The Perils of Vedic 'Science'

Hindu nationalists, like U.S. evangelicals, are co-opting their nation's culture and calling bad science good.

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Nearly every important discovery of modernscience was read back into Hindu sacred books: explosion of nuclear energybecame the awesome appearance of God in the Bhagvat Gita; the indeterminacyat quantum level served as confirmation of Vedanta; atomic charges becameequivalent to negative, positive and neutral gunas, or moral qualities; thereliance of experience and reason in science became the same thing asreliance on mystical experience, and so on. Contemporary theories ofphysics, evolution and biology were wilfully distorted to make it look as ifall of modern science was converging to affirm the New Age, mind-over-mattercosmology that follows from Vedantic monism. 'Evidence' from fringe scienceswas used to support all kinds of superstitions, from vastu, astrology,'quantum healing' to the latest theory of Vedic creationism. Science and'Vedas' were treated as just different names for the samething.

On the one hand, the BJP and its allies presented themselves as greatchampions of science, as long as it could be absorbed into 'the Vedas,' ofcourse. On the other hand, they aggressively condemned the secular andnaturalistic worldview of science--the disenchantment of nature--as'reductionist,' 'Western' or even 'Semitic,' and therefore un-Hindu andun-Indian. Science yes, and technology yes, but a rational-materialistcritique of Vedic idealism no--that became the mantra of Hindutva.

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Why this overeagerness to claim the support of science? There is amodernizing impulse in all religions to make the supposedly timeless truthsof theology acceptable to the modern minds raised on a scientificsensibility. 'Scientific creationism' among Christian and Islamicfundamentalists is an example of this impulse. But while Christianfundamentalists in America indulge in creationism primarily to get past theconstitutional requirement for a separation of church and state, in India itis motivated by ultra-nationalism, Hindu chauvinism and the nationalist urgeto declare Hinduism's superiority as the religion of reason and natural lawover Christianity and Islam, which are declared to be irrational andfaith-based creeds.

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