first the source of this pure knowledge must be found and verified to be pure before the knowledge that descends from it is to be accepted. There are even qualities and descriptions of how this pure source would walk and talk. So, this notion of a descending methodology does not seem to live up to what it claims. Implementation of descending method first requires the use of ascending method to verify the descending source is what it claims to be.

        • I do not think that because consciousness extends no third party access this means that it eludes spiritual methodologies, which are first person experiential in nature. And yes, when I speak of first person reporting I am speaking of an expanded idea of science that I refer to as a meeting point between religion and science or an expanded notion of science that today that for the most part does not give credence to first person reporting or intersubjectivity. Science as practiced today is one thing and science itself is another that should be not at odds with an experiential spiritual methodology that is different from religion unto itself.

Leave a comment!

Add your comment below, or trackback from your own site. You can also subscribe to these comments via RSS.

Be nice. Keep it clean. Stay on topic. No spam.

You can use these tags:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

This is a Gravatar-enabled weblog. To get your own globally-recognized-avatar, please register at Gravatar.

Subscribe without commenting