Empirical Evidence II
The Cartesian paradigm – that all matter has position and extension in space – reduces everything (even human beings) to points and lines. Thompson considers the Cartesian approach to natural philosophy, while comparing it to the Vedic matter-as-energy model that highlights the element of self.
TRANSCRIPT: Empirical Evidence II. Origins Seminar 5: San Diego - c. 1986 / (005)
We were talking about consciousness the other day. So there’s some basic points that can be made. Actually the illustrations in this magazine can be used to make some basic points in preaching. For example, there’s this illustration showing the devotee up in LA. I don’t know if you can recognize him? Maybe if I hold picture back a ways? But the point of that picture is that in the modern scientific understanding of life, life and everything else within the material world, is described in mathematical terms. So it’s all reduced to numbers and geometrical elements. So you can imagine geometry – which you may have studied in high school let’s say – you have points and then you have lines connecting them. So from points and lines you can put together a complicated figure if you like. For example, just by putting together triangles and squares and so on you could make a picture of a human being; and you could get more detailed by making the triangles that you used smaller, so that when you stood back from it, it would look very much like a human being. Well, in modern science, the idea is that that’s what a human being really is – nothing more than that. All you have to do is add dynamics or movement, so you have to get the points to move. So the scientists have laws telling how points move, and they call these the laws of physics.
So the basic idea, though, in modern science is that a living being, or anything material – because they regard living beings as being material – is just like a geometrical figure that moves. So there’s nothing more to it than that. So in this picture we took this fellow and we computerized him. Actually there’s a place near the Temple in Los Angeles where you can computerize any photograph. So all it does is replace the curves by squares just to give the idea that this thing is just a mathematical figure. But then we also showed the picture of what this fellow is thinking about here. Of course what he’s thinking about is a little bit mundane. But the point is, though, that even a mundane thought or a mundane consciousness perception is something that is completely nonmathematical. It is different from a figure made of points and lines. It doesn’t matter how many points and lines you have. Obviously if you just have a few points and lines, like let’s say 4 or 5 triangles on a piece of paper, no one is going to think that corresponds to experience of an individual being, or conscious awareness. But say you have 10 billion points and lines...
Well why is that any different? We just have more points and more lines, that’s all! So why should there be consciousness associated with that?
Well, in the beginning of the scientific age, as it’s called, people were quite aware of this issue. Galileo, for example, was thinking about it and Descartes erected a whole philosophy which came to be known as Cartesian dualism; and he said that in fact, consciousness is one thing and matter is something quite different. And his idea is that we can explain matter in terms of geometry, that is, in terms of points and lines and so forth. His idea is that the main property of matter is position and extension in space. That is, it has shape and it has position. So you can describe it using geometry; and as far as he was concerned, material objects were geometrical figures. That was the essence of them. But he admitted that consciousness and mind was something different. So he spoke of two things. One he called res extensa, that means matter which can be extended in space; and the other was res cogitans, and that’s the mind substance which has the power that it thinks, it feels, it has will and so forth. So as far as Descartes's understanding went, this mind substance was totally different from matter. So he proposed that the mind is distinct from the body, and somehow or other the mind interacts with the body, so that when the mind wills something, then the body moves. And on the other hand, when the body picks up something through the senses, then the mind perceives that. So there has to be a two way link between them. So this was Descartes’s idea.
The trouble with this was that, number one, he couldn’t explain what the link was; because to Descartes, mind was one thing, matter is something completely different, so how could there be a connection between the two? He didn’t explain what that was. And the other thing was that scientists proceeded to have great success understanding matter in terms of geometry and so forth, but they never made any progress understanding this mind substance. They couldn’t see it, they couldn’t dissect it, they couldn’t pry it apart using electron beams or chemical reagents or anything like that. In fact they couldn’t do anything with it. So finally they just reject it. And they said, “Well, this so-called mind substance that Descartes is talking about is unreal, just a figment of the imagination.” Wait a minute! What do you mean of the imagination? “Well, it’s a figment of the movement of the different parts of the body in space.” They’ll put it that way. So they rejected mind and consciousness, and that has been the situation down to the present day. So what they present to us as a picture of the living being you can think of as just a bunch of triangles and squares and so forth. Just a big geometrical figure. So certainly they’ve left something out, and that’s the basic point we want to make. And people like Descartes and Galileo, Newton and so on, were aware of this. They knew that this something had been left out, and they wanted to add it as an extra element. But they couldn’t do so in a convincing way.
In Krsna consciousness philosophy, of course, we have a different conception of matter than the scientists have. They want to explain matter in terms of geometry. The Vedic viewpoints is to explain matter as an energy of Krsna. So Krsna is the original conscious being and matter is one of His energies, which acts in accordance with His will. So the link between matter and consciousness, according to the Bhagavad-Gita, is the Supersoul. As you read in Bhagavad-Gita, the soul does not perform actions; the soul is not the doer of work. It neither kills nor is killed and so forth. So the soul is not in charge of the motion of the material energy. But Krsna is directly in charge of it. And the soul is accompanied in the heart by the Supersoul, who is controlling the material apparatus. Actually the material body is described as yantrarudhani mayaya. So that’s, say, a machine – yantra is a machine – made of material energy. So this material energy is directly under control of the Supersoul and the soul essentially is just going along for the ride. But the soul has desires concerning what the material body is going to do. So the Supersoul grants those desires by moving the material elements accordingly. So this is actually the Vedic conception of the connection between the soul and the Supersoul, and the soul and the body.
Now in the West this idea has also been considered. There was a fellow (what was his name? A philosopher, I forget his name at the moment), he was Catholic philosopher, and he proposed actually that God is the intermediary link between the mind and matter. I should point out, by the way, that in the Vedic literature there is a material mind which is one of the separated elements of Krsna. There is earth, water, fire, air, ether, and then mind, intelligence and false ego. So mind there is a material element which is more subtle than ether. But then the soul also has its own mind, that is, the characteristics of mind are thinking, feeling, and willing. So when the soul becomes liberated and goes to Vaikuntha it completely leaves behind the material body including the subtle elements of mind, intelligence and false ego. But that doesn’t mean that it ceases to have thoughts, feelings, and desires and so forth. So the material mind is actually an auxiliary apparatus which the soul uses. And actually the material mind is a false mind. The real mind of the soul is inherently part of the soul, that’s always there in the spirit soul. But the mind, intelligence, and false ego, which form what is called the subtle body, essentially represent a false personality. That’s of course the very idea of false ego. And of course the situation of the soul in the material world is that it is identifying with this false personality, and thinking that this is me. And this is the root of all the different troubles of the conditional souls, that they are identifying with this false apparatus which is really distinct from the self. So the connecting link between this mind, intelligence, and false ego and the gross material elements is the Supersoul.
Well, to modern philosophers this idea seems incredible. They think: Really, this is too much, to say that God is individually superintending the relationship between all these different souls and the material bodies. So, their reaction to that is: Well, this idea is primitive. Actually a fellow wrote a letter to me once. He was responding to my book, actually, and he referred to the idea of bringing in the Supersoul as the link between the soul and the material body; and he said, “Well, this is a crude, primitive notion that was exploded long ago.” But one might ask, “Well, what’s wrong with this idea anyway? Why couldn’t it be that God is present everywhere and is controlling the material elements? That’s always been the idea of God, which has been presented in different religions. It’s been said that God is omniscient and omnipotent. Omniscient means that God knows everything, and omnipotent means God has power over everything. So why couldn’t it be then that God is actually accompanying each individual being and controlling the material elements of that living being’s body in accordance to his desire.” So that is possible, but there’s a tendency in the modern day and age to find, well let’s say, a basic tendency of atheism according to which it’s really hard to believe that God could be so powerful.
I was reading, in fact, the other day, some of the arguments made by a fellow named Paul Davies, who’s a British physicist. He wrote a book entitled God and the New Physics in which he proposed to shed much light on religion using the insights of modern physics. His idea is that the religious people never could really tell us anything about religion, about God, and so forth, because they’re just mired in the muck of superstition and crude animistic thinking. But science will be able to clarify all these issues. So he was discussing the point, the question, of whether God is within time or whether God is outside of time. And so he said, “Well, if God is within time, that means essentially God is subjected to the conditions of the material energy and if there’s a creation of the world at one point and a destruction at another point then that means that God’s position is also unstable. Because if God is within time, and when the final annihilation comes, then God gets annihilated also.” This is how he was arguing. So he said, “Well surely we can’t imagine that God is within time.” On the other hand, some Christian theologians would like to say that God is outside of time. But if God is outside of time then God cannot be a person. Why? Well, to be a person you have to be able to think and to speak and to act and so forth. That’s certainly our conception of what it means to be a person. But thinking and acting require time. Can you conceive of an action that doesn’t take time? Can you conceive of thinking without passage of time? So certainly something that is outside time cannot have thoughts, it cannot act, so it certainly cannot be a person. So in this case God cannot be a person. So these Christians, he was mainly attacking the Christians, this was his favourite target. This is because he was a British scientist and they still have that Anglican Church there. Actually it was interesting, in England you can still see people wearing robes walking around in the streets – other than Hare Krishnas that is. But mostly they are totally impersonalists. So this was his argument. However, actually he had a complete misconception of what it means to be outside of time.
See, we also say that God is outside of time--that’s what the word transcendental means, actually. But that being outside of time doesn’t mean that one is in a sort of timeless void in which nothing happens. But actually one aspect of what it means is that one is aware and fully in control of past, present, and future. That is, all time is immediately accessible to Krsna. That means all events are within Krsna’s purview. So an analogy one can make is that if you have a bowl of water, the bowl contains the water. So you can certainly say the bowl is outside of the water. You couldn’t say that the bowl is inside the water; certainly it’s outside of it, yet it contains it. So similarly, everything is contained within Krsna and that includes not only all of space but all of time--past, present, and future. I was saying the other day how everything within the universe is within Krsna, so that doesn’t just mean space. It’s not that everything is within Krsna at this particular time and then there’s a later time in which everything is different and that’s also within Krsna. It’s not exactly like that, but the whole space-time situation is within Krsna. He has total access to all events in the past, the present, and the future. Of course according to the Vedic literature there are even great sages who have at least a limited access to past, present, and future. For example, Narada Muni, we see, can see the past, the present, and the future; and he would go to Krsna and describe various events that were going to happen, because he could just directly see them and so forth. So the main problem, that was a stumbling block to this Paul Davies, was that he really couldn’t imagine that you could have a being who is actually conscious of everything at all times and in all places. That was simply beyond his conception. So that meant that if God is outside of time, God had to be in the state of sort of null and void in which nothing is happening.
Actually this is also the problem that the Mayavadis face because the Mayavadis have grasped one basic idea about the nature of God, and that is that God has perfect unity. Because they realize that if God is split up into parts then you have relativity within God. So God couldn’t be absolute. So they therefore understand that God must be one. But because they have a limited material conception based on, as Srila Prabhupada says, a poor fund of knowledge, they think that if God must be one, then that one must be essentially zero. Because imagine something that has variety in it. If we imagine something that has variety, then it’s made of different parts. So it doesn’t have oneness then, because there are different parts.
So how do you get more oneness? Well, if you reduce the number of parts then you come closer to oneness, in the sense that three is closer to one than ten, right, and two is even closer. So you just reduce down the number of parts until finally you have just reduced them down to just one part. But then what do you have? Well, essentially you have a point. If you have two points and you’ve still got duality, so you reduce it down to one point. But then even the idea of the point involves the idea that there's the point and then the space outside the point. So you’ve still got duality. So eliminate the space outside the point also and then you come to the Mayavadi conception of what God is. Essentially you have nothing, and that’s the Mayavadi conception. So they go from unity to nothing. But the conception in the philosophy of Krsna consciousness as presented by Lord Caitanya is acintya-bhedabheda-tattva. So God is one but he includes everything. So the idea is that outside of everything and including everything there is perfect unity. So that means that Krsna has a state of consciousness in which Krsna is actually simultaneously aware of everything and he is simultaneously in control of everything. And if you think of how much, how many things there are just within a small volume of space in this world, you can see how vast that consciousness must be. So that’s actual omnipotence. But the people of atheistic inclination just can’t grasp an idea like that. That’s just too much.
So anyway, but if Krsna is so all-powerful then it's perfectly plausible that the Supersoul could be acting as the link between each individual mind and his body, that is his actual conscious self, his soul, not the material mind and the physical body, which includes the material mind. So that's perfectly plausible and also it opens up empirical possibilities. Because one thing the scientists are always fond of saying is that, “In religion you just have to have blind faith. You can’t verify anything, nothing is testable, you merely find some statements in a scripture and either you believe or you don't. So some people have faith in these statements and other people don't have faith in them, but no one really knows because you can't put it to the test.” So the point, though, is that if actually between our self and our physical body and there is the Supersoul who is the intermediate link, then that means that actually we’re very close indeed to God. So why can't we see the Supersoul? Well, the Vedic literature provides an explanation for why we don't see the Supersoul and the explanation is that this is not a permanent or inevitable state of affairs. Actually we don't see the Supersoul because we're so preoccupied with the conditions going on within the body of which the Supersoul is informing us.
So there's that example from the Upanisads of the two birds in the tree with the one bird being so busy eating the fruits of the tree that it doesn't notice the other witness bird which is sitting next to it. But it could notice if only it could pause for a moment from eating the fruits of the tree. So there's the whole process of yoga which is intended to re-establish the link, which is actually always there, which is forgotten between the individual soul and the Supersoul. So this idea of the link between the body and the soul leads naturally to the idea that such a thing as yoga could be possible – it becomes a plausible idea. Now in order to see if there’s something really to it or not, you have to put it to the test.
So there are various processes of yoga, and in this age the process of bhakti yoga is actually practical for most conditioned human beings. There are other bona fide practices of yoga also, but of course our teachings tell us that these are not really practical for most people. Maybe for some people it’s possible practice astanga yoga or something like that. But for most people it’s just out of the question. And actually, it’s a slower process anyway than bhakti. Actually the great benefit of the Kali Yuga is that we’re given a very quick way to go back to Krsna, whereas in, say, Satya Yuga, we would have much greater spiritual qualifications--very long lifespan, a mind very much situated in the mode of goodness and so on--but then we wouldn’t be given such a quick way. We’d have to take a much slower route. So we learned that even, for example Dhruva Maharaja, who actually was able to see Lord Visnu after six months of meditation, still had to wait 36,000 years before he went back to Godhead. So that’s quite a long time from our standpoint. It’s actually possible in this age to go back to Godhead in a matter of a short human lifespan of the kind that exists today, just a few short decades or even shorter than that. So this possibility of bhakti yoga, and of yoga in general, is opened up by the nature of the relation between the mind and the body. So all these different things are linked together. So let’s see, I’ll go through some of these pictures here also, there’s this picture of this machine . . . Oh you had a question?
Question: Nowadays when scientists come up with something that they’re not able to explain, they say, “Well we’re working on it.” So why was it possible in the time of Descartes to separate mind and consciousness from matter . . . Why is it acceptable to say, “Well we’re working on it” . . .
Answer: Well, one basic reason for that is that nobody knew how to work on it. You see when the scientists say, “We’re working on it”, they usually have in mind some specific program of research. It may be that what they’re doing is completely futile but at least they have in mind that if we do like this then we’ll make progress. So if someone wants to explain life in terms of chemistry then he can say he’s working on it, because in the laboratory he’s taking cells and dissolving them in acid and putting the remains through a chromatography column and doing so many different things. Actually no one has come even close to understanding the cell fully in terms of chemistry. It’s a very daunting task. All kinds of complicated things are going on in a cell that no one has even begun to understand. We’ll discuss that later on. That’s the next article “Life from Chemicals?” in here. But none the less can say they’re making progress because there’s something that they can do with their hands, basically. They can go into the chemistry lab, put on the lab coat, and you know start pouring things into beakers and titrating them and doing all kinds of things. So, but when it comes to studying the mind, this Cartesian mind element, what do you do? Well it’s a fact that people tried to perform introspection to figure out the mind, but actually, all they did was speculate and so for years people churned out various far out speculations. But other people said, “Well look, this is all just gobbledygook anyway; what’s the use of it.” So finally after a hundred years or so, a couple hundred years, people began to get tired of this. So then the analytical philosophers came along, and the whole objective of the analytical philosophy is to take everything that every other philosopher throughout history has said and completely tear it to shreds, with the result that you are left with absolutely nothing. So that’s what the analytical philosophers do. So that got going very strongly in the 20th century, and it’s still basically what goes on in philosophy. Philosophers will say, “Metaphysics is completely useless; you can’t make any progress with it. Our duty as philosophers is simply to explain the proper usage of words.” And so they will explain, “Well, you shouldn’t use words like consciousness because they have no meaning. You should only use words that refer to patterns in our sense perceptions, and as a matter of fact, patterns in our sense perceptions of laboratory equipment used by scientists. Those are the only sense perceptions we will allow.”
A: Well the basic argument they make is, “This is simply incredible, and unbelievable, and there’s no evidence for it. So it’s intellectually totally unjustified to postulate such an absurd thing. We should to try to find a simple explanation that’s within our range of experience.” You see, the scientists have some standards that they use in judging explanations. Their idea is that explanation should stick as close as possible to the facts, and it shouldn’t introduce extraneous elements, especially far out elements--things that are really beyond our ordinary experience. They have what they call Occam’s razor, and the principle of Occam’s razor is that, if you explain something, you should have the minimum number of independent theoretical elements needed to provide an explanation. So they will say then that, “If you propose that just to explain the act of my picking up this cup that I have to bring in an omnipotent God who is aware of all time and space" and so on and so forth, and who has materially impossible properties of being simultaneously everywhere etc. etc. Then that is simply bizarre; that is fantastic; it is utterly unjustifiable. A scientific explanation should deal with things that are within our experience. If I want to explain what happens when I pick up this cup, then I should generalise to a small extent from the experience we have in investigating what goes in the body.
Now the things that go on in the body are limited in time and space, they involve small amounts of energy, and they involve material things. So therefore, in order to explain this, we should limit ourselves to this realm. Otherwise we’re engaged in wild speculation. Scientists totally reject wild speculation! Scientists are simply interested in the object pursuit of truth! So they are essentially opposing the process of religion in which, for many years, people were enslaved by these bizarre, completely unverifiable concepts, which were rammed down their throat by a cast of priests who exploited society, and so forth, on this basis. So science is liberating us from the effects of wild speculation, which is untestable. In science we only deal with things that we can test and measure and thus we can be relatively certain that we’re dealing with sound ideas and reliable concepts. So we therefore totally reject this idea of a God who is present everywhere and so forth.” So that’s how they deal with it.
However, as I was pointing out, first of all, why couldn’t be like that? Because they are speculating that it is not like that, and then they proceed to speculate that the entire universe is the material machine and that involves going far beyond their own experience and making all kinds of unjustifiable steps. And then the additional point is, of course, that consciousness is something which is undeniably real; and they have no explanation for it. And yet they go right ahead and try and explain everything without mentioning consciousness. Because you’ll find no place in the Big Bang theory for consciousness, for example, or Darwin’s theory of evolution, and so on. And finally, the idea of the Supersoul as the connecting link between mind and matter leads to empirical consequences, because it means yoga is possible. And to find out whether there’s something in yoga or not you just have to test it. By just sitting and arguing you can’t prove that there is really something substantial to yoga. Likewise by sitting and arguing you can’t prove that there’s something substantial about, say, chemistry. Unless you perform chemical experiments how can you know that the stories about bonding of hydrogen molecules, and so forth, have any reality to them? Someone can go on and on talking about energy shells, orbitals, valence bonds, and so on and so forth, but it’s an all just storytelling unless you can actually perform some experiments.
So the same thing is true with yoga. There’s a system there, and that system actually has existed for very long time, and you can put it to the test. So this idea though, the important point to make is that in any system that you can test, there have to be basic ideas. For example, in chemistry there are basic ideas. If you didn’t have the idea of atoms and molecules and bonds and so forth, you wouldn’t be able to think about experiments that you perform in chemistry. None of the experiments would make any sense, because how would you visualize what was happening when you mix such and such together and it changes from blue to green or something. Without having a framework of ideas with which to systematically sort out all these different phenomena, it all would all be just gobbledygook. So you need ideas and then you need to have a way of testing the ideas through experience. So that’s what you have in an experimental science like, say, chemistry. Well, yoga is also like that; there are certain ideas and then there are ways of testing them through actual experience. So that can be considered.
Q: I was just saying that I thought – we believe this, and then we formulate experiments to prove it, but in science they believe in so many things,(unclear) they’re not attached to conceptions (unclear) data proof (unclear, unclear) God in Europe (unclear) and then they were just willing to adjust. In terms of religion you just have set dogma and can’t prove outside of that. So they have this idea that they are more liberal in their pursuit of truth
A: So you can say to them, “Be liberal in your pursuit of truth then, try this process of yoga; and if it doesn’t work, then that’s your experience and that’s the way it goes.” And by the way, one should keep in mind, because this point also can be made, someone can say, “Well I’ve chanted this maha mantra and it didn’t work for me.” And then of course if we say, “Well you didn’t do it right”, then they’ll say, “Well now, that’s just a copout; you say this thing works in a certain way and I’ve done it and it didn’t work and now you say I didn’t do it right.” So, however, one should keep in mind that the same thing applies in science – take physics for example. I know I’ve done certain experiments in a physics lab that didn’t work out. And according to the textbook it was supposed to work out and I agreed that so and so had done, it had worked for him, but it didn’t work for me, actually. So what is anyone going to believe? Apparently I didn’t do it right. This is what any scientists would say. In fact it’s generally the case that if you try and reproduce someone’s experiment in science and the thing does not work then you’ll simply be told that, well, you didn’t perform the experiment correctly. You cannot overthrow a modern theory of science by doing an experiment and having it not work. You could try that. For example, it is said that hydrogen and oxygen when combined together with a spark will produce water. So suppose I did this and somehow it didn't work. Of course, that's a pretty easy one; it's hard to prevent that one from working.
Well, I could give you one that easily would fail to work. There’s the method used to detect the charge of an electron. Here’s what they do: You take a capacitor with two plates with electric charge difference potential across them, and you spray between the two plates with fine droplets of oil. And the idea is that they develop an electric charge, naturally, with static electricity. And so through a microscope you look at the very tiny droplets, and you’ll see that, depending on their charge, they’re moving at different speeds toward the positive plates (let’s say it has negative charge, so it’s moving towards the positive plate). So the idea here is that if one droplet has “n” electrons it will be moving at a certain speed, and if an electron jumps off it will suddenly change speed and move at a different speed. Then if you know the viscosity of the air and the law governing how fast a little droplet of a given radius moves through air at that viscosity, then you can measure the radius of the droplet with your microscope using fine little cross hairs that are there. And you can measure the speed of the droplet, and you know the voltage difference, and you observe the change in speed. With all that data, you can calculate the charge on that one electron that jumped off. So people do this experiment and that’s how they measure the charge on an electron.
Now there are many ways in which this experiment can fail, and practically if you do it you can go blind, squinting through these crosshairs. I never did it but I knew a physics student that was a friend of mine who was trying to do that experiment. He had to do it at midnight, because it turns out slight vibrations produced by traffic on the street outside would make everything dance up-and-down within the apparatus, so that it ruins everything. So doing an experiment like that, it’s easy to fail to get the desired result. So actually, the experiments one has to do to become Krsna conscious are pretty delicate experiments. They’re not easy either, when it comes down to it. So it’s possible to do the thing incorrectly, but with that caveat, as they say, with that warning, we do say that you can approach the thing empirically and see if it works or not. Go right ahead, take the scientific viewpoint, why not? We don’t say that, “We’re presenting a certain dogma. Now our position is you have to accept this dogma and believe it with faith, and if you don’t you’re going to go to hell.” You know, there’s a certain school of religious preaching that goes like that and everyone therefore tends to think that that’s what religion is. That, okay, “Here’s the dogma; now your duty is to believe it and if you don’t you’ll burn. So, and if you do you’ll go to heaven. That’s part of what you have to believe. Actually our doctrine is that if you believe that you’ll go to heaven, then because you believe that, you’ll go to heaven. At least if you believe that, Jesus Christ will take you there.”
But that’s not actually the approach to religion of the devotees actually. The idea is actually to become Krsna conscious in this lifetime. So that means to perform the experiment and if it doesn’t work, well, it doesn’t work; and that’s the risk that you take with science. And you can’t prove to anybody before you do an experiment that it’s definitely going to work. How could you prove that? All you can do is perform the experiment. That’s true in science, isn’t it? So if someone wants to say that he is scientific then he has to be willing to perform an experiment that just might not work for him, because that’s the way it is in science. Of course, we’ll say that this is pretty well time-tested. There’s a long history of practical positive experience with it, and scientists will say, “Look, we really believe that such and such is true because we have 10,000 experiments and it’s worked every time.” For example, take quantum mechanics: A scientist may say sometimes that, “We’re very objective and the moment we find one fact that disagrees with our theory we’re immediately ready to throw it out. And we don’t believe anything because we know that belief is inappropriate; we merely tentatively consider possibilities.” Well, that’s not what happens in practice.
Actually, scientists believe in their theories. They believe in their theories just as much as any Baptist believes he’s saved by Jesus. If you talk with physicists to try to find out whether he believes, say, in the Schrödinger picture of a hydrogen atom or not – he believes it, definitely. So therefore it’s also not inappropriate to believe in things. At least a scientist can’t rule that out. That is, if he says, “Look, you Hare Krishna devotees, like other religionists, are completely irrational because you believe in these various dogmas, whereas we scientists know that belief is something to be rejected.” Well, that’s simply not true, because scientists do believe in the different things that appear in their theories. Nowadays, many scientists have managed to talk themselves into believing the Big Bang theory. And that’s actually incredible; they actually believe it. And if you consider how shaky the Big Bang theory is, it’s just like a house made of straws, with one straw balancing on top of the other practically – but they believe it!
Q: The points that you raised several times, the tendency to believe, the scientists that reject at will any kind of evidence or experiment that doesn’t necessarily fit with the Big Bang bandwagon now, so it seems to me that they’re actually acaryas of hypocrisy too. So what are we supposed to do, I mean what’s the goal of BI? In other words, it seems to me that there will be a certain number of scientists that will never be convinced...
A: The goal of BI is not to convince these hard-line scientists who are going to be quite stubborn. They’ll just go on thinking what they do. The goal is to make a presentation which can stand up to anything they say so that they can’t turn and tear it down and prevent us from reaching all the various students and so on who are being trained up in the universities, and all of the different people in various walks in life who believe in science and all the things that they are hearing from the scientists. In other words, why don’t we go right now to the campuses and directly present our philosophy, and so on, on a large scale? We’re not doing it. We use various techniques, like cooking classes, to take advantage of fact people like to eat. And that’s good, it’s a good strategy ,and prasadam is spiritual. But why don’t we go and simply present our philosophy and convince people of that? Well, right now we’re not prepared to do it; that’s the practical fact. Why is that? Because the moment we do it, certain people are going to come along and tear it all to pieces. And the people who listen are mainly going to agree that, “Yes, the position of these Hare Krsna devotees has been torn to pieces”. So therefore we don’t even try to do that, at the present time.
But Srila Prabhupada said we should do that. That’s what the BI is supposed to do. He said the devotees should go to all the universities everywhere, all around the world, and they should present Krsna Consciousness and defeat modern science. And He specifically said we should defeat these various atheistic theories. That’s why I quoted all those things that Srila Prabhupada was saying at the beginning of these classes. He said you should go and you should prove that Darwin is wrong. Now you might say, “Darwin’s theory of evolution is all material. As devotees, why are we concerned with this material thing, why don’t we just teach them about Krsna?” Well, the answer is they’re not going to believe anything about Krsna unless you relieve them of certain material misconceptions. They’ll just blaspheme Krsna, as a matter of fact. So Srila Prabhupada actually said at one point, “Our worship of Radha-Krsna is our private affair, publicly we have to defeat this theory.” He was talking about Darwin, so he said that. Of course, the point is we’re going to present Krsna Consciousness, but we have to defeat the atheistic theories. And the purpose of doing that is not to convince the hard-line atheist, because nothing will convince them, simply because they’re not rational. People who really believe something are not rational and people who have a demonic tendency to reject God and to be envious of God are actually fundamentally irrational.
You can take the example from the Bhagavatam of Hiranyakasipu. He’s a very interesting case, because Hiranyakasipu, after the death of his brother Hiranyaksa, gave all these elaborate presentations of Vedic philosophy. He was teaching how the soul is immortal and so on and so forth, so he clearly had a very deep understanding of Vedic philosophy. But then he turned around and talked about how he was going to cut off the head of Visnu and drink his blood and thus please his brother Hiranyaksa, who was so fond of drinking blood. That’s what Hiranyakasipu proposed to do. So how in the world could he think that you could cut off the head of Visnu? I mean, he had very deep knowledge of the Vedic philosophy, so how can he think that? So the point is, he said something at that point which was totally irrational. It didn’t make any sense. And yet Hiranyakasipu was very intelligent. He wasn’t stupid. He was intelligent enough to rule the entire universe, which takes a bit of intelligence. So one will never convince people who really don’t want to be convinced, but the idea is to prevent them from training up all the innocent people who could go one way or the other in this atheistic mode of thought.
And you should notice that acharyas of the Krsna Consciousness movement in India for centuries have also done this according to the time and circumstances in which they existed. Of course Darwin’s theory wasn’t there is India a few hundred years ago, but there was the Mayavadi philosophy of Sankaracarya, which is a very powerful atheistic philosophy. So the great Vaisnava acaryas spent a great deal of time and effort attacking the Mayavadi philosophy, Ramanujacarya, Madhvacarya and of course Caitanya Mahaprabhu, Jiva Goswami and so on, and so many other great acaryas, went to great efforts to defeat the Mayavadi philosophy. So the point was why should they do that? Well, because otherwise the Mayavadis would just defeat the Vaisnavas and then everybody would just simply be Mayavadi; and then all of those people would be lost. They’ll just get the benediction of Mayavadi philosophy. So similarly we have to save people from the benediction of modern scientific materialism and to do that we have to defeat the theories. Not that we’re going to convince the hard-line scientist – they’ll never be convinced. But we can convince the innocent people, and that’s the whole point. [ends abruptly]