The workshop was to be held on 25-26 November, but was objected to because the academic community is convinced that astrology has no scientific basis.
Within academic circles, there’s a consensus that astrology has no scientific basis. It is not based on objectivity, falsifiability, or fact-based research – the pillars of modern scientific study.
That didn’t stop alumni association of the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru, from planning a workshop on it.
However, after a backlash from multiple bodies, including a section of the alumni, researchers, and present faculty, the workshop, planned for 25-26 November, was cancelled.
Fault in the stars
The workshop was to be convened by Dr M.S. Rameshaiah, member of the IISc Alumni Association executive committee and the Indian Council of Astrological Sciences (ICAS).
We are deeply grateful to our readers & viewers for their time, trust and subscriptions.
Quality journalism is expensive and needs readers to pay for it. Your support will define our work and ThePrint’s future.
The announcement was accompanied by an invitation, and flyers placed around the Bengaluru campus, with a registration fee of Rs 2,000.
Soon, though, social media was flooded with many alumni wondering what the rationale behind the decision was.
As a step of formal protest, students from the alumni association wrote a letter to IISc director Anurag Kumar, stating: “Astrology is a belief system that has no scientific basis. Scientific experiments done in good faith to test the predictions of the various systems of astrology have all shown that it is only as good as random chance.”
By the afternoon on Saturday, 28 October, Kolkata-based Breakthrough Science Society (BSS), which organised the ‘India March for Science’ rally in August this year, lent its support to the letter, as a part of its efforts to combat the prevalence of pseudo-science in the country. It stated that it stood “in full support of those who have started a signature campaign against the astrology workshop”.
Under pressure from such resistance, the alumni association cancelled the workshop Saturday evening. Its president, M.P. Ravindra, said the intention behind the workshop was not accurately communicated through the invitation, and given the lack of context, the association understood the concerns of those opposing the workshop.
According to Ravindra, the purpose of the event was not to claim astrology as legitimate, fact-based science, but to provide the platform for “a discussion among like-minded people, and to lay the foundation to a campaign against such belief systems”.
A significant number of students and alumni also did not support the backlash against the workshop, arguing in favour of constructive dialogue, curiosity, and openness, saying these were the bedrocks of academic inquiry.
News media is in a crisis & only you can fix it
You are reading this because you value good, intelligent and objective journalism. We thank you for your time and your trust.
You also know that the news media is facing an unprecedented crisis. It is likely that you are also hearing of the brutal layoffs and pay-cuts hitting the industry. There are many reasons why the media’s economics is broken. But a big one is that good people are not yet paying enough for good journalism.
We have a newsroom filled with talented young reporters. We also have the country’s most robust editing and fact-checking team, finest news photographers and video professionals. We are building India’s most ambitious and energetic news platform. And we aren’t even three yet.
At ThePrint, we invest in quality journalists. We pay them fairly and on time even in this difficult period. As you may have noticed, we do not flinch from spending whatever it takes to make sure our reporters reach where the story is. Our stellar coronavirus coverage is a good example. You can check some of it here.
This comes with a sizable cost. For us to continue bringing quality journalism, we need readers like you to pay for it. Because the advertising market is broken too.
If you think we deserve your support, do join us in this endeavour to strengthen fair, free, courageous, and questioning journalism, please click on the link below. Your support will define our journalism, and ThePrint’s future. It will take just a few seconds of your time.