Scientists launch online petition to rebut pseudo-science

In an attempt to discourage the propagation of pseudo-science at platforms meant for science and exchange of scientific ideas, Breakthrough Science Society (BSS), an NGO, has started an online petition called ‘Stop the attempts to dilute the integrity of scientific process in science meets’. 

The NGO, which says it aims to propagate science in the country, has taken this step after what transpired at the 102nd Indian Science Congress held in Mumbai recently. It has received 419 signatures from across India so far. Among the signees are nearly 100 scientists from prime research institutes in Bengaluru, such as the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), the Indian Institute of Astrophysics, the Raman Research Institute and the National Centre for Biological Sciences. 

Support from a number of scientists from well-known institutes in the country such as Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, IIT, Kanpur, and Jamia Milia Islamia has also poured in. 

Prof Ram Prasad Gandhiraman from NASA’s Ames Research Centre, California, himself started an online petition calling for the scrapping of a lecture, although unsuccessfully, on ‘Ancient Indian Aviation Technology’, delivered at the Indian Science Congress. 

“Besides scientists from prestigious institutes in Bengaluru, there are 100 other signees that include doctors, software professionals and research scholars,” said Rajini K S, president of BSS, Bengaluru district, Karnataka.  Credentials established

Another signee, Prof S Mahadevan from the Department of Molecular Reproduction, Development and Genetics, IISc, told Deccan Herald, “I do not know why people are doing this. We have already established India’s credentials in the field of maths, medicine, astronomy and many other disciplines. Mythologies are an important part of our cultural heritage. But to consider them to be equivalent to scientific documents is wrong. It amounts to belittling not only science but also mythology.” 

He continued, “While people can have any beliefs at a personal level, those responsible for scientific policies should refrain from making such statements.” Well-known mathematician and former principal of National College, Basavangudi, Prof S Balachandra Rao, who also signed the petition, suggested that the attempts to mix mythology with science appeared deliberate. “It’s unfair to mix emotional beliefs with objective science, especially at events like the Indian Science Congress. There appear to be vested groups which are deliberately doing this to gobble up funds. They want to get crores of rupees meant for research in science,” he said. 

Speaking to Deccan Herald from Kolkata, Soumitro Bannerjee, general secretary, BSS, and a professor at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, said, “The number of signees is growing by the minute.” 

Describing the talk given by Capt Anand J Bodas on ancient Indian aviation technology at the Indian Science Congress as “complete nonsense”, he said such attempts were “making Indian science a ridiculous thing.” 

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