A few prominent scientists have declared that only knowledge obtained through rational and objective analyses, i.e., scientific methodologies, is valid (Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow). These scientists emphasized that knowledge obtained from subjective means, e.g., spiritual pursuits, is nothing but fiction. Are these scientists justified in their opinions?

The objective of science is to acquire knowledge about the physical world and utilize that knowledge to make the world a better place to live. In conformity with these objectives, science has contributed immensely to our understanding of the material world and to improve our living conditions, including fighting poverty and hunger in the world. But, science also has contributed to misery and destruction in the world. Inventions such as chemical and biological weapons have made the world a less safe place to live. As Professor Adrian states, we can now destroy the world by the push of a button. Why would science that claims rationality and objectivity as the cornerstone of its research, ignore the negative outcomes from its research? Because science is silent when it comes to subjective human values. It does not consider its role to be an arbiter of ethics and morals or as a contributor to wisdom. It considers its role to be primarily disseminating knowledge about the material world.

Human life is more than about understanding the material world. As Ricard and Thuan state, ‘knowing the brightness of stars or the distance between them may have a certain utility, but it cannot teach us how to become better people. Only human thought can teach us about right and wrong because our minds are behind our lives’ experiences. The mind determines the way we see and act. If we must live a life of fulfillment and choose right over wrong, we need to transform ourselves through self-inquiry. We must understand the problems we have created for ourselves because of our egos. Such investigations are significantly different from scientific inquiries. We should not, therefore, restrict ourselves only to knowledge generated from lab experiments and empirical analyses. However subjective they may be, we must also acquire knowledge from other means such as intuition and experience. Our knowledge will be complete only when we know both about the nature of the material world and our own minds. The objective of both knowledge is to dissipate suffering. But, when we proclaim that only knowledge from scientific processes are valid and discard all else as fiction, we would defy our claim to objectively

Dr. Ram S Sriram