Being a science student, I have developed the concept to accept a theory only if it can be experimentally replicated. Theories if age old, then a plethora of research and documentation appears supplementing or dejecting the same over the scientific development years. But what if the fight is over the origin of a theory and no proper documentation or experimentation of that bygone era is available.
Recently the Indian Science Congress again faced the furore of scientific community over its selection of papers. In 2014, The Indian science congress in Mumbai presented a platform for a paper concluding India developed aircraft much before the Wright Brothers. Many believe and theorize that current aircraft concept was proffered by Vedas much earlier than westerners thought about it, referring to the Pushpakvimana of Ravana and Saubha of Salva of vedic literature. Also mention of more recent Marutsakha of Shivkar Bapuji Talpade in 1895 to bolster the above theory is presented to get a stamp of Indian-the-first-airplane-makers. Personally I believe that most of ancient literature could be hypothetical and many things mentioned there could be someone’s good imagination; but then that’s my personal belief. And my belief could be broken if good evidence surfaces, I mean at one time we did believe that earth was flat. So even if evidences could be based on certain heresy and folktales, there is no harm in healthy discussion in front of learned people. The Indian Science Congress 2015 held in Mysore again was made more or less laughing stock because it accepted a paper stating “Shiva is the greatest environmentalist”. With so many scientists making a hullabaloo over the abstract and the eminent Nobel laureate Venkatraman Ramakrishnan calling the conference a circus, a huge setback is to Indian scientific community itself. Instead of outright rejecting the conference selection criterion of paper, a simple solution would have been to listen to what the author has to say and bombard him with questions. The conference was not solely on the vedic literature and the author supposed to talk about Shiva was not the sole speaker in the conference, so why is that particular paper being the sole representation of conference and discussion?
The accusation that this is political interference in science is actually dragging politics into science meet. As a conference attendee, I normally look through abstracts and choose the talks I “don’t want to miss”. An awesome conference would be one where all the talks are unique and speakers are good orator, mostly conferences nowdays don’t level to that expectation. But if the topics are not redundant and in the end it manages to raise few questions in my mind, I am happy. The whole point of gathering of learned of a field is to discuss topic which might be eccentric but leading to new innovative solutions or research, or perhaps putting new light on some age old problem.
When I heard about the conference issue and now a general mentality prevailing that such conference should be evaded, it is not putting a check on conference for future but it is failing us to improve from our previous mistakes. If an IAS officer got up to blow a conch saying that it brings positive energy or raises the senses, the learned people should have got up and make sure such things are not promoted. There are many young minds whose are in nascent stage of “speak your mind in public”. What sort of example our veterans put up for them if they themselves can’t speak up in public and then voice their opinion in some confusing media.
If government is investing money, its success should be assessed on how many people you inspired and in what way rather than how much controversy it stirred. If I want to know that the News channel are providing me enough material on that. Apart from my take on misuse of conference the point of being the first in any thing has to have a good proof else the fight is futile. Even the climbing of Mt Everest is controversial, but as Mallory’s son puts it conquering Mt Everest means climbing up and safely climbing down, if it’s not completed this way it can’t be called successful. Same way Marutsakha might be first attempt but its success depends on a lot of things apart from documentation. The attempts in scientific development is significant because it inspires people to be innovative but till date invention of aircraft controls which enabled to stir the aircraft credit stays with Wright brothers, and no age or era can take that away from them.
——Peace be with science and from science!