Yukti 2011, a two-day workshop to promote scientific temper, was conducted successfully on the 19th and 20th of February, at the Karnataka Rajya Vijnana Parishat (KRVP) premises in Bangalore. The KRVP gave the premises free of charge to conduct the event.
The event was kicked off by an inaugural address by Dr. H S Niranjan Aradhya of KRVP. He spoke about KRVP, an autonomous organisation that aims to popularise Science and Technology. He talked in detail about how the KRVP was formed and how it gives physical and moral support to promote scientific temper.
The second speaker of Day 1 was Professor Narendra Nayak, president of the Federation of Indian Rationalists Associations (FIRA), who spoke on Debunking Alternative Medicine. He explained why alternative medicines like Homeopathy, Reiki, Naturopathy, etc don’t work and how the people who prescribe these medicines cheat gullible people. He also talked about Ayurvedic medicines mentioning that while some Ayurvedic medicines may work, people should be very cautious, because these medicines were based on severely out-dated knowledge of science that people had at the time. The session was interactive and Dr Nayak fielded a number of audience questions.
The next two sessions were by members of the Bangalore Freethinkers.
After lunch, Pankaj Kulkarni spoke about How working professionals can promote scientific temper. He talked about the importance of promoting scientific temper, the various ways in which people can find motivation and the ways and means by which working professionals can contribute.
The next speaker, Anil Gulecha gave an introduction to logical fallacies in his talk titled Logical Fallacies: How They Help You Win Arguments! The session involved lively demonstrations of various logical fallacies like the Strawman argument, the False Dichotomy fallacy, the Red Herring fallacy, the Slippery Slope fallacy, and others through scripted conversations between Murthy and Jabir (of the Bangalore Freethinkers).
The highlights of the afternoon session were the series of short (ten minute) lightning talks from the participants of the workshop. In this session, the participants of the workshop got a chance to speak about freethought related topics important to them. It was interactive, and many of the speakers sought the opinions of the audience during their talk. A variety of topics were considered, a sample of which appear below:
- On inessential drug combinations by Dr. Prakash Rao.
- Atheism: A female perspective by Geetha TG from the Freethinking Humanists – Chennai.
- Can scientists lack scientific temper? by Vijay Prakash, IISc.
- The principle of falsifiability as a definition of science by Ameek Bhalla, IISc.
The first speaker for the second day was Babu Gogineni, Executive Director of the International Humanist and Ethical Union. He spoke about humanism as a philosophy of life, and about the humanist outlook. He shared many experiences from his humanist outreach programs and international campaigns.
The second speaker, Dr. M N Keshava Rao of the Bangalore Rationalists Association, talked about the role Scripture in the Modern Age. He said that the Vedas were simply books of knowledge known at the time, which are highly out-dated now, and that one cannot consider these volumes as accurate resources in modern times. He was highly critical of other texts like the Upanishads and the Smritis, that presumed to teach morality, ethics, and religious duty. He explained that the current mores of society that valued equality, liberty and scientific temper, could hardly continue to keep these texts in high esteem.
The next speaker was Pradyumna Kumar Rath, of the Breakthrough Science Society. He has been an active campaigner for a scientific and rational worldview for more than two decades. His talk was about how working professionals can find the time to be an activist for the cause of spreading scientific temper and rationalism.
Dolly Koshy of the Bangalore Freethinkers, last speaker of the morning session spoke about Rationalism as a Way of Life. In her talk she asks, “when for many religious people, religion itself is a way of life, why can’t rationalism be a way of life for atheists?”. She exhorted the participants to diplomatically wear their atheism on their sleeve. She gave examples of ways in which people can do so.
After lunch, Professor Narendra Nayak’s second session of the workshop followed – Debunking the Paranormal. It was a highly interactive and fun session with demonstrations that showed how “miracles” are just tricks by charlatans, considered as godmen in society, who fool the gullible. In his session, he made the important point that ignorance and lack of scientific temper were the reason why people continue to get fooled by these mountebanks. He said that as people become more aware, the techniques of the charlatans also evolve and become more sophisticated. Thus, it is very important to continuously practise rational scepticism, and question everything.
The two day workshop ended with a conclusion address by Babu Gogineni, who encouraged more young people to get involved spreading of scientific temper and rationalism. He also commended the efforts of the organisers of the workshop.