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The rise of unreason

Updated Nov 08, 2014 10:01am


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The author teaches physics in Lahore and Islamabad.
The author teaches physics in Lahore and Islamabad.

Some 300 years ago the age of reason lifted Europe from darkness, ushering in modern science together with modern scientific attitudes. These soon spread across the world. But now, running hot on its heels is the age of unreason. Reliance upon evidence, patient investigation, and careful logic is giving way to bald assertions, hyperbole, and blind faith.

Listen to India’s superstar prime minister, the man who recently enthralled 20,000 of his countrymen in New York City with his promises to change India’s future using science and technology. Inaugurating the Reliance Foundation Hospital in Mumbai two Saturdays ago, he proclaimed that the people of ancient India had known all about cosmetic surgery and reproductive genetics for thousands of years. Here’s his proof:

“We all read about Karna in the Mahabharata. If we think a little more, we realise that the Mahabharata says Karna was not born from his mother’s womb. This means that genetic science was present at that time. That is why Karna could be born outside his mother’s womb.” Referring to the elephant-headed Lord Ganesha, Modi asserted that, “there must have been some plastic surgeon at that time who put an elephant’s head on the body of a human being and began the practice of plastic surgery”.

Whether or not he actually believed his words, Modi knew it would go down well. In 1995, parts of India had gone hysterical after someone found Lord Ganesha would drink the milk if a spoon was held to his trunk. Until the cause was discovered to be straightforward capillary action (the natural tendency of liquids to buck gravity), the rush towards temples was so great that a traffic gridlock resulted in New Delhi and sales of milk jumped up by 30pc.

Once evidence becomes irrelevant, everything becomes possible.

Closer to home: a staggering number of Pakistanis — university science students included — believe that everything from quantum mechanics to black holes and genes were anticipated 1,400 years ago. Darwin’s theory of evolution is roundly rejected even by students and teachers in biology departments. Instead, the common belief is that all of modern science can be extracted by mastering Arabic and interpreting holy texts expertly enough. Forty years ago, when I joined Islamabad University, the chairman of the physics department, a pious man from the Tableeghi Jamaat, had just calculated the speed at which heaven is running away from earth — and found it to be one centimetre per second less than the speed of light. Today TV channels broadcast even more bizarre theories.

Once evidence becomes irrelevant, everything becomes possible. With only preformed notions as guide, outlandish conclusions, offensive to common sense, are frequent. The progress of science may suffer, but society and individuals take the brunt.

Take, for example, the question of whether Ram Janmabhoomi is actually the birthplace of Rama, the seventh avatar of Vishnu. Is this located precisely where Emperor Babar built the now-demolished Babri mosque? No conceivable archaeological evidence can adjudicate the matter. In fact it is impossible to establish on physical grounds the existence of Rama, much less the coordinates of his birthplace. But, the tragic events of Dec 6, 1992, owed to this belief. The scars of that terrible carnage have yet to heal.

Deliberately inflicted psychological scars may be even more unhealable. Terrifying life-after-death experiences are invented to create a passively accepting frame of mind. For decades, one of the most widely read books in Pakistan has been Maut ka manzar — marnay kay baad kya hoga (Scenes of life after death) with horrific episodes created by the author’s fertile imagination. Once considered as creative fiction, such life-after-death works are now becoming part of Pakistan’s mainstream education. Backed by university administrators, teachers and preachers are targeting the youth on campuses across the country.

On Oct 27, the Institute of Business Management in Karachi organised a major event, ‘The last moments — an exclusive insight on the death of a man’. The event’s black-and-white poster seems to be right out of some 1960s’ Hollywood horror movie with hooded, shrouded ghouls slouching across a graveyard. IoBM’s administration sent out official emails asking students to attend. A Saudi-certified professor would answer questions like: “Is life a mere game? Are you prepared for your death? Do you know what it feels at the moment you die? Is Allah pleased with your life?”

Such profound questions are surely best left up to God. A living, breathing, walking, talking professor cannot possibly adduce physical evidence about one’s dying moments. Nor claim to know whether Allah is pleased or angry with an individual. At best he can give his opinion.

I do not know what effect this particular professor had on his audience. But recently a colleague in Islamabad told me that his physics PhD student Mujeeb (not his real name) is behaving very strangely after viewing an after-death movie downloaded from some proselytizing website. Mujeeb now broods incessantly, worries more about death than life, and has almost stopped working.

It is not just South Asia where unreason is on the rise. The United States, the centre of high science, is now struggling with various crackpot anti-science movements. However, determined opposition has kept astrology, creationism, UFOs, magnetic therapy, etc. away from the mainstream.

In India, the battle against Vishwa Hindu Parishad and BJP ideology will be harder. But India has a strong Nehruvian past and Indian rationalists have strongly opposed so-called Vedic mathematics and cosmology, and revamping school curricula. The price has not been small. For example, Dr Narendra Achyut Dabholkar was murdered in Pune almost a year ago. He had helped draft the Anti-Jadu Tona Bill (Anti-Black Magic Bill) which political parties like the BJP and Shiv Sena opposed, claiming it would adversely affect Hindu culture, customs and traditions.

But nowhere in the world has unreason grown faster, and become more dangerous, than in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Polio workers here have shorter lives than soldiers in battle. More importantly, with schools, colleges, and universities actively working to crush young minds rather than enlighten them, this fight against unreason is surely going to be a much tougher one.

The author teaches physics in Lahore and Islamabad.

Published in Dawn, November 8th , 2014

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (161) Closed

shuaib Nov 08, 2014 02:48am

Dr. Sahab, In my humble opinion the recent spread of virus can be attributed to the criminal fake polio vaccine campaign run by CIA to hunt Osama. The doctor who led this should be hanged.

Asad Hyder, Ph.D. Nov 08, 2014 03:31am

Excellent article, Dr. Hoodbhoy. Alas, it is an excercize in futility to reason Pakistanis. Many years back (in the days of Zia) in a Science conference held in Islamabad, a "scientist" presented a paper in which he suggested 'that energy problem can be easily solved by extracting energy from the 'Jinns'. Since they are made of fire we can use their heat energy'. Pakistan has long passed the stage of rational thinking. Young Pakistanis have been so severely brainwashed into the belief in the occult that even if we start right now, it will require a couple of generations to set their minds straight. It is a dismal state of affairs almost impossible to reverse.

Sridhar Nov 08, 2014 04:26am

Your article highlights the glorious words of Rabindranath Tagore: "Where the clear stream of reason is not lost into the dreary desert of dead habit..Into that heaven, let my country awake." How ironic that the first comment that the author's article has attracted is an invective against the great Jonathan Salk whose vaccine has saved millions and millions of children around the world!

S. Haider Nov 08, 2014 04:45am

We know, that the battle between faith and reason was fought in every phase of human history, and in every civilization. It is o.k., if it is done peacefully by exchange of arguments. The fact is, that only those countries are offering the solution of today's problems, who are devoting a lot of efforts on science and scientific research. Reason, logic, and science would determine the path of human development in future. Faith would fulfill the spiritual needs of mankind.

Shoaib N. Nov 08, 2014 05:49am

Among modern countries, China is a shining example where the leaders are scientists are engineers. Whether in Pakistan, India or even the US, there are too many leaders who lack the scientific temper to lead in the modern age.

teller Nov 08, 2014 05:53am

Very important article. Should be read by all in Pakistan and India. I hope a day will soon come when Pervez Hoodbhoy becomes the most popular president and leader of Pakistan.

ss Nov 08, 2014 06:01am

The rise of unreason should be seen as the response of traditional societies to modernity. It is blind faith that enables people of the undeveloped nations to cope with their inferiority complex. They can see that they are way behind the modern West in all respects and hence the need to resort to fanciful thinking about plastic surgeries and genetic engineering in some imagined idyllic past. The failure to distinguish between religion and mythology, a salient aspect of the less evolved human personality, also contributes to nurturing irrational beliefs in a glorious past.

Tariq K Sami Nov 08, 2014 06:28am

Science and Religion are not different. Both require perseverance and humility. The spiritual task to explain Man's place in the universe or to the mundane task of fixing your drain needs different skill levels. We need both.

bk Nov 08, 2014 06:40am

I am an indian and most of the times anti pakistan, sometimes even unreasonabally, i admit. but i must say you sir are a bright light in a dark pakistan. you call a spade a spade whether it is for india or pakistan. i sincerely applaud your courage to speak the truth in a dangers situation as the mullas might get offended. I read your articales regularly and am a fan of yours. Keep going, you might bring the light to a few more.

numbersnumbers Nov 08, 2014 07:27am

@shuaib As you well know, "that doctor" WAS NOT running a fake polio campaign!

Homi Ghadially Nov 08, 2014 07:28am

Even in the PCB political appointees viz; Sheryar khan and Najam Sethi are standing up for the convicted and admitted ( m.amir) BUT not for Danish Kaneria who is as yet not convicted your highest wicket taker spin bowler of this country

Sarita Talwai Nov 08, 2014 07:45am

The way to see by faith is to shut the eye of reason- thus said Benjamin Franklin. But it is difficult to separate the two in our subcontinent. Faith has always played, and will continue to play an all pervading role in our daily life. We cannot expect people to switch sides in a jiffy. But what schools and educationists and parents and elders can do, and they have to do it, is to emphasise that the two are not mutually exclusive. We all listened open mouthed when Modi spoke about plastic surgery etc. most of us could shrug this off and yet find comfort that India was progressing because of its tradition of debate and dissent , so deeply embedded in our psyche that a fantastical statement by a leader could not wipe it off. Faith gives hope and desire to go on. Reason makes that journey exciting and interesting. Believers and non believers have to take cognisance of this.

Optimus Nov 08, 2014 07:54am

@shuaib Let's get the CIA and the doctor then... then polio will be pacified and run away... Age of Ignorance indeed...

Karachiwalla Nov 08, 2014 08:01am

What really shocked me in this article is IoBM foisting this utter nonsense on to its students. I am paying for both my son and daughter to go there to get a decent education. Instead they are getting to hear Saudi idiots to come and harangue them. What kind of a students Islamic Society has this administration created over there? Pure fictional nonsense about life after death which nobody has ever experienced. Shame!

adnan Nov 08, 2014 08:06am

The mere fact that people try to validate their religious beliefs using science means that science is winning. The hurdles pointed out in this article will fall like straws but it will take a few generations. It won't happen by force (socialism). The key is not only education but also prosperity for all.

Unnamed Nov 08, 2014 08:13am

Was really sad to see the PM Modi talk about the rubbish he did! I would have thought he is a bit wiser than that. But then again, his comments on Mars Orbiter Mission (MoM) about MoM will never fail you--was bollywood-like; Only question is whether he was playing to the gallery or actually believes this crap about everything was there in ancient India.

BTW, this type of stories are not unheard of in India. 1) Pushpak Vimaan used by Ram to return to Ayodhya - so, we knew all about aeroplanes before whites invented it. 2) Weapons used in Mahabharat war were very advanced missiles etc. etc.

Paul Nov 08, 2014 08:18am

I personally respect this author too much that I cannot fathom why he would drag India into this article especially as under Zia's rule, Pakistan made great strides in establishing Islamic Science, a state sanctioned hoax that calculated the size of heaven among other esoteric things.

Yes, Modi said those words which any one with a scientific mind would say are asinine and many Indians are going to discount that cringe-worthy moment. But the fact is that Modi is an earthy person and definitely not a scientist, so he can get away with saying such things though I hope he doesn't do it more often that people start seeing a pattern.

As far as Ram Janmabhoomi is concerned, the point of contention never was whether that was the original birthplace of Lord Rama. It was instead that the mosque was built on top of an ancient temple which has since been proven by the unearthing of a much older structure underneath. By the way, the mosque itself was called Masjid-i--Janmsthan until a few decades after independence.

Abdul Kajeer Nov 08, 2014 08:22am

Well said and much needed.

Abdul Kajeer Nov 08, 2014 08:24am

Well said and much needed!

Tahir A Nov 08, 2014 08:24am

“Instead, the common belief is that all of modern science can be extracted by mastering Arabic and interpreting holy texts expertly enough.” ….In more than 67 years history of Pakistan or of any other Muslim country I am yet to see a Muslim marvel that has benefitted mankind as a result of the above during the last glorious century of technological inventions. Yet some cranks will argue that Muslims invented the algebra many centuries ago and that is it. Job done.

This Saudi-certified professor probably got more credibility than say Abdus Salam. That is hilarious stuff. In a similar fashion, I believe another eminent Muslim scientist said something about the earthquakes in Muslim countries were being instigated by USA at the push of a button.

If your own head of department was working out the speed at which heavens is running away from us then isn’t it a futile exercise to worry at all about reaching there. Let us then discard the holy books and do something more relevant that will benefit our present needs onthis planet.

rehan Nov 08, 2014 08:35am

@Asad Hyder, Ph.D. I am sure a lot of reasonable papers were presented as well. I don't see why only an idiotic one has to be handpicked and put up a general case !

Khatri Nov 08, 2014 08:48am

Salute you. Not only for excellent article but to be courageous to say. Today BOL JUBH KAY LUBH BHEE AAZAAD NAHEE TAIRAY ... and this evident of non existance of REASONING ... In British the education was focused to create mind slaves to serve ocvupiers ... today our education system is creating BLIND MINDS .... Horses with binders of BLIND FAITH .... able to see only the way the RIDERS of STATE like to bring you ... without QUESTIONING or more correct to say without ability to see around for rational thinking ... Word LIBERAL now concioysly confused as against religion ... So avoiding use of this terminology in English ... better to say ROSHUN KHIALI ... and this what your all efforts are ...

ali Nov 08, 2014 09:08am

What a beautiful article! I'm fully impressed! It's a mental agony, a great mess in backward countries of this part of the globe that we don't take lesson from science and civilization, rather we, most of the people, feel comfort to go in dark faith and myths.I found a lots of biologists, physicists, doctors, who usually dealt with natural and biological science with evidences, they don't even believe in scientific reasons for origin of cells (genome) or creation of matters or the universe.He rightly pointed out that it would be tougher to crash unreason, if we don't teach our young minds to be enlightened basing on reason.

Aurang Nov 08, 2014 09:20am

We don't believe in our capabilities generally in these societies hence ignorance is at rise. We spent least amount of money at education some where at bottom among nations. Evidence is all round us - education is the only salvation

AdnanK Nov 08, 2014 09:22am

Great read! In the west, the concept of thoughts and thinking out of the boundaries are encouraged. This means you can challenge anything including religion. Unfortunately this is limited to countries that follow western culture, until this change happens the rest of the countries including South Asia will only be followers and will be left behind.

Ali Nov 08, 2014 10:24am

@Asad Hyder, Ph.D. , Why use the PhD title? :) We can all know by your writings if you are a learned man.... Come on!!!

ashok kumar lal Nov 08, 2014 10:33am

I wish you could come and stay in India, my country, and high light our misgivings. Incidently murder of Mr. Dabholker is not related to his work, nd is yet to be solved.

Talat Haque Nov 08, 2014 10:39am

Dr. Hoodbhoy you say such wonderful things - true stuff - unacceptable to much of humanity [specially our own kind] ........... yet the ones who accept reason will outshine the others ....... it is in the nature of things ! Bless you.

being human Nov 08, 2014 10:46am

The author cites various incidents of india at a time when his own country is mired in a much deeper and profound problem of bigotry and orthodoxy than India

Wasim Nov 08, 2014 10:59am

Interesting article, but the author avoids (deliberately?) a central aspect. With rise of reason, comes fall of belief. When the existence of anything, or any truth, relies on how compelling the evidence is, religiosity is threatened. You cannot prove the existence of any deity. Both Pakistan and India are highly religious countries. Maybe anti-science attitudes are popular, because they do not challenge religion? I would like to hear the professors thoughts on this.

Jadoo Nov 08, 2014 11:00am

Science and technology require hard work where as it is easy to slip into fanciful world. We are a lazy nation and are always looking for short cuts. Being unreasonable is the short cut to doom.

Rahul DB Nov 08, 2014 11:02am

While it is disappointing to see the rise of in reason around the world, I would like to highlight a key difference between Mod's woo woo and that of the others. Modi is using Indian mythology/religious texts to support the advance of scientific thought and achievement. He is not using religious dogma to debunk scientific advancement, on the contrary he is encouraging people to seek seemingly impossible advancements as replacing a human head with that of an animal. He is not asking people to abandon seeking new frontiers by telling them the answers are all in our texts and we should just believe. Abrahamic religions on the other hand have a history of denying science till proof becomes irrefutable, and this practice continues.

hoshiyar Nov 08, 2014 11:02am

though the article is good, but author need to verify some facts. 1. Babur (to whom author is glorifying) was a invader, he not only killed many hindus, buddists, (in todays Pakistan and northern India; so he basically killed ancestors of pakistani and north indian people) but also broke several temples which were the identity of Indian culture (including Pakistan that time). So though braking any place of worship is evil but why to glorify Babur who was just a brutal invader in true sense

mimi sur Nov 08, 2014 11:03am

But Mr.Hoodbhoy , Whatever Mr.Modi told may be right . Everyone comes from his/her mother's womb . Since Karna was n't born out of his mother's womb , there is a high possibility that He was born in-vitro . No man can have a head of animal , but we see cross-breeds , we see surgeons replacing liver of an animal in a man . So , Mr.Modi tried to find a scientific reason out of it . Similarly Pope few days ago asserted that God is not magician and he believed in evolution theory . Our history and culture is so rich that we can believe in this things and we attach a scientific basic to it . This is rise of reason , not rise of unreason . We have reached Mars , we have set our people high in tech organisations and we are in rise . We are proud of our PM .

Muhammad Nov 08, 2014 11:17am

Now, before you say the truth about Pakistan, you first have to India!

Sunil Nov 08, 2014 11:18am

@shuaib Osama, was the most wanted by US, for the crime he committed against humanity, and its okay for you, and also it was okay to hide him in Pakistan, then other side you want US to pour billions of aid.

irshad Nov 08, 2014 11:39am

@Sarita Talwai Its reason and hard work that takes you everywhere, faith leads you to nowhere

Arshad Nov 08, 2014 11:40am

@teller indeed he is one of the best assets we have in Pakistan.

irshad Nov 08, 2014 11:40am

@being human Re you serious, you will bring pakistan bashing even in this scientific issue

K G Surendran Nov 08, 2014 11:48am

Pakistan is terminally ill and it seems there is very little hope though one would wish otherwise. The unfortunate part is that neither the Pakistan establishment or its society recognizes this, the likes of Pervez Hoodbhoy are a minuscule minority without a voice. India in comparison is far better off and one of the reasons is its uninterrupted run of democracy which anyway is embedded in its culture. While the exact birthplace of Ram cannot be ascertained but it is a fact that there is archaeological evidence of a temple compound under the demolished mosque, which in itself is not a strange because the spread of Islam did lead to the destruction of a number of temples, churches, monasteries and synagogues over which mosques were built. And much the same culture is prevalent in Pakistan today which the writer is alluding too. The voice of reason will continue to elude Pakistan as long as religion is put above everything else, religion cannot be the one stop solution for life's challenges.

Salim Alvi Nov 08, 2014 11:56am

Pak was created by rational Angloes & irreligious chain smoking drinking non practicing Muslims, what is the result of their scientific experiment? Total 4 million deaths 600,000 rapes & 60 million people becoming homeless. Modi's native roots make him Pradhan Sevak. But those rationalists which include Bhutto & Yahya only want to rule natives & not serve.

Shrek Nov 08, 2014 12:06pm

i don't know the reason for Pakistan writers to involve India in their each discussion.First of all they are not the right person to comment on India's scientific temper.They can't equate their problem with India to prove this stupidity happens all over the world.Indians just need more money in scientific fields/research to compete with best in the world.

Srinath Nov 08, 2014 12:17pm

Excellent, as always from Pervez. A timely reminder on how far we, as a nation, have drifted from our goal of developing scientific temper as our collective attitude. It was Nehru's dream that the spread of scientific temper would be accompanied by a shrinking of the domain of religion.It is time we brought back the term "scientific temper" ,listed in the Fundamental Duties of Indian Constitution, to the top of our agenda before the clear stream of reason is completely lost into the dreary desert of the dead habit.

jay`1980 Nov 08, 2014 12:26pm

@irshad There is nothing left to bash pakistan about, its anyways bashed up beyond repair !

Shoaib Nov 08, 2014 12:30pm

@Paul My dear friend you seem to be searching for a bias here when none exists. The author like most South Asian authors worth their salt was using that as an allegory to describe a regional problem rather then a national one, to allude to the fact that we can work on this together. So get your head out of the ground

HKN Nov 08, 2014 12:37pm

Educated youth in Pakistan is more fanatic than the illiterate youth. That's really a dangerous notion.

Firdaus Nov 08, 2014 12:48pm

Dr. Hoodbhoy, thank you. May I add that science has always unnerved religion and especially the people who sell religion. Every advancement in scientific knowledge makes faith seem so much less important. If you know meteorology, why would you need a priest to forecast the best day for sowing? If you know astrophysics, you know that there is no up nor down, hence upward-reaching heavens and downward-looking hells are hard to justify. Science's brain-child, technology, makes even more waves in religious dogma. Where people are well-educated, religious fervor is virtually inexistent and the religious hold on the mind is weak or even has disappeared. There are many places where no more than 10% of the population are "religious" in the sense that they practice their religion at least once weekly in a public place of worship. So, yes, science undermines religion as we know it. This does not mean that we throw out the philosophical and spiritual aspects of religions, as also their parables, lessons, etc. Nor also that we may turn to it as human beings for guidance. But we do not cut one another's throats in the name of religion.

neutral Nov 08, 2014 12:49pm

When I read the headlines, I thought he is going to talk about how our Political leaders and parties have become 'expert' in deleting "Evidence" of the crimes they and their workers commit. Many high profile murderers have gone scot-free due to lack or no evidence. Mir Murtaza Bhutto, the brother of then sitting PM BB, was murdered in broad day-light on the streets of Karachi but no murderer found so far. "No "Evidence"- no prosecution"- to mention one. End of matter. He is a scientist and a scholar. Someone should think,what can be done to eliminate the evils from our most corrupt society which has ruined the life as a whole.

sampath Nov 08, 2014 12:49pm

The author Mr. Hoodboy is one of the greatest contemporary south asians, a combination of sharp intellect and warm heart. Even I squirmed a bit as I listened to PM Modi make that statement about plastic surgery etc in ancient India at the Reliance Hospital inaguration. I am sure Shri. Modi was pushing us Indians to do better in the field of medical research in the coming days by taking pride in our past. One hopes he finds other ways of motivating us without mixing modern scientific terminology which have clear logical basis with history and myth. Having said that he is already bringing about change in society. Just yesterday school children were cleaning garbage off the streets wearing rubber gloves, yellow baseball with "Swatch bharat" insignia.

Manjit Sahota Nov 08, 2014 12:51pm

Great read. The South Asian mind set ( as well as many other places in the world) is the product of effects of poverty, 'jahalat', reluctance to see logic and always seeking solace in a supreme entity manifesting as a king, a powerful peer or a sectarian God. It will take another two hundred years for our people to see the true light - science and reason.

INdian Nov 08, 2014 12:56pm

Dr. Sahib. You are a very Brave person and I can appreciate the courage you showed in questioning the 1400 years belief system. There was NO need to drag India into it but I can understand your compulsion. Modi is way too smart, and he is a politician and I have a feeling that you also know why he said that. Please do not worry about what he believes in. He is a Post Graduate and very practical guy, who knows how to control the target audience. The faith system (called Religion) ended the day Galileo gave his reasons and Newton confirmed them, explaining the nature of Heavenly bodies. Educated Hindus have mostly got over the religious hangover. It's time the Educated Muslims from sub-continent also follow the lead. They should try and send a Mangalayan from Pakistan and stop taking seriously the "Nuclear Scientist" of "Water-kit-enthusiast" fame....

Waqas arif Nov 08, 2014 01:02pm

Since Dr hoodboy is trying to discuss the problem common all around the globe,however since subcontinent is more affected with irrational culture particularly,it doesn't involve any India hatred.grow up guys.treat scientific article like a scientific article.

Sarita Talwai Nov 08, 2014 01:09pm

@irshad I do realise that a scientific temper and hard work will take you far. But our subcontinent relies a lot on faith because faith brings with it the hope of a brighter tomorrow. As long as faith does not intrude in developing a questioning , curious temperament, it should be left alone. After all, the scientists at ISRO visited a famous temple and also broke the auspicious coconut before embarking on their Mars mission. This show of faith did not hamper the mission or raise questions about their scientific credentials. Science should allow you the freedom to follow your faith or debunk all faiths. Faith should permit you to question and doubt and reach a personal equation with it.

Saghair Nov 08, 2014 01:11pm

People for the most part delight in superstitions. They regard a single drop of the sea of delusion as preferable to an ocean of certitude.

Faisal Nov 08, 2014 01:21pm

@Sridhar First comment is referring to "Fake Campaign" not to Polio vaccine. Though, I do not agree with him.

Huzaifa Zoomkawala Nov 08, 2014 01:21pm

The deep rooted social response malaise that is the rejection of modernism stems foremost from a failure to modernize. Eqbal Ahmad had long ago spoken of the chasm between the past and present that plagues the post-colonial fevered faithful. The failure of the south to modernize is not rooted in their scripture. Roughly four broad causes continue its pre-colonial state of humiliation: i) the fallout of the cold war and the cynical wars of oil which have led to a rising trail of blood spilled in the name of God, ii) The onset of the Thatcher/Reagan/WTO neo-liberal market fundamentalism in the 80's which has exacerbated the marginalization of the have-nots of the world, iii) the abject failure (complicity?) of local power elites to resist this exploitative onslaught and offer viable local alternatives rooted in social justice, and iv) the ruthless exploitation of this inferiority by the local clergy which adds fuel to fire. To speak of the malaise without dovetailing it with its context runs the risk of losing the plot. Too much ink has been spent on outrage and not enough on understanding weakening the case for Reason.

javed Iqbal Nov 08, 2014 01:26pm

Hoodbhoy is at his best in this article. In Pakistan 90% people are living in “age of unreason” irrespective they have academic qualification of any degree or not. The un-educated people often shy from taking part in debates of creationism, claiming invention on faith base , load & tall Modi,s like assertions due to limitation of knowledge whereas student of higher classes including P.hd feel no hesitation to present their views forcefully without evidence/logic only & only on faith base. I think identical ratio may be found in India. Modi does not claim that he is highly educated; therefore his assertion of this type may be ignored. But pity on the class ( across the boundaries ) who remained in state of unreason despite getting highly education.

sanjeev kulkarni Nov 08, 2014 01:27pm

We would welcome Dr. Hoodbhoy if he becomes at least visiting lecturer in Indian universities teaching science and scientific temper to students. People like him are invaluable asset to any society.

Awais Nov 08, 2014 01:38pm

Very good article. This thought should be spread in our society.

rohit950723 Nov 08, 2014 01:49pm

@Asad Hyder, Ph.D. ...that energy problem can be easily solved by extracting energy from the 'Jinns'....can't believe...

rohit950723 Nov 08, 2014 01:50pm

@S. Haider ..Faith would nothing.. & has now become bottleneck..

rohit950723 Nov 08, 2014 01:51pm

@Wasim ... India is not religious country.. It is secular country...

ghanshyam Nov 08, 2014 01:59pm

There are two worlds, the outer world which should be ruled by science and the inner world where only faith can enter. One is governed by brain and the other one is governed by heart. Nanak, Kabir, Meera, BulleShah,Farid,Juned,Rahim and countless saints have walked the path of faith. None of them advocated superstition. Reason and Reason alone can help you walk both the paths. Hindusim never supports unreason. When Krishna tells Arjuna to Believe him, Arjuna hesitates and REASONS with Krishna. The indian word for philosophy is 'Darshan', which means to see, unless you don't see yourself don't trust. DARSHAN and not unreason is the essence of Hindusim.

Beowulf Agate Nov 08, 2014 02:19pm

According to me those comments by Modi were unnecessary. I think this is the first mistake he has made after becoming PM. Regarding Pakistan, it is non of my business.

Raju-Delhi Nov 08, 2014 02:19pm

Hats Off to you Dr Hoodbhoy !! You made my Day ! After Such a long time came across someone with ability to see both Indians and Pakistanis with the same lens. We are soo much like each other maybe it is due to our same DNA or maybe there is a Indian in Every pakistani and a Pakistani in Every Indian Heart that it is impossible to distinguish between us when someone looks at us objectively like you did in your article. I just wish that we can see more such articles from you about our common Idiosyncrasies related to science in both our people.

Farooq Sulehria Nov 08, 2014 02:20pm

Hats off Dr Sahab.

Rehmat Changezi Nov 08, 2014 02:28pm

Science and religion, and reason and faith have always remained the topics in history of evolution of human society. No doubt, those societies have progressed where they find solution to their problems scientifically and reason-based. Else the societies go on the reverse gear like Pakistan.

Rohit Nov 08, 2014 02:36pm

So Pakistan is where India was ~20 years ago(1996,1992)? Then you are going to be in good place in two decades...

I did my schooling in Mumbai between late 80s to late 90s(I am old:()), even then we never had any religious teaching in school.... We use to begin our school day by reciting the Indian National pledge...

Khan Nov 08, 2014 02:36pm

India ha demolished babri masjid. but we will set example by reconstructing all destroyed temples in Pakistan.

Rashid Nov 08, 2014 02:41pm

Literacy is a bridge from misery to hope, and this is where we fall short .....

Kesar Nov 08, 2014 02:43pm

@shuaib Your comments have vindicated the article.

Jehangir Nov 08, 2014 03:04pm

Excellent piece but I do have one comment- how do you find the courage to say what you have said in your article. and I can fully understand why you cannot openly write about the single most identifiable antithesis of reason. I express my thanks.

Atheist Pakistani Nov 08, 2014 03:05pm

Excellent article. May reason triumph over the unreason in our part of the world !

The comments were also quite heartening.

Rizwan Nov 08, 2014 03:07pm

It is true there is presence of unreason in religious people but the comments also show that there is brainwash and unreason on the other side also. How comfortably people are calling others to be idiots and yet claim to be educated. If we believe we have a Creator and we will rise after death and go to Him, then obviously that is most important question if He is pleased with us or not. It is simple common sense; what is the unreason in that?

Moona Nov 08, 2014 03:20pm

Rather arrogant, aren't you? And simplistic. The Age of Enlightenment and the cold rationality that resulted from it led to the most horrific world wars known to humankind. It was very rational of the US to drop nuclear bombs on Japan to end the war, but not at all ethical. Reason needs to be tempered with emotion and compassion. All extremes are bad.

Muhammad Umer Nov 08, 2014 04:25pm

Recently I had the chance to visit one of the city's leading college (a community college run by city's biggest and about 50 years old University). Immediately after entering the gate, on the roadside was a board and written on it was "We must seek that knowledge on earth which helps us in heaven". And I wondered what impression this message might leave on the minds of students of this college. Knowledge of science and technology which supposedly can be of little help in heaven (or the life after), is pushed to a secondary place and the so-called religious knowledge is declared supreme.

Sandeep Nov 08, 2014 04:28pm

India is a strange mixture of perfect scientific enquiry and tradion. Dr.Radhkrishnan, chairman of the Indian Space Research Organization which recently successfully launched Mangalyan in Mars orbit, offers prayers and gets blessings of Lord Venkateshwara at Tirupati every time for the success of a mission.

Dr Carla Nov 08, 2014 04:45pm

He is a great man, few people like him can put Pakistan in par with developed nations. unfortunately no one in Pakistan listen to him, people even marked him as anti islamic. Science should take precedence and religion should be kept at personal level(Freedom of religion should be there but keep it personal level). I haven't seen anyone who loves Pakistan more than him. World is very fast moving, there has been huge completion between countries for next breakthroughs (like industrial revolution), if you don't listen to the people like respected Dr Pervez, Pakistan will stay in stone-age, lose-out and finally disintegrate. Remember you don't have oil and you don't have cold-war shield any more, you have to stand on your own feet.

nasiroski Nov 08, 2014 05:25pm

@Sridhar So Ironic that this comment is exactly what article is all about. "Opinion without evidence"

saleem Nov 08, 2014 05:53pm

when mainstream go crazy what can one do? However, I am hopeful reason will prevail if not in this generation in future generations

Sahil Nov 08, 2014 05:55pm

Very well kept points by Dr. Hoodbhoy and I completely agree with him. He is one of the best intellectual speakers in Pakistan today. He never hesitates to put his informative and logical points forward. Well done Sir.

physicist Nov 08, 2014 06:27pm

pervez has given thorogh reasons the societes( indo pak) has plunged into orthodoxy... in fact he urges the people of both

countries to develop sound grounds to promote logic, reason, rationality, for a better and promising societies for our posterity

Sunshine Nov 08, 2014 06:58pm

Faith and logic are two opposites. They cannot be proven to be mutually exclusive .....lets be true to ourselves. Everyone of us has prayed at sometime or the other in our life, maybe to calm our nerves to get a task at hand done or as a strategy, as a diversion to escape or face the inevitable. The ability to reason, rationalize and distinguish between the two and their use in moderation leads to a balanced society.

Ajaya K Dutt Nov 08, 2014 07:02pm

Your belief that there is no archeological evidence of existence of a demolished temple at the site of Babri Masjid is not based on facts.

The fact is that there was a temple that was demolished and Hindus kept on asking for restoration of the temple. Even Akbar allowed Hindus to worship within the four walls of Babri Masjid, a practice that was allowed till recent time.

Existence of temple and Ram being a Historical fact or a myth are two different issues. A person of reason like you should be able to understand that.

M S Sheikh Nov 08, 2014 07:15pm

@numbersnumbers The very mission the doctor had been given destroyed the credibility of the Polio program. US should be ashamed of it.

ghanshyam Nov 08, 2014 07:19pm

Just read OSHO, you will get all questions to your answers !!!

ghanshyam Nov 08, 2014 07:53pm

@rohit950723 : India has always been a religious country. But religious not in the western sense. Our faith believes that path to god is very slim. Kabir says "Prem galli badi sakari, ta me do na samaye" the path has to be travelled alone, it is not a mob job. You have to submit yourself, like a drop falls in an ocean. Since the approach is "individualistic", no one Bothers you

Tahir Nov 08, 2014 08:18pm

It was reasonable for the ancients - the Greek, the Indian, the Semites, The Akkadians, the Inca, etc., - to come up with all these fantastic explanations for the existence of life, the Earth and the Heavens. After all they were trying to explain things with the limited cumulative knowledge that they had. Logic and natural philosophy arose from those early human experiences. Conversely, it is unreasonable for us to hold such beliefs in the modern age with access to thousands of years of cumulative knowledge. The rise of "unreason" has to do with the failure of a society to educate their young; the late Cowasjee used to continually warn us this.

Politicians say all manner of stupid things to get Mr. Modi is perhaps just pandering to nationalistic pride. More dangerous are those who dismiss the scientific method outright.

Thinking Indian Nov 08, 2014 08:24pm

Thanks Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy for this thought provoking article. Good to see a lot of people from both countries admiring your views. I too agree but wish to add following comment. Many of the claims made about our past scientific achievement have no rational basis & should be rejected. However, it is also true that ancient India which included Pakistan, was more advanced than many other countries of that time- in Mathematics, Cosmology & even medicine/ surgery. No harm in being proud of these facts if there is enough evidence to support the same, like scientifically written ancient books, mostly in Sanskrit. It is believed that the use of zero & decimal system invented here.

neeraj Nov 08, 2014 08:31pm

Pakistan is lucky to have people like Parvez Hudbhoy and Hasan Niasar, the voices of reason. Come on this side of border sir.

Asif Nov 08, 2014 09:16pm

Religion, rationality and reason are not only compatible but in essence complementary. Man by nature is imaginative and this imagination leads him into the world of unseen. On the contrary science encompasses the physical world only. We need to carve a way out and create a balance between these two.

Krish Chennai Nov 08, 2014 09:24pm

Sir, mythology and maybe even fantasy, is required for every normal human being. When Sigmund Freud probed into the psyche of humans early last century, scientifically at that, there was a Carl Jung who offset his views. Alas, in our subcontinent, it is well nigh impossible to eradicate mythology, and at that, it would not be necessary either, because, for all the "scientific growth", it is still crucial for humans, to have mythology as a back-up. I recall that over two decades ago, both the mythological thrillers Mahabharath and Ramayana, had a viewership all across the country, in that cities and villages had everyone glued to their sets at home, with empty streets. Nor should this be denigrated or derided; the mathematician Ramanujam, about whom you wrote in an earlier article, had several of his formulae deciphered and understood, well after his death, and his final one yet to be deciphered. The nuclear scientist Robert Oppenheimer, among the pioneers along with Einstein after the explosion of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, quoted from the Bhagavad Gita, that it was like " the burst of a million suns - I am become Death, the destroyer of Worlds "

Asad Hyder, Ph.D. Nov 08, 2014 09:53pm

@shuaib Your humble opinion is, unfortunately, not very viable. The CIA knew from a long time the whereabouts of this guy. It did not have to turn to these tactics. The spread of polio virus is SOLELY the Talibans and their alliance's doing. Even if the CIA had provided fake vaccines, how did the Talibans get the right to kill hundreds of polio workers? Were all these Pakistani men and women on the pay scale of CIA? Since in many Pakistanis' opinion the Talibans et al can do no wrong, they have to find an escape goat. What can be a better one than the CIA? Even if your humble opinion is considered correct, why did we not produce the vaccine ourselves or import it from, say, China?

Milind Nov 08, 2014 10:04pm

I'm a keen reader of Dr. Hoodboy and appreciate his wisdom..

However still a few things need to be straightened out 1. A few years back ancient copper plates with Sanskrit engravings were discovered near Bangalore. These were supposed to have mention of superalloys (which proved these existed)- as per the mainstream Indian media, which I believe is rational in its approach. 2. The Babri Mosque thing was mostly a political response to Muslim obduracy. Hindus believe Rama was born there, but again as with Hindu philosophy everything's negotiable.. Else we would have seen clamour for restoration of the temple there (no one bothers about it anyway, the new generation is probably unaware of this). 3. The Babri Mosque was clearly built on top of a temple, Babar's own court historian acknowledged it and the foundation design elements are a clear giveaway. 4. About Ganesha drinking milk, well scientists attributed capillary action to be the cause, but again this was not convincingly proven. Of course there's got to be a scientific reason probably undiscovered so far. And yes, the mad rush with milk was unwarranted. 5. Regarding Dabholkar's murder, well the BJP/SS opposed him, but doesn't mean they murdered him. In fact the main grouse of most right-wing Hindus against these so-called 'reformers' is that they pretend to be secular and go hammer and tongs against superstition in Hinduism, while refusing to touch (with a pole)similar regressive practices within Islam.

Agreed Hinduism has its share of oddballs, but its disingenuous to compare this with Islamists. Most Hindus don't mind jettisoning regressive verses in their religious books (Gita etc). something which is unthinkable in Islam (Koran is immutable). Barbaric practices like sati and animal slaughter have almost gone down to nil due to efforts from reformers, whereas animal slaughter on Bakra-id is still carried out across the Muslim world.

And yes, finally Modi shouldn't have made such blanket statements on Ganesha or Karna being conceived, unless we have conclusive proof over it.

Last Word Nov 08, 2014 10:05pm

The article makes an enjoyable reading and it doesn't matter if the author has made some constructive criticism on both sides of the border. Modi presently is a mega-star and as long as his few utterances on mythology and ancient beliefs are not focusing towards Hinduvata, most Indians who are secular won't mind them. I may like to add Modi's conversation with a Westerner who asked him whether India was still a country of snake charmers to whom he replied that now they play with mouse's meaning computers. Modi is a tech-savvy politician who is extremely popular on Face book and twitter and wants 1.25 billion Indians to use computers. India is a country where galore of superstitions and beliefs exist, but as long as those practicing them are moving forward and not going back to stone-age, they are perfectly fine.

Parvez Nov 08, 2014 10:24pm

That was a great read.......from what you have said I gather that its not really the lack of an education has prompts people to think this way. Its something more complex possibly to do with societal tendencies, history, human nature , religious bias ....but I am just guessing as you Sir have not spelt out the WHY for this malaise.

AnonPak Nov 08, 2014 10:25pm

Excellent balanced article my friend! hopefully somehow we can get rid of this menace and save Pakistan

Kabeer Das Nov 08, 2014 10:32pm

This is a 13 para article. The writer's arguments make sense. But it is interesting to note that in these 13 paragraphs, 5 paragraphs are about India. Of course, there are 5 paras about Pakistan too. It is amusing that even when a learned professor of physics writes in Pakistan he cannot blame Pakistan without blaming India first. Please also note that the first three paras are about India. Isn't it interesting?

Thoughtful Nov 08, 2014 10:39pm

@shuaib Dr. Hoodbhoy is talking exactly about ignorant, thoughtless, and unreasonable people like you who constitute about 80% of Pakistani population. So CIA brought polio in Pakistan and before that Pakistan was free from polio.

AdHawk Nov 08, 2014 10:43pm

I see a lot of commenters confusing technology with science. The Mars mission was a technological success. Technologists can typically reconcile between faith and reason more easily because the mere application of tools does not always require a deeper investigation of nature. Even in the U.S. it is commonplace to find engineers who are also devout Christians. On the other hand it's extremely rare to hear a basic scientist professing faith.

Salim Alvi Nov 08, 2014 11:08pm

Author is of particular mindset. This is the same mindset which makes us Desis look for approval from alien Journals, books whether they come from MIT, Macca, Moscow of Sovet Communist republic or Vatican. Let me give an example of recent past. It might be "enslaved" or narrow pit confined crab mentality. To save bandwidth & page space here is the link

Shri. Modi might be addressing this enslaved mentality. Moreover, author needs to distinguish religious diktats of bookwale religions such as Christianity, Islam and even Marxism and native spirituality. Spirituality is closer to science. In fact Dharma literally means Natural Law which encompasses Laws of Physics, Chemistry etc. Spiritual Scientist perceive Satya (truth which is not dependent on space & time) directly, the lay spiritual scientist such as Physicist or Allopathy Physician who is confined by words (sadly in alien tongue) wants Satya to be expressed in his terms. Its like a Quantum Mechanist Schrodinger/Einstein trying to convince Newton about nuclear chain reaction. For Newton Modern Physicist would appear as speaking in alien non nonsensical irrational terms. Similarly Ramanujam's Mathematical Truths would be considered as more of a magic, calling him Mathemagician. Regimentization of Mathematical abilities of Ramanujam by Angloes killed its further development. For Ramanujam it was spiritual / pooja / divine but for Hardy and company it was all for name and fame through publications.

Unknowingly or because of Islamic upbringing author makes Science also yet another bookwala rigid religion whose books need to come from the west. With open mind he needs to hear out Khurshid

ddd1 Nov 08, 2014 11:12pm

science can discover, but can not create any thing. You can discover or extract or convert iron, but can not create iron.

Roy Nov 09, 2014 12:08am

@Asif gee dude you sound smart , are you a Sufi Islam follower or just open minded I hope more people like you come through and lead Pakistan , I really do Just maybe there is hope just Maybe

Anon Nov 09, 2014 12:12am

@shuaib When did it happen? A couple of years ago. We've had the anti-vaccine mindset since long before that. Blaming everything on CIA won't help.

I tried blaming CIA for a D grade in my mathematics exam, it didn't work for me.

roit950723 Nov 09, 2014 12:18am

@Khan ... thousands of mosques and churches are constructed in India every year... But media never propagates it like Babri masjid demolition..

mac Nov 09, 2014 12:27am

@shuaib The CIA's operation in Abbottabad certainly hurt the effort by legitimate vaccination workers in Pakistan. As Dr Sahab said, "Once evidence becomes irrelevant, everything becomes possible... The progress of science may suffer, but society and individuals take the brunt." Now that some tribal leaders are misinformed that ALL health workers must be CIA spies, it is individuals and children that suffer.

America has its own problem w/ misinformation regarding vaccines. There has been an increase in smallpox and other viruses because some people stopped vaccinating their children after a rumor spread that they cause Autism in children, a claim proven completely false by the scientific community. Yet some people still believe it.

ROHIT PANDEY Nov 09, 2014 12:38am

Actually,Narendra Modi DID say some very silly things?

It some how does not jell with his CEO image who uses Powerpoint presentations extracted from bureaucrats and technocrats into doable plans.

That said,not many in India believe in clap trap. Millions upon millions of Indians are trained in science and technology every year and there exists a strong left wing presence in India who debunk these esoteric trips into the distant past to paint a picture of "glory"?

All said I would say reason and rationality are on much better footing in India than in Pakistan?

I sincerely hope Modi increases funding to institutes like Indian Institute of Science and to ISRO or CSIR and not foist his personal beliefs on the unwary?

ROHIT PANDEY Nov 09, 2014 12:53am

I think there was a jibe in BBC at the ISRO scientists who break coconuts to Lord Ganesha before they start their work?

Happens,i guess? When one starts to learn science,ending with a Ph D or a D Sc one does not necessarily unlearn what has been learnt from the past?

Ever heard of Erich Fromm,who coined the term "transanctional analysis"--how human interactions can be broken down into three categories Parent Adult and Child? The Parent mode is when one says/does things blindly according to value system inherited from parental admonishments. Adult is when the person does things after assessing a situation or an event in light of cold reason and Child is when the person is decompensated in some manner and reacts in an irrational child like fashion? PAC sums up an individuals reactions in response to others?

I think very few of us are rational all the while.Some where supersition irrationality does creep in ? Even highly educated people do act very silly and reason often slips?

Narendra Modi IS a super star PM very different from the past dispensation of Congress. I sincerely hope that he pushes through reforms to accelerate the free market forces.

But,I DO also hope that he won't air his private beliefs in public? Somehow does not jell with the image of a very modern leader?:):):)

Mohanned Nov 09, 2014 12:56am

@Karachiwalla Sir if you brought up your children well then you really dont need to worry about all that. Every child's first school is his/her home. If your parenting was good then they should have similar opinion as you have and wont come under the spell of any Saudi Cleric.

think_then_speak Nov 09, 2014 01:45am

Its an audacious attempt. Hope that it would change someone , somewhere , sometime. Till then, lets see the mockery of reason through the triumph of ignorance.

lalit bagai Nov 09, 2014 01:46am

most modern minded hindus dont really believe in hindu mythology- they consider it as cultural enrichment- harmless fantasy. they will not attack anyone who disagrees. in pakistan even even modern muslims will kill for the sin of apostasy,blasphemy. there lies the difference

lalit bagai Nov 09, 2014 01:53am

@Unnamed modi is very modern in his thinking- dont judge him by a few silly remarks- man has brought solar ,wind energy to gujerat,along with drip irrigation- has encouraged industry- his religiousity can mislead him at times- but that not his basic mindset

luqman Nov 09, 2014 02:12am

dr. saab, if everything comes to arguments and logics, these superstitious theories will remain no more.... Islam is the best example which talks in logics but if it was not sold to mullahs on cheap price...

ROHIT PANDEY Nov 09, 2014 02:21am

I hate to do this and win some enemies?

But,Dr Aafia Siddiqui is a MIT trained neuroscientist right?:):)

I don't know what blight in her personality drove her to do what she did?

My point: a highly trained scientist is not free of emotional decisions....Narendra Modi is not free from it either I suppose?:):):)

Irfan Nov 09, 2014 02:26am

@Shoaib N. I don't think you will get many Chinese agreeing with you , especially in HK

Mohammad Ali Khan Nov 09, 2014 02:47am

If we go back and see the causes of reversal of progress, two events stand out in the last 150 Yrs.

Muslims of the sub-continenet produced great leaders like Mohammad Ali Jinah,Maulana Azad,Sir syed Ahmed Khan, and secular poets like Ghalib.Turkey became secular.Baath party in Arab regions was secular. The start of Zionism rejuvinated and empowered mythology.Secondly the discovery of oil in Mid East strengthened clerics.The powerful Zionist and oil lobbyist control US Congress.

This is at the expense of reasoning.As long as we have the above two forces in the driving seat,the age of un reason will continue.

Jamal Nov 09, 2014 02:58am

So Prof you are saying that Pakistan's energy problem cannot be solved by harnessing the power of "Jins" as suggested by a Islamic Scientist?

Ram Nov 09, 2014 03:09am

Peverz Bhai you seems to get it but question you need to look right and left and see how many are there they think like you and if you have visa UK/USA/Canada because historically those they think like you in Pakistan ended up in those countries for the love of it.

Brian McInnis Nov 09, 2014 04:24am

Your article contains a dearth of periods, my good man.

Shridhar Subrahmanyam Nov 09, 2014 04:26am

Preof. Hoodhboy, I have a lot of respect for you both as an academic and also one of the most erudite and modernist intellectual in Pakistan. What you say about Modi and the RSS types in BJP is very true. There is a crazy fringe element in our society which believes that all modern advances in science and technology were known to the ancient Hindus and it is all in the Vedas. That, most of us know, that is utter nonsense. However, this crazy fringe element does not impinge upon the progress of the country as the majority just ignores statements like what Modi made. I would be surprised if even Modi believed it to be true, politicians will say what the audience wants to hear, no matter how bizarre that might be. The very crucial difference between Pakistan and India is that such statements and beliefs are ignored and scientists and technologists go about doing what they do best, which is to contribute to the development of the nation. In Pakistan such beliefs are used by the lumpen elements to cause mayhem and mass murder or join lynch mobs. That is what is frightening and is taking the country down a slippery slope.

Aaa Nov 09, 2014 04:44am

Good point of view. You mixed up some terms and facts - 2 of which I will clarify. Cosmetic surgery - Chanakya performed rhinoplasty about 2000 years ago. His method is recorded and the original ,2000 year old text can be found with a simple google search. Enough discovery channel documentaries have explained the procedure as performed by Chanakya. Vedic math is an actual math program very similar to Japanese multiplication method ( which btw is called 'Indian multiplication method' in japan!)

Joseph Yau Nov 09, 2014 05:38am

@shuaib Either you have a very poor sense of irony or you are truly misguided. This article is about evidence. Yet you precisely throw out accusations without any evidence. Well done proving the author's point.

shuaib Nov 09, 2014 05:56am

Those who think that CIA gfot nothing to do with the recent rise in polio cases just read the following article.

Ravindra Sharma Nov 09, 2014 06:45am

Sir , your article is praiseworthy but you should have noted the fact that before 45 yrs back Helen of Troy as narrated in western literature was considered to be myth but when western researchers excavated and found this in Turkey then world know the reality . 2 - In 1920s when Indus Valley Civilization found after excavation no body knows about that 3- When the drowned city of Dwarka was found after marine excavation no body knows about the reality . So in the light of above facts without extensive research and finding nothing can be declared a lie rather myth is a myth and waiting to be researched .

ashraf Nov 09, 2014 06:58am

I travel back to my beloved Pakistan once a year and I am dismayed at the rise of 'unreason' particularly among a large section of our educated/semi-educated elites. It makes me sad because these people have a far greater impact than the common man on the street who arguably fall victim to the mullahs only to escape the subjugation by their feudals. Given better economic opportunities & some justice, the latter have a better chance of reasoning than those who perpetuate 'unreason'... Thank you professor for another thought provoking article..

Aysha Nov 09, 2014 06:59am

@mimi sur Not EVERYBODY comes out of his mother's womb in this day of science. Have you heard a word surrogate mother? the baby comes out of their womb is not their baby.

Khatri Nov 09, 2014 07:02am

This my humble request to translate article in Urdu and publish on Dawn Urdu .... I shared the article on fb ... Unfortunately some are taking this article as anti Indian/ Religion as I got coments on fb and read here too ... As my understanding the article is arguing about to develop a society where questioning, reasoning and logic should be norm in every walks of life from economics to politics to social life ... A society based on "agreed to be disagred with respect of others perspectives" ... Mula is a symbol of reactionary ideology in any religion even existing in scientific field ... this must be differ from ULMA of any religion and field contributing to build ROSHAN KHAYAL society .... but fact is as in Jalib's words KUM NAZAR ROSHNI SAY DURTAY HAIN ... but we should MOJH BURHAY YA AANDHEE AAEY DIA JALAEY RUKHUNA HUY .....!!!

Meet Nov 09, 2014 07:53am

You must realize that modi hasn't had much education and he was associated with a Hindu outfit all his life, Karan and ganesh are considered avtars in Hindu mythology that they were just born out of nowhere, despite that he has attributed it to medical science and cosmetic surgery read about history and you will know how advanced Hindus were in ayurveda and medical studies, by the way M not Hindu and yes he is a superstar here

Usman Nov 09, 2014 09:00am

For someone who talks so much about facts and evidence, I urge the writer of this article to get his facts strait. I know the person who gave that lecture at IoBM very well. He happens to be my friend and teacher and he is from no where 'Saudi Certified' and not is he a professor but thanks anyway for the complement.

Rohini Nov 09, 2014 09:24am

Excellent article! I love the line "Once evidence becomes irrelevant, everything becomes possible". I am doing a PhD in molecular biology and have both muslim and hindu colleagues who behave similarly . For example, they don't believe in evolution (they say they can't), look at videos of gigantic skeletons having been found in the middle east (and don't bother to see that it was a hoax) and get upset when people say fire crackers on Diwali cause pollution (their argument is that it is part of our culture and region, and by that logic we shouldn't drive cars or...even breathe!). The best part is, many of these people are REALLY good at what they do, and have incredibly scientific minds where their own research is concerned. It is probably very difficult to shake off this suffocating indoctrination which has been there since childhood, disguised as 'tradition' and 'values' in the face of logic and scientific thinking.

Dipak Nov 09, 2014 09:37am

Dipak@shuaib: Never, never what this true Pakistani Doctor has done is the biggest favor to his own beloved country. This doctor should be given the highest award of Pakistan's best patriot.

Taemooris to stop Nov 09, 2014 10:38am

A thought provoking article. Now my opinion if it is not uncalled for.. I have a faith, I believe in God who introduces Himself in the Holy Quran. I am sure that the rational and logical chambers of my brain work pretty well. I do not feel that I have to get rid of my faith in order to become more acceptable to a particular segment of society. In fact I am a follower of Dr Abdus Salam. Now that said, I absolutely agree with you sir, on the subject of superstition. I also think that there is a very good sweet middle ground where atheist and people with faith can converge. For the needs of society and in order to protect the freedom of an individual we all can work together to promote freedom of thought. That is not banning religion or banning atheists. It is in fact allowing both to try to convince. First step towards this ideal is to stop using faith/religion as an antonym of logic and reasoning. Trying to enforce this particular idea is fundamentally hypocritical, arrogant and counter productive.

rohit950723 Nov 09, 2014 12:03pm

@ghanshyam .. Hindus are mostly secular. As we have the concept of multiple gods hence we add gods of other religion also to our list. so For us, Buddha is a god, Mahavira is a God & Jesus christ is a God, Moinuddin Chishti is also God for us . But a large chunk of muslims are not secular through out the world. Additionally, muslim leaders in place of giving them right direction are misusing them...

Singh Nov 09, 2014 12:58pm

Excellent article. We need more people like you on both sides of the border.

ROHIT PANDEY Nov 09, 2014 02:27pm

@Rohini Look up something called "imprinting" in a psychology text book and you will understand why these people behave the way they do?:)

ROHIT PANDEY Nov 09, 2014 02:39pm

There is one Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy, a MIT trained physicist who popularizes science in Pakistan and has won the UNESCO Kalinga prize in it's recognition of his work.......

....and there is is Dr Aafia Siddiqui who was trained in MIT as well as a neuroscientist who is now cooling off in an US prison for terrorism conviction?

I would love to bracket both the MIT alumni in one neat slot as "rational people for they were MIT students".I CANNOT for the simple reason different people behave in a different ways even if they had similarites with each other?

Ah let Narendra Modi have his evening of free wheeling imagination and let people have their spells of irrationality?

As long as they don't believe a spot in heaven is for them for killing other people?:):)

ROHIT PANDEY Nov 09, 2014 02:48pm

@Shoaib N. Indian President Dr APJ Abdul Kalam was an aerospace engineer and was scientist, a poet and a statesman as well?

Dr Manmohan Singh is a Ph D from Oxford in Economics? Or was it Cambridge?

Dr Raghuram Raja the present governor of the Reserve Bank of India is a trained engineer from Indian Institute of Technology, a graduate from Indian Institute of Management and has studied in Massachusetts Institute of Technology and was a professor in University of Chicago!!!:):) Engineer-Business Administration Economics from BEST OF THE BEST institutes!!!:):)

Chinese technocrats run the planning in that country ...but so do Indians...China uses force and intimidation when pushing through plans and India uses persuasion and democracy to do the same?

I am helping you to think better?:):):)

ROHIT PANDEY Nov 09, 2014 02:58pm

@Khan Go a step better and offer to rebuild temples in India which were destroyed by Islamic hordes?:):):)

That way the historical bitterness can finally be put to the grave?:):)

Nupura Nov 09, 2014 04:17pm

The reason sounds tainted when you have to bring in Modi to justify something in Pakisthan. Even Jehadis can do that. For a change, Please read Leelavati by Bhaskar ( Algebra) - written hundreds of years before Neheruvians, the age of universe as calculated in hinduism and mentioned by Carl Sagan, or appreciation of circular geometry in old sanskrit manuscripts. The worst part of the article is referencing Neheruvians. More Indians understand reason.

Ahsan Nov 09, 2014 09:42pm

I would agree what you are saying. We are changing but slowly!

Burjor Rustomji Nov 09, 2014 09:49pm

"The rise of unreasoning" has been going on in Pakistan for many years. When Lee Kuan Yew was here at the invitation of Nawaz Sharif during his previous premiership, he was asked what Pakistan should do. His reply as reported in Dawn was that Pakistani's efforts are directed towards after life, Singaporeans on the other hand believe in this life and work very hard towards achieving success. This was was many years back. He noticed how Pakistani's think, talk ("inshallah") God willing, and work, i.e. leave it to the "maker". Look where Singapore is today and where Pakistan is. This is the difference when one nation believes in reason, and the other believes most strongly in unreasoning. Needless to say very confidently the differences will widen.

emjay Nov 10, 2014 12:02am

@Tariq K Sami

Science and religion are very different. To borrow Tim Minchin's words, science changes its views based on what's observed, whereas faith is the denial of observation so that belief can be preserved.

fida sayani Nov 10, 2014 12:18am

Reasoning does not go with the human mind, therefore mankind is historically is always engulfed in conflicts, war and genocide. In reality if humans were capable of reasoning, they would be either ignostic or atheist.

NASAH (USA) Nov 10, 2014 04:30am

"But nowhere in the world has unreason grown faster, and become more dangerous, than in Pakistan and Afghanistan."


NASAH (USA) Nov 10, 2014 04:35am

My Question: Why Pervaiz Hoodbhoy is not the Chairman of the Pakistan Science Guidance Council?

NASAH (USA) Nov 10, 2014 04:41am

I am simply appalled by the ignorance, myth-driven illiteracy, and mediocrity of the current Indian administration.

Khatri Nov 10, 2014 07:54am

I think the article is not abiut Pak vs India ... nor this is against religion ... this is against this ideology as described by @fida sayani ...

"Reasoning does not go with the human mind, therefore mankind is historically is always engulfed in conflicts, war and genocide. In reality if humans were capable of reasoning, they would be either ignostic or atheist."

Question what church institution did in history and what IS and other extremists are doing is based on FUNDAMENTLIST religious interpretation .. they are surely not ATHEIST but a mindset based on NO REASONING .... Conflicts, war and genocide are linked with economuc and political interests ..... could be any atheist or religious state / person ..... this where REASONING come in ... to understand the dynamics of society to develop a human friendly society by the people, from he people nd for the people ... otherwise Zionist State of Israel and Saudi brutal Monarchy are the best model state based on non reasoning and religious labels ...

NASAH (USA) Nov 10, 2014 11:51am

@fida sayani

Reason is what distinguishes human mind from other animals -- any human that can read and understand Darwin's Evolution of Wpecies -- cannot help but become an agnostic or an atheist -- will that human -- because of the social and religious pressures that include the blasphemy laws -- declare himself in public as an agnostic or atheist -- is another matter.

Farman Nawaz Nov 10, 2014 12:08pm

The reason is that Why can't Pakistan prepare its own polio drops....@shuaib

M Khan Nov 10, 2014 12:24pm

Science leads to faith in Allah, more and more we practice science, our believe in Allah get stronger. Quran tells us about the Creator, who created everything from nothing which includes science. Science can not reach the wisdom of its Creator. Science can be best practice with the belief that there is a Creator. Human being have tendency or ability to forget, Allah sends His messengers to remind people about Creator, and who teach them the morality and guide them towards Allah. Messengers of Allah also remind us about the boundries and limitation of human behaviour. 1400 years ago, people were reminded as majority were lost or had gone astray from the right path.

Raman Nov 10, 2014 02:05pm

I agree with most of your article except the following :

Ram Temple - u r right that no can prove if Ram was born at the particular place - i will go even further and say it is hard to prove that Ram even existed - but it has been conclusively proven that Ram Temple existed in the place of Babri Masjid through archaeological excavations and High court judges have agreed to the evidence produced.

Modi speech - he was wrong attributing science to the myths - but the fact remains that plastic surgery was prevalent among hindus in ancient times and origin of mathematics lies in Vedic rituals.

speechless Nov 10, 2014 05:15pm

In our time speed of scientific discoveries and innovations are on a never before pac. One thing is for sure faith vs science contest will become more Intense. It has always been and always will be upon the individual to decide where to let go off one and side with other. I have seen many accomplished doctors, scientist and technocrats who are deeply religious but still able to strike a balance between their faith n is like a parent to whom you can cry and hope for goodies, love them nevertheless, science is like a astute teacher which expects nothing but reasoning and logic. its up to the individual to take best from both and benefit.

ROHIT PANDEY Nov 10, 2014 07:25pm

@Burjor Rustomji Lee Kuan Yew was right!

Making temporal life heavenly is better than yearning for heaven!!!:))

NASAH (USA) Nov 10, 2014 09:46pm


How about building 'temples or masjids of science' rather than 'temples of faith' -- that India has on every street corner.

Imran Nov 10, 2014 10:13pm

A good article. I will disagree with authors comments on events in India and Modi .. but in general I agree with him on rise of unreason and somehow imagining Hindu Mythology or Islamic culture was superior some thousands of years ago. We should get real and pragmatic in our approach to current status of our societies.

ROHIT PANDEY Nov 11, 2014 05:29am

@NASAH (USA) Actually,sir,you came very close to Jawaharlal Nehru in phrasing your thinking? Nehru almost said exactly the same thing?

I remember Dr Hoodbhoy not taking that as a metaphor was critical of Nehru in one of this articles? Semantics aside I am all in favor of "temples of science"?

I am a Canadian national and take a great interest in the vast open spaces in the country-walks,photos and kayaking?

And,when I am one with nature,I understand why Hindus developed "pagan" beliefs regarding nature.

I try to bring reason and rumination in anything and everything I do.

Though somewhere on the rationalist-atheist-agnostic spectrum I am very proud of my Hindu-Indian heritage..and,sir,rationality and reason are very safe in India..and,sure we can build those "temples" you were talking about?:):)

Maliha Imami Nov 11, 2014 10:02pm

Excellent refreshing read. Its horrifying to see what has happened to minds of Pakistanis over the last several decades and how they have taken the position to passionately defend all things irrational. There is no concept of Ijtehad- critical thinking and independent judgement- left for us as a society. If you question-encourage debate and reason- you deserve to be ostracized and maybe in many cases deserve to die. During the first several centuries of Islam, Muslim scholars had exercised independent judgment freely, and debated rigorously new issues that arose. At that time they were inclusive and flexible; accepted differing views, differing conclusions and differing sorts of influences that arose as part of the cultures of its large empire. We have become an ignorant hateful society and its tragic and scary. Once again this is a refreshing read. Please keep on writing. I hope one day we will see educated reasonable people lead the country.

Richard Turner Nov 12, 2014 04:29pm

Is the rise in superstition and fundamentalism the next great frontier? How can human civilization survive if it has to fight not only western consumerism but also eastern superstition? Perhaps the rise of unreason will be the ultimate mechanism for population reduction. If places like Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and even Pakistan continue to destroy their own civilizations by fighting for the right to chop off each other's hands or persecute their womenfolk, while Americans vote to deprive their people of health care and for the right to gun down their children, what hope is there for any kind of rational future?

Dan D Nov 13, 2014 03:39am

@Shoaib N. Agree completely. We in the US have a lot of political leaders who seem to think that the physical world is better understood by what they prefer to be true than by careful observation and hypothesis testing.

Taimur Nov 13, 2014 09:35am

Writer is right that unreasoning is on the rise and that reason must be supported. How ever every thing can not be proved by reasoning as judged by five senses. Science is limited with five senses only. Anything which can not be verified through five senses, is unreasonable according to scientists. Science can not understand what is light or time and space, yet. We must use science to verify reasonableness or otherwise, yet remain openminded that there is something which even the science can not explain. A good article, though.


Talibjan Nov 13, 2014 11:03am

Thank you Sir for the excellent and courageous article. You are the most enlightened and humanist son of the soil. Being Talibjan i know what sort of education we impart to innocents. I would rather say it is an organized attempt to spread ignorance with a view to keep the whole society mentally paralyzed for political interest. And the lust for power has pushed Oxford-educated to the fray. God save this country from the idiots that are roaming every nook and corner of the country.