I’ll wrap up my Hinduism series by returning to the question that inspired it all:
I would be interested in how Hindu theologians and scientists square their belief in reincarnation with the science that shows that the world came to exist at a given point in time. Future blog topic on intersection of Hinduism and space-time physics?
The above is just one of many cosmological questions Hindus would have to square. As I’ve described before, religious Hindus believe in astrology. Or to be more precise, Hindus will oftentimes act and behave as if astrology were true. Hindus will also oftentimes act and behave as if modern cosmology were true. The key point is that those two sets of instances rarely overlap.
My grandmother was the first female physics lecturer at Osmania University. She also selected my mother’s wedding date after consulting a Hindu astrologer. The idea that she should have chosen between these two identities, that they needed to be consistent, and that she should have spent intellectual and emotional energy squaring and reconciling them is false. She succeeded just fine without bothering. As did my parents in their medical practices.
As so often happens when I wrestle with alleged conflicts between science and religion, I come to a Barbara Herrnstein-Smith passage that perfectly captures my thoughts:
We are all aware of the diverse array of ideas and dispositions that we carry around in our own heads (and bodies): creedal statements learned in childhood, emotion-laden memories and habits, academically acquired knowledge, individually worked-out convictions that vary in strength and articulateness from one context to another, vagrant images, transient impulses, and so forth. In the face of such evidence of the fluidity, variability, and heterogeneity of cognitive states, cognitive processes, and mental content-types, the continued invocation and deployment of static, atomistic, logicist, and dualistic conceptions of belief by philosophers of mind and cognitive scientists is itself a revealing example of the peculiar (and officially irrational) operations of human cognition.
In short: stop insisting people need to or should square their beliefs. They don’t.