Princeton Bhakti Vedanta Institute of Spiritual Culture & Science in collaboration with Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Institute of Spiritual Culture & Science — hosted by World Vegan Vision, present:

7th International Conference

Science and Scientist 2019: Understanding the Source and Nature of Consciousness and Life

June 15-16, 2019
Rutgers University Busch Student Center, Piscataway Township, NJ, USA

In the seventeenth century, the French philosopher René Descartes claimed that only the human body has a soul, and all other organisms are mere automatons made of meat and bones. In Descartes' words “Animals are like robots: they cannot reason or feel pain.” In Introduction to Animal Rights, Gary Francione describes the anticipated consequences of this Cartesian view.

“Descartes and his followers performed experiments in which they nailed animals by their paws onto boards and cut them open to reveal their beating hearts. They burned, scalded, and mutilated animals in every conceivable manner. When the animals reacted as though they were suffering pain, Descartes dismissed the reaction as no different from the sound of a machine that was functioning improperly. A crying dog, Descartes maintained, is no different from a whining gear that needs oil.”

Based on this ideology, many innocent animals are treated cruelly on a daily basis for the purpose of food, entertainment, research, and profit. Influenced by such a line of thought, most of the scientists were also thinking that only humans are conscious and all other creatures are not. In recent past the scientific stand on this has changed greatly. The Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness in Non-Human Animals was publicly proclaimed and signed by leading scientists at the First Annual Francis Crick Memorial Conference in 2012.

In constructing a house, for example, clearly a concept (idea) is an essential cause of the final structure that the house assumes. Thus we have ample experiential evidence that concepts are capable of being causal forces or influences on matter. This manifestly evident feature of actuality is totally neglected or ignored by modern science when ALL the forces of nature are limited to the merely physical and chemical. The physical and chemical explanations of natural phenomena are incomplete, and that conceptual causality is a required element in explaining natural artifacts, which we can call intentionally constructed objects, or objects that bear the imprint of intention, or purpose, as opposed to naturally formed objects. In philosophy, the manifestation of purpose in nature is traditionally called design. With the advent of the conception of DNA in biology, the pattern of amino acids that constitute DNA has come to signify pattern or arrangement of molecules in organisms, and with that the interest in probabilities for the formation of specific arrangements or sequences of amino acids by chance. This association of design with pattern or arrangement is a narrowing down (one might say, dumbing down) of the design concept to pattern or configuration rather than purpose, End or concept. The central dogma of biology holds that DNA "codes" for the formation of essential proteins within a cell. Codes signify information, and thus information theory has become associated with DNA. This informational aspect being non-physical and non-chemical seems to turn us more closely back to the original conceptual cause that has traditionally occupied the philosophers of nature. Inorganic materials also form specific patterns as we find, for example, in snowflakes. Here, the innumerable patterns exhibit exquisite designs that are apparently created by random agglomeration of water molecules, according to the specific stereochemistry (shape) and stoichiochemistry (molecular bonding) of the molecule. Such formations may be called unintelligent design since they are a function of mechanical (regulative) principles, whereas the design of artifacts exhibit what may be called intentional or intelligent design. The word intelligent is required to indicate intention or purpose since the word "design" on its own has come to mean mere pattern according to modern interpreters.

Living organisms are a special case of what we may call intentional objects, but they are not formed by any apparent external intelligence, as in the case of an artifact. Their intentionality/purpose is intrinsic to the organism itself. For example, the most common purpose for organisms is survival. Living objects actively pursue life and avoid whatever attempts are made to kill them. They tend to multiply or reproduce themselves, preserving their species. And organisms produce their own parts or members from themselves, unlike artifacts which are created from already existing parts that do not depend upon the whole of which they are parts. The parts or members of an organism serve a function or purpose in the organism as a whole, and the organism as a whole seems to create the parts to serve itself, as much as the parts share in creating the whole and other parts. Thus the purpose of an organism is entirely internal to the organism, unlike artifacts which arise from completely external intentional forces, or conceptual causes. Therefore we can say that the purpose/cause/concept (or soul) is fully intrinsic to an organism and essential to its generation, maintenance, development and formation.

The three categories of mechanical, chemical and teleological analysis, where teleology refers to objects that have an (internal or external) intentional or purposeful nature, have traditionally been applied to the study of the divisions of physics, chemistry and biology, respectively. While teleology is required to understand natural objects such as artifacts, internal teleology has been neglected in biological explanations, as is generally the case in modern science. Yet causes of intention/purpose are not eliminable even in our ordinary understanding of natural things as mentioned above. The main problem seems to arise because while objects explicable in terms of mechanical or chemical causes do not require or depend upon teleological causes, the automatic assumption that such explanations apply to biological systems is not at all necessary. For example, probability analysis of the letters in a book will not yield any information about the content of the book. Material analysis of the book will not yield any information about its meaning. Such analyses may be consistent, but they do not provide a complete explanation of the book. Likewise, physical and chemical analysis of organisms may be consistent in accordance with their respective principles, yet at the same time provide incomplete description of the totality we call organisms.

Therefore, the Vedāntic/Bhagavat paradigm rejects the objectivist theory of evolution as not only wrong but an impediment to the actual scientific comprehension of Nature. The Vedāntic conception of Life is a fully differentiated/determinate one that displays its variety in and as a dynamic organic whole. The crucial element of interdependence that is missing in modern theories of insular organism life is fully embraced in what we may call the Post-Darwinian, post-reductionist, post-modern conception of Life the Vedāntic/Bhagavat conception offers. Organic wholism is a conception that has its inception as far back as the writings of Śrī Īśopanisad, where the first aphorism states: oḿ pūrnam adah pūrnam idaḿ pūrnāt pūrnam udacyate pūrnasya pūrnam ādāya pūrnam evāvaśisyate. The Organic Whole produces organic wholes. An organic whole cannot arise from parts that have to be assembled. That process can only produce inorganic, mechanical machines or chemical processes, not living organisms.

Our attitude is shaped by the way our education has conditioned us to think about the world. To teach that Man is simply an enclosed membrane of chemicals affects how people think about themselves as spiritual beings, and thus it influences the way they think about such concerns as abortion, euthanasia, bioethics in research and medicine, cloning, genetic modification of food, animal rights, and so on. The Vedāntic scholars, Aristotle, Kant (using the argument of teleology) and Hegel have all claimed that biological systems (organisms) are distinct from inanimate objects (mechanical and chemical systems). Purpose and meaning are inseparable aspects of life, similarly as consciousness. We cannot expect those in dead molecules. We do not give any moral and ethical importance to an accumulation of dead molecules, but such a consideration is a must for the life principle. Hence, abiogenesis is an insult to the life force. To understand life and its origin, one must also give a proper attention toward the ancient Eastern Vedāntic philosophical concept of ātman, Aristotle's concept of Soul, and Hegel's explanation of the Concept.

This conference will bring together scientists and philosophers, and aims to foster new collaborations and research avenues with potential relevance towards development of scientific understanding of life and its origin.


Conference hashtag: #scienceandscientist2019 || #scienceandscientist2019

Science and Scientist 2019: Understanding the Source and Nature of Consciousness and Life


    • Sripad Bhakti Madhava Puri Maharaja, Ph.D. (Conference Chair, Serving Director, Princeton Bhakti Vedanta Institute of Spiritual Culture and Science, NJ, USA)
    • Bhakti Vijnana Muni, Ph.D. (President, Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Institute of Spiritual Culture and Science, Bengaluru, Karnataka, India)
    • Bhakti Niskama Shanta, Ph.D. (Gen. Secretary, Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Institute of Spiritual Culture and Science, Bengaluru, Karnataka, India)
    • H.K. Shah (Founder, World Vegan Vision, USA)
    • Shrenik Shah, M.D. (President, NJ Chapter, World Vegan Vision, USA)
    • Gary L. Francione, Ph.D. (Board of Governors Professor, Nicholas deB. Katzenbach Distinguished Scholar, School of Law, Rutgers University University, New Brunswick, NJ, USA)
    • Joan Walton, Ph.D. (Senior Lecturer, School of Education/Ph.D. Supervisor, York St John University, U.K.)
    • Medicharla Venkata Jagannadham, Ph.D. (Senior Principal Scientist, Genomics and Proteomics, Centre for Cellular & Molecular Biology, Hyderbad, Telegana, India)
    • Ashok Mishra, Ph.D. (Associate Prof., Civil Engineering, Clemson University, South Carolina, USA)
    • Basuthkar Jagadeeshwar Rao, Ph.D. (Professor and Chair of Biology, Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Tirupati, Andhra Pradesh, India)

  • DATE

    June 15-16, 2019


    Rutgers University Busch Student Center, 604 Bartholomew Road, Piscataway Township, NJ 08854, USA

Main navigation

“Science cannot solve the ultimate mystery of nature. And that is because, in the last analysis, we are a part of the mystery that we are trying to solve.”

:: Max Planck
(Where is Science Going?: 1932)

How Life Changes Itself: The Read-Write Genome by James A. Shapiro, Ph.D.

Animal Consciousness Officially Recognized by Leading Panel of Neuroscientists (Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness)

How do Plants Communicate & Think?

Bacterial Intelligence