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I would like to know if Hinduism and science contradict each other. This is an issue that arises in many religions, the most prominent example being Christianity and its disagreement with evolution. So how does Hinduism deal with this?

If I am a Hindu, does that mean that I cannot accept what science has researched? Does Hinduism itself make any mention of how to deal with scientific findings that may not line up with the Vedas?

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Never. Science and Spirituality go hand in hand. And spirituality is the base if Hinduism. –  Shreemay Panhalkar Aug 21 at 18:13
The question is more like does science contradict science? –  A_runningMind Aug 22 at 7:37
Christianity only contradicts evolution if you are a protestant or evangelist from the U.S. –  fNek Aug 27 at 15:47

4 Answers 4

Science must be accepted even when science contradicts the Vedas. Vedas should be used only in matters which can not be probed by any scientific method. Vedic authority does not extend to matters which can be studied using scientific methods. I am posting some quotes that will hopefully make things clear.

Bhisma said in Mahabharata Santi Parva Section CXLII:

Even the words heard from an ignorant person, if in themselves they be fraught with sense, come to be regarded as pious and wise. In days of old, Usanas said unto the Daityas this truth, which should remove all doubts, that scriptures are no scriptures if they cannot stand the test of reason.

Acharya Shankara, for example, in his Gita Bhasya 18.66 says:

"The appeal to the infallibility of the Vedic injunction is misconceived. The infallibility in question refers only to the unseen forces or apurva, and is admissible only in regards to matters not confined to the sphere of direct perceptions, etc. ..... Even a hundred statements of sruti to the effect that fire is cold and non-luminous won't prove valid. If it does make such a statement, its import will have to be interpreted differently. Otherwise, validity won't attach to it. Nothing in conflict with the means of valid cognition or with its own statements may be imputed to sruti."

REF: Srimad Bhagavad Gita Bhasya of Sri Sankaracarya translation by Dr. A. G. Krishna Warrier, p629;

Yoga Vasistha Ramayan II.18 says:

“The remark of a child is to be accepted, if it is in accordance with reason; but the remark of even Brahma Himself, the creator of the world is to be rejected like a piece of straw if it does not accord with reason.”

REF: Vasistha's Yoga translated by Swami Venkatesananda, p 35;

Sri Vacaspati Misra, another Advaita Vedanta philosopher, says,

"Even one thousand scriptural statements cannot transform a jar into a piece of cloth".

REf: quoted by Radhakrishnan in his book, 'Indian Philosophy'.

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Advatins may believe that sensory evidence ought to hold higher authority compared to Shruti, but that's hardly a universally held view in Hinduism. –  Keshav Srinivasan Aug 22 at 2:45
@KeshavSrinivasan Do you seriously believe the genesis myths in Hinduism? You may find layers and layers of allegories but it's really disappointing in literal sense. –  Vineet Menon Aug 22 at 7:52
@VineetMenon Yes, I really do believe that our creation stories literally took place as described in, say, the Srimad Bhagavatam. –  Keshav Srinivasan Aug 22 at 8:00
I was trying to check for sources to support your answer and I found many sources but the author is you only. nice :D –  Mr_Green Aug 22 at 11:27
I have given more details about the sources of my references. –  Pradip Gangopadhyay Aug 22 at 11:47
up vote 4 down vote accepted

Hinduism is an intrinsically scientific religion.

The Vedas themselves accurately describe very complicated geometric concepts including six-dimensional spaces, distances between celestial bodies, and using changing skylines to measure time, just to name a few examples ("Vedic Geometry Course" Dr. S. K. Kapoor). If you follow the Dhashavataram carefully, you will see that it perfectly mirrors the evolution of life on Earth as well as the emergence of increased social structure (and eventual decline) among humans.

Furthermore, it has been written that the Vedas themselves are to be consulted only in matters which cannot be resolved by either Pratyaksha (direct observation) or Anumana (inferences and inductions based on said observations, or in other words science).

The third category of knowledge, Sabda, refers to the Vedas themselves. Smritis, Itihasas, and Puranas are also included here where they "do not contradict the Vedas". Sabda is to be relied on to resolve questions which either have not yet been answered by Pratyaksha and Anumana (e.g. how does physics behave in a six-dimensional space?) or cannot be answered (e.g. what happens to the Atma after death?).

Info above paraphrased from: "A Dialogue on Hinduism", Sri V. N. Gopala Desikan, pg. 24-25

In other words, Vedas and science do not contradict each other. They lie orthogonal to each other. Our gurus want us to use science to answer any worldly questions, and seek the Vedas for matters that science does not or cannot answer.

Ultimately, Hinduism is a very scientific religion. Many of our beliefs stem directly from scientific facts (ritual purity and not shaving during certain months just to name a few). The idea that one can either be a scientist or a Hindu but not both is simply untrue.

In summary, I'll leave you with this quote from "A Dialogue on Hinduism":

Student: I do not understand why logic should not be used to discuss Brahman.

Guru: Logic will be useful, when we discuss about known things, so that, with authority, we can make use of our logic and argument. But logic cannot be of use, in discussing about unknown things, unseen things like Brahman.

Student: Does this mean that logic cannot be used at all for studying or understanding Brahman?

Guru: No, it is not that. The primary authority is the Vedas and these can be supplemented by logic, without deviating from the authority of the Vedas.

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So before answering your question i would like start with quotes

"'Astonishing fact! The Hindu Revelation (Veda) is all relavations the only one whose ideas are in perfect harmony with Modern Science, as it proclaims the slow and gradual formation of the world.'" (The Bible in India by Jacolliot, Vol II, Chapter 1)

'It (Vedic Religion) recognizes but One God. It is a thoroughly scientific religion where religion and science meet hand in hand. Here theology is based upon science and philosophy.' (The Superiority of the Vedic Religion by W.D. Brown)

Now coming to the answers I have certain excerpts from books written by western authors.

To the philosophers of India, however, Relativity is no new discovery, just as the concept of light years is no matter for astonishment to people used to thinking of time in millions of kalpas, (A kalpa is about 4,320,000 years). The fact that the wise men of India have not been concerned with technological applications of this knowledge arises from the circumstance that technology is but one of innumerable ways of applying it.

  • Sir John Woodroffe, A Tribute to Hinduism, page 246

The Indians came closest to modern ideas of atomism, quantum physics, and other current theories.

The Rig-Veda, is the first Indian literature to set down ideas resembling universal natural laws. Cosmic law is connected with cosmic light, with gods, and, later, specifically with Brahman. It was the Vedic Aryans... who gave the world some of the earliest philosophical texts on the makeup of matter and the theoretical underpinnings for the chemical makeup of minerals. Sanskrit Vedas from thousands of years before Christ implied that matter could not be created, and that the universe had created itself. Two thousand years before Pythagoras, philosophers in northern India had understood that gravitation held the solar system together, and that therefore the sun, the most massive object, had to be at its center." "Twenty-four centuries before Isaac Newton, the Hindu Rig-Veda asserted that gravitation held the universe together. The Sanskrit speaking Aryans subscribed to the idea of a spherical earth in an era when the Greeks believed in a flat one. The Indians of the fifth century A.D. calculated the age of the earth as 4.3 billion years; scientists in 19th century England were convinced it was 100 million years.

  • Dick Teresi, Lost Discoveries: The Ancient Roots of Modern Science

Hindu are more exact in astronomy and astrology than any other people.

  • Tarikh al-Yaqubi, The Foundations of the Composite Culture in India, page 59

Long before it became a scientific aspiration to estimate the age of the earth, many elaborate systems of the world chronology had been devised by the sages of antiquity. The most remarkable of these occult time-scales is that of the ancient Hindus, whose astonishing concept of the Earth's duration has been traced back to Manusmriti, a sacred book.

  • Professor Arthur Holmes, Hinduism And Scientific Quest, page 20

So, these are few that perfectly say how Hinduism (Sanatan Dharma) is and has always been sync with Science.

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Let me point out that a light year is not a unit of time but a unit of distance: One light year is the distance light travels in one year. The star nearest to us is at a distance of about 4 light years. Secondly: Concerning relativity I assume you allude to Einsteins Special theory of relativity or his General theory of relativity. Could you please name a location from Indian philosophy which anticipates these 20-th century's theories? –  jo wehler Oct 23 at 22:04

I believe that science and hinduism are not that different and not at all contradictory.

But it must be said that in order to see the similarities, it is needed to dive deep into Hinduism and Hindu beliefs. Some of the Hinduism philosophies here has been following the Advaita Vedanta stance and some others the Achithyabedhabheda stance, some the Dvaita stance. It is mainly to highlight the similarities in observations, although conclusions vary.

Here are some examples in plain English to support my point:

Science: Energy can neither be created nor destroyed. Matter can be decomposed into energy as per E=mc2 which means energy is present in matter as well

Hinduism: God is without beginning nor end (i.e) He was neither created nor destroyed, He takes various forms and is present in everything, including his creation (matter)?

Science: Every matter exhibits properties as a particle and as a wave. In fact it simultaneously exhibits properties of both particle (something that can be seen/touched/heard/felt or smelt) and wave-nature (something which cannot be directly seen/touched/heard/felt or smelt but which can be perceived through existence of a 'medium' (in case of mechanical waves) or a 'field' (in case of electromagnetic waves).

Hinduism: There is both a form nature and a formless nature to every being, the form nature refers to the physical body, which can be perceived by the senses and the formless nature refers to the mind, which can be perceived through the body.

Science: Vacuum is not empty, but is filled with some kind of radition (cosmic microwave background, which is believed to be present since the Big Bang), energy (dark energy) or some kind of particles (vacuum state, a set of particles coming in and out of existence) Wiki1,Wiki2,Wiki3. Hinduism: The cosmic sound (or vibration) Om fills all of existence and it is the back-bone of all creation.

Science: All of the objects in the observable universe are controlled by the three laws of motion. The first law is that of inertia (or inability to change its own state of rest or motion), the second law deals with acceleration under influence of force and the third law deals with action-reaction balance.

Hinduism: All of existence is under control of the three gunas (or tendencies)? The first is that of Tamas (kind of laziness or lethargy, unwillingness to change one's present state), the second is that of Rajas (kind of excitation or passionate activity under influence of tendencies and desires, equivalent to acceleration under force), the third is that of Sattva (the state of non-judgement, purity, or balanced state of mind)?

Science: All matter in the universe was formed from a single point, which expanded into the various masses and energies that are present today. This is the most accepted view of creation called the Big Bang. Without this assumption several scientific postulates made are simply invalid.

Hinduism: Initially there was only One. The One became two and the two became many. This One is God (called Vishnu by Vaishnavas, Shiva by Shaivas and Brahman by Vedantis). All of creation was formed from Him and are thus pervaded by Him. This point of origin is God.

BUT What about evolution?

According to Hinduism, the avatars of Lord Vishnu beliefs:

  1. Matsya (Fish) AQUATIC
  2. Kurma (Tortoise) AMPHIBIOUS
  3. Varaha (Boar) LAND ANIMAL
  4. Narahari (Half-man half-lion) PRE-EVOLVED HUMAN BEINGS (missing link to evolution??)
  5. Vamana (Dwarf human) EARLY HUMANs
  6. Parasurama (Axe weilder, Kshatriya slayer, super powered) NOMADIC HUMANS
  7. Rama (Ideal man) HUMANs
  8. Krishna (super-powered and all-knowing, embodiment of love and beauty) (FUTURE/GOAL of Human life?)

NOTE: In no way am I trying to compare Lord Rama to our current Humans or Lord Parashurama to Nomadic humans. But I am merely trying to point toward the similarity between beliefs and the possible inner meanings behind our beliefs, that there is more to Hinduism than what people observe normally.

There are many more examples in which Science and Hinduism cross-over and speak of same things. However it is necessary to dive deep into both religion and science in order to understand their relationship. My own personal opinion is that religion is the fullness of science. Where science uses techniques of observation and experimentation to understand the unapparent from the apparent (kind of a top down approach, which does give rise to lot of unsolved problems), religion uses techniques of inquiry and practice to understand the apparent from usage of unapparent (kind of a bottom-up approach).

Therefore if I am a scientist, should I accept what Hinduism says? If I am a Hindu should I accept what Science says? There is no need to accept without understanding, the only answer to this question is to first understand Hinduism and then decide to accept it or not, similar with science.

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Interesting interpretation of the avatars. I've always thought that Narasimha represents the emergence of carnivorous animals (following to Varaha who is herbivorous). –  Akshay Aug 22 at 20:40

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