The recently concluded Indian Science Congress has once again exposed the way science is being fashioned in India. Ever since the RSS backed government has taken over, the process of projecting pseudo-science as science has been intensified manifold. All scientific institutions are forced to make pseudo-science a part of their routine. The Council of Scientific and Industrial Development (CSIR) made a high-powered committee to study panchgavya, IITs were asked to research on the genetic code of the Bull. Organizing different meetings in IITs, universities etc. to propagate and promote Pseudo-Science is part of this game. Books of Vigyan Bharti (VIBHA, an RSS outfit) were introduced in Institutes of excellence. For the first time, a Non CSIR Scientist has been selected to head CSIR. Apart from his scientific credentials, he is vice president of VIBHA, which is probably the most significant of his qualifications to get the post of Director General CSIR.
Indian Science Congress 2019: Two Claims
The claims made by two ‘scientists’ in Indian Science Congress this year are part of the same and a continuation of the tall but false claims made in Indian Science Congress 2015. A session on “Ancient Sciences through Sanskrit “was kept in that. This time, though there was no such session per se, two presenters made their belief in pseudo-science very brazen. On January 5th, Andhra University Vice-Chancellor, G Nageswara Rao, became an overnight ‘celebrity’ when he claimed that Kauravas were test tube babies. As the legend goes, they were born to Gandhari as a result of a boon granted to her by Vyasa. After two years of pregnancy, she delivered a lump of flesh. This was cut into a hundred pieces by Vyasa and kept in 100 pitchers filled with ghee. After another two years, the jars were opened and thus the Kaurvas were born. This Mr. Rao claimed is an evidence of test tube babies at that time, without even understanding what it means. Test tube babies are only fertilized outside (in vitro) and they do need a womb to grow. He also claimed that Ravana had a fleet of 24 aircraft and there existed airports at that time in Sri Lanka. He further challenged Darwin’s Theory and said that the theory of evolution is echoed in dashavataras of Lord Vishnu. It is a different matter that the Genesis, the first book of Bible also has a somewhat similar and more direct description. But can they be called theories? Again, he is confused between the theory of evolution (there exist many) and concept of evolution. Interestingly his audience comprised mainly school kids.
The other gentleman was more vulgar. Dr. KJ Krishnan from Tamilnadu proclaimed that Newton’s Theory of gravitation was wrong and his own theory of gravitational phenomenon gives an apt understanding of gravitational phenomenon. He too chose schools kids as his ‘subjects’(audience). He stated that bigger things are heavier (he has no idea about density). He made an assertion that the Sun is 333000 times bigger than the earth, so which is heavier? Answer obviously is Sun as per his theory! Little does he realise that this figure of 333000 is about the mass of the sun and not its size. The diameter of the sun is about 109 times bigger than that of earth and thus it can fit more than 1 million earths in it. Then he said that if we travel in space where sun and earth are there, which is heavier sun, earth or space? Children replied space as it is bigger. Encouraged by this he went on to say that a 1 Kg feather will be heavier than a Kg of iron. And now he proposes that it is the pressure of heavier and ‘self-compressive’ space which is responsible for motion of planets. Newton had little idea about gravity and physics. Krishnan poses a question that if there is gravity, why does water go up in fountains- pressure is the answer! (it is a different matter that people conversant with elementary mechanics can answer this question). Krishnan further said that Einstein misled the world. He wants gravitational waves to be renamed as ‘Modi Waves’ and gravitational lens as ‘Harsh Vardhan effect’ as he is a better scientist than APJ Abdul Kalam.
Despite being utterly non-scientific, and dragging in the names of ruling government’s PM and minister, no one from the Government or ruling party made any statement. Not just obscurantism, not just pseudo- science but now utter sycophancy will be science.
Pseudoscience consists of statements, beliefs, or practices that are claimed to be both scientific and factual, but are incompatible with the scientific method. It is prevalent in many aspects of our lives. There has been design to spread this. Let us see some examples in daily life
What is Pseudo-Science in general?
There are many examples. There was a propaganda via social media and certain TV channels of an eschatological faith that the world will come to an end by December 21st, 2012. Well, we are still here. Concepts like alternate medicine, detoxification, some positive and negative energies, vastu, ancient astronauts who once invaded the Earth, different variants of astrology, magnetic healing, etc. are some of the examples. The list is very large and it will be difficult to enumerate all here.
They are prevalent everywhere in our lives. But the dangerous trend is that they are being mouthed by the people in positions of power and through institutions of Science. It has increased in the last few years. Some glaring examples are discussed below.
Pseudo-Science in Science in last 4 years
Right from the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, to many of his Ministers, Ministers of different states, and other powerful people, all have been very vocal on this front. PM stated that putting of an elephant’s head on a human body is an example of plastic surgery in ancient times. Again, he did not realize that if this were true, it is much more advanced than plastic surgery. It is transplant and that too inter species transplant! Similarly birth of Karna is projected as some advancement in genetic science. Minister of Science and technology Mr. Harshvardhan, on the death of Stephan Hawking claimed that even Stephan Hawking recognized the superiority of Vedas over current scientific knowledge. Refusing to give a reference he told journalists to hunt it themselves. Some of them did so and found a claim on a website of a registered charitable trust – Institute of Scientific Research on Vedas (I-SERVE) which is claimed to be recognized by DSIR (Department of Scientific and Industrial Research). It had a Facebook post not by Hawking but some self-styled fan of his, who is using a fake profile. The office of Hawking denied this claim.
A Minister under Raje Government of Rajasthan, Vasudev Devnani claimed that cows exhale oxygen. Another one claimed that peahens get pregnant by tears of peacocks and this is a sage like bird (Brhamchari). A Minister of Haryana who apparently has done M.Phil. in Chemistry challenged the theory of evolution of Darwin on the ground that none of our ancestors have seen a monkey turning into man, again, without understanding either the theory of Darwin or the phenomenon of Evolution. The scale of Evolution is much larger in time span than he imagines. And secondly Darwin did not say that monkeys have transformed into humans. All he proposed was that there were common ancestors. Chief minister of Uttarakhand Ramesh Pokhryal claimed astrology is the biggest science. Minister of Health of Assam, Himanta Biswas, believes that cancer is divine punishment of sins committed in previous lives.
Examples are many. But dangerous is its infiltration into Indian Science Congress, asking Institutes to do research (actually not research, but asking scientists to validate the pre-decided claims or beliefs), constituting of a high-profile committee including former DG of CSIR RA Mashelakar, then DG Girish Sahni, directors of IITs to validate magical properties of panchgavya. Lalit Kala Academy organized an exhibition titled “Cultural Continuity from Rigveda to Robotics” in September 2015, about the same time that a seminar on Vedic chronology was organized.
There are a few features than can be deduced. One is that all the landmark discoveries in mathematics, medicine and other disciplines of science are claimed to be ‘as already discovered’ in ancient India. Like Pythagoras theorem, surgery, algebra, calculus, energy matter duality etc. It is true that many of the things were indeed discovered in India, but not in Vedic period. Aryabhata, Bhaskar Acharya, Madhav Acharya, Sridhar Acharya etc. made some amazing contributions in the field of mathematics and astronomy, there was some development in surgery though primitive and very limited- a sort of plastic surgery which is referred to as ‘Hindu Rhinoplasty”. And for the rest they are just claiming by inventing similarities. By doing this, instead of glorifying and correcting some part of the history of science, they are discrediting even what was there with their ridiculously false claims.
This is true that the history of science is written by Western scholars and they have conveniently forgotten the part of history in the east. Ancient science or knowledge is referred to as Greek Science and developments in India and China do not find any mention in it. But that does not mean we go beyond facts in order to correct that.
By this the Central and State Ministers are also trying to blur the line between myths and history. Like relating some claim of miracles with some present-day concept. For instance, description of Pushpaka Vimana to aviation technology, birth of Kauravas to stem cell etc. etc. by doing so, they will gradually authenticate myths as history.
There is an attempt to prove that all was known in ancient times & is recorded in Sanskrit texts and is just being rediscovered now by modern science. So, we must be proud of the same, if not so we are anti national. Little does this dwell on as to why suddenly all was lost? Why do we not read these texts and predict scientific developments rather than relating to it when a new thing is discovered.
Similarly, attempts are also on to legitimize well known pseudo-sciences like astrology, numerology, Vaastu etc. by putting forward arguments to assert it is really scientific.
There is a pattern and design in all this. These are not some statements of some perverts which we just ridicule and laugh over and forget. There are several serious implications. Such statements are coming from those who are in power including the Prime Minister himself. It has implication for the science policy that is going to be perused.
Their idea is not at all to correct the history. They are not interested in the correction of history and actually have no sense of history at all. It is a different matter that they try to use some historical evidence and add them to their figments of imagination to justify falsified history. There can always be errors in history writing, but that can be corrected by facts and new evidences. But they want to prove or want people to believe that they are first in everything and nothing great has ever come from outside India. The theory of racial/religious superiority is thus established to support their chauvinistic designs. It is not just the madness of a few but building of narrative of ‘scientific ancient India’ and thereby establishing that ancient scriptures are absolutely right. By creating this myth, they also build a a narrative to submerge people in the ‘awe of our greatness’. A myth of superiority- culturally and scientifically, and a feeling of “since we were great once, we shall great be once again” is percolated. And they think this will happen simply by praising the past and not attempting to do anything concrete now! We shall come to the current situation a little later.
Let us see some points that historians of science have generally agreed on. Modern science has taken birth after the advent of capitalism and has materialism (though mostly mechanistic) as its philosophical basis. It has been thought that mathematics is the language of nature and all things can be described and quantified in terms of mathematical formulations and theories of different types. The correct ideas are developed by method of inquiry which includes cause and effect, rationality, evidence-based deduction, generalization by analysis and synthesis, and predicting new and all this is reproducible. This type of thinking was not there earlier in any civilizations, be it Graeco-Roman, Judeo-Christian, Babylonian or any other. Indian and Chinese were no exceptions. It has been very appropriately said that ancient and modern science of knowledge practically lived in different worlds. We can interpret this as they were in different socio-economic systems and will have philosophical basis commensurate with the same. Thus, connecting the two, or seeking sense of either continuity or even saying that the earlier was greater is not just incorrect and unwarranted, it is counterproductive. It will hold back actual progress, will deter critical thinking and scientific temper and thereby any further progress. The worldview of Vedic era cannot be applicable today and vice versa. It will only be hindering and pushing knowledge backwards. Such fabrication of heritage has only helped and will only help orthodoxy and obscurantism.
This will result in not only ‘not developing’ science and knowledge further but also will ‘undevelop’ the developments so far. As one will seek solutions in knowledge of the past, many of modern things will have to be undone. For instance, explanation of certain diseases will be changed and thus their treatment. Cow dung and urine will be pious. Aeronautics will be replaced by non-scientific Vimana Shastra and so on. Worse is that the methodology of arriving at truth is under attack. Rationality, cause and effect will no more be the basis of gaining new knowledge. In fact, there won’t be any new or need to find new, as all was known earlier.
Thus, Hindutva forces are trying to strengthen the theory of their brigade that all that was good was here and nothing good can and has come from outside. This is the reason they are so much opposed to the theory of Aryan migration. Their stand gives them a basis of ethnic and religious superiority and also justifes their chauvinistic stand and stand against minorities and Dalits.
A second thing which also is not much talked about, is that this helps to subvert the interest of the country to imperialist powers. They are not opposed to dominance of foreign capital in any field. In fact, they are not just welcoming it but spreading red carpets and trying to remove all the hurdles to its plunder.
Imperialism is quite comfortable with this. In fact, more than happy, as it helps it to dominate in the field of knowledge, science, learning as well as technology. While we will remain awed with the so-called glory of our past, our dependence on imperialist powers will increase. Not just currently, but in future too, as the very methodology of developing and evolving knowledge will be mired with false pride of being Vishwa Guru. It provides a very good cover to facilitate imperialist dominance.
Let us have a quick glance at funding. The effective budget for Science and Technology has been constantly decreasing. Research funds are being slashed, even the so-called Institutions of eminence are facing a crunch. Budgetary allocation has been static at about 0.7% of GDP, although Department of Science and Technology (DST) claimed that the amount has almost doubled. But a professor of BHU disagrees with the claims. He argues that since salaries of faculty members and fellowships of research scholars have gone up, this has taken away most of the increase. The fund crunch problem is real, says a Geneticist, an INSA Fellow and chair of Biology at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Pune. “Irrespective of how much funds are provisioned in the budget, somewhere in the pipeline, there are blockages,” he told Nature India. Even a year after grants are approved, scientists don’t receive the money, which affects not only the progress of research but also the long-term career prospects of their students, he says. IITs, CSIR labs etc. have been asked to generate half of their funds of their own. It means subservience to MNCs. This is the actual truth of new slogan by PM at Indian Science Congress 2019 – Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan, Jai Anusandhan.
In the current Budget, Piyush Goyal has announces Rs. 12396 crores for Science which is slightly higher than last year’s Budget allocation of Rs.12332 crore. With correction of inflation it is not significant at all. And a large chunk of it will go to programmes like digital villages, artificial intelligence, etc. which are designed to be run by MNCs. These programmes are not Science per se but the result of application of it has a semblance of Science particularly for common people. At the same time there is diversion of funds to pseudo-science. Projects like research in panchgavya, finding of Sanjeevani Booti, AYUSH, genetic code of cow etc. are getting huge funds which further reduces the allocations to Scientific Research needed for India. This abets the conditions of WTO/WB of doing away with basic science in India. Whatever little budget was there, a large chunk will be diverted to pseudo-science.
In a nutshell it can be seen that promotion of pseudo-science is not simply an idea of some silly sounding people, but has a well-conceived design which is to fulfil the RSS ‘Hindutva’ agenda on the one hand and abet unbridled imperialist dominance on the other. The real science and this real development of both Science, Research and that of researchers has taken a back seat. This calls upon scientists and people who stand for Science to raise a powerful voice against this Hindutva project. The silver lining is that unlike 2015, this time scientists and academicians have spoken and protested. There were protests in Bangalore and other cities by scientists, INSA has come out with a resolution. There have been many discussions, meetings on Pseudo-Science in various universities. This needs to be intensified.