Science and Religion Dialogue in India

Science and religion dialogue is not alien to India. The conflict between Science and Religion is not an Indian problem. It is more a western issue. Science in India has always grown in the arms of religion. Indian atheism is tolerant of religion. It flourishes within the ambit of religion. We do not really have militant atheism as we can trace in the West. This is why Indian ethos inscribes a welcome for an inter-growth of Science and Religion. Besides these complementary and harmonious journeys of both Science and Religion, the dialogue between them becomes simultaneously an Interreligious dialogue. There is a specific contribution of the Christians in India towards the growth of this dialogue.

1. Science and Religion in Postcolonial India

A newly independent nation saw Science as a paradigm for Indian modernity. Jawaharlal Nehru’s proclamation of the dams as the new temples of modern India is well known. He clearly saw Science as a tool that will take India into the modern world with its scientific apparatus and rationality. This primacy of Science did not position a conflict with religion as India embraced equal respect to all religions by embracing secularism. Dharm nishpekshta with its sarv dharma sama bhava remained true to the all welcoming ethos of our civilization that believes in Vasudhaiva Ktumbhakam. We can therefore identify favourable State-Science relations in India. Thus we can notice the seeds of Science and Religion interactions that were sown during the colonial period, especially by the Jesuits in India were taken to new levels. It is well documented that the Jesuits brought the first telescope to India, calculated the latitude and longitudes accurately and developed accurate cartographies as well as have the credit of initiating the first graduation in pure science in St. Xavier College in Kolkata. There is another legacy that conditioned the way science and religion developed in postcolonial India. Postcolonial, India saw that the practice of science was dominated by the Brahmins who were beneficiaries of English education of the colonial era. This built a perception that Brahmins were the natural inheritors of the project of Science in India. This means the lower castes have little or no presence in the field of science. Unfortunately, this inequality enjoys religious sanction. Hence, Science and Religion dialogue has the challenge to bring about a levelling of participation in the field of science.

2. Postcolonial Refusal to live the Past of the West

Colonial India like other colonial sites in the world, lacked contemporaneity with the West. It meant that there was always a gap between India and the West. This lack of contemporaneity become the foundation of the white men’s burden. Science along with Education, Western Culture and Religion , therefore, was seen as a tool of civilizing Indians. It was thought to rationalize Indians and thus overcome the darkness of superstition reigning in our society. Hence, based on the presence or absence of science, India came to be described as lacking modernity or becoming modern. The growth of science thus was seen as the power to modernize India. This bias led to the abandoning of several ancient Indian systems of Knowledge like the Ayurveda as unscientific. In order to enter modernity India had to put to test the scientificity of its ancient knowledge systems. This opened doors for knowledge piracy of the knowledge systems of our indigenous people. It is also because of this reason, we may have some fundamentalists claim that India had its own science in ancient times. Modern science, therefore, became a benchmark to identify its image and likeness in our ancient traditions, pearls of wisdom and mythologies. Hence, it became fashionable to say India already had aircraft, cloning technology or plastic surgery before modern science discovered it in our days.

3. SRD in Postcolonial India

Thanks to the work of Job Kozhamthadam, we can locate an integration of Science and Religion that is called SRD ( Science and Religion Dialogue) in our country. His work tries to bring the best of the latest Science and deepest insights of Religions in dialogue to build better humanity and a better India. His Indian Institute of Science and Religion (IISR), Delhi has pioneered and has become an active catalyst of dialogue between Science and Religion in India. Kozhamthadam’s work is described as a constructive collaboration of Science and Religion. He traces the roots of this collaboration in the human quest for knowledge and the thirst for the actualization of human potentials to the fullest. Its sister concern Jnana Deepa Centre for Science and Religion, Pune where among other things, we have a Master’s Programme in Science, Philosophy and Religion (MSPR). Working at the Jnana Deepa Centre for Science and Religion, Kuruvilla Pandikatu insists that even where there is no real conflict between Science and Religion in India, a dialogue between them is necessary for the sake of an enriching future for humans that will be propelled by a renewed vision of God, Humanity and the World derived from the dialogue. Institute of Science and Religion (ISR), little Flower Seminary, Aluva is another sister organization of IISR. While carrying a creative dialogue of Science and Religion, It publishes the only Science and Religion Journal, Omega in the field of the interface of Science and Religion in India. Science and Religion Sangam (SRS), in Goa, is another important sister concern of IIRS and is actively involved in the work of dialogue between Science and Religion. Its Founder Director, Victor Ferrao has the credit of being the first Indian to do a PhD in the field of Science and Religion Dialogue. Besides, the above there are several other sister organizations of IISR promoting dialogue between Science and Religion dialogue in India which includes scholars from Hindu, Muslim and other faith communities.

Conclusion

The Science and Religion Dialogue in India has become creative, vibrant and a promising field. We can notice that the movement of dialogue between Science and Religion has come a long way in India. From here it can only grow and assist us to build peace and dialogue with Religions as well as draw the deepest values and teachings of Religions to dialogue with the latest findings of Science so as to usher in a better India.

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