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 discovered?
Do Hindu scriptures mention how to deal with scientific findings that may not line up with the Vedas?
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.
Bhishma said in Mahabharata Shanti 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.
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, p. 629.
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
REF: Vasistha's Yoga translated by Swami Venkatesananda, p 35.
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.
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:
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).
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.
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:
Parasurama (Axe weilder, Kshatriya slayer, super powered) NOMADIC HUMANS
Rama (Ideal man) HUMANs
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.
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.
Science itself never and can't contradict with hinduism. Only some partial (adhuri) knowledge scientist try to contradict. When knowledge of one topic is limited to someone (scientist) then they start to believe on behalf of that limited/incomplete knowledge and rejects all other (full) knowledge. Here is how...
The purpose of both science and our scriptures is just to tell truth about world. And truth is only one, it can't be different for differet field (science/hinduism). For example Earth is not alone in space, there are lot more in space is present like graha, nakshatra. Both science and our
scriptures told about them and they both also told their quantity also. And they both are right. Hence both science and scriptures only use to tell truth. And as already said Truth is one, so both of them has to show exact same views on one topic. For exaple they both shows list of planets and both are correct on their info.
So how there can be any contradict if they both tells the same truth?
If scientist and scriptures are telling something on one topic then they both must tell the same thing/answer towards that topic. And if they are telling different thing/answer about any topic then analysis of one surely gone wrong.
Means, one of them surely misscalculate that's why they came on different conclusion, If both of their analysis were correct then they must have came up with same conclusion or answer, isn't it?
So who went wrong in their analysis?
First of all let me clear one point, I said in beginning lines that they both can't and never contradict each other. And later I said, if one of them gone wrong in their calculation/analysis of finding truth about any topic (ex. no. of planets in space) then they seems to contradict with each other.
But that contradiction is only result of miscalculation of one field. That's why contradiction occurs. But that contradiction can't be from science but can be from partial knowledge scientist only. Because some scientists came up with wrong calculation that doesn't mean science gone wrong, but instead some scientists gone wrong.
Why I am saying that scientists gone wrong, why not our great Sages (who wrote scriptures) gone wrong?
Because they can't gone wrong but only today's scientists can gone wrong. Come up with wrong analysis has become trend among scientists. Here are one example in which we come to know that scientists came up with wrong calculations and ended up contradict with hinduism..
This contradiction only arise because one was wrong in his calculation. To remove contradiction, we just need to remove the wrong calculation and then they both will say the same thing. The wrong calculation was done by scientist earlier.
Scientist used to believe everything moves around Earth until great scientist Galileo invented Telescope. When telescope invented by Galileo then all started to analyse space with telescope and they found everything is not moving around Earth but instead Earth itself moves around Son.
So because of Galileo, calculation from science gone right and they both(science and scriptures) came up with same answer.
But can our scriptures went wrong like scientists went wrong some times?
No, it's not possible. For example, our four vedas(which contains every possible information) are created by great sages but the information stored in them are provided by Lord himself. And Lord is the creator of world. So our scriptures can't tell wrong info because it was invented by creator of world himself. I mean who can tell better that whether everything
moves around Earth or around Son except creator of Son/Earth? No one...
The thing is scientists are also human, and they also can get wrong easily. And gets wrong mostly. For example: Earlier Scientists used to belive that universe is created cause of Big Bang.
They did present Big Bang theory to tell how universe is created. We all read about Big Bang theory in 10th class/standard. People are reading this since many dacades. But after long time Scientists
came up with new conclusion that rejected their own created theory. Now, even NASA has rejected Big Bang theory which we all used to read or belive since long.
There are lot more examples can be found where scientists gone wrong.
Note: Scientists don't only contradict with hinduism but they contradict with each other also coz of their partial/wrong knowledge. For example: some scientist says Donosour ends coz of poisons gass, some says coz of deseas, some says coz of volcano explosion starts their destruction and so on.
Getting wrong is habit of inpatient human of today's time, and scientists are no exception of this. So one should not bother if some scientists contradict with Hinduism because doing contradiction is habit of scientists to prove himself right and other wrong. That's why they do contradict with religions and with other scientists also.
There are already answers which tell the answer to your question. I impose a question: why are the contradictions or whatsoever you want to call it arise?
The answer is we humans interpret, compare and discriminate between science and vedas. Science and vedas must not be compared, they are two completely different things.
Science is modeling of universe with the help of tools like mathematics. It is all about observation and interpretation of nature. There are domains in science which itself are separate but rely on each other in terms of their assumptions. For e.g. chemistry is study of matter without referring to the internal structure of the atom itself. Science is 'study'. I will not answer about evolution as I dont know about it. Take another example: physicst or scientist try with there full force to experiment on astrology.
Take this paper for instance: http://www.thoughtnaction.co.in/an-indian-test-of-indian-astrology/
The paper is written by Jayant Narlikar titled "A statistical test on astrology". But science has no ability to test astrology in first place. Why? If we start studying astrology we come across two bodies called Rahu and Ketu which are not actual planets but intersection of orbits called nodes. At this point itself the 'physical' aspect of astrology is seen. Astrology is asked to provide a mecanism and often scientists make a mistake to take gravity as a mediator of astrology which cannot be true since there is no physical body to produce a gravitational effect at nodes. This is the part of science.
The real problem is also in us, to just show science go hand in hand with vedas etc. We search for similarity and interpret it in our own way. The interpretation as one of the answer does here for Dashavtar and evolution. Why would somebody encode evolution into dashavtar, what about other avatars of vishnu? And why it became clearer when Darwin purposed the theory of evolution, people could not come up with it earlier! Same goes for many things, science discoverd light bulbs, oh see it was written in vedas long ago. These kind of statements are simply for people who are neither into the field of science nor completely devoted to god. The use of these is ok as long as we need to attract morden 'science' children into the domains of spirituality. Ofcorse there are certain many things which go hand in hand with both science and vedas.
The simple conclusion to avoid these things is to fix in mind that we cannot compare, we must not. In the regime of Hinduism itself, the boundaries are not clear. Hinduism gives us the art of living, science also gives it. What you follow is diffrent part. In there purest and deepest parts both the scientist and a devotee do not care about what world says. At last:
ब्राह्मण्डलक्षणं सर्व देहमध्य व्यवस्थितम्। साकारश्च विनश्यन्ति
निराकारो न नश्यति॥
The symptoms of universe reside within us. Those with form are bound to be destroyed, while those without form are free from being destroyed.
-Gyaan sankuli tantra translated from verse (29)
(Weather you look outside or inside it does not matter, what matters is getting knowledge and attain a Realization.)
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:
As a person puts on new garments, giving up old ones, the soul
similarly accepts new material bodies, giving up the old and useless
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
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 :)
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.
It depends on what you mean by Science, and what you mean by Hinduism.
We can all accept that Truth cannot contradict Truth.
Science is in the business of pursuit of Truth - because they believe the highest Truth is yet to be discovered. So they are bound to take baby steps and make mistakes along the way.
Hinduism is in the business of revealing Truth - because they believe the highest Truth has long ago been discovered. So they are bound to order through Shastras and never ever be proven wrong.
When it comes to falsifiability (ability to prove a statement False by evidence against an assertion), there is no difference between the two, as explained in this question
When it comes to No True Scotsman fallacy (no matter how many 'wrongs' Hinduism has, Hindus will never accept those wrongs as part of Hindu scriptures) - people need to realize that each of the 4 Yugas has its own set of rules - If you apply Treta Yuga Smritis to Kali Yuga, that is a fault of the person who read the user manual for a different version, not a fault of those who wrote the manuals.
Btw, the theory of atheism (materialism or lokayata) propounded by Brihaspati, the theory of atoms (nyaya) propounded by Kanada - what is generally accepted as modern science - were all debated, partially accepted, and eventually defeated in Brahma Sutras of Veda Vyasa 5000 years ago.
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