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India: These Pseudo-Science Congresses . . . May 2014 on

24 January 2019

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Cartoon by Morparia on the All India Pseudo-Science Conference (Click on the image for bigger view)


The Asian Age, January 8, 2019


A travesty of science

At the event, Modi was ready with a slogan — “Jai jawan, jai kisan, jai anusandhaan” — as he is wont to — to underline the importance of research.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi (Photo: PTI)

Indian Science Congresses became a prestigious event in the nation’s calendar when Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru began to inaugurate it in the first month of every year. It attracted men and women at the frontiers of scientific research from all corners of the globe, and invigorated scholarship in science within the country and was an inspiration to young scientists.

All that seems like pre-history today. Leading science intellectuals like Prof. C.N.R. Rao, who has done so much to advance research within the country, has reportedly said he no longer attends the Science Congress for fear that he may be seen as endorsing what goes on there in the name of science. The comment was published after startling things were said at the recent science conclave in Jalandhar that was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

At the event, Mr Modi was ready with a slogan — “Jai jawan, jai kisan, jai anusandhaan” — as he is wont to — to underline the importance of research. But this aspect was hardly being heeded.

Apparently, the political culture of our rulers these days, which regards the fertile imagination plentifully available in Hindu mythology as concrete evidence of advanced scientific work in ancient India, is beginning to have an effect. Thus the vice-chancellor of Andhra University expounded on the Kauravas in the Mahabharat as being test-tube babies or products of stem cell research. He also claimed that Ravan had 24 types of aircraft, not just the Pushpak Vimaan. Another worthy dismissed the work of Newton, Einstein and Stephen Hawking, and spoke of his own forthcoming theory of the “Modi wave”.

The real question is: how do such radicals make it to this once highly-prestigious meet?


The Times of India


Faith as science: The mythological science peddled at ISC puts even science fiction to shame

January 8, 2019, 2:00 AM IST

The outpouring of pseudoscience at successive Indian Science Congresses in recent years invites international embarrassment for the country. The ISC is in its 106th year, but it is a sign of slipping standards that papers and speakers propagating myths and scientific falsehoods have edged past peer reviews and found platforms to make themselves a laughing stock. A vice-chancellor was certain that the hundred Kauravas had to be test tube babies while another speaker confidently rejected Newton’s gravity, Einstein’s relativity, and Hawking’s black holes without offering any proof thereof.

With anger brewing K Vijay Raghavan, government’s principal scientific adviser, pointed finger at a larger problem. “The gorillas that really deserve to be in the #pseudoscience bin are huge, numerous and freely roaming the landscape,” VijayRaghavan wrote, about the widespread prevalence of such thinking endangering public policy. The resort to revivalism is unfortunate: until the mid-1990s, India matched or outperformed China in peer reviewed research papers in science and engineering. But a 2018 report by US National Science Foundation found that in 2016 China produced nearly four times more research papers than India in science and engineering and that China produced more engineering articles than even US and European Union in 2016.

While developing country inventors accounted for less than 1% of total US patents granted in 2000, by 2016 China accounted for 4% of all US patents granted. Rather than catching up, the defeatist mentality of harking back to myth is quietly taking over in India. These pseudoscientists must be weeded out from academia and government must offer better incentives to reverse brain drain. With the coming fourth industrial revolution, scientific and technological prowess will be the primary determinant of which country does well and which one lags. In an increasingly technology mediated world India is falling far behind.


The Indian Express

A forum for pseudo-science

The Science Congress has lost its way. There is a strong case for abolishing it altogether

Written by Rajesh Kochhar | Updated: January 14, 2019 12:12:42 am

Kochhar is author of ‘The Vedic People: Their History and Geography’

The Science Congress is an expensive annual tamasha funded by the Government of India. Since it is in the name of science, it escapes close scrutiny. The high point of every Congress is the inaugural session presided over by the prime minister. Duty bound, the bigwigs of government also attend but leave as soon as the chief guest does.

A large number of research papers are read at the Congress, most of them sub-standard. Even if a small fraction of them were capable of being enlarged into a full-fledged peer-reviewed research publication, India would be a major player in the field of modern science. Higher-ranking institutions, as a rule, hold the Science Congress in contempt and dissuade their researchers from attending.

Things were not always so. India was the first country outside the Western world to take to modern science; the world’s first non-White modern scientists are Indian. In the early years, Indian science was fairly competitive and the Science Congress was set up a century ago as a community forum on the lines of the British Association for the Advancement of Science. The memoir of an American delegate for the January 1947 Congress, noted botanist Albert Blakeslee, provided some insights into where Indian science stood on the eve of Independence.

He noted that Indian participants were well informed on the latest developments in their field and asked searching questions. Very perceptively, he recorded that a person’s official position was considered more important than the work he was doing. Not surprisingly, young researchers felt that “pull” played a role in selecting candidates for foreign scholarships. But at least rigorous scientific training was seen as essential for the new generation of scientists.

As world science dramatically grew after World War II, India started lagging behind. In recent decades, as our desire to service the Western economy has increased, respect and support for science have gone down. It is important to do good science, but it is more important not to do bad science. Mediocre and low-level research feels emboldened when the government makes official forums available for its dissemination. As any gardener knows, removing weeds is a prerequisite for growing flowers.

In the past couple of years, an extremely disturbing trend has set in. The Science Congress is increasingly being used as a forum to propound and propagate absurd notions about sacred ancient Indian literature. When the trend has been set by the prime minister, science minister and chief ministers, lesser people can only compete among themselves to see who can stoop lower. At this Congress and elsewhere, the birth of a hundred sons and a solitary daughter of Gandhari have been presented as proof of the prevalence of stem cell research. The Mahabharata talks of a piece of iron as the foetus and the employment of water and ghee as the means of splitting it. Surely, modern research requires more complex materials than that.

Irresponsible utterances at hitherto respected forums not only insult modern science but ancient Indian authors and poets as well. When a crackpot declares from a government-supported modern scientific forum that Newton’s and Einstein’s theories are wrong, India becomes an object of international derision.

Regular Indian modern science is not sufficiently productive and fast-paced to be able to provide new results every 12 months. A strong case exists for abolishing the Science Congress altogether, especially when discipline-specific learned bodies are in existence. If the Science Congress is to be continued for old times’ sake, it should not be held annually but every three or four years.

Globalisation has provided India with a pretext to abdicate its responsibility in the vital area of education. For some reason not made public, and a departure from general practice, the task of organising this year’s Science Congress was entrusted to a private university in Punjab. The sole aim of private universities is to make money; this they can do only by offering professional courses. This year’s host has a school for fashion design but none for basic sciences. Hosting an event inaugurated by the PM and attended by Nobel laureates will enhance the host university’s profile and further encourage students to move away from basic sciences.

The nation must develop collective wisdom and realise that in the present age, science is the only instrument for ensuring economic growth, improving quality of life, and bringing about social change. Cultivation of science demands respect for its methodology and strict avoidance of pseudo-science.

The shallowness of the Science Congress culture can be seen from the fact that the entire country goes gaga over the presence of a handful of Western Nobel laureates who come as part of a diplomatic exercise. It may not be out of place to recall an incident from 20 years ago (to which I was privy). The Science Congress president told the Chinese ambassador, with obvious pride, that as many as six Nobel laureates would be attending the forthcoming event. The ambassador turned his head towards the Indian scientist, and said in an even tone: Do you have that many Nobel laureates in your country? This was his way of saying: Produce your own Nobel laureates; do not exult as an event manager.

The inauguration of this year’s Science Congress has coincided with the successful landing of a Chinese robotic rover on the dark side of the moon that had never been seen before. The rover is named Chang’e, after the Moon goddess of Chinese mythology. This is China’s way of linking its ancient heritage with its present-day prowess. The highlight of the Science Congress has been a paper read by a university vice-chancellor ridiculously claiming that various types of aircraft were known in the Ramayana.

(The writer is former director of National Institute of Science, Technology and Development Studies (CSIR), New Delhi)


Indian Science Congress: Principal Scientific Adviser wants complaint against V-C’s pseudoscience talk


The above articles from the media are reproduced here for educational and non-commercial use