Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government of India K. VijayRaghavan, in response to a pseudoscientific discourse at the ongoing Indian Science Congress at Phagwara in Punjab, has said in a blog post that a formal complaint should be lodged against the speaker, and the country's science academies must voice their objection to it.
“It is unfortunate that sitting vice chancellor of a great State university — and a biologist to boot — says something that is scientifically completely untenable. His Chancellor should receive a formal complaint from those who were present in the audience, and he will also surely hear from individual scientists and our vocal science academies,” he said.
In a speech last Friday, Andhra University Vice Chancellor G. Nageshwar Rao said that the Kauravas of the Mahabharata were born due to stem cell and test tube technologies and that India possessed knowledge about guided missiles thousands of years ago.
Mr. VijayRaghavan said, “When lay people, including politicians, make random and erroneous statements linking religion, culture, history etc, to science, the problem must be addressed by collegial communication. When scientists make such links, they should be addressed more squarely. If there’s a chance that such views may enter policy, the amount of engagement needs to go up.”
Mr. VijayRaghavan, a biologist and a former Secretary of the Department of Biotechnology, listed out examples of how pseudoscience, when it made its way into policy, caused harm. For instance, when former South African President Thabo Mbeki and his health minister Manto Tshabalala-Msiang advocated that HIV didn’t cause AIDS, it led to unnecessary loss of lives. The same threat continues to be posed by powerful leaders who deny climate change.
The Indian Science Congress, a gathering of students, researchers, government officials and scientists, routinely faces criticism for giving a platform to speakers who advocate pseudoscience.