As I said a couple of days ago, atheists love their “scientific method” because they somehow assume there’s magic involved in using it that separates them from the rest of the humanity. There isn’t.
For the past two days I’ve been trying to demonstrate some inherent problems with taking this scientific method on its face value. In theory it sounds okay but in real life it’s full of faults and there are tons of exceptions and loopholes that need to be watched for. It’s imperfect just like everything else in our lives.
These shortcomings can be overcome but, again, only in theory. Whether it happens in real life of not is usually beyond the scientist’s remit and it certainly doesn’t happen as expression of his will. I would argue that when science works it’s only because stars have aligned in a beneficial way. I guess I could break it down to actual outside factors that influence success of any scientific endeavor but there are too many and they are too random. It’s easier to just blame it on stars.
Here’s the thing about science – they think they have their theories and these theories give them power over the nature but they forget about one important thing – real world works perfectly well on its own whether they can explain it or not. They might study some phenomenon for ages and gain ever deeper understanding of it but their thoughts about it can’t influence the reality. Laws are laws, they work regardless of whether we know them or not.
Scientists live in the real world, too. Things happen to them regardless of their theories. They get old and die, for example, or grant money goes elsewhere, or bosses demand research in another field, or they demand something that can get quoted and raise university rankings. Or wives leave them and break their hearts, affecting their concentration.
This real world won’t wait for their theories and it doesn’t depend on them. Scientists imagine that they are independent doers and controllers and scientific method is their tool but their independence is minute even by materialistic standards. I, personally, always argue that there’s no free will in this world at all.
So, scientific method is as erratic tool as any other but that is not all – it’s so conventional that it can be used even when trying to find God.
It shouldn’t be applied in exactly the same way but that is because it comes with wrong assumptions about the world around us. When these assumptions are corrected it becomes perfectly useful for us as aspiring devotees, too.
Main difference is that scientists assume that God is like the material nature which follows the same laws, these laws are uniform throughout time and space, and it’s meant for our control and enjoyment. God is nothing like that.
We imagine ourselves as seers and observers of the world, which is to be seen, while God sees and observes us (and He also controls the world but we don’t usually notice this so let’s not bring this into the discussion for now). The very nature of our relationships with the world is directly opposite to the nature of our relationship with God. We need to keep this in mind when we use “scientific method” to find him.
Usually we discuss our search for Kṛṣṇa in terms of sambandha, abhideya, and prayojana. It’s a great method that makes us think in transcendental terms because we don’t have contaminated, material equivalents for them, but it’s not very applicable today. Today I want to express our progress in terms familiar to scientists.
So, first step is “formulate a question”. For us it’s “How to reach Kṛṣṇa?” I assume that we already agreed that we know Kṛṣṇa exists but if we want to present this to an atheist we need to start with something else.
“How to reach Kṛṣṇa?” might not be the most appropriate question for each and every situation. We might be more specific about it, like “How to cleanse my heart of anarthas?” or “How to please my spiritual master?” and so on.
Second step is “offer a hypothesis”. For us it means figure out a possible way – by distributing books, for example, or by donating a portion of our income to the temple, or by chanting a gazillion of rounds. We don’t have a shortage of possible solutions.
Third step is “make predictions”. Ideally we should engage in our service without any expectations, it should be unconditioned, but in real life we all need some signs of progress to help us move along. Whether we feel it’s necessary or not but we can make predictions of what would happen to us if we follow our chosen method without much difficulty. We could expect a victory over sex desire, we could expect increase in our business, we could expect gaining visible mercy from the devotees – it’s not really that hard to make predictions about outcomes of our service.
Next step is “testing”. This just means we have to get on with the program and see what happens.
Finally, “analysis”. For scientists it means comparing their predictions with actual results and trying to figure out what it all means. Most of the time there are differences between results and expectations and these differences need to be accounted for. Maybe experiment need to be changed, maybe the theory need to be adjusted, maybe it all falls within acceptable deviations.
We are not that different in this regard. We do our service and then we check our progress. Sometimes it works, sometimes we feel like we are stuck. Sometimes we realize we made mistakes in application, in our sādhana, sometimes we realize that our theoretical assumptions were wrong. Sometimes we get on to a completely new level of understanding of our philosophy and we realize that we’ve been asking the wrong questions all along. It works exactly the same way as with scientists.
Now, if we want to present our scientific method to atheists we need to start with their questions, not with ours. First one would probably be “Does God exist?” Another question that should be important to them is “Who am I?” They might also be interested to know what happens after death and re-incarnation but here we have to take charge and direct their inquiries in a “scientific way” – in terms of sambandha, abhidheya, and prajojana.
First they need to know who they are and who God is, then they need to figure out what to do based on this new understanding, and then they should become devotees and so we won’t have to speak to them from the atheist angle anymore.
I’m afraid it’s beyond the scope of this post to offer a working solution on how to convert atheists. It doesn’t even exist – we can’t convert atheists, maybe Lord Caitanya can encourage them from within their hearts but we are powerless here. What we can do, instead, is search for existing signs of devotion and capitalize on those. Appealing to logic is unlikely to work but if it’s the only approach available we should adjust our expectations accordingly.
There are features of Kṛṣṇa that are extremely appealing to logicians and we should probably emphasize those first, but, as I said, it’s a thought for another day.
What worries me more is that this glorious scientific method of searching for Kṛṣṇa is totally wrong. Not that we should reject it but it’s not how we achieve success in our spiritual life, and this is definitely something that needs to be explained separately