File spoon-archives/bhaskar.archive/bhaskar_2003/bhaskar.0312, message 361


Date: Mon, 5 Jan 2004 22:56:38 +0000
Subject: Re: BHA: Social Science, doing science & CR


>science in the modern sense was invented at the dawnn of modern society

Well, of course, what is modern about science is a modern invention. 
That's a tautology. By the sane token what is not modern about science 
predated modernity (and postmodernity)! How else do you suppose our 
foraging forebears figured out the importance of world-care 50,000 years 
ago? Or how to make an axe or a fish trap?

Pomo relativism can't think the universal in the concretely singular. 
It's up it own particularity -- capital's particularity.

It's a complicit dialectical pair with capitalist triumphalism. When you 
tell the bourgeois that he invented science, is it supposed to bother 
him?

Mervyn

In message <3FF29AEE.3020501-AT-krokodile.co.uk>, steve.devos 
<steve.devos-AT-krokodile.co.uk> writes
>No you are incorrect - science in the modern sense was invented at the 
>dawnn of modern society and did not predate earely capital.
>
>I am not avoiding the other issue - i'm simply not interested in the 
>phantasy that postmodernism plays into the hands of hindu and 
>nationalisms.
>regards
>steve
>
>Mervyn Hartwig wrote:
>
>> steve.devos <steve.devos-AT-krokodile.co.uk> writes
>>
>>> science is the dominant western idea
>>
>>
>> Rubbish. The law of value is (except that neither is just an idea, 
>>and dominant ideas don't dominate just at the level of ideas -- 
>>otherwise, e.g., USuk wouldn't have had to go into Iraq in the first 
>>place, nor remain there in force).  Science way predated the rise of 
>>generalized commodity production. Science as you know it is the 
>>systematic application of research to the expansion of capital's 
>>powers. It  wasn't always like that, nor does it have to be.
>>
>> And, as usual Steve, you evade the main point: that postmodernist 
>>relativism plays into the hands of Hindu and other nationalisms.
>>
>> It's been pretty well argued, in fact, that postmodernism itself is 
>>'the dominant western idea': the cultural logic of disorganized 
>>capitalism (Jameson, Anderson) (almost past its use-by date now though).
>>
>> Mervyn
>>
>>> How easy it is to read and understand this as a triumphalist 
>>>justification for the dominance of Western ideas... After all science 
>>>the dominant western idea and not critiques of science...
>>>
>>> Is this really what you want to argue for ?
>>>
>>> regards
>>> steve
>>>
>>> grendhal-AT-raggedclaws.com wrote:
>>>
>>>> I had to "clean up" the following essay, posted today by vvmurthy, 
>>>>so I could read it, and I thought others might appreciate a 
>>>>"cleaned-up" copy as well, so here it is:
>>>>
>>>> ----------
>>>>
>>>> ESSAY
>>>> Postmodernism, Hindu nationalism and 'Vedic science'
>>>>
>>>> MEERA NANDA
>>>>
>>>> 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.
>>>>
>>>> KAMAL NARANG
>>>>
>>>> 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 
>>>>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.
>>>>
>>>> PARTH SANYAL
>>>>
>>>> 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 
>>>>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 dresses 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 
>>>>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 
>>>>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
>>>>
>>>> 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 concern us here. Basically, 
>>>>these programmes assert that modern science, which we take to be 
>>>>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 
>>>>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  protection 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 
>>>>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 "positivist" 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 "tolerance" 
>>>>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 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 
>>>>reincarnation;  completely discredited "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 
>>>>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 
>>>>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 
>>>>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
>>>> ----------
>>>>
>>>> p.s. Here's another article list members might find interesting:
>>>>
>>>> Groff, Ruth. "The Truth of the Matter: Roy Bhaskar's Critical 
>>>>Realism and the
>>>> Concept of Alethic Truth." Philosophy of the Social Sciences 30.3 
>>>>(September
>>>> 2000): 407-436.
>>>>
>>>> Abstract: Presents a study on the theory of truth by Roy Bhaskar. 
>>>>Ontology of
>>>> alethic truth; Epistemology of alethic truth; Politics of alethic 
>>>>truth;
>>>> Analysis of the truth tetrapolity; Correspondence theory.
>>>>
>>>> Full text: http://tinyurl.com/2hhn5
>>>>
>>>>
>>>>
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