[Advaita-l] Advaitic position vis-a-vis cosmo-genesis & naturalistic evolution

S Jayanarayanan sjayana at yahoo.com
Fri May 13 15:29:10 CDT 2005

--- "harij at excite.com" <harij at excite.com> wrote:

> Respected Members,
> I don't know whether you will find my queries posted in this
> mail relevant to this group. With some amount of reluctance i
> proceed to present my queries for i don't know whom else to
> approach than the learned members of this forum. Of late, i'm
> into reading few works of Richard Dawkins. And it has been
> quite disturbing to say the least. As someone who is never
> sure of his spiritual outlook on life, but one trying to get a
> hold, i'm afraid whether all this talk related to life
> emerging by chance through organic evolution, natural
> selection, vestigial organs, junk-DNA,random mutations,
> abiogenesis, speciation, common ancestor will blow me off my
> ground. More so because I'm tuned to believe that our life
> becomes complete and meaninful only against the premise of an
> intelligent absolute being present.

Dawkins is an evolutionist who believes in physicalism, the
doctrine that everything that exists is physical.

Physicalism is by far the most prevalent viewpoint in the world
today, due to the spectacular success of science in explaining
observations pertaining to the physical world. One is tempted to
believe that since science is able to explain so many things of
the physical world, perhaps everything is actually only
physical, and that science explains everything.

Here is what is believable about physicalism:

Everything that is physical can only be subject to change by
another physical entity. 

In other words: a physical entity cannot be "influenced" by a
non-physical entity (if there ever is some such thing).

For example, the curdling of milk depends upon the presence of
milk, the presence of bacteria and the presence of temperature.
Given these physically measurable quantities, the curdling of
milk is inevitable.

Therefore, the physicalist asks, "Given that the existence of
physical objects explains the curdling of milk, the movement of
astronimical objects, the genetic tendencies of an individual,
why do you think that there exists anything other than the

There are, however, some problems in accepting physicalism

1) The scientific theories are themselves made up of entities
like mathematical equations, words and meanings, etc. The
physicalist is unable to prove that the number "4" or the
meaning of a sentence "Physicalism is true" are physical

Stephen Hawking, one of the very great living physicists, writes
in his book "A Brief History of Time", "[A scientific theory]
exists only in our minds and does not have any other reality
(whatever that might mean)."

Note what Hawking is admitting -- he doesn't even know whether
his own scientific theories (that he is trying to pass of as an
explanation of "everything") -- actually exists! Is this a
believable viewpoint?!

For the claim that "Only physical objects exist, and science
explains everything", the repartee is, "Everything, except the
existence of scientific theories themselves."

2) When one searches for an explanation of a phenomenon, it is
necessary to examine every bit that goes into the explanation to
see if some things have been "left out" (often called an
"explanatory gap"). For example, if one seeks an explanation of
"Why does the earth move round the sun?", the explanation,
"Because they are both very big in size" is insufficient.

There are huge "explanatory gaps" that physicalism has been
unable to fill when it comes to questions that pertain to
consciousness. For example, no amount of scientific reasoning,
upto now, has succeeded in explaining these experiences:

"Sweetness of Sugar"
"Melody of music"
"Pleasure and Pain"

Of course, there are always some "die-hard physicalists" who
explain the above experiences as:

"Sweetness of Sugar" = "Movement of neurons"
"Melody of music" = "Movement of neurons"
"Pleasure and Pain" = "Movement of neurons"

The further question of, "Why is the movement of neurons
resulting in the *sweetness* of sugar instead of *bitterness* of
sugar?" is NEVER explained by physicalism. Physicalism is a
convenient way to deny that there is any such thing as

I'm not sure if my thoughts have helped, but thought I'd add my


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