Evolution, Science & Education in India

I have always admired how Indians seemed to have accepted and understood evolution better than most developed nations. I used to attribute it to Indian belief systems being more flexible and not as bound by scriptures.

But then the country’s education minister said this yesterday… “Nobody, including our ancestors, have said or written that they ever saw an ape turning into a human being.” and later called for removal of evolution theory from textbooks! #FacePalm

So thought of penning this quick note.  Hope to soon enhance this piece or write a new detailed piece based on my understanding of evolution. Continue reading “Evolution, Science & Education in India”

Learning From History – At Peace With History (The Sceptical Patriot)

Just finished reading “The Sceptical Patriot”, a book that examines the veracity of popular “India Facts” like Invented the zero, Sanskrit is the best language for computers, India never invaded another country, India was once the most prosperous nation, Plastic surgery was developed in India … The author deals with several such “facts” that gets bandied over email, facebook, dinner conversations and more. He deals with them in a layman-friendly and mildly-funny text of 200 odd pages.

The aim of the book and also this post is not to mock, belittle or ignore India’s past achievements but to take a realistic view based on the evidence available. Continue reading “Learning From History – At Peace With History (The Sceptical Patriot)”

Spare The Tree – This Gudhi

Happy Gudhi Padwa! The new year day for many Marathi households and also the day when thousands of mango, neem trees and many other plants get ripped of their leaves and flowers for a symbolic Gudi decoration.

The leaves and flowers are supposed to make the Gudhi more appealing. but maybe it is time to consider if the leaves and flowers are better off ‘alive and well’ on the plant or ‘dead’ on the Gudhi? Maybe the tree could be your Gudhi (put a silver pot over it for a day the tree wont mind 🙂 Or even better, maybe we could welcome the new year by planting a sapling?

As students of science, shouldn’t we also be examining customs and beliefs in the light of the science of the day and with the context of the times we live in?

गुढी पाडवा आणि नवीन वर्षाच्या हार्दिक शुभेच्छा !

Wish you a Goody Gudi Padwa 🙂

I Believe In Dr. Narendra Dabholkar

DabholkarI have been volunteering for Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmulan Samiti (Maharashtra Committee for Eradication of Blind Faith), usually referred to as Anis, for over 3 years and was fortunate to be closely associated with Dr Dabholkar over that period. I write this in great shock, disbelief and sorrow.

For over two decades, Dr. Dabholkar fought against rampant superstitions in our society and for the cause of rationalism and humanism. While radicals and those with vested interests regularly tried to malign him and project him as someone opposed to religion, that was never the case. Continue reading “I Believe In Dr. Narendra Dabholkar”

What Is Scientific Temper? What is the Scientific Method?

Article 51A(h) of the Indian constitution says: “It shall be the duty of every citizen of India to develop scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of inquiry and reform“. 

However the reality on the ground is that despite rising prosperity and literacy rates, there are no signs of Indians adopting a scientific temper. Orthodoxy, superstitions & pseudo sciences continue to be an integral part of an Indian’s life.

Science is mugged up during exams, and technology is used to earn a living and ease everyday living. However we are a long way from embracing science and adopting the scientific way of logic, reason, critical examination and evidence-based beliefs.

In this talk, I look at a) What is Scientific Temper b) The evolution of the idea of Scientific Temper c) How does one adopt a scientific temper? d) What is the scientific method of Observation, Hypothesis, Prediction and Experimentation e) How we can nurture young analytical minds and pull India out of the quagmire of superstitions and towards a scientific approach to life.

The talk “Scientific Temper : The Forgotten Duty” was delivered at the Takshashila Shala conference held on 29th May 2011 in Pune, India.

Related:

Our constitution says that “It shall be the duty of every citizen of India to develop scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of inquiry and reform”. However the fact on the ground is that even with rising literacy rates, there are no signs of Indians adopting scientific temperament as a way of life.  India actually seems to be heading the other way, with orthodoxy, superstitions & psuedo sciences becoming an integral part of an Indian’s life.

In this talk, I will look at what scientific temper entails, what’s gone wrong & why there’s still hope that we can nurture analytical minds and pull India out of the quagmire of superstitions.

Andhashraddha Nirmulan Samiti – 20 Yr Convention

For the past 6 months or so, I have been associated with Andhashraddha Nirmulan Samiti (ANS), an organization that aims to promote rational thought in society and works for the elimination of superstitions, blind faith & customs. Many social movements tend to peak in about 3 years since inception and then tend to die out in another 3-5 years. However the ANS has been at work for a remarkable 20+ years. Continue reading “Andhashraddha Nirmulan Samiti – 20 Yr Convention”

An impatient’s guide to Knee Surgery – Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) Reconstruction and Meniscus Tear

The story begins many years back, on a beautiful sunny morning in 1997. I was playing cricket in the inter division cricket tournament in my college. I had bowled my quota of overs and we had kept the opposition down to a modest score. Later while batting we were within reach of the target with 10 runs to get and 8 balls to go. 8 balls 10 runs wasn’t easy but I did think we could make it. I took strike, the bowler bowled a delivery that rose to about waist height. I swung the bat in what is known as a pull shot, hoping to get a boundary. My bat moved, my chest and waist rotated in an attempt to generate max power, but my legs did not move. I heard and felt a snap / pop in my left knee and I was down in excruciating pain. I could not even think of getting up, let alone running. After a few minutes of agony, I was helped off the field. We later lost the match. Continue reading “An impatient’s guide to Knee Surgery – Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) Reconstruction and Meniscus Tear”

Magical Men Of 21st Century India

“The Key Selling Point Of The GodMen Is Their Talk About Things That Make No Sense”

Right from childhood, stories that had their foundation in magic and ‘chamatkars’ always appealed to me. I must have watched 10s of combinations of stories like – Ramu’s son is ill and no doctor is able to cure him; Ramu goes to a godman who whips up a magical powder; Ramu applies the powder on his son’s forehead and the kid is magically cured. As a child, I remember being in awe of the godman and thinking, “Wow! This man is amazing!”. Friends readily contributed their own stories of how the godman was indeed magical.

Continue reading “Magical Men Of 21st Century India”