The Indian Science Congress Association has said that it was deeply shocked to learn of unscientific claims made at the an event for children during a gathering of scientists in Punjab earlier this month.
“I was disheartened that a vice chancellor of a state university discussed and raised these unscientific issues at ‘Meet the children programme’ of children’s science congress,” Dr Manoj Kumar Chakrabarti, the general president of the Indian Science Congress Association, wrote in a letter dated January 11 to a group of scientists and researchers who had protested against these statements.
“The ISCA is greatly concerned and will not tolerate in the future any unscientific claims at the session,” he added. “It has been decided by the executive committee, council and general body that from now on for the sessions like ‘Meeting with scientists’ at children’s science congress it will be mandatory for the scientists to submit a summary of their talk and scientists from ISCA will monitor their talk to block any unsubstantiated claims based on myths and heresy at such sessions.”
In their letter, dated January 9, the scientists had condemned the decision of some speakers to bring up “confusing episodes” from Indian mythology and present them as scientific facts.
“Such content in the ISC undermines the long scientific tradition of the ISC which, in the past, has been led by outstanding scientists such as Acharya Prafulla Chandra Ray, Sir Ram Nath Chopra and Prof P Parija,” the reseachers wrote. “Such claims tarnish the image of Indian science globally, and also undermine the credibility of the genuine contributions of the great science personalities of yore, that too, in front of young and impressionable minds. Stories from our epics are poetic, enjoyable, rich in moral elements and in imagination but are not scientifically constructed or validated.”
At the science congress, geologist Ashu Khosla had suggested that Hindu god Brahma knew about dinosaurs and had documented them in the Vedas. It was among the many irrational statements made by some speakers at the event. These remarks were protested by a small group of scientists and research scholars at the Indian Institute of Science in Bengaluru. Even structural biologist and Nobel laureate Venkatraman Ramakrishnan said that the talks at the Indian Science Congress should be vetted by serious committees.
However, in his letter to the scientists, Dr Manoj Kumar Chakrabarti said the association had found it “very painful that a part of media chose to focus on such lectures only which as I have stated at first paragraph of my letter was not the view of ISCA and which ISCA condemned”.
He said it was unfortunate that the sections of the media had adopted “this cynical approach of reporting only the negative aspect of an event” and “neglecting all the positivity that emitted from the conference”.