Pseudoscience poses great danger, says Prof Vijay Raghavan

Pseudoscience poses great danger, says Prof Vijay Raghavan

N.B. Nair

New Delhi (ISJ) – Principal Scientific Advisor to the government, Professor K. Vijay Raghavan has termed it as "unfortunate", the claim of Andhra Pradesh University Vice Chancellor G. Nageswhar Rao at the just concluded Indian Science Congress that India had the knowledge of stem cell research, test tube fertilisation and guided missiles thousands of years ago.

Addressing Children Science Congress in Jalandhar, Dr Rao claimed, Indians had mastered test-tube fertilisation, stem cell technology and guided missiles thousands of years ago.

"Hundred fertilised eggs were put in 100 earthen pots. Is it not test-tube babies...? Stem cell research was done in this country, thousands of years ago. Thousands of years ago, we had this technology, we had 100 Kaurvas from one mother because of stem-cell technology," he told participants at the Congress.

Prof Vijay Raghavan said, "it is indeed unfortunate that a sitting Vice-Chancellor of a great State University, a biologist to boot, says something that is scientifically completely untenable."

"His Chancellor should get a formal complaint from those who were there and he will surely hear personally from individual scientists and our very vocal science- academies," wrote Prof. Raghavan in his blog ScienceandIndia.

Prof. Raghavan, himself a biologist and former Secretary of Department of Biotechnology wrote, when lay people including politicians make random untenable statements linking religion, culture, the past etc. to science in an erroneous manner, the problem is to be addressed by collegial communication. When scientists make such links, they should be addressed more squarely.

"If there is likelihood that such views may enter policy, the engagement needs to go up. But these are not the Gorillas in the room," quipped Prof. Raghavan.

Indian Science Congress sessions have been mired into controversy in the recent times.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself had claimed India had mastered genetic sciences during the Mahabharata period. Inaugurating the Reliance Foundation Hospital in Mumbai in 2014, he had said, "Mahabharata says Karna was not born from his mother's womb. This means that genetic science was present at that time. That is why Karna could be born outside his mother's womb."

During the 105th Indian Science Congress at Imphal, Science & Technology Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan had claimed, Stephen Hawking had said, the Vedas have a theory that is superior to Albert Einstein's famous equation E=mc^2.

The application of science, through technology, must be cautious and wise. This requires careful listening to a range of scientific possibilities, and working with citizens, and government. Time and attention must be given to all views. But if we (our scientists, in India) hesitate to call our #pseudoscience in these debates we risk endangering our citizens and the planet. By preventing the right thing from being done and by also by doing the wrong thing 'big' pseudoscience poses a great danger, wrote the scientist heading the high-level panel to advise Narendra Modi government on science and technology.

Source: Dr K. Vijay Raghavan's blog

Image courtesy: Wikipedia

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