ICSJP ►Science And Philosophy In The Progress Of Society

Published: 06.12.2016
Updated: 15.12.2016

International Conference on Science and Jain Philosophy

(Dr. Krishnaswamy Kasturirangan, recipient of Padma Vibhushan and Padma Shree awards, is a past member of Rajya Sabha and Former Chairman ISRO and Secretary, Department of Space, Government of India (1994 to 2003). He is an M.Sc. (Physics), Ph.D. and has Honorary Doctorates of 16 Universities to his credit. He initiated several space missions of ISRO including Indian Remote sensing satellites, Astronomy missions and Indian Moon mission.)

Let me begin this address with a simple question, what is Science? Science is the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observations and experiments, basically aiming to find the truth of the existence of the Universe and its constituents. The second entity, religion can be defined as faith or belief and the rituals followed in worshipping God. It is interesting to note that this conference seeks to explore how science and religion should blend, keeping philosophy at the helm and aim to have a progressive society or smart society.

Is religion different from philosophy can be a question which ponders in the minds of common man. Religion and philosophy are different, but they are related. Religion is generally considered to be composed of a set of morals, rules, principles, and ethics that serve to guide one's way of living. This means practicing something with faith. Philosophy, on the other hand, is a bigger domain of discipline that tackles many concepts like metaphysics, the search for the ultimate truth, knowledge, values, reason and life itself. Aim of the philosophy is to attain wisdom. So, any philosophy whether Greek, Hindu, Christian, Buddhist or Jain will lead towards attaining wisdom, but the paths taken will differ depending on the ideologies of each one of them.

Greek Philosophy had its beginning in 6th Century BC and this is the most ancient philosophy. Greek philosophy not only included scientific thought, but it also is said to have inspired world-historical decisions with their own thinking and decided the path of modern civilization with the creation of science. Hans-Georg Gadamer, a German philosopher, in his attempt to find certain points of conflicts between ancient Greek philosophy and modern science observed 'enduring relevance' of ancient thought to modern science. He felt that, Greek philosophy gives access to a way of integrating the empirical sciences with the praxis of social life.

India has seen many schools of philosophical thought and they were formalized between 1000 BCE to the early centuries of the Common Era. Hindu philosophy, Buddhist philosophy and Jain philosophy were the important ones which are sustained and still practiced.

All of them have their root in India and branched out with little difference in their ideology. Hindu philosophy has six ways of looking at truth. They are the Nyaya, the Vaiseshika, the Sankhya, the Yoga, the Purva-Mimamsa and the Uttara-Mimamsa, or the Vedanta. These six sects of Hindu philosophy are the testimony of Vedas and Upanishad.

There is a misconception about Buddhist philosophy and Jain philosophy being same. Although, there are a few similarities between the two, such as belief in rebirth and ahimsa, they are markedly different in other aspects. Main concern of Buddhist metaphysics is to eliminate pain.

The word Jain is derived from Jina, meaning conqueror, victorious or old and wise. Jainism is one of the oldest religions practiced in India which suggest austere path to individuals who are caught in the cycle of birth and death to attain Liberation, i.e. Moksha. Mahavira was the last of the Thirthankaras in the lineage of 24 Thirthankars, which suggest that Jainism originated long before Mahavira.

The core of Jain Philosophy is Ahimsa'. Jain philosophy deals with metaphysics, reality, cosmology, ontology, epistemology and divinity. V R Gandhi, a Jain philosopher of 19th century is of the opinion that any philosophy or religion must be studied from all standpoints, and delve into details of what it says with regard to the origin of the universe, what its idea is with regard to God, in respect of the soul and its destiny, and what it understands as the laws of the soul's life. He also feels that religion is not different from philosophy, and religion and philosophy do not differ from science.

It is interesting to note that, both Hindu philosophy and Jain philosophy had fair knowledge of existence of atoms as the building block of matter much before western civilization came up with the Quantum theory. According to Jain philosophy, matter carried an important influence in the lives of the individual jīvas. Jainism advocated studying matter in its various manifestations and implications. The atomic theory of Jainism was thus a product of deep enquiry into the mysteries of the material world and to find solution to the problem of the human suffering. According to belief of Jainism, an atom is without any point, without a beginning and without an end. It is eternal, can neither be created nor destroyed. It is invisible and imperceptible. Only the adepts can perceive it through their all knowing vision.

It is interesting to know how scientists are also philosophers and their knowledge of philosophy has influenced their contribution to science. Examples to this are Pythagoras and Aristotle of ancient Greek who were first considered as philosophers and then as Scientists. Pythagoras was a mathematician well known for a theorem in Geometry named after him. He is also credited with founding a philosophical school. Aristotle is well known for his logic of deductive reasoning and elucidation of nature, psychology, ethics, politics and art. He was the first one to identify that earth is spherical in shape.

Charles Darwin, a 19th century European Naturalist's discovery of the theory of evolution by Natural selection. up held that contemporary species heroically evolved from ancestral ones, through a process known as Natural Selection. Until then it was widely believed that the different species had been separately created by God. So persuasive was the evidence Darwin produced for his theory that by the start of the 20th century it was accepted as scientific orthodoxy, despite considerable theological opposition. His philosophy, Darwin's theory, forms the basis of the modern biological world.

Albert Einstein is regarded as the greatest theoretical physicist of the twentieth century or "possibly of all times". His contribution to modern physics, his study of the photoelectric effect, for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize and his theory of relativity with its profound modifications of the notions of space, time and gravitation have fundamentally changed and deepened the physical and philosophical conception of the Universe. Apart from his scientific ingenuity, his courageous struggle for human rights, social Justice, and international peace has assured him a unique place in the history. Einstein's philosophical education made a profound difference in the way he did physics. He was not religious per se but he was a philosopher. I give below a quote from Einstein, which speaks of his philosophical approach towards science and society.

"What Artistic and Scientific Experience Have in Common - Where the world ceases to be the scene of our personal hopes and wishes, where we face it as free beings admiring, asking, and observing, there we enter the realm of Art and Science. If what is seen and experienced is portrayed in the language of logic, we are engaged in science. If it is communicated through forms whose connections are not accessible to the conscious mind but are recognized intuitively as meaningful, then we are engaged in art. Common to both is the loving devotion to that which transcends personal concerns and volition."

It is clearly evident that all forms/schools of philosophy aim to look for truth in the existence of universe. Is the universe eternal or non-eternal is another question which contemplates in the realm of philosophy. So, 'Science' and 'Philosophy' have a common goal to unravel the truth for the benefit of mankind. Any scientific discovery, no matter which is the field (Science or social science) aims towards betterment of human life. Philosophy is a binding force in achieving this in the universe.

Scientists do not simply record the results of experiments and observations in log book. They usually want to explain in terms of a general theory. This is not always easy to do, but there have been some striking successes. One of the key problems in philosophy of science is to understand how techniques such as experimentation, observation and theory construction have enabled scientists to unravel so many of nature's secrets.

According to Philipp Frank, a physicist, mathematician and also an influential philosopher, there is a widespread belief that the rising contempt for tolerance and peace is somehow related to the rising influence of scientific thought and the declining influence of the ethics, religion and art as guides of human actions. He therefore feels that training of generations of scientists in mere science, without making them familiar with the world of human behavior, would be harmful to the cause of civilization. Whether we like it or not, scientists will participate more and more in the leadership of society in the future. Also, there is hardly any doubt by now that the contribution of the scientists to our political life has been more on the side of peace and tolerance than have the contributions of the students of law or government or for that matter, of Philosophy proper.

In the twentieth century, two theoretical frameworks emerged for formulating the laws of physics. One of these frameworks was Albert Einstein's general theory of relativity, a theory that explains the force of gravity and the structure of space and time. The other was quantum mechanics, a radically different formalism for describing physical phenomena using probability. By the late 1970s, these two frameworks had proven to be sufficient to explain most of the observed features of the universe, from elementary particles to atoms to the evolution of stars and the universe as a whole.

Here is a quote from Albert Einstein's book, "Out of My Later Years" which speaks of his approach towards humanity and I find it relevant to be mentioned here to substantiate the fact that pursuit of both science and philosophy was mainly to address and improve the quality of life on this universe. The quote is "A human being is part of a whole, called by us "universe," a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest... a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our tasks must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty."

In 1998, two teams of astronomers studying distant supernovae made the remarkable discovery that the expansion of the universe is speeding up. Yet, according to Einstein's theory of General Relativity, gravity should lead to a slowing of the expansion. To explain cosmic acceleration, cosmologists are faced with two possibilities: Either 75% of the universe exists in an exotic form, now called dark energy, that exhibits a gravitational force opposite to the attractive gravity of ordinary matter, or General Relativity must be replaced by a new theory of gravity on cosmic scales. Big Bang model describes current understanding of the universe. New discoveries, such as dark matter and dark energy lead us to refine our model. Science is an ongoing process - forcing us to test our model through prediction and observation. The more tests it passes, the greater is our confidence in it.

All these efforts of both scientists and philosophers are for a better society and better tomorrow, which is healthy both physically and mentally. A path to achieve this can be through Yoga and Meditation.

Yoga and meditation is a way to develop wisdom and compassion. Meditation helps in acquiring steadiness of the mind and the ability to see deeply into the truth of our experience; meditation is a component of the practice that enables us to open our heart to others, and ourselves and to recognize our connection to all of life.

If we train our mind to meditate, we will gradually become more and more peaceful and we will experience a purer and purer form of happiness. Ultimately this will bring stability to mind and to face and handle difficult situation. By training in meditation, we create an inner space and clarity that enables us to control our mind regardless of the external circumstances. Gradually we develop mental equilibrium and experience permanent inner peace known as 'liberation' or 'nirvana', ultimate truth of Jain philosophy.

Finally, I conclude with a passage from one of the well known Kannada literary works by Dr D V Gundappa in Mankuthimmana Kagga (translated to English) which high lights the blending role of Science and Sages in uplifting the society at large.

"New Leaves and old roots what makes a tree magnificent. New Knowledge and old principles meld to become dharma If wisdom of the sages can blend with the new sciences, It would be for the benefit of the humanity." —Mankuthimma


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Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Ahimsa
  2. Albert Einstein
  3. Aristotle
  4. Consciousness
  5. Dark Energy
  6. Dark Matter
  7. Dharma
  8. Discipline
  9. Einstein
  10. Hans-Georg Gadamer
  11. International Conference on Science and Jain Philosophy
  12. Jain Philosophy
  13. Jainism
  14. Jina
  15. Krishnaswamy Kasturirangan
  16. Mahavira
  17. Meditation
  18. Moksha
  19. Nyaya
  20. Pythagoras
  21. Quantum Mechanics
  22. Quantum Theory
  23. Sabha
  24. Sankhya
  25. Science
  26. Soul
  27. Space
  28. Tolerance
  29. Vedanta
  30. Vedas
  31. Yoga
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