"Science" in India

Vidyasankar Sundaresan vsundaresan at HOTMAIL.COM
Sun Oct 22 22:21:11 UTC 2000

>     From the point of view of European (and I hope, of many Indian)
>scholars, Steve Farmer did nothing wrong. He just expressed his opinion
>about the system of technical education in another country. If he

Dear Dr. Vassilkov,

By your argument, nobody here is doing anything wrong, for everybody is
simply expressing an opinion about something or the other, whether they know
diddly-squat about it or not. We keep hearing two things often on this list.

1. People should not make statements without doing proper research.
2. This list is for trained Indologists, not for passionate amateurs
   to express their ill-founded opinions.

Let us apply them here, shall we?

1. I invite Steve Farmer to enlighten us about the details of the research
he has conducted into the quality of scientific education in India. It is
not my contention that nobody should criticize it. I would just prefer that
he who does the criticizing have earned the right to do so. Everybody is
willing to listen to the blunt criticisms of the Indian system that someone
like Prof. Indiresan frequently offers. Indiresan has the authority to
criticize, Farmer does not. Just as most of the scientists and engineers on
this list have not earned the right or the intrinsic authority to talk about
most Indological issues. Now why is that so difficult for so many people to
understand? Or is it that only established and a select few wannabe
Indologists have a right to criticize and to express their opinions?

2. I invite Steve Farmer, or indeed, anybody on this list, to show that
Farmer is indeed a trained Indologist. From what I can make out, he has as
much training in Indology as I do, and perhaps less background than I. He
invited much heat from established Indologists in the not very distant past,
by airing his skepticism about the orality of Vedic transmission. One
instance where he was right does not make him a general expert on ancient
India or on contemporary Indian education.

If I felt that he was being intentionally provocative, my response is not a
knee-jerk reaction. Why do all of you assume that Farmer didn't know what
response to expect? He has seen far worse reactions from the other
passionate lists of which he is a member. He knew exactly what sort of
beehive he was poking into. Perhaps the next line of defence  will be to
tell us that he didn't even know what it was that he was poking into. Do
give the man credit for his own thoughts. One who intentionally attacks a
beehive had better come adequately prepared to avoid the stings.

I am also just expressing a wish that the experts on this highly
self-referential and self-reverential list stand up to the same standards
that they expect out of amateurs, and that they apply the same standards to
all the amateurs, including Steve Farmer. This will be my last post on this
rather futile thread. Let me just say that as a result of these kinds of
discussions, certain attitudes keep getting reinforced, on all sides, which
is not a very healthy sign for a scholarly group.


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