The rise of unreason

Pervez Hoodbhoy in Dawn:

PervezSome 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.

More here.