Analysis of Objective Sciences
An objective scientist provides a narrow definition for science as that which pertains only to the objectifiable entities using the objective tools. For example, he says that the existence of God cannot be scientifically established as His existence cannot be proved. Obviously the proof that a scientist is looking for is perceptibility, using objective tools of investigation which themselves are limited to only objectifiable entities. He presumes that God is also an object that can be precisely defined in order to differentiate Him from the rest of the objects in the universe, and is therefore quantifiable using perceptual data. If an object cannot be established by using his objective tools, then he asserts that any assumption of its existence becomes blind belief or at the most speculative.
No object can establish its own existence, since it is not a conscious entity. A chair does not say ‘I exist’; a conscious entity has to establish its existence. A scientist, who dismisses the existence of God, since it cannot be proved using his objective tools, takes his own existence for granted without questioning it. He cannot establish his own existence or that he is a conscious entity using the same objective tools that he is using to establish the existence of God. The reason is that he, as a subject knower, cannot be known since he cannot objectify the subject knower. He knows that he exists and that he is conscious entity, without even questioning the validity of his assertions.
The definition of a subject is ‘that which cannot be objectified’. I cannot question my own existence, since the very questioning presupposes my existence. An object cannot become a subject, since only a conscious entity can be a subject. A subject cannot become an object since a subject is a conscious entity and not an inert entity. Most importantly, from my reference point, I am the only subject in this universe since everything I know or that can be known is only an object. It includes all others, both living and non-living things. You may say that you exist and you are a conscious entity. However, from my reference point, your existence is established only when I hear you or see you or touch you, etc. Without the perceptual data I cannot establish your existence in the universe. You become another object of my perception. Hence, from each person’s reference point, he is the only subject in the universe and everything or everyone else is an object that has to be either perceived or inferred. Thus, without the subject I, the object this, or person you, cannot be established as reasoned above by the statement that the existence of any object is established by the knowledge of its existence.
‘I’ cannot be known as an object of knowledge since I am the subject; but at the same time I know that I exist and I am conscious, without using any objective tools to establish these. For example, even in a pitch dark room, where I say I do not know the presence of any object, I know that I am there and that I am a conscious entity. I can negate or dismiss the whole world and even God for that matter, but I cannot negate myself since I have to be there to negate myself.
In addition, an objective scientist does not recognize the fact that, if God exists he cannot be an object of perception, since one can only perceive finite objects. God, if He exists, cannot be finite since any finite entity gets limited by other finite entities; and any limited entity cannot be God, by definition. On the other hand, the infinite is imperceptible and undefinable. Even the word ‘infinite’ is only negation of finiteness as attribute. God being a creator, as envisioned by all religions of the world, has to be a conscious-existent entity, since an unconscious entity or a non-existent entity cannot create. The existence of an infinite conscious entity cannot be proved by using objective tools which are limited. Hence, the basis on which an objective scientist dismisses the presence or absence of God is invalid and therefore inadmissible.
In essence, the objective scientist is being very unscientific in his investigation of God, and therefore his very conclusion that the existence of God is more a belief than a fact itself has no basis. We are not proving the existence of God here, but only dismissing an objective scientist’s assertion that He does not exist because He is imperceptible. In fact we can conclude that anything that is perceptible cannot be God; and, if He exists, He has to be all-pervading or omnipresent, as all religions declare. In essence, objective sciences can neither prove nor disprove the existence of God, since the investigative means (pramANa-s) are limited. They are valid only for limited objectifiable entities.
Limitation of Objective knowledge:
There are several other limitations for objective knowledge. All objective knowledge is partial, since it involves only one of the three components involved in the knowing process; object, knower, and the means of knowledge. By mutual exclusion, each limits the other. Hence any objective knowledge involves only transactional or working knowledge to facilitate transactions in the objective world, but cannot reveal the complete science or truth about the object under investigation.
Let us take the example of a chair. I say the chair is there because I see it; and as we discussed before, without my seeing it (or perceiving it via my senses) its existence is indeterminate. There are several other problems in considering that the chair is real because I see it. First, what is seen is not really a chair but the light that falls on the chair and gets reflected. The reflected light reaches my retina, forming an image of the chair, which is further transmitted by an electrical signal via the optical nerve system to the brain. Perhaps a neuroscientist will elaborate further on the brain mechanisms, but this is the limit that objective science can reach.
However, seeing involves the gross measurable electrical signal being further transformed into a subtle thought in the mind by some mysterious code that the scientist is unable to unravel using his objective tools. A thought (vRRitti) is not amenable for measurement by objective tools. In the modern day, everybody is familiar with how a computer works using a programing language. The programing code converts the input from electrical signals into software that the machine can understand. Similarly God, or what we can call ‘nature’, has provided some intelligent programing code that transforms the electrical input from nervous system into thoughts that the mind can read or know. The brain is the hardware and the mind and thoughts are like software.
Objective sciences cannot establish even the existence of a mind or a thought but we all know that we have a mind and we think. Philosophers and psychologists have analyzed the mind, each in their own way. For example, whether the mind is matter or not is still a debatable question in science. Vedanta considers that mind is also a matter but is made up of subtle matter different from gross, just as software is different from hardware. Hardware is required to use the software. Without the brain, the mind cannot function but mind is different from brain. No objective tools can be used to quantify thoughts or show how one thought differs from other, since they are imperceptible. No scientist can say that the existence of a thought is a belief or speculation, though he cannot prove its existence using his tools; even to deny or use his tools he has to think.
I cannot know your thoughts, though I can know you are thinking when you communicate your thoughts by a common language. The western philosopher, Descartes, made the famous statement ‘I think therefore I am’, while Vedanta says ‘I am therefore I can think’. I can also exist without thoughts as in the deep-sleep state.
Coming back to our chair, the existence of a chair is ‘as though’ transformed into the existence of a thought in my mind, which the conscious entity, I, the knower, using the mind, can see. Hence, what I see is not really the chair out there, but its subtle impression in the mind as thought. The contents of the thought are nothing but the reflected attributes of the objects that I see. In essence, I become conscious of the existence of the thought in my mind, and therefore conscious of the existence of a chair out there. (For more, in depth analysis of the perceptual process, see the ‘Critical Analysis of vedAanta paribhAshA’). I do not really see a chair but only the reflected light from the chair. Similarly, I do not see any object without light illumining the object.
The same thing happens inside my mind; I do not see (recognize) a thought unless the light of consciousness (that I am) illumines the thought so that I may become conscious of the thought, and therefore conscious of the object out there. Hence, it is not the object that I see directly, but only its reflected light from the object which forms the corresponding thought in my mind; and again it is not the thought that I see but the reflected light of consciousness that I am.
If I am color-blind then I cannot see the true colors of the chair. In addition, that ‘what I see’ is ‘what is there’ (i.e. it is not hallucination) can be ascertained only when I go and sit on the chair or transact with it; and that involves use of my organs of action (karmendriya-s). Hence, the chair that I see is transactionally real only when I can transact with it. Similarly, the whole world that I see becomes a transactional reality (vyAvahArika satyam) when both sense organs (j~nAnendriya-s) and organs of action (karmendriya-s) ascertain its existence. Vedanta says that transactional reality is not absolute reality.