Western intellectual history has benefited from a rich and sophisticated conversation between theology and science, leaving us with centuries of scientific and theological literature on the subjects. Yet the Hindu traditions are virtually unused in responding to the challenging questions raised in the science and religion dialogue. This book replies to the sciences by drawing from an important Hindu text called the Bhagavata Purana, as well as its commentaries, and philosophical disciplines such as Samkhya-Yoga. One of the greatest challenges facing Hindu traditions since the nineteenth century is their own self-understanding in light of science and technology. Hoping to establish the conceptual foundations for a mutually beneficial dialogue between the Hindu Theologies and the Western Sciences, Jonathan B. Edelmann faces that challenge directly. Since so much of the Hinduism-science discussion is tangled in misconstrual, Edelmann clarifies fundamental issues in each tradition, for example the definition of consciousness, the means of generating knowledge and the goal of knowledge itself. He argues that although Darwinian theory seems to entail a materialistic view of consciousness, the Bhagavata's views provide an alternative framework for thinking about Darwinian theory. Furthermore, Edelmann argues that objectivity is a hallmark of modern science, and this is an intellectual virtue shared by the Bhagavata. Lastly, he critiques the view that science and religion have different objects of knowledge (that is, the natural world vs. God), arguing that many Western scientists and theologians have found science helpful in thinking about God in ways similar to that of the Bhagavata.
In this enterprising study, Jonathan Edelmann shows how the analysis of an ancient Indian text, the Bhagavata Purana, throws into sharp relief the often unquestioned metaphysical naturalism of the modern life sciences. The degree to which a meaningful dialogue can be constructed between the ancient and the modern is a question handled with originality and sensitivity. The result is a fascinating and rewarding exploration of contrasting cultures that, throughout the book, meet in suggestive and surprising ways.
- John Hedley Brooke, Oxford University
"Jonathan B. Edelmann achieves what many talk about and few accomplish--the opening of an Indian and Hindu perspective on a topic of contemporary academic relevance, shedding new light on the old debates about Darwin and religion. Hindu Theology and Biology should be welcomed not only by scholars of Hinduism and comparativists, but by all who ponder how religion and science matter to one another, and how we are to understand nature and ourselves in today's religiously diverse era."
- Francis X. Clooney, Harvard University
"This is a much-needed book, as it is one of the very few that brings a Hindu theological perspective to bear on the urgent debates on science and religion that currently dominate the Western cultural landscape. In what is often a noisy debate characterised by simplistic assumptions about the nature of religion, Jonathan Edelmann's calm, careful and thoughtful work opens up and nuances the debate, philosophically, theologically and culturally. His delineation of a theology drawn from a reading of the Bhagavata Purana meets the scholarly of those who know Hindu traditions while also being clear to those who are more familiar with Christianity and other traditions. In this, it offers a proper cross-cultural and constructive theological account of areas of natural science, and amply demonstrates that sophisticated and balanced studies of the relationship between theology and the natural sciences are of universal concern."
- Chakravarthi Ramprasad, University of Lancaster
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