Millennium Post

(Un)scientific minds

With superstitions and irrational beliefs prevalent in our leaders’ mindset, how can we propagate a strong ecosystem of science and technology across the country?

(Un)scientific minds

The BJP has never been able to resolve the mutually exclusive nature of science and pseudo-science. It has always been in a dilemma on how to reconcile their irrational belief that thousands of years ago our ancestors used to travel from planet to planet in 40-engine aircraft or that an elephant's head on Lord Ganesh is a "proof" that plastic surgery was known and practised by our ancestors. Often the obsession with the past leads to top functionaries of the party making absurd and ridiculous claims.

The latest example of this has come from West Bengal. Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated (by video-conferencing from New Delhi) the 5th India International Science Festival in Kolkata on Tuesday. Among other things, he said that his government was providing institutional support for invention and innovation. He emphasised on the need to have a strong ecosystem supporting science and technology. His speech was greeted by a section of the audience raising the slogan "Jai Shri Ram" vociferously, much to the annoyance of the eminent scientists present at the occasion.

Ironically, just the day before, the president of his party's West Bengal unit, Dilip Ghosh, made the astounding claim that the milk of Bengal's cows has gold in it and that is why the colour of milk of the Bengal cows was golden, that is yellow. He went to claim that the hump on the back of the Bengali cows (to be fair to Ghosh, he did not say Bengali Hindu cows) had a Swarna Nari (a tendon or ligament or nerve) which produces gold when sunlight falls on it. No cow, other than the Bengali cow, has this Swarna Nari. He had disparaging comments on Indians having foreign wives whom he denigrated as "Jersey cows".

It is open to question how an ecosystem supporting science and technology can be built in a country ruled by a party whose leaders are constantly at loggerheads with science and everything that science teaches. How can a student coming out of an IIT, or similar institutions that teach science, be made to reconcile what he has learnt in his classes with the codswallop being endlessly reeled off by those who are now presiding over the country's destiny?

The RSS/BJP leaders refute the Darwinian theory of evolution and insist that man did not evolve from earlier primates but was born in the planet on his own. How will a student of anthropology reconcile this absurd claim compared to what he has been taught? Obscurantism and revivalism are enemies of science and technology but today it is obscurantism which is strutting about and pretending to be science.

There are some senior leaders in BJP who pooh-pooh such claims. Some years ago, the Hindutva brigade propagated an absurd story that stone icons of Lord Ganesha were drinking milk. The propaganda machinery of the Sangh Parivar spread this story from Washington to Warangal, wherever they had their men. It is only Murli Manohar Joshi, a doctorate in physics from the Allahabad University (where he was a student of the renowned astrophysicist Dr Meghnad Saha) who debunked the "Ganesh-drinking-milk" story as "bogus". Today, in the BJP of Narendra Modi and Amit Shah, Joshi has become a persona non grata and pushed into anonymity.

The Prime Minister's emphasis on the spread of science and technology rings hollow when senior leaders of his party make claims that fly in the face of science. They are neither taken to task nor asked to desist from making such absurd claims that make themselves and their party a laughing stock.

The RSS, which is BJP's mentor, lives in a make-believe world of its own. The Economic Times of February 10, last year, reported that the RSS was holding a meeting of five hundred students in the convention hall of the JNU, New Delhi, to discuss "how modern inventions in science, robotics and war strategies already existed in Sanskrit scriptures". A special exhibition was to be held to "show that ancient Indians were miles ahead of the world in science, technology and medicine and it is time for Indians to step out from the orbit of the West".

This view is antithetical to the spirit of scientific inquiry and research. If robotics was known to our elders of yore and is to be found in Sanskrit scriptures, then why spend a single paisa for research on robotics? Just bring out those "scriptures" and propagate them. In fact, why not close down all the research institutions and laboratories and delve deeper and deeper into the "scriptures"? And why "step out from the orbit of the West"? Can there be water-tight compartmentalisation between Indian science and Western science (or, perhaps between "Hindu science" and "Christian" science)?

If necessity is the mother of invention, then curiosity is the mother of science. If our ancestors had discovered everything in science, then there is no need for fresh scientific research. The RSS view is anti-science. It makes absurd claims and kills the spirit of scientific inquiry. The Prime Minister talks of science and technology. He must, first of all, ask his party men not to make unscientific claims.

Views expressed are strictly personal

Barun Das Gupta

Barun Das Gupta

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