Organisers of the science congress have expressed ‘shock’ at comments like Einstein and Newton didn’t understand physics, or Kauravas were test tube babies.
Jalandhar: A day after two speakers made outlandish comments at the 106th Indian Science Congress (ISC), the association that organises the annual event has distanced itself from them and called the remarks “shocking”.
The Indian Science Congress Association (ISCA) has also resolved to exercise more caution while inviting speakers to the reputed event from next year.
Delivering a lecture at the children’s science congress Friday, Tamil Nadu-based scientist Kannan Jagathala Krishnan had challenged the theories of Albert Einstein and Isaac Newton and said they did not understand physics.
Another speaker at the event, V. Nageshwar Rao, the vice-chancellor of Andhra University, said the Kauravas of the Mahabharata were test-tube babies.
The comments made at the science congress this year were met with outrage from the science community. The Times of India reported Monday that several science organisations held a silent protest outside the Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru, Sunday, with demonstrations planned across multiple cities Monday.
This, however, is not the first time that comments with no proven scientific basis have been made at the ISC.
In 2015, a paper presented on Indian aviation technology claimed that the ancient sage Bhardwaj had given detailed guidelines for making the aircraft. Captain Anand Bodas, a retired pilot who authored the paper, had quoted the Brihatvimanshastra to buttress his claims.
Last year, union minister for science and technology Dr Harsh Vardhan shocked the audience and organisers of the event when he said even Stephen Hawking had said that the “Vedas have better theories than Einstein’s”.
‘Concerned about the reputation of ISC’
The ISCA now feels that such comments harm the reputation of an event which is meant to celebrate the spirit of science and research in the country. It plans not to not invite anyone without properly checking their work, and making sure that such controversies are not repeated.
“We are extremely shocked at the comments made by the two speakers at the ISC. The ISCA distances itself from such comments and finds them unscientific,” said the association’s general secretary, Premendu P. Mathur.
“We are also concerned about the reputation of the ISC and will make sure that the process for selection of speakers is more rigorous from the next year. We will make sure that all speakers send their research abstract to us and limit themselves to talking only about the abstract in their sessions.”
The ISC, Mathur said, “provides a platform for divergent opinions ranging from biochemistry to physics and anthropology. Our aim is to bring as many people from the scientific community as possible under one roof, so that there can be more dialogue and discussion”.
“If some speaker ends up saying something outlandish, we cannot really control it. However, we want to make sure that nothing that hampers the image of the ISC happens from next year,” he added.
How they slipped through the cracks
There are 14 different sections on which invitees speak at the ISC, ranging from engineering to biology, physics and other scientific pursuits. Each section is managed by different people, who invite scientists based on the work they have done.
There is another team that manages the plenary lecture sessions, which are mostly reserved for senior scientists who have done remarkable work in their field. This is the same session at which Krishnan and Rao spoke Friday.
As per ISC officials, senior scientists like Krishnan, who claim to have many years of experience, are not generally asked for their research work before their name is finalised.
“We do not really ask for abstract or research work from senior scientists, especially the ones who come for the plenary sessions. We have realised that some of the scientists who make unscientific comments often choose the ISC to do so because it is such a reputed platform,” said another officer who did not wish to be named.