Kerala Assembly Speaker A N Shamseer’s uncalled-for and ridiculing comments about Hindu God Ganesh, have stirred a Hornet’s nest. During a programme at a school in Ernakulam on July 21, Shamseer told the students in his speech that science should be promoted in the education sector instead of myth. He singled out Lord Ganesh as a ‘Myth’. This led to an uproar among all Keralites against this veiled attack on Hinduism and Hindu beliefs.
Sensing that his diatribe had not gone down well among the Hindu community, and had invited adverse comments in the media, in political circles and among the devout, he attempted to backtrack by stating later to reporters at the Legislative Assembly complex Shamsheer said, “Article 51 of the Constitution says that we have to promote scientific temper. Unfortunately, someone is saying that the aeroplane was invented by the ancient Hindu community and plastic surgery was done during the Hindu period. These are all baseless. I told the students that we have to promote science. That is the only statement I made. But unfortunately, some people want to disturb the communal harmony in Kerala.”
Public servants in important positions of political authority, drawing salary and perks from the taxpayers’ money, need to be circumspect about their language, subject and audience. Verbal aggression in a country having a diverse religious landscape can be hurtful to lakhs of faithful, as it was aimed at creating a hostile environment and promoting ill-will between communities. His diatribe against Hindu Gods and sciences was certainly denigrating, invalidating, and prejudicial. What he conveniently forgot was that myths abound not only in his religion but also in every religion on this planet. Mankind has been on this planet for millions of years, yet nobody including those who claim an exclusive filial relationship with One True God, or those who claim sole religious plenipotentiary status has ever seen God nor even been able to describe him. This world has seen the rise and fall of innumerable religions, yet, none could describe God or where he resides in this universe. “Each mind conceives god in its own way. There may be as many variations of the god figure as there are people in the world”, it is said. (Bangambiki Habyarimana, Pearls Of Eternity).
All religions are obsessively engrossed about the phenomenon of ‘death’. Death means a permanent cessation of life, which was very heart-wrenching for the devout. To assuage the feelings of followers, religions across the world came up with fancy ideas of heaven and hell. Certain religions invented the idea of heaven akin to a seven-star brothel, and for others a realm of luxurious living. In contrast, hell which was a diametrically opposite destination, was conceived as a place of great physical torment and torture. How much of these are scientific truths, validated by research and experimentation? But, does anybody call them myths? Everybody respects the feelings of those who believe in such ideas.
Before the advent of modern science, practically every religion had its own version of cosmogenesis, a notion of the origin of the universe in some distant past. Most are based on the idea that an all-powerful god created a world of matter and man. These doctrines cohered with the view of a single god or many gods who created the universe and all life, hence, should be invoked and thanked. These religious interpretations were widely accepted because there was no better hypothesis to explain the existence of the universe. However, modern science has come up with different explanations about how the universe came into being which are entirely different from what the Abrahamic religions claim. Will Shamseer call the explanations of science mere myths?
People like Shamseer and many others, pretending to possess a scientific mind, should know what world-renowned theoretical physicist and cosmologist, Stephen Hawking says in the Final Book that there’s ‘No Possibility’ of God in Our Universe’! Will Shamseer say that Stephen Hawking does not have a scientific mind? The scientific mind refuses to accept that there is a creator! What is meant by a scientific mind? The scientific habits of mind taught in FroSci of Colombia University’s Colombia College include a range of quantitative reasoning skills and an understanding of the scientific process: basic statistics and probability, experimental design, sense of scale, calculating with units, back of the envelope calculations, feedback loops, and graph reading. Can any religion practised today across the world, match these requirements? Shamseer should also disclose to the public, what he has done to promote the scientific mind among his brethren.
There is a growing consensus in the scientific community that the Hindu interpretation of the Cosmos closely aligns with the scientific view. Carl Edward Sagan American astronomer, planetary scientist, cosmologist, astrophysicist, astrobiologist, science communicator, author, and professor opines “The Hindu religion is the only one of the world’s great faiths dedicated to the idea that the Cosmos itself undergoes an immense, indeed an innate, number of deaths and rebirths. It is the only religion in which the time scales correspond, to those of modern scientific cosmology”. Will Shamseer say that this scientific opinion is a myth?
Muhammad Darah Shikoh, son of Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, disclosed “After gradual research; I have come to the conclusion that long before all heavenly books, God had revealed to the Hindus, through the Rishis of yore, of whom Brahma was the Chief, His four books of knowledge, the Rig Veda, the Yajur Veda, the Sama Veda, and the Atharva Veda. The Quran itself made veiled references to the Upanishads as the first heavenly book and the fountainhead of the ocean of monotheism.” Will Shamseer say it is a myth?
Niels Bohr, Heisenberg and Schrödinger regularly read Vedic texts. Heisenberg stated: “Quantum theory will not look ridiculous to people who have read Vedanta.” Vedanta is the conclusion of a Vedic thought. Schrödinger, in speaking of a universe in which particles are represented by wave functions, said: “The unity and continuity of Vedanta are reflected in the unity and continuity of wave mechanics. This is entirely consistent with the Vedanta concept of All in One.”
A similar view is expressed by Hans-Peter a German physicist who made his contribution to the field of nuclear and quantum physics. He was so influenced by Hinduism that he dedicated 33 years of his life to studying and mastering the Vedas and Upanishads. He once said that when he teaches Quantum Physics, he feels like he’s giving a lecture on Vedanta philosophy.
The famous Danish physicist and Nobel Prize Laureate Niels Bohr was a follower of the Vedas. He said, “I go into the Upanishads to ask questions.”
The Father of the atomic bomb, Julius Robert Oppenheimer, also a Sanskrit scholar opined that “Access to the Vedas is the greatest privilege this century may claim over all previous centuries.”
Will Shamseer and his ilk call the above Nobel Laureates and eminent scientists, as believers in myths?
The Drake Equation first proposed by radio astronomer Frank Drake in 1961 is used to estimate the number of communicating civilizations in our galaxy, or more simply put, the odds of finding intelligent life in the Milky Way, The equation calculates the number of communicating civilizations by multiplying several variables. Scientists in different countries are probing the universe to detect intelligent life forms. NASA’s Perseverance Rover is currently looking for signs of life on Mars or for life, that may have once existed on Mars. This is at complete variance with Shamseer’s belief. Will he condemn this scientific expedition as a pursuit of myth?
Before politicians utter gibberish they should heed the advice of Ayn Rand “Check your premises, choose your issues”.