|The publication of the findings relating to the decade-long
Human Genome Project-analysis of the complete set of human DNA-has
fuelled unprecedented interest in genetics. The findings have
many implications, but the most important one is that all human
beings share 99.99 per cent of all genetic material. From the
genetic perspective, therefore, there is not much difference
between one human being and another. Race has no scientific basis,
despite the manner in which it has been used for narrow political
ends. Unity is in, bigotry is out, says Mani Subramanian, one
of the senior scientists working on the project.
Genes do not explain everything. Genetic inheritance, scientists
now believe, contributes less to behaviour than was thought at
one time; environmental factors count for more. Neither nature
nor nurture determines behaviour on its own; the two interact.
"We stand on the brink of a continent of new knowledge,"
writes Matt Ridley in Discover (January 2001):
The medical possibilities and ethical fears that dominate
the debate are by no means trivial. But there is a larger philosophical
truth missed. The genome represents an unprecedented draft of
self-knowledge for humankind with implications that stretch far
beyond medicine. It promises to tell us new things about our
past as a species, and it promises new insights into philosophical
conundrums, not least of which is the puzzle of free will
Science has a habit of addressing problems raised by philosophy.
It may not be too much to claim that the mystery of free will
has been recast by recent discoveries in genetics, which have
exposed the myth that genes are puppet masters and we are their
.In attempting to answer the question of whether
we possess free will, the Scottish philosopher David Hume impaled
himself on the following dilemma: Either our actions are determined,
in which case we are not responsible for them, or they are the
result of random events, in which case we are also not responsible
for them. But the CREB (cyclic-AMP response elements binding
protein) genes show how to escape this fix. If genes are at the
mercy of behaviour, but behaviour is also at the mercy of genes,
then our actions can be determined by forces that originate within
us as well as by outside influences. The will is therefore a
mixture of instincts and outside influences. This makes it deterministic
and responsible, but not predictable
The human genome opens a world of medical opportunity, of
commercial promise, of ethical danger, and of social challenge.
It is also a cornucopia of scientific possibilities that ranks
alongside the revolutions wrought by Euclid, Copernicus, Newton,
Darwin, and Einstein. It is a fitting bang with which to start
a new millennium.
Studies in human genetics have still a long way to go and
raise more questions than they answer about what makes man what
he is. Matter alone is not operative in the process. The physical,
Theosophy maintains, evolves from the spiritual, the mental and
the psychic. There is a permanent conscious Force within matter
which by the evolutionary process strives for ever fuller self-expression
and self-realization. Science tells us that DNA transmits the
hereditary pattern, but that pattern, Theosophy insists, is not
mechanical and is instrumental rather than causal.
The series on science and religion presently being published
in the American journal The World and I reflects the current
perception that we can enrich our lives by blending scientific
genius regarding the physical world with profound religious insights
into the nature of man and God. In the February issue, Carl Feit
present science and religion as two world views with one unified
vision. Feit, who is a cancer researcher and occupant of the
Ades Chair of Health Science at Yeshiva University in New York,
as also an ordained rabbi and a Talmudic scholar and teacher,
believes that "the full coexistence of two rich but somewhat
different worldviews can lead to creative interaction and mutual
Unquestionably, modern Western society has been enormously
influenced by the scientific worldview. We have come to envision
the universe as governed by mathematically based principles,
and we believe that nature's most intimate secrets will ultimately
yield to our conscientious probing
.As we score ever-accelerating
technological breakthroughs, many of us see in the here-and-now
world of our senses the totality of human experience.
For others, however, this is hardly a complete story. The
outstanding public issues of the day point to the need to resolve
moral quandaries, express internal values, and explore spiritual
meanings. Solutions to such daunting problems as corruption,
poverty, racism, and violence will not come with more powerful
microscopes or particle accelerators but require a more powerful
vision of what it means to be human. Knowing how to clone a human
being does not help us decide whether we ought to do so.
Thus in the course of human history, both science and religion
have provided important models to help us understand and relate
to our universe. At times, the two worldviews have been at odds
with each other, each jockeying for primary attention. At other
times, they have worked hand in hand
A recent survey suggests that roughly 40 percent of active
scientists attest to some sort of belief in a personal deity.
Nevertheless, many respected scientists are outspoken atheists
and use their science as the basis for disbelief. Are they misguided
individuals, perhaps so blinded by an a priori commitment to
a materialistic philosophy that they don't see what is right
before their eyes? Why don't they see the Designer behind nature's
In conclusion, it is entirely in accord with our human nature
to explore the natural world and have dominion over our environment
through scientific and technological endeavours, and to couple
them with our pursuit of inner communion with the transcendent
Being. Indeed, to fulfill our potential, we must harmonize these
tendencies in our lives. A religion perspective helps us understand
the spiritual dimension of science, and grappling with scientific
questions provides deeper insights into religion traditions.
Indeed, the time has come to view science and religion not
as antagonistic but as complementary to each other. As W. Q.
Judge wrote at the very outset of his Ocean of Theosophy:
No science is complete which leaves out any department of
nature, whether visible or invisible, and that religion which,
depending solely on an assumed revelation, turns away from things
and the laws which govern them, is nothing but a delusion, a
foe to progress, an obstacle in the way of man's advancement
toward happiness. Embracing both the scientific and the religious,
Theosophy is a scientific religion and a religion science.
Questions pertaining to the origin of the universe are being
debated. How, when, why and out of what it arose, is arousing
interest as never before. Human beings alone can raise such questions
about the universe and therefore have a unique role to play.
What is that role? asks Swami Sunirmalananda (The Times of
India, February 15), and answers:
That unique role is to know. We humans alone can know
can think of God, we can think of the Infinite, while other living
beings cannot. But what's the use of knowing? Knowledge brings
liberation from existential suffering.
How do we know? There are two methods: one of science, and
other of religion. Science is the study of the external; religion
is the study of the internal. The first is objective while the
.Scientists thought they alone were right,
but many are differing now. Consciousness and universe, they
say, are interwoven. Down the centuries, science has accumulated
much knowledge about the earth, solar system, stars, and galaxies.
And it has propounded many theories. However, yesterday's theory
is today's junk! Why, because the more we study, the more it
is confusing, and more is left unknown. Secondly, the instrument,
the mind, can't find answers to all our questions through the
This leads us to the second path-religion. Religion has declared
that the universe is only an objective manifestation of the subjective
is the study of man-an in-depth study
.It was Swami Vivekananda
who expressed the grandest truth that "the microcosm and
the macrocosm are build upon the same plan." To know the
human being is to know the universe. But to know the human being
you don't need instruments. The fine instrument called mind will
suffice. Using it, we have to dive deep into ourselves: we should
meditate. Meditation leads us to the hitherto unseen ;universe
within. The inner universe, say saints, is astounding. This universe
will reveal all the knowledge we need. This, again, will free
us. The knowledge of why, who how, what, etc., will all become
perfectly clear once we look within. Sri Ramakrishna declared:
"A man attains everything when he discovers his true Self
in himself. That also is the purpose of assuming a human body."
The idea that animals panic before earthquakes is an old,
old one. While the recent Gujarat has sparked interest in the
ability of animals to predict natural disasters, scientists say
that the evidence remains inconclusive. "The possibility,
however, remains very much wide open," says Asad Rahmani,
director of the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS). The BNHS
has been compiling information on earthquake-related behaviour
of animals for the Union ministry of environment and forests.
(The Times of India, February 17)
The BNHS's call for information from natural history amateurs
in Gujarat elicited a mixed response. While some noticed no changes
in the behaviour of animals before the quake, others recounted
stories of agitated dogs and birds. In Teras, 80 km. to the west
Bhuj, it was noticed that peacocks were screaming hysterically
the night before the big quake, and donkeys were braying and
dogs barking prior to smaller tremors later in the day.
The details of this phenomenon of animal behaviour have been
well studied by Chinese scientists in particular, and a booklet
published some time back by the Seismological Office of Tientsin,
in China, states: "It is easy and simple to use animals
to predict earthquakes
.In general certain organs of animals
acutely detect various underground changes before earthquakes.
Both historical and recent surveys of large earthquakes prove
that animals have precursory reactions."
There is a mysterious sympathy between all things in nature,
and animals being psychically more sensitive than humans can
feel the pulse of the Earth more clearly. The Astral Light is
a reflector not only of past events but also of events to come,
the causes for which are sufficiently well marked and made, and
it is not surprising that animals with their instinctive clairvoyance,
of which there is sufficient evidence in other respects as well,
can sense a natural calamity hours before it actually takes place.
Blind people can pick out the meaning of a spoken sentence
more quickly than those who are sighted, researchers in Germany
and the U.S. have found. This adds weight to the notion that
the blind can hear better than others, their hearing compensating
for the loss of their sight. (Neuropsychologica, Vol.
38, p. 1482)
"They process language faster than sighted people,"
says Brigitte Roder from the University of Marburg, Germany,
who discovered the effect with her colleagues at the University
of Oregon in Eugene. She says it may explain why some blind people
are so fast at "reading" books recorded onto tape.
"This, to me, is a very remarkable finding," says
neuroscientist Steve Hillyard at the University of California,
San Diego. "I would have thought that language is such a
highly over-learned skill in both sighted and blind individuals
that the timing of their language processes would be similar."
The researchers also found that in blind subjects, areas at
the back of the brain normally devoted to sight were taken over
in part by auditory information processing. Roder suspects this
might be partly responsible for speeding up blind people's ability
to process language.
Experiments have repeatedly shown that those deprived of one
sense have other senses more acutely developed, bearing out the
Theosophical teaching of the correlation and interchange of the
senses. Mr. Judge states in his Notes on the Bhagavad-Gita;
The eye cannot see nor the ear hear, of themselves. In the
Upanishads the pupil is asked: "What is the sight of the
eye, and the hearing of the ear?" replying, that these powers
reside solely with inner organs of the soul, using the material
body as the means for experiencing the phenomena of material
life. Without the presence of this indwelling, informing, hearing
and seeing power-or being-this collection of particles now deified
as body is dead or blind. (p.12)
The variety and number of micro-organisms that inhabit the
body of a healthy human being are truly mind-boggling. They are
known as the normal microbial fauna and come in two different
types-those that are permanently resident and those that are
transient. Any number of nasty parasites can also join this microbial
community and make the human body their home.
In his work Life on Man, bacteriologist Theodor Rosebury
gives full biological and historical account of the microbes
that live on the average human body. He counted 80 distinguishable
species living in the mouth alone and estimated that the total
number of bacteria excreted each day by an adult ranges from
100 billion to 100 trillion.
Rosebury estimates that 10 million individual bacteria live
on the average square centimetre of human skin, while inside
the body, on the surface of the teeth, throat or alimentary tract,
these concentrations can increase a thousandfold. However, while
the total number of organisms living on us appears huge, when
one considers the volume of the human body, the volume of species
using us as home is not so great.
Barring a few nasty ones, these micro-organisms and parasites
are not our enemies and their role and intimate relationship
with their hosts needs to be understood.
Science, dimly perceiving the truth, may find bacteria and
other infinitesimals in the human body, and see in them but occasional
and abnormal visitors to which diseases are attributed. Occultism-which
discerns a life in every atom and molecule, whether in a mineral
or human body, in air, fire or water-affirms that our whole body
is built of such lives, the smallest bacteria under the microscope
being to them in comparative size like an elephant to the tiniest
infusoria. (The Secret Doctrine, I, 225 fn.)
We are taught that every physiological change, in addition
to pathological phenomena; diseases-nay, life itself-or rather
the objective phenomena of life,
produced by certain conditions and changes in the tissues of
the body which allow and force life to act in that body; that
all this is due to those unseen CREATORS and DESTROYERS that
are called in such a loose and general way, microbes. (Ibid.,
IF a man does away with his traditional way of living and
thows away his good customs, he had better first make certain
that he has something of value to replace them.