Monday, August 25, 2014

Influence of Religious Doctors and Scientists in Pakistan, India and Elsewhere

Influence of Religious Doctors and Scientists in Pakistan, India and Elsewhere


Religious teachers, preachers and believers in old religious myths exist not only in the Muslim world but elsewhere too as in America .After the Fall of the Berlin Wall and the 'End of History 'as propounded in USA, it 'legitimized' the so called victory of not only Neo-liberalism, but also the influence of Religion and beliefs in obscurantism over scientific socialism and rationality .Its effects can be seen in America's destructive foreign policy.


Unfortunately, since 1991, apart from other unfortunate developments like mad race to exhaust material resources, which belong to the future generations, policy decisions point towards possible destruction of planet Earth itself.


Nearer home in India, after an absolute majority by the ruling BJP, albeit with 31% of votes cast, hardly literate and certainly mis-educated and even uneducated persons are coming to the fore. MN Batra is not the only example. Even so-called well educated person like Arun Shourie have written volumes on Islamic fatwas, but hardly much, if at all, on the obscurantist and irrational beliefs and crude and cruel practices among Hindus. In fact, if somebody says anything against such feudal and mediaeval practices, beginning with the caste system itself, he is likely to be threatened if not lynched.


Prime Minister Modi should be careful because India does not need to be taken into the direction of Pakistan, and many other Muslim countries on to the path of obscurantism. To begin with, it was not a very bright idea to appoint Smriti Irani as the Cabinet Minister for human resources development. She is certainly pretty and can act in TV Serials and deliver impressively  written out lectures, but many people doubt if she has the wherewithal to comprehend , analyze and evaluate problems of her formidable charge in  the vast and complex country like India and then lay down policies and get them implemented .India is not Gujarat . PM should not try to do everything himself.


The various examples of Muslim history and its so called relevance to current times in Muslim states apply equally to fairly large segments of Hindu society with its history, beliefs and bigotry. The current examples are a new low and vary from funny to absurd and even harmful. Practices like gifting a cow to make passage to Paradise smoother, continue.


I have met many Indians even with Masters and even doctorate in science, who believe in so-called `Vedic mathematics" and the age of Vedas, Mahabharata, Ramayana etc. The Egyptians were certainly far ahead 5000 years ago as can be seen from their monuments like the pyramids which were built without any present-day equipment, even transporting massive boulders of granite from down south by boats, to Cairo and nearby and lift them into exact huge pyramids facing the Sun God.


I have seen myself English text books for Physics graduate students stating that an aero plane constructed in end 19th-century near Bombay on the basis of Uran Khatola mentioned in Ramayana, was able to fly for a few hundred meters. The growing obscurantism and superstitious beliefs should be treated as such since they lead to dangerous path.


On this score Prime Minister Modi has not uttered much. Let us hope that he having been exposed to science, technology and manufacturing practices during his visits to Russia, China, and Japan, and recently to the Brics Summit in Brazil will lead India to a rational path for its progress and prosperity


In fact, one of the greatest dangers to adult franchise based democracy is the triumph of the lowest denominator activists based on caste, religion, ethnicity and regional based politics in India. Not that many better educated nations in the West are doing any better , brainwashed by corporate controlled media .Education, research in science and technology and other spheres has suffered very badly. India's irrational and unrepresentative electoral system has produced new Brahmins in each case and sub caste, who publicly and brazenly appoint their caste members to top positions in service selection boards, universities, research organisations, on the plea that similar practices were implemented by Brahmins and other high caste leaders in the past. They are probably right, but the pendulum has now gone to the other extreme and the country as a whole is suffering.


By amending the Act to appoint his principal secretary, Modi has sent a wrong signal and established a bad precedent. It was unnecessary display of almost a dictatorial streak.


It should be remembered that the current Supreme Court Chief Justice of India R.M.Lodha was in the first batches of those who are appointed to the High Courts by the collegium system. Anyone can see that most of the problems and well founded allegations have been made against incompetent and even corrupt justices, even about Chief Justices of the Supreme Court, who were appointed before the collegium system. Thus, the collegium system was exploited, abused and misused by senior judiciary members appointed during the time when government played a major role in the appointment of judges to the High Courts and Supreme Court.


Let us hope that the judiciary, legal profession and public will stop the current move to give undue weightage to politicians and their proxies in the appointment of judges to the High Courts and Supreme Court and their transfers and dismissals.


Reproduced below is very thought provoking piece by Kamal Ahmad .While it relates to Pakistan , Islamic history and the Muslim world , it is equally applicable elsewhere , especially in India now .


K Gajendra Singh 25 August 2014


The religious scientist

Khaled Ahmed | August 23, 2014



The gap of learning between India and Pakistan is significant because it goes beyond the argument of population ratios


These days I walk in a state of mental enslavement to Laurent Gayer, a member of the National Centre of Scientific Research in Paris, who has written the final book on Karachi. His Karachi: Ordered Disorder and the Struggle for the City (2014) will never be improved upon as an examination of the violent mind. Among many nuggets scattered in his work, one is about early student politics in the city: "[A] coalition of progressive groups formed an electoral alliance (the Progressive Students Alliance) and managed to defeat the Islami Jamiat Talaba (IJT) at Karachi University's students' union elections in 1975-1976. However, the IJT managed to regain control over KU's students' union the following year. In this rise to power, the IJT relied upon the support of science students, a trend which is not specific to Pakistan (among students, most recruits of Middle Eastern or Southeast Asian Islamist groups have come from science, engineering, law and medicine). Progressive and left organisations, for their part, found their strongest support in the Faculty of Arts."


However, one Pakistani nuclear physicist, Pervez Hoodbhoy, recently dubbed "jahil (illiterate)" by a chief reporter on TV, has not succumbed to the trend. His book, Islam and Science: Religious Orthodoxy and the Battle for Rationality (1991), tells us that the trend is new as in antiquity, when philosophy and mathematics went together, most Muslim scientists were apostatised and punished by their co-religionists.


Pervez, whom I admire shamelessly, is an educationist too, and got put off by a 1987 conference on "scientific miracles" under Islamist dictator General Zia-ul-Haq, where Pakistani scientists mixed religious miracle with scientific discovery. Encouraged by funding of Rs 66 lakhs (half of which was provided by Saudi Arabia), our guys flew off the handle and talked rubbish about science and demeaned the divine writ of the Quran.


A scientist from Al-Azhar misinterpreted the Quran to claim that mountains were like nails holding the earth down. An Egyptian engineer found that the empty copper shells of armour-piercing ammunition used in the Arab-Israeli war were intended by Allah to destroy "djinns". Another 1986 conference held by the Pakistan Association of Scientists and Scientific Professions was regaled with a formula by Arshad Ali Beg of the Pakistan Council of Scientific and Industrial Research to arrive at the "munafiqat" (hypocrisy) ratio of a given society.


Pakistan Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission chief Salim Mehmud tried to shine too, by making a hash of the theory of relativity by linking it with the "mairaj" (ascension) of the Holy Prophet (PBUH). Another senior nuclear scientist, Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood, proposed that all energy-related problems could be solved by taming the "djinns", because they were made of fire. Many others, lured by the limelight, delivered gems of medieval gibberish in the name of Islamic science.


Pervez, a PhD from MIT, sat down and examined the roots of these ridiculous attitudes among Muslim scientists and came up with a well-researched book about the maltreatment of the scientific principle in Muslim societies. He got Nobel laureate Abdus Salam to write its preface because the professor had already made a plaintive appeal to the Muslim world to spend money on scientific advancement, instead of "conquering" science through dogma.


Salam agreed with Pervez's diagnosis of the anti-scientism of Muslims, but added that a more direct cause lay in the Islamic practice of allowing its ill-educated clergy to issue "fatwas" of excommunication against discoverers of new scientific facts. What had happened to scientists like al-Kindi, al-Razi, al-Haytham and Ibn Sina was still continuing. Al-Kindi was lashed 50 times in front of an illiterate approving crowd; al-Razi was hit on the head with his own book on rationalism till he lost his eyesight; Ibn Sina's entire life was spent running away from one prince after another for fear of being killed for heresy; Ibn Khaldun, the great social scientist discovered by the West, was condemned by Taha Hussain in our times as "a non-believer pretending to be a Muslim".

Pervez tells us that scientific facts are contingent. They are empirically proven but subject to change upon further discovery. In his view, it is wrong to link the eternal truth of Islam to this evolving understanding of the phenomena. In a way, science is based on the principle of "uncertainty", whereas religion, after faith is converted into "certitude", says goodbye to science. Certitude (yaqeen) commits one to judge others, whereas faith still has space for self-doubt and remains humane.


The gap of learning between India and Pakistan is significant because it goes beyond the argument of population ratios. One has to helplessly concede that where Muslims control their societies, the one branch of knowledge that becomes neglected are the sciences.


Pakistan's father of the atom bomb, A.Q. Khan, wrote in the daily Jang that, in 1812, when Marathas and Rajputs attacked the state of Bhopal and the ruler could not fend off the invaders, the prime minister went to a majzub (religious person in trance) who pointed to a place where miraculously, a lot of weapons were discovered. Khan rates ghairat (honour) as a high virtue of the state. It is an unscientific concept, but he uses it to communicate with the nation. He wrote in Jang that many admired him for discussing the great national habit of ghairat (honour).


Sultan Bashiruddin, our top nuclear expert, believed he could draw electricity from a captured djinn. (For Pakistan's needs, just one djinn would suffice.) Pakistan's current top nuclear scientist, Samar Mubarak Mand, has revealed the same "miracle" symptom.


According to the late journalist Abbas Athar of the Daily Express, Mand told an audience that when he was in Kharan, Balochistan, in 1998, organising the nuclear test, he found that Allah had put a miracle murga (chicken) in the pot from where everyone was eating. After feeding 183 people, the murga was still crowding the pot. He had bought only five chickens. Athar Abbas thought Pakistan should have more degchis (pots) from Mand to produce endless chicken.


Muslim doctors in Pakistan and America are mostly found to be radical in their religious beliefs; so are the lawyers, in a rebuke to Jinnah, who was a secular man. Among the first to contact Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan were Pakistani doctors and nuclear scientists. Gayer includes "engineering, law and medicine" as the branches of knowledge that make the Muslim mind toxic, more than the contrived narrative embedded these days in the arts syllabi.


In Europe, Bacon in the 17th century delinked reason from the principle of deduction fundamental to religion. Somehow, the continent learned to link civic virtue to the principle of induction or observation, and the states decided that the only "goodness" was the avoidance of crimes, spelt out in the penal codes. There is no reward for piety; avoidance of crime makes one a good citizen. Up in the Khyber tribal agency, warlord Mangal Bagh punishes people for not being pious — he burns the houses of those who don't come to the mosque five times a day — and the Constitution of Pakistan has Articles 62 and 63 to back him.


The writer is consulting editor, 'Newsweek Pakistan'