Naturalism

Scientists and God: The Indian Scenario

I published an article ‘A Scientific View of the God Delusion and its Implications‘ online at Nirmukta in July 2009. The drafting of this article (started long ago) was spread over a few months, and I had completed the writing by June 2008. I had emailed it to a large number of my colleagues and friends, mostly scientists, inviting their reactions. I present here a summary of over one year of data collection regarding their responses. I list the responses in a decreasing order of frequency.

1. Stony silence. This was the most frequent response. Or: ‘Oh, I just could not find time to read it fully.’ I could notice a sense of embarrassment in some cases, perhaps because my article has the statement that, personally, as a scientist I should do nothing that insults the spirit of the scientific method. And they all know what the scientific method demands.

2. ‘No matter what you say, there is a power up there.’ I have already dealt with this attitude in great detail in my article.

3. ‘There are things about life and the universe that I am incapable of understanding.‘ This reaction came from some of the very bright scientists, and was also an expression of their humility. I can understand that many of them strongly believe that science has only a limited domain of applicability, and that the God concept lies outside that domain. I do not agree with this, and the onus is on them to argue why they think so. They are scientists, and must argue why they think that the God hypothesis is a good hypothesis. They surely know what constitutes a good hypothesis.

4. ‘I am a borderline case.’ I think they are the people who have done very little reading of the rationalist literature. They have not heard of Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Carl Sagan, Steven Weinberg, perhaps not even Bertrand Russell.

5. ‘I am too busy to find time for such things.’ I some cases I could sense the insinuation that, whereas they are busy doing worthwhile things, I have nothing better to do than rake up the God question!

6. ‘Who am I to question the existence of God Almighty?’ This is something remarkable (and very disturbing) that organized religion has been able to achieve. It not only makes statements which must not be questioned, or are falsifiable, it also instils at a very young age the fear of God. Of course, there is an immediate reward for those gentle ‘souls’ which accept this: They are labelled as people who are ‘pious’ and humble, and therefore ‘noble’. Organized religion has a self-perpetuating feature.

7. ‘What a refreshing worldview! Thank you very much!’ Such a response was invariably from the younger age-group of Indian scientists.

8. Outright offence. I noticed that such people are mostly from a particular caste.

9. ‘I am a rationalist, but I also care about the sensibilities of my wife.’ There is an important question of parenthood here. They think that it would be difficult for them to instil moral values in their children in a ‘Godless’ home. Now this is a serious issue. The Brights’ Net has taken a major initiative in this regard. Their October 2009 bulletin reads as follows:

‘How well-grounded in current scientific knowledge is The Brights’ Net’s supposition that human morality has natural underpinnings (no recognition of any supernatural foundations)? The Brights’ “Reality about Morality Project” was launched in 2006 to find out. Could we achieve authentication of this supposition by researchers in the field? The four assertions Brights drafted have been reviewed and shaped by seven noted scientists and ethical philosophers, and so we can now issue some scientifically defensible declarations. The statements, grounded in current scientific knowledge, can become a foundation for developing educational materials and media strategies. We want to build a broader understanding of morality first within the constituency. Then, with interested and knowledgeable Brights at hand, we can subsequently turn out attention to educating the general public. Look for a special emailed announcement on this topic in mid-October. By then, final statements and associated “substantiating studies” will have been posted on the website along with a panel-recommended listing of background readings. Any Brights wishing to become better versed in demonstrating that “morality is natural!” will surely be interested in those readings.’

While I look forward to what they are going to announce, I feel that we Indians should evolve our own answers to the question of morality vs. irreligion. I invite readers to come forward with their views.

10. Lastly I want to mention the response of Hindu scientists who said that they are least worried about any possible ‘onslaught’ from rationalism. They pointed out that the Hindu worldview has a place for rationalists also. They say that there are so many ways of ‘realizing’ God, and questioning his existence is one of them. This philosophy is so sure of itself that there is no doubt in the mind of the Hindu that every nonbeliever will end up being a believer! What do you think?

Nonresident Indians (NRIs) face a peculiar situation. They are worried about the morality of their children, particularly daughters, in the ‘wicked West’. Most of them oppose any talk of rationalism, and are convinced that only a religious upbringing is good for the welfare of their children. Readers may like to comment on this.

Another question is regarding the mental state of a person who has, say, recently lost a loved one, or who is suffering from a life-threatening disease at a young age. Where can such an atheist go for a support system? Pantheism (‘sexed-up atheism‘) or ‘religious naturalism’ provides some answers.

Albert Einstein

 

A scientist’s job is to explore and investigate Nature and discover its secrets. In 1998, Richard Dawkins published a book: Unweaving the Rainbow: Science, Delusion and the Appetite for Wonder. I am certain that most scientists are not even aware of this book, which is a pity. In this book Dawkins faces and answers the question: Did Newton ‘unweave the rainbow’ by reducing it to its prismatic colours, as Keats contended? Did he, in other words, diminish beauty? Dawkins’ answer is: ‘Newton’s unweaving of the rainbow led on to spectroscopy, which has proved the key to much of what we know today about the cosmos. And the heart of any poet worthy of the title Romantic could not fail to leap up if he beheld the universe of Einstein, Hubble and hawking. We read its nature through Fraunhofer lines – ‘Barcodes of the stars’ – and their shifts along the spectrum. The image of barcodes carries us on to the very different, but equally intriguing realm of sound (Barcodes on the Air); and then DNA fingerprinting (Barcodes of the Bar), which offers the opportunity to reflect on other aspects of the role of science in society.’ Mysteries do not lose their poetry because they are solved: the solution often is more beautiful than the puzzle, uncovering deeper mysteries.

dawkins_richard

Richard Dawkins

Carl Sagan was another eminent scientist (an astronomer of great standing) who brought out the same aspect of the scientific worldview. He pointed out that the actual grandeur of the cosmos is far greater than that visualized by any religion.

Carl Sagan

 

Why is it that most Indian scientists subscribe to the ‘conspiracy of silence‘? Why is it that for many of them a scientific career is just another way of earning a livelihood? They do science in ‘office’ or laboratory, and then go home and forget that they are scientists. Why?

About the author

Vinod Wadhawan

Dr. Vinod Wadhawan is a scientist, rationalist, author, and blogger. He has written books on ferroic materials, smart structures, complexity science, and symmetry. More information about him is available at his website. Since October 2011 he has been writing at The Vinod Wadhawan Blog, which celebrates the spirit of science and the scientific method.

59 Comments

  • Very well said! You know doing science and juggling between workplace and home is like being a food critic. You can give your atmost sincere critic for a particular restaurant but if you do the same with your spouse you might not get your food!
    Jokes apart my love for science is not only in the details but I think science is a way of thinking. It does not say what to think but how to think and that is the greatest gift one can give to children and the young generation.
    I will comment on your question one by one, here goes:

    1. On the question of morality and irreligion i would like to quote Christopher Hitchens, he says “Are we suppose to assume that we were killing each other before god had his way with us and gave us the 10 commandments? We would not have survived for so long if that was the case.” I had learnt in school that a human being is a social animal. Have we all forgotten that? What if god said it was OK to kill, in fact it is good for us to kill and rape each other. Would we do it? As Dawkins points out our sense of morality must have a deeper explanation than the shallow and unsatisfying religious explanation. He points out to altruism as the basis of morality. Steven Pinker takes the concept further and says evolution may not have just acted on ‘materialistic’ things like eyes and hands or even the brain but may have also acted upon abstract things like the mind itself. There is a branch called evolutionary psychology which studies exactly that. In short I do not think we need a space daddy/mummy to tell us how to behave with each other, we can depend on our own faculties to deal with that problem.

    Have to go now but will soon reply to other questions.

    Cheerio

    • Altruism certainly has evolutionary underpinnings, but there are other forces at work as well. Cultural evolution is very different from biological evolution. Memetic evolution versus genetic evolution is a hot topic of debate at present. Dawkins holds a memetic virus responsible for the emergence of religion. Dennett explains the emergence of our intelligence as akin to the smarm intelligence of a beehive I discussed in Part 2 of my series ‘Complexity Explained’; in Dennett’s model, neurons play the role played by bees in a beehive. But Dennett’s model has been questioned. I plan to discuss these things in my series on complexity. Regarding morality and irreligion, I think we should begin by first defining morality in clear terms.

      • Dr. Wadhawan,

        I outlined the debate on the evolutionary origins of religion a couple of years ago, here. I’ve also written a lot about the evolution of morality as well. These are exciting topics to me, and I am interested in seeing how you will go about relating them to the evolution of complexity.

    • An excellent book on this is Moral Animal by Robert Wright. It is a bit outdated now, but it is still a fascinating read.

      • Ajita, is it possible to give a universal and crisp definition of morality? Or is it something context-dependent, and means different things to different people at diffrent times? I think you are the right expert here to lead the discussion.

        • Dr. Wadhawan,

          I am by no means an expert on the subject of morality, but I have read part of the history of the philosophical debate on the subject, as well as sociobiology research from the past 3 decades. The problem with attempting to define morality is that it is difficult to be pin down a relativistic idea using absolute terms. So, yes, I do believe that morality is an ever-changing idea, absolutely context-dependent, and reflective of cultural and personal attitudes.

          First of all, I disregard much of the philosophical tradition, including Kant who is known as the greatest of the moral philosophers. This is because they all tend to make the naturalistic fallacy in some form or the other. My concept of morality starts with David Hume’s Is-Ought Problem, later formalized by G.E. Moore as the Naturalistic Fallacy. Basically it is the idea that there is a logical error in extrapolating from natural facts to values statements. This is because the moral reactions of humans to external events is not a logical conclusion but an emotional one. Any attempt to describe an absolute naturalistic ethics will fail. Conservatives and liberals, atheists and believers- every group of ideologues has attempted to do so, and failed.

          Right now I see two camps on this, within the rationalism movement. One group has people like Sam Harris and David Sloan Wilson who are for going ahead and defining “good” using objective criteria (the way it has been done traditionally in all cultures). The other camp is comprised of those who believe that we must focus on establishing the relativistic nature of morality. I’m in this camp. I have replied to Sam Harris’ position (that scientists are mistaken in upholding the naturalistic fallacy) here . In short, Harris makes the same mistake as those before him, the religionists, the objectivists, the altruists and the social darwinists, by talking about natural facts till the point where he makes an illogical leap into ethics, thus making the naturalistic fallacy.

          You may be familiar with the work of Jonathan Haidt. I think his recent work is an excellent practical approach to morality. He studied conservatives and liberals and concluded that there are fundamental values differences between the two groups. That is, even if presented with exactly the same information, they could reach opposing moral preferences. Such studies indicate the complexity of the issue.

          As a side note, I resisted going into the biological meaning of morality because it is well represented in the scientific literature. If one studies evolutionary ecology, it is clear that biological morality is a subset of all social behavior. It is the outcome of the competing motivations for competition and cooperation that all social organisms are subject to. But biological morality is not the same thing as ethics. It is simply a descriptive field that tells us why we do what we do. It says nothing about what is morally “good” or “bad”. Those are relativistic determinants that are culturally enforced.

          It is very difficult for me to talk about morality in a concise manner. I’m not sure if I answered your question- this is such a vast subject. I am very interested in your take on the subject, from the point of view of complexity.

  • Very well outlined, and what I would expect.
    I am a caulky American, but have lived in both India and Pakistan for a few years. I love your site. You are fighting the good fight. Thank you for all your posts !

    • I can wrtie all this and still feel safe because I live in India. India can be proud of her democratic traditions, and can justifiably thank Nehru for this. Nehru, our first Prime Minister, was a rationalist. India has a formidable workforce of trained scientists and engineers, thanks to Nehru again. I am disappointed with the USA for its continuing support to non-democratic regimes. Naturilsm can possibly thrive only in a democracy.

  • 2.I have no idea what that means “every non-believer will end up being a believer.” I dont believe in fairies, pink unicorns and big- foots too! Questioning gods existence puts god in par with all the other mythical creatures rather than ‘realising’ him/her/it. It is upto to the proponents of the religion to make us realise gods existence through evidence. Anything other than that is just a lame effort to bring god into the equation.

    3. Staying in a western country for more than 2 years now I do not think the west is wicked. People can be good or bad but when we talk about any civilisation we talk about its values and not particular individuals. It is rather sad that the NRI community fails to realise that they can have a nice blend of rationalism, frowardness and respect if they try and understand and blend with their kids in the western culture. Being staunch and imposing unjust rules on children in the name of religion will only make the generation gap wider. What is wrong with sitting down with your children and giving them the birds and the bees talk when they are growing up? I cannot talk much on this because I dont have my own family. Just a bird’s eye view!

  • From my experience living in the west (in UK and Canada) for the past 12 years, I find people here have an in-bult sense of moral responsibility. . The have not derived it through their religion.
    I once saw a sign outside a village library in Canada. “These books are for sale, please place the money in the box and take the books” and there was no one around to monitor. I watched that place from a distance for along time, and did not see any one taking a book without putting money in the box. It is almost impossible to get a driving license in England if you don’t know how to drive. They won’t take money, or do a favor even if you are friend. Most British I have come across are atheist or non-religious but they have a sense of what is right or what is wrong.
    On contrary I have several of my relatives in India who work for the government and they openly admit taking bribery. They are very religious and they tend to go to Tripuathi to donate some money (a share to Lord Balaji I suppose!)

    Morality comes with environment and upbringing. It has got nothing to do with religion.

    Most people who teach their Children that God will punish the child if they did some thing wrong, will also be asking them to lie to the Conductor about their age so that they can get half the price!

    • I and my family have lived in the West for several years, and I agree with all that you have written. The ‘wicked West’ reference was specifically in the context of NRI daughters growing up and passibly making the parents face an extra set of problems. I know a scientist who lived in Sweden for 15 yrars, and returned and settled in India because his daughters had grown up.

      I am not sure about the British (I was in Oxford for one year), but I found the French very secular and not bothering much about going to Church regularly. I am remindned of what Swami Vivekanand wrote about the French. He described them as people who know how to live a full life. He was very impressed with just about everything they did.

  • Have you considered the possibility that Hindu scientists (who are your only concern, not Christian or Muslim scientists) at least without their knowledge follow a very basic Dharmic principle that beliefs don’t matter? And that the science is a way of dealing with the world, very simple, and v.effective, which can be done without much of a problem. Maybe you should check out this wonderful essay by Dr. Thanu Padmanabhan of the IUCAA titled, “The Answer”

    http://www.iucaa.ernet.in/~paddy/

    • 1. I do appreciate the fact that one can be an atheist and still be in the Hindu fold. It will be interesting to see if a person belonging to any other religion can make a similar statement about his / her religion.

      2. Dennett (an atheist) has advocated that the basics of all religions should be taught to children, along with science, so that their relative humanistic merits can be compared. The idea perhaps is that, since we cannot wish away all religions in one fell swoop, we may as well try to single out the better ones first. Of course, my problem is that all religions start with wrong premises and belief systems.

      3. I am told that Buddhism and Jainism are quite Godless. Some knowledgeable reader may like to elaborate on this.

    • The article you mention concludes exactly what a sophisticated scientific naturalist would, but by making some absurd post-modernist claims that are completely unnecessary (and completely unscientific). To do this, he attempts to condense all of epistemology into a few sentences and then over-reaches by inventing an unfalsifiable proposition in order to include pre-scientific rationalizations within the scientifically understood world-view. This perpetual dance between the subjective and the objective is what all religious apologists use to defend irrational behavior, forgetting that there is a well-established literature on such subjects. To his defense, the author is not using his post-modernist floundering as a defense of Hinduism- you are. Where he is wrong is in thinking that his ‘answer’ is somehow a revolutionary concept. At this very moment hundreds, oerhaps thousands of scientists are working on the very subjective experiences he is talking about, but on objective terms. This is how knowledge is gained, not by positing that any such knowledge lies beyond objective reality.

    • Adding to my previous comment, it is such inward looking philosophers as ‘paddy’ who are responsible for India’s continued weakness in developing a modern philosophical tradition. Much of Indian philosophy’s best ideas come from the enlightenment period from thousands of years ago. Our ancient philosophers may have been ahead of their time, but ‘paddy’ is obviously unaware that his reasoning is a much less sophisticated attempt at epistemology than which modern philosophy contends with.

  • It is quite baffling that some scientists believe in a supernatural power or god who interferes in human affairs and judges them. How can they ignore the fact that science is far more rational than religion or god? One way to explain this would be that they see science and god as belonging to two disjoint sets. Their belief system might lead them to conclude that both science and religion are right in their own way and that rationality is the wrong yardstick to use to evaluate them in the same frame of reference. Although I do not have such beliefs, I’d entertain this idea and prove them wrong in a debate but I would find it appalling if they’d say that the realm of religion starts where that of science ends!!

  • 1. My grouse is that practically all scientists understand what constitutes a good hypothesis, and yet many of them find nothing wrong with the God hypothesis.

    2. I know many scientists who are atheists, but are not keen to advertise their position. This is baffling.

    3. I am always very impressed by the fact that there are nonscientists who are atheists. How did they get it right?!

    4. The lay public generally does not have the opportunity and the privilege to learn the basics of the scientific method of interpreting information, and scientists are indeed a privileged lot in this respect. And yet many of them (particularly senior scientists) set a bad example for the public by not defending their views about religion publicly. Most of them just refuse to be drawn into a discussion.

    5. I think in most cases one can blame the upbringing of children for the present situation. The early brainwashing is what makes many of them say that ‘the realm of religion starts where that of science ends.’ And this is where the ‘activists’ should concentrate. Start with your own children.

  • With no one responding to my post I take it that the author accepts my point that the Dharmic tradition of no-belief obviates the need to for Hindu scientists in India to answer any questionnaire cooked up by Meera Nanda and her acolytes. Also it appears that the posters on this thread have tried to read Dr.Padmanabhan’s article, and have decided not to risk tangling with him – a well regarded astrophysicist. C.V. Raman never missed his homams at home and was quite the traditionalist in these matters. Bu then Raman was Raman, who booked his tickets to Sweden about sic months in advance, so sure he was about winning the Nobel that year.

    • Since Dr. Wadhawan is above debating with you on the level that you need to be debated on, I will step in. The Dharmic tradition that you and some Hindu intellectuals use to obfuscate such conversations as this one is nothing but an apologetic distraction in this case. There are plenty of superstitious Hindus, including Hindu scientists, who take the BS literally. Why don’t those like you who do subscribe to a more meaningful view of reality attempt to ferret out such primitive beliefs from within Hinduism instead of hiding behind a religious label that encourages cognitive dissonance and such apologetic defense of itself as you are attempting? Read our comment policy before replying.

    • Kural: I would like to know if you have some views about the questions asked by Dr.Wadhawan instead of just prodding us to what Prof.Padmanabhan has said. By the way three words for the ‘Answer’..sophisticated cop out!

  • Padmanabhan is a better scientist than me, and Einstein was a better scientist than Padmanabhan. So what? I am a rationalist, and Padmanabhan is apparently a believer, and Einstein was a rationalist. Raman was a believer, and Hawking is a rationalist. Does it prove anything? Name-dropping and quoting from scriptures is not a rational way of settling arguments, and scientists know this only too well. I hereby pose a very straight question to scientists: If you think that the God hypothesis is a good hypothesis, please tell us why you think so. If somebody says that God is beyond all hypotheses, there is no point in carrying on the discussion any further. Surely there are questions we humans cannot answer yet, but can any nonscientific approach provide better answers?

  • Here is more on eminent astrophysicists, and in a lighter vein. Prof. Thanu Padmanabhan works at the IUCAA, Pune. The IUCAA is headed by the eminent astrophysicist, Prof. Jayant Narlikar, who is a rationalist. I am least interested in knowing which of them is a better astrophysicist or a better known astrophysicist. This is a totally irrelevant question. The important point is that each of us will have to do our own thinking.

  • I feel the articles and the discussions there off may help the generation to come, to analyze the matter, the aim with which the original article “A Scientific View of the God Delusion and its Implications” has been written. A part of my feelings on the subject matter which I was able to pen down on 17th Aug 2009 are there in the comments portion under the original article “A Scientific View of the God Delusion and its Implications”.

  • I think that the Hindu view of God is different from the law-giving creator-God of Abrahamic religions. I myself think of Ishvara as merely a deification of “ultimate reality” (Brahman), which is a completely natural concept. This is supposedly the same as the soul (Atman), or the ultimate witness within. Thus Krishna (for example) is just the idea of ultimate reality that is ascribed a personality. It’s all just nature worship taken to its logical conclusion – instead of worshiping the Sun, Ganga, Himalayas, Sindhu etc., you worship “everything” as Ishvara.

    Hinduism (at least for me) falls in the same category as art or music.

    • Arun, your version of god as an acknowledgement of the beauty and power of nature sounds lovely, but why subscribe to using the word god in that case? It is a word that is used to perpetuate much suffering and destruction, and to bind people to repressive identities. These identities use those like you who are reasonable and rational to unintentionally defend the irrational and harmful elements within the religious ideologies that the identity has established, simply because the group identity is so powerful. Wouldn’t ‘Naturalism’ be a better word for your way of thinking? Or ‘Pantheism’? I mean, if you are going to pick an identity, why not ‘Indian’? Or better still, ‘Freethinking Indian’, or ‘Indian Humanist’ or Naturalist?

  • On Oct 12, Dr Wadhawan said: “India can be proud of her democratic traditions, and can justifiably thank Nehru for this. Nehru, our first Prime Minister, was a rationalist. India has a formidable workforce of trained scientists and engineers.”

    Some caveats are called for in this statement. India’s democracy has borrowed the trappings (such as voting rights for all) from the West but the spirit of the ideology is glaringly missing. Voters cast their ballot mechanically but do they or the parties choose the representatives? Are the candidates vetted for their moral fibre and debating skills? Are they accountable to those who voted them in? How come some 100 MPs have criminal records and many more who are millionaires?
    I therefore submit that India has just the veneer but not the substance of democracy.

    As for Nehru, his talents, writing skills and vision were all honed in England where he was educated. His homeland could confer no intellectual resources on him. He candidly admitted that England had made him. Isn’t sad that even now Indians can’t excel until they have academic training in the West? Why are Indian institutions so inadequate? There is not a single Indian institution has ever been ranked among the global top universities but several Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Singapore ones appear in the first 100. Sure India trains many engineers but just about a third of them are employable. Why can’t India invent or innovate?

    Would be unfair to assert that India elites generally have not yet come to terms with modernity and have not excelled at critical thinking and rational analysis?

    • After Independence, Nehru was to India what Jinnah was to Pakistan. And just look at the two countries now.

      Nehru was only one of the factors. There is something about we Indians which has made India what it is today.

      I am a proud Indian, and proud to be Indian. How rational is America, you think? Ask Richard Dawkins.

  • Many thanks for kindly emailing me the reply to my comment.
    Of course. comparison with Pakistan, a failed state, does buoy up Indians. But Pakistan is just a quarter of India’s area and has a sixth of its population. A fairer comparison would be with China and that would hardly cheer Indians.
    Dr W, given India’s dismal record over 60 years (compared with say China or S Korea), you say you are proud to be Indian. On what grounds do you base this pride?
    As for America, you will agree that its scientific prowess is amply evidenced by its great universities and stunning achievements in science and technology. Could this be accomplished without a dedicated application of rationality?
    I am aware too that, while Indians have their gods and gurus, many ordinary Americans are plagued by weird beliefs and intolerance attitudes.

    • With due regards to all the contributors. I think & feel we should keep our comments with details focused on the “Scientists and God: The Indian Scenario” & main related article “A Scientific View of the God Delusion and its Implications” so that the aim with which the article has been written i.e. to make people & the coming generation evaluate them self’s the main issue & choose the right path rather than just go for bind faith.

  • Thanks, Mr. George, for the comments.

    1. I agree with you that we should not be comparing ourselves with Pakistan. I mentioned Pakistan in the context of the democratic route India chose under Nehru s leadership at a critical juncture in our history.

    2. Rationalism flourishes best in a democracy. But democracy alone is not enough. Look at the USA. They are a democracy. But they also have the highest concentration of Creationists in the West.

    3. And now about China. They have chosen not to be very democratic. Perhaps India has too much of democracy, and that has slowed down our progress compared to China s.

    4. Slow progress or not, I do take pride in our democratic set up. It is more humane.

    5. Corruption is slowing down our progress. The question is: How to tackle corruption ruthlessly in a truly democratic system? Not easy.

    6. Religion is another factor which is holding us back. Here again, China has an advantage. As an ordinary citizen proud of my heritage, I am doing my bit to loosen the stranglehold of irrational beliefs on the Indian psyche. I have full faith in the young generation.

  • Number 9 (the wife gambit) used to be the favourite of supposedly non-believing Kerala Marxists a while ago. They didn’t believe, of course, but went through rituals for the sake of their wives!

    One of the major issues involved seems to be that Indians are more bound to family and community for practical reasons. We need them to help when things aren’t going perfectly well, monetarily and otherwise. Therefore, it is not easy to reject the outward trappings of belonging to a particular religion – it’s more a badge of belonging to a support group than a genuine belief. In more evolved societies, especially the European ones, individuals get similar support from society as a whole, rather than their family or community. America is an exception, their tradition of individualism has failed them there.

    Perhaps that’s why Europe has a low belief rate and America has a high one?

    If this hypothesis is correct, then we need to work to gradually create social support systems that transcend family and community barriers so that people can rid themselves of these unnecessary badges of belief.

    • It is probably true that the number of female rationalists is less than the number of male rationalists. It is also true that a child is influenced more by the mother than the father in the early years of its life. If the rationalist movement is to gain strength, ways should be found for curbing or preventing the early brain-washing and indoctrination of children regarding the supposed ‘importance’ of religion. I think the activists of the women’s liberation movement have perhaps never highlighted the need to liberate women from the clutches of irrational belief. I wish some women rationalists will come forward and join our discussion here.

  • Dear Sir,

    I indeed feel myself lucky enough to come across this article, and through it the one whose follow-up is this. The questions that you raised in the last para are such that would make the most Indian, so-called, scientists and academicians in science and technology feel awkward, I thought reflexively. On second thought, I think even that wouldn’t happen. For it is indeed nothing but just another way of earning livelihood. So the question of delving into what Science is all about doesn’t arise in the first place! Rather, they are exemplary of the extent men-of-Science could be devoid of reason.

    I think, with little scrutiny it wouldn’t be difficult for one to see that actions-disconnected-with-beliefs is quite common a phenomenon in Indian context. Not only so-called scientists subscribe to it, but social scientists, “intellectuals”, “liberals”, “broad-minded”, … and all that in-vogue tags that people take aid of to decribe themselves, do the same — their words (lip service which they are adept at!) hardly translate into action; let alone beliefs, a matter of faith, and thus considered blasphemous to be questioned or even to any subjection to objectivity!

    I have had the ‘privilege’ to be associated with Indian Institute of Science, bangalore, for almost nine years. This is a place about which you would only read “nice” stories in newspapers and stuff… Perhaps because the real state of affairs never go over the wall ‘systematically constructed’ and ‘conspiratively maintained’ by a certain section that has been historically associated with Science in India. No wonder, ironically though, this place provides an epitome of, what you rightly pointed, “They do science in ‘office’ or laboratory, and then go home and forget that they are scientists.” In fact, even in laboratories this science is pursued with the much sought after blessings by putting ‘red tilaks’ on computers, garlanding machines in workshops and offering pujas on certain ‘auspicious’ days. And with all this the men-of-science (read members of the faculty here) maintain “conspirative silence”. The lack of rational thinking, openness and scientific & objective outlook towards day to day matters be better left unsaid! …

    I think, all the concerns that you raised and our observations about the Indian society, in general, brings out a singular issue of intellectual dishonesty that has engulfed not only people in Science, but Social Sciences, Politics, NGOs, etc. After all, we know, how contrary the ‘words’ of Indian intelligentsia are to their deeds in the socialite evenings of Delhi. …

    Regards,
    Dr. Rizwaan Ali
    Fraunhofer Institute
    Germany

    • Dear Dr. Ali:

      Thank you for your comments. You have a German address. I am wondering how the scene there differs from that in India. What has been your experience in Germany?

    • I am of the view that, when it comes to the question of God, Indian scientists are not a species apart. They are no different from scientists elsewhere.

  • Dear Sir,

    I think, I am still not in a position to comment about the scientists everywhere. Though my experience in France and Germany doesn’t make a good case of scientists divorced from religion and, thus, God.

    I would like to know your opinion about “intellectual dishonesty” that I mentioned in the last para of my comment.

  • Dr Ritz Ali’s post was an eye opner. It provides further evidence that India’s science is not up to standard and still reliant on certification from gods and gurus, astrologers and auspicious days – a clear admission of lack of confidence in one’s own cabilities.
    PM Manmohan Singh himself declared at the recent Science Congress that India’s science is “fossilised and bureaucratic, it smothers innovation, lacks relevance to India’s development needs, has poor links to industry and the blame lies with our university departments and research institutions”
    He probably utters these banalities every year but nothing changes because no clear blueprint for reform is proposed. It is India’s thinkers who should engage in serious debate on the science crisis and present a seminal white paper for change. They should also discuss the larger issue why India’s elites (Hindus mainly) are still uneasy with rationality and have not come to terms with modernity. They prefer to remain captive to their gods, as Ritz found at the so called premier Bangalore Institute.

    Here we have a major obstacle. Does India have great thinkers today? If so, where do they communicate their thoughts? There is a so called Institute of Advanced Studies in Bangalore. What does it do? VS Naipaul told the New York Times in 2005 that India is a large country but it has no thinkers. Could he more damning than that?

    In an earlier post, I had wondered why Indian institutions are so inadequate? Not a single Indian university has ever been ranked among the global top 300 but several Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Singapore ones appear in the first 100. Sure India trains many engineers but just about a third of them are employable. Why can’t India invent or innovate?
    As long we have tired old politicians like Singh or Mukerjee in charge, little will change, I suspect.
    Congrats on your post, Ritz.

    • George,
      I think you have put your finger on what is probably the most ignored set of issues affecting India today. I concur with everything you’ve said except when you said “Not a single Indian university has ever been ranked among the global top 300”. I think you may have been quoting the Jiao Tong University study from last year. Other studies have placed one or two IITs and IIMs (and maybe IISc) in the top 300. Still, no reason to ignore the China study, especially because it is accepted around the world as a very comprehensive study involving multiple variables.
      I think the issue is a lot more complex. The pitiable state of higher education is mostly a reflection of the terrible state of primary, middle and high schools in the country. I’ve took a stab at addressing this using my personal experience as a guide here.
      That article is only concerned with the problems in the bottom-up forces. I do agree with you that the top-down forces have been severely stifled by the lack of a clear blueprint for the future of Indian education. I suspect that ever so often people attempt to tackle this problem, but the level of bureaucracy, the levels of prevailing illiteracy, the entrenched biases in Indian culture and a political leadership that caters to the lowest denominators in society all conspire to make the task extremely difficult.
      I had tackled the terrible lack of understanding of the basic principles of science in India in my article, but on another level, it is the lack of a modern philosophical tradition in India that is appalling. In India philosophy is something that people think of in a derogatory manner. I suspect that most people, even some highly educated ones, are woefully unaware of what philosophy is, and simply think of it as a formalizing of the colloquial use of the word- in the sense of ‘life philosophy’, a set of principles to live by, and so on. Most Indians view philosophy as a waste of time, and place such thinking lower down in order of importance than the trivial technical and arts disciplines that churn out millions of workers to make use of the recent open market-fueled economic opportunities. This is one major reason why there are few thinkers today in a land where, arguably, materialist philosophy was born.
      One other point I must make on this subject is the devastating influence of Hinduism on Indian culture. This is a vast topic and I’ve written about it <a href=”http://nirmukta.com/2009/05/11/hinduism-religion-culture-or-way-of-life/”>here and here, but the main points can be summarized as follows.
      The progress of a society occurs when the irrational elements of that society can be contained and limited to the more factually irrelevant aspects of the culture of that society. This has been the greatest achievement of the West (and by default, in communist China). Religions are very viral in this regard. They are constantly evolving means to infiltrate culture at large. In India, Hinduism has become synonymous with Indian culture, to a large extent. It refuses to be contained and ends up influencing almost every aspect of Indian society, including areas where it has no business being. For example, read Meera Nanda’s article here to see how the Indian government is deeply entrenched in promoting complete bunkum as science, and how priests and purveyors of superstition receive aid from the government. To take one example, medicine, India leads the world in homeopathy, with enormous amounts of money and the endorsements of powerful celebrities and politicians going into promoting it. This is not to mention our local forms of quackery such as ayurveda and siddha, which, not surprisingly, also receive huge amounts of public funds.
      We can go on for hours in this vein. Let me simply conclude by saying that the problems are more deeply entrenched in Indian society itself and it is going to take a very bold national movement to rid our culture of these problems.

      • Thanks, Ajita Kamal, for your incisive and candid comments. I fully concur with the sentiments in your article of Dec 2008 as well as Meera Nanda’s. It is apparent to me that only clear-thinking people like you can save India from the bureaucrats and growth-rate addicts who run India. They have no larger philosophical and ethical vision because they are averse to intellectual engagment.

        I’d like to suggest that Nirmukta stalwarts like Wadhawan,you, Meera Nanda join up with like minded groups like the Rationalist Association of India, Tehelka etc and set up a high profile think tank that produces seminal periodic papers on the state of India’s science and education. Follow it up with a lobby mechanism that can get the ear of modern elites (like Rahul Gandhi and Shashi Tharoor) to develop a culture of critical thinking and rational debate in India.
        This is just the germ of an idea from an armchair observer. I am sure others can build and improve on it.

  • Words are what you make out of them. Different people understand the word “God” differently. Nobody is obliged to think of it in the same way as you do, so the onus is first on “you” to understand what others think of as God before you can refute it.

    I don’t know if you have undertaken such a survey. You merely assumed a standard idea of God (borrowed largely from Abrahamic religions which are only a minority in India) and then proceeded to ask people what they think of it. This is the reason for most people’s indifference / silence (the 1st response in your list). In fact, this is not so different from your own indifference in understanding what the thousands of Indian religions say about God and how they differ. If you answer as “I don’t care. All of them are equally nuts”, why should your scientist friends think of you as any different and worthy of attention ?

    I suggest you read carefully the sarva-darshana-sangraha which compares the various Indian philosophical strands with each other.. Almost all of them come out as “atheistic” according to the monotheistic definition of God. The question that they tackle is not that of God, but that of self, and how that is connected to the rest of the universe.

    • Interesting how when someone criticizes this thing called god, suddenly definitions are all important, but religious folk, who are the majority by far, constantly keep telling us about god without any such definitions. Of course different people have different ideas about god, just as different people have different ideas about unicorns. In such general conversation, it is obvious to anyone being intellectually honest that the reference to god is to a supernatural power that influences the natural word and human lives. Religious apologists are very good at trying to muddle the conversation by distractions about abstract philosophical questions (legitimate on their own right) that a tiny minority of religious people are concerned with, when the actual focus here is on the general culturally and socially entrenched notion of one or more supernatural beings. By the way, there is nothing unique about the concept of god in India.

      Even in the Abrahamic traditions philosophers have pondered on abstract philosophical concepts. The fact is that in India, just as in the west, god generally refers to a supernatural entity with a direct influence on our lives. The onus is on you to remain intellectually honest and stop being an apologist for superstition by using genuine philosophical inquiry as a mind-block and an excuse for continued ignorance.

      • I thought the subject of this post was about the opinion of Indian scientists on the topic of God..

        Surely, scientists are intelligent people and they have a more philosophical understanding of their life, than simpler folk. And most probably, they have formulated an idea of what they think of as “God”.

        If they didn’t care this is important, they are already atheists, because they considered this question to be unimportant. They are just being nice guys and going along with the crowd, just like how Dr. Richard Dawkins used to say grace while partaking meals in Oxford (this was just a token of respect for a cultural custom). Should these “atheists” come out as so in all blazing colours ? Why should they care ? They probably think “atheism” is a label with zero information content, and don’t want to be labeled as such.

        On the other hand, if a scientist is theist, they usually have a rough idea of what they think of as “God”. If it is these sort of people that Dr. Vadhwan is targeting, a good starting point would be to first understand “what” they think of as “God”, before trying to refute this idea.

        I have no qualms with you about removing superstitious beliefs amongst the uneducated lot. But I think you should treat cultured folks like scientists / artists / philosophers using a different brush.

        Cheers.

        • ‘If they didn’t care this is important, they are already atheists, because they considered this question to be unimportant. They are just being nice guys and going along with the crowd, just like how Dr. Richard Dawkins used to say grace while partaking meals in Oxford (this was just a token of respect for a cultural custom). Should these “atheists” come out as so in all blazing colours? Why should they care? They probably think “atheism” is a label with zero information content, and don’t want to be labelled as such.’

          My impression is that most of the scientists who choose to be silent are NOT atheists or naturalists. I think they take seriously statements like ‘Air is not visible, that does not mean air is not there. Ditto with God.’ If I remember right, even our ex-President Abdul Kalaam subscribes to similar views. Activist naturalists should focus on scientists because what scientists say and do has an extra strong effect on the public at large. One of our most visible scientists went to a temple for puja before the launch of a rocket carrying a payload for carrying out scientific experiments. With what kind of a brush should be treat such cultured folks?

          The word ‘atheist’ may have very little information content, but the silence of the atheist / naturalist creates a vacuum which gets filled up with a lot of trash.

        • “Surely, scientists are intelligent people and they have a more philosophical understanding of their life, than simpler folk. And most probably, they have formulated an idea of what they think of as “God”.
          People always formulate an idea of what they think about god, whether they are scientists or not.

          If they didn’t care this is important, they are already atheists, because they considered this question to be unimportant.
          Are you seriously suggesting that atheists don’t care about the question of god’s existence and theists do? This is just wrong. In fact, it is the religious mind for which the question of god’s existence is unimportant, because god’s existence is taken as a given.

          “If it is these sort of people that Dr. Vadhwan is targeting, a good starting point would be to first understand “what” they think of as “God”, before trying to refute this idea.”
          Since you’re answering my comment, let me suggest that you first ask yourself that question before assuming that I have not asked it to myself. I am well aware of the little available data on this subject, because I make it my business to know.

          “I have no qualms with you about removing superstitious beliefs amongst the uneducated lot. But I think you should treat cultured folks like scientists / artists / philosophers using a different brush.”
          If you think that superstitions are common only among the uneducated lot, you are sadly mistaken. The educated elite in India are mostly a bunch of trained cooks, following recipes in textbooks. Every aspect of Indian society is polluted with superstition and irrational ideas. Yes, these educated people need to be treated with a different brush, a narrower one that holds them to a higher standard. The sad thing is that they don’t even match up to the lowest standards. Hold these scientists to international standards, and then talk to me about standards. The entire purpose of Dr. Wadhawan’s article is to point out that as scientists these Indians are still being irrational. It is primarily because we should hold these people to a higher standard that there is a need to criticize them for being so superstitious.

          Anyway, all of this could have been settled if I had simply posted this in the beginning: http://cruller.cc.trincoll.edu/NR/rdonlyres/D98B14DA-CC70-4CA2-B270-EA0A6E9B4006/0/WholeIndiaReport.pdf

          http://cruller.cc.trincoll.edu/NR/rdonlyres/D98B14DA-CC70-4CA2-B270-EA0A6E9B4006/0/WholeIndiaReport.pdf

          • Interesting link 🙂 There is two questions that are particularly interesting in the survey. They are about what a person thinks of the words “secularism” and “spirituality”. Many people responded that they understood “spirituality” as a commitment to higher human ideals like peace, harmony etc.

            I am pretty sure there is also a significant number of people who understand the word “God” similarly. Not as a supernatural entity that supervises from above, but as a common thread of love, peace etc. that runs through human beings, or even every single thing in the universe. With this definition, God is not a supernatural being, but very much the essence of “natural” stuff. I’d like to know what’s wrong with this understanding. It is just a poetic way of describing very much the same concepts of humanism and universalism that even many atheists believe in.

            I want to make a clear distinction between this belief and blind superstition, or beliefs in a “higher power” that’s beyond the universe. I don’t deny that many scientists have superstitious beliefs.. But I think the question of “God” is not the way to expose such beliefs. More appropriate questions would be about whether they believe in astrology for choosing appropriate dates for major activities (especially weddings), whether they believe that only specific caste should perform religious rituals, whether they agree that religious texts which contradict scientific information should be edited appropriately, whether they acknowledge the possibility that people sharing contradictory belief systems might be right etc.

          • I entirely agree with the spirit of your comment. But the point is that often a word has to be abandoned because it has been overused to death, and because it means different things to different people. The God word is one such word.

            Why not use a new word instead which does not carry with it the emotional baggage of centuries of ignorance and superstition? Please remember that this word was there long before we humans invented and then nourished the scientific method. Why not use a word which reflects the scientific spirit and our newfound sense of responsibility, courage, objectivity, and realism? Why not use a word which unites human beings, rather than dividing them through the machinations of organized religion?

            If you substitute ‘God’ with ‘Nature,’ it does make a big difference. Do you call yourself a naturalist, or a God-fearing human? As you can see, there is a difference.

          • This survey is very interesting, but I am having difficulty believing some of the results. Just doesn’t jell with my (minimal) experience (I know a few PhDs).

            1) Do you think that there is any efficacy in the following?
            Astrology 14% say Yes (Cmon..only 14%?)
            Power of Amulets 3% say Yes (Dont most people wear rings with stones, scientists included?)

            2) Do you think that the process of biological evolution is a fact?
            (88% “definitely” or “probably”)
            I know people who say Yes to this, but the moment they see some interesting animal on TV, they say ‘Isnt God great? Look at this wonderous creations’. There is a cognitive dissonance here. Yes, they believe in evolution, but God’s creation takes precedence.

            I wish the report had said HOW MANY DIDNT RESPOND to the survey. Overall, the survey says to me that approx 50% of the scientists who responded are NOT religious.
            Dr VW, Did you receive around 30-50% #7 reponses? (Idoubt it)
            7. ‘What a refreshing worldview! Thank you very much!

  • Some Indian scientists may have a more exalted understanding of God, but for most it is a matter of compartmentalization.
    They do their jobs but that is all to it — a job where they have to use certain tools but it is not neccessary to understand those tools. Outside the lab life is all about astrology, rituals, believing that vedas have all this stuff already, not questioning established authority: the kind of things they learned at their mother’s knee.

    Our horrible school system is mostly to be blamed for this — scientists and everyone else get degrees but not how to think critically.

    • Scientists have the home advantage that they know the basics of the scientific method, as also the basic vocabulary of science. It should be easier for them to understand what science has to say, e.g., about the evolution of life out of nonlife. What saddens me is that many of them do not even want to try to understand.

  • Your lucid and persuasive posts deserve to attract far more posts than they do. In fact, I wish your site was at least as popular as Outlook online magazine – which perhaps is India’s only public journal on political issues.
    The silence or indifference to science or absract issues derives from, in my opinion, the continuing failure of most Indian elites (mostly Hindus) to come to terms with modernity and its key constituent, rationality. They seem averse to structures that call for critical thinking – they are more at ease with rituals, gods and gurus that require no intellectual effort. (Naipaul said in his early writings that myth and magic are an Indian need that provides comfort amidst unending poverty and misery).
    Hindus have been praying to their many gods for thousands of years but the country remains impoverished, unhealthy, chaotic, corrupt. When I have asked some Hindus (in London where I live) why they continue to depend on their gods instead of themselves, they may get emotional but can offer no reasoned answer.
    By and large, Indians tend to be poor communicators on more abstract matters and can rarely provide a logical, coherent explanation or fresh perspective. The British colonial rulers were aware of a cognitive deficit. British scholars who tried hard to learn about Indian contributions to astronomy and maths failed to find any native scholar to enter into a fruitful exchange.

    Hindus have developed a deep inferiority from a thousand years of conquest and occupation – first the Muslims, then the British. The Moghuls certainly brought in civlisation to a largely backward people with few refined tastes, social graces and building skills. First emperoe Babur has written eloquently on what he saw.
    Naipaul said that every concept and institution have been borrowed from the British . There was no education, legal or administrative systems. The so called Fathers of the Nation (Gandhi, Nehru, Tagore) would have been country bumpkins without English ideas and education. PM Singh acknowledged this when he was honoured at Cambridge. If Singh had stayed with his Punjab Uni degree, he would have been more like Desai or Shastri.
    Even today, PM Singh can only be speak in a brand of bureaucratic English using stock words. He keeps droning on about ‘growth rate’, ‘democracy’ and such but can he elaborate? Most Indian leaders get tongue-tied in the West snd journalists know they have nothing original to say. At the G20 Summit last year in LOndon and in Toronto this year, PM Singh made no memorable public statement or initiative, as usual.
    Poor India must abandon the elitist illusion of global power. In the absence of communication and critical thinking skills, India will remain a client or lackey of the West as of now, grovelling before the West but terrorising its helpless native citizens.
    Above all, India desperately needs new young leaders with a grand, inclusive vision and compassion for the weak and vulnerable. The new leaders should also upgrade the decaying national insitutions and promote a culture of excellence and rational debate. Then Indian science, theory and innovation may take off – at last. (Sorry for rambling on.)

    • Mr. George, I find that most of your statements are factually correct. But you forgot to mention one thing: We Indians are very good at berating ourselves. The British certainly gave us this and that. But they also took away a lot, not to mention the damage they did by introducing a certain kind of education system, designed to make the ‘natives’ hate their culture and history, and admire things ‘English.’

      Personally, I am more interested in the question: ‘Where do we go from here?’ The approach of President Abdul Kalam has much to commend itself. We have to begin by telling ourselves that WE CAN DO IT. And that means, among other things, that we as a nation should first learn to highlight our achievements, rather than our failures.

      Intellectual honesty and objectivity are great, but one also needs optimism to succeed, especially when it comes to galvanizing a whole country into a mission mode.

      I fully agree with you that a rational approach is a must in everything we do, as also a culture that values excellence. And we should try to think as Indians, rather than as Hindus and Muslims etc.

      • Not to mention that the British often fail to note that India was actually wealthier than most of Europe during the mid 17th century when India and China were the manufacturing centers of the world (excluding the Spaniards, Portuguese and Dutch, who had already gained much wealth through plunder). India and China were forced by the colonial powers to give up their leading edge in manufacturing. The industrial revolution and the enlightenment were products of colonialism (and of course, the reformation, which didn’t stop the Christians from “spreading the word” elsewhere). Its easy to see the world as it is now and forget how Europe got wealthy and funded the enlightenment, and how Asia and South America lost their wealth. Of course, modern science is a product of the enlightenment, but without the Indian number system and zero, where would modern science be now? Using alphabets to denote numbers? The point here is that progress is cumulative, and history offers insights that can help avoid wanton generalization.

        Although I have come out aggressively against the pseudoscience perpetuated by the Hindu propagandists, there are more atheistic and philosophical works in the Indian tradition than any other ancient culture save the Greeks. Lack of ability for abstract thought indeed. I wonder how much abstract thought we’d see from the English if they were all forced to speak German as the international language of communication (in science and politics) and English at home.

        I agree with Prof. Wadhawan. India needs to wake up from its current slumber and shake off the shackles of superstition and religion. Creative and innovative thinking programs are needed, and philosophy and science needs a strong push. But the most important thing India needs is to believe that we are capable of rising above the past 400 years of oppression by the West (yes, it is still going on, something that’s a matter-of-fact observation by social scientists studying the long-term effects of colonialism). The best way to do this is to remind ourselves that reason is not an invention of the West.

        • very good points everyone, putting it all in historical context. I was reminded of Jared Diamond’s work
          Guns, Germs and Steel Part 1 of 18
          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bgnmT-Y_rGQ
          where he quite convincingly concludes that it was all a matter of geography as to why certain people became the masters of the world. Having seen the physical superiority of the Africans, I tend to think that if they had the better breaks, they would have been the masters of the world now.

  • I’m of Indian origin, living in the UK. After a lifetime of living as a Hindu and amongst Hindus (I’ve been an atheist for about 2.5years now) I think I can pick up the argument as far as ‘NRI’s are concerned.

    Indians have gained a reputation in the West as being hard-working, entrepreneurial and reliable. They excel at school, university and in the workplace. You would think by now that much of the Fortune 500 companies in the world would be dominated by Indian intellect, acumen and talent. This is not the case. Why?

    I believe that as Indians have settled around the world, they have successfully compartmentalised. They have compartmentalised their society, their personality and behaviour, and also their intellect.

    I can’t speak for the US, but if you were to come to the UK, one of the first things you’ll notice is how certain cities have become virtual apartheid towns. Leicester has areas in which the populations are virtually exclusively Indian, Bangladeshi, Pakistani etc. (The reason for this may have initially been economic – i.e. 30+ years ago.) You can live in these areas with virtually no knowledge of the language, culture or events occurring in the larger city or country.

    As you point out, a certain motivation for this is the keep the ‘wicked West’ at bay. Along with the desire to keep the West at arms length of course is the paradoxical need to be part of the Western world, its opportunities and benefits.

    So on with the compartmentalisation where you have to live ‘Indian’ at home, and be ‘part of the team’ at work, changing your dress code, language, accent and even behaviour so that you can ‘fit in’ in both worlds.

    All the while amongst many Indians is this troubling silent conviction that their ancient religion, culture and philosophy (not that most people actually understand or think deeply about any of them) beats Western morality, culture and philosophy hands-down. On one hand there’s an inferiority complex in the desire to be Western in the world of work, but a superiority complex about our culture.

    And the virus of this compartmentalised thinking/living is endemic and passed down to every new generation. True it is getting more and more diluted, but there is enough inertia (for now) to keep it going for a few more generations yet.

    And those who choose to break free and question this order of things instantaneously feel the accumulated pressure of immediate and extended family, friends and neighbours to conform.

    I make no secret of my atheism, but I don’t advertise it either so most relatives have no idea that I am no longer a Hindu. Eventually a major event is going to come along which requires some ritual – I expect the sparks to fly.

    • 1. The ‘compartmentalization’ you mention is a reaction to how the natives treat the migrant Indians.

      2. Self-respecting Indians should do what they can to make India strong. If we succeed, the problems that you mention will then disappear automatically!

  • God can never be proved because you cannot prove the absence of something. You can only prove the presence of something.

    If somebody claims that there is a pumpkin infront of him it is his duty to prove it either directly( sensory perception) or indirectly (circumstantial evidence leading to or the effects of the existence of pumpkin infront of him using the tools beyond sensory limitations like microscope or telescope or any other inference ). As long as it is not proved in some way or other to the general public it remains only an idea even though it is true. When Einstein proposed theory of relativity , scientific community did not prima facie accept it but when it was proved by experimental means in 1919 during a total solar eclipse then only the theory was vindicated.

    God has remained an idea for thousands of years without any coroborative evidence and will remain so forever.

    When atheists try to prove that there is no God , actually what they do is they try to prove that God as envisaged by theists does not exist and the logic on which theists argue that God exists is faulty and not tenable.

    God and religion are in the ideological domain of human being and science is in the physical domain. God and religion always remain abstract and science always is a concrete phenomena.

    Morality and God are not connected but the concept of God has been exploited by the people to give an element of sacredness and authority to what they perceive as correct and hence moral. I don’t eat meat and for me it is not acceptable to kill an animal (if not immoral). But for most of the mankind non vegetarianism is moral and accepted way of life but cannibalism is immoral. For upper cast Hindus beef eating is immoral. Moral and immoral are the dos and don’ts of the society and is different for different societies.

    For Indian society premarital sex is immoral but for the developed west it is an accepted way of life. Infact in the west if somebody claims that they are virgins beyond twenty years of age , they are considered either physically sick or mentally retarded. For most of the societies relations outside marriage are immoral for the simple reason of ensuring lineage and inheritance. So sleeping with one is moral and sleeping with more than one is immoral. So it is a quantitative issue rather than a qualitative issue.

  • Indian Scientists… hey! They are puppets! Agreeing to the chauvinistic idea, these (often, tilak wearing) Indian scientists admit to the nonsense that ancient India was technology driven. This attitude of these wage earners was enought to defame ‘The Scientific Indian’ in their National Science Congress Event which was, to country’s merriment, centred on this petty issue. The unfortunate defamation got wings when The Nobel Laureate Weinberg condemned the issue and their response was, more or so, a smile. Presenting CERN, an idol of Shiva… wasn’t that enough to portray the superstitious nonsense most of these old men hold along with their illiterate and poorly educated countrymen.

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