Dr Khurshid Ahmad Tariq
Science is an intellectual and systematic study based on observations and experimentation. The knowledge generated by science has made the living on this planet happy, easy and successful. A good science is a comprehensive and exciting way of discovering the hidden secret of physical, chemical and biological world. Every day or a moment of it holds possibility of a new discovery and words like “Eureka eureka” is still a valid excitement among the scientists. A new scientific discovery and invention is always thrilling for a scientist and for the nation he is part of. A true science with societal relevance drives the economy of a nation and India is progressing very well in this direction.
Scientific discoveries are based on facts and evidences and not on myths or folklore beliefs. As man progressed in science superstitious beliefs and mythological concepts started losing faith from the human minds, thinking and societal setup. However, the scenario was quite different this time in Jalandhar’s Lovely Professional University which held the 106th session of Indian Science Congress from 3rd to 7th January, 2019 with the theme: Future India: Science and Technology. Pertinently, the Indian science congress is an annual event for children, women and men to share and listen the scientific deliberations and discoveries made in the field of science and technology in India.The Congress is always inaugurated by the PM of the country and addresses the gathering which includes even the Nobel laureates drawn from different countries of the world. The event is organised under the auspices of Indian Science Congress Association which is a huge body of scientists and students created for the welfare of Science in India. In fact Indian Science Congress Association has contributed in a number of ways towards the prosperity and progress of science in India. The annual events are always brainstorming and excited providing a great avenue for the scientists and teachers to express themselves for the benefit of the masses.
This year’s event took an ugly turn when some unscientific claims made by few speakers sent shock waves across the Indian scientific community and media. For example, Kauravas born of a single mother (from the mythological epic-the Mahabharata) were test tube babies indicating presence of stem cell technology before thousands of years in India. These were the statements made by Vice Chancellor (professor of Chemistry) of a reputed Indian University. Similarly, the remarks that Ravana (from Ramayana) had 24 types of aircrafts, and Lanka had airports during Vedic times is shameful. The other speaker went further extreme and emphasised that Theories of Newton and Einstein were wrong, naming some gravitational waves as Modi waves are shocking and annoying too. These pseudo-scientific claims have tarnished the image of Indian science and a wave of displeasure will soon spread throughout the world.The remarks that Lanka had air ports indicated that aircraft technology was already known in India before the Wright Brothers discovered the first flying machine. Shockingly they even criticised and disapproved Newton and Einstein theories of physics which revolutionized the science worldwide. The speaker took enough of the courage when he decided to name some specific gravitational waves as Narendra Modi Waves. Even the extra shock was added to the speech that Harsh Vardhan effect should be the name for gravitational lensing effect – one of the significant concepts of physics. The conscious scientific community shall definitely respond to such remarks by showing displeasure and anguish to these statements.
Overall, these statements made at a scientific gathering indicates that some hard core scientific people in India still give much importance to religious or folklore beliefs and little importance is given to science at a platform which is in fact meant for science discussion. Why it should be allowed to become a platform for mythological statements justifying scientific claims, the Indian Science Congress Association must ponder upon it and take necessary action.When it is the gathering of the country’s reputed scientific minds but mythological remarks being made to flourish at such events is quite unfortunate and a state of mourning for people associated with science.The irony is that these speakers made the mythological remarks before the house of children. What type of impact that is going to have on the minds and thoughts of these budding scientists? Do they want to push them back to the myths of Ramayana and Mahabharata and deprive them from developing the passion and zeal of science at a time when science and technology has already revolutionised the living on this planet.
The remarks made by scientists at a scientific event certainly challenge the referee and peer reviewing processes of the submitted papers and talks for the event. It shows the callous and non-serious attitude of the people associated with organising the event. The organisers failed to check the scientic matter and contents in papers and talks submitted for the scientific deliberations. One can surely ask questions to the organisers for having failed to boost this scientific event by allowing the folklore and mythological statements to be made before the gathering of scientists, professors and teachers. Around 20 Nobel laureates also attended this event. What type of image they would have made of Indian Science. We can’t deny or challenge the contribution of Indian science that has been responsible for some breakthrough research in the field of natural sciences and mathematics. There is no denying of the fact that Indian Science has shown its mettle worldwide since from very beginning in terms of some major contributions from space science to biological sciences. But it is of utmost shame that such remarks which are naïve and claim folklore or myths have been made by the professors or scientists themselves at a scientific platform which is being watched worldwide. A conscious community will definitely mourn such remarks coming from the brains of country’s chemist or a physicist. It is the right time that science congress must be made a foolproof event where the submitted papers and talks are duly scrutinised by a peer review process to separate the junk and mythic remarks of pseudo scientists.
(The writer is member of Royal Society of Biology of the UK and works as an assistant professor of Zoology at the Department of Higher Education, Srinagar, J&K. firstname.lastname@example.org)
Dr Khurshid Ahmad Tariq