Is science never wrong because it is objective and is religion subjective?

by Chaitanya Charan dasJuly 6, 2013

Answer Podcast

From: James

Question: How do we respond to rational atheist’s claim that science is never wrong because it is objective, and religion is purely subjective? These atheists use Ayn Rand’s objectivism to verify their claims.

Transcription By: Jyoti Shirsangi Mataji

Edited By: Shyam Venkateswaran P

Answer: First of all, no honest scientist will say that science is never wrong. What they will say is that science has a self-correcting mechanism by which it detects wrongs. Whenever it goes wrong, then tries to correct it.

So, in fact, the whole history of what is called scientific progress is a correction of past wrongs. So, Newton proposed the classical mechanics, the classical Physics, and then Einstein primarily was the singular developer of relativity, but then, quantum theory was developed by various scientists, like Plank and others. So, they developed the other theories, which explained the universal phenomenon much better. And they found that Newton’s theory was a limited application over a limited range, in terms of objects that were not moving in the speed of light, and objects that were not microscopic. So, in many ways Newton was wrong when he said that the laws of motion were universal.

So now, first of all, it is not that science is never wrong; it has a self-correcting mechanism. Now, is it objective? Again, quantum physics is definitely not objective. It is dependent on the observer’s presence and perception, for the reality to be observed in quantum physics. Because consciousness plays an indispensible role in quantum physics, it is definitely not objective in the sense of it being an object out there, which can be observed, measured and tested. So, in that way, science is not necessarily always objective. But it is true that many of the observations and findings and experiments and processes of science are repeatable, and when different scientists repeat them, they give the same result. In that sense, they can be called objective.

But, the converse that religion is purely subjective is wrong; it’s based on a particular conception of religion. Many religions, especially Abrahamic religions, they have simply the three point formulae of pray, pay, and obey. Come to the place of worship, pray over there, give some donation, and obey whatever commandments or rules are told over there. Now, this is very dogmatic and ritualistic, but the eastern or the Dharmic religious traditions focus on inner transformation and there is a pathway given for that inner transformation, and there is a process of sadhana bhakti that brings about the transformation.

In my lecture, tapping the Power of Faith, I have explained the nine stages. It starts from Shraddha, and then moves towards Prema. So there is an inner transformation that is repeatable, verifiable, in that sense it is objective. Lust, anger, greed, envy, pride, illusion will decrease for anyone who practices the process of Krishna Consciousness, be that person in India, America, or Africa or even Antartica, or anywhere else. So, in that sense of it being repeatable, it is also objective. It’s subjective in the sense that it is an experience within one’s consciousness. So in that sense, it is experiential, and not experimental, as in modern science, but at the same time, because the experience also has outer expressions, which can be objectively verified. If a person is an addict, and the person becomes free from addiction, now the sense of freedom from addiction is internal, but the fact that the person has become free is also an externally observable reality.  So the changes that happen in a devotee’s life, the spiritual happiness that a devotee experiences will be an internal experience. “Bhakti pareshanubhava, viraktiranyatraca”. So there is inner experience of God, para isha anubhava, that may be subjective, but there are external effects of that, which are objective, Viraktiranyatraca; one is no longer infatuated with by material things. So, in this sense, religion is at least not the process of spirituality that is taught in the Vedic tradition, and especially within that, Bhakti yoga, it is not purely subjective. There is objectivity in it, and that objectivity is the clarity of the pathway of the inner transformation, the cleardelineation for the process of transformation, and the repeatability and verifiability of that process.

I won’t go into Ayn Rand’s objectivism because if you have some specific questions about objectivism, then I don’t want to give a class about objectivism, and then point out how it is wrong. If you have some specific questions about objectivism, you can ask as a separate question.

But, it suffices to say that science being objective and religion being subjective is a division that is based on a very limited conception of science and a limited conception of religion. The deeper we go into science, in terms of quantum physics, we realize that science is not all that objective as it often made out, and when we explore alternatives to the conventionally known forms of religion in the West, the Abhramic religions, then we see that religion which offers pathways and processes for inner transformation and verifiable characteristics for inner transformation, then that religion no longer remains subjective.

Thank you.

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Chaitanya Charan das

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