Religious science: Riding the chariots

Dawn: ‘Pilots in ancient India were flying aircraft not only around the world, but from planet to planet as well …’

This was claimed by some speakers during a session titled ‘Ancient Indian Aviation Technology’ at the Indian Science Conference in Mumbai early this month.

Many Indian scientists have flinched after hearing such claims made during what was supposedly meant to be a serious conference on scientific research in India — especially after the country was successful in launching a probe to Mars recently.

The irritated scientists lamented the attempt of some of their contemporaries to ‘mix mythology with science’ and at the ‘infiltration of pseudo-science in science curricula with backing of influential (right-wing) political parties …’

Sounds familiar? It should. We saw and heard similar claptrap being peddled as ‘science’ in Pakistan in the 1980s, decades before the Indians began to explain the mythical flying chariots of the deities of ancient Hinduism as nuclear-powered flying machines that zipped to and fro and around the world at great speeds.

When science is divided into secular and religious, it is progress that suffers

In the ‘rational West’ such fantastical and anachronistic ideas are usually associated with conspiracy nuts (some best-selling ones, mind you); or they are usually used to mould some intriguing plots of various sci-fi films, TV shows and novels. But one never expects them to appear in the more serious scientific journals and conferences.


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