Once again, a BJP minister has come into the spotlight for making scientifically regressive comments. This time, it was our Union Minister for Science & Technology, Earth Sciences, Environment, Forests and Climate Change, Dr. Harsh Vardhan, who claimed that according to renowned physicist Stephen Hawking, the Vedas had already transcended Einstein’s relativity equation. Vardhan could not, however, tell when and where had Hawking made this statement.
Senior Indian ministers making such statements no longer elicits any surprise from the more rationale citizens of the country. Time and again, the BJP has shown its anti-science attitude. Apart from making absurd claims about ancient Hindu mythology and our scientifically superior past, the government has been constantly cutting down funds for scientific education and research. These budget cuts and the attacks on rationality only reflect the mentality of the highest office bearers of the country. The statements issued by them, including ones such as Dr. Vardhan’s and the one made by Satyapal Singh saying evolution is scientifically wrong, only reinforces the fact that Indian science is treading troubled waters.
Dr. Vardhan’s claims seem to originate from a post made on the website of I-SERVE, Institute of Scientific Research on Vedas. In the post, the organising secretary of I-SERVE, Dr. Sivarambabu, says that Stephen Hawking referred to his books on Vedic science and “said that Vedas might have a theory superior to Einstein’s law E=MC2.” These comments, supposedly made by Hawking, come from a post on an unverified Facebook page titled Stephen Hawking, but run by @hari.scientist.
The post also says, “I strongly feel the process of westernization has brought about a psychological slavery among Indians who’d opt to be Engineers rather than Vedic scholars, given a choice. To conclude, Vedas are a vast storehouse of knowledge, abundant information and solutions waiting to be discovered by dedicated youngsters.”
But BJP’s fact checking game has never been strong. In December last year, multiple senior ministers such as Smriti Irani had made tweets and statements saying that Ram Setu was a man-made structure and unequivocally proves that Ramayana indeed took place on the basis of a 30-second promo of an episode of What on Earth?. Of course, when the full episode came out and made no conclusions about Ram Setu being man-made, the same ministers had nothing to say.
It should also be noted that the I-SERVE website says the institute is recognised by the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DISR), Government of India, as a Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (SIRO).
Dr. Sivarambabu, whose work apparently impressed Stephen Hawking and evidently fooled Dr. Harsh Vardhan, got convinced that Hawking had read his book when a former student of his sent him a screenshot of the Facebook post. He himself does not use the internet well, his niece helps him. But he is not too bothered by the fact that the Facebook post was fake, and Hawking did not actually endorse his work. “No. The Vedas have changed my life. And there is so much knowledge in them, I want to bring the world’s attention to it. I just want to focus on my book,” he said in an interview.
Sivarambabu’s beliefs also indicate how frequently ancient religious scriptures are interpreted as conforming with modern scientific discoveries. These interpretations do not take into account the vague phrasing of religious texts and how they can be interpreted to agree with any new scientific discoveries. Another question is that if our scriptures and the ones who wrote them already knew more than what science does today, then why can’t these scriptures answer questions that science has not managed to till now?