This month marks two new academic publications. The first is in Zygon (vol. 46, no. 2, June 2011), a US-based journal catering for issues relating to science and religion. The title of the article is DARWIN AND THE HINDU TRADITION:
“DOES WHAT GOES AROUND COME AROUND?” For further information see the Abstract (attached) or view the Zygon website. A pre-proof copy can also be emailed on request.
Also just published by the ISPCK in Delhi are my Cambridge Teape-Westcott lectures commemorating Charles Darwin’s Bicentenary, entitled DARWIN, SCIENCE AND THE INDIAN TRADITION, and can be obtained for £7 per copy (which includes mailing from Delhi to the UK plus UK postage) by sending a cheque made out to me at the address below. The following gives a brief account of the main ideas in the lectures:
Although there were strong reactions to Darwin’s theory of evolution in some parts of nineteenth-century Europe, educated Indians had no difficulties in assimilating the theory into the Hindu and Christian worldviews. Swami Vivekananda, for instance, was able to incorporate the theory of evolution into Hindu philosophies, especially Patañjali’s Sāṃkhya. Indian Christian theologians were slower to incorporate the new scientific theories into their thinking, but when they did so they displayed none of the unease that was apparent in Europe. Thus, P. Chenchiah, the Tamil lawyer, could assert that ‘Christ is the origin of the species of the [children] of God.’
After reviewing the findings of an investigation into the religious beliefs of young scientists at four centres in India, it was generally concluded that Hindus, Muslims and Christians all maintain that some kind of relationship exists between science and religion, the degree of conflict between the two in specific areas being inversely correlated with the importance attached to religion.
Science and religion are considered together because both claim to be reality-depicting. There are similarities between them, but there are fundamental differences as well. However, recent anti-evolutionary movements such as Creationism and Intelligent Design do not fulfil the criteria for being either good science or credible religious belief. Opposition to religion on the part of Richard Dawkins and others is plausible, but the arguments adduced are becoming less so as new biological discoveries are made, and it may one day be possible to elucidate an anthropic principle in the biological sciences similar to the one that has been credibly proposed for physics.
David L. Gosling (Dr)
2 St Luke’s Mews
Cambridge CB4 3DF
DARWIN, SCIENCE AND THE INDIAN TRADITION – Abstract of Zygon article
The introduction of English as the medium of instruction for higher education in India in 1835 created a ferment in society and in the religious beliefs of educated Indians – Hindus, Muslims and, later, Christians. There was a Hindu renaissance characterized by the emergence of reform movements led by charismatic figures who fastened upon aspects of western thought, especially science, now available in English.
The publication of Darwin’s Origin of Species in 1859 was readily assimilated by educated Hindus, and several reformers, notably Vivekananda and Aurobindo, incorporated evolution into their philosophies.
Hindu scientists such as Jagadish Chandra Bose were also influenced by Darwinian evolution, as were a number of modern Hindu thinkers. The results of an investigation into the religious beliefs of young Indian scientists at four centers were also summarized. The view that “what goes around comes around” appears increasingly to be open to doubt. Many educated Indians, not only Hindus, are raising more probing questions which call for deeper dialogues between science and religion, especially about what each believes it means to be truly human.