Science Education in ISKCON
Thompson discusses a proposal for a science curriculum intended for an educational system sympathetic to the Vedic tradition. After briefly summarizing historical considerations involving the apparent conflict between science and religion, Thompson concludes that science may not be as intellectually comprehensive as sometimes proposed in simplistic popular accounts. He suggests that the label “true believer” commonly attached to religious thinkers can be applied just as readably to a variety of atheistic attitudes that often hide behind professional science. Thompson then outlines a program of study that can help avoid this dogmatic trap.
TRANSCRIPT: Science Education in ISKCON. Alachua - Summer, 1994 / (047)
Basically I'll start by making some general observations about the relationship between science and religion. Then I'll outline a program of science education that can be pursued within ISKCON, and finally give some practical ideas of how that might be implemented. So to be begin with, there... for the last two centuries or so there has been a famous conflict between science and religion. Science is a system of thought which aims at explaining everything that exists on the basis of certain fundamental assumptions. The primary assumption guiding scientific research is that everything happens mechanically and everything's based on inanimate material entities that are interacting with one another according to certain laws. One of the basic principles of science from the very beginning of modern scientific development has been to try and explain things as much as possible without bringing God into the picture or without mentioning anything supernatural. And supernatural, by definition, means anything that doesn't work according to understandable mechanical processes. So this is the... the basic aim of science.
The scientists are attempting to explain everything within reality. They're not content to simply limit their endeavors to particular fields such as electronics, let us say, where obviously there's been great success. But they want to explain everything. They want to explain the universe, where it came from, what it is, what's going to happen in the future. They want to explain what life is, its origin, the nature of life. They want to say what the mind is, what thinking is, and so forth. So they want to explain everything. Now in this regard, science is overlapping the province of religion, because religion has also, traditionally, been an effort to explain everything – everything in reality. So the basic concept of religion, of course, has been that the original cause of all causes is something that is ultimately beyond our comprehension. In other words, God is acintya, inconceivable. You can understand God to some extent. God is also beyond the material world, beyond the reach of material senses, and ultimately everything that is happening within the universe has been brought about by Divine will. That's the basic approach taken by religion. So you have an inevitable conflict then between science and religion. So there have been various responses to this conflict over the years and basically they can be divided into two categories which you can call accommodation and fundamentalism. So the approach that you could call accommodation is that religion yields to science. And this is typically pursued by people in the religious domain. Scientists, per se, have traditionally not been too concerned about religion. At least many of them don't particularly worry about it. But many people in different religious organizations have worried about the conflict between science and religion.
So I brought along a couple of... of examples illustrating the approach of accommodation. For example here is a papal encyclical, Humani generis which was issued August 12, 1950 on the subject of Darwinian evolution. And the pope said here; "The teaching of the church leaves the doctrine of evolution an open question as long as it confines its speculations to the development from other living matter already in existence, of the human body. In the present state of scientific and theological opinion, this question may be legitimately canvassed by research and by discussion between experts on both sides." So this sort of leaves the... the ultimate decision open, but you can see the trend which this decision is precipitating, namely that Darwin's theory of evolution would be accepted in the Roman Catholic Church. In fact, it has been pretty solidly accepted. There's a papal... Pontifical Academy of Science in which many eminent scientists – some catholic, some not catholic... Basically this is funded by the Vatican and they engage in many discussions. I have a little article here about them here. Basically they're talking about evolution and different issues concerning exactly how evolution has taken place according to the Darwinian theory. The Darwinian theory of evolution, by the way, is fundamentally a mechanistic explanation of the origin of life. So that's one example.
Here's another interesting example. This is The Chicago Center for Religion and Science. They're quite active. This is their journal. Here's one article. "Did homo religiosis emerge from the evolution of the brain? In a word, “Yes." It goes on to discuss this. That's the basic theme of this group of scholars. By the way, the... here's a little fundraising letter from The Chicago Center for Religion and Science: "The center is designed to be a self-supporting operation. The budget for the first year is about $800,000. We've already received remittance of about 50% of this budget." So he's inviting donations here. So even the accommodational approach requires funding. So that has to be considered. This approach of accommodation is very standard. Practically all of the so-called mainline Christian denominat... denominations have followed that path. And this began back in the latter part of the 19th century. For example there's an interesting book entitled Darwin's Forgotten Defenders which explains how a number of very prominent theologians, basically Protestant theologians in America based in universities like Yale and Princeton and Harvard, went over to the side of Darwinism in the latter part of the 19th century. And that's been the dominant trend in the mainstream denominations ever since.
The other approach to science versus religion can be called fundamentalism. Now according to that approach, science yields to religion. And this is considered to be anathema by scientists. They have many harsh words to say about fundamentalists. However, some Christian groups have organized along these lines. For example, here is the Creation Research Society Quarterly which is a magazine devoted basically to overthrowing Darwin's theory of evolution and establishing certain basic elements of the Christian worldview. So the basic approach in fundamentalism usually is that religion is based upon revealed knowledge, is based on the authority of some scripture – in the Christian case, that would be the Bible – and the idea is that if science is disagreeing with that, then there must be something wrong because the scriptures are coming down from God. How could God be mistaken about things? If we accept that God is mistaken about things then how can we maintain our religious faith? The basic point of view of the fundamentalists is that since scientific issues, by their very nature, are doubtful, science after all is a human endeavor. It's based upon the fallible human senses, humaning... human reasoning processes. So given that the conclusions of science are not final and given that we have a fundamental conflict between science and what we understand to be revealed knowledge coming down from God, well perhaps the scientists are a bit mistaken. So let's investigate that and point out some of the... the defects in the scientific theories and try to arrive at a more reasonable picture of... of reality in which our scientific knowledge agrees with our revealed knowledge. So basically that's what the people behind this magazine are trying to do. Primarily they look into, for example, archeological evidence and things of that nature, to show that Darwin's theory is wrong and to support an idea of Divine creation.
So these are the... the two basic approaches which are prominent. So what I'm going to be talking about today primarily is the approach that we can take within ISKCON for science education. Basically we're fundamentalists. After all, Srila Prabhupada's basic teaching is that the Vedic sastras are revealed knowledge descending from God through a system of disciplic succession. He certainly said that we should accept the Vedic sastras as revealed truth. So we're fundamentalists in that sense. So that means, or at least that suggests, that we have to take a fundamentalist approach to the question of science versus religion. Now, in fact, one point I'd like to make is that this question of science and religion can be a strong point both in our preaching and our... in our educational system rather than a weak point.
If you just look superficially at the relation say between science and Krishna Consciousness, you may get the impression that science is a vast monolithic edifice of solidly established factual knowledge which can hardly be challenged. It seems very solid, very thoroughly supported. In fact, if you look at the question more carefully, you'll see that that's not really so. So a basic principle here, as I mentioned before, is that the... the scientists are also fallible human beings. And it's very common for scientists to accuse religious people, especially fundamentalists and creationists, of trying to warp the scientific truth based on their religious beliefs. The idea is that if a person is motivated by religious beliefs, then such a person cannot be actually an authentic scientist. His... His conclusions will be biased by his belief system. There's this word 'true believer'. A true believer cannot be a scientist. In fact, one of the creationists publications that I have, reviewed several cases in which people were kicked out of university positions because it was found out that they were creationists. And the idea was: “Well they're biased. They're true believers in something unscientific. Therefore, kick them out.” Well the point can be made that scientists are also true believers. So what applies to the religious people also applies to scientists. If you canvassed different scientists, you would find that scientists tend to very strongly believe in their different basic theories such as the theory of evolution for example. Typically they believe very emotionally in these theories. So if religious bias can cause one to warp one's presentation of the facts, then scientific bias can also cause a similar warping. And at the very least, it would be good to have a pluralism of ideas in which people are warping things in various directions, so that people will at least have a choice to make in order to decide what to believe. Not that everything should be dominated by people who are always warping things in one direction. So that's a basic argument that can... that can be made for this approach even for those who don't accept many of our basic premises.
So over the last number of... few years we have been doing some research on this topic of science versus religion and I've brought along some show-and-tell items here. And I will also explain how some of these materials that we've produced could be converted into a curriculum of courses on a number of different levels. So I have some topics for courses here. I'll just go through some of these briefly. First of all in what it... would be called life sciences or biology, there's the subject of the origin of life and the evolution of species. This is a very basic topic. We have a lot of material on that. Of course you may have recently seen a brief volume that we recently published.
Actually, in writing this book, we made an arbitrary cut off point of a thousand pages because we thought, you know, physical restraints on bindings of books would make it really impractical to go beyond that. So, basically the premise we had in doing the research for this book was that we wanted to take a particular field of evolutionary study which was fairly circumscribed so that we had a chance of thoroughly researching it, and investigate that to see what the real story was. So we took the subject of human evolution because, first of all, people are most interested in human origins and secondly because that's fairly circumscribed. So the book is basically divided into two parts. One part is a review of the accepted evidence for human evolution. And the other part is a review of anomalous evidence that we discovered in our research. Now this word 'anomaly' is quite useful. An anomaly is something that doesn't fit in to a given prevailing theoretical view. So whether something is an anomaly or not depends on what your theoretical viewpoint is. For example, at one time, the idea that rocks can fall out of the sky was considered to be an anomaly. Scientists back in the 18th century maintained that: “Well of course there are no rocks in the sky. The sky is empty. It's a vacuum in outer space. So therefore rocks can't fall from the sky. And if farmers report these land in their fields and so forth, then obviously these people are ignorant, unscientific fools.” So later on, the rocks from the sky ceased to be an anomaly and they became known as meteorites. And it was accepted that there are rocks in the sky after all. And sometimes they fall down on the earth. So an anomaly is something that doesn't fit in with the accepted theoretical viewpoint. We found that there's a tremendous mass of anomalous material which is contrary to the accepted theory of human evolution. And as I say, we had to make an arbitrary cut-off point in presenting this evidence. We could go on much further. So this material can be presented in the form of courses on different levels. Actually, even in the course of our book publication efforts, we have a condensed version of the book for popular sales.
So different levels of education: We begin, let us say, at the junior high school level. One can imagine a general science type course which would incorporate some of this material. On a more advanced high school level, one could have different courses covering some of the topics that I'm going to be mentioning. Then there is the college level. It would be good to establish a Vedic university or college. So at the college level one could have courses going into much greater depth in these topics. And finally there's the graduate research level. Basically the research done for this book is certainly the equivalent of a PhD thesis, or a couple of PhD theses. And in fact, more research can go on. Typically what happens in the scientific world is that a theory is sustained by a research community. It's not that theories just exist in a vacuum. But what you have is a body of scholars who are training up students who will become their successors. And then they, in turn, train up another generation of students and so forth. And so in this way, the particular theoretical view is sustained. It's very similar to the parampara system. So it would be good if we could also establish such a system because it's also observed that if say one author writes a book and then that's the end of it, then eventually you have a dusty book with yellow pages sitting on a library shelf somewhere and nobody knows what it is, until later some other scholar happens to discover it and says: “Wow, look at what this fellow wrote back a hundred years ago.” But in that case then the knowledge tends to become lost.
So by the way, just as a matter of interest, this is the German edition of Forbidden Archeology, Verbotene Archäologie. So we're in the process of bringing out this book in many different languages also.
RLT: This is also an international endeavor we're engaged in.
Question: That's in it's second print now isn't it?
Answer: Pardon me
Q: That one is in it's second print now isn't it?
A: I believe so.
Q: And that's sold 3000 since it was...
A: Yeah, this was published by a German company, Bettendorf.
Q: Is that the original or the... is it abridged? Or?
A: It's abridged. Yeah, they abridged it themselves actually.
So one topic then is evolution. Another point to make about the whole topic of Forbidden Archeology is that it ties in with Vedic chronology. One of the striking features of Vedic chronology is that it maintains that human beings have been in existence on this planet for millions and millions and millions of years. And that's quite contrary to the modern evolutionary picture according to which, anatomically modern human beings have only been in existence for about 100,000 years. Before that you had the Neanderthal man, the archaic homo sapiens, the homos... the homo erectus, ape man and so forth going back to the apes. In this book Forbidden Archeology we document extensive evidence that human beings have been on this planet for... Well let us say there are two categories of evidence there. Evidence from scientific reports published in official scientific journals and discussed in official scientific conferences takes the human presence back to about 55 million years ago in what is called the Eocene period at which time, by the way, apes supposedly didn't exist. Also monkeys supposedly didn't exist. The only primates existing at that time were prosimians like lemurs that you find in Madagascar. But yet humans existed then. We have good evidence of that.
Then a second category... category of evidence would be what we'd call the extreme anomalies. This is evidence that's generally been shunned by scientists. The source for this kind of evidence typically would be individuals, coal miners, little old ladies who happen to make discoveries and report them to newspapers and so forth. But there you find evidence for civilized human beings going back hundreds of millions of years. For example, it seems that in the old days when coal was mined by miners going down there with pick axes in the mines, artifacts would occasionally be found in the coal. And typically this is Carboniferous coal dating back to 250 million years ago. Now at that time supposedly there were no mammals. In fact, there were no reptiles. There were only amphibians that sort of looked liked alligators. So then of course there's our Precambrian evidence which goes back to the time before there were vertebrates according to standard Paleontology. So...
Comment: You're everyone's... you're the scientist's worst nightmare. Sadaputa and Drutakarma.
RLT: So... so anyway. On this topic of life and evolution, another subheading would be the alternative theory for the origin of the human race and of other species of life. Of course the Bhagavatam describes how human beings are descended from demigods. Now one might think; Well now, how are we going to present something like that? This seems to be a very difficult topic. However, this can be presented and it can be made into a strong point. The basic principle in the... what you can call the Vedic theory of creation is that spiritual form generates subtle form and then subtle form generates gross form. And as far as scientific investigation is concerned, the transition from subtle form to gross form is something that can be looked at from an empirical point of view. It's more difficult to investigate the transition from spiritual form to subtle form. Of course going from spiritual to subtle you have Brahma being born from Garbhodakasayi Visnu. That would be difficult to investigate scientifically.
But going from subtle form to gross form, it turns out that there's a lot of evidence which is readily available which supports the basic principle that some kind of intelligently guided subtle powers exist which can manipulate gross matter. We've done quite a bit of research in this area and we're coming out with a book on this subject. One area of empirical evidence is the so called miraculous healing or psychical healing in which it turns out that very severe diseases suddenly are cured in connection with some supernatural agency.
I'll give you just one example of that. There's a place called Lourdes in France. Those who speak French will know that that's not how it's pronounced. I learned that when I spoke about this in France once. But Lourdes is associated with an appearance of the Virgin Mary back in about 1849 and since then, there have been miraculous healings reported there. So there's a... an official group of doctors who are based there, who study these miraculous healing cases and they've been able to pick out about 60 cases out of over 6000 in which there's very good medical documentation indicating what happens before and after. And basically what you have is the more or less sudden reconstruction of destroyed organs and tissues. For example there was one man named something like Vittorio Micheli who had a cancer which was eating away the ball... the ball and socket joint of the hip. It destroyed the upper part of his femur and part of the hip bone. And also he was dying because this cancer was extending throughout his body. So as a last resort, he was taken to Lourdes. They dunk the people there in a spring considered sacred to the Virgin Mary. And he said, suddenly he felt great. His appetite came back and he wanted them to take the cast off. He had a big body cast because his whole leg was disintegrated basically. It turned out that he had a new ball and socket joint, and he was able to walk again with no problem. Interestingly enough, the x-rays showed that the new ball and socket joint was indeed new because it was shifted by about a half an inch from the original bone as shown by the x-rays. Now this is a somewhat unusual phenomenon. It's known for example that lower animals can sometimes regenerate parts. For example you can chop off part of a flatworm and it can grow a new part. But in mammals what to speak of human beings, this is unheard of. So this is one example.
What you see empirically is that there is a correlation between these kinds of events and the idea that some higher power is involved. And typically the subjective experience of the person undergoing this healing phenomenon indicates that some higher being, some higher energy and so forth goes through them. So we're using this as empirical evidence in support of the theory of Divine creation. The idea behind it is that if it is possible for..., on a small scale, for intelligently guided subtle energies to reconstruct bodily tissues, then on a larger scale, the bodies could of been created in the first place by such powers. This, by the way runs parallel to Darwin's theory because it should be noted that Darwin never claimed to show evolution. What Darwin did was give many examples of small scale changes in organisms especially breeding of domestic dogs and horses and so on and so forth. And he then said, “Well if these small scale changes can occur within the purview of human observation, then imagine what nature can do over millions of years.” So it's a similar argument.
By the way, one basic principle that we use in our analysis is a comparative approach. Empirical evidence and empirical arguments are always fallible. You can never actually prove anything empirically. However, it's a question of balance or parity. If you have an empirical argument tending in one direction, to make a case tending in another direction, you just have to do as well as the argument that goes in the first direction. So in this example, if Darwin could argue on the basis of artificial breeding and so forth that evolution has occurred, we can also equally well argue on the basis of the miraculous healing and a number of other categories of evidence, that the process of Divine creation has occurred. What you do is you have balance between the two systems. This is a principle pointed out by David Hume by the way, the skeptical philosopher. Also in the Forbidden Archeology, it's a similar principle. We balance the accepted evidence against the anomalous evidence and we basically ask, “What is the quality of the scientific analysis of the evidence in the two cases?” And we find that it's basically equivalent. And so the conclusion is, that if you accept the accepted evidence, then you should also accept the anomalous evidence in which case the accepted theory goes out the window. [sentence repeats – audio error] On the other hand, if you reject the anomalous evidence, then you should also reject the accepted evidence, in which case the theory goes out the window. So this is a basic principle that can be applied in many different situations.
So another topic for course material is consciousness, the whole question of mind versus brain. There's much that can be said about that. The predominant view in modern science is that the mind is basically like a computer. This actually goes way back to the 18th century. The same thing was being taught except in those days, instead of computers, it's more of like a clockwork with springs and hands and levers and so forth. The basic idea is that the... the mind is a machine. There's a lot of empirical evidence regarding the reality of the subtle body. For example, evidence regarding out of body experiences, Ian Stevenson's research into memories of previous incarnations, and so forth. A lot of this evidence actually is quite solidly researched and can be used in a discussion of the mind-body question. So this is something that we already discussed briefly in the Origins magazine. Actually, each of the articles in this magazine could be elaborated into a course of study.
Another topic would be physics. Now physics is really at the very root of the modern scientific conception of things because it is physics that tells us how everything works mechanically. And by the way, that includes quantum mechanics which is not called mechanics for nothing, because quantum mechanics also explains how everything takes place in nature according to certain mathematical formulae. And these formulae deal with different forces which have nothing to do with consciousness or will or purpose or anything of that nature. So it is possible to present a quite interesting course in the area of physics. What I would do is bring in the evidence for paranormal phenomena and I would also bring in the physics of the Mahabharata. Actually the Mahabharata is interesting if you look at it as a physics text because a lot of things happen in the Mahabharata which seem to be physically impossible. Of course this is also true of the Bhagavatam. But one thing that comes to mind, for example, would be Arjuna's arrows. He had these inexhaustible quivers. So where do the arrows come from? This seems to be a violation of the law of conservation of energy. To manifest an arrow according to E=Mc2, if 'M' is the mass of the arrow, you need an awful lot of energy. But in fact, according to Vedic physics, it is possible to move an object from a distant place without crossing the space in between. This is an interesting principle which is described in Vedic literature. In the 9th... in the 11th Canto of the Bhagavatam, this is discussed. And you see many examples of it throughout the Vedic literature. So this is what Arjuna would have been doing with his arrows. That's how he got them. It turns out that there's a lot of empirical evidence in support of this. So one can show that, in fact, modern physics is not giving you the full picture of what is happening in nature. Physics is focusing on certain classes of phenomena that fit nicely into the mechanistic mode of explanation. There are other categories of phenomena that don't fit into modern physics. So one can make a course in which one discusses this evidence. Once again it's based on a comparative study of different types of evidence.
Another topic is cosmology. We have one preliminary book on the subject of the 5th Canto of the Bhagavatam which presents cosmology. There are many different topics in here. This material could be presented on different levels depending on what degree of depth one wanted to go into in making the presentation. One aspect of this is the subject of UFOs. I've written a book on that subject and one might ask, “Well why did you write a book on such a flaky fringe topic as this?” As it turns out, as I mentioned before, whether something is acceptable or not depends on one's theoretical point of view. Within scien... science and within human society in general, there is what we might call an information filter, which tends to filter out ideas, reported observations, data, and so forth that doesn't fit in with the accepted viewpoint. This is quite common according to human nature. So what you find then is that information that doesn't fit into the accepted viewpoint gets relegated to a fringe area. And inevitably, fringe areas are populated by various irresponsible people who exploit the fact that you don't have an established authoritative system for regulating knowledge. So you tend to have controversial fringe areas.
The interesting thing is that in some of these areas, there is good evidence lurking beneath the different layers of controversy. And that's true in this area of the UFO phenomenon also. The UFO phenomenon is very much tied in with the whole topic of the paranormal, and it's tied in with the siddhis which are described in Vedic literature. In fact, it's very interesting... you can make a case for the reality of the different mystic siddhis by examining reports of UFO experiences made by Americans who don't know anything about mystic siddhis and so on described in Sanskrit literature. So once again this book also makes a comparative study; and it is also material in support of another basic feature of the Vedic picture of reality, namely that there are many different forms of intelligent life within the universe. And in particular, many forms of intelligent life living on or in the immediate vicinity of this planet. If you read the Vedic sastras, you find that human beings are always interacting with other kinds of beings such as Gandharvas, Rakshasas, Vidyadharas, and so on and so forth. So actually the UFO phenomenon provides empirical evidence that tends to support this basic conception. So this is also material that can be used in a... in a course of study relating to cosmology.
Another topic of interest is history. So I already mentioned something briefly about history, namely that the Forbidden Archeology research supports the idea that human beings have been existing for hundreds of millions of years. But then there's the topic of recent history. So we've been doing some research in that area. It turns out that, first of all... well there are two basic areas where some progress has been made. One has to do with the history of kings within Kali-yuga. In the 12th Canto of the Srimad-Bhagavatam, you'll see the dynasties of the kings coming into the Kali-yuga period, at which point they finally die out. You can calculate dates based on the time periods given for these dynasties, and based on the fundamental point that the Kali-yuga began in 3102 BC. So this system of dates is in disagreement with the system of dates established by modern scholars. Modern scholars have basically used the invasion of India by Alexander the Great as the starting point for their chronology. They say that a certain king named Chandragupta Maurya was a contemporary of Alexander the Great, and was named... known as Sandrocottus by the Greek historians. So they make this link between Sandrocottus and Chandra... Chandragupta Maurya and then they calculate the dates forward and backward from that point. So in fact, in India there are a number of more traditionally oriented scholars who have challenged this reconstruction of the dates. I've investigated some of that material and there's a lot of material that can be presented there in favor of what we could call the Puranic chronology of India within the last 5000 years.
So another topic that is interesting is the 5th Canto and evidence for the Vedic world civilization. It turns out that if you look at cultures spread throughout the world, you'll find that many fundamental features of the 5th Canto cosmology are found in these different cultures. I recently wrote up a paper on that in which I have a table of different correlating features. But basically you'll find such things as Mount Meru. Mount Meru is basically a cylindrical pillar, said in the Bhagavatam to be made of gold, which is on the polar axis. At the top of Mount Meru there is Brahmapuri which is the residence of Lord Brahma. Four sacred rivers, branches of the Ganges, flow north, south, east and west from the center of Mount Meru. There are four mount... large mountains situated north, south, east and west on Mount Meru. These are a few features of Mount Meru found in the 5th Canto of the Bhagavatam. You can find similar features in cosmologies all over the world. Take, for example, the Navajo Indians. Now the Navajo Indians have a central cosmic mountain, there are four directional mountains. They also have four rivers going north, south, east and west. In the Vayu Purana it is said that the four sides of Mount Meru have four colors interestingly enough. The Navajo central mountain also has four colors. They're not quite the same but they're very similar colors. The Aztecs assigned colors to the four directions which are in fact the same as the Vayu Purana. So it's a brief idea but in fact there are many points that can be made indicating that the basic 5th Canto cosmology somehow was spread all over the... the earth. I'll just mention one other case from the... the Sioux Indians. This one is kind of interesting. It seems that according to the Sioux Indians, there's a sacred buffalo that lives in the West, and there are four ages of time, and during each age the buffalo loses one leg. We're in the last age and the buffalo has one leg now. This is from the Sioux Indians. Where did they get that?
So let’s see... another topic... this is the last one that I'll mention. We don't want to be... go over here in time... is philosophy of science, namely a basic philosophical discussion of the... the scientific process. Some topics I've already mentioned would be the role of anomalies, the defects of the senses, the information filter, and then there's the whole question of debunking and the role of debunking within modern science. For example, one could discuss the history of CSICOP, The Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal, which has a very interesting history.
So what I'd like to turn to now... let’s see... I'll just mention some other show-and-tell items. This has... this book has additional information on the question of evolution, also questions relating to consciousness, some of the strange features of the quantum theory which indicate that that theory may not be the last word in the physical understanding of nature. For those who really want to go into the mathematical detail, this is a book co-authored with a scientist. It deals with the theory of creation and transformation from subtle energy to gross energy that I was mentioning before. This deals with the mind and brain, the mind-body question. This deals with the topic of virtual reality. It seems that virtual realities can be used as a very good analogy for the relation between the soul and the body. It's sort of like Plato's cave analogy. That can be elaborated in great detail and it's great fun because it uses computers and computer graphics and all that kind of thing. And models of natural selection, that deals with... actually the topics in this textbook I wrote... but it deals with the question of evolution.
So I'd like to just end with a few brief words about what can be done practically to produce course materials for ISKCON educational systems which would take advantage of this material. Basically what this material can do is solidify people's faith in Krishna Consciousness vis-a-vis science by showing them that science is not actually a monolithic system that has all the facts and all the arguments on its side, but actually there are many cracks in that apparent monolith, and if you put all of the empirical evidence on the table - basically what you seem to see is that this evidence supports the Vedic picture of reality more than it supports the scientific picture. This is our basic play and we think that this can be more or less readily accepted. It's only when you condemn certain areas of evidence and throw them out that you get a body of evidence that supports the... the scientific picture. So this basic conclusion tends to convert the question of science versus religion from a weak point or a source of doubt into a strong point – both from the point of view of preaching and from the point of view of basic faith in Krishna Consciousness. So from an institutional point of view, what is required in order to practically implement the program, producing courses and so on using this material?
Basically what one needs is some man-power. And man-power requires, of course, maintenance, building facilities and so forth. So one has to establish an institution. Actually to produce all these books and so forth takes years of work. However, years of work can be divided up in various ways. You can have one person doing years of work and that takes many years. If you have many people, then many man-years can be compressed into a relatively short…[break in audio] So what I would envision is that if several persons were able to dedicate their efforts to the task – these would have to be qualified, intelligent persons – then under our guidance it would be possible for them to produce curriculum materials on different levels, because it's a more or less systematic, not mechanical, but easily definable process to produce curriculum materials given a particular body of knowledge. One just follows the standard patterns which are already established in modern educational institutions. So if several people could be available within a suitable institutional framework which would provide them for maintenance... with maintenance and necessary facilities, then such work could be done. I think such an institutional framework would be necessary because you have to bring people together in one place to really work on something. If people are scattered widely here and there, communication doesn't really take place. My observation is that to do this kind of work, a lot of communication is necessary. It's necessary to have a lot of discussions on an ongoing basis so that different ideas are clarified, and so on.
So the... then the question of funding comes in. If we look at education within America, we see that, of course, funding is required. Education is expensive. You have these state run schools, secondary schools and colleges and so forth which are paid for by tax money. Then you have the private institutions which are typically funded by donations and endowments from wealthy capitalists of different kinds who support the program of that institution. This is also true among the Christian fundamentalist groups, and as I mentioned before, it was also true of that Chicago religion... Chicago Center for Religion and Science. Funding is required and this usually comes from wealthy donors. If you visit any college, you'll see the names of all kinds of wealthy donors on the different buildings. So I would argue that probably the sort of institution that I'm talking about should be funded, basically in that way and it should involve systematic fund raising efforts aimed at supporting such an educational institution. That's a worthy project which could be pursued. So basically those were the... the points that I wanted to make. I guess I should stop here.
Q: Well I make the schedule so I can adjust it so you don't have to stop. Of course I'm not sure (indistinct) our next speaker (indistinct) Okay so we can take some questions?
A: Yeah I could take some questions. Okay, who's got the first...?
Q: So I would like to address one other point that you and I have discussed a little bit. So there's a lot of discussion in our meetings about young adults growing up through our system and what our society offers in terms of the future. If such a young man or woman was interested in pursuing something in terms of science and our mission, how could they be directed? To what extent could they be interfaced with what you're doing?
A: Well, in fact, for someone who wanted to move in that direction, there are many opportunities. Certainly there are extensive opportunities as far as the work is concerned. Now when it comes to the question of practical support, of course, my basic approach has been to depend on Krishna and live on the brink of chaos.
It's a situation well known to us.
So in any case, this can... this can also be pursued. But there are many opportunities. This whole area of scientific development that we're pursuing also involves preaching to people who don't know anything about Krishna Consciousness. We have uncovered a number of interesting markets you might say, for such preaching. For example, in America today there are alternative science movements. For example, here is the 'International Association for New Science' based near Denver, Colorado. This was founded by an Apollo astronaut who sort of, well he went off the deep end at a certain point. Brian O'Leary is his name. Actually it's interesting, Edgar Mitchell, another Apollo astronaut, founded the Noetic Society. So... but this International Association for New Science holds conferences every year... lets see: New medicine - new psychology - new energy - environmental science - new agriculture - non physical sciences, you can imagine what that is - new biology - new physics, and just plain new science. I attended one of their meetings. They typically have several conferences in a given year in which hundreds of people come. They publish from each conference a big, thick proceedings log - usually sort of spiral bound. So there are quite a number of organizations. There's also the 'International Society for the Study of Subtle Energy and Energy Medicine'. Now these are people who are specifically studying this miraculous healing area that I was mentioning. I attended one conference that they were putting on and this British rock star got up and told about how he had cancer which was totally destroying his body. He was practically on the verge of dying and he underwent this healing ceremony in which he said this Being of Light appeared and asked him, "Do I have permission to heal you?" And he said "yes" within his mind and felt this radiation going through his body and the cancer was gone. This was his testimony. And then a medical doctor got up and said; Well here are what the medical records show. And in medical terminology we call this spontaneous remission. So they're... they also hold conferences every year. So basically this is an area where a lot of preaching can be done.
Q: Do the children need some kind of degree to get into this? or?
A: What I would suggest as a practical matter is that things should be organized on different grade levels. So I mentioned... I think the earliest point we would want to introduce this material is Junior High School level where you have typically a general science course which would deal with many different topics and of course introduce a lot of basic facts that you have to know in order to appreciate all these different points. Then there's the High School level, more or less equivalent to a typical course you might take in biology or physics or something like that in High School in your junior or senior year or something like that. Then comes the college level which I think we also want to organize and as I said, finally the research level.
[multiple devotees talking over each other]
Q: If someone is going through our gurukula systems toward the end of it and they want to proceed to work in this regard. Should they go to college under your... say under your direction? Should they come just to you and just study and get... or I mean are both things... How would someone proceed practically?
A: Well what I'm proposing... You see of course we're starting something from scratch. But I'm proposing to develop a whole program of education so the person doesn't have to say go to college and then also study this material. Perhaps at present, that may be the path that some people would follow.
Another practical point that I would make is that one can create correspondence courses for those ISKCON offspring who are going off to karmi High Schools, Colleges and so forth. They could also study in a correspondence course format, some of this material. Because the thing is that if people are dispersed in various places, in different colleges and so on, how can you bring them together in order to teach them? It's a practical difficulty. Of course this requires man-power also. Just like in England there's something called 'Open University' in which they have extensive correspondence courses and they have a staff at Open University which is busy grading papers and sending things out in the mail and so forth and people are getting their degrees through the mail. They also have television broadcasts with the lectures, as a matter of fact. Of course they're pretty well established. Yeah?
Q: You were saying about the curriculum process... for... for creating curriculum courses. And you were talking that there needed to be some institutional setting grouped together and all that. And unfortunately I was out of the room and I apologize for that. But did you mention what the qualifications for those people writing the curriculum would be? If this is something we're thinking about, something we need to do, what kind of person...? You said, more or less, they just follow the pattern and you would offer advice, so what is the...? Do they need to have a degree in biology? Do they need to just...? I mean, what do they need to be?
Q: What kind of person am I looking for because I want to do that?
A: ...my... my orientation here would be that ability is more important than training. Because if a person has both the basic ability and also the will to do the work – because a lot of work is involved in this – then they can make up for any deficits in training. We...
Q: Basic... Basic ability means that they have a certain...they have to have High School biology and chemistry at least? I mean what do you...? If not, great, but I'm just wondering...[unclear]
A: I would... I would say...
Q: What kind of writing curriculum...
A: Yeah, basically, some demonstrated academic skill has to be there, I would think.
Q: But not specifically in a science discipline?
A: It doesn't have to be.
Q: I mean if I had a person two years in college, will they... or a college graduate... or is a high school graduate...?
A: Another point has to do with compatibility with certain ideas and modes of thinking. Some people, for example, just don't like science. You know, you talk to them about science, they don't want to hear about it. They have an emotional, visceral reaction against it. So that's there. Other people are into it. We need a person who is basically quite intelligent. And to assess whether the person is sufficiently intelligent, really would depend on talking with that person for some period of time to get an idea of what they're able to do. And then comes the point of commitment, whether they are willing to commit to doing it. I could name various names of people that I've had conversations with but I don't want to do that.
Q: Sure... sure.
A: But basically... that's sort of the impression that I have, that ability and commitment are probably more important than formal training, with some demonstrated academic performance... is probably good. And ability to write is important, or willingness to learn how to write. I must admit... for me the fact is, I never learned how to write in college. I hated it. I only learned to write for BTG. That's actually a fact. In college, actually I even walked out on courses sometimes. I was somewhat of an interesting personality in college... but...
Q: Just the essence.
A: But in any case... So yeah. Ability to write or to learn to write is an important part of this because it all involves writing. That's an essential skill.