Sunday, May 27, 2012

Science and religion in India

Today I watched a  talk that David Gosling gave at The Faraday Institute for Science and Religion at Cambridge. It is based on his book When Einstein met Tagore: Science and the Indian Tradition
A few things that stood out to me are below.
Elements of any religion include
  • doctrine 
  • ethics
  • social
  • ritual
  • experience 
Western religions and consequently Western discussions of any religion will tend to focus on the first two. However, in Eastern (and particularly Indian) religion the last three are central. 

Hinduism celebrates unity in diversity. It is hard to find any specific doctrine which is considered essential to Hinduism. Even beliefs such as caste and reincarnation are denied by some strands of Hinduism.

A key event forcing the interaction of science and religion in India was the 1835 fiat by Lord MacCauley that all higher education in India would be performed in English. 

The value of unity inherent in Hinduism led to Indian scientists enthusiastic about cross-disciplinary ventures such as searching for pain in plants (Bose).

Darwinism was welcomed and embraced as an apologetic tool for Hinduism.

The famed dialogue between Einstein and Tagore is difficult to understand and analyse, particularly as they seem to have been talking across purposes.

Helpful reviews of Gosling's book are by
Ursula King in the journal Religions of South Asia
Michael Pye in the Marburg Journal of Religion
David Atkinson in Times Higher Education

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