Vanity thought #1786. VC – Dope Doppler

Link: “Mystic Universe: An Introduction to Vedic Cosmology”.

It’s time to resume digesting this book, last post was from the end of October, two and a half months ago. At first I thought that it would be easy but now I realize that a decent post on that book might take twice the time – first to understand what it is talking about and then process it internally to form a presentable opinion. Some chapters are too esoteric but the one I have to resume from poses complicated science questions.

It’s about using Doppler effect to determine distance to stars and galaxies and measure the rate of the expansion of the universe. It comes after a chapter on using star luminosity to estimate distances and uses largely the same argument – it’s all relative, science makes assumptions first and then compares other data to the assumed standard to fill out the rest. If the luminosity of their “standard candle” star is wrong then all measurements comparing other stars to it should go into the bin, too. With Doppler effect it’s a bit more complicated but no less compelling in the end. To get to the end of the chapter, however, is hard.

I remember reading it for the first time and it made total sense, I moved on without any questions. On rereading, however, I realized that either the author is wrong or I’m totally confused about Doppler. Internet isn’t very helpful either.

Everybody learns about Dopper effect in school. The author uses the example of an ambulance but it’s best observed with trains, in my experience – because they are so much faster than ambulances moving through city traffic and because they emit sound of a constant tone unlike “wee-woo” of police and emergency vehicles. The best case is when the train blows its horn but it’s already loud enough to hear the increase in pitch as the train approaches and decrease when it goes away.

The book explains it in terms of moving objects velocity which affects the speed of sound but now I’m not so sure about that. When the book jumps to using Doppler effect to distances between us and stars it says that speed of light is constant therefore it’s not affected by the speed of stars and Doppler effect shows expansion of space instead. Say what?

What does “space expansion” mean? Do miles get longer or are there more miles between objects? If miles get longer then so should be kilometers, feet and everything else. How would it look any different?

Doppler effect with sound doesn’t affect speed of sound either, it’s still 300 m/s in air just like light is always 300 km/s in vacuum. Yes, sound can propagate faster or slower but that’s not what happens with Doppler.

Doppler effect doesn’t tell us the speed of light or sound either, it shows that distance between two crests of a wave increases or decreases – that’s what change in pitch or red or blue spectrum shifts are. With sound and objects moving close to its speed it takes significantly longer for sound to travel to our ears if the object moves away but with light the difference is negligible because our speeds are incomparably slower. Still, police uses Doppler radars to measure speeds of cars because it’s not the speed of radio waves that is affected but the difference between crests of the same wave. Radio is a radio but long waves are longer than 1 km – too long to catch speeding cars. Police radars use much shorter waves, less than 10 cm.

In light of the above the book’s objection seems invalid but that is only a first impression. I have to admit I don’t understand much of it at all. I’ve also learned that the formula for calculating Doppler shift in astronomy is different because it has to account for constant speed of light. The book is probably right and I’m wrong.

Never mind this little confusion, it’s the rest of the chapter that is rock solid and should be remembered.

When applying this method scientists assume that stars don’t transmit Doppler shift themselves and attribute it to expansion of the universe. They have a theory to explain this expansion, ie Big Bang, but we might just as well ask for a theory where stars would transmit Doppler shift and no expansion would be necessary.

Historically, the theory of expansion was sounded first, the observation was then interpreted on the basis of this theory, and then they declared that this interpretation confirmed it.

However, in science data always underdetermines a theory, that is data can be interpreted in several valid ways, and therefore it’s impossible to determine which theory is correct on the basis of data itself. If there was a theory explaining Doppler shifted transmission from stars themselves it would have explained all the data just as well. We don’t have that theory and don’t even try for it because we believe that stars and laws which govern their transmissions are uniform everywhere in the universe. We assume that stars behave just like objects in our lab experiments and their red light, for example, is caused by the same chemical reactions as red light produced in our labs.

Without the assumption of uniform universe all our theories about stars and distances between us would be useless. We can’t even contemplate the world where this assumption doesn’t hold. Obviously, it does not hold in Sāṅkhya but scientists got problems even without us telling them so.

The principle of underdetermination means that scientists have to pursue all plausible and internally consistent theories at the same time until they find data that doesn’t fit and eliminate those theories one after another. This doesn’t happen in real life, alternatives are rarely pursued with the same vigor and when new data comes in which doesn’t conform to a theory nothing gets eliminated but the theory gets patched instead to account for anomalies.

Patched here means adding new assumptions, quite arbitrarily, simply because they would explain it better. In case of Doppler shifts new data shows not just expansion but accelerated expansion and accelerated expansion is impossible according to general relativity. What was the patch? Introduction of “dark energy”? How big is the input of this dark energy to expansion? 68% – over two thirds, but it keeps general relativity correct. I mean as long as you are content with the fact that some new and undeveloped theory accounts for two thirds of the time when general relativity is wrong. How new is this theory? Well, they gave Nobel Prize for discovery of acceleration only in 2011, basically five years ago. There’s no theory as such yet.

Are they going to admit that general relativity does not comply with experimental data and therefore should be abandoned? Nope, they are not even going to modify any time soon.

Science knows everything, right?

Vanity thought #1768. I cannot compute

Before continuing with Vedic Cosmology I want to say a few words about a nice metaphor I found in author’s article on Dandavats in November last year. I missed it then, sadly.

The article discusses devotees’ approach to science and it’s hard to summarize it in one post so I’ll just pick one apt comparison that illustrates the problem. We know world to be illusory. There are disagreements on the exact nature of this illusion in various schools on Hinduism and sometimes we ourselves are hard pressed to define our exact understanding of it. Regardless – illusion is involved in one way or another.

The consequence of this fact is that material nature produces falsities. Once again, we can argue if things are false or only our understanding of them is, but, in general, it means māyā convinces us that there’s no God. This particular aspect is compared in the article to a computer that prints out statements like “I cannot compute”. How can we interpret them?

Scientists can take the statement at face value – there’s no evidence of God’s existence in our empirical experience so there must be no God. This will lead to incomplete knowledge of reality – God is there but we don’t know it. The article shows that this kind of knowledge would be a falsity, avidyā, comparing to studying Vedic scriptures which make up inferior knowledge – aparā-vidyā.

The difference is quite important but I don’t want to talk about it today. Scientific knowledge is based on false representation of reality, on māyā, and so it does’t produce any truth. This seems like an overstretch at first but, methodologically, all moderns scientific theories are false and are waiting to be replaced by something better, which will also be eventually found false and replaced again.

Another food for thought in that article is that when we think that avidyā or apara-vidya relate to this world while parā-vidyā relates to spiritual world where we all want to go then this thinking is aparā-vidyā in itself because it implies seeking liberation from this world rather than correct understanding of it. Parā-vidyā is not somewhere out there but how we should see THIS world correctly, too. Parā-vidyā is a vision of paramahaṁsas and they are not seeking liberation and transfers to anywhere else – they see Kṛṣṇa in everything already.

Back to confusing “cannot compute” prints. If we accept God’s existence it would be contradictory to what māyā prints out for us. In practice it would lead to endless questions that start with “If your God was real, then why..?” Once again, our experiences are created by māyā and her work is to deny God every step of the way, so there will always be contradictions between “beliefs” and “real life”.

The author applies “cannot compute” contradiction differently and I don’t fully get it. I think it goes like this – regardless of whether a devotee or a scientist, a person would accept some things as literal truth and will try to interpret what appears to be false. That is, if we accept the fact that railway tracks run parallel as literal truth than the vision of them converging on the horizon appears as falsity and, therefore, needs an interpretation (solved as visual illusion) – it is not taken literally for what it is. Devotees take the opposite approach – we declare deities, gurus, and scriptures as truth and interpret the rest of the world because it appears to us as false.

Unlike the devotees, scientists take the lie (“I cannot compute”) as truth but this lie contains a contradiction (a computer that computes that it cannot compute) and so everything that starts from here will have more and more contradictions piling up. This is why science always have new theories because old ones can’t explain contradictions, and it resigns to the fact that new theories will have contradictions of their own, too.

What is not clear to me is why both incompleteness and contradiction rise from the same literal interpretation of the statement. In fact, two statements seem to be considered here, or rather two different readings of the same one. The reading that leads to incompleteness denies existence of either God or a computer, and the reading leading to contradictions implies acceptance of God – the “I” in “I cannot compute”. Scientists do not accept God so the second case should not apply to them but rather to religionists.

Contradictions, however, are an important feature of modern science and it’s the one all of them should always be aware of, though it might not be taught at schools. I think the author argues that scientific theories are either incomplete or inconsistent because he discussed Gödel’s theorems elsewhere. I thought I understood these theorems but now I realize that my brain is not what it used to be and, presented formally, they become undecipherable. In short – we can create theories with axioms and solid logic but in the end our theories will be incomplete, and if we make them complete they will become inconsistent. This is a law that we can’t avoid and it has been widely accepted with only a few holdouts that argue the theorems has not been proven.

It would be nice to demonstrate how our different approaches to “I cannot compute” statement resulted in logical systems described by Gödel, that the results would be either incomplete, or, if complete, it would be inconsistent. Perhaps Ashish Dalela covered it somewhere else but this is what we have in this article and Gödel is not even mentioned.

I don’t disagree with the author when he says that modern academia runs in problems with consistency if they accept “I cannot compute” statement as true, I just feel that this approach fits more with religionists than with scientists.

In any case, the important point for us here is that all of this arises from science not recognizing the world as illusory but going along with the illusion instead. Even Christians and Muslims don’t include illusion in their theology so they are constantly dogged by questions about the source of evil and others in the same vein. Knowledge of māyā is indispensable to having a correct knowledge of reality.

Vanity thought #1759. VC – processes and systems

Link: “Mystic Universe: An Introduction to Vedic Cosmology”.

The rest of the chapter on time and karma compares Sāṅkhya and modern science in yet another way. Following the framework presented in the chapter it talks about processes, descriptions, and uniting them into systems. Yesterday I got stuck on one of the sentences there but let’s move on and try to make sense of the rest of it. I’ll try to give the background in my own words first.

We have object description, process description, choice description and time description. In this order they are subordinate to the next. Time manifests possibilities of karma, mind makes choices, choices put prāṇa in motion, and prāṇa manifests physical reality where objects interact with each other. Time isn’t the same for individual observers and the universe itself. We cannot affect the universal time and our personal time leads us through our personal choices. On this I would suggests that universal time isn’t “objective” either but reflects choices of the universal observer, which is the Lord. He is present within each universe and in His other form He observes all the universes at once. If He desires to hold His breath, for example, the material manifestation will last longer and the time inside each universe needs to be stretched or more cycles added. I suppose that decision is left to in-universe observer form of the Lord.

The book then switches to materialistic view which reverses the order from the start – physical objects are primary, they are moved around by forces, and this interaction gives rise to mind and consciousness. The author gnotes three oversimplifications present in this view. The role of the universal time is ignored and so it appears that universal fate is decided by OUR choices, not by what is manifested to us by the universe which follows its own trajectory independently of our decisions. Secondly, our choices are reduced to forces, which makes us look as we are machines walking around without consciousness and therefore are not responsible for our actions. Finally, the forces are reduced to properties of objects, which makes objects appear as the only reality and everything else – aggregation of objects into systems, processes running in these systems, choices made by the systems, and, ultimately, the fate of the universe become the “epiphenomena” of objects.

Each of these oversimplifications ignores some aspects of reality and therefore produce various forms of indeterminism and incompleteness in scientific predictions. Vedic system is more generic here and modern science is a specific application of it with imposed constraints described in the previous paragraph. Vedic theory, therefore, is a superset of modern materialism when all the constraints are removed. It doesn’t mean that this specific case is untrue but it reveals truth only partially, which is enough to keep scientists excited. It works within their constraints and it explains enough phenomena they accept for consideration in their theories, and they always work on unifying these theories, which gives them hope but is impossible in principle due to the initial oversimplifications.

The author also talks about Sāṅkhya here as Vedic materialism. Maybe it’s because our interactions within this framework do not require God and deal only with gross and subtle matter – prāṇa, mind, karma, and time are attributes of the material world. Most of non-Bhāgavatam Sāṅkhya is atheistic, too, and doesn’t require God. I wonder how they explain the origin of puruṣa who kicked off the creation but after that it’s matter all the way indeed. The author says that even this Vedic materialism is superior to modern science and it’s also compatible with existence of God and souls.

For one thing, material objects are inert. It might appear ridiculous to anyone who looks outside the window but this is what they are on the quantum level – quantum particles do not change their state unless hit by photons or something. How and why quantum objects emit energy cannot be explained – it just happens and science talks about probabilities of outcomes instead, which is one form of indeterminism mentioned earlier. This is why “process description” must be superior to “object description”, like in Sāṅkhya, because processes puts objects in motion (and create objects, too) leaving no space to indeterminism.

“Mental description” is superior to “process description” because our choices put processes in motion. Karma description is superior to our choices because it controls the possibilities and keeps record of previous choices, and time description is superior to karma because it makes possibilities manifest according to evolution of the universe. Looking at it another way, each of these stages is incomplete and requires information provided by the superior stage. Can’t move unless there’s process, can’t start a process unless there’s a choice, can’t make a choice unless there are possibilities and karma, can’t show karma unless time turns around and manifests it.

Last paragraph in this chapter talks about “bodies”. In Sāṅkhya the object description and process description are merged into a “body”, but this body, unlike science, includes not only objects we can see, taste, smell etc but also senses by which we can perceive these objects, the qualities experienced in perception, and the force that moves the body. Altogether it’s more complex and subtle than the body in science.

In Vedic cosmology this merging of object and process description creates a horizontal, two dimensional domain which is referred to as loka in our literature. It is not like a two dimensional plane in space because dimensions are different, they are not physical X and Y but “what is” and “how it works”. Mapping this concept of loka into our three dimensional space is done in a later chapter, but don’t raise your hopes up yet – it’s not easy to comprehend and I have doubts about this mapping myself.

Another thing that bothers me in this chapter is the relationship between individual possibilities presented to us and how they relate to the evolution of the universe. Some of these possibilities are selected by us but somehow it doesn’t affect the flow of the universe at all. The author doesn’t acknowledge this and we are left to speculate how it can be resolved on our own. There are later chapters where he deals with the subject of universal and individual times but they come nearly at the end of the book and don’t provide clear answers either, as far as I remember.

Perhaps, there are enough potential observers, jīvas, to select all manifested possibilities and so the choice is which role we decide to play and if we don’t like this one in particular it would be selected by someone else. This explanation doesn’t remove indeterminism, however – what if there’s really no one to play the role of the villain? We can also speculate that choices are driven by guṇa and karma but that would remove the agency of free will. The author will not concede free will, that much is clear. There could be some other explanation where it doesn’t matter for the universe whether all possibilities play out or not but that would be counterintuitive and require a radically different explanation of how the world works that I haven’t grasped yet. Maybe it still remains hidden from me and I understood all this material through my own goggles, not noticing the forest for the trees.

Possible explanation for this is that selecting certain possibilities make them real for us – make them into our individual experiences, but from the POV of the universe they are equally real whether we participate in them or not. In what sense they are real for the universe, however?

It would all be much easier if we ditched free will in material world altogether and confined it to a simple choice – to serve Kṛṣṇa or not. Whatever happens here, whatever choices are made between wearing a blue or green t-shirt, are not ours. We can only choose to depend on Kṛṣṇa or to remain “observers” and “doers” and “seers” of the material field. This position makes more sense to me and is in line with our general understanding of free will but, as I said, the author is not going to concede it. Free might still be required for our personal selections to make the universe work. The subject will come up again so we shall see if free will is really a necessity in Sāṅkhya.

Vanity thought #1674. Mirages

The maker of the flat earth video I discussed a couple of days ago has uploaded Part 2 and it was a huge disappointment for me.

It started promisingly, though – they took a flight in a small airplane around the same area where they made their flat Earth observations in the part 1 but, sadly, the island in question, Moreton, could not be seen due to foggy atmosphere so it was impossible to say whether it appears in direct line of sight if observed from an airplane.

Google’s “earth view”, I must note, is not an actual view from a satellite but a 3D model of the same flat map, so if North Strabroke obstructs the view between their observation point and Moreton on a flat map it would obstruct it in 3D model as well, but 3D does look spectacular, can’t deny it.

It did appear to me that the shore is bent more inwards in this long static frame than on Google map but I think it’s just a matter of perspective. In Google 3D model the shape of the shore looks identical. The most interesting part lies to the north, out of the frame, and we couldn’t see that far during this flight.

This means that the problem with Moreton island being unobstructed is still a mystery, but there’s more luck with rational explanation for the apparent absence of the Earth’s curvature.

There are several possible phenomena that could explain it. I already mentioned atmospheric refraction, then there various kinds of mirages, and, finally, there’s something called looming.

Atmospheric refraction requires the air above the water to be significantly hotter. The video was uploaded at the end of March but there’s one point there where the author mentions renaming that observation point into “Flat Earth Lookout” and gives a date for it – 10-12-2015. We can read it as October or as December but on October 12 there were storm warnings for the area and the weather generally wasn’t as clear and sunny as in the video, so it must have been beginning of December. The date didn’t come from the camera, though, it was superimposed by the author and might reflect the date he was doing his “renaming” during editing rather than the date the video was shot.

Assuming it was beginning of December, which is summer in Australia, the sea temperature is pretty high, 24-25 degree Celsius, and the maximum temperature recorded last December was only 30. The difference is rather small and it should not produce an extreme case of atmospheric refraction.

Under normal conditions refraction moves the horizon by 8%, I understand, but when conditions are just right it might allow people to see objects hundreds kilometers away, wiki says. In this case the horizon moved back from 11 miles to at least 76 miles, nearly 700 percent comparing to the usual 8 while the temperature difference between sea and air is unremarkable.

Mirages could be of different kinds here, something like superior mirage or Fata Morgana but, as far as I can see, mirages are inherently unstable and should always distort the image in one way or another, especially as time passes. In the video, however, no distortions are visible at all so I don’t think mirages are a good explanation here.

Then we come to looming which fits in every way but, unfortunately, lacks scientific explanation for it in that wiki article. If they mean that it’s a common atmospheric refraction event then proper conditions should be there but I just discussed that everything looked pretty normal.

What’s interesting about looming is that if the Earth was larger and so had lesser curvature light would naturally bend downwards and run parallel to the surface at all times. If that were to happen we might conclude that the Earth was indeed flat – if we define propagation of light as a straight line and everything that deviates from it as curved or bent.

This is an interesting proposition because that’s what we normally do, it’s our classical perception of the world where we judge things as curved or straight according to the line of sight. I should add that sight and light are one and the same here, I’m not talking about some special beams or lasers but general light as it’s reflected of the objects and travels towards our eyes. We always assume it to be straight.

In theory of relativity, however, time and space are intrinsically linked so the shape of space, ie the path of light, depends on its speed. Things might look perfectly straight to us but not to an outside observer. There aren’t any actual outside observers outside our time-space continuum but we can theorize about how things would look to them.

With atmospheric refraction or looming, however, we CAN accept the position of an objective observer outside the influence of factors contributing to the effect. We can increase our altitude, for example, and raise above the extreme temperature gradient that allows for refraction, or we can wait it out until conditions change.

Unlike a hypothetical observer outside the influence of time, we CAN see how light propagates in a straight or a curved line depending on the air-temperature continuum it travels through. This makes us laugh at people who think the Earth is flat just as people outside of time can laugh at our perception of days and years, or distances. Inside our time-space continuum we think that the universe is gazillion kilometers wide and it would take gazillion years traveling at the speed of light to reach its other side but for the light itself the distance doesn’t exist – by definition – light doesn’t travel, it’s always already there – because it doesn’t take any time for it to go from one end of the universe to another.

Hmm, so light is just like Brahman – all pervasive and outside the influence of time. We see it as taking time to go from one place to another only due to our relatively slow speeds, or due to our conditioning, in KC speak. Interesting, huh? Perhaps there’s a scientific explanation for the universe that is totally aligned with Vedas. Actually, there MUST be such a scientific explanation because it’s the reality. Our problem is that we never live up to the absolute demands of the scientific method, hence science is never complete and always have space for progress. Or we could just become liberated instead, if we really want to know, but that is a subject for another day.

Vanity thought #1669. Elementary

I want to discuss the confusion with elements a bit more. Not because I know what the gross material elements mentioned in the śāstra are but because it’s an interesting subject for speculation.

Yesterday I said that they are not the same substances water, air, fire, and earth refer to now. Ether is a bit special because we have proven that it doesn’t exist. Question – if it doesn’t exist and is imperceptible, why did ancients ever mention it at all? With Greeks one could say they were speculating and invented it as a filler for the heavenly sky as opposed to air we find on Earth. For the medieval scientists we could say it was a mistaken theory that they thought could explain light travelling in vacuum and necessity for such substance was later rejected.

In both these cases our assumption is that ancients were speculating and trying to explain what they couldn’t reach with their senses on the basis of what was perceptible to them. Greeks loved to speculate, we know that, but they assigned ether to the realm of gods and assigned gods to preside over it. I don’t think we have the proof that ether was ever invented by men. Ether first makes its appearance in a book by Plato and the book is speculative, no doubt about that, but it talks about EXISTING concepts, not invents new ones, and it talks about the Creator.

To us it would mean that Plato was engaged in a philosophical speculation – trying to understand how God’s creation works rather than mental speculation of inventing his own stuff for the sake of his vanity. It doesn’t mean, at least to me, that he invented ether but tried to reconcile its a priori given existence with inadequate human perception. In Kṛṣṇa consciousness we are trying to do the same – take infallible words of śāstra and try to explain how our current perception fits.

So, the ether was always there, we just never knew what it was and it’s not our invention to fill gaps in our knowledge. Vedic sages are not known to invent stuff up either and they had nothing to do with Greeks, and yet they had existence of ether from the start.

We could argue whether Vedic version of creation is mythological or a God given record but that besides the point here, which is that gross material elements mentioned in śāstra are not the same things we call water, fire, air etc now. We don’t perceive ether and so we don’t use the word anymore but for the Vedic sages sensory perception was immaterial, the terms they were dealing with were coming from beyond their direct perception, too.

Nowadays by fire we mean fire but a better translation would probably be energy. Better does not mean the best, however. “Energy” to us an ever evolving concept and it evolves in the wrong direction, it’s just that at this point it probably is the closest to Vedic fire.

Yesterday I talked about the earth, how we can use the sense of touch to determine whether something is earth or not. Touch indicates the presence of air, however, not earth. Okay, we can also look at the thing and see whether it qualifies as earth, too, but seeing is the sense triggered by presence of fire, which gives shapes. Here how it is different from energy because we can’t see the energy. On the other hand, we know that energy does have shapes and we can draw energy fields, or even watch its shape through infrared camera.

This is the problem with our eyes – we can see presence of fire, or energy, but our eyes are grossly inadequate and we need to supplement them with instruments or with theories. Energy fields are invisible even in infrared. We have radio telescopes for other frequencies but still can’t perceive 95% of what makes up the universe – the dark matter. Our current state of eye extensions does not allow us to see it and we have no idea how to make it possible.

With the element of fire we can agree that its presence is indicated by presence of energy but we are still severely restricted from perceiving it even with the best instruments. We also have the matter-energy co-dependence from Einstein’s relativity so everything IS energy and fire must be all pervasive and simply takes different forms.

Air is more of a mystery to us because we can’t separate it from subsequent elements anymore, it doesn’t exist in its pure Vedic form. Śāstra says that air is movement introduced into ether, an appearance of the force. We can’t separate force from energy now, the time when we began to study the universe they were already inseparable. With relativity we can’t separate space from energy and matter either so we can’t separate either from the elements that followed, too, they came to us as a complete set.

Water is even more mysterious and the best I can come up with is that it’s gravity. Water binds things, afaik, and so gravity is the best fit, plus gravity is believed to be a force of its own because scientists haven’t been able to explain it on quantum level, to reduce it further – it’s just there and it follows its own laws.

The sense given to us to perceive water is taste and good luck with tasting gravity, it just doesn’t make sense. None of the relations between elements and senses makes sense if we try to explain the elements in modern scientific terms, we just have to live with it – there are no better explanations to what water is than the the Vedic one. We can’t explain it in our own scientific terms, it can’t be reduced to anything other than Vedic fire and air, for which we have no equivalents either.

As for the earth – in science we can take atoms, put them together in molecules, get these molecules together, and create earth in the form of rocks or crystals. That’s what “earth” is to atheists and that’s how they dismiss religious science based on scriptures. Well, according to Vedic science earth is already present in the universe and already all-pervasive. You don’t create it because it’s already there in all your ingredients. We can say that Vedic earth is probably the quarks scientists have been studying in quantum mechanics. Their quarks also have energy and they move – fire and air, and there’s probably water in there somehow, too.

The best we can come up with right now is theoretical equivalents for our Vedic elements – the concepts of space, force, movement, energy etc. It’s beyond me to speculate whether these concepts are properties of matter according to scientific understanding or they could be seen as fundamental to the existence of the universe – which is what śāstra says. What was created during Big Bang fore example? Space, force, energy etc or material elements with space and energy as only their properties. Looks no brainer to me but needs a proper scientific explanation.

Can the scientists explain evolution of force from space, energy from force, gravitation from energy, and quarks from gravitation? I don’t think so, but if they looked at it this way the can surely come with something interesting.

Our position is that we can’t wait for science to catch up and that this knowledge is immaterial to our spiritual needs which are best fulfilled by chanting, not by speculations. We don’t accept the typical proposition that we should wait until the science proves Vedas before taking up Vedic instructions as our life guide. I don’t like this whole idea that we should rely on what science says at all, but that’s a subject for another post.

Vanity thought #1668. Terminology

The very first thing when trying to explain “magic” of Śrīmad Bhāgavatam “scientifically” should probably be clarification of terms. Direct translation into modern languages is easy but in many cases it’s grossly inadequate because reality of our lives is different from theirs.

Some might object that reality doesn’t change significantly but we often don’t realize how many of our assumptions are influenced by ever changing external conditions. Nowadays, due to introduction of knives, forks, or even chopsticks, not having an overbite would be a medical condition but when people used only hands to eat their food it was the opposite and no one had an overbite at all.

Another example is bodily odor – the sweat gland responsible for it is often completely missing in certain nationalities and so when people of these different cultures meet they can have very surprising and often unpleasant discoveries about each other, most often blaming it on lack of proper hygiene while back at home some wear their odor with pride or maybe fight it with strong cologne or deodorants. In Japan, on the other hand, deodorants are hard to find because no one uses them ever.

I once read that teachers in Ireland were going on a strike because temperature in their classrooms has risen to 26 Celsius while in tropical countries people work outdoor in 40s and then set their air conditioners to 26 to cool off inside. That’s roughly 100 and 80 in Fahrenheit.

Maybe these are not very good examples overall but I just wanted to demonstrate that our perception of what is “normal” can vary greatly even now, what to speak of “normal” in previous yugas. People can grow 10 cm taller in only a couple of hundred years, imagine if they kept growing for a couple of thousand. The only conditions necessary are better food and less diseases, which depend on climate as much as on human practice of medicine. I’m not going to discuss why the skeletons of these giants are missing from our fossil record here, maybe some other time.

When “normal” reality changes so greatly we shouldn’t try to see ancient people through our prism. We just can’t see the same things anymore because they no longer exists and so we use our poor substitutes which seem real to us but would probably not be recognized by the ancients themselves.

We don’t believe in yoga siddhis, for example, because no one has them in our society. Well no one practices celibacy in our society either and that’s the primary condition for developing “supernatural” abilities. Another example is that no one can see God anymore and therefore we assume that it was true in Vedic times, too. When Vedic sages wrote about demigods appearing on certain occasions we can’t believe it either. Conditions for demigods to grace us with their presence are still the same and we use the same words but their meanings are different now.

The place needs to be pure, for example. We can clean it up, get a guy with a mop in and scrub it, and disinfect it, too, but that won’t be “pure” by Vedic standards. They probably won’t consider anything plastic as pure in principle and they would require purity from people being present, too. We can send everyone to take a shower but that won’t be enough because demigods require internal purity, ie freedom from lust, and that we can’t provide. It just doesn’t exist anymore. Anyone who has ever eaten unoffered food, let alone meat, would contaminate the place with his gluttony, too.

We can’t even imagine what a really pure assembly place would look like even though we still use the same words. They mean different things to us from what they meant in Vedic times.

For scientific discussion specifically we should highlight the difference in meaning of fire, water, air, earth etc – gross material elements. We assume that ancients used these words just like we do – because they didn’t know what water or earth was made of. For them these elements were prime building materials – take some earth, meaning clay, shape it, put it into fire, and get a pot. Primitives! We can’t even begin to think that these words meant something completely different in Vedic terminology.

Take “earth”, for example. How do we expect to differentiate it from water? By touch, of course. Earth is more or less solid, just put your hand on the substance and you’d know whether it’s “earth” or liquid. In Vedic times, however, earth was associated with smell. If it smells, it’s earth, while touch was a symptom of air. What what?

We are clearly talking about different things here, not common clay and water. We don’t grant the ancients the ability to analyze the matter differently from us. We think that the only way to understand common water, earth, etc is to find their chemical composition and this again forces us to see the world in a very restricted way without even realizing it.

We can’t imagine ancients to make scientific progress using their weird classification, we think that we have the monopoly on honest scientific inquiry while they were hopelessly corrupt and invoked gods to mask their ignorance all the time. That’s another common stereotype, probably completely without merit. We can’t even think about ancients advancing in their scientific understanding on their terms, our brains are not wired for that, there’s a societal pressure, and no one honestly tried it, even for fun. The fact that people even in India can’t pursue yoga anymore doesn’t help either. Even if there are successful yogis there they won’t be mixing with us, the modern people, and so they can’t be studied in laboratories. They’d avoid our atheistic mentality like a plague, and they should be very good at it, too – due to the same yogic powers.

What I mean is that they’d practice mind control where mind means something different from what it means to us. They would practice control of their senses where senses mean something different from what they mean to us. How can we withdraw the sense of smell, for example? Or the sense of sight? We completely lack the ability and so we don’t believe it’s possible for yogis either. That’s just projection of our own limitations and it’s unscientific but often that is all the modern science can offer on this subject.

Vanity thought #1667. Dealing with “mythology”

One of the most obvious questions about stories in Śrīmad Bhāgavatam is “How is it even possible?” We don’t normally asks it ourselves and we reserve it for total neophytes and we give the answer only once. I’m not sure it’s a consciously thought out strategy, however.

When we discuss Bhāgavatam topics with devotees we don’t raise doubts like that anymore. A devotee by definition should accept Bhāgavatam as self-evident truth which should not be subjected to critical questioning and this principle provides us with a safe environment. It doesn’t mean we actually know the answer, though, it means we protect ourselves from ever being asked and it’s not the same thing.

Typical answer in devotional circles is that these stories are incomprehensible in our conditioned state. With our current vision we can’t even see the universe for what it is, with Mount Meru, flat Bhū-maṇḍala and possibly round Earth globe floating near the shore. We also say that due to Kali yuga we lost purity necessary for controlling the matter through mantras and so can’t direct thousands of arrows to invisible targets or trigger ancient nuclear bombs or build Vedic airplanes. It’s only a matter of contamination, we say, otherwise Bhāgavatam stories would make perfect sense.

On the subject of the battle of Kurukṣetra we say that it was quite possible to have millions and millions of soldiers, elephants, and horses to be there and fight on a relatively small piece of land. It was all magically stretchable just like the land of Vṛndāvana where Kṛṣṇa could easily go from one place to another and come back in a matter of minutes whereas it takes us half a day on a motoriksha to reach there. It’s just a matter of our personal limited perspective, we say, when we develop proper spiritual visions these things will be easily reconciled.

That might be true and it is certainly a good explanation for fellow devotees but we haven’t seriously tried it on atheists yet, afaik. Atheists are a different bunch and they are by nature very skeptical of such claims. In fact, they cannot possibly take them at the face value and therefore treat our scriptures as mythology. If they ever discuss scriptures with us they grant us temporary right to delude ourselves and approach us with “let’s not raise that ridiculous aspect of your books for a moment and indulge in philosophy, maybe there’s something valuable in that” attitude. This means that they never take our books seriously and discuss them with us like adults discuss fairy tales with kids.

I’m not sure how much benefit they can extract from these conversations even if they otherwise go smoothly. Are we hoping to impress them with philosophy to such a degree that they forget the ridiculous part of our books? Forget doesn’t mean accept as true, however, and without this acceptance they’ll never become devotees, only mildly curious well-wishers.

It isn’t such a bad outcome but why should we settle on it? Is it only because we can’t explain the stories in a way that makes them believable? Would it be much better if we were able to dispel all their doubts? I think the obvious answer is yes. We don’t need to take Śrīmad Bhāgavatam on faith, we KNOW that it’s true in every aspect, we just don’t know how it is so and we don’t know how to explain it properly. There are plenty of devotees who try but we still haven’t got one consistent and widely accepted theory. The argument about Flat Earth perfectly demonstrates our confusion here and the fact is that it’s not going to be solved any time soon.

One approach could be to suggest the possibility how Bhāgavatam might be true even if we can’t explain every detail of it. Nor do we need to explain every detail because figuring out how the universe works is not our goal but rather a waste of time. Another fact is that even Lord Brahmā doesn’t know the universe in full and to every being between us and him it looks slightly different. There can’t be full consensus on this issue by definition – we are all conditioned and we are all in illusion, and those who are free from illusion do not waste time on documenting the universe in full either. This desire to know and understand the universe is caused by illusion and once the illusion is withdrawn it goes away and gets replaced by spiritual knowledge, but still in doses carefully measured by Kṛṣṇa, or rather by His yoga-māyā potency that provides us only with what is necessary for our service.

So, the answer to “how does it work” is that it’s “on the need to know basis”. Okay, but how much to we need to know right now and, especially, how much do we need to know for preaching? Not much. Whatever concerns I raised in the beginning haven’t stopped Śrīla Prabhupāda, for example. He didn’t give detailed answers to many of the questions raised by skeptics and devotees didn’t push him for it. This kind of questioning does not suit the relationship between a guru and his disciples so we didn’t indulge. If it didn’t stop Prabhupāda why should it stop us?

We just have to demonstrate that human form of life begins with athāto brahma jijñāsa¸ that it’s time to inquire about spirit, not matter. Even if we talk to atheists we should still press this point – learn about the soul first, learn that it’s different from the body and it doesn’t die. Learn what is mind, learn how it works, learn how to control it and learn how to engage it in the service of the Supreme. Knowledge of the universe is irrelevant to the spiritual inquiry and the moment it becomes relevant it reveals itself to the necessary degree, no more and no less, we shouldn’t worry about it.

We do not avoid difficult questions about Bhāgavatam because we don’t know the answers, we avoid them because they hijack the spiritual inquiry – an entirely different reason. Will we ever be caught having to actually produce the answers instead of admitting we don’t know anything and our books might be factually wrong? I seriously doubt it. Kṛṣṇa would never put us in such a situation just as He’d never make us starve and force us to subside on meat. Questions like these should not rise in the company of devotees and so we should not be forced to avoid them at all. It’s just not a problem.

There are, however, some ideas on how to reply to these questions on scientific terms but I’ll leave them for another day.

Vanity thought #1660. Peerage problem

When we grow up in modern western societies we absorb all of their values unquestionably and one of these values is equality. Sometimes it helps, other times it doesn’t, the jury is still out on how to proceed in Kali yuga but at least we should be aware of the dangers to our own spiritual progress and to the society in general.

Modern interpretation of history is that of a long struggle for democracy which is believed to be the pinnacle of human development. First of all, this assumption that democracy is the last step in human evolution is naive, secondly, it skews our understanding of what people who made the history happen thought of it themselves.

Modern democracy is based on the idea of equal, inalienable rights but to suggest that this is what people wanted for thousands of years is nonsense. Even Americans granted rights only to land owners. No land, no vote, and forget women and blacks, of course. In Britain to get a voice one must be accepted as a peer first, too, and their definition of a peer was very different from the modern usage of the word. Peerage there still refers to aristocracy, not to common folk, but then their public schools are anything but public.

The point is that the right to speak and be heard needed to be earned, it wasn’t inalienable, and it wasn’t birth given, so to speak. Actually, it WAS birth given to those born into the right families but they did recognize commoners’ contributions from time to time and granted them acceptance, too.

The idea was that birth rights weren’t fool proof anymore, they didn’t know it was Kali yuga but they noticed the deterioration all the same. People lost faith in the wisdom and authority of their rulers so they naturally decided that if the king doesn’t know what he is talking about then it’s better to ask someone who does, and so democracy was born.

In real life, when the first Magna Carta was written, it was a lot more prosaic – they just couldn’t control their greed and lust for power so they decided that as a group they could balance each other out and find some sort of an equilibrium. They didn’t trust their king, that much was true, but they didn’t trust each other, either. The brokered peace didn’t last very long, predictably, but the idea caught on and eventually found itself and became nascent democracy.

Personally, I can totally understand how they thought that whatever decisions kings made should have better be run by a council first. The collective wisdom of the peers was clearly better than decisions of one single person, often completely consumed by greed and power, so it worked. They observed that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. It’s just how things are in Kali yuga, so absolute monarchy is unreliable.

We, in ISKCON, are following in the same steps with our GBC. When there is one luminous ācārya his authority becomes absolute and unquestionable, everyone accepts his incorruptible spiritual position and everyone accepts that Kṛṣṇa speaks through this mahā-bhāgavata devotee. When such ācārya is absent who is going to take his place? No one is qualified and whoever tries to take it without qualification is sure to become corrupted by his conditioning. He will be controlled by the modes of nature and in Kali yuga it means he WILL act in ignorance, dragging the rest of the society with him.

That’s why Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī insisted on forming the GBC so that decision making power was done in śaṅkīrtana, which is free from the influence of Kali. Of course GBC meetings aren’t expected to be all dancing and singing but they are expected to discuss the best way to glorify Kṛṣṇa and advance the mission of Lord Caitanya, of course it’s a genuine form of saṅkīrtana.

In pre-Kali yuga days it was the king who conducted huge sacrifices which benefited all the citizens but these days sacrifices need to be made congregationally to guarantee success. That’s why GBC, and that’s why democracy, too. Whatever we say about western societies they too once saw themselves as carrying out the will of the Lord and protecting their religion. When governing was done in the name of religion and when those peers discussed the best ways to honor the memory of their Jesus Christ it was saṅkīrtana, too. That’s why democracy worked – it was a prescribed form of a sacrifice for the modern age.

When atheism took the center stage, however, democracy as a sacrifice pleasing the Lord has lost all sense. Formally, it’s all the same thing – people still gather together to make decisions collectively but because the purpose of the activity has been lost it doesn’t bring desired effects. It doesn’t bring peace and it threatens to take away western prosperity, too.

Aristocratic birth rights complicate the matter slightly but the idea behind peerage was that it carried with it great responsibility and had to be given only to the most qualified people. Children of the peers were supposed to receive the best training and education but with time they naturally slackened and degraded to the level of commoners. It happens, nothing much can be done about it, but atheists took it the wrong way – instead of elevating would be peers to the desired level of discipline and maturity they dragged the standards down to the common folk customs. Peerage no longer needs to be earned, it’s just given to everybody and so it lost its value.

When common people, totally under the influence of the modes of nature and slaves to their minds and animalistic desires, play democracy it just does not work, saṅkīrtana does not happen, and the entire society suffers. These people can’t control themselves and when their desires overlap with those of others there are conflicts they can’t stop. Instead of serving spiritual goals they get lost in trying to fulfill all their fancies and eliminate their opponents, and that’s the stage we find the modern democracy right now.

Just like they did with peerage and aristocracy centuries ago they declare degradation of standards and the state of permanent disarray as the new normal – they drag the standards down again, either unaware of or flatly ignoring rules set down by the Lord. They might detest someone like Donald Trump but they still find the way to celebrate his rise as a power of democracy.

For them, the power of democracy lies in getting what they want and crushing their opposition, certainly not in congregational glorification of the Lord and not in collective effort to fulfill Lord’s mission. So, not only they want to defeat their political opponents but they also condemn those who say this process went completely off the rails as “undemocratic”, which is us, basically. It seems each their desire comes with a designated enemy and so their battles continue with no sign of peace ahead.

The same thing happened in science, too. A couple of days ago I said that first science journals were published by dedicated individuals who were alone responsible for the quality of the content (kings). As the number of submissions grew they delegated editorial work to their board, ie peerage, if we compare it to the development of democracy, and then, when even the boards were overwhelmed, they let outsiders to do what they then called “peer review” for them. Originally, these peers simply wanted to help out and even today most of this work is done for free but for journal owners it’s just business and they go for quantity, not quality.

No surprise then that their glorified peer review fails to do its job again and again and the label “peer reviewed” has lost its authority. It just means the journal accepted the paper for publishing, which could have happened for any number of reasons, including “it was paid by the corporation promoting a new drug”. It doesn’t mean anything about submission quality at all. Maybe later on someone would spot the mistakes there, maybe not, maybe they made a fuss out of it, maybe not – for the supposedly scientific process there’s an amazing lack of clarity and oversight there, it’s a total black box.

I think I’m done with peer review, in one word it’s useless.

Vanity thought #1658. Peer review

Yesterday I mentioned peer review in a positive context, it’s scientists’ equivalent of guru-sādhu-śāstra check designed to weed out substandard theories. That might have been the original intent and that’s how atheists usually present it but the reality is different.

“Peer review” has become an integral part of “scientific method”, they always say how its inherently superior to religious inquiry and peer review process always come up in this context. They somehow think that it doesn’t exist among the believers, but they don’t know the first thing about developing faith so they can be forgiven for their ignorance.

As I said, when peer review works it produces good, reliable results and allows good karma to flow freely to those favored by their gurus and seniors. Without getting their mercy they can’t make any scientific progress and their efforts won’t be recognized by anybody – just like in our guru-vandana song. We are instructed not to disturb other people’s attempts at following dharma and so we should respect this peer review process and encourage people to submit themselves to it.

Now the bad side – peer review is just as open to corruption as democracy and, speaking in absolute terms, it doesn’t mean anything. It gets people published, it gets them paid, it keeps the business of science going, but it doesn’t guarantee quality of work and it doesn’t guarantee that it’s solid science.

Just like that annoying “scientific method”, peer review is a relatively new invention. Modern atheists run with these banners as if they make them special and infallible, and as if science didn’t exist and can’t exist outside of the realm of “scientific method”, which is nonsense. They effectively monopolized the scientific inquiry and made atheism the price of admission and peer review is one of the most effective guardians in this endeavor.

Originally, scientific journals were published by enthusiasts who ran their papers with an iron fist. They alone decided what was worthy of publishing and what was garbage. Then their workload increased and they passed the submissions for evaluation by editorial board. After WWII there was an explosion in the amount of research and editorial boards couldn’t cope with the volume any longer, too. That’s when peer review was brought in – in the middle of the 20th century, and it still wouldn’t be possible without the invention of the Xerox machine because the papers need to be copied and sent to reviewers in faraway places. Anyway, by the 1970 all scientific journals had accepted the system. All in all, it’a about fifty years old, which isn’t much by historical scales.

These days peer review can’t cope with the volume of research, too, and there are calls for improvements to the process. There are too many papers and too few people genuinely interested in vigorously evaluating them, and yet journals need to keep publishing, so the system accommodates.

For all the talk about scientific method, peer review is decidedly unscientific. It’s like a black box or a lottery. Actually, with lottery people know how it works but with peer review it’s a total mystery. Who will review the paper? Are they qualified to judge it? What will they say? Will their judgement be objective and unbiased? Do they happen to subscribe to the opposite view? It’s totally unpredictable. Unless, of course, you know how to work the system and don’t care for their actual opinions.

If you follow your superiors and produce research agreeable to them then there shouldn’t be any problem with publishing it, universities themselves are eager to get their professors into the journals, but going down that road would compromise your scientific integrity and make you a conformist. The real science doesn’t work that way, historically speaking. It needs bold ideas, rocking the boat, challenging assumptions – all the good things they teach kids at school, but when they get to real world workplace they’d better go with the flow or get drowned.

It’s for those independently produced papers pushing science beyond its boundaries that peer review works as a stumbling block. You can google tons of stories where people abused the system either for fun or to prove that it’s broken. I like the one where people took twelve published articles, submitted them again under different names to the very same journals, and only three out of twelve realized that this research had already been published, and out of nine who didn’t realize this eight rejected the papers for their poor quality. Just think about it – 75% didn’t realize that they have already reviewed the submitted papers. It’s like students registering for the same exam over and over again and not remembering that they passed it. And then they read those papers and decided that they were crap even though they have already been “peer reviewed” and published.

There’s also known bias against negative submissions. In medical journals people like to hear about breakthroughs and successful treatments but if you find that their miracles don’t work and want to prove it then it would be a negative submission and it’s very likely to be rejected just for spoiling someone else’s party. There are ways to abuse the system, too. In some cases the researches submitted contact details or “preferred reviewers” who, as it turned out, where the submitters themselves posing under fake names. There are cases of “peers” plagiarizing and cashing in on research they have a chance to read before it gets published. There are cases of pranksters submitting bogus papers filled with random phrases, too. There are cases of people intentionally putting obviously false information into submitted papers and waiting to see if “peer review” catches it. It doesn’t, it approves everything that looks good on paper, pardon the pun.

Those might be extremes but consider how the entire system works – universities pay for the research, then their employees submit the papers, journals accept them for free then pass them to peers for reviewing, which they also do for free, and then the journals publish them and sell them back to the universities for outrageous amounts of money. It’s a lucrative business of virtual monopoly.

Then, a few years ago, scientists decided to rebel and start various “open research” projects where they’d put their articles on the internet free for all, and whoever reviews them would do so transparently. Journal publishers weren’t happy, for course, and decided to fight back. Typically, they’d bundle their journals so that if the universities want access to “premium content” unavailable for free they’d have to pay for tons of other stuff they don’t need. This might be mildly unethical but sometimes publishers go fully illegal by starting fake journals where they’d only publish research favorable to the sponsoring drug companies. This happened to Elsevier, one of the biggest publishers of them all. Just to get the scale – Elsevier publishes 350,000 articles a year and earns 3 billion dollars in revenue. It’s a huge business of science and atheists who make it to be some sort of guardian of truth are delusional.

I don’t know what else to say about it. It’s a sham, obviously not in 100% of the cases but, generally speaking, “peer review” is nonsense. All it means “you got published” and nothing else. It certainly doesn’t mean that your research is solid and should be taken as scientific truth in arguments with the opposition. It certainly shouldn’t be cited by atheists as a qualification to be admitted into a debate, but they would still do it so nothing changes. It’s just another reason why arguing with atheists is a waste of time, even within their own boundaries of scientific method and peer review. Somehow they fail by the standards of their own glorified rationality and logic, and they are unable to see their faults, too.

Vanity thought #1657. Coexisting with science

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.