File spoon-archives/bhaskar.archive/bhaskar_2003/bhaskar.0312, message 352

Date: Tue, 30 Dec 2003 01:32:10 -0600
Subject: Re: BHA: Social Science, doing science & CR


I thought some people on the list might be interested in the following essay 
by Meera Nanda.  She points out some of the possible political consequences of 
relativism.  Perhaps the flipside of some of Steve's concerns.
> Postmodernism, Hindu nationalism and `Vedic science' 
> The mixing up of the mythos of the Vedas with the 
> logos of science must be of great concern not just 
> to the scientific community, but also to the 
> religious people, for it is a distortion of both 
> science and spirituality. 
> The first part of a two-part article 
> The Vedas as books of science 
> IN 1996, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) of the 
> United Kingdom (U.K.) produced a slick looking book, 
> with many well-produced pictures of colourfully 
> dressed men and women performing Hindu ceremonies, 
> accompanied with warm, fuzzy and completely 
> sanitised description of the faith. The book, 
> Explaining Hindu Dharma: A Guide for Teachers, 
> offers "teaching suggestions for introducing Hindu 
> ideas and topics in the classroom" at the middle to 
> high school level in the British schools system. The 
> authors and editors are all card-carrying members of 
> the VHP. The book is now in its second edition and, 
> going by the glowing reviews on the back-cover, it 
> seems to have established itself as a much-used 
> educational resource in the British school system. 
> What "teaching suggestions" does this Guide offer? 
> It advises British teachers to introduce Hindu 
> dharma as "just another name" for "eternal laws of 
> nature" first discovered by Vedic seers, and 
> subsequently confirmed by modern physics and 
> biological sciences. After giving a false but 
> incredibly smug account of mathematics, physics, 
> astronomy, medicine and evolutionary theory 
> contained in the Vedic texts, the Guide instructs 
> the teachers to present the Vedic scriptures as "not 
> just old religious books, but as books which contain 
> many true scientific facts... these ancient 
> scriptures of the Hindus can be treated as 
> scientific texts" (emphasis added). All that modern 
> science teaches us about the workings of nature can 
> be found in the Vedas, and all that the Vedas teach 
> about the nature of matter, god, and human beings is 
> affirmed by modern science. There is no conflict, 
> there are no contradictions. Modern science and the 
> Vedas are simply "different names for the same 
> truth". 
> This is the image of Hinduism that the VHP and other 
> Hindutva propagandists want to project around the 
> world. The British case is not an isolated example. 
> Similar initiatives to portray Vedic-Aryan India as 
> the "cradle" of world civilisation and science have 
> been launched in Canada and the United States as 
> well. Many of these initiatives are beneficiaries of 
> the generous and politically correct policies of 
> multicultural education in these countries. Under 
> the worthy cause of presenting the "community's" own 
> views about its culture, many Western governments 
> are inadvertently funding Hindutva's propaganda. 
> Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Human 
> Resource Development Minister Murli Manohar Joshi at 
> the inauguration of the Indian Science Congress in 
> New Delhi in 2001. The obsession for finding all 
> kinds of science in all kinds of obscure Hindu 
> doctrines has been dictating the official education 
> policy of the BJP ever since it came to power nearly 
> half a decade ago. 
> But what concerns us in this article is not the 
> long-distance Hindutva (or "Yankee Hindutva", as 
> some call it), dangerous though it is. This essay is 
> more about the left wing-counterpart of Yankee 
> Hindutva: a set of postmodernist ideas, mostly (but 
> not entirely) exported from the West, which 
> unintentionally ends up supporting Hindutva's 
> propaganda regarding Vedic science. Over the last 
> couple of decades, a set of very fashionable, 
> supposedly "radical" critiques of modern science 
> have dominated the Western universities. These 
> critical theories of science go under the label of 
> "postmodernism" or "social constructivism". These 
> theories see modern science as an essentially 
> Western, masculine and imperialistic way of 
> acquiring knowledge. Intellectuals of Indian origin, 
> many of them living and working in the West, have 
> played a lead role in development of postmodernist 
> critiques of modern science as a source of colonial 
> "violence" against non-Western ways of knowing. 
> In this two-part essay, I will examine how this 
> postmodernist left has provided philosophical 
> arguments for Hindutva's claim that Vedas are "just 
> another name" for modern science. As we will see, 
> postmodernist attacks on objective and universal 
> knowledge have played straight into Hindu 
> nationalist slogan of all perspectives being equally 
> true - within their own context and at their own 
> level. The result is the loud - but false - claims 
> of finding a tradition of empirical science in the 
> spiritual teachings of the Vedas and Vedanta. Such 
> scientisation of the Vedas does nothing to actually 
> promote an empirical and rational tradition in 
> India, while it does an incalculable harm to the 
> spiritual message of Hinduism's sacred books. The 
> mixing up of the mythos of the Vedas with the logos 
> of science must be of great concern not just to the 
> scientific community, but also to the religious 
> people, for it is a distortion of both science and 
> spirituality. 
> In order to understand how postmodern critiques of 
> science converge with Hindutva's celebration of 
> Vedas-as-science, let us follow the logic behind 
> VHP's Guide for Teachers. 
> This Guide claims that the ancient Hindu scriptures 
> contain "many true scientific facts" and therefore 
> "can be treated as scientific texts". Let us see 
> what these "true scientific facts" are. The prime 
> exhibit is the "scientific affirmation" of the 
> theory of guna (Sanskrit for qualities or 
> attributes). Following the essential Vedantic idea 
> that matter and spirit are not separate and distinct 
> entities, but rather the spiritual principle 
> constitutes the very fabric of the material world, 
> the theory of gunas teaches that matter exhibits 
> spiritual/moral qualities. There are three such 
> qualities or gunas which are shared by all matter, 
> living or non-living: the quality or guna of purity 
> and calmness seeking higher knowledge (sattvic), the 
> quality or guna of impurity, darkness, ignorance and 
> inactivity (tamsic) and the quality or guna of 
> activity, curiosity, worldly gain (rajasic). Modern 
> atomic physics, the VHP's Guide claims, has 
> confirmed the presence of these qualities in natu! 
> re. The evidence? Physics shows that there are three 
> atomic particles bearing positive, negative and 
> neutral charges, which correspond to the three 
> gunas! From this "scientific proof" of the existence 
> of essentially spiritual/moral gunas in atoms, the 
> Guide goes on to triumphantly deduce the 
> "scientific" confirmation of the truths of all those 
> Vedic sciences which use the concept of gunas (for 
> example, Ayurveda). Having "demonstrated" the 
> scientific credentials of Hinduism, the Guide boldly 
> advises British school teachers to instruct their 
> students that there is "no conflict" between the 
> eternal laws of dharma and the laws discovered by 
> modern science. 
> In Kolkata, astrologers demonstrating against the 
> West Bengal government's decision not to introduce 
> astrology as a subject in the State's universities. 
> A file picture. 
> One of the most ludicrous mantras of Hindutva 
> propaganda is that there is "no conflict" between 
> modern science and Hinduism. In reality, everything 
> we know about the workings of nature through the 
> methods of modern science radically disconfirms the 
> presence of any morally significant gunas, or 
> shakti, or any other form of consciousness in 
> nature, as taught by the Vedic cosmology which 
> treats nature as a manifestation of divine 
> consciousness. Far from there being "no conflict" 
> between science and Hinduism, a scientific 
> understanding of nature completely and radically 
> negates the "eternal laws" of Hindu dharma which 
> teach an identity between spirit and matter. That is 
> precisely why the Hindutva apologists are so keen to 
> tame modern science by reducing it to "simply 
> another name for the One Truth" - the "one truth" of 
> Absolute Consciousness contained in Hinduism's own 
> classical texts. 
> If Hindu propagandists can go this far in U.K., 
> imagine their power in India, where they control the 
> Central government and its agencies for media, 
> education and research. This obsession for finding 
> all kinds of science in all kinds of obscure Hindu 
> doctrines has been dictating the official 
> educational policy of the Bharatiya Janata Party 
> ever since it came to power nearly half a decade 
> ago. 
> Indeed the BJP government can teach a thing or two 
> to the creation scientists in the U.S. Creationists, 
> old and new, are trying to smuggle in Christian 
> dogma into secular schools in the U.S. by redefining 
> science in a way that allows God to be brought in as 
> a cause of natural phenomena. This "theistic 
> science" is meant to serve as the thin-edge of the 
> wedge that will pry open the secular establishment. 
> Unlike the creationists who have to contend with the 
> courts and the legislatures in the U.S., the Indian 
> government itself wields the wedge of Vedic science 
> intended to dismantle the (admittedly half-hearted) 
> secularist education policies. By teaching Vedic 
> Hinduism as "science", the Indian state and elites 
> can portray India as "secular" and "modern", a model 
> of sobriety and responsibility in contrast with 
> those obscurantist Islamic fundamentalists across 
> the border who insist on keeping science out of 
> their madrassas. How useful is this appellation of 
> "science", for it dresse! 
> s up so much religious indoctrination as "secular 
> education". 
> Under the kindly patronage of the state, Hindutva's 
> wedge strategy is working wonders. Astrology is 
> flourishing as an academic subject in public and 
> private colleges and universities, and is being put 
> to use in predicting future earthquakes and other 
> natural disasters. Such "sciences" as Vastu Shastra 
> and Vedic mathematics are attracting governmental 
> grants for research and education. While the 
> Ministry of Defence is sponsoring research and 
> development of weapons and devices with magical 
> powers mentioned in the ancient epics, the Health 
> Ministry is investing in research, development and 
> sale of cow urine, sold as a cure for all ailments 
> from the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) 
> to tuberculosis (TB). Faith-healing and priest-craft 
> are other "sciences" receiving public and private 
> funding. In the rest of the culture, miracles and 
> superstitions of all kinds have the blessings of 
> influential public figures, including elected 
> Members of Parliament. 
> THERE are two kinds of claims that feed the notion 
> that the "Vedas are books of science". The first 
> kind declared the entire Vedic corpus as converging 
> with modern science, while the second concentrates 
> on defending such esoteric practices as astrology, 
> vastu, Ayurveda, transcendental meditation and so on 
> as scientific within the Vedic paradigm. The first 
> stream seeks to establish likeness, connections and 
> convergences between radically opposed ideas (guna 
> theory and atomic particles, for example). This 
> stream does not relativise science: it simply grabs 
> whatever theory of physics or biology may be popular 
> with Western scientists at any given time, and 
> claims that Hindu ideas are "like that", or "mean 
> the same" and "therefore" are perfectly modern and 
> rational. The second stream is far more radical, as 
> it defends this "method" of drawing likenesses and 
> correspondences between unlike entities as perfectly 
> rational and "scientific" within the non-dualistic 
> Vedic worldview. The! 
>  second stream, in other words, relativises 
> scientific method to dominant religious worldviews: 
> it holds that the Hindu style of thinking by 
> analogies and correspondences "directly revealed to 
> the mind's eye" is as scientific within the 
> "holistic" worldview of Vedic Hinduism, as the 
> analytical and experimental methodology of modern 
> science is to the "reductionist" worldview of 
> Semitic religions. The relativist defence of 
> eclecticism as a legitimate scientific method not 
> only provides a cover for the first stream, it also 
> provides a generic defence of such emerging 
> "alternative sciences" as "Vedic physics" and "Vedic 
> creationism", as well as defending such 
> pseudo-sciences as Vedic astrology, palmistry, TM 
> (transcendental meditation) and new-age Ayurveda 
> (Deepak Chopra style). 
> In what follows, I will examine how postmodernist 
> and social constructivist critiques of science have 
> lent support to both streams of Vedas-as-science 
> literature. 
> But first, I must clarify what I mean by 
> postmodernism. 
> Postmodernism is a mood, a disposition. The chief 
> characteristic of the postmodernist disposition is 
> that it is opposed to the Enlightenment, which is 
> taken to be the core of modernism. Of course, there 
> is no simple characterisation of the Enlightenment 
> any more than there is of postmodernism. A rough and 
> ready portrayal might go like this: Enlightenment is 
> a general attitude fostered in the 17th and 18th 
> centuries on the heels of the Scientific Revolution; 
> it aims to replace superstition and authority of 
> traditions and established religions with critical 
> reason represented, above all, by the growth of 
> modern science. The Enlightenment project was based 
> upon a hope that improvement in secular scientific 
> knowledge will lead to an improvement of the human 
> condition, not just materially but also ethically 
> and culturally. While the Enlightenment spirit 
> flourished primarily in Europe and North America, 
> intellectual movements in India, China, Japan, Latin 
> America, Egypt and other ! 
> parts of West Asia were also influenced by it. 
> However, the combined weight of colonialism and 
> cultural nationalism thwarted the Enlightenment 
> spirit in non-Western societies. 
> Postmodernists are disillusioned with this 
> triumphalist view of science dispelling ignorance 
> and making the world a better place. Their despair 
> leads them to question the possibility of progress 
> toward some universal truth that everyone, 
> everywhere must accept. Against the Enlightenment's 
> faith in such universal "meta-narratives" advancing 
> to truth, postmodernists prefer local traditions 
> which are not entirely led by rational and 
> instrumental criteria but make room for the sacred, 
> the non-instrumental and even the irrational. Social 
> constructivist theories of science nicely complement 
> postmodernists' angst against science. There are 
> many schools of social constructivism, including the 
> "strong programme" of the Edinburgh (Scotland) 
> school, and the "actor network" programme associated 
> with a school in Paris, France. The many convoluted 
> and abstruse arguments of these programmes do not 
> concern us here. Basically, these programmes assert 
> that modern science, which we take to be ! 
> moving closer to objective truth about nature, is 
> actually just one culture-bound way to look at 
> nature: no better or worse than all other sciences 
> of other cultures. Not just the agenda, but the 
> content of all knowledge is socially constructed: 
> the supposed "facts" of modern science are "Western" 
> constructions, reflecting dominant interests and 
> cultural biases of Western societies. 
> Following this logic, Indian critics of science, 
> especially those led by the neo-Gandhians such as 
> Ashis Nandy and Vandana Shiva, have argued for 
> developing local science which is grounded in the 
> civilisational ethos of India. Other well-known 
> public intellectuals, including such stalwarts as 
> Rajni Kothari, Veena Das, Claude Alvares and Shiv 
> Vishwanathan, have thrown their considerable weight 
> behind this civilisational view of knowledge. This 
> perspective also has numerous sympathisers among 
> "patriotic science" and the environmentalist and 
> feminist movements. A defence of local knowledges 
> against rationalisation and secularisation also 
> underlies the fashionable theories of 
> post-colonialism and subaltern studies, which have 
> found a worldwide following through the writings of 
> Partha Chatterjee, Gayatri Spivak, Homi Bhabha, 
> Dipesh Chakrabarty and others. All these 
> intellectuals and movements mentioned here have 
> their roots in movements for social justice, 
> environmental protectio! 
> n and women's rights - all traditional left-wing 
> causes. 
> Social constructivist and postmodernist attacks on 
> science have proven to be a blessing for all 
> religious zealots, in all major faiths, as they no 
> longer feel compelled to revise their metaphysics in 
> the light of progress in our understanding of nature 
> in relevant fields. But Hinduism displays a special 
> resonance with the relativistic and holistic thought 
> that finds favour among postmodernists. In the rest 
> of this two-part paper, I will examine the general 
> overlap between Hindu apologetics and postmodernist 
> view of hybridity (part I) and alternative sciences 
> (part II). 
> Postmodern "hybridity" and Hindu eclecticism 
> THE contemporary Hindu propagandists are inheritors 
> of the 19th century neo-Hindu nationalists who 
> started the tradition of dressing up the 
> spirit-centered metaphysics of orthodox Hinduism in 
> modern scientific clothes. The neo-Hindu 
> intellectuals, in turn, were (consciously or 
> unconsciously) displaying the well-known penchant of 
> generations of Sanskrit pundits for drawing 
> resemblances and correspondences between religious 
> rituals, forces of nature and human destiny. 
> Postmodernist theories of knowledge have 
> rehabilitated this "method" of drawing equivalences 
> between different and contradictory worldviews and 
> allowing them to "hybridise" across traditions. The 
> postmodernist consensus is that since truth about 
> the real world as-it-is cannot be known, all 
> knowledge systems are equivalent to each other in 
> being social constructions. Because they are all 
> equally arbitrary, and none any more objective than 
> other, they can be mixed and matched in order to 
> serve the needs of human beings to live well in 
> their own cultural universes. From the postmodern 
> perspective, the VHP justification of the guna 
> theory in terms of atomic physics is not anything to 
> worry about: it is merely an example of "hybridity" 
> between two different culturally constructed ways of 
> seeing, a fusion between East and West, tradition 
> and modernity. Indeed, by postmodernist standards, 
> it is not this hybridity that we should worry about, 
> but rather we should oppose the "positivi! 
> st" and "modernist" hubris that demands that 
> non-Western cultures should give up, or alter, 
> elements of their inherited cosmologies in the light 
> of the growth of knowledge in natural sciences. Let 
> us see how this view of hybridity meshes in with the 
> Hindutva construction of Vedic science. 
> It is a well-known fact that Hinduism uses its 
> eclectic mantra - "Truth is one, the wise call it by 
> different names" - as an instrument for 
> self-aggrandisement. Abrahamic religions go about 
> converting the Other through persuasion and through 
> the use of physical force. Hinduism, in contrast, 
> absorbs the alien Other by proclaiming its doctrines 
> to be only "different names for the One Truth" 
> contained in Hinduism's own Perennial Wisdom. The 
> teachings of the outsider, the dissenter or the 
> innovator are simply declared to be merely nominally 
> different, a minor and inferior variation of the 
> Absolute and Universal Truth known to Vedic Hindus 
> from time immemorial. Christianity and Islam at 
> least acknowledge the radical otherness and 
> difference of other faiths, even as they attempt to 
> convert them, even at the cost of great violence and 
> mayhem. Hinduism refuses to grant other faiths their 
> distinctiveness and difference, even as it proclaims 
> its great "tolerance". Hinduism's "toleranc! 
> e" is a mere disguise for its narcissistic obsession 
> with its own greatness. 
> Whereas classical Hinduism limited this 
> passive-aggressive form of conquest to matters of 
> religious doctrine, neo-Hindu intellectuals have 
> extended this mode of conquest to secular knowledge 
> of modern science as well. The tradition of claiming 
> modern science as "just another name" for the 
> spiritual truths of the Vedas started with the 
> Bengal Renaissance. The contemporary Hindutva 
> follows in the footsteps of this tradition. 
> The Vedic science movement began in 1893 when Swami 
> Vivekananda (1863-1902) addressed the World 
> Parliament of Religions in Chicago. In that famous 
> address, he sought to present Hinduism not just as a 
> fulfilment of all other religions, but also as a 
> fulfilment of all of science. Vivekananda claimed 
> that only the spiritual monism of Advaita Vedanta 
> could fulfil the ultimate goal of natural science, 
> which he saw as the search for the ultimate source 
> of the energy that creates and sustains the world. 
> Vivekananda was followed by another Bengali 
> nationalist-turned-spiritualist, Sri Aurobindo 
> (1872-1950). Aurobindo proposed a divine theory of 
> evolution that treats evolution as the adventures of 
> the World-Spirit finding its own fulfilment through 
> progressively higher levels of consciousness, from 
> matter to man to the yet-to-come harmonious 
> "supermind" of a socialistic collective. Newer 
> theories of Vedic creationism, which propose to 
> replace Darwinian evolution with "devolution" from 
> the original one-ness with Brahman, are now being 
> proposed with utmost seriousness by the Hare 
> Krishnas who, for all their scandals and 
> idiosyncrasies, remain faithful to the spirit of 
> Vaishnava Hinduism. 
> Vivekananda and Aurobindo lit the spark that has 
> continued to fire the nationalist imagination, right 
> to the present time. The Neo-Hindu literature of the 
> 19th and early 20th centuries, especially the 
> writings of Dayanand Saraswati, S. Radhakrishnan and 
> the many followers of Vivekananda, is replete with 
> celebration of Hinduism as a "scientific" religion. 
> Even secularists like Jawaharlal Nehru remained 
> captive of this idea that the original teachings of 
> Vedic Hinduism were consonant with modern science, 
> but only corrupted later by the gradual deposits of 
> superstition. Countless gurus and swamis began to 
> teach that the Vedas are simply "another name for 
> science" and that all of science only affirms what 
> the Vedas have taught. This scientistic version of 
> Hinduism has found its way to the West through the 
> numerous ashrams and yoga retreats set up, most 
> prominently, by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and his many 
> clones. 
> ALL these numerous celebrations of "Vedas as 
> science" follow a similar intellectual strategy of 
> finding analogies and equivalences. All invoke 
> extremely speculative theories from modern 
> cosmology, quantum mechanics, vitalistic theories of 
> biology and parapsychology, and other fringe 
> sciences. They read back these sciences into 
> Sanskrit texts chosen at will, and their meaning 
> decided by the whim of the interpreter, and claim 
> that the entities and processes mentioned in 
> Sanskrit texts are "like", "the same thing as", or 
> "another word for" the ideas expressed in modern 
> cosmology, quantum physics or biology. Thus there is 
> a bit of a Brahman here and a bit of quantum 
> mechanics there, the two treated as interchangeable; 
> there are references to "energy", a scientific term 
> with a definite mathematical formulation in physics, 
> which gets to mean "consciousness"; references to 
> Newton's laws of action and reaction are made to 
> stand for the laws of karma and reincarnation; 
> completely dis! 
> credited "evidence" from parapsychology and "secret 
> life of plants" are upheld as proofs of the presence 
> of different degrees of soul in all matter; 
> "evolution" is taught as the self-manifestation of 
> Brahman and so on. The terms are scientific, but the 
> content is religious. There is no regard for 
> consistency either of scientific concepts, or of 
> religious ideas. Both wholes are broken apart, 
> random connections and correspondences are 
> established and with great smugness, the two modes 
> of knowing are declared to be equivalent, and even 
> inter-changeable. The only driving force, the only 
> idea that gives this whole mish-mash any coherence, 
> is the great anxiety to preserve and protect 
> Hinduism from a rational critique and 
> demystification. Vedic science is motivated by 
> cultural chauvinism, pure and simple. 
> What does all this have to do with postmodernism, 
> one may legitimately ask. Neo-Hinduism, after all, 
> has a history dating back at least two centuries, 
> and the analogical logic on which claims of Vedic 
> science are based goes back to times immemorial. 
> Neo-Hinduism did not start with postmodernism, 
> obviously. And neither does Hindutva share the 
> postmodernist urgency to "overcome" and "go beyond" 
> the modernist fascination with progress and 
> development. Far from it. Neo-Hinduism and Hindutva 
> are reactionary modernist movements, intent on 
> harnessing a mindless and even dangerous 
> technological modernisation for the advancement of a 
> traditionalist, deeply anti-secular and illiberal 
> social agenda. Nevertheless, they share a 
> postmodernist philosophy of science that celebrates 
> the kind of contradictory mish-mash of science, 
> spirituality, mysticism and pure superstition that 
> that passes as "Vedic science". 
> For those modernists who share the Enlightenment's 
> hope for overcoming ignorance and superstition, the 
> value of modern science lies in its objectivity and 
> universality. Modernists see modern science as 
> having developed a critical tradition that insists 
> upon subjecting our hypotheses about nature to the 
> strictest, most demanding empirical tests and 
> rigorously rejecting those hypotheses whose 
> predictions fail to be verified. For the modernist, 
> the success of science in explaining the workings of 
> nature mean that sciences in other cultures have a 
> rational obligation to revise their standards of 
> what kind of evidence is admissible as science, what 
> kind of logic is reasonable, and how to distinguish 
> justified knowledge from mere beliefs. For the 
> modernists, furthermore, modern science has provided 
> a way to explain the workings of nature without any 
> need to bring in supernatural and untestable causes 
> such as a creator God, or an immanent Spirit. 
> For a postmodernist, however, this modernist faith 
> in science is only a sign of Eurocentrism and 
> cultural imperialism. For a postmodernist, other 
> cultures are under no rational obligation to revise 
> their cosmologies, or adopt new procedures for 
> ascertaining facts to bring them in accord with 
> modern science. Far from producing a uniquely 
> objective and universally valid account of nature, 
> the "facts" of modern science are only one among 
> many other ways of constructing other "facts" about 
> nature, which are equally valid for other cultures. 
> Nature-in-itself cannot be known without imposing 
> classifications and meaning on it which are derived 
> from cultural metaphors and models. All ways of 
> seeing nature are at par because all are equally 
> culture-bound. Modern science has no special claims 
> to truth and to our convictions, for it is as much 
> of a cultural construct of the West as other 
> sciences are of their own cultures. 
> This view of science is derived from a variety of 
> American and European philosophies of science, 
> associated mostly with such well-known philosophers 
> as Thomas Kuhn, Paul Feyerabend, W.O Quine, Ludwig 
> Wittgenstein and Michel Foucault. This view of 
> science has been gaining popularity among Indian 
> scholars of science since the infamous "scientific 
> temper" debates in early 1980s when Ashis Nandy, 
> Vandana Shiva and their sympathisers came out in 
> defence of local knowledges and traditions, 
> including astrology, goddess worship as cure for 
> small-pox, taboos against menstruation and (later 
> on) even sati. Over the next two decades, it became 
> a general practice in Indian scholarly writing to 
> treat modern science as just one way to adjudicate 
> belief, no different from any other tradition of 
> sorting out truth from mere group belief. 
> Rationalism became a dirty word and Enlightenment 
> became a stand-in for "epistemic violence" of 
> colonialism. 
> According to those who subscribe to this relativist 
> philosophy, the cross-cultural encounter between 
> modern science and traditional sciences is not a 
> confrontation between more and less objective 
> knowledge, respectively. Rather it is a 
> confrontation between two different cultural ways of 
> seeing the world, neither of which can claim to 
> represent reality-in-itself. Indeed, many radical 
> feminists and post-colonial critics go even further: 
> they see modern science as having lost its way and 
> turned into a power of oppression and exploitation. 
> They want non-Western people not just to resist 
> science but to reform it by confronting it with 
> their holistic traditional sciences. 
> What happens when traditional cultures do need to 
> adopt at least some elements of modern knowledge? In 
> such cases, postmodernists recommend exactly the 
> kind of "hybridity" as we have seen in the case of 
> Vedic sciences in which, for example, sub-atomic 
> particles are interpreted as referring to gunas, or 
> where quantum energy is interpreted to be the "same 
> as" shakti, or where karma is interpreted to be a 
> determinant of biology in a "similar manner" as the 
> genetic code and so on. On the postmodern account, 
> there is nothing irrational or unscientific about 
> this "method" of drawing equivalences and 
> correspondences between entirely unlike entities and 
> ideas, even when there may be serious contradictions 
> between the two. On this account, all science is 
> based upon metaphors and analogies that reinforce 
> dominant cultures and social power, and all "facts" 
> of nature are really interpretations of nature 
> through the lens of dominant culture. It is 
> perfectly rational, on this account, for! 
>  Hindu nationalists to want to reinterpret the 
> "facts" of modern science by drawing analogies with 
> the dominant cultural models supplied by Hinduism. 
> Because no system of knowledge can claim to know 
> reality as it really is, because our best confirmed 
> science is ultimately a cultural construct, all 
> cultures are free to pick and choose and mix various 
> "facts", as long as they do not disrupt their own 
> time-honoured worldviews. 
> This view of reinterpretation of "Western" science 
> to fit into the tradition-sanctioned, local 
> knowledges of "the people" has been advocated by 
> theories of "critical traditionalism" propounded by 
> Ashis Nandy and Bhiku Parekh in India and by the 
> numerous admirers of Homi Bhabha's obscure writings 
> on "hybridity" abroad. In the West, this view has 
> found great favour among feminists, notably Sandra 
> Harding and Donna Haraway, and among anthropologists 
> of science including Bruno Latour, David Hess and 
> their followers. 
> To conclude, one finds a convergence between the 
> fashionable left's position with the religious 
> right's position on the science question. The 
> extreme scepticism of postmodern intellectuals 
> toward modern science has landed them in a position 
> where they cannot, if they are to remain true to 
> their beliefs, criticise Hindutva's eclectic 
> take-over of modern science for the glory of the 
> Vedic tradition. 
> Meera Nanda is the author of Prophets Facing 
> Backward: Postmodern Critiques of Science and Hindu 
> Nationalism (Rutgers University Press, 2003). An 
> Indian edition of the book will be published by 
> Permanent Black in early 2004. 
> Copyright: 1995 - 2002 The Hindu 
> Republication or redissemination of the contents of 
> this screen are expressly 
> prohibited without the consent of The Hindu 

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VirenQuoting dbwanika <>:

> There is a book  ^”The Urban Experience?I usually return to whenever I 
> get time. David Harvey wrote it. 
> One question has disturbed me over the years, the question of 
> HOMELESSNESS IN WELFARE SOCIETIES or western societies. I^“ve imagined, 
> if the problem were to be fully solved human freedoms most like will be 
> reclaimed. (it is my opinion) 
> While I am sympathetic to societies like the USA, for its political, 
> societal and economic configuration, I still do not find answers as to 
> why homelessness in the first world should be a huge problem while the 
> same does not apply to the least archaic societies.
> Now, I do not know whether its contextual, performative problem with 
> definitional mis-representation of facts (low income house for the 
> poor) or an entirely medical problem associated to the psycho-
> pharmacological industry (mad homeless people) or a marginally argued 
> scientific descriptive problem (ontological status of homelessness).
> No? In fact the economist and the sociologist in tower have written 
> thousands of scientific papers to enlighten the world on the issue an 
> economist and all class categorisation touch. 
> We are not done as yet, since at every low economics indicator, 
> homelessness rises. Imagine the future of economics?
> Nevertheless  the problem persists and one can image it is a generated 
> social problem.
> b,.
> _________
> bwanika
> url:
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