Thompson reflects upon his personal history: studying mathematics as a Cornell University graduate student and subsequently becoming disenchanted with material reductionism. This eventually led to his exploration of the process of bhakti yoga as a means for attaining a higher level of knowledge. He admits that his turning away from a scientific worldview, dominant at that time, created an existential dilemma that left him experiencing a sense of cognitive dissonance. In retrospect, he appreciates how this situation helped him initiate a leap of faith toward more fully appreciating Eastern spirituality on its own terms, while maintaining a perspective respectful to both traditions.
TRANSCRIPT: Seminar on Convincing Scientists. Radhadesh, Belgium - 1988 / (201)
Introduction by Jahnu dasa: You are extremely welcome to Radio Krsna. Today’s broadcast will be centered around Sadaputa das, who will give a lecture about convincing the academic scholars about the principles of Krsna consciousness. This was a task Sadaputa was given by Srila Prabhupada – to disseminate Krsna consciousness to this certain section of the population. Sadaputa das is well equipped for this task, since he’s educated within those same circles. He’s a professor of statistical mathematics and probability calculation. In the following lecture he will also touch on his own background and how he came in touch with Krsna consciousness. So let’s get right into it and proudly present Sadaputa dasa, or as he’s known in scientific circles, Dr. Richard L Thompson.
RLT: My own background is in the scientific realm. I was involved with that in the very earliest part of my life. I grew up among people who had completely really eliminated religion from their lives all together. My parents went to a Christian church, but nobody there believed in those things anyway. They went to church because it was customary and basically the de-mythologization of religion had already taken place with them. None of the mythological categories of Christianity were at all regarded as being real by them. So, for my own part, I got involved with science, but I wasn't too satisfied with worldview of science because basically it tells you that you're nothing but a bunch of atoms and molecules reacting with one another. And I felt there was something deeply unsatisfying about that. And at a certain point, while I was going to college...actually before I went to college I was thinking, "Well, when I go to college I'll find out some really satisfying knowledge." High school wasn't very satisfactory. Then I went to college and things got worse, but I thought, "Well, maybe in graduate school I'll find people who really had some interesting knowledge to convey." But then it got even worse than that. So at a certain point I began to dabble into different esoteric subject matter and I became convinced that the modern scientific worldview must be drastically wrong at least in some respects. Because there's a lot of empirical evidence of things that go against the scientific worldview. So all those developments took place. And I found out about Krsna consciousness at a certain point.
I won't go into the purely spiritual aspects. All I can say is, from the very beginning, I had a very strong attraction to Kisna. So, as soon as I found out about Krsna consciousness, I realized that this is something that I can't give up, but, on an intellectual platform, it seemed that there were overwhelming reasons for thinking that the worldview presented in the Vedic literature, that is, the worldview of Krishna consciousness, must be wrong. How could this possibly be true. It was so different from what I had been trained to believe throughout my entire life. Yet, at the same time, there was no way I was willing to give that up. So I was in an existential dilemma. So I also made the leap of faith that Ravindra was talking about, but there did seem to be a lot of cognitive dissonance; that is, a very strong clash between what the Bhagavatam and the other Vedic literatures were saying about reality and what science is saying about reality, which was what was very much ingrained within my own way of thinking. So this is how things started out.
Now, as it turned out, Srila Prabhupada had a project for dealing with the conflict between Krsna consciousness and science and I got involved in that in an early stage. So, in one sense, this is a project that was important for me because I had to work out this conflict. And, in so doing, it may be that I can help others in the world who will also experience the same conflict; namely, this very strong contradiction between the worldview of modern science and that of Vedic knowledge. So, I thought I would say a little bit about what one can say about Krishna consciousness vs. modern science.
There are a number of different points that can be made. The first thing I’ll deal with is the basic problem that Srila Prabhupada posed for us at the beginning of the Bhaktivedanta Institute. This was back in 1975 in Atlanta, Georgia. Basically, he wanted us to show what the real nature of life is; also the origin of life. So, let's see, I thought I'd make a few little pictures here. I'll try this one. So this is the scientific picture of reality. So first of all the only thing that exists is matter. And by matter I mean matter as understood in physics and chemistry and so forth. So starting down here you have atoms and other things, subatomic particles and so on. And there's an evolutionary process which entirely depends on the laws of physics. It doesn't involve intervention by anything else. And, as a result of that, you go from atoms to organisms. Origin of life takes place somehow and the organisms evolve and finally you wind up with intelligence. That is, the human race evolves and you have intelligent organisms who then think about the whole process. And that's reality according to science.
Now there's another picture here which is the Vedic picture. So basically what you have here...you've got spirit and then subtle energy (mind, intelligence, and false ego and so on). Also prana would go under that kind of a heading. It's gross in one sense, but it's subtle to us because we don't know about it...and gross energy or matter. And here we have arrows going down and then at the very top you have Krsna, who's the source of the whole thing. So that's the contrasting Vedic picture of reality. So basically what we want to do is see what is actually true, what is actually correct. That involves two aspects. One is to show that this must be wrong and the other is to show that this one must be right. So those two aspects are there.
Now Srila Prabhupada asked us to point out the defects in the scientific theories and also to demonstrate that life is actually something that is originally spiritual. From spiritual energy you have the production of subtle life forms and from subtle you have the production of the gross physical bodies. And, within any given gross physical body, there's the subtle body and, of course, there's the spirit soul. So, both in terms of the process of the origin of life and in terms of the continuing existence of living beings you have these three elements; the spirit, subtle energy and matter. So there are these two aspects of showing the defects of the materialistic or scientific view and showing the reality of the Krsna conscious world view. And there's a lot...there's many things to say about this.
So first of all, what I'd like to do is indicate some of the subject areas that we're dealing with here. Maybe I'll try this on this chart over here. I made a little chart. You've got under "Nature of Life"...I'll do it in two divisions. There's the scientific view and under that there are different subject areas that we're interested in. One is physics. Science is telling us that everything is occurring according to the laws of physics. So this is a very important subject area. By the way, there's a standard compromised position in the relation between religion and science, according to which God created the laws of physics and then everything just runs according to the laws of physics. That's a topic that comes up quite a bit. But then there's the subject of biology. Under biology there are two...biology is the study of life in general. There's the mind/body question. The position in modern science is that the mind is simply the functioning of the brain. There's nothing more to the mind than that. So their solution to the mind/body problem is to say that consciousness, thinking, feeling and willing, and so forth are merely due to physicochemical reactions occurring among nerve cells and so forth within the brain. Whereas the Vedic viewpoint is that mind is a kind of energy distinct from matter. Actually, consciousness is due to the soul, or atma, which is even distinct from the subtle energies of mind, intelligence and false ego. So there's this topic.
Another one is evolution. I'll include the question of origin of life under evolution, but the theory of evolution has two aspects. One is the theoretical aspect and the other is fossil evidence. So these are two sub-divisions under "theory of evolution." So these are some basic areas that one has to deal with in finding the defects of the modern scientific picture. So when looking for defects in different theories and so forth there are a number of points that are important to understand. One is that scientists are always looking for defects in scientific theories. To criticize scientific theories or to find defects in them is not something that scientists would disapprove of. They do that all the time. So that's an important point. Because sometimes there's the idea that if you're critical and you're looking for defects and so on then that is perhaps going to create bad feelings or something like that. You'll only create bad feelings really in such an endeavor if you're not well informed when you point out the defects in the scientific theories. But, if you've done your homework; if you have your facts together and you make a good presentation, then anyone who's really sincere in the different scientific fields will respect your presentation.
Now I brought along an example of that, which I thought was kind of interesting. An associate of ours, Dhrutakarma, in San Diego, was engaging in debate with some scientists on the computer networks. So there's one forum called "Talk Origins." One of the main themes of the "Talk Origins" discussion group is to blast the creationists. So, what they'll do is take something that some creationist wrote and they'll tear it to shreds and make all kinds of nasty comments about it. So that's the kind of thing they enjoy doing. So, anyway, Dhrutakarma began posting some information. He observed that one of the procedures used on the "Talk Origins" network is what is known as flaming. Flaming a person is really criticizing him very heavily. And there is a certain amount of etiquette about this. You're not supposed to go to real extremes in flaming another person. But, since these people are a bit passionate by nature, they tend to do that quite a bit. But anyway...so he was engaging in some exchanges and, at a certain point, he posted some information on the Castenedolo skeleton. Now briefly, the Castenedolo skeleton...this is a fully human skeleton...actually there are about three skeletons...which was found embedded in Pliocene deposits in Italy. The Pliocene Period dates from about five million years ago to two million years ago. So during that time period human beings supposedly did not yet exist; they had not yet evolved. At that point in evolution all you should have is the Australopithecus, a sort of ape-like creature that existed in Africa. There certainly shouldn't be anatomically modern human beings in Italy at that time. Modern human beings are thought to have...Well, the Cro-Magnon man is the first widely acknowledged modern human being...that dates back to about forty thousand years ago. In South Africa there are also some finds of skeletally modern human beings dating back a hundred thousand years. But that's as far as it goes.
So if you say there were modern human beings two million years ago that's utterly anomalous. It's just completely contrary to what is accepted. So He posted 38 points concerning the Castenedolo skeleton. So I won't go through them. It runs on for several pages here, but there are many different points of discussion. Namely, whether the skeletons were intrusively buried or not; a discussion of the carbon 14 dating; a discussion on all kinds of different points. They were found in about 1888. I'll tell you a little more about the background of this. But first I would just like to give you an indication of the response that was made by the people on this network. He said he posted the 38 points and then there was silence, which is unusual. Then he posted the following message. He said, "I detect some silence on the matter of Castenedolo from those who tried to use a doubtful secondary source, Gould, and an unreliable carbon 14 date to shoot it down. Do I really get the last word?" So then he got this response from his principle critic, he said. "Subject: Castenedolo. Help!" This was a guy at John Hopkins University in Baltimore. Then he said, "I have spent the last two days trying to find out as much as I could about the Castenedolo finds. The result is disappointing. I only found one reference that even mentioned Castenedolo and that was in a reference given by Mr. Karma. Mr. Karma's post seems impressive and I am, I admit, not easy to impress. Basically, I've reached a dead end. I can't comment on the finds much, but I do have some questions. It seems that Mr. Karma has effectively dealt with my objections. I currently consider Mr. Karma's Castenedolo post unchallenged on 'Talk Origins.' Anyone else willing to give it a try?"
So, in any case, all this was just a month or so ago; a couple months back. So that shows that you can challenge the scientists and, if you do a good job, they'll like it actually. It's all good fun. So that's one point concerning showing defects. Now I'll like to make another point concerning the strategy involved in pointing out defects in scientific theories. And that is when one wants to contrast anomalous evidence with accepted evidence. Because what you find is that scientific theories are backed up by evidence that scientists cite in support of their theory. So they'll have some accepted evidence. And, on the other hand, there will also exist anomalous evidence. This is evidence that goes against the accepted theory. So this also exists. Now this anomalous evidence can be very hard to find because what scientists tend to do, being human and having various frailties and so on, is they tend to suppress anomalous evidence. In fact, they tend to eliminate it from availability so that people don't even have access to it and they don't even know that it's there. Sometimes this can be a self-defeating procedure. Because, in the example that I just read, the fellow admitted that he couldn't find out much about Castenedolo. In fact, he had obtained our knowledge about the Castenedolo find by a process of looking up very obscure articles, most of which were in Italian and translating them into English. So we had to do a lot of work to gather this evidence and it wasn't easy for this professor to do that. So you have this anomalous evidence, which can be difficult to find, and then you have the accepted evidence, which is all the textbooks. So you have a conflict between the two types of evidence.
Now the quality of the anomalous evidence does not have to be any greater than the quality of the accepted evidence. In other words, to criticize a theory or to show defects in a theory you don't have to bring in something that you can demonstrate to be the absolute truth. You can bring in evidence that is actually quite defective in many different ways as long as it's no worse than the accepted evidence. If you can show that your anomalous evidence is at least as good as the accepted evidence, even though both categories of evidence are weak in many ways, then you have cancellation. And that is basically all we need. The procedure here is: if these two cancel out so that you're left with zero, then what you're left over with is Vedic parampara. This becomes the only remaining contender. Well, it's there. From the point of view of our presentation, you have Vedic parampara. You also have Islamic parampara and Christian parampara, and so on, which can be discussed. But, on the empirical side, if all these things cancel out then what you're left with is the descending information which could be accepted on faith or not accepted, depending on what you want to do. But at least you're not burdened with scientific theories which go against it. Now, as to why you should positively accept this, that's another question. But the scientific theories, which would tend to make you reject it, are then eliminated due to the cancellation of anomalous evidence and accepted evidence. So that's a point of strategy in the matter of finding defects in different theories.
So another point though has to be made and that is that if you criticize a scientific theory the scientists will require you to give a positive alternative. Because they'll say, "Well, OK, you're criticizing our theory, but you're not saying what your theory is and that's unfair because we want an opportunity to criticize your theory." So, if you want to ultimately impress them you have to give a positive alternative, which proves to be, at least to some extent, impervious to their criticisms. If you give an alternative which is much weaker and poorly thought out than their theory, then, even though their theory has grave defects in it, their theory will still stand. So it's necessary to give an alternative that is well supported by evidence if they're going to be impressed. So, of course, we want to give an alternative based on the Vedic parampara. Indeed, it's not enough just to have this existing in isolation. We have to back it up with some kind of positive evidence. So there are a couple of points that I can make concerning strategy in backing up the Vedic position.
So the first point is to introduce ideas from sastra. We can take advantage from modern anthropology and the methodology is this. In you might say more traditional anthropology the enlightenment viewpoint was very much taken for granted, which tells you that the benighted savages are steeped in primitive animistic mythological thinking, which is in fact totally false, and so the enlightened scientific anthropologist will scrutinize them and analyze their primitive belief system. In other words, this is the imperialistic approach of anthropology. That's been sort of a tradition. But in modern anthropology a different idea has been developed. It's more egalitarian. Namely, that in order to actually understand what is going on in another culture you have to enter into the worldview of that culture and suspend your disbelief and, at least as a matter of scientific procedure, try to see what it's actually like for the believers or participants in that culture to live their lives. So that's a recommended procedure in anthropology. So you can use that as a reason for why one should seriously look at the Vedic descriptions.
In dealing with some people reviewing this book that I've written, I've had some exchanges regarding that, that procedure, because some...oh, the one on UFOs. I'll talk about that later. The book on UFOs, by the way, is not just about UFOs. It's about Vedic literature, actually. And it approaches it as something you should take seriously as a description of reality. So some people were saying that "Well, why should we take this fantastic thing seriously?" Well, one initial starting reason for doing that is that this is anthropologically correct. In other words, if you want to understand material coming from a given culture different from your own, you should suspend your own system of belief and try to enter into the worldview of that culture. Only then can you really understand it. If you're not willing to do this then you cannot really expect to understand it and, therefore, it's useless for you to try to present yourself as a genuine anthropologist. So that's a strategic point. This enables one to overcome the objection that certain things sound fantastic. Because, inevitably, certain things in the Vedic literature do sound fantastic to a person of Western cultural background when they first encounter these things. You have to be able to overcome this initial culture shock in order to acquire some understanding. So that's one point.
The second point is, namely, "support by positive evidence." This point of "support by positive evidence", you can ask, "Well, is there evidence that will tend to support the Vedic world view, especially some of the more fantastic things?" So just to be very realistic about it, from the point of view of many people, there are all kinds of things, for example, in Srimad-Bhagavatam that seem totally unreal or unbelievable. For example, there's the Fifth Canto, but not just the Fifth Canto. I know that when I became involved with Krshna consciousness I remember taking long walks in which I was doing things like thinking, "Well, how could it be you have a boar that is walking through the sky?" I didn't know anything about the Fifth Canto then, but I did read some reference to Lord Varaha, who picked up the earth from the ocean. For one thing, where is there an ocean that the earth could fall into? How could a boar walk through the sky? I mean, what does he walk on? Does it really make sense to walk through the sky with hooves? So there are obvious problems like that that initially strike the naive person who's first coming in contact with these things. So is it possible that there could be evidence that supports the Vedic world view?
Well, it turns out that there is quite a bit of evidence. One point that can be made though is with the evidence that will tend to support the worldview of Vedic literature...number one is evidence that is considered anomalous by modern science. So this will be evidence that is scorned and rejected in scientific and academic circles. Another point, though, is that there is a lot of evidence like this. It's not just that there are a few little bits and pieces of evidence. There are vast volumes of evidence that basically support the Vedic world view and I myself have been very astonished by this. Actually, I never expected that this would be true, but it turns out that it is. So what I'd like to do is make a few points concerning how knowledge is treated in the academic and scientific world. So then I'll tell you about some of the evidence of anomalous nature that does support the Vedic world picture directly.
First of all, in the academic world there are procedures for controlling what is accepted as knowledge. So under the area of scientific knowledge there's a control system and this involves a number of items. There's peer review, for example, and, let's see, tenure. More generally, there's the question of posts in, for example, professorships in universities and positions in laboratories. There's funding control...mainly where does your money come from; because if you don't get money you can't do anything. And there's the question of personal authority. These are mechanisms for the control of knowledge in the academic and scientific world. And these are very powerful mechanisms. This first one, peer review, is used to control what you can write because, in the academic world, it's said that you have to publish or perish. So your vehicle of expression, inevitably, is writing; and writing has to be published in certain accepted journals or in books published by accepted academic publishers. Otherwise, it is considered to be invalid. For example, if a professor at a university publishes a book through some popular publisher that's considered to be a totally invalid action. For example, Robert Jahn and Brenda Dunne at Princeton University published a book on the parapsychology research through some popular press and that was considered to have no scientific standing whatsoever. It was practically like an offense, a science aparadha, to do that.
So then there's the question of university positions and tenure. If you're going to play any role in the academic or scientific world you have to have some post which is respectable within a university or, perhaps, within some national laboratory or museum or something like that. But you have to behave yourself in order to be promoted up the ranks through a series of different stages so as to get a good position. Then, control of funding, in the United States especially now, people in universities have to get grants from the government in order to carry out their research. So you have to make grant applications. In the application you have to say the right things. If you say even one thing that would cause suspicion to be directed towards you then you won't get any money. You may even be closed out of the grant-getting process permanently. So you have to be very careful about what you say. Then, under personal authority what you find is that there are important authorities within the academic world who determine what is right and what is wrong and you have to be on their good side. Because if you're not then the word will go out that you are in category "X" and your career is likely to suffer. So this is how knowledge is controlled within academia.
I mentioned before that idea of the cancellation of the anomalous evidence vs. the accepted evidence. So other categories here...I mentioned a really bad category, UFOs. This is an interesting subject. It turns out that this is one of the most anomalous areas of evidence that is presently being considered and thus the different factors that I've talked about regarding treatment of anomalous evidence becomes especially severe with regard to this topic of UFOs. There's a great deal of ridicule and disinformation that is spread with regard to UFOs. There are all kind of false stories that are circulating. Also various "nuts" and "kooks" and so forth are connected with this whole area. At the same time, there is a great deal of very solid evidence indicating that there exist living beings, basically human in form, who are active here on the earth and who exhibit different powers and modes of behavior, corresponding to the siddhis described in Vedic literature. So there's a great deal of evidence that is actually quite solid to back up this statement and there are quite a few people who are scientifically trained to study these things.
One interesting thing about science is that, on the one hand, you have the scientific community. This is the organized body of scientists and within the scientific community this control system functions because the control system is social in nature. But scientists don't have to operate within the scientific community. It's a matter of individual choice. So some scientists will go outside of the formal scientific community and investigate subject matter which is not approved of within the scientific community. So, in this area of the UFO phenomenon, there are many different scientists who study these things on a very serious level. In some countries even the...well, this is another whole subject...because the UFO topic brings one into the question of the government and the military. That's a whole subject that I probably won't go into. Basically, the UFOs present a military threat. In the United States that's been very extensively documented. That there are interactions between these strange flying machines and military jet airplanes and so on and so forth. And so you not only have suppression of information coming from the side of the scientific community, but also from the side of the military.
In some countries, such as France, there are official government bodies which investigate the UFO phenomenon. I'll mention briefly, for example, that there was one famous case in France which was investigated by a fellow named J.J. Velasco, who is a member of the French equivalent of NASA. This Velasco is a scientist there, in an official position. There was a story of a man in the south of France who said that he was standing, he was a farmer, he said he was standing out near his house one day when this metallic object came flying out of the sky and landed on one of his fields, remained there for a couple of minutes and then flew away. And it left an imprint in the ground. Actually it was a circle maybe about 6 ft. in diameter, which was depressed into the ground and looked burned. All the plant life there was burned away. So he reported this and this Velasco became involved in investigating. So he was definitely a member of the scientific community. The scientific community is very well organized. He brought in scientists from various different departments of study to investigate this case. So studies were made at the site. Different samples of the soil were taken at various distances from this point of where this disturbance was seen on the ground. And the scientists concluded that the imprint had to have been made by an object that could apply up to about 5 tons of force and it heated the area to a temperature of about 1300 degrees Fahrenheit. And they found that the plant life was affected, specifically the leaves of the plants near this imprint became senile. That is, it was as though they were much older than they actually were. You can measure senility in leaves by biochemistry because in the autumn when a leaf turns colors on a tree this is due to certain chemical changes within the leaves which can be studied, and biochemists study these things. So they found that the leaves near the impact point had undergone chemical changes exactly equivalent to what happens when leaves age in their natural course of development. And this changed as you went out from the center of the impact point. It was stronger in towards the center and got weaker and weaker as you went out. So they concluded that there was no way that this could be a hoax because, after all, it wouldn't be such an easy thing to hoax changes in senility of leaves radially going out from a center. All kinds of different points were made. So the official conclusion of this scientific body was that some unknown object had come down, landed in this man's field, produced several tons of pressure and heat and it created these changes and then went away. So that's an example indicating that there's information in this field which deserves to be taken seriously.
Also I'd like to briefly mention, with regards to the reports people have of encountering different kinds of beings. People who make these kinds of reports have been psychologically evaluated in a number of different studies. And the findings of the different psychologists converge and agree with one another. Basically, what is found is that the people who experience these events are psychologically normal. They're not psychotic or schizophrenic. Typically, they show signs of something which is called "post-traumatic stress syndrome," which is a psychological problem associated with trauma. For example, rape victims or war veterans and so forth exhibit this particular syndrome. But this is completely different from psychosis in which a person is out of touch with reality. So quite a number of different psychological studies have been made by professional psychologists who, in all of the cases that I am aware of, were initially skeptics regarding this whole UFO phenomenon. In other words, they were not believers in these kinds of things. So you have sane people, people who are certifiably sane, reporting these kinds of events. So I'm just saying this just to give some kind of indication of the nature of the evidence in the midst of the more flakey and dubious kind of stories that do circulate in this area, there's a body of very solid evidence that deserves to be taken seriously. That is of interest with regard to showing the reality of the Vedic worldview because basically, according to the Vedic picture of reality, the world, as we see it, is only part of the total reality. There is a subtle dimension to things that we don't see. And there are many different kinds of living beings who have basically subtle bodies, which are more powerful than the gross bodies that we are inhabiting and who are described in Vedic literature as interacting with human society.
This includes many beings apart from the demigods. In the Kali-yuga we don't have the demigods participating in the human society as they did in times when proper sacrifices were being offered in previous yugas. But you do have many different categories of living beings that do interact with human society according to Vedic literature. So the interesting thing is that there is actual empirical evidence indicating that that is true. And if you examine in detail you'll find that there's a lot of empirical evidence along these lines. So the remarkable finding here then is that the basic Vedic world view is verified in many ways by evidence in these different categories. I'll put one other category here which I'll just call basically "anthropology" because, as I mentioned before, the traditional approach to anthropology in the modern enlightenment world is to say "Well, the natives are obviously superstitious and foolish and we, scientific people, know better." But if you look at the findings of anthropology you'll find that most human societies have involved belief in a whole variety of subtle living beings. And, furthermore, people in these traditional human societies have reported interaction with these beings in their actual lives. That, you could say, is the basic finding you have in anthropology. It can be argued that the people in the traditional societies report such things because, in fact, such beings do exist and they, in fact, do have such experiences. If you gather together all of this evidence and just put it on the table you can see that it is basically consistent with the Vedic worldview. You can make the point that the Vedic worldview provides an organized philosophical system that makes sense out of this total body of data. If you just take the data as it is you'll see that there's no system for really understanding it and organizing it. That is [not] just automatically there. So, scientists, for example, who study a lot of this anomalous material are quite bewildered by it. It doesn't fit into the existing scientific paradigm and they don't have any other paradigm which will enable them to explain or properly categorize it. But the Vedic literature, in fact, does provide a paradigm with a very elaborately developed philosophy which is very systematic and very rational, which enables one to understand all of this anomalous evidence.
So the anomalous evidence supports the reality of the Vedic paradigm and the Vedic paradigm enables you to understand and classify and organize the anomalous evidence. So this leads to a whole research project which can lead to a total revolution in the modern Western world view, which is developed on the basis of science. And this is science because science consists of empirical observations which are organized in accordance with a theoretical superstructure. So the theoretical superstructure of modern science must exclude all the information of this kind because it just doesn't fit in. But the Vedic literature provides a different highly developed superstructure for organizing knowledge and this material does fit into that. So it provides a whole new approach to science. So that point can be observed.
Oh, vitalism? Well I mentioned that is the idea that some kind of vital principal is there within a living organism. Ah, yea, well in Vedic terms prana or chi or orgone and all these kinds of terms that people come up with are there. I attended a conference on subtle energy, held by...there's people who have...this is an academic journal. It's called Subtle Energies. All the people here are PhD’s, scientists and so forth. It's a serious journal. I attended a conference that they held in Boulder, Colorado. And basically the thesis of these people is that there's some kind of subtle energy. And this one fellow who was talking about it says well you see they don't really know what it is. They’re observing its effects empirically. So he was saying well, what is it? I guess you could call it chi or orgone or prana or something like that. But he had no real clear idea of what it is. But they're doing different experiments to study it. This particular man had experiments in which, well he would put a person in a room with a very large copper wall which was hooked up to all kinds of electronic apparatus with which he could make measurements. Then the person would do different things and he would make measurements using his electronics and he was arguing that there's evidence that there are things going on in the body which you can't understand in terms of our ordinary ideas of the energy within the body.
Question: [unclear]....contact or what?
Answer: Not in contact. He would have them sitting on a chair on insulated pillars and so forth and they would do different things. Perhaps think of something and then you'd get a response from your electronic circuitry. Or he would have a healer there and the healer would try to do something with his hands and then you would get responses from the circuitry and so on and so forth. No obvious connection. And he was arguing that, at a certain level, this has to be electromagnetic, but, in terms of electromagnetic theory, how do you explain it and so on. All kinds of different experiments are being done.
Just, well, it's a whole category of people who are doing various experiments. I imagine that these tend to be of different levels of quality. Some of them may be, you know, not so useful. Others may reveal very useful information from our point of view. The other thing I mentioned under vitalism earlier on was biological transmutation. There's a scientist named Kervran who showed evidence that nuclear transformations occur within bodies of living organisms, which, as I say, is not what you would expect based on physics.
Well, the basic idea of vitalism involves things that happen right around the body involving some kind of energy that we don't understand and parapsychology, traditionally, involves either seeing something at a great distance, not using your ordinary senses. For example, a person in a closed room sees what's happening fifty miles away and he writes down a description of it and he's right. That would be remote viewing, paranormal viewing, or mind over matter. By your mind you will a machine, a random event generator, to do something that it wouldn't otherwise have done and then it's found that it does them. That's the kind of thing that Robert Jahn at Princeton University is studying. So that's parapsychology. In one sense, the divisions between these different categories can be a bit arbitrary.
OK. Haribol. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.(52.12)
Jahnu das: You are listening to Radio Krsna. Many thanks to Sadaputa dasa for his very enlightening presentation. Thanks for listening to Radio Krsna, Jahnu dasa was in the studio