by David L. Gosling
Introductory Essay by Anindita Balslev
‘Science and the Indian tradition’ is indeed a vast and complex subject matter that deserves a careful study. Unquestionably, the sub-title ‘When Einstein Met Tagore’ and the beautiful cover photo of the two stalwarts – Einstein and Tagore, augment enormously one’s desire to look into the book authored by David L. Gosling. A reader’s curiosity to know what actually transpired when these two great figures met leads one to the years between 1926-1930. Only a part of that conversation has been reprinted in the Appendix A of the book while Appendix B gives the questionnaire that has been used for writing chapter 7, entitled, ‘An Investigation into the beliefs of Indian scientists’.
Out of the nine chapters that make up the book, it is mainly chapter 8, entitled ‘How clear is reason’s stream?’ that actually contains the major themes of the discussion between these two eminent persons. A significant part of that information is based on what other commentators and discussants have already published on these exchanges. This chapter, otherwise well-composed, tells about the thoughts of these great personalities whose respected memories have remained intact until today. What is inspiring is to observe how their conversation actually anticipated the emergence of a discourse, viz. the ‘science – religion’ dialogue. The network of ideas pertaining to this subject is at present in the process of assuming its full-fledged form. As has been observed earlier, the sub-title of this book does a lot in the way of promoting and empowering the significance of this much-needed discourse but the book could have informed the reader more about the authentic historical character about ‘science and the Indian tradition’ as it has unfolded. There is undoubtedly some significant methodological and sociological information given in the first two chapters. Given the author’s educational background in Physics and his familiarity with certain aspects of the Indian conceptual world, a more detailed study of some of the central issues with the author’s own reflections would be welcome, highlighting further the state of science in India before the colonial period as well. Nevertheless a reader not familiar with the Indian scenario can surely learn much from the references that the author gives regarding such prominent figures as Jagadish Bose, P.C.Roy and S.N.Bose, while noting their distinct contributions to their respective fields.
With the help of questionnaires and interviews, the author also tries to present a depiction of the attitudes of modern Indian scientists toward their own religious traditions. The compilation of remarks lay bare how the study of science has either strengthened or weakened their understanding of their traditions. This information is illuminating but not exhaustive by any means for understanding the complexity of the situation. The book also contains responses and reactions of various persons that are attention-grabbing, while drawing considerably from secondary sources.
Finally, this book is not only easy to read but will be helpful as an introduction for all those who wish to make further progress in understanding the internal relationship between science and religion in the Indian context.