It would be too ambitious an effort for me to speak on current frontiers of science with any authority but I don’t need to be comprehensive. I’d rather be grandma-like and point out the most obvious odd things that are no longer noticed by everyone else.
It’s like someone arriving in India for the first time and noticing a heart wrenching poverty and squalor. Indians are so used to it that they don’t really care it exists, they are all into waving nuclear bombs in Pakistan’s face, numbers of their emigres working for Microsoft, and becoming new leaders of the world, along with China. Yes, those achievements might be there, but squalor?!? How can they live with it and pretend it’s normal?
I’m speaking from the enlightened western POV here – nothing good and worthy can come out of a place like that, you’d better avoid it altogether. We can say that westerners are being snobs here but it’s actually a Vedic injunction – to avoid inauspicious people at all cost, and if you happen to see a face of an atheist you should immediately take bath in Ganges. Westerners avoid poverty instead, they think it’s contagious. They fight this weakness in themselves and strive to improve absolutely every aspect of their own lives, they are not going to put up with anyone who practically worships it.
It’s like when westerners travel they avoid actually coming in contact with natives, and not just people, everything there. They stay in air-conditioned hotels with properly trained stuff, they eat food prepared by properly trained cooks in spotless kitchens, they swim in properly maintained swimming pools rather than in that germ-ridden sea outside where everyone pees right where they swim – that type of thing.
Of course not every westerner is like that, there are plenty of backpackers, too, but backpackers are not looked favorably on even by the natives themselves – they are dirty, smelly, unwashed white trash who will never amount to anything in their home countries, and if the natives are going to worship first world westerners they will choose first class westerners for this purpose, the ones that never step outside their five star hotels.
Back on topic, there are things that are not usually noticed by scientists, or rather by those who fight internet wars on behalf of science, but which we should be aware of. Most anti-religious propaganda comes from these people and they set the agenda, so our beef is not with science itself but with these popular notions that are accepted by everyone we are trying to preach to.
One such notion is that science is solid, it states everything with certainty and everything it says is the truth. Of course science has only theories but not everyone is aware of that, and theories are acceptable doubts. Retorts like “it’s just a theory” do not produce any effect on these people. “It’s the best theory there is, chances that it’s wrong are very very slim, so I can state it as a fact with all confidence,” – they would reply without missing a bit. “If some new, better theory emerges I will accept it without reservations, science is not a dogma, it’s you, the religionists, who close your minds to new data and new information,” they would add further.
Anyone who reads or hears this argument will easily agree, there’s nothing wrong with it – scientists do accept new theories and we do not. We are beholden to our thousand year old Vedic or Bible versions forever. Not many people would stick around to hear our explanation why it is actually better to stick with scriptures, it requires a big paradigm shift in their consciousness first. By now they already lose interest and move on.
One way to avoid this trap is to start with reliance on scripture as an intelligent choice. That’s what Śrīla Prabhupāda did all the time – just ignore scientists with their questions and turn the conversation to why following the scriptures is all important. Once people get this point the questions will become moot and inapplicable. They might come back to pondering them later but the seed has already been sown – scriptures is our salvation and science is irrelevant fluff. Eventually the answers to atheists will come along, too.
Maybe this tactic is all we should be doing and there is no need to invent anything else. Śrīla Prabhupāda, however, was also interested in defeating scientists on their own turf. He wanted us to argue on equal terms, too. He even organized a scientific conference right there in Vṛndāvana for this purpose. He didn’t attend it himself and didn’t even speak there, iirc, but he was very interested in how it was going.
There are lots of devotees still pursuing this goal and I don’t think they are completely misguided and should return to “authorized” arguments employed by Prabhupāda himself. Their work is important even though not very visible even to rank and file devotees, they give us many of the arguments we can use in our everyday interactions with atheists and those influenced by atheistic arguments.
Hmm, it’s almost time to wrap it up for me but I’m still on the introduction. Maybe I should say a few more words on fighting atheism in general and leave the actual subject for tomorrow.
TBH, I don’t even know what’s going on with Bhaktivedanta Institute nowadays. I suppose they have a website and probably a “news” section there but I haven’t seen anything coming out of there into the wider community in the long long time. Maybe something serious is brewing there so they don’t have the urge to communicate their latest findings yet. I think they might be up for a paradigm shift themselves.
In the forty years that have passed since Śrīla Prabhupāda expressed his desire to defeat science, and evolution in particular, the field has changed considerably. We are still a very small fish but the pond has become considerably bigger and there’s no obvious way for us to catch up and truly matter. Same battles and wars that we want to fight has been waged by Christians and Christian scientists, be they Early Earth Creationists or Intelligent Design adherents, or unaffiliated with any particular theory. They have the numbers, they have supporters and funding, they do research, they publish, and they present their arguments to worldwide audience. We just don’t have the facilities.
When we look at their performance in this war, however, the first obvious thing is that they are never going to win. To clarify – they never going to win over atheists. This is an important point and it goes back to Śrīla Prabhupāda and our philosophy – atheism is a condition of the heart, it can’t be cured by striking at the brain. Revolt against God can be reversed only by an infusion of bhakti, not by arguments. This is also the Kali yuga, the age provided by the Lord for the atheists to freely express their envy of and hostility towards God. It’s not them we should be worried about but the innocents who can still be saved if they accept mercy of Lord Caitanya.
Lord Caitanya didn’t go around smashing the heads of māyāvādīs, he largely left them alone in their ignorance. In propagating His mission He concentrated on those who were ready to accept pure bhakti and demanded that all association with māyāvādīs be relinquished. I don’t think He ever ordered chasing them and starting fights.
Perhaps the Bhaktivedatna Institute has to rethink its mission, why duplicate otherwise excellent research conducted by Christians? Why duplicate fruitless fights between Christians and scientists? We can’t contribute anything of importance there, we need our own niche. I don’t know what it could be, I was going to address the argument that science is solid, so I’ll leave it here and continue tomorrow.