Weird ideas at Science Congress

P Lal

THE claims by certain ‘knowledgeable’ people at the Indian Science Congress that ancient India knew of stem-cell reproduction techniques, the intricacies of construction of flying machines and the Pythagoras Theorem et al made me remember a book read a long time ago — Begone Godmen by Abraham Thomas Kovoor, a rationalist of repute. His challenge to prove any supernatural phenomenon/power under scientific and controlled conditions could be taken up by none; in fact, one who dared to come forward lost his deposit.

Kovoor declared: “He who does not allow his miracles to be investigated is a crook, he who does not have the courage to investigate a miracle is gullible, and he who is prepared to believe without verification is a fool.”

The question is: Can a ‘rationalist’ approach explain everything we encounter, or is there something else beyond it? One thing is, however, clear. Conferences such as the Indian Science Congress are not the forum for making claims which prima facie look bizarre.

Modern science is based on observation, experimentation and verification by peers. ‘Observation’ is dependent on the five senses —sight, hearing, smell, touch, and taste, the prowess of which could be amplified by means such as telescope etc. In the process of evolution, these five senses developed to an extent in humans. But we know that in some other living beings, these are far more pronounced. A dog can smell a thousand times better, an eagle can see from miles above the ground, and migratory birds fly thousands of miles when the season changes, seemingly unaided by external sources.

We know of the four dimensions — three of space and one of time — but the widely accepted String Theory stipulates the existence of 10 dimensions, the implications of which are not yet known to science.

Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution holds sway in mainstream scientific thinking, but there are theorists like Erich von Daniken, who are intrigued by the sudden jump in human intelligence at a certain stage in ‘evolution’. He theorised that this was done through genetic engineering by aliens who visited the Earth, from some part of the cosmos, about 40,000 years ago in their spaceships. His book, According to the Evidence, marshals facts to prove his point.

Regarding the Pythagoras Theorem, there is a shloka in Baudhayana Sulbasutra (800 BC) which can be interpreted as: “A rope stretched along the length of the diagonal produces an area which the vertical and horizontal sides make together.”

There is, therefore, a need to probe our past, but separately from the deliberations at various scientific forums.

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