Wines in India (was Re: "Science" in India)

Dominik Wujastyk ucgadkw at UCL.AC.UK
Wed Oct 25 19:06:11 UTC 2000

On Mon, 23 Oct 2000, Narayan Sriranga Raja wrote:
> [...]
> We [mathematical scientists] don't need a Ph.D. and six years of
> postdoctoral
> experience to understand (some of) Einstein; in the
> mere first year of our Bachelor's degree studies,
> we can derive for ourselves, from first principles,
> the fact that E = mc-squared.  It takes a few minutes.
> But unfortunately, that's not how we discuss the facts
> of Indian history.  We are just told "This happened.
> That happened.  If you don't believe me, you need to
> get a Ph.D., learn Old Ruritanian, and read the works
> of Ephraim Geezer, written in Swahili, circa 1577."

You put the situation very nicely, and wittily!  I think you have
usefully drawn out a major distinction between the mathematical sciences
and the humanities.  I think the distinction probably also applies to the
non-mathematical sciences such as geology, astronomy, and perhaps even
chemistry, etc.  The examples you use exemplify well the delights and
rewards of working in fields based on the exploration of formal
systems.  It is an exclusive focus on this type of methodology which leads
to such statements as "there is Physics; all else is stamp-collecting".

But there are many academic disciplines which do not work within the
framework of a formal systems.

> [...] this line of argument (proof by intimidation) can sound bogus.

Proof by intimidation is, of course, not proof at all, and only an
imaginary and unreasonabe disputant would ever suggest such a thing.  The
Fantasy Indologist, perhaps :-)

In the humanities, professional success is usually the outcome of long
periods of reading, learning, thinking, intellectual incubation, teaching,
writing, and so forth.

Perhaps that's why you have mathematical prodigies, but not usually
historian or indologist prodigies.

Now there's a nice idea, eh?  An infant prodigy indologist, piping-voiced
seven-year-old, discussing the difference between a horse and an onager,
the horse-training terms in the Mitanni documents, the reasons why the
artha-vakyas in the dhatupatha can't be by Panini, and the authorship
problems of the Rtusamhara.  :-)

Dominik Wujastyk
Founder, INDOLOGY list.

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