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Re: Is It Worthwhile Discussing Darwin's Theory? (refined and resent)

From: Krishna Susarla (krishna_at_tumora.swmed.edu)
Date: Sun May 23 1999 - 21:02:15 PDT

>Given the above, how is Darwin's theory relevant to an
>aspirant of mokshA, who's prarabdha karma is such that he
>or she is in a field that does not involve the study of Darwin's
>theory ?
>
>Please note, I am not trying to argue that mundane
>knowledge is totally useless; I am merely arguing that it is
>only useful in the sense that it may help in the cultivation of
>BrahmajNAna.


Generally, I don't get too worked up over accounts of creation or astronomy
as they are given in scripture. What does concern me, however, is the
perceived conflict between what is described in scripture and what can be
verified by empirical evidence. Obviously, if empirical evidence really
contradicts something given in scripture (even if it is only mundane
knowledge), then that calls into question the validity of the scriptures
themselves. To put it another way, if the scriptures can't even get the
mundane knowledge right, why should we trust them when it comes to spiritual
knowledge? One can give so many arguments such as, "the ancient rishis were
more concerned with brahmagyaana..." and so on (to which I would agree).
However, none of these give satisfactory explanations as to the existence of
falsehoods in the same scriptures. Calling them exaggerations or allegorical
are simply polite ways of saying they are factually incorrect.

Therefore, my own $0.02 on this (others feel free to disagree), is that such
discussions are only important in as much as they are relevant to how we
accept shaastra. And our attitude towards shaastra is important in
cultivating brahmagyaana. Once again, I can point out that in the community
of brahmin caste members to which I have been exposed, all the elders
compromise with shaastra in regards to scientific details. And I can hardly
think of one among the next generation who are even attempting to cultivate
brahmagyaana. The conversations that I have had with them often revolve
around disbelief at various Puraanic narratives (such as the idea of Ganesha
being created from an elephant's head and a decapitated body), which then
leads them to hold the entire body of Vedic literature under scrutiny. With
the idea in mind that their scriptures contain superstitious ideas mixed in
with some philosophical points, I have even observed some among them looking
with admiration at other religions like Christianity or Islam.

Obviously, this is a gross generalization, and it is hard to do justice to
this complicated social issue that has its roots in a basic lack of faith in
the Vedas. But anyway, these are my views, for whatever they are worth. I
personally would not like to see this same kind of degeneration going on in
the Sri Vaishnava community, but sadly I have seen it to some extent.

namo naaraayaNaaya,

-- Krishna