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In Good Faith: Pranam vs Pramana — why faith and science must co-exist

GS Paper 4

Syllabus: Ethics and Human Interface


Source: Indian Express

 Direction: The article highlights the difference between science & religion & how they can co-exist for the development of all.


Context: The Covid-19 pandemic saw widespread use of science, but it also provided a fertile ground for promoting faith and questioning science. 


Difference between Science and Religion:

  • Freedom to Question vs. Blind Acceptance: In a science-based society, unlike in a faith-based society, people have the freedom to question, seek answers and then choose their way forward based on their own understanding & assessment.
  • Acceptance of Change: Another important difference pertains to the acceptance of the change. Science thrives on change. Whereas, faith and dogma are constants and don’t accept questioning.
  • Constant change in Science vs. Constancy in Tradition: What was scientifically appropriate at a given time and has become a tradition, may change at a later stage. This constant change in scientific thinking is often pointed out as its weakness, and constancy as a strength of tradition.


Etymology of Pranam and Pramana:

  • Pranam: derived from Sanskrit- “pra” means “forward, outward, in front, before” while “ānama” means “bending or stretching”. Together, pranama means “bending, bowing in front” or “prostration”. It’s a common Hindu traditional custom of greeting a person.
  • Pramana(Sanskrit word), means “proof” and adds “mā” which means measurement to the “pra” and alludes to the concept of objectivity and science. It’s the means that can lead to knowledge. Three of the many pramanas are pratyakṣa (eyewitness/personal experience), anumāna (logical inference), and śabda (expert opinion).


Examples of how faith undermines Science:

  • Taboos related to menstruation: Rather than treating it as a biological phenomenon, a lot of semi-religious customs have been built around it, all adversely affecting a girl’s health.
  • Health issues around childbirth, breastfeeding, and contraception. New mothers often find it difficult to navigate when caught between a doctor’s scientific advice on breastfeeding (as early as possible, giving of colostrum, exclusivity, no pre-lacteal feed) and traditional customs recommended by the elders(waiting till a family member washes breast, use of ghutti, jaggery water, discarding of colostrum).
  • Access to safe abortions: a fight between faith and science.
  • Heliocentric vs Geocentric theory: The latter says that the earth is at the centre of the universe, and the planets, the sun, the moon, and the stars circle around it. While, heliocentric models consider the sun as the centre, and the planets revolve around the sun.
  • The banned practice of Sati.
  • Racism – Aryan theory to be superior.

Examples of when science prevails:

  • Acceptance of vaccines and modern contraceptive methods
  • A scientific theory is that all humans are the same species – everyone has red blood and the same internal organs.


Platforms for dialogue & harmonious coexistence between the 2 critical pillars of society:

  • Teachers or parents, should encourage children to ask questions and give them access to resources to enable them to decide for themselves.
  • Health professionals must not belittle faith.
  • We need to understand the need for both for our societal well-being. & have more faith in science as a solver to our pressing problems.



In today’s society, the 3 forms of pramana are under threat due to the rise of:

  • Confirmation Bias
  • Echo Chambers & filter bubbles.
  • Post-Truth society