Pseu­do­science moves from fringe to the main­stream

Sunday Times (Sri Lanka) - - INTERNATIONAL - By Soutik Biswas

In­dia has a mixed re­la­tion­ship with sci­ence.

On the one hand, it has a rich tra­di­tion of out­stand­ing sci­en­tists - the Higgs bo­son par­ti­cle, for ex­am­ple, is named partly af­ter an In­dian physi­cist and Ein­stein's con­tem­po­rary, Satyen­dra Nath Bose. Par­ti­cle physi­cist Ashoke Sen, mean­while, is the re­cip­i­ent of Fun­da­men­tal Physics Prize, the world's most lu­cra­tive aca­demic award.

But it also has a long tradi- tion of re­plac­ing sci­ence with myths, lead­ing to a fringe cul­ture of pseu­do­science.

Many be­lieve un­der Naren­dra Modi's Hindu na­tion­al­ist BJP party, pseu­do­science has moved from the fringe to the main­stream.

Mr Modi him­self set the tone in 2014 with his out­landish claim that cos­metic surgery was prac­tised in In­dia thou­sands of years ago.

Many of his min­is­ters fol­lowed suit with sim­i­lar claims. In­dia's top sci­ence sum­mit also started invit­ing aca­dem- ics with Hindu na­tion­al­ist lean­ings who have made equally bizarre claims.

Such claims usu­ally hark back to an imag­ined glo­ri­ous Hindu past to bol­ster re­li­gious na­tion­al­ism. The BJP and its hard line al­lies have for a long time mixed mythol­ogy and religion to bol­ster po­lit­i­cal Hin­duism and na­tion­al­ism. Adding sci­ence to the mix, say crit­ics, will only help prop­a­gate quack sci­ence and erode sci­en­tific tem­per.

Also, as econ­o­mist Kaushik Basu says: "For a na­tion to progress it is im­por­tant for peo­ple to spend time on sci­ence, math­e­mat­ics and lit­er­a­ture in­stead of spend­ing time show­ing that 5,000 years ago their an­ces­tors did sci­ence, math­e­mat­ics and lit­er­a­ture."

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Sri Lanka

© PressReader. All rights reserved.