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ASSISI, Italy (ChurchMilitant.com) - A key speaker at Pope Francis' Assisi-based "Economy of Francesco" conference has compared the pontiff's 2015 eco-encyclical Laudato Sí to Hindu Vedic texts.
Dr. Vandana Shiva, who has been labeled a "pseudoscientist," said she felt she "was reading our [Hindu] Vedic texts, especially the Atharvaveda on our duty to have reverence for the Earth and all her beings" when she read Pope Francis' encyclical Laudato Sí.
In a Thursday interview with Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, the Indian eco-feminist, who has been criticized by leading scientists for her "anti-scientific and unethical" dogmas, quoted the first mantra of the [Hindu] Isavasya Upanishad: "The Universe and the Earth are permeated by the divine and are for the benefit of all beings."
The Isavasya Upanishad is one of the principal texts of the Hindu canon and begins with the fundamental Hindu doctrine of God being within ourselves — creation is an illusion (maya) and human beings achieve salvation (moksha) through self-realization that we are god.
"At their core, all religions teach us to take care of creation, of each other. No religion says destroy the earth, let your neighbor starve. The stories of creation might be different, but the duty to creation is common," Shiva said.
"The best economic principle is only what St. Francis gave us: 'It is only in giving that we receive,'" Shiva said at the online "Economy of Francesco" symposium Friday.
Shiva slammed capitalism for "taking from nature without giving back, taking from societies without giving back."
The leftwing activist blamed the Wuhan virus pandemic, poverty, hunger, diseases and the "polarization of society on the basis of economy, as well as divisions around race and gender and religion" as "rooted in the idea that nature is dead, people are raw material to be used and exploited" as "inputs to the money machine."
Echoing Pope Francis' views against property ownership, Shiva also asserted that private property of farming land should not exist. Rather, there should be only the "right to use" small portions of land.
"The smaller the farm, the more it produces. On one acre you can have a good life," she insisted. "Large farms are highly unproductive and there's no limit to how much you will invade the Amazon for greed.
Quoting the pontiff's polemic against a "deified market," Shiva attacked India's famed "green revolution," claiming the proponents of genetically modified crops were among those who "kill Mother Earth with violence."
Scholars questioned Shiva's Hindu-based propositions about creation and suffering.
"In classical Hinduism, only Brahman is the ultimate reality; the world is maya [illusion]. God as creator is irrelevant in Hinduism," Dr. Joshua Iyadurai, Director of Marina Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies in Religion, told Church Militant.
"All suffering is because of one's karma; one is supposed to endure it because suffering is the result of the deeds one did in the previous birth," Iyadurai explained. "By fulfilling karma in this life, one may elevate his/her rank in the cycle of birth. Offering a solution to suffering would amount to interfering with one's karma."
Earlier this year, 90 scientists and biotechnology experts from around the world wrote to Stanford University and University of California-Santa Cruz protesting invitations extended to Shiva to speak on "equitable and sustainable" farming.
The letters stressed Shiva's "constant use of anti-scientific rhetoric to support unethical positions" slamming "her astonishing tendency to nonsense" and "her proclivity to offend by "comparing farmers, who grow crops which are scientifically and legally recognized as safe, to rapists."
The scientists also blasted Shiva's "rejection of technologies which help farmers (mostly women and children) to alleviate the painful, back-breaking labor of hand-weeding" and pointed to factually incorrect statements in her writings.
The letters also dismissed as "ridiculous" Shiva's attacks on fertilizer. In 2011, the social justice warrior called for a ban on fertilizer, saying it " should never have been allowed in agriculture" as it is a "weapon of mass destruction" because "it came from war."
"Dr. Shiva is known for requiring large honoraria for dispensing her mendacious and antisocial opinions: We would like to know how much Stanford University is going to pay for her appearance," one of the scientists asked.
Shiva's claim to be a "quantum physicist" — reiterated in her Vatican interview — has also been discredited, as her doctorate is in the philosophy of science.
"Shiva refers to her scientific credentials in almost every appearance, yet she often dispenses with the conventions of scientific inquiry," notes Michael Specter, adjunct professor of bioengineering at Stanford University.
"When I asked if she had ever worked as a physicist, she suggested that I search for the answer on Google. I found nothing, and she doesn't list any such position in her biography," he adds.
"Shiva is lionized, particularly in the West, because she presents the romantic view of the farm," observes agricultural ecologist Professor Sir Gordon Conway. "But farming is bloody tough, as anyone who does it knows. It is like those people who romanticize villages in the developing world. Nobody who ever lived in one would do that."
"She is blinded by her ideology and her political beliefs. That is why she is so effective and so dangerous," remarks environmental activist Mark Lynas, advisor to the Bangladeshi government on eggplant trials.
"She is very canny about how she uses her power," Lynas comments. "But on a fundamental level, she is a demagogue who opposes the universal values of the Enlightenment."
Faithful Catholics have asked why Pope Francis frequently hosts speakers and advisors who hold views antithetical to Catholicism — naming, in particular, climate change alarmist Hans Schellnhuber — described as "the scientific pantheist who advises Pope Francis."
Earlier, eminent Vatican theologian Msgr. Nicola Bux warned that Francis risked "slipping into pantheism without noticing it" as — similar to the views of Shiva — the pontiff described Jesus being "present in a glorious and mysterious way in the river, the trees, the fish and the wind" in his apostolic exhortation Querida Amazonia.
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