Written by Abha Goradia
Thirty-seven distinguished science academics and communicators on Wednesday signed a letter against the "unscientific claims" made at the Indian Science Congress this year that was sent to the general president of the Indian Science Congress Association.
"We are deeply shocked and disturbed that false claims, based on confusing episodes in mythology as science, have been made in the 106th Indian Science Congress, that too in scientific presentations made to the Children Science Congress. Such content in the ISC undermines the long scientific tradition of the ISC which, in the past, has been led by outstanding scientists such as Acharya Prafulla Chandra Ray, Sir Ram Nath Chopra and Prof P Parija. Such claims tarnish the image of Indian science globally, and also undermine the credibility of the genuine contributions of the great science personalities of yore, that too, in front of young and impressionable minds. Stories from our epics are poetic, enjoyable, rich in moral elements and in imagination but are not scientifically constructed or validated," reads the letter.
Noted academics who have signed the letter include astrophysicist Jayant V Narlikar, molecular biologist at IISC Bengaluru Dipankar Chatterji, scientists at Homi Bhabha Centre for Science Education Aniket Sule, MC Arunan and G Nagarjuna, faculty member at IIT Bombay Abhijit Majumder, science educator Arvind Gupta, faculty member at Jawaharlal Nehru University Dhruv Raina, and faculty member at Centre of Excellence on Basic Sciences SG Dani.
"We hope you will find out how the speakers were deemed fit to address the gatherings, and we hope stronger steps are planned to ensure that the ISCA actually promotes and advances the cause of science," the letter to the ISCA general president adds.
Some of the contentious claims which led to an outcry at the ISC this year included Andhra University V-C G Nageswara Rao statement that Kauravas of Mahabharata were born out of stem cell research and test tube fertilisation process and that Raavana had more than 24 types of aircraft, the Pushpaka Vimana just one among them.
Scientist Kannan Jegathala Krishnan, on the other hand, dismissed Albert Einstein's Theory of Relativity, Isaac Newton's Law of Gravity and Stephen Hawking's theories about Black Holes.
This is not the first time unscientific and false claims have been propagated in the ISC, the letter points out.
In response to similar occurrences in the 2015 edition of ISC, an online petition was signed by over 1000 science academics and communicators and was submitted to the president of ISC.
Recently, the Indian Science Congress Association has passed a resolution to obtain written declarations from every speaker, invited to the programme in future, stating that they would not speak anything "unscientific".