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Sensationalist Science Show Claims Ram Setu is Man-Made

Such claims arise every few years, and it is left to the actual scientific community to prove the geological processes that led to the formation of the bridge.
Ram Setu

Every couple of years, someone or the other claims that Ram Setu, or Adam's Bridge, is in fact a man-made structure. Last time, it was claimed that NASA has released images of a 1.75 million year old man-made bridge. This time, Discovery’s Science Channel is saying that the building of such a bridge would have been a super-human achievement. This is being said in a promo of an episode of their show What On Earth? based on the Ram Setu.

After the news of NASA imagery started doing the rounds, NASA made a statement saying that they never said Ram Setu is man-made, or 1.75 million years old. Delhi Science Forum wrote about how religious fundamentalists had fabricated these claims. This time too, the promo alone is being used by Hindu conservative groups to rejoice and ecstatically state that now science is backing up what they have always said. One should remember that the complete episode is not out yet, it is going to be released on 19th December. One should also remember that Science Channel has a habit of sensationalising mundane facts to gain a bigger audience. In fact, the show in question, What on Earth?, regularly links well-established facts to myths in its hour long episodes, only to come to the same scientific conclusions again at the end of each episode. For instance, one of their episodes speculates for an hour on the cause of a giant shadow passing over earth, going from a huge insect swarm to a huge alien ship. In the end, the show said it was just the shadow of the moon, caused by an eclipse. This conclusion should otherwise not take longer than a couple of minutes to arrive at. One can expect the Ram Setu episode to play out in a similar manner: start with wild speculations of super humans and gods, only to explain in the last couple of minutes the natural phenomenon behind the structure of corals on shoals. Because of its absurd programming, the show has gotten quite a few scathing reviews.

Ram Setu, or Adam's Bridge, consists of corals on top of shoals, or a sand bar. The Science Channel theory suggesting that Ram Setu is man-made is based on their inferences that the rocks (as the corals are called in the promo) are older than the sand. They measured the age of the structure and said that the sand is 4,000 years old, while the rocks on top are 7,000 years old. This, the promo says, must mean that the rocks were laid by humans or some superhuman power, and the sand settled under the rocks later. But the dates in Ramayana are much older than that. According to those dates, the Ram Setu was built 1,750,000 years ago. Why, then, is the Hindutva brigade so excited? If they agree with these findings, are they also saying that the Ramayana was a much more recent event?  This would be a slight improvement on their usual unscientific claims as now the Ramayana will at least have occurred in a period when homo sapiens were known to exist. According to discovered fossils, humans have not been around for more than 180,000 to 150,000 years. Considering that, it is anyway impossible to explain how humans were around 1.75 million years ago to build that bridge. 

The promo ignores the simple scientific theories which can easily explain the difference in age of the sand and rocks. According to a scientific paper published by Indian geologist N. Ramanujan, Adam's Bridge is a chain of shoals between Palk Strait and Gulf of Mannar constructed by sedimentation. Both the Palk Strait and Gulf of Mannar were part of the same basin, but gradually separated due to thinning of the earth’s crust. This led to the development of a ridge, which augmented the growth of corals in the area. These corals then kept trapping sand. Thus, the sand is younger than the corals, but that is because the corals trapped the sand after their formation.

It can be expected that the Ram Setu episode of What On Earth? will conclude with similar scientific theories. The speculation of super-human powers building the bridge is another tactic to get attention from the gullible, and get higher TRPs. But BJP leaders such as Subramaniam Swamy and Smriti Irani who are retweeting and talking about this promo cannot be expected to take back their claims once the actual facts are established. Right-wing Hindu conservative groups have never been bothered much with facts. The only cause of excitement for them is that scientists from US - the American white people - seem to be supporting them on their unscientific beliefs.

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