A response to Rajnath Singh’s unscientific remarks

Rajnath_Singh“Rajnath Singh” is what happens when there is a disconnect between dogma and common sense. That the minister does not know science is a sorry fact, it is also indicative of the ignorance that has crept deep into the core of an organization that wishes to keep its eyes closed to reality. This post is a response to his unscientific comments made in front of news media, which can be read here. What he is basically trying to do here is merge Science with mythology by referring to pundits instead of scientists. Is it really necessary to go on ranting about stuff that you don’t really know and label Astronomy as coming from a ‘US Observatory’? I mean, where is the man really coming from? Clearly, it is an attempt to glorify his mythological beliefs, which no doubt are BJP’s main driving factor.

What Mr. Singh really doesn’t know, perhaps due to his lack of scientific education, is that it is not a ‘US observatory’ that observes and tells us when an eclipse is going to happen, it is the science of Astronomy, completely consistent across the world as well as in (surprise) India itself that ‘calculates’ (perhaps too difficult a word for him to contemplate) the occurrence of an eclipse. Concepts such as tilt of the axis of the earth, revolution of celestial bodies around the sun due to gravity and the position of the point of observer on the surface of the earth that, when put together give you the end result. But why should the minister worry about those factors when he has the neighborhood pundit by his side?

Nevermind the scientific calculations, Mr. Singh must now answer some more basic questions about the knowledge he seems to  have derived from scriptures using the high intellect of his pundits (if that is what he meant).

First: Hindu mythology also says that the earth is sitting on the back of a giant turtle (or was it a tortoise). What I want to know is, does the minister really believe that that is the case? Does he really have the courage to go so far as to appear a complete fool by accepting this joke also as a truth? Is he angry or upset that science doesn’t care about his point of view and is doing well enough to steer clear of such an embarrassing claim?

Second: Does the minister really believe that the Earth was formed 196 crore years ago? 196 crores = 1,960,000,000, i.e., 1.96 billion years old. Scientists have a unanimous agreement that the Earth is at least more than 4.5 billion years old, so his pundits, whoever they are, have got this fact wrong by at least 2.5 billion years and ended up embarrassing the minister in front of the whole nation. Too bad! And by the way, that is just the age of the Earth and we haven’t even mentioned the age of the universe, which scientists agree is more than 14.5 billion years, and which the mythology somehow totally missed. How did this disaster befall the great Hindu mythology? The minister should have opened a science textbook instead of listening to his idiot pundits.

Third: What does the minister mean when he says “Earlier, science did not accept this..”? What the hell is he talking about? Another stupid thing his pundits told him? Who in the scientific community has accepted anything of this sort from the Hindu mythology? Science is a system of making observations, developing theories and then testing these theories rigorously to find out the truth and it is science that has discovered the actual age and not his pundits. There have been many ancient cultures in the world that have put their own guesses on the age of the earth and all of them have the missed the mark. It is purely a coincidence that Hindu mythology has come up with the longest time of them all, but it is still nowhere near the correct scientific calculation.

Fourth: According to Hindu mythology, when a man dies, his wife should throw herself into the fire of his funeral and become a Sati, whereas a man has no such obligation, and we can probably guess why that is. So, does the minister think this “traditional value” should also be followed by the country? Will he suggest such a step to his loved ones? Is this a tradition that he is proud of? As a citizen, I demand an answer.

“No other country could match our knowledge” Well, it might not be true of our country today, but it certainly appears to be true that nobody in the world can match the knowledge that Mr. Singh has procured through his detailed scientific assessments of his uneducated pundits. The world is light years ahead of India in terms of science and technology, perhaps because we still want to suck up to any myth, however uninformed and unscientific, as long as it makes some of us proud of it. What he doesn’t understand is that we do not want a false sense of pride, but real measurable achievements.

For instance, Algebra is now from India? When the hell did that happen? Did he derive this also from his foolish pundits? The word algebra comes from the Arabic language (“restoration”) from the title of the book Ilm al-jabr wa’l-muḳābala by al-Khwarizmi. The roots of algebra can be traced to the ancient Babylonians. The word entered the English language during Late Middle English from either Spanish, Italian, or Medieval Latin. Algebra originally referred to a surgical procedure, and still is used in that sense in Spanish, while the mathematical meaning was a later development. If you need to read more about it, go to wikipedia. So, not only does he want to inflate his sense of mythological pride, he even wants to steal from scientific achievements of other cultures.

At this stage, rather than going on attacking the minister, I would pardon him a break and make one point very clear. Progress on scientific fronts has happened throughout the course of history. It is in accordance with that that various theories and concepts came about in different ages. So, yes, there will always be some concepts that you can attribute as having originated in one country or developed and refined in another. But, it doesn’t by any means imply that people in India discovered everything scientific and that was the end of progress of all areas of knowledge across the world.

The theory of relativity was not discovered in India. Neither did the theory of gravitation, electricity, nuclear physics, the periodic table of elements, evolution. Countries such as Japan have mastered fantastic technologies such as magnetically levitated trains, while we still are unable to figure out why our trains keep running off tracks every now and then.

What the minister has forgotten, or perhaps failed to understand, is that even the scientific achievements of India from centuries in the past did not come from pundits and that was not even mythology being practiced. That was science itself. And any person, whichever age they lived in, who developed any scientific theory was a scientist and not a pundit. And there is a huge difference between the two. Of course, a believer in mythology can still be a scientist if they follow the scientific method to draw conclusions, but the results of their method are by no means mythological in nature. Yes, it was someone living in India who invented the concept of Zero, but did he say it was thanks to mythology that he found out about Zero or was it because he used his intelligence just like many others have done all across the world to come up with their own discoveries in mathematics and the various branches of science.

The minister also fails to realize that our country was for long a source of inspiration to many other upcoming nations and do you know what for? We were the first nation in the world that had in its constitution the duty of each citizen to “build scientific temper”. But, perhaps the unscientific minister merely confused temper with temple, which is why he is part of an organization that has its origins in mythology and seems to be more concerned with where the next temple could be built.

“When knowledge is cut-off from traditional values, it becomes disastrous.” Does this sentence make any sense at all? Does he mean to say that what is wrong with the world is lack of touching of feet? Really? He thinks science tells one to stop touching our parents’ feet? Which scientific book is he referring to? Traditional values have nothing to do with knowledge.

“Civilizations which get cut-off from their traditions and values do not survive for long.” Again, what is he talking about? Which civilizations is he getting his knowledge from?

“..highly-educated youth involved in terror activities..” Oh? Now now, isn’t he talking about the ill effects of religion itself?

Now, why criticize the man so ruthlessly when there are many more like him in the country? Because he is the Home Minister. He is in charge of the country in a very special way and I, as a citizen, am obviously quite concerned with what he thinks about science and technology. I really want to know if the Home Minister of India really believes the Earth is sitting on the back of a giant turtle. I really need to know which direction this man and his party are planning to take the country towards: a progressive development of science and technology or a systematic rusting of the scientific capability and regression of the nation?

We have a right to know.


Edit 1: Added link to TOI report on what Rajnath Singh exactly said and expanded the intro paragraph a bit.


What if you’re wrong?

I am often asked this question by believers when talking about belief in God, “what if you’re wrong?” I do admit that it is definitely a fair question and so it deserves a fair and honest answer.

My answer is:
I believe in humanity, happiness, fairness, justice, equality, honesty and humility. I would like to see everyone to be happy and treated fairly, irrespective of their gender, religious beliefs, sexual orientations, caste and color amongst other things. And more importantly, I believe that everybody should be allowed their fundamental rights to say what they want, live the way they want and whoever they want to live with. All these are important and real issues and principals of humanism. These matter. Not having a blind belief in a God allows me to hold these very real principles as sacred and in a way devoid of any prejudices against any groups of people who might be different from me and hold principles different from mine.
If I am wrong about the God question, then it doesn’t really matter because I have still lived for real causes, real people, real happiness, real fundamental rights, real freedom from oppression. And these would have still remained equally important whether god existed or not because if he did, and he is half as good as you claim him to be, then I can be sure that I would be okay in his eyes because I still advocated for very real issues which were of a more pressing concern in my world than taking time out to worship an omnipotent and omniscient ultimate entity – something that simple logic definition becomes needless – or spending my energy on persecuting people who held different beliefs from me or had a sexual inclination that I did not approve of.
So, if I were wrong, I wouldn’t have lost out much in life anyway because I would still have been the same person as I am today. And if there turned out to be a god who’d still punish me for not worshipping him, then I submit that we would already be living under a supernatural dictatorship – an anarchy if you will – the nature of which would in itself indicate doom for humanity and the universe.
But you, a believer, have lived and dedicated your entire life to an assumed entity that you had no way of knowing for sure. And you don’t possess any special mental and physical faculties that I don’t so you cannot claim to have a way to know that I cannot. And because of your belief in that assumed supernatural entity, you have decided to live by a code which is based on compulsory love and extreme fear of the same entity and which makes some of you do really really horrible things to really really sweet and innocent people -things which someone with secular mindset could never even dream of. What about the sufferings you could cause in the world by following religious dogmas that persecuted people because of their beliefs, sexual inclinations and who they loved.
So, now i ask you the believer, what if you’re wrong? Haven’t you missed out on the most important things in life itself while thinking only for something that didn’t even exist?

Ridicule of religion

religion vs scienceWhy is it that when Charles Darwin, the genius who changed the world with his discovery of the concept of evolution, is made into a cartoon by attaching his head to the body of a monkey and when jokes are made and repeated by people in religious authority, nobody from the scientific community or science “followers” gets angry or violent or even remotely offended? But at the same time, utter anything against a religious figure, such as even a self-proclaimed godman, and you can be sure that people are going to get deeply offended, become violent, damage public property and even kill other people.

I think the difference here is what your belief system teaches you. Publicly, religion says it teaches tolerance and that without this tolerance the world wouldn’t survive. But privately, what it really teaches is to tolerate people only as long as they do exactly what you would like them doing and stray no further. Since birth, people are taught to revere their religious beliefs, which they don’t even understand properly, and blindly follow everything that is told to them.

For instance, if any other person proclaims himself to be highly religious or a godman, then everything he says must be taken as words of perfect wisdom. It doesn’t matter who these godmen are, how many times their acts of con are exposed (as in the case of Sathya Sai Baba), how low their educational and intellectual levels are (such as ISKCON’s Srila Prabhupad). The moment you mention examples of their ignorance, religious people get deeply offended and shut their ears but their dedication to such ungodly people continues despite what you say.

But have you ever heard a scientist or an atheist pelting a single stone towards any of these con-men despite their horrendous world-views?

You know why?

Because education gives you the maturity to ignore when people deserve your ignorance and pit evidence of all sides against each other and dismiss that which cannot hold its ground. No need to get angry if the same godman as above is making a fool out of themselves by saying that the “…moon is above, 200,000 yojanas above the sun… Above the sun. How they’ll go? [laughter] They are going to the wrong… bluffing only. I am repeatedly saying, they have never gone, simply bluff.”

Well, I only take offense to one thing in the above dialog. And that is that the laughter belongs to the listener and not the speaker.

And I challenge any religious followers to tell me I am wrong in laughing at the ignorance of such statements and the people who make them.


Thank God or else…

When some people thank (their) God for giving them what they wanted – happiness, money, health, etc. – and claim the greatness and lovingness of God because of their own personal experiences, isn’t it unfair to those who are supposedly given the opposite of that – disease, disability, grief and a life of immense and eternal suffering?

Consider a state that does everything for the rich but neglects the poor and takes away even their basic rights as humans –  right to health, education, food, water, justice, etc. Wouldn’t it be unfair to the unfortunate for these few lucky people to praise that state endlessly because of what it does for them?

And, what if the state declares that it will only take care of the people who vote for it again and again and that those who don’t, must be punished forever or at least until they also fall in line? Wouldn’t you call that state an evil state? Of course you will. Then how dare anyone ever say that in order to get the love of God, you must pray and worship endlessly and have complete faith otherwise you would be subjected to eternal damnation even after you are dead? Sounds equally evil to me.

How would you explain the lovingness and generosity of God when a child is born with a permanent disability, is going to live in suffering for its entire lifetime (long or short) and is marked to die with it? When I see someone suffering immensely, wouldn’t it be a corruption of my mind and morals if I should still praise God?

As Epicurus famously quoted:

Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?


Moon further from Earth than Sun: Godman

prabhupadaI recently came across this website (http://www.prabhupadanugas.eu/?p=9315), dedicated to Late Srila Prabhupada, anchor of the Hare Krishna Movement of the ISKCON fame, and I couldn’t make up my mind regarding whether they are serious or is this all some sort of a joke.

You wonder why I say this?

Because, though this website is supposed to increase the Godman’s followers even post-humously and add strength to the movement, it makes the mistake of actually and shamelessly publishing a lot of junk that he has preached which no sane person can dare to utter and another dare to hear without breaking out into a fit of laughter and ridicule.

Sample this. The Swami says that man has not landed on the moon (http://www.prabhupadanugas.eu/?p=9315) and explains it in a conversation that becomes absolutely non-sensical after the first 5-6 sentences itself:

They have not gone to the moon (excerpt from conversation with disciples, Perth, May 12, 1975)

Prabhupada: They have not gone to the moon planet .
Paramahamsa: Really?
Prabhupada: Yes. It is far, far away. Their calculation is wrong. They are going to a wrong planet.

Paramahamsa: It must be the Rahu planet.
Prabhupada: Yes, or something else. Not moon planet.

Well, as everyone clearly knows, there is NO Rahu planet. Yet, the godman seems to be unaware of modern (or even medieval) astronomy. Anyway, after this bit, the conversation drifts into looney calculation territory which is mind boggling even for a class 6 student because the swami and the other person keep tying themselves up in knots. Suffice to say that they end up concluding that the moon is further than the sun and then he says it is above the sun (another crackpot conclusion). And then he says:

Prabhupada: Above the sun. How they’ll go? [laughter] They are going to the wrong… bluffing only. I am repeatedly saying, they have never gone, simply bluff. How it is that they brought some dust? So brilliant, it is blazing, full. There is fire blazing.

Another conversation on the same page:

Guru krpa: How is the moon behind the sun?
Prabhupada: Not behind, above.
(ACBSP. 27th May 1975. Morning Walk in Honolulu, Hawaii.)

The moon is really above the Sun? Am sure this is going to piss Newton off because if defies his theory of gravitation Gravitycompletely. And I wonder how an eclipse is caused then. Oh, well, but wait… he has answered that important question also in an equally looney way:

Amogha: Is that Rahu planet closer than the moon to the earth?
Prabhupada : Rahu planet orbit is in between moon and sun. So when it comes in between moon and sun there is eclipse . At night it is eclipse in the moon, and daytime it is eclipse in the sun.

Eclipse in the moon and eclipse in the Sun? I have never heard such preposterous claims in my life and I was shocked to the core. I could not understand if I should simply laugh at everything and let it be. But then I realized that it is extremely sad to know that ISKCON has a huge following world over and this is what they must be preaching to their innocent unquestioning followers, so this is tragic news for humanity.

I really think that all the followers should now attend ISKCON sessions but only for fun and entertainment and not for science anyway.

Oh, and by the way, this is how that webpage concluded considering all the arguments against (none in favour, mind you) man landing on moon:

So as ISKCON devotees we are left with various possibilities :

1) Astronauts did indeed land on the moon, but they did not perceive the world of the demigods (Candraloka) because it is invisible to gross sense perception.

2) The astronauts were deluded by the demigods at some stage in their journey and diverted to the planet Rahu. (SB 4. 29. 69p)

3) The entire moon-landing story is a complete conspiracy, which has fooled millions of people all over the world for over 30 years. (Some say that they filmed the “moon’s surface” in a place in America known as Area 51, according to the TV program.)

So even those concluding from it were nuts? They gave so much thought to the Swami’s arguments that they perhaps didn’t consider a fourth more obvious conclusion:

4) The man was crazy.


P.S. I know all ISKCON followers would be fuming by now reading this blog. But please stop here one minute and think and answer one second. Don’t you think it is grossly unfair of you to get angry when everything I’ve state here is the truth substantiated by Prabhupada’s own webpages? And do you really believe that the moon is further from the Sun?

Come on.. You know he was wrong.


The Quotable Atheist

“Religion has convinced people that there’s an invisible man … living in the sky. Who watches everything you do every minute of every day. And the invisible man has a list of ten specific things he doesn’t want you to do. And if you do any of these things, he will send you to a special place, of burning and fire and smoke and torture and anguish for you to live forever, and suffer, and suffer, and burn, and scream, until the end of time. But he loves you. He loves you. He loves you and he needs money.”
― George Carlin

“Isn’t it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?”
― Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

“That which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence.”
― Christopher Hitchens

“All thinking men are atheists.”
― Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms

“Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.”
― Voltaire


It’s not my Karma



Karma, they say, basically means that your good and bad actions or deeds come back to reward or punish you. So, if something good is happening in your life right now, it is because of your past good Karma and if something bad is happening, it must be some bad Karma.

Of course, it is only a concept that people theorize about and it comes mostly from religious texts but, of course, no one can ever know for sure. Well, then why am I writing on this? It is for two reasons.

First, I think it is completely wrong. Why? Because it requires me to presuppose that the Universe is a just place. It tries to fool me into assuming that I am the most special component at the centre of this universe and the entire universe along with the laws of nature are colluding to make things happen with only me on its mind. Or, increase the subset and say it has us – all humans – on its mind. Even then, I feel that once you consider the vast expanse of the universe and our relatively tiny and irrelevant place in it, the concept just stops making sense right then and there. The universe is huge and we haven’t explored even 1% of its size to see if there are any others like us on some other planets. It is so vast that we haven’t yet, and might never be able to discover any other forms of life in it. Yet, we can be so arrogant and self-centred to make this gigantic claim to know that the same universe is designed to run as this rewarding and punishing machine that know exactly what some tiny human did and what he/she should get in return.

Secondly, let us suppose that this concept was somehow acceptable on the grounds that it encourages us to do good deeds increasingly more often than bad ones fearing Karmic retribution. Fair enough. But I am still not too happy with it because now it attempts to do something else that spoils the essence of being human. That it does by telling people that their achievements and failures are somehow magically linked with a past that they might never know to be true (like from “past lives”), thereby fictionalizing our lives. Does it also mean that one’s efforts to achieve something and their emotions and feelings attached to it are basically irrelevant in front of Karma?

We don’t need to find supernatural explanations in everything. Sometimes, things just happen. The essence of being human is in doing and dreaming, it is in rising and falling, it is in flying and hurting. We deeply cherish both our good days and bad days and that is how humanity gets its charm. Let us not trivialize it by resorting to a concept that stinks of wishful thinking and immaturity in order to gain a placebo effect.

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