Toward a mature conservatism

India scientists dismiss Einstein theories:

In 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi told medical staff at a Mumbai hospital that the story of the Hindu god Ganesha – whose elephant head is attached to a human body – showed cosmetic surgery existed in ancient India.

I don’t comment much on Indian politics for two reasons. First, I think macroeconomic conditions and trajectories are more important than politics as such for a developing nation like India. Second, the details of the cultural and political dynamics within any given nation are really hard to grok from the outside.

That being said, the widespread percolation of this sort of pseudoscience and pseudohistory on the Indian Right is a problem and has analogs with instances in other nations (e.g., Mike Pence is almost certainly a Creationist). These beliefs are often (though not always) harmless in and of themselves, but they are indicative of deeper maladies in terms of epistemological hygiene.

I have Hindu nationalists who are broadly on the same empirical page as me. We differ on details of values and emphases. And I know they are somewhat embarrassed by these weird ideas about nuclear weapons in ancient India. The key is to keep a lid on it so it doesn’t capture the commanding heights (ergo, why I’m quoting Modi).

Addendum: One issue for me is that I have a hard time taking Indian pseudoscience seriously just as I have a hard time taking Creation Science seriously. Sincere, earnest, and sometimes bright, people taking absurd claims seriously and constructing models out of them strikes me as farcical and funny more than threatening.

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58 thoughts on “Toward a mature conservatism”

  1. Shame on Indian science and political establishment to let loonies rule the roost. Hindu nationalists will lose the support of many people with craziness running amok from top echelons of government.

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  2. I look at the bright side.

    1. Major newspapers like TOI and Express are openly laughing at these theories.
    2. Rationalist organization are holding protests.
    3. Serious Indians scientists quietly keep their distance from such “science” conferences.
    4. Hindu nationalists with some IQ are praying – please please don’t let leftists know about our science conferences.

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  3. Many of these theories depicting greatness of ancient Indian civilization arose in colonial times. In the early colonial period Indians unquestioningly accepted their position as a lesser race to British. As the nationalist movement gained momentum in 1900s, Indians desperately started looking for evidence that they were in fact a superior race who just happened to have fallen on hard times. The myths and metaphorical/hyperbolic language of ancient texts came in handy. This is how the legend of ancient Indian superpower began.

    So I guess one more item in the long list of colonial constructs. British invented the lunatic Hindu nationalist science! 🙂

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    1. Snake Charmer, much of the ancient narrative literature precedes Buddha. People have seen their civilization and culture through this prism since the time of the Vedic Samhitas.

      But I would add a caveat. Just because people see their own civilization and culture as great does not mean that they don’t consider other civilizations and cultures as great too. Both can co-exist.

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  4. I think we give much more importance to the Hindu right scientists than they command. A corollary may be history studies in India itself where for all OIT theory and fire and fury against “invaders” the text books largely remain same. So for all the flying objects and nuclear in Vedas time i would take the problem seriously the day the start teaching it in textbooks. Thankfully it hasn’t reached there. But yes the problem with pseudo science/history is there.

    I feel that the scientific community in US is robust enough for creationist and flat earth folks, sadly its not true for India. They too are as susceptible to power and patronage just like historians/academicians etc in India.

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  5. This was not a loony-right-fringe congress, it was the annual Indian Science Congress. Let that sink in, how a few years of Modi is affecting institutions painstakingly built up over decades.

    People who lean right elsewhere should understand that RSS/Hindutva is not the typical conservative(s) one would expect in the West, although many of its West-based apologists use a similar vocabulary to maintain that allusion. Hindutva is merely a minority-baiting, nativist, fiscally populist-socialist ideology that has not been able to positively define itself in 100 years.

    There was indeed space for a genuinely Indic (conservative) worldview that could have arisen in India, but unfortunately we got locked on to the inferior form – Savarkar’s Hindutva – that has now, probably forever, inhibited / stunted that authentic form from arising. When major energy has to be spent defending or justifying the transparent retrogressiveness and bigotry of Savarkarism, there is little left over for genuinely creative ideation.

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    1. There was indeed space for a genuinely Indic (conservative) worldview that could have arisen in India

      I think there still is, but we’ll need a much better-educated public than the one we have to create and maintain such a space. (By “education”, I don’t mean a vocational education, but a basic “liberal” one.)

      Someone like Swapan Dasgupta considers himself to be a conservative, and he definitely isn’t one of the crazies, though he supports the Hindu Right politically. When I was young, I used to read Tavleen Singh and she struck me as being right of center, yet quite sane and small-l liberal; her son (Aatish Taseer, also son of the Pakistan CM who was murdered a few years ago) also strikes me as having sympathies for the right, but is otherwise quite erudite.

      But these are scattered examples. The organized Right in India seems to share a common epistemological belief system that is rooted in mysticism, not science and logic.

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      1. Aatish Taseer is a total Urdophile lol-

        The problem with Indian nationalism and conservative is this mono-maniacal focus on Hindi, Hindu and Hindustan. India has always been a syncretic space.

        The own goal for Indians has been to respect Islam (when Islam should have been thrown under the bus) but implicitly rejecting the best that Islam brought to the Subcontinent (the art, the architecture etc).

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        1. Zach, they don’t reject the best parts of Islam. Rather they regard it as a type of Hindu Islam. [Look at the audience for bhajans and kirtans to Ali . . . . tons of Hindus.] I think this causes the problems.

          The RSS has many muslim members and many muslim affiliates (who run their own madrassas). The RSS appears to allow RSS muslims to define their policy towards the broader muslim community.

          In India many Sufis and Shiites and Ahmedis are fine with being called Hinduized muslims. After all many of the religious pilgrims who visit and donate to their shrines are Hindus (including Buddhists, Sikhs and Jains).

          However conservative Sunni Indians feel offended by this and don’t want to be considered Bharatiya muslims, Swadeshi muslims or Hindu muslims. These tend to vote for congress.

          There is tension between conservative Sunnis on one side; and minority muslims on the other (liberal sunnis, atheist sunnis, ex muslims, femnist sunnis, pro LBGTQ Sunnis, twelvers, sixers, ahmedis, sufis). The minority muslims tend to vote BJP.

          Part of the reason of course is that the Hindu right are supporters of femnism, atheism and LBGTQ . . . seeing these as part of India’s ancient epic heritage. Albeit these are understood a little differently from how marxists interpret these words.

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          1. This is what one wishes were true regarding RSS and Muslims, but simply is not. There is absolutely no organic support in any significant Muslim community for BJP/ RSS, minority or majority. There are some individual leaders and their organizations that occasionally lend support (and frequently withdraw over time) in exchange of personal enrichment, but otherwise really nothing over many decades now.

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          2. Parallel Universe, about 40% of muslims voted for the BJP in the last Gujarati elections.

            Have you interacted with India’s Sufi, twelver, sixer, Ahmedi leaders? Is this what they told you?

            Remember their position. They are deathly afraid of Islamist Jihadi attacks against them. They need to remain on good terms with Congress because otherwise a future Congress government might quietly aid and abet Islamist Jihadi terrorist attacks against them. Because of this they also frequently meet with Congress leaders.

            Their politics is focused on getting the Indian Army, police and intelligence agency to protect them, their leaders, their mosques and their centers.

            What percent of muslim woman do you think support the BJP. I bet it is a lot higher than the percentage of muslim men who support the BJP.

            Can you share more about what Indian muslim leaders tell you? Could you suggest one of them for a Brown Cast podcast?

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        1. Didn’t mean to make a general statement, but rather only in the context of the OP’s comment about the current set of Indian right-wingers.

          Clearly there’s no contradiction.

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      2. Tavleen Singh is anti-Congress and not a liberal hypocrite (she took a stand against the #metoo movement in India for its elitism) but I wouldn’t call her a right leaning conservative. Ramachandra Guha in his essay ‘Where are the Conservative Intellectuals in India?’ from his book ‘Democrats and Dissenters’ gives a lowdown on this situation in present day India.

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      1. Agree with VijayVan about Savarkar. But that doesn’t make him any less an orthodox Hindu. Large highly respected streams of Hinduism are atheist.

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  6. “There was indeed space for a genuinely Indic (conservative) worldview that could have arisen in India, but unfortunately we got locked on to the inferior form – Savarkar’s Hindutva – that has now, probably forever, inhibited / stunted that authentic form from arising. ”

    LOL. Folks like Guha and their ilk keep on saying that, as if they were/are genuinely concerned about the right eco system until a few years ago. No one is fooled by these mock concerns. In India political dominance precedes intellectual dominance, how did you think the Congress and the whole gamut of leftist (communist/socialist) built up their eco system?

    The right is correctly dominated by the RSS/Savarakrite because they are the ones who put their blood and sweat into building the right in India, while our internet warriors/ supposedly concerned right wing intellectuals with no skin in their game tagged along with the Congress eco system playing the “Benarasi brahmin”( Atish tasser’s term) part to the hilt.

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    1. We need to define what conservatism is precisely. Conservatism and “right-wing” often coincide, but don’t always have to.

      In the US, conservatives are engaged in the project of conserving the principles upon which the nation was founded, or the principles of the American Revolution (there may be differences between the two but they are essentially the same.)

      What in India would a conservative be trying to conserve? Hinduism? Hindu culture? While that may keep society afloat, it does not provide a governing philosophy. Hence the quest for a primordial utopia (like a Ram Rajya), when India supposedly was a well-governed society. I wouldn’t call this conservatism but rather reaction, or blind traditionalism.

      A well-formed and decent conservatism to me could try to conserve the principles of the Indian Constitution of 1950, while retaining the positive elements of traditional Indian (Hindu) society. Don’t know if this would be workable though. Also, few people in India feel any kind of loyalty to our Constitution, because (1) it was formulated by elites in a language that was very distant from that of the people, (2) not enough time has passed since its inception, and (3) the Constitution itself has been so amended and mangled that no one knows exactly what it represents today.

      PS: As VijayVan says above, CR and his Swatantrata Party sort-of expounded a conservative philosophy (I wouldn’t say right-wing), but the party was before its time. It needed a much more robust middle class than was present in India in the ’50s.

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  7. I wish someone at the conference had pointed out to Modi that India must have imported plastic surgery knowhow from the hated West because far older stone age images there depict half-human half-animal figures (lion headed man, for instance).

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    1. Arjun, Modi loves the west. America especially. So does the Hindu right.

      Half lion half men are probably Kimpurushas (who appear in the Maha Puranas, Mahabharata and perhaps the Ramayana). Some think they are what people today might call aliens. They are not homo sapiens. They probably are a reference to things people experience in dreams and meditation.

      Kimpurushas are generally not prayed too.

      You also might be refering to Nara-Simha Avatara. He (transcends gender) is definitely not a primate. Something else. Because he interacts with Daityas, he is probably a subtle being.

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        1. Arjun, thanks for sharing. There is a lot of commonality between ancient pre flood (pre 9700 BC) cultures from around the world. This suggests the hypothesis that technologically advanced globalization preceded the great flood.

          You don’t have to believe in Aliens. Just acknowledge this is what many who follow eastern philosophy believe to be true.

          “Subtle beings” might also be described as features of the brain and nervous system that are being uncovered by neuroscience. Traditionally the way this was understood was through deep meditation. To have an opinion on this, wouldn’t someone need to deeply meditate themselves to offer their own perspectives on their own experiences?

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      1. Anan, Arjun, I do expect a new joint discovery from you. Maybe another parallel btw. Mahabharata and Iliad or something else. I will also write my knowledge about ancient lion/man symbolism.

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        1. 31 cm mamoth tusk carving fragments of a reconstructed
          lion man can be seen in photographs (Fig.4), sketches (Fig.10) & other detailed Figs (ex: #11 ritual scars?) in free full (2014) text available on-line titled “The smile of the lion man. Recent excavations in Stadel Cave … and the restoration of the famous upper Palaeolithic figurine.”

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          1. It seems the body was found to be modifiable long ago. That lion man (found in cave of modern S.Germany) makes me wonder if it is possible Shiva had actual ritual scars on his forehead?

            Ritual scarification is possible by using thorns. I wonder if the tradition’s experience contributed to the verbal constructs language sophistication developed as the 3 gunas. Undergoing scarification might ritually be symbolic of taking the initiate from their awake frame of consciousness through pain inducement (shul = “suffering”) of a transitory dream-like episode to a renewal afterwards of sleep.

            Could the trishul “trident” Shiva holds have originally been a thin tree limb with dual branches of thorns, since metal working is not particularly ancient. A custom of carrying the damaru “drum” to induce trance states would be easier when hung off a carried tree limb denuded of thorns.

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          2. Ganesh, as the remover of obstacles, is considered the
            parton of learning/wisdom. There may actually have been a historical elephant that interacted intelligently with humans & was considered almost human.

            Even more than elephants who press their trunk against their mouth to “whistle” there is a contemporary documented elephant that “… places his trunk inside his mouth modulating the shape of the vocal tract during controlled phonation ….” This Korean elephant simulates the words hello, sit down, lie down, good & no.

            See free full (2012) text available on-line titled “An asian elephant imitates human speech”. At end of report are several brief videos with sound; obviously in the local language.

            The way Ganesh is said to sit & dance may be similar to modern trained elephants that can be promoted to kick out a leg (“dance”), sit & hold things with their trunk. I wonder if Ganesh became uniquely venerated because he actually was able to imitate the pronunciation for words describing what he did (performed) in human company – – he was just one of the “guys” they could adorn & pass around things with.

            As a huge performing live totem (with a broken tusk) presented to speak at the forefront of his human associates before a conflict this “speaking” elephant would appear as a divine being; thus became known as Ganesh = lord of “Ganas” (divine army, of Shiva). The humans on his side ( his guys) of the confllict milling about him & passing around different objects for his trunk to hold (shell, lily, discus, mace) concievably might have redirected viewers focus. In other words the opposing assemblage reported more about the massive upper elephant head dramatic presentation (adorned & saying words ) & blanked out on the human guys’ heads while registering the performed human body movements coordinated with the elephant’s body stylizations.

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          3. Fascinating hypothesis girgojay.

            My interpretation of Ganesha is as “Ganapati” or lord of the Ganas. I also think Ganesh refers to when someone absorbs into (does Samadhi) into a specific part of the nervous system . . . with the subject of absorption being Muladhara. Ganesh also refers to other nervous system/brain phenomenon. Some say a type of vibration wave that many humans can process using their brain inputs. A common theory in neuroscience is that the brain has 33 sensory inputs instead of 5. If this is true, presumably “Ganesh” is an something that some of the 33 sensory inputs can gather data regarding.

            I think it probable that AI computer sensors will soon be able to read many of these signals that meditators (Yogis, mystics, Mohammed pbuh) use to observe. And we will soon find out a lot more about what “Ganas” actually are.

            Many neuroscientists predict that soon AI neuro-sensors will be able to identify every complex brain/nervous system on earth, its physical location, and what it is thinking. Presumably this will be for surface level thoughts initially. But I suspect it will only be a matter of time before neuroscience unlocks the seven heavens. The substrate from which surface level thoughts arise. The more subtle substrate from which that substrate arises. The yet more subtle substrate from which the subtle substrate arises. And so forth.

            For many thousands of years cultures from around the world studied the 7 heavens. If someone could influence the “heavens” with their own brain and nervous system then they could control others without others knowing that they are being controlled; putting others into a virtual prison. Others would still have the illusion of controlling their surface level thoughts without understanding that the substrate from which their surface level thoughts arise is being externally influenced.

            Many “yantras” or machines were designed to enhance the abilities of mediators. So were many types of sound brain therapy or “mantras”. The combination of “yantra” plus “mantra” is “tantra” or technology. Many have speculated that one of the reasons the great pyramids were produced was to enhance the abilities of meditators. My hope is that many of these hypothesis will be tested by neuroscientists, AI and sensors.

            Another hypothesis is that “Ganesh” refers to an aspect of the 7 heavens, an aspect of yantra, an aspect of mantra, or an aspect of technology.

            The above hypothesis are a less than 1% mapping of what “Ganesh” is, and likely at least partially inaccurate. Many other hypothesis might also partly describe “Ganesh”. I would love to hear other carefully researched perspectives similar to Gringojay.

            Gringojay, you have opened my mind to new possibilities. I might want to ruminate and sharpen them before sharing. Remember that the ancients were mystics and meditators. They would study the elephant by observing the effect of the elephant on their own brains and nervous systems. Possibly by trying to communicate with the elephant via a type of neuro-telepathy. It would need to be some elephant to fool them.

            My hypothesis is that elephant brain and nervous systems are not advanced enough to perform extraordinary feats most of the time. Of course perhaps neuroscience and AI brain sensors will prove me wrong.

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          4. I suggest a joint effort by Arjun, Anan& Gringo (i.e. AAG) to produce at least several hypotheses about the future. Anan already started the process which slightly remained me of the movie Phenomenon, where Travolta expressed some possibilities of using additional sensors what was mentioned by Anan. The truth is that it was caused by his brain tumour but never mind, it proved that it is most likely possible in normal circumstances, too. Good luck guys!

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          5. AnAn I am inclined to say reconciling your comment with an elephant with unique human interaction (vocalized & acted) who entered lore (oral tradition) to become Ganesh/Ganesha/Ganapati is quite possible. The crux is how an elephant can place it’s trunk inside it’s mouth & how humans, who have no trunk, could imitate the elephant by putting their tongue rolled backward into their human mouth.

            In other words, impressed by an elephant (Ganesh to be) some humans mimicked it the best they could. In doing so someone discovered their tongue manipulation opened up alternative states of consciousness.

            O.K. here is the simple explanation. When we roll the tongue backward in our mouth it can be shifted to rest & press the underside of the roof of the mouth & also behind the teeth roots against upper mandible bone (I’ll skip over side accessibility). I am proposing humans did this trying to copy what vocalizing elephant did to earn renown (& become Ganesh).

            Understand that the human central nervous system of brain & spinal cord are encased (dura matter). Outside the brain the encasing dura matter physically
            attatches to the top of the spine (1st cervical vertebrae) & down below to the front of the spine (sacrum) at the level between our pelvic bones.

            These 2 poles of soft dura matter connection to hard bone surfaces create dynamic potential; following describes consequences of dura matter’s sacrum onnection. Normally, as we inhale dura matter connection acts on the sacrum to create a flexing movement of the sacrum (results in tip of spine coccyx curling up & forward, while wide part of sacrum dips downward & backward). Conversely, normally as we exhale the sacrum pivots opposite in an extension movement as dura matter connection acts on it (results in tail bone of coccyx dropping back down & wide part of sacrum tilting inward).

            Now, normally when we breathe the head bones of the cranium (these are not actually fixed together) act the opposite of our sacrum. In general terms there are a subsets of cranial bones that flex against one another in a pattern when our sacral bonesmare in extension &, conversely, those subsets if cranial bones are in relative extension to one another when our sacral bones are in flexion.

            Which is to say this is the basis for what humans imitating the original Ganesh stumbled upon. I’ll continue next with implications.

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          6. AnAn – ( continuation ): I propose humans imitating a communicating Ganesh elephant playing around with their tongue rolled back inside their mouths. By pressing with their tongue against different parts of their palate & doing so at different synchronizations with normal pattern of contrary sacral bone to cranial bone movement produced altered states.

            I will detail the cranial bone dynamic if you request it, but for simplicity now will try to give better orientation. The flexion & extension axis of cranial bones is directly underneath key brain structure areas (other than our big upper brain hemisphere lobes); their neural networks are intricately inter-twined & can account for the myriad nuances you tried to describe.

            We are seeing alterations in the sacral to cranial physical relationship in many altered states. Rhythmic movement (dance), chanting/throat signing (extensive breathing), music (wind instrument prolonged exhalation & drumming torques sacrum) & prostration (trance), etc., etc.

            Back to how mimicry of the original Ganesh gave rise to Ganapati appellation try the following. When sitting exhale naturally & push the retroceeded tongue tip against the roof of your mouth, follow up by moving tongue tip behind top teeth & pushing it forward against base of teeth/upper mandible. In contrast when sitting exhale naturally & with the tongue tip behind top teethpush forward against base of teeth/upper mandible, follow up by moving tongue tip against the roof of your mouth & push tongue upward during inhalation.

            What I have described are, I suggest, the basic alternatives to our human normal state that Ganesh’s trunk in mouth inspired. Add variations like standing on 1 leg (yogi) , lying on side (buddha), whirl (dervish), namaaz (forehead down, Islam), genuflect (bend knee, Christian), davven (rock back & forth praying, Judiasm), meditation (lotus posture), pranayama (breathing patterns), etc. & you impact the sacral flexion/extension interplay — which itself has influence on the cranial bone subsets’ flexion/extension interplay.

            Ganesh “dancing” (& sitting) alters the sacral alignment pattern (as do above mentioned stand/repose/whirl/bend/etc.) in relationship to normal flexion/extension dynamic matching breathing in & out, with refractory impact on cranial bone subsets flexion/extension patterns. I refer to cranial bones as reference points only (not states of mind); it is the cerebro-spinal fluid circulation inside the dura matter & deep brain structures subjected to flexion/extension pulse patterns that would be the real actors for our human adventure of Ganesh-like Ganapati.

            I hope what wrote is developed in a readable way. Obviously Ganesh is from antiquity & my correlation is an interpretation based on the premise Ganesh was an earlier elephant that could phonetically match some human words.

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  8. What is so correctly dominated by the RSS/Savarakrite ? Why should right-wing or even left-wing be defined by political activity, especially racy and rabble rousing kind? Basically it means taking up positions on matters of public interest, hopefully originally and with all the information available on the issue . It may be political activity or think tank or journalism

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  9. Has somebody taken into account the possibility that media may be playing mischief maker too. Some of these outlandish claim might have been made in lighter vein, like in tongue-in-cheek manner. Either the media misunderstood, or deliberately misinterpreted these lighthearted comments. We need the videos of these speeches to be certain.

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    1. Sorry, with TimesNow, Republic, Zee News and associated print publications- only so much you can blame the “left-liberal” media for:

      “We have decided that from next year, all speakers, including delegates who are invited for interaction with students, will have to submit their abstracts before. They will be strictly instructed not to deviate from what they have submitted. A member would be present to moderate all interactive sessions. A committee would be formed to monitor this,” said Premendu Mathur, general secretary (scientific activities) of the Indian Science Congress.

      https://www.livemint.com/Science/vignXRRxYnYZqQXbOuEiFK/Indian-Science-Congress-Association-to-form-monitoring-panel.html

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  10. I agree with the general sentiment of the post.

    Unfortunately, for the last 60 years or thereabouts, ever since the leftists took hold of Indian historiography, there has been little space for genuine right-wing historians. Great Right-wing historians have always been there but they have been sidelined and their works are little known. How many know about the works of Sitaram Goel or Dharampal ? Not many but plenty must have heard of PN Oak, a complete crank.

    There has been little effort to connect the masses with the latest thinking on Indian history. It is not accessible or was not accessible for most Indians. Most lay Indians still believe the stories of Mahabharata and Ramayana & Puranaa as truths. The colonial and leftists have made little effort to study these ancient texts and separate the genuine history from myths. They have been more happy to just denounce them as mythologies. In fact most of these left wing jokers have no scholarship to make an intellectual argument on these texts. Instead we have Western scholars such as Robert Goldman, Sheldon Pollock, Michael Witzel as authorities while there is no Indian scholar of equal standing. Isn’t this state of affairs a matter of shame for us ?

    These left wing nuts have been well-exposed by Arun Shourie in his book ‘Eminent Historians’.

    When the right wing first came to power under Vajpayee, it decided to revamp this whole decadent edifice of Indian historiography. This threatened the left wing nuts who up to then were living cosy lives. As a result they made a big hue and cry and brow beat the then dispensation. With the coming of Modi, these fellows feel threatened again and hence they again start their wailing.

    It is also not quite clear whether the BJP or the RSS has any appreciation of genuine right-wing scholarship or are they happy promoting PN Oak type loonies. Maybe because the genuine right-wing scholarship has been marginalised so much, BJP/RSS simply does not have enough of such scholars on board who can qualify as historians. Therefore there maybe an effort to also glean knowledge from people of non-academic background. This would inevitably bring some people with inflated sense of self-worth into the forefront making absurd claims.

    The media in India ( which is heavily left-leaning ) is perfectly happy with this situation and reports it with glee.

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    1. Instead we have Western scholars such as Robert Goldman, Sheldon Pollock, Michael Witzel as authorities while there is no Indian scholar of equal standing. Isn’t this state of affairs a matter of shame for us ?

      I agree with this sentiment, but what do you think of historians like Romila Thapar? She is Indian, has international renown, and is cited by the Western scholars you name. But many people on the right decry her as a Marxist, and not to be trusted. Also Irfan Habib, I think. Is the negativity because of their downplaying the aggression and zeal of the Islamic invaders? Or is there something else?

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  11. There is not such thing as a single traditional eastern (Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, Jain, Toaist, Shinto and Zorastrian) response to anything, let alone Modi’s statement.

    However this is a traditional perspective. Shiva and Ganesh are not homo sapiens or primates. They are symbolic representations of the subconscious or true self. They are subtle experiences in deep meditation and Samadhi. Some such as Sadguru say that they can be thought of as Aliens who came to earth long ago. But whatever the case may be, they are definitely not a subset of primates or mammals as modern science defines these terms:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Primatomorpha

    Therefore stories about Shiva and Ganesh only symbolically refer to humans. My guess is that PM Modi was saying this a bit in jest.

    India has a long history of surgery. As Kushal Mehra and Rajiv Malhotra have described. However stories about Shiva and Ganesh are not the sources of this history.

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  12. Back to Razib’s original point: this (touting fantastic ancient achievements) is a tragic trend that leaders of the Indian right need to urgently control. The tragedy is genuine achievements of Indian civilization and people are tainted by this silly claims.

    I visited a BAPS (Swaminarayan) temple in Chicago several years ago, where there was a hallway of murals depicting “ancient achievements”. It was sad to see airplanes and whatnot listed along with Aryabhatta’s mathematics and astronomy, and several examples of both genres. Fantastic/dubious, to real-attested.

    Indians grow up completely unaware of the genuine Indian achievements.. Panini’s grammar, IVC’s standardized weights, Aryabhatta, madhava and Kerala school of mathematics (that almost invented calculus a few centuries before Leibnitz/Newton), not to mention the poets and playwrights, and the “high philosophies” of upanishad’s.

    Prof. Roddam Narasimhan (an FRS computational fluid dynamics researcher in his erstwhile career) has written extensively about genuine achievements in historical times. He laments in one anecdote that he saw a newspaper article ridiculing claims of ancient Indian achievements, and in fact all of the claims mentioned there were valid! This is what the taint of silly claims does.

    (As an aside, plastic surgery of a more mundane variety is attested in recorded history by britishers.. rhinoplasty to replace noses cut off as punishments were done by Indians in Poona (now Pune) and recorded by britishers. ).

    I hope Modi said that (in 2014) in a light vein.. there is a certain form of soft/mild humor that people like him (RSS pracharaks) tend to indulge in, and I hope it was that. But he and others need to be much more careful to not encourage or make such fantastic claims). The science conference should never allow such proclamations in the article linked by Razib. Those VCs and Professors deserve to be sacked.

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    1. Indians grow up completely unaware of the genuine Indian achievements.. Panini’s grammar, IVC’s standardized weights, Aryabhatta, madhava and Kerala school of mathematics (that almost invented calculus a few centuries before Leibnitz/Newton), not to mention the poets and playwrights, and the “high philosophies” of upanishad’s.

      Really? I had a fairly conventional childhood, with an English-medium education, and I was aware of all of this (except the Kerala mathematicians, who I read about when I was in college.)

      The way I see it is that our traditional inferiority complex owes not to the perceived lack of scientific or artistic achievements of our civilization but our lack of fighting prowess and periodic succumbing to invaders (to the extent that that narrative is true.)

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        1. Indian democracy has become partly dysfunctional due to aggressive identity politics in which old slights and wrongs , real or imaginary, should be compensated for, for different groups, caste/religious/culture groups. Identity politics run amok where only your identity and compensations matter.

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          1. Another brilliant comment by VijayVan. Identity politics is part of post modernism cultural marxism. It is a clever subtle conspiracy to turn people against each other as part of divide and conquer.

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        2. Zack, I think Indian malaise greatly intensified with:
          —Islamism
          —English conspiracy to colonize the Asian mind with inferiority complex to damage self confidence. The English worked with a young Karl Marx in this project and promoted cultural marxism and post modernism in their colonies. The English used marxism, post modernism and socialism to turn different people against each other as part their divide and conquer strategy.
          —post 1947 England and Europeans kept backing cultural marxists, post modernists and socialists to harm their former colonies. As well as their own minorities who live in Europe.

          Most Indian and Asian malaise flow out of cultural marxism, post modernism, socialism (European exports) and Islamism (which is not the same as Islam).

          There were significant problems in Asia pre 632 AD as well. Which would require several essays to unpack.

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      1. This is true. Same here and almost all of these were taught to me in a convent school.

        See a lot of moaning online from the usual suspects about post-1947 India being deracinated because of Nehru, who is supposed to be not just anti-Hindu but also a dimwit. This below is full text of his “Discovery of India”, penned in various British jails- if you cannot go through the full text, just check out the contents and tell me which of those allegations hold?

        https://archive.org/stream/DiscoveryOfIndia/TheDiscoveryOfIndia-jawaharlalNehru_djvu.txt

        This is not a scholar or academic, but a regular politician. I doubt there has been as deep-thinking a politician ever in the subcontinent. Modi, really?! -even his *academic* appointees, such as the ICHR director, cannot hold a candle to Nehru. I will forgive Nehru for his Fabian socialism, a lot of very smart people of his time were enamored by it.

        Regarding culture, India did everything right post-1947 IMHO. Sure there could have been slightly varying emphases on this or the other, but broadly the government(s) of the time did most things right to steer the humongous, incredibly diverse and civil-strife ridden republic in the right direction.

        For a long time, I used to think India was (largely) a secular democracy and different from its neighbors because of Hinduism. Post- the rise of BJP and especially Modi, I realize it is because we were lucky to get Nehru as PM for the first decade-plus. Without him and his institutions, we would have been a worse basket-case than Pakistan is today, pretty close to the 27 or so hostile countries Pak generals have been wet-dreaming since ’47!

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        1. Nehru did enormous harm by promoting Fabian socialism, cultural marxism and post modernism.

          I support classical European enlightenment liberalism–which I see as a subset from the grandfather of Chaarvaaka darshana. This is not what Nehru promoted.

          In contrast to Nehru, Gandhiji practiced eastern philosophy. Including the perspective that we should love and respect all religions as true and authentic. That all religions lead to the same truth. In this vain Gandhiji called himself a muslim, christian and as a member of all religions. This is the view of most Hindus. Including the views of most people who are called Hinduttva.

          Today most people who support Gandhiji in India are accused of being Hinduttva. And most of Gandhiji’s critics are cultural marxists, post modernists and fabian socialists.

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  13. Indians grow up completely unaware of the genuine Indian achievements.. Panini’s grammar, IVC’s standardized weights, Aryabhatta, madhava and Kerala school of mathematics (that almost invented calculus a few centuries before Leibnitz/Newton), not to mention the poets and playwrights, and the “high philosophies” of upanishad’s.

    Really? I had a fairly conventional childhood, with an English-medium education, and I was aware of all of this (except the Kerala mathematicians, who I read about when I was in college.)

    The way I see it is that our traditional inferiority complex owes not to the perceived lack of scientific or artistic achievements of our civilization but our lack of fighting prowess and periodic succumbing to invaders (to the extent that that narrative is true.)

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  14. Lifelong learning is the key. For example, who knows that Leibnitz was a Serbian (original surname was Ljutic) and I would not be surprised that he was a distant cousin with Aryabhatta?

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  15. “gringojay says:
    January 9, 2019 at 9:33 pm
    31 cm mamoth tusk carving fragments of a reconstructed
    lion man can be seen in photographs (Fig.4), sketches (Fig.10) & other detailed Figs (ex: #11 ritual scars?) in free full (2014) text available on-line titled “The smile of the lion man. Recent excavations in Stadel Cave … and the restoration of the famous upper Palaeolithic figurine.”

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    Reply
    gringojay says:
    January 9, 2019 at 10:21 pm
    It seems the body was found to be modifiable long ago. That lion man (found in cave of modern S.Germany) makes me wonder if it is possible Shiva had actual ritual scars on his forehead?

    Ritual scarification is possible by using thorns. I wonder if the tradition’s experience contributed to the verbal constructs language sophistication developed as the 3 gunas. Undergoing scarification might ritually be symbolic of taking the initiate from their awake frame of consciousness through pain inducement (shul = “suffering”) of a transitory dream-like episode to a renewal afterwards of sleep.

    Could the trishul “trident” Shiva holds have originally been a thin tree limb with dual branches of thorns, since metal working is not particularly ancient. A custom of carrying the damaru “drum” to induce trance states would be easier when hung off a carried tree limb denuded of thorns.

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    gringojay says:
    January 10, 2019 at 1:26 am
    Ganesh, as the remover of obstacles, is considered the
    parton of learning/wisdom. There may actually have been a historical elephant that interacted intelligently with humans & was considered almost human.

    Even more than elephants who press their trunk against their mouth to “whistle” there is a contemporary documented elephant that “… places his trunk inside his mouth modulating the shape of the vocal tract during controlled phonation ….” This Korean elephant simulates the words hello, sit down, lie down, good & no.

    See free full (2012) text available on-line titled “An asian elephant imitates human speech”. At end of report are several brief videos with sound; obviously in the local language.

    The way Ganesh is said to sit & dance may be similar to modern trained elephants that can be promoted to kick out a leg (“dance”), sit & hold things with their trunk. I wonder if Ganesh became uniquely venerated because he actually was able to imitate the pronunciation for words describing what he did (performed) in human company – – he was just one of the “guys” they could adorn & pass around things with.

    As a huge performing live totem (with a broken tusk) presented to speak at the forefront of his human associates before a conflict this “speaking” elephant would appear as a divine being; thus became known as Ganesh = lord of “Ganas” (divine army, of Shiva). The humans on his side ( his guys) of the confllict milling about him & passing around different objects for his trunk to hold (shell, lily, discus, mace) concievably might have redirected viewers focus. In other words the opposing assemblage reported more about the massive upper elephant head dramatic presentation (adorned & saying words ) & blanked out on the human guys’ heads while registering the performed human body movements coordinated with the elephant’s body stylizations.

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    gringojay says:
    January 10, 2019 at 9:17 pm
    AnAn I am inclined to say reconciling your comment with an elephant with unique human interaction (vocalized & acted) who entered lore (oral tradition) to become Ganesh/Ganesha/Ganapati is quite possible. The crux is how an elephant can place it’s trunk inside it’s mouth & how humans, who have no trunk, could imitate the elephant by putting their tongue rolled backward into their human mouth.

    In other words, impressed by an elephant (Ganesh to be) some humans mimicked it the best they could. In doing so someone discovered their tongue manipulation opened up alternative states of consciousness.

    O.K. here is the simple explanation.”

    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    Girngojay, could you summarize many of your ideas in a detailed article? Perhaps an article series? I had to reread your comment many times to understand them.

    There is substantial circumstantial evidence of a close connection between ancient Egypt, ancient Sumeria, ancient Arya varsha (including Xinjiang, Turan, Iran, Tibet, Java and Angkor Wat Cambodia). This would take a series of articles and interviews of scholars (perhaps BrownCast) to explore.

    The dates that the ancient Egyptians claimed (that are in European museams) go back 40 thousand or more years. Similar the Sumerian claims, Arya claims, Mayan claims go back deep into history.

    Are you implying the hypothesis that the lion man could be connected to ancient civilizations (Egypt, Sumeria or Arya)?

    This possibility itself requires considerable analysis.

    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    Ganesha.

    Wow. You have proposed a unique hypothesis.

    I consider Ganesha to be Ganapati or lord of the “Ganas”. This said, there are intelligent elephants in the eastern scriptural corpus. Airavata and Supritika are among many that come to mind. I don’t want to elaborate now, but Airavata plays in important role in Vajrayana Mahayana Tibetan Buddhism and Shaivism and Yoga (which are closely connected). It references mystical experiences. It might be possible that there were exceptional elephants in the past who in addition to demonstrating the properties you describe also had extraordinary brain and nervous systems that interfaced with human mystics, human created machines (Yantras) and brain sound therapy (Mantra). We would be discussing very rare exceptional elephants (one in 10,000 or even more rare).

    Several types of ancient martial arts, Tai Chi/Qi Gong, Yoga asanas and sounds were linked to animals. Some say that this was because human brains were able to communicate with animal brains, although you can discount this possibility as improbable if you wish.

    “When we roll the tongue backward in our mouth it can be shifted to rest & press the underside of the roof of the mouth & also behind the teeth roots against upper mandible bone (I’ll skip over side accessibility). I am proposing humans did this trying to copy what vocalizing elephant did to earn renown (& become Ganesh).”

    Is this Kechari Mudra?

    ” the human central nervous system of brain & spinal cord are encased (dura matter). Outside the brain the encasing dura matter physically attaches to the top of the spine (1st cervical vertebrae) & down below to the front of the spine (sacrum) at the level between our pelvic bones.

    These 2 poles of soft dura matter connection to hard bone surfaces create dynamic potential; following describes consequences of dura matter’s sacrum onnection. Normally, as we inhale dura matter connection acts on the sacrum to create a flexing movement of the sacrum (results in tip of spine coccyx curling up & forward, while wide part of sacrum dips downward & backward). Conversely, normally as we exhale the sacrum pivots opposite in an extension movement as dura matter connection acts on it (results in tail bone of coccyx dropping back down & wide part of sacrum tilting inward).

    Now, normally when we breathe the head bones of the cranium (these are not actually fixed together) act the opposite of our sacrum. In general terms there are a subsets of cranial bones that flex against one another in a pattern when our sacral bonesmare in extension &, conversely, those subsets if cranial bones are in relative extension to one another when our sacral bones are in flexion.”

    Several neuroscientists are researching this very thing. And this can be verified by anyone personally through practicing asana (stretching), mudra (specific action) and pranayama (breathing). The brain and nervous system are capable orders of magnitude more than the vast majority of humans can imagine.

    ” I propose humans imitating a communicating Ganesh elephant playing around with their tongue rolled back inside their mouths. By pressing with their tongue against different parts of their palate & doing so at different synchronizations with normal pattern of contrary sacral bone to cranial bone movement produced altered states.”

    It had not occurred to me that these mudras (one of them appears to be Kechari Mudra) were linked to elephants. Although Ganesha is sometimes symbolically used to refer to the Muladhara chakra. Yes this helps with meditation, slowing breathing, slowing heart beat, and facilitating glands producing psychedelic chemicals.

    “We are seeing alterations in the sacral to cranial physical relationship in many altered states. Rhythmic movement (dance), chanting/throat signing (extensive breathing), music (wind instrument prolonged exhalation & drumming torques sacrum) & prostration (trance), etc., etc.”

    Very true. Many VCs are working on applications to replicate these things.

    “Back to how mimicry of the original Ganesh gave rise to Ganapati appellation try the following. When sitting exhale naturally & push the retroceeded tongue tip against the roof of your mouth, follow up by moving tongue tip behind top teeth & pushing it forward against base of teeth/upper mandible. In contrast when sitting exhale naturally & with the tongue tip behind top teethpush forward against base of teeth/upper mandible, follow up by moving tongue tip against the roof of your mouth & push tongue upward during inhalation.”

    Have you studied Hatha Yoga Pradipika? These are all common kriyas used by Yogis.

    “What I have described are, I suggest, the basic alternatives to our human normal state that Ganesh’s trunk in mouth inspired. Add variations like standing on 1 leg (yogi) , lying on side (buddha), whirl (dervish), namaaz (forehead down, Islam), genuflect (bend knee, Christian), davven (rock back & forth praying, Judiasm), meditation (lotus posture), pranayama (breathing patterns), etc. & you impact the sacral flexion/extension interplay — which itself has influence on the cranial bone subsets’ flexion/extension interplay.”

    True. Some orthodox Jewish scholars I knew have written articles about the deep similarities between ancient Judaism and Hinduism. The similarities are eerie. Namaaz, whirling dervish, davven, genuflect I think all come from ancient Jewish (Abrahamic or dare I say Noah-ic) streams.

    ‘Ganesh “dancing” (& sitting) alters the sacral alignment pattern (as do above mentioned stand/repose/whirl/bend/etc.) in relationship to normal flexion/extension dynamic matching breathing in & out, with refractory impact on cranial bone subsets flexion/extension patterns. I refer to cranial bones as reference points only (not states of mind); it is the cerebro-spinal fluid circulation inside the dura matter & deep brain structures subjected to flexion/extension pulse patterns that would be the real actors for our human adventure of Ganesh-like Ganapati.”

    Many scientists suspect there is something to this. I would love to run your theories by some neuroscientists. If you could elaborate on them, that would be amazing.

    “I hope what wrote is developed in a readable way.”

    It is.

    “Obviously Ganesh is from antiquity & my correlation is an interpretation based on the premise Ganesh was an earlier elephant that could phonetically match some human words.””

    Hmm. It would probably be more than one elephant, perhaps over many thousands of years. And again, why Ganesha versus Airavata or other mystical elephants?

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    1. Indeed it is an embarrassment. BJP may reject Nehruvian socialism for valid reasons. They cannot do without Nehru’s commitment to a scientific and rational understanding of the world.

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  16. Arjun, we will likely soon have a Brown Cast with a Hinduttva thought leader who has extensively written and spoken about this very thing Tavleen Singh is referring to.

    If I might summarize some traditional responses to what Tavleen Singh wrote:
    —“stem cell and test tube technologies were so evolved at the time of the Mahabharata that it was possible for one woman, Gandhari, to produce a hundred Kaurav sons without this extraordinary birthing feat killing her off.”

    This is not a traditional understanding. This was a “one off” done by a particular “sage”. It was so unprecedented that everyone was shocked by it. This proves that this was not a replicatable technology that many people possessed. If someone believes this account to be accurate, they are claiming that there was an independent silo of technology possessed by one “saint” (and possibly his alien friends) that enabled one specific incident like this. However the secret behind it was hidden and kept out of reach of all (or 99.999%) of homo sapiens. In other words, human beings did not possess this technology by definition.

    ” He also claimed for India the theory of evolution on the grounds that the 10 avatars of Vishnu came before Charles Darwin.”
    I would rather say that ancients in the east believed in evolution many thousands of years before Christ. But since almost all records of the past are lost (in part due to Islamist invasion), we have no record of why believed this, of how they adopted this hypthesis. They “might” have gone through a scientific process. But we have no record of it.

    “The Prime Minister himself said, at the opening of a medical facility, that plastic surgery must have been known in ancient India for Shiva to have given his son Ganesha the head of an elephant.”
    I think he was joking. Ganesha is not (by the vast majority of religious people in the east) considered an embodied being or an actual elephant. This is a reference to symbolism and mystical meditative experience.

    “Other senior ministers have claimed that the Internet existed in ancient India. ” Is she referring to telepathy? If so perhaps she is not familiar with current neuroscience research. Is she referring to something else?

    “As did airlines. Ravana apparently had a fleet.”
    This is not accurate. The Valmiki Ramayana (and Kamban and Tulsi) does not imply that there was a fleet. According to these narrative epic stories, human beings did not have any Vimanas. Even Rakshashas and Yakshas did not other than Kubera/Ravana (and perhaps a very small number of others). Rakshashas and Yakshas are explicitly described as not being human or homo sapien or hominid. They are something else. What today people would call E.T. aliens. If Tavleen wants to make a critique, the critique should not be of Vimanas (or aircraft) but of the possibility of ancient aliens walking the earth.

    In all the narrative epics it is clear that homo sapiens did not possess the technology to create aircraft.

    ” peacocks were immaculately conceived by a peahen drinking the tears of her ‘husband’.” This appears to be artistic license, poetics and a narrative description of emotion to me. I don’t see how this is a scientific claim of the past.

    “the advent of Modi has brought to the fore the daftest kind of Hindus filled with prejudice and imbued with an inferiority complex so deep that revivalism is their only resort.”

    They might not have inferiority complex. Rather they are not be trained scientists and don’t understand the definition of science.

    Can I quote one of Hinduttva’s main thought leaders (who we might invite as a guest on Browncast)?:

    https://swarajyamag.com/magazine/vedanta-and-modern-physics-why-the-marriage-of-spirituality-and-science-is-difficult

    “These parallels or resemblances are mostly metaphorical; they create the effect of narrative likeness. However, the two languages, that of science and spirituality, are distinct, with no possibility of overlap, at least at present.

    The language of science, no matter how closely it may seem similar to that of spirituality, is actually mathematics, with precise sounding equations and fixity of meaning. The proof is through experimental verification; the theory must fit the data. The language of spirituality, on the other hand, is poetic, reveling in figurative language, open to a hundred different interpretations. It is impossible, therefore, to collapse the one into the other.

    Vivekananda, in that sense, could not have anticipated the “unity” that the physicists were after in their pursuit of the theory of everything. But his speculations and assertions sound similar to the latter’s ideas and conceptualisations. That is the difficulty with those who make “scientific” claims on behalf of spirituality. Such claims are not sustain-able precisely because they fail the truth standards and demarcation protocols of science. At best, spiritual constructions of the universe sound similar to those of some scientists at times, but such similarities cannot be considered sufficient proof that spirituality is somehow “scientific”.”

    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    Arjun and VijayVan, suspect you agree with the above?

    What do you think of gringojay’s hypotheses about Ganesha above?

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    1. I think Tavleen Singh’s point was that these claims about “The Mahabharata” or Ganesha are not science and thus have no place in a scientific conference. Mythology should not be confused with scholarship.

      This need among some on the Hindu Right to prove that modern science and technology existed in ancient India is just as bizarre as those Muslims who claim that the Quran contains modern scientific claims.

      When even someone as sympathetic to Modi as Tavleen Singh thinks he’s jumped the shark, perhaps some introspection is necessary.

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      1. Kabir, there is a plethara of evidence of advanced technology in many parts of the ancient world. Three examples:
        —Göbekli Tepe [Advanced large structures dated 9500BC]
        —Overwhelming scientific evidence that the sphinx and portions of several pyramids in Egypt date from before the last ice age/global flood [before 9700 BC]
        —In 2016 a team carbon dated portions of Gunung Padang in Java Indonesia to between 13,000 and 28,000 years ago (different tested samples had different ages). Gunung Padang is one of the largest pyramids in the world. Modern architectural science would have great difficulty replicating its construction even with hundreds of billions of dollars.

        Expect a series of articles about ancient civilization science here at BP.

        My view is that science/technology/productivity rises and falls in eras or cycles over tens of thousands of years. After the fall of the Rome in 455 AD Europe suffered stagnant to retrenching technology, productivity, science and per capita real income. Similar patterns have occurred all over the world many times.

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