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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
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The question is more like does science contradict science? –  A_runningMind Aug 22 at 7:37
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Christianity only contradicts evolution if you are a protestant or evangelist from the U.S. –  fNek Aug 27 at 15:47

6 Answers 6

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
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@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
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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
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The quote from the Mahabharata isn't saying that we shouldn't listen to scriptures if it contradicts reason. It's saying the opposite: real scriptures constitute the truth, so no proper application of reason can possibly contradict scripture. That's why the passage also says "They that are really breakers of morality find fault with the scriptures", and that those who "decry scriptures" and those that proclaim that "scriptural injunctions are unsound" are "Rakshasas among men." –  Keshav Srinivasan Sep 26 at 1:39
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The passage is saying that if an attempted application of reason is contradiction with scripture, then either reason hasn't been properly applied (the sensory evidence may be faulty or the scientific theory may be incorrect) or the scripture is being misunderstood. –  Keshav Srinivasan Sep 26 at 1:41
up vote 6 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
    
@jowehler from what I understand time dilation is a process or theory using Einstein's theories of relativity. According to this time is a dimension and different observers on different gravitational bodies observe time differently (or something like that, you can refer wikipedia) the consequence is that time here is different than time in space or time in Mars, or time in another planet. In most Hindu scriptures, the concept of time as a dimension is clearly seen. For example, it is said that one year of Brahma (on Brahma loka or Brahma's 'world') is equivalent to X years on Earth. –  Sai Nov 20 at 19:33
    
@Sai I doubt that any time difference between earth and mars can be measured, because both planets do not differ enough with respect to the gravitation on their surface. Furthermore: To check the statement referring to Brahma loka, could you please supply the value of the gravitation in Brahma loka as well as the value of the conversion factor 'X'. –  jo wehler Nov 21 at 20:40
    
@jowehler I see you are looking to satisfy some kind of equation to 'check' whether it equates and holds true. I doubt such values will be found in scripture. But rather my point is about the similarity between the findings of both science and scripture. While science has recently 'found' that due to time dilation, time on various celestial bodies will differ from each other and only last couple of centuries has theorized that time is a dimension subject to modification, this information was already present and being used in Hindu scriptures :). is this not the info u were seeking sir? –  Sai Nov 21 at 22:30
    
@Sai Due to the theory of general relativity a clock at the surface of the sun runs slower than a clock at the surface of the earth by a factor of about 1/1.000.000. That's a precise numerical prediction. On the other hand, general claims that gods have a different time scale than humans can be found in different religions, e.g. in the Christian religion, too. In my opinion, such statements create more open questions than help with precise answers: Who is Brahma, what is Brahma loka, what is 'X', what says the exact textual reference? –  jo wehler Nov 21 at 22:52

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

Very good question. I know you reserached some and posted as an answer but I want to add some points anyways:

(1)Does Hinduism and science contradict each other? Yes and No. There is a good level of agreement in many areas and we do disagree in several areas as well. For instance Vedic tradition accepts that there is soul in plants and life is a symptom of soul. Science (Jagdish Chandrabose) has proved that life exists in the plant. In the realm of cosmology there is agreement on the existence of different planets as well. However we diagree on the relative positions and some details. You can search on google and check for Richard L. Thompson's Vedic Comsology pdf and video for comparisons and contrasts in this area.

(2)You asked specifically about evolution theory. In this area Vedic literature and view is actually in disagreement with Darwin. First of all Darwin's theory is not science. It is his speculation based on limited obseravation and intelligence. Science means you should be able to prove it through experiment. I have never seen in my experience monkeys becoming humans. Srila Prabhuada, one of the prominent Gaudiya Acaryas, suggests that Darwin might have taken some information from padma purana about various species and added his speculations to comeup with the theory. You can find the padma purana verse and translation here http://nitaaiveda.com/All_Scriptures_By_Acharyas/Puranas/THE_FIFTH_VEDA_PURANA/LESSON_FOUR_PART_2.htm Basically there are 8,400,000 species and they are classified into different categories. However the evolution doesn't happen on a bodily level. It is not that monkey body changes to human body. The soul with in the body takes on different bodies. As stated in the Bhagavad Gita 2.22:

vasamsi jirnani yatha vihaya navani grhnati naro ’parani tatha sarirani vihaya jirnany anyani samyati navani dehi

As a person puts on new garments, giving up old ones, the soul similarly accepts new material bodies, giving up the old and useless ones.

But what kind of body we get in next life is dependent on our activities in this life. Similarly our present position is a reflection of our past activities. All this is determined bu the superior authorities just like a criminal's punishment or a good citizen's reward is judged by the government officials.

To support the above idea here is a reference from Srimad Bhagavatam 3.31.1 by Lord Kapiladeva sri-bhagavan uvaca karmana daiva-netrena  jantur dehopapattaye striyah pravista udaram  pumso retah-kanasrayah

The Personality of Godhead said: Under the supervision of the Supreme Lord and according to the result of his work, the living entity, the soul, is made to enter into the womb of a woman through the particle of male semen to assume a particular type of body.

I understand further we can use another example Lord Krishna gives in the gita 2.13. There He says 'As the embodied soul continuously passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. A sober person is not bewildered by such a change.' So Krishna is saying we can see that the soul is taking on a new body even this life. According to science also the cells in our body are completely replaced after a certain period.

So in regards to this matter what Krishna says in Gita and our information from scriptures like Bhagavatam and Padma purana is more rich and logical than Darvin's speculative theory. In summary, on this matter, I find Vedic information to be more scientific since I can see in my own experience how my body is changing in this life and how I am suffering the results of my good and bad deeds in this life as well. Similarly the pheonmenon continues to next life and it seems logical as well.

(3) If I am a Hindu, does that mean that I cannot accept what science has researched? We will accept only to the extent of it's validity. The computer you are working on, the motor cars etc. are all real even though temporary. So there is no blind criticism of science. The brain of a scientist is also a creation of God. Real point it how we use the scientific inventions. As long as they are used for the right purpose we are OK with it. The main thing we need to careful about is that there are so many scientific anamolies. That is science explains something and then realizes it was wrong. For instance the US government, based on science, encouraged a diet heavy in meat. Now they are promoting more greens and grains. In regards to those it is better to take information from Vedic sources. In the matters where science contradicts completely from Vedas it is better to take time tested Vedic information as long as it is not fanatically interpreted.

(4)Does Hinduism itself make any mention of how to deal with scientific findings that may not line up with the Vedas? Hinduism puts sastric injunctions as priority.

In Gita 16.23 Lord Krishna says:

He who discards scriptural injunctions and acts according to his own whims attains neither perfection, nor happiness, nor the supreme destination.

However sastra cannot be properly understood unless we recieve them from practicing authorities. There is a lot of room for misinterpretation. Therefore it is recommended as 'maha jano yena gatah sa pantha', we should walk the path of mahatmans who have preoprely realized the Vedas. See the scientific issue in question in the light of sastra (Scripture), sadhus (saints) and guru (specific saint, the spiritual teacher). Then decide on the level of your faith on what to do :)

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Of course science and Hinduism contradict each other. But science contradicts every religion as far as both strive to explain the phenomena around as. Religion satisfies many other goals. But due to your question I focus my answer on the domain where both overlap.

Science proceeds according to the method of conjecture and refutation. A scientific theory is a coherent set of hypotheses, which are intersubjectively testable. Scientific theories are often refuted by the test. Or the next generation replaces them by more powerful theories. That's not a shame. Rather it is the reason for scientific progress. Science develops theoretical terms and schemes which often go far beyond our every-day concepts. They may even by counter-intuitive.

On the other hand, religions take their explanations from times very far in the past. Religion are always eager to keep the original wording of the text. Changes are often considered a change to the worse. In addition, often religions take their concepts and models from every-day life and extrapolate. Many models are both anthropocentric and anthropomorphic. They are presented as myth. E.g., the beginning of the Brhadaranyaka Upanishad. There are fundamental statements of Hinduism where even the terms are difficult to grasp. "Atman equals brahman" is the source of endless discussion and evokes many subjective interpretations. But what does the equation explain, how to test it?

Summing up: I consider Hinduism a fascinating culture. Full of colour and phantasy, more than any other culture I know. But it is of no use to discuss scientific questions on the base of a religion. Any attempt ends with defending religion by justifications which do not convince me. Some of the above answers provide examples.

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