"Science" in India

Steve Farmer saf at SAFARMER.COM
Thu Oct 19 05:09:17 UTC 2000

I wrote (about the recent OUTLOOK article on Indian science):

> The emphasis on narrow technological training,
> >moreover (resulting, as the article puts it, in "an army of
> >techno-coolies") means that most Indian engineers and scientists
> >receive virtually no humanistic training at all.

Vidyasankar Sundaresan responded:

> Steve, this is a completely unwarranted leap in reasoning. I say this in all
> possible friendliness - you are just so full of it. The article in Outlook
> says zilch about the humanities requirements, or even the science courses at
> the teaching level. It only talks about the higher level research in science
> and technology.

This is my conclusion, Vidyasankar, not based on the article but
on recent discussions I've had with Indian grad students in
engineering and the sciences. One guy I talked to the other day
getting his Ph.D. (in physics?) at Stanford - really intelligent
- admitted to me that all he had *ever* had in school was
scientific training. This, of course, is a problem with US
science grad students today as well: There is an old comedy
routine about engineers going to "More Science High School" in
the US. Anyway, my friend told me that he knew nothing at all
about ancient India until he heard Subhash Kak (an engineer, of
course) speak at Stanford, several weeks before! His first
question for me: What did I think of the "revolutionary" studies
David Frawley?!

> If you think Indian
> science students do not get sufficient humanistic training, let me let you
> in on a secret. On the average, Indian humanities students get very little
> quality training. In the process, humanistic teaching for science and
> engineering programs receives the lowest priority, not because the
> scientists are blocking it, but because the humanists often couldn't care
> less.

Or because they don't have the funding. But you are only proving
my point for me: What the OUTLOOK article refers to as
"techno-coolies" are, in fact, among those who fall hardest for
the Hindutva mythologizing of history, in part because they have
no meaningful humanistic training at all.

> ps. What exactly do you mean by pop-Hindu? Is there anything specially
> "Hindu" about it? As one interested in comparative studies, would you call
> the to-do about the The Bible Code pop-Judaic? Isn't it even pop-Christian?

Yes, I think that "pop-Christian" and similar terms are
appropriate labels for people who fall for the "Bible Code"
nonsense (hidden meanings in the old texts, etc.). Nice ring to
them, really. :^)


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