Prof. Ramesh Rao asks…
“does this antiquity (due to astronomy evidence) jell with the descriptions in the text about certain kinds of weapons, metals, artifacts — you know, the whole “metal ages” system?”
The question is valid. It does originate from the confusion of how science works or progresses. In spite of tremendous progress, due to science, science is humble at its core. And it builds on something that is well tested to new areas.
With this preamble…
(1) There is ‘no’ evidence that contradicts existence of all kinds of weapons- metals- artifacts etc. of these epics for the timeline arrived at via evidence such as astronomy
(2) Of course, no one has found remnants of weapons (as described in these epics) from the time period arrived at via astronomy evidence, either, as of now. (This does not mean they will not be found in the future)
(3) This is also true (i.e. point made in (2) above) for speculative dates proposed by Videshi Indologists to Indian Marxists.
(4) Most of it (if not all) , the confusion, is due to ‘Absence of evidence = evidence of absence’. But there is more. For example, one can only talk of evidence one has. One can not talk of evidence one does not have. Such questions remain unanswered. This is not same as ‘falsified’. This critical point is lost on many.
(5) Even more critical, it is important to recognize the force of scientific validation/testing/inferences due to astronomy evidence. Naturally this would (and should) lead to new problems of greater complexity (e.g. as you have raised, weapons, Pushpak Vimana, sophistication of languages and communications in those days, etc.). But then these are the problems due to ‘revolutionary’ inferences due to astronomy evidence/inference. This must be first recognized, i.e. the amazing deductive inferences due to unambiguous astronomy references/evidences from these epics.
As an example, no one had to ask ‘How do two bodies separated by thousands and millions of miles exert force on each other…without there being a rope to connect them?’ until Newton’s theory was validated. This new problem of forces at a distance was due to recognition of valid theory of gravity. The problem was worth solving only because of the tremendous success, otherwise, of Newton’s theory of gravity.
Thus anyone recognizing the validity of a specific problem (‘how two bodies exert force at a distance without ropes’ or ‘how technology could be so advanced 8 (Mahabharata) or 15 (Ramayana) millennium in antiquity’) must recognize, consciously, the successful deduction (and/or predictive ability) of either theory of gravity or theory of visual astronomy observations.
Well, as we know, it took another 250+ years before Einstein could come up with a ‘plausible’ answer to this problem of ‘forces at a distance without the connecting rope’.
On the other hand, in his own times, all that Newton could say in defense of his, otherwise, successful theory,– “hypothesis non fingo”.
And this answer was indeed scientific enough.
Of course, there would have been few (or many) during his time who would have certainly thought, mistakenly, that his inability to explain the mechanism of how ‘forces at distance’ worked as identical with the failure of his theory. Well, it was not. But the problem was neither with Newton nor with his theory, but rather resided in the inability of those who could not understand the path of science.
As Sir Karl Popper summarizes, in his famous formula, for the path of science….
Science begins with a problem and, when successful, ends with a problem of higher complexity.
P1-Initial tough problem to be solved (not solved by others)
TT – Tentative theory (guess, conjecture, hypothesis)
EE – Error elimination (with the help of ingenious experiments and testing against the available evidence)
P2 – A successful theory (always) leads to problems of greater complexity.
And the cycle begins, again…(replace P1 with P2) and off it goes…