One of the bog standard arguments for scientific method is “peer review”. It’s also their go to argument against any proposition from religionists – has it been “peer reviewed”? Usually the answer is not and the proposition is dismissed out of hand.
We are not scientists, everyone seems to agree, and so we need to defer to the authorities. Our authority in Kṛṣṇa consciousness is śāstra and ācāryas but for atheists it’s “peer review”. Hmm, see – there’s not much difference between us at all.
This is the part that we usually miss, and with some over-the-top arrogance, too – that our search of the Absolute Truth is infinitely superior to that of scientists. It isn’t, we all are just poking in the dark under the influence of the same material guṇas.
Any search for the Absolute Truth must follow the same principles, only forms are different. Our form, in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, is certainly different from that of atheists but as long as they follow the same principles they’ll keep progressing no matter what. That’s just how the material nature works – you follow dharma, meaning principles, and the universe responds.
This rule alone won’t bring anyone to see Kṛṣṇa, of course, but we are dealing with much smaller targets here. Even as devotees we aren’t hoping to see unmanifested pastimes in Vṛndāvana, we are not quite sure what we really expect while in this body in terms of realizing the Absolute Truth. We pray to be engaged in service and develop our nascent devotion but that doesn’t say anything about how much of the Absolute Truth we are going to know. We could go for yoga siddhis and that would surely impress the hell out of atheists but, as devotees, we are not praying for that and so are very unlikely to develop these supernatural abilities.
When talking to the atheists we discuss the low hanging fruit like evolution, creation, or the shape of the universe. We can cite śāstra and we can speculate but we are not going to actually KNOW these subjects, they are not going to be revealed to us while we are still in our bodies. Scientists, otoh, are making some real progress in their inquiries. We say Darwinism is misguided, they say that they actually went out, saw the fossils, examined their relations, examined gene mutations, and so they base their conclusions on the stuff they KNOW. They can prove it, they say. We have nothing to offer but parroting books. It’s not going to be an illuminating discussion.
We, of course, can challenge their knowledge and find massive holes in it. They’d say they are aware and they are trying to deal with the problems. We can say that their solutions are not going to work in the long run, they’d say it’s better than doing nothing like we do and if we are so sure that our knowledge is superior we should put our money where our mouths are. In this case it could mean to build a functioning society on Kṛṣṇa conscious principles or it could mean displaying actual knowledge rather than quoting books.
The thing we miss is that they pursue their goals legitimately, or at least that was the initial idea. We have gurus, they have professors and mentors. We say tad-vijñānārthaṁ sa gurum evābhigacchet, they say you need to go and study, you can’t just make bold pronouncements yourselves. You need to be authorized to speak for science.
Funny how they have to say these things to Christian scientists who often come up with suspicious studies confirming their Biblical version of events. Christian creationists can’t parade as scientists without going through the necessary saṁskāras, I don’t know why they don’t understand this in Christianity and have to be taught by atheists.
It turns the entire discourse upside down – we pretend to be scientists and make bogus claims and they tell us to get lost because we don’t follow dharma. We have the best intentions, of course, but dharma is dharma – to get results having “good intentions” is not enough.
To further complicate things our results are always going to be good precisely because of good intentions but these are not results the scientists are looking for. They want proof of creation or of Flat Earth while we get Kṛṣṇa’s mercy at the end of our lives. We can’t produce what they want and they won’t appreciate what we have, which makes for a pointless discussion.
We can remedy this problem by not trying to outdo science on scientific terms but the temptation is very strong. The examples from HH Badrinarayan Svami’s class I mentioned yesterday fall into this category – we are not talking from our books, we are talking science back to scientists themselves. In such cases they are very likely to expose our scientific ignorance, we can’t beat them at their own game.
The story about Parkes observatory is the case in point – we want to hear how they thought they studied red dwarfs colliding but it was only a microwave in their own canteen, and they would tell us that it’s not what happened and they knew all along that the source of signals was local. We can’t win arguing about dark matter either because its existence only opens the possibility, it doesn’t show any positive proof of transcendence or existence of heavenly realms. We can’t cite dark matter as proof of three headed elephants.
So, there are two things to keep in mind here – we are not pursing the same goals as scientists do and we can’t meaningfully engage with them on their own terms. They make progress and it can’t be disputed, they study under the guidance of their gurus and they serve and offer full respect to their masters. Universe awards them for that and it doesn’t give us the right to claim we know better than them. We don’t, not in their field of inquiry.
There are two exceptions, however – our own scientists working under the orders of Śrīla Prabhupāda are obliged to engage with scientists, and we can use their own bloopers to highlight how they are not following their own rules properly instead of challenging them on what they know is right.
I mean don’t use their mistakes to argue that NASA and a hundred of other governments all around the world are perpetuating a massive hoax about sending satellites into space. One or even a dozen photoshopped images is not a proof of that. Dark matter doesn’t prove Mount Meru but it does give us some space for our “mythology” where science can’t disprove us yet.
We have to be careful with these things and don’t overstretch or will make fools out of ourselves in science’s eyes and that would be the exact opposite result of what we want.