Dhaka, Bangladesh
Sacred science

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Sacred science

India is this wonderland of ancient wisdom and purity, where all known principles of nature make way for miracles. Conception takes place without the impurity of sex: the peahen conceives by drinking the peacock’s tears. Or so said a judge, and any judge is a symbol of wisdom and truth. The prime minister often declares ancient India’s greatness in science - Ganesh’s head was an example of plastic surgery and Karna’s birth ‘outside his mother’s womb’ the achievement of, enigmatically enough, ‘genetic science’. Narendra Modi also told the United Nations general assembly in 2014 that yoga would be enough to combat climate change in India, as respect for nature is a part of spiritualism, and Indians treat nature’s bounty as sacred. Is it an Opposition conspiracy, then, that India’s ‘holy’ rivers are some of the dirtiest on the planet? Mr Modi’s understanding of science resonates among his followers, with, among other wondrous happenings, researchers in a Gujarat university discovering gold in cow urine and a speaker at the 2015 Indian Science Congress claiming that the cow turns all its food into gold. For beyond and above all else, India is the cow wonderland. Science here has entered the era of ‘cowpathy’, the name reportedly given by Hindutva faithfuls to newly-energized bovine science. (To call it pseudo-science would be anti-national, to call it ignorant idiocy would be pure sedition.) It is now the subject of a national research project, in which many scientific departments and laboratories will participate. Scientific Validation and Research on Panchagavya, or SVAROP, aims to determine how five products of the cow - milk, urine, dung, ghee and curd - can transform medicine, health, agriculture, food and nutrition. The project has been initiated by the science for equity, empowerment and development division of the department of science and technology, the department of biotechnology and the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research in collaboration with the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi. The fount of official science in India has now been formally blessed with the effluents of the cow. The heavy-duty steering committee is chaired by the Union minister for science, technology and earth sciences, and includes heads and secretaries of scientific departments and bodies, as well as the chancellor of Nalanda University and the IIT-Delhi director. The finances allocated to SVAROP and the forbidding arsenal of names associated with it suggest the government’s total commitment to irrationality, for through that alone can it pretend to show how ingredients of rituals become the basis of advanced science. Such a faith-based value system cannot, of course, be introducing a project to create a canny route for funds, the disappearance of which can also function as a pretext for not funding serious scientific projects. —The Telegraph, Calcutta

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