- Dharshini Raghavan, II B.Sc Chemistry
The 106th Indian Science Congress(ISC) was held in Lovely University, Punjab from third to seventh January, 2019.It drew a lot of negative attention this year because, a lot of unscientific claims that were made by two ‘scientists’. Andhra Pradesh University vice chancellor professor G Nageshwar Rao was at the heart of the issue. He claimed that Kauravas from Mahabharata were actually test tube babies and that Ravana had 24 different types of aircrafts. He did not provide any scientific evidence for his dubious statements. The entire Indian scientific community went berserk. This is not the first time ISC has come under fire. When it comes to monitoring the quality of speeches, ISC has a consistently poor record. Few Twitteratis rightly renamed Indian Science Congress to ‘Indian Superstition Congress’.
Mythology and science cannot be mixed up together. Making a pseudoscientific statement, in a science congress, especially filled with children, is not okay. Yeah, that’s right! These claims were actually made at the children’s science congress. Small children aren’t mature enough to distinguish between fact and fiction and brainwashing them is just horrible.
Sure, it’s definitely okay to have your own beliefs, but what’s unacceptable is the audacity to call it science. It tarnishes the image of genuinely good scientists who work hard and do good science.
So, how do we distinguish between science and pseudoscience?
Philosopher Karl Popper proposed that if a hypothesis is testable, refutable and falsifiable, then it is scientific. Now, the statement ‘Kauravas are test tube babies’ is not testable. And if is not testable, it is not falsifiable and hence not scientific. Such statements therefore have no place in the realm of science.
Our country has a lot of pseudoscientific myths floating around like homeopathy, numerology, astrology, mythology etc. As a nation, we are extremely sensitive and close-minded. Those who are critical of religion and mythology are threatened and ultimately shut down. Dr. Narendra Dabholkar was an Indian medical doctor, anti-superstition activist and a rationalist who was shot dead in Pune in 2013because of his attempts to get an anti-superstition law passed in the Maharashtra government. By raising his voice, Dr. Dabholkar questioned age old Hindu beliefs and it didn’t sit well with right-wing extremists because they felt threatened.
Pseudoscience is an epidemic that’s spreading all over and in the age of fake news, our ability to distinguish between science and pseudoscience is diminishing at an alarming rate. We need to ask questions and most importantly, have to learn to let go of our beliefs if they are not substantiated. If we don’t educate ourselves and others around us, and choose to remain ignorant and stupid, then we will never develop as a nation.