Friday, January 14, 2005

Religions and scientific mindset

The religious mindset and the scientific mindset make a very intriguing pair. The Baconian school of philosophy would have us believe that scientists were expected to be atheists. How could an empiricist possibly believe a ‘divine cause’? But was it the case with all our scientists?

Here, I have tried to analyse how Christianity, Hinduism and Islam are living with scientific mindset. The people of interest are the ones who have been identified with these religions stereotypically. Therefore, I would be discussing about Christian Europeans, Hindu Indians and Muslim Arabs.


Christian church had a very troubled relationship with scientists. Its problems were compounded by the fact that people who questioned and falsified the Christian truths and solutions were its own people. From the beginning of the renaissance it had to compete with scientific developments that have since then taken away most of its folk in the Christian heartland of Europe. Now most of the European churches have very low attendance to its services. Christianity is surviving because it has become a cultural identity there. But not everything is lost for the religious Christianity.

In the United States of America, it’s still fighting against scientific theories that directly question its existence. We are now finding “Intelligent Design” (ID) theorists trying to push their arguments into school curriculum and calling the Darwinian Evolutionary theory flawed.

At the one end church proudly and may be with some justification claimed that Christian life style paved the way for the glorious industrial and scientific development in Europe, ironically, on the other hand, it had to fight for its own existence as a spiritual guide of the masses. Still it grew to be the most dominant religion around the world within few decades because of those developments. It’s still strong among the converted people without any indigenous scientific development. This is generally the case with rest of the world. So the interesting thing would be how these converted people, scientists and deeply religious among them, handle the anomalies which European Christians fought and still fighting over? Well, it’s beyond the scope of my discussions.

Hinduism and Islam:

I thought it would take much of time and space while discussing about Indians and Arabs. Sadly, as I wrote through the passages about Christianity, I found I could easily finish off this discussion about Hinduism and Islam within few sentences as there were no conflicts between religion and scientific developement in these societies.

The western influence is the direct cause of any scientific development and industrial revolution in these countries. This scientific development has never really threatened the most advanced form of religious philosophies in these countries. However, the most barbaric forms of religious practices have vanished or gradually vanishing. But this can’t be attributed to the development of scientific mindset when in most of the cases, reformation of the religions was the major drive in eradicating these practices.

But, has the scientists of these countries directly ever challenged and proved that major religious philosophies were flawed? Unfortunately, the Baconian scientists in these countries were hardly bothered about these philosophies. In India, the religious institutions were hardly threatening. In Arab countries, they were hardly sparing. In both these regions religious mindset and scientific mindset were happy to be separated and co-exist. The scientists, even if inclined to challenge, were further hampered by the fact that the theories that they were trying disprove were developed by their own ancestors and the theories that they were supporting in its place were developed by the people of different religious and ethnic background. This is a very subtle and a powerful dampener. The most brilliant people of these countries have become victims of their identities.

Now, we find both in India and in Arab countries religions are thriving without any serious threat to their foundations. The failure to produce the philosophers in the mould of Francis Bacon to put an end to the religious solutions (corresponding to Islamic and Hindu philosophies) has left these countries with Physicists that believe in astrology, biologists that believe in the Supreme Being.

Now, that puts us an interesting question whether there were no western scientists with beliefs. Newton was supposed to be a believer. But his god was supposed to be more sophisticated than as explained by the existing religions. Anyway, he lived before Darwin. What about others? I really don’t have the percentage statistics of atheist scientists and believer scientists in the western world.

The quest of 'higher' god drove many religious people in Europe to doubt the biblical knowledge. But will Hindus and Muslims ever have that feeling of inadequacy with their religious beliefs?

Perhaps the cultural renaissance in India and Arab countries need serious threat to the existing beliefs. I consider that path taken by the European society after medieval ages is the right one(if not perfect, though I don't know the criteria for that) from evolutionaly point of view. Any alternatives at any point of time in the history doesn't seem to be viable and worth emulating.

This conclusion might imply that Hindus and Muslims in western countries have better chances of producing great minds. Nevertheless, it also depends upon the degree of assimilation of these populations in those adopted countries.