Scientific Credentials (was Re: Tamil words in English)

Vidyasankar Sundaresan vsundaresan at HOTMAIL.COM
Mon Mar 2 04:11:40 UTC 1998

Luis Gonzalez-Reimann <reimann at UCLINK.BERKELEY.EDU> wrote -

>Now, R. Thompson is described on the book's cover as having received a
>in mathematics from Cornell University, and as having done research in
>quantum theory and mathematical biology at the State University of New
>and at Cambridge University (UK).  Have Dr. Thompson's scientific
>credentials helped him here?  Would our physicist friends on Indology
>consider this an appropriate discussion for a scientific forum on space
>exploration, because one has to keep an open mind?
>The ref. is: Vedic Cosmography and Astronomy, Richard L. Thompson,
>Bhaktivedanta Book trust (U.S.), pp. 130-134.

Thompson also claims that human beings co-existed with dinosaurs, that
there is fossil evidence to prove this, and that evolutionary biologists
and other scientists have covered this up. His scientific credentials do
not stop him from making bizarre claims, but his affiliation with his
chosen guru explains the phenomenon. On the other hand, it is also clear
that these statements have been made through Thompson, precisely because
he has the required credentials in scientific fields, so as to appeal to
a section of the targeted recipients of Krishna-consciousness teaching.
And irrespective of the merits of these statements, one must also admire
the aplomb with which an out-of-India religious organization thumbs its
nose at the scientific establishment, at a time when the major trend
among Indians is to seek an often non-existent "modern" and "scientific"
basis for their religious beliefs.

Actually, Thompson's case is a good example of why citing the presence
or absence of academic credentials can cut both ways. Any sane person,
with or without a degree in space exploration or biology, can see that
his arguments do not hold. I'm sure there are people in the humanities
who make outlandish claims too. What about Mortimer Adler, for instance?
He brings all his training in logic and philosophy to back his stance
that all Orientals (meaning Hindus and Buddhists, mainly) must accept
the broad Judeo-Christian tradition, and more specifically, creation
ex-nihilo and the philosophy of Thomas Aquinas. Why? Because the
Orientals have had the benefit of using science and technology, a gift
to them from the West. Apart from the historical fact that science in
17th-century Europe advanced by *rejecting* Christian theology, and the
contemporary fact that 20th-century science is not a "Western" monopoly,
and has little to do with Christian or Judaic religion, Adler's
arguments about religion are riddled with so many logical fallacies, it
would be a delight to see them answered by a traditional scholar from

On the other hand, someone without credentials in a humanistic field may
say things that may be worthwhile to listen to, at least once in a
while. That the someone holds a degree in science/engineering need not
always be held against him or her. Do not summarily dismiss everyone who
has had scientific training. You can see that I am making this statement
with a selfish motive in mind. :-)


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