We have reported on many of the past challenges issued by rationalists to purveyors of supernatural beliefs. The challenger in many of these cases (1,2,3,4,5), Mr Narendra Nayak, president of the Federation of Rationalist Associations of India, has a long-standing challenge issued specifically for astrologers. Here it is in his own words:
“We shall provide the date, time and place of birth of 10 individuals along with the appropriate solutions. The challenger can cast the horoscope and state the following within 90% limits of accuracy- is the individual male or female, dead or alive. “
On the 23rd of December this year a challenge from Mr. Nayak was published in the online newspaper DNA. The article quoted him as saying “We will provide them [astrologers] with the date and time of birth of 10 individuals. All they have to tell us is whether these individuals are male or female, and whether they are dead or alive. If an astrologer can guess eight out of the 10 correctly, then the prize of Rs10 lakh is his”. In the article, Mr. Nayak declared the minimum requirement towards participating in this challenge as a fee of Rs 5000.
The article also reported on a certain Bangalore-based astrologer, Y Bhaskar Shetty , who has come forward to accept the challenge! The paper describes him as a leading astrologer with “many political titans for clients”. How someone could be considered a “leader” in a pseudoscientific discipline is beyond our understanding. Shetty is ready to part with the money towards entering the challenge, and is only asking for transparency in the process in return for his investment.
According to the paper, Shetty thinks that “humans are the microcosm of the universe and have to maintain their poise and alignment with the planets in the solar system.”. The article also quotes him as saying “Astrology is all geometry and gravity”!!!
Since Shetty is claiming to know everything worth knowing about these people from their horoscopes, Mr. Nayak has modified his challenge to accommodate Shetty’s claims. Here is the revised challenge in Mr. Nayak’s own words:
“We shall give him the date, time and place of birth of ten living persons and he can give us the following details:
1. Male or female.
2. Education qualification.
3. Whether married or not.
4. Job in which they are employed.We shall provide him a proforma which he can fill on the spot after casting the horoscopes and reading them. We shall send the proforma later.
The challenge shall take place in Mangalore and we shall intimate the date to him. The details will be in numbered sealed envelopes one of which shall have the details of the date, time and place of birth and the corresponding one will have the solutions along with the name and cell numbers of the concerned individual for the details to be verified. I do hope this fulfills the conditions of transparency that Mr. Shetty calls for.”
In follow-up correspondence with Mr. Shetty’s people, it was established that the challenge will take place in Bangalore. Shetty’s messengers have said that the astrologer does not want to take Mr Nayak’s money in event of his failure. They proudly declared the extent of Shetty’s wealth, no doubt accumulated over years of hard work misleading the gullible.
The last bit of correspondence between the two concerned parties took place recently with Mr. Nayak declaring that the challenge will take place in Bangalore and that he will be restricting the people whose names and birth data will be submitted for prediction to the 20-30 age-group. Mr. Nayak has proposed January the 14th as the date of the challenge and has issued the following additional instructions:
“He has to cast horoscopes on the spot or use any other methods to predict within 60 minutes and all the time he will be under our supervision so that he will not resort to any unfair means. If that is acceptable we shall go ahead with it. We shall do it under full media coverage and I shall mail a format of the questionnaire to be filled for each horoscope to avoid any vague/ambiguous answers, along with an agreement to be signed. The proceedings shall be open to public and media will be welcome.”
Finally, we have some slightly unrelated but excellent recent news to report!
Mr. Narendra Nayak has been re-elected as the President of the Federation of Rationalists Associations of India for the next two years, and Mr. Somu Rao is the new National Secretary.
We will be following this story closely here on Nirmukta. We will be publishing write-ups by Mr. Rao and Mr. Nayak on this challenge over the next few days. Please help us spread the word of this challenge by posting it on your blogs and by bringing attention to the story of this famous astrologer who is boldly taking up the challenge designed to expose his fraud.
Update: The following is a series of emails between professor Narendra Nayak, president of FIRA, and PK Surendran, News Editor of DNA. Mr Surendran was corresponding in his capacity as liaison to the astrologer, Mr. Bhaskar Shetty.
Wed, Jan 6, 2010
From PK Surendran
To Narendra Nayak
Y Bhaskar Shetty who took up your challenge informs that 10 feb 2010 is his son’s marriage and he is busy with that. After that event, he is free to accept your challenge.
Pl arrange a mutually convenient date. I shall exchange the phone numbers in next mail
Wed, Jan 6, 2010
From Narendra nayak
To PK Surendran
We shall do that, The Bangalore Vicharavadi Sangha shall kindly arrange for a Sunday after the 10th Feb.. for the challenge.
However the conditions outlined like 10 date, time and place of birth being given and he has to inform the following; Male or female,employed or not, married or unmarried,extent of education are not negotiable and we want the answers to be filled in a proforma and the right answers to be within 90% limits of error that is out of the 40 at least 36 should be right.
He should be ready to execute an agreement before hand to that effect. The conditions shall be outlined in detail and the agreement signed at least 7 days prior to the date of the challenge.
Wed, Jan 7, 2010
From Narendra nayak
To PK Surendran
We are having a state level Vicharavadi meet on the 14th March at Bangalore probably in the hall of Karnataka Sahitya Parishath. We could have the challenge at that venue and Shetty will get a chance to demonstrate his scientific skills to all our people from various parts of the state. He will have ample time to get his act ready.
Neither Mr. Shetty nor Mr. Surendran responded to prof. Nayak’s calls for accepting the challenge before the set date.