Scientists protest irrational claims made about ancient India at Science Congress

According to the Minister for Science, "gravitational waves" will then be named "Narendra Modi waves"

Scientists and researchers from many different institutions, as well as large masses of India's general public, have taken to the streets and to social media this week to voice their protest against "irrational and unscientific claims" made by so-called 'scientists' at the ongoing Indian Science Congress in Jalandhar. These claims included such gems as an assertion that the Kaurava's were test tube babies and that guided missile technology was used in the Kurukshetra War described in the Mahabharata.

On 6 January, the streets outside Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru, (IISc) were packed with scientists and researchers from the local Akhila Karnataka Vicharavadigala Vedike (Karnataka Rationalists' Forum), the Breakthrough Science Society (BSS) and other groups that seek to promote science and awareness about science in the country, the Times of India reported.

"Time to speak up for science!", "Do not mix mythology and science!" and "Do not tarnish genuine contributions of Indian scientists!" were three of dozens of printed slogans held up by the silent protestors outside IISc.

The uproar came after two speakers, and supposedly senior members of India's science fraternity, at the Childrens' Science Congress this year made some bizarre claims about science in the age of Mahabharata and Ramayana.

Andhra University's Vice Chancellor G Nageshwar Rao speaking at the 106th Indian Science Congress Friday. Image credit: Lovely Professional University/YouTube

Andhra University's Vice Chancellor G Nageshwar Rao speaking at the 106th Indian Science Congress Friday. Image credit: Lovely Professional University/YouTube

Kauravas were 'test tube babies'

G Nageshwar Rao, the vice chancellor of Andhra University, took the stage to deliver a talk on day two at the Congress, where he claimed that India was well aware of stem cells, test tube fertilisation and guided missiles thousands of years ago, citing tales from Mahabharata and Ramayana, according to a PTI report.

“We had hundreds of Kauravas from one mother because of stem cell research and test tube baby technology,” Rao claimed. “It happened a few thousand years ago. This was science in this country... Mahabharat says 100 eggs were fertilised and put into 100 earthen pots. Are they not test tube babies? Stem cell research in this country was present thousands of years ago.”

Narendra Modi waves

Another supposed “scientist”, Kanan Jegathala Krishnan, took the stage on day 2 of the Science Congress on Friday and delivered a talk on Einstein’s theories.

“Space is heavier than the sun and every other planet and hence compresses all the planets. Equal pressure is applied to them, which is why they are moving,” Krishnan said. “The quality of space is self-compressive, which is something that Newton and Einstein could not understand. Einstein did not guide the world in the correct way.”

No breed of legend was spared from Krishnan’s firing.

According to Krishnan, the Minister for Science and Technology Dr Harsh Vardhan will be a bigger scientist in the future than Dr A P J Abdul Kalam ever was. And if that wasn’t nearly enough, he went on to say that once his theories about gravity were accepted, what the world has come to know as "gravitational waves" will then be named "Narendra Modi waves", and gravitational lensing, the "Harsh Vardhan effect".

Kanan Jegathala Krishnan, who claimed to be a senior research scientist at the World Community Service Centre in Tamil Nadu, said English physicist Isaac Newton had very little understanding of gravitational forces, while theoretical physicist Albert Einstein had misled the world with the theory of relativity. Image credit: Lovely Prefessional University/YouTube

Kanan Jegathala Krishnan, who claimed to be a senior research scientist at the World Community Service Centre in Tamil Nadu, said English physicist Isaac Newton had very little understanding of gravitational forces, while theoretical physicist Albert Einstein had misled the world with the theory of relativity. Image credit: Lovely Professional University/YouTube

The demands made by the BSS and other protesters were plain and simple: for the organising committee of the Indian Science Congress, the ISC Association, to revise their standards for speakers at the event.

"It is important that we tell people that such claims should have no place at an event like this ISC," Rajani KS, Secretary of BSS Karnataka told ToI.

"It is absolutely distressing that these claims were made in the Children Science Congress section of the ISC, where the audience was largely made up of teachers and young students," the All India Committee of the BSS added in a statement.

Many reputed names in Indian science, including aerospace scientist Roddam Narasimhan and Bharat Ratna awardee and world-renowned chemist Dr CNR Rao chimed in to voice their dismay to media.

“I avoid attending sessions of the Congress. If I attend, it might appear as if I am endorsing these statements and claims," Dr CNR Rao said, according to ToI.

At the close of the Childrens' Science Congress, however, the General President of the ISC Association, Manoj Kumar Chakrabarti, bid the audience and attendees of the event to kindly forget the ludicrous claims made by the pair of scientists during the event.

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