The Indian ‘Pseudo’-Science Congress 2019

The 106th Indian Science Congress (ISC) was held from 3-7 January, 2019 at Lovely Professional University, Punjab with the theme ‘Future India – Science and Technology’ ‘in order to provide platform to researchers, academicians and industry champions to share their findings with the scholars zealous to excavate scientific findings and also to instigate budding science and technology enthusiasts to do meaningful extradition for ever-growing industry need and sustainable socio-economic system’ [1]. But what marred the Congress was outlandish, pseudo-scientific and invalidated claims by independent researcher Dr. KJ Krishnan, Andhra University VC Prof. G Nageshwara Rao, and Panjab University geologist Ashu Khosla at the event that was attended by 30,000 scientists including three Nobel Laureates. The ISC is annually organized by the Department of Science and Technology under the Government of India.

The major claims that were made by the three researchers at the Children’s Science Congress, which is a part of the ISC, attended primarily by school students and teachers were as follows [2]:

  • The Kauravas from Mahabharata were test tube babies, born with the help of stem cell.
  • The use of ‘astras’ and ‘shastras’ by Rama and that of ‘sudarshan chakra’ by Krishna proves the presence of guided missile technology 1000s of years ago in India.
  • Ravana had airports and 24 types of aircrafts in Lanka.
  • The contributions of Newton and Einstein in the field of theoretical physics were completely wrong.
  • Gravitational waves and gravitational lensing effect would be renamed as ‘Narendra Modi Waves’ and ‘Harshavardhan Effect’ respectively.
  • Lord Brahma discovered the dinosaurs and mentioned about it in the Vedas 25,000-30,000 years ago
  • Electricity and magnetism was the same phenomena.
  • Vishnu’s ten incarnations is basically the theory of evolution.

This is not the first time that such claims have been made. Since the 2015 edition of the event, these kinds of bizarre claims have regularly been uttered by scientists or politicians at the ISC. From papers being presented on how Vedas contain references of aircrafts which was capable of interplanetary travel among other things, to the Prime Minister claiming that Lord Ganesha was the 1st example of plastic surgery, to Union Minister for Science and Technology claiming that Stephen Hawking had said that the Vedas contain a superior theory than Einstein’s E=mc² – we have seen it all [2].

Detractors claim that it is the ‘colonial mindset’ of the ‘science establishment’ in India that forces the criticizers to accept anything coming from the West and opposes anything coming from the rich heritage of ancient India. They also ask the criticizers to show evidence that these claims didn’t exist or don’t work.

Evidence and proof is the very basis of science and technological development. So, when any researcher or scientist is proposing any theory, the onus of evidence and proof is on him/her. Taking the example of this year’s ISC, none of the presenters came up with any evidence or scientific study to back up their claims. The claims were not made in front of scientists so as to avoid going through scrutiny and mature cross questioning. As for ancient Indian philosophers, scientist and mathematicians, the contribution is immense. Einstein once famously said, ‘We owe a lot to the Indians, who taught us how to count’. Any scientific discovery or invention is part of an evolution of scientific knowledge. For example, development of an aircraft would require strong theoretical foundations in thermodynamics, fluid dynamics, metallurgy and a host of other subjects. Do we have enough evidence of these developments in ancient times? Yes, metallurgy did develop in India, including the extraction of zinc, development of steel etc., which were fantastic scientific development considering the times; but is that sufficient to build aircrafts? Those would, at length, be used to manufacture cookware, primitive weapons, etc. Finally, passing mythology as history has been a common feature of these presenters. No doubt mythological stories are rich in literature, imagination; they could even be a reflection of society of the times. But to pass them off as scientifically constructed or validated theories is not only infantile but also an insult to the real scientific achievement made during ancient and medieval India.

The questions to ask in this context are – why is this happening; is there a pattern to it; is it happening by chance or deliberate? It may be noted that there is a common thread to the claims. They promote that ancient Hindu texts contain the answer to everything, mythology is history, technologically the ancient Hindu society was quite advanced by today’s standards (Subtext: That technology was lost – most likely because of Muslim invasion and destruction of that knowledge.). These and other similar messages are spread fiercely through WhatsApp, Facebook, etc. along with serious forums like the ISC – it’s an all-out attack. The belief of the common man on these lines is necessary to promote the sense of Hindutva nationalism, which is necessary for the creation of a Hindu Rashtra. Without the approval of the higher echelons of the country’s power structure, it is impossible to get an invitation to speak and then deliver such pseudo-scientific presentations at the ISC. This is not only dangerous as far as developing the scientific temper of the country is concerned but also alarming as it normalizes the Hindutva assault on the cultural framework of this country. Hence it is extremely important for all scientific minded people to resist such attacks and expose the pseudo-science propagated by these forces in such forums.

 

References

[1] http://isc2019.org/

[2] https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/ravanas-airports-modi-waves-leave-science-congress-stunned/articleshow/67402208.cms

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