Is Chaitanya Vaishnavism opposed to the theory of evolution?

I recently met a young smart Indian girl studying in the tenth grade who grew up in America. I started to talk to her about science. When I inquired about the theory of evolution, she replied: “the theory of evolution is a conspiracy by scientists to reject God. It has no basis as God is in control who created everything and is running everything.” She told me she learned this from a ‘preacher’ who had visited the US from a popular Krishna temple in India.

I pointed outside to a tree in my backyard and asked her to show me how Krishna was growing the tree. Could she see Krishna watching it and controlling its growth? She had no answer. But it got her thinking for sure, and later on, she thanked me for giving her an alternate perspective. Here was a smart student who excelled in her studies but who had never been trained to critically evaluate ideas about the natural world.

Indians in the US have been a successful minority in large part because of their commitment to education, of which science is a huge part. An Indian immigrant who held strong views opposed to science was likely rare. With the advent of some modern versions of Chaitanya Vaishnavism, they are now falling prey to pseudo-scientific ideas like intelligent design ‘theory’. This is harmful for children. For example, see the paragraphs below from a statement by the National Academy of Sciences on this topic –

“Regardless of the careers that they ultimately select, to succeed in today’s scientifically and technologically sophisticated world, all students need a sound education in science. Many of today’s fast-growing and high-paying jobs require a familiarity with the core concepts, applications, and implications of science. To make informed decisions about public policies, people need to know how scientific evidence supports those policies and whether that evidence was gathered using well-established scientific practice and principles. Learning about evolution is an excellent way to help students understand the nature, processes, and limits of science in addition to concepts about this fundamentally important contribution to scientific knowledge.

Given the importance of science in all aspects of modern life, the science curriculum should not be undermined with nonscientific material. Teaching creationist ideas in science classes confuses what constitutes science and what does not. It compromises the objectives of public education and the goal of a high-quality science education.”

Traditional Vaishnavism and Chaitanya Vaishnavism in particular, do not demand rejection of science to perform bhakti. Shri Ramanuja used Vedantic arguments to offer a detailed critique of the intelligent design argument (see paper by C. Mackenzie Brown). The following are conversations on this topic with Shri Satyanarayana dasa Babaji in the context of the Bhagavatam and Chaitanya Vaishnavism (to be read in sequence).

Categories: Science

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