Last week’s Indian Science Congress started off pretty well with an inauguration by Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself. However, the conference’s festivities took a number of unexpected turns after speakers made bizarre claims mixing Hindu mythology and science, as well as dismissing the findings of Albert Einstein and Isaac Newton.
G Nageshwar Rao, the Vice Chancellor of Andhra University, referenced an ancient myth as evidence that stem cell research was used in India thousands of years ago, AFP news agency reports. In particular, he cited the story of the Kauravas, the 100 legendary sons of the King of Hastinapur, Dhritarashtra, and his wife Gandhari.
“Everybody wonders and nobody believes, how come Gandhari gave birth to 100 children. How is it humanly possible? Can a woman give birth to 100 children in one lifetime,” he posed to the puzzled audience, according to the Press Trust of India.
“But now we believe we have test-tube babies… 100 eggs were fertilized and put into 100 earthen pots. Are they not test-tube babies? Stem cell research in this country was present thousands of years ago. Today, we speak about stem cell research.”
“We had hundreds of Kauravas from one mother because of stem cell research and test tube baby technology. It happened a few thousand years ago. This was science in this country,” he added.
Not exactly peer-reviewed stuff, here.
He went on to talk about the ancient Indian epic poem of Ramayana and claimed that Ravan, the story’s hero, used 24 different types of aircraft and airstrips in Sri Lanka to rescue his wife Sita from the demon king Ravana.
Another university lecturer from southern Tamil Nadu state threw shade at the greats of Western science, Einstein and Newton. According to BBC News, Dr KJ Krishnan argued Newton failed to “understand gravitational repulsive forces” and said gravitational waves should be renamed “Narendra Modi Waves”, after India’s prime minister.
Needless to say, the lion’s share of Indian scientists appear to be pretty embarrassed by the comments. The Science Congress Association was quick to dismiss the off-the-wall theories from its speakers, saying: “We don’t subscribe to their views and distance ourselves from their comments. This is unfortunate.”
The Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government of India, K VijayRaghavan, described the speakers’ comments as “completely untenable”. Writing in a blog post, he explained how the remarks were a testament to the wider problem of “pseudoscience” entering the mainstream debate in India.
After all, this is not the first time an Indian authority has blurted out unscientific comments about the country’s technological prowess. Just last year, India’s chief minister of Tripura claimed that the Internet and satellite communication were invented in ancient India.
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