5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars
I'm reviewing only the first article here - the stars are for the book as a whole, 22 Nov. 2006
I got this book yesterday, and although I obviously haven't read most of it to do justice for reviewing the entire book, I've completed reading the first article (Hinduism and Science), and am reviewing only that so far. I'm doing this in such a hurry as I feel that this chapter needs a review in itself. I'm sure that the rest of the book, especially judging by the other contributors, would deserve something different from what I'm about to write, so please bear this in mind.
Although I have never read Sangeetha Menon before (and I've read a fair amount of academic work on 'Science and Religion', although primarily in sources related to Western traditions), I was quite eager to see something like 'Hinduism and Science' included. After reading it however, I was rather disappointed.
Menon seems to focus more on the theme of `Hinduism', rather than `Hinduism and Science'. By this, I mean that she unduly writes a fair amount on Hindu philosophy and its history, which should not be the main focus in scholarship on `science and religion'. In my opinion, she does not really regard the term `science' as its contemporary meaning implies, including in modern India. Menon seems to primarily regard `science' as epistemology. There are allusions to neuroscience, mathematics and Hindu interpretations of physical phenomenon, but they are just that - allusions. And even these are mired in philosophical contexts of ethics, metaphysics, etc.
Menon uses spiritual / religious / political figures such as Swami Vivekananda and Gandhi as `scientists' in a way, where she mentions that `their teachings and views demonstrate that spiritual exploration is the midway between science and religion...'. The article throughout seems to focus on spirituality, and traditional Indian philosophical mysticism, which, unfortunately is not what I was expecting in a book like this (again as I mentioned, I still have to read anything else, so I'm not judging the book entirely at all).
I would have preferred if instead, an article titled `Hinduism and Science' would focus more on what interactions, conflicts, positions, etc. Hinduism has towards science. Again, I cannot stress enough that the meaning of the word `science', seems to be quite lost here. For example, to what extent is there a `conflict' between Hinduism and science, if at all? And if not, what stand does Hinduism take on a literalist interpretation where the great many literatures would clearly be in conflict with scientific laws. Questions such as `What is the religious conviction of contemporary (or even historical) scientists that are born into Hinduism or are practising Hindus?' could be a good idea to address.
Having said this, I am still eagerly looking forward to reading much of the rest of the book. It seems to be a fine effort towards the scholarship of science and religion, although some prominent names do seem to be missing.