Can Science Lead Us to Truth?
By Dvijamani Gaura Das
The Modern Scientific Method (theory based on empiric observation) appears to rest upon the supposition that all perceivable phenomena operate under consistent physical laws and forces unaltered throughout history (see the theory of Uniformitarianism). It is axiomatic that the laws governing the perceivable universe are the same now as they were in antiquity, and will continue to be so into the future. In other words, new laws are not introduced into the cosmic situation, nor are existing laws transgressed or made unmanifest. This leaves a vast array of the subtle interplay of energies and their governing laws to be charted and analyzed by the scientists of this tiny planet, many of whom wish to discover the origin of the evolving and revolving phenomena of this universe.
Those who exercise basic human reasoning accept that the integrity and persistence of measurable traits relies upon a transcendent Controller who continually wills it to be so. Such absolute correspondence of a sole Controller’s willpower and instantaneous manifestation of physical reality is termed in Sanskrit as satya sankalpa. What He wills is simultaneously manifest as truth. Therefore, investigation into the will, purpose and Personality of Godhead should be the primary focus of any serious truth seeker. It is said miyate anena iti maya; “That by which forms are measured is maya”. Maya in this case means illusion, or non-reality. Reality, on the other hand, is immeasurable and untraceable by the (necessarily) limited exertion of sensual, mental or intellectual powers.
To study terrestrial laws of physics is to study a particular subset of conditional reality (apara prakriti) which is accessible to the sensual and cognitive powers of humans conditioned to this particular plane of material reality. The earthly realm and the bodies born thereof by definition delimit the perceptive powers of materially conditioned souls. To understand something in full means to understand its origin, if we take it that an effect must be present in its cause. The cause which has enacted the universal laws cannot possibly be detected by those whose senses and cognitive powers are generated by and adapted to its separated effects, just as one may never be able to guess that a butterfly came from a caterpillar simply by studying the butterfly’s physical composition. Or, another example is to seek the ultimate cause of a snowflake by a study of its properties. One can understand its atomic constituents and the forces working upon it, but the ultimate cause will remain hidden. The sun, by its powerful rays, evaporates the ocean water and causes it to be transferred to far away places. The sun creates the clouds by the action of its heat at surface level. The movement of the wind is also influence by the sun, carrying the clouds to colder regions, thus creating a situation wherein snowflakes are formed. Without the dissipation of the sun’s energies, snowflakes wouldn’t appear. But how much can one understand about the great sun by studying a snowflake? In the case of the Absolute Reality, its state of being can be compared to that of the Sun, which is inexhaustible. The Absolute Truth, the source of everything, is never altered or depleted in the slightest by its work of generating countless universes. As stated in the Isopanisad (Invocation):
The Personality of Godhead is perfect and complete. And because He is completely perfect, all emanations from Him, such as this phenomenal world, are perfectly equipped as a complete whole. Whatever is produced of the Complete Whole is also complete by itself. And because He is the Complete Whole, even though so many complete units emanate from Him, He remains the complete balance.
Therefore, the search for the underlying (and supramundane) scientific principle which governs our perceivable world of matter must be pursued through a non-material process.
Is it conceivable that the scientific approach could ever reveal noumena, or transcendental objectives? Srila Prabhupada, the greatest exponent of Vedic knowledge in the modern era, has explained that the highest achievement possible through empiricism is realization of the Brahman effulgence. Although Jnana (empirical research) is a form of yoga, it could scarcely be said that modern science is tantamount to jnana, which is characterized in its mature state as the ability to distinguish spirit from matter. If this power of distinction between matter and anti-matter is taken as the ultimate definition of jnana, then it is very difficult to accord much merit to modern scientists, who appear to merely discover and design complicated configurations of material particles. It doesn’t seem to be actual buddhi (higher intelligence) that they display. Their solutions and discoveries don’t last, destined to be dashed away into oblivion. It appears as childish stubbornness to stick to the conviction that ultimate reality is discoverable by mundane means. An honest and mature scientist will accept alternative methods of exploration since the existence of a multi-dimensional reality must be entertained. Such methods are most comprehensively delineated in the original Vedic texts, specifically those describing conscious evolution through yoga. The genuine, truly broad-minded scientist will rigorously apply these time-tested methods.