Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Mythology is not science.

Birth of Karna (my favorite character from story of Mahabharat) was a marvel of genetic engineering in ancient India, Ganesha's head replacement was example of plastic surgery; these are meanings which students might derive from some of the statements which India's PM Mr. Narendra Modi made recently. There is already class or group of people who believes that whatever great discoveries are made in the area of science are already described in ancient scriptures. It is different issue that they fail to explain that if those discoveries were already mentioned in those books then how some a country which is continuously studying these books failed to report it to the rest of the world. How come only when someone else reports them these people suddenly realize that it was already mentioned in their holy books. Only agenda these people have is to push their own ideology and religion as a superior force, claim credit of others hard work without even acknowledging their efforts. Anyone who really studied science and understand the real meaning of scientific temperament would feel amazed by sheer ignorance of these people. These pople fail to understand difference between mythology (a fiction) and science (which is based on reproducible data and verifiable evidence). 

Mythology is full of very interesting and inspiring stories, Mahabharat is my favorite one. Many stories from this great epic are full of interesting characters and incidents. To make them entertaining authors have included many fictitious incidents exactly like they do in fiction books like Harry Potter or in animated movies. It is to the credit of the authors great imagination that these books are so entertaining and popular. Many of the incidents mentioned in fiction books are also inspired from some real life incidents, they make use of real city names or dates just to make these stories sound real. But at the same time we all know that no one can fly on broom stick, people can not defy gravity without any external help, etc. (at least today these things are not possible, we don't know about future) but we all love to watch these things on the screen or read it in the book. But if we find some invention (for example touch screen or wireless phone) mentioned in some story or movie (like star wars) which scientist discover after lot of hard work and research we don't give credit to that book or movie for inventing it. May be scientists or inventors get some idea from these movies but to make these things reality is altogether different ball game. It requires lot of study, planning, hard work, many experiments (most of which fail) and then one can expect to get some positive outcome. It is not easy to bring fiction into reality but hard work of many scientists make some of these things possible. Flying in air was considered as impossible just few centuries ago but now we have so many devises which one can use to fly in group or solo. This was possible due to hard work of many people who worked tirelessly to develop this amazing technology. These are the people who should get the credit for this invention not some one who might have mentioned in some story that humans can fly without any technical details how can they defy the gravity and fly.

Such statements coming from the person like Mr. Modi who also happens to be prime minister of India is also very surprising if not shocking. He can have his personal opinion about any issue but as a prominent public figure he should know that his statements are going to have huge impact on many people who follow him. Specially if young students with very impressionable mind listen to such statement I wonder what type of image they are going to have about the real inventors who discovered these things (plastic surgery and genetic engineering). Are they supposed to think that these inventors just copied the idea already discovered in ancient India? How we convince them who were the real inventors of these things and who should get the credit? Such statements are definitely not going to help in any way, any politician or public figure should be careful before saying something like this.

Mythology is not science, there are no verifiable pieces evidence or reliable data to prove any of these so called inventions mentioned in any of these ancient books. If there are then they should be presented in proper platform to claim the credit of that invention. Without this such statements don't have any scientific value. These type of statements are only useful to stir some controversy or create some confusion in people's minds and I am sure our prime minister don't want this to happen. So it will be better next time he does some research before saying something like this.  

Thanks for reading and please share your views on this topic.

[Copyright : Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing]

1. PM Modi takes leaf from Batra book: Mahabharat genetics, Lord Ganesha surgery
2. Indian prime minister claims genetic science existed in ancient times


  1. Hi Vinay.

    I always get confused between this. Science shows us things with great research and effort. And people claim that our ancient scriptures already have a wealth of discoveries and inventions mentioned in them. They claim that they have tremendous information and scientific knowledge. For example, they say that the Sudarshan Chakra of Krishna is nothing but a black hole. Black hole was discovered in 20th centurey. But our ancestors knew it centureies back. I was also forwarded a link by a friend which gives details of it. After reading it I am confused further. I understand what you are saying but how can we know definitely.

    I will give you the link to refer and appreciate your comments. Please guide.

    S. Srikanth

    1. Hi Srikanth,
      Dont' worry I was also confused like you when I face this dilemma, and believe me there are millions who are confused including the blog writer who shared the theory about black hole and sudarshan chakra. There are many books and online articles by people belonging to various religions, sects or cult movements which try desperately to prove how their own religion or cult is very scientific and how they know many things in advance before science discovered it. But if you check the history none of these people declared these things or proved these discoveries by presenting reproducible and verifiable data. Another common pattern in all these arguments is to cite various verses from their scripture and claim that those verses say same things which science discovered hundreds of years after. Actually these scriptures are written in form of poems and they can be interpreted in many different ways. That is why we have so many interpretations and translations of them. As I wrote in my post it is always easy to claim ownership of something by citing few lines from some book or poem and saying that that author already knew these things. But without any data no one will believe this, even some things mentioned in Harry Potter books might become reality in future but that doesn't mean J K Rowling discovered them.

      Read these blogs and articles to see how imaginative our ancestors were. Read them to learn how even science literates try to present unscientific thinks in very scientific manure (people call it a pseudoscience), but only accept any theory or argument after evaluating the presented data and evidence. This is what I learned after spending more than 15 years in the area of research and development. I hope I clarified some things for you, please don;t hesitate to ask questions in you have any doubts.

    2. Hi Vinay,

      You have given nice comparison of Harry Potter and other books. They are surely a product of imagination. So of course I will disregard some such books which are filled with such imaginative stuff and presented in a very realistic manner.

      Now I also want to know about what you have said about scriptures written in poems can be interpreted in many ways. Now if we take the mathematical work of Aryabhat called Aryabhatiya it is written in poetical metres. But the book uses symbols where each letter stands for some definite number. And when you actually put those numbers in place of those words you get the mathematical formula or equation etc. But otherwise it is only poetry. So my question is can it be that these scriptures actually have such hidden knowledge where everything is in poetry.

      S. Srikanth

    3. Hi Srikanth,
      Thanks for your query. Your question is very relevant and important also. As most of these texts are written long ago people derive their own meanings of some of words or symbols (because the language is so ancient). That is why we have so many interpretations of these texts, every time someone comes with some new explanation but one things is common that they always try to connect the dots backwards. This is relatively very easy because they try to make use of current knowledge or inventions to check if something like this was mentioned in any ancient scripture, if someone already knows what they are looking for then their mind is biased, it tries to interpret things in particular way because of that bias. I am not saying that everything is fabricated or manipulated but this is one of the factors which we need to take in to consideration when people are trying to connect the dots backwards. I would be more interested in novel theories or inventions designed based on knowledge in these texts rather than claiming that we already knew what modern science discovered now but so far nothing of this sort came up from any where. If people are so confident about things written in these books why don't they work on these theories, collect the data and publish in reputed scientific journals before anyone else does it?

      As you said there might be vast amount of knowledge hidden in these books but so far not one was able to use them to make any path breaking scientific discovery. We even have Aayurveda with us for centuries but you will be surprised to know that so far India never developed totally novel drug for any therapeutic area. This all indicate to the fact that either we are not capable of interpreting these books properly or we are not very confident about things written in those books that's why we always try to claim credit only when some one proves these things with reliable data. Both these things are not going to help us to excel in science. We need to either develop our own robust scientific program which can breed new talent who can invent new things or we will keep on crying foul about others claiming discoveries of our ancestors.

  2. You have such an interesting blog. Thanks for sharing, I enjoyed reading your posts. All the best for your future blogging journey.

    1. Thanks a lot Sridhar for your encouragement and best wishes. I am happy to know that you find blog posts interesting. Please share your opinions on various topics we discuss on blog, by sharing our views we can discuss and debate which can help to eliminate many problems from our society. Thanks again for your kind words.