Modern Science is the new great gospel for humanity. Scientists are the new age prophets. People at large are impressed by the dazzling achievements of modern science. Modern Science is considered all time greatest benefactor of man. For many it’s even unthinkable and blasphemous to question well established, standardized, popular theories of science. These scientific theories are well entrenched in the modern consciousness and there is hardly any modern profession not influenced by it.
Physical sciences are considered the foundation of modern science and Physics is crowned as king of sciences. Some argue there is no real distinction between Physics and Mathematics and both should be considered as one natural science. The scientific community and the world honour Issac Newton as Father of Modern Science. The invention of Calculus is attributed to Newton. Some Indian scientists trace its origins in India, and every high school science student knows Calculus is central to physical theories. Newton used it to create a comprehensive mathematical framework that fits in ideas of Galileo and Kepler Laws of Planetary motion. He formulated three laws of motion and a Law of Universal Gravitation. He introduced the concept of “Force” in his framework and quantified its relation to motion of bodies.
Newton’s gravitational force was considered spooky by some of his contemporaries as he couldn’t explain the origins of this force and how it acts at a distance. He himself said
“To suppose that one body may act upon another at a distance through vacuum, without the mediation of anything else,…is to me so great an absurdity, that I believe no man, who has in Philosophical matters a competent faculty for thinking, can ever fall into.’ ”
But Newton’s mathematical framework is a powerful approach and the first serious attempt to quantify the physical phenomenon. From Newton the focus of scientific methodology shifted more to mathematical quantification of physical world than explaining its fundamental causes. Subsequently, the discovery of Electromagnetism and the brilliant mathematical triumph of Scottish Physicist James Clerk Maxwell by predicting electromagnetic waves reinforced the primacy of mathematical equations that fit the physical phenomenon over explaining the causes. Causes have to be seen and interpreted from mathematical equations.
The Newtonian framework couldn’t fit the properties of electromagnetic waves as supposedly concluded by the result of Michelson & Morley experiment. This led to Special theory of Relativity followed by General theory of relativity that discards absolute motion, absolute time and ether, and postulates that light moves at constant speed irrespective of relative motion of observer. Though Lorenz created the foundational mathematical framework for special relativity he wasn’t that well recognized or became popular like Einstein. A lot of scientific mythology is built around the Special & General theories of relativity; it’s very hard to say if anybody really understands them. The theories are neither conclusively validated nor there is any big technological breakthrough from them.
Along with relativity first half of 20th century also gave birth to Quantum mechanics that blurs the distinction between particle and wave. Both Relativity and Quantum mechanics involve complex mathematical models that try to quantitatively fit the observed phenomena than any attempt to explain the fundamental causes.
So the question has to be raised on the objective of modern Science, is it just limited to record keeping or can it explain the causes and origins of universe? If it’s just record keeping or imitating what’s available in nature with technology, then perhaps human mind won’t be enamoured by its methodology for long. The second half of 20th century hasn’t seen much progress in core understanding of physical nature. It’s time for modern science to reinvent itself.
For modern science to move into next orbit it not only has to reinvent but also redefine its role in achieving civilization objectives. Civilization objectives? do they exist? Yes, they used to exist when man was not too much worried about his economic survival. For Indic civilization “Dharma, Artha, Kama, Moksha” were the objectives.
Many champions of Indic civilization claim they had hoary scientific past, they claim Vedas and traditions are repositories of all knowledge. But world doesn’t take claims seriously without conclusive demonstration. Some Indic civilization lovers in their over enthusiasm to claim superiority over west compare the philosophy in scriptures to the theories of modern science like relativity, quantum mechanics. Why should they keep modern science as their benchmark? Why can’t they explore some original ideas from their scriptures and go beyond what’s known to modern science?
This writer doesn’t claim any expertise in Indic scriptures or philosophies except for few shlokas in Bhagwat Gita that interests him. One of the shlokas in BG (ch 7 .4)
bhumir apo ’nalo vayuh
kham mano buddhir eva ca
ahankara itiyam me
bhinna prakritir astadha
Earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind, intelligence and false ego—all together these eight constitute My separated material energies.
Modern Science deals with only four elements (Earth, water, fire, air) after Einstein banished ether. Krishna is talking about three more elements (mind, intellect and ego) even beyond panchatatva (Earth, Water, Fire, Air, Ether). Many Indic experts consider theories of modern science as gospel though many question them in west where they originated. Another shloka from BG (11.32)
kalo ‘smi loka-ksaya-krt pravrddho
lokan samahartum iha pravrttah
rte ‘pi tvam na bhavisyanti sarve
ye ‘vasthitah pratyanikesu yodhah
The Blessed Lord said: Time I am, destroyer of the worlds, and I have come to engage all people. With the exception of you [the Pandavas], all the soldiers here on both sides will be slain.
The above shloka refers to universal time; modern physics defines its own time and makes it relative to observer. The shloka also indicates death is inevitable for all existence, but modern science formulates matter & energy is conserved and cannot be destroyed. Shouldn’t we question then why world is facing energy scarcity? What’s happening to all the energy coming from the sun? Why should energy conservation law hide behind entropy? This author may be wrong in the interpretation of above shlokas or scientific theories, but the larger point is modern science is not beyond scrutiny and if anything interesting is available from other sources it should be challenged, that’s how knowledge progress.
The time has come at this point of Global human civilization to move from knowledge of gross elements (earth, water, air, fire) to the knowledge of subtle (mind, intellect & ego). Going by the claims of Indic Scriptures and tradition it seems Indic civilization had vast expertise in the subtle element and the use of it in achieving civilization objectives of Dharma, Artha, Kama, and Moksha taking man closer to his cause. Can Indic civilization get that ancient knowledge back or it’s beyond any recovery another incarnation or intervention of the divine is required to start over from the basics again?