One of my pet peeves with Hindu Gurus is how they talk about science. It is often something to the effect of what was known to our ancient Rishis, modern science is realizing only now. I have seen this happen in between an impeccable presentation of some deep Vedantic thought. Such a digression into science during a discourse often fails because Gurus mess up the science. At best the analogies do not work, and, at worst, the science is factually wrong. As my friend said – run away, as soon as a Guru utters quantum mechanics! By the way, rediscovery of ancient knowledge by modern science, if done independently, does not make modern science any less impressive.
The thing is that the Guru does not stand to gain anything here. The lay audience doesn’t care about science, while it puts off the scientifically literate audience. Even worse is that it gives ammunition to (pseudo) secularists who can point out that Gurus embrace science as long as it agrees with them, and when there is disagreement they start using phrases like higher consciousness, sat chit anand, etc. Javed Akhtar made this point in this debate with Sadhguru. This is the only place in the debate where I agree with Javed Akhtar, otherwise Akhtar is at his obnoxious best throughout the interview.
Such conduct by Gurus strikes seems strange to me because they would often like to say that the spiritual knowledge that they are imparting is more valuable and powerful than any other knowledge. Why then do they need the approval of modern science? By the way, I do believe that Vedantic teachings are incredibly enlightening and thank the Gurus for imparting that knowledge.
So, is it ever okay for Gurus to talk science?
The answer to this question is best given by an anecdote that Rajiv Malhotra often relates: A westerner asks a Tibetan Buddhist monk (his name sounds like Tai Sipuren Che) – Is Buddha same as Christ? The monk responds: I have dedicated my life to Buddha and have studied his teachings; So I can tell you all about Buddha, then you can decide if he is same as Christ. Likewise, Gurus should stick to Vedanta or what ever philosophy they know and let the scientists in the audience determine if science agrees with what he is saying.
Let me make this more concrete with some examples. No guru should talk about quantum mechanics till he can write down the Schrodinger equation and solve it for the electron in a hydrogen atom! No guru should talk space-time relativity till he can write down the Lorentz transformation. No guru should talk genetics, till he can explain the difference between driver and carrier mutations. No guru should talk artificial intelligence, till he can code a Hidden Markov Model. By the way, all this is undergrad level science. So knowing the answers to these questions is a necessary condition, not a sufficient one!