Science: Hot Air and Cold Fusion
In an article titled "Genetic
Evidence on the Origins of Indian Caste Populations", eighteen authors,
mainly from Utah in the US and Vishakapatnam in India, led by Michael Bamshad of
the Department of Pediatrics from the University of Utah make the claim that
there were several waves of immigration into India, the last of which (from
Europe) was responsible for the caste system. In their words:
"In the most recent of these
waves (of immigration), Indo-European-speaking people from West Eurasia entered
India from the Northwest and diffused throughout the subcontinent. They
purportedly admixed with or displaced Dravidic-speaking populations.
Subsequently, they may have established the Hindu caste system and placed
themselves in castes of higher rank."
In his press statements, Bamshad has gone much further claiming: "We are
able to demonstrate unequivocally that the upper castes are more similar to
Europeans than lower castes..." This finding, they claim, is based on
To a scientifically informed person
knowledgeable about the field, it is apparent even at first glance that it is
the Aryan invasion theory all over again along with its associated
Aryan-Dravidian conflicts. This is now presented as the product of 'genetics
research', protected from scrutiny by opaque jargon-filled language. Genetics of
course cannot tell if some people living thousands of years ago were Aryan
speaking or 'Dravidic-speakers'. What Bamshad & Co are presenting is simply
their presumption that they are trying to pass off as 'scientific findings'
using some samples-all from near Vishakapatnam-and some numerical measures that
they claim indicates the nearness of Indian population groups to the people of
Europe. Their specific claim is that the upper caste Hindus are genetically
closer to Europeans whereas the lower and middle castes are Asiatics.
All this of course is part of the
Marxist claim- that 'class' became 'caste' in India, imposed by the Aryan
invaders. And now all this is 'proved' by the magic of science! So at one
stroke, this Utah pediatrician and his Dravidian colleagues, aided by samples
from Vishakapatnam, have shown that both the Colonial-imposed Aryan
invasion-part of the "White Man's Burden" but now adopted by Indian
Marxists-and the Class-to-Caste transition propounded by Indian Marxists (and
Dravidian politicians) are supported by genetics!
But the sheen was off the claim
almost immediately after it was made. The same week, Bryan Sykes, a professor of
genetics at Oxford University, made exactly the opposite claim: The British
White population carries African and Asian genes. (The same must hold for other
European populations.) But unlike the Utah researchers, he made no claims about
their relationship to upper and lower class Britishers and their ancestry. So
what does all this mean? It means that over tens of thousands of years, human
populations have moved over large areas, and it is impossible to reduce it to
simplistic models favoured by invasionists (successors to the "White Man's
Burden") and Marxists. Further, it is misleading to use terms like
"European" and "West Eurasian" to people so long ago, when
they may not yet have moved into Europe or Eurasia from their original home in
Africa-or even possibly India as Indian records indicate. (So Europeans could be
carrying Indian traces rather than vice versa.)
There is also a fundamental
scientific fallacy in the Utah study. Caste and language-like religion-is a
man-made classification, not a law of nature. It is absurd to assign laws of
nature to them, although Marxists believe that their classification is also a
scientific law of history. Actually, Sir Julian Huxley warned against it long
ago: "In 1848 the young German scholar Friedrich Max Muller (1823-1900)
settled in Oxford. ...About 1853, he introduced into English usage the unlucky
term Aryan as applied to a large group of languages. ...Moreover, Max Muller
threw another apple of discord. He introduced a proposition that is demonstrably
false. He spoke not only of a definite Aryan language and its descendants, but
also of a corresponding 'Aryan race'. The idea was rapidly taken up both in
Germany and in England."
Now, thanks to Bamshad & Co, this
discredited notion as well as the Marxist Class-to-Caste Law has become
scientific! If their theory (based on a sample from Vishakapatnam) has any
validity at all, then Brahmins and Kshatriyas all over India must have some
common physical features indicating their European ancestry. But they do not.
For example, Brahmins and Kshatriyas in Kerala look like Keralites, those from
Assam look like Assamese and those from Kashmir look like Kashmiris. This
diversity goes to show that the Indian population is ancient, having lived in
the same region long enough to have adopted to the environment by natural
selection. What they have in common are certain cultural traits modified by
regional factors like language, dress and food. These are acquired
characteristics that have nothing to do with genetics.
These Utah researchers should perhaps next apply their methodology to
Christians. They can then discover Catholic genes and Protestant genes. And
among Protestants they may further find Anglican genes, Lutheran genes,
Methodist genes, Baptist genes-all the way down to Mormon genes in the Mormon
capital of Salt Lake City, Utah. Their methodology is the kind of numerology
that can be used to prove anything anywhere. In plain English, their science is
just so much hot air.
Academic prestige: image and
At the heart of this approach is a
belief that academic prestige can overcome unsound scholarship. The goal of some
of these academics, especially in the West, is not so much to make or present
true scientific discoveries, but use the prestige that goes with their position
to bluff and bulldoze Indians, in the hope no one will dare question them. This
was also the thinking behind a recent propaganda campaign launched by a couple
of 'Indologists' that tried to bluff their way with assertions like "no
horse at Harappa, and any evidence to the contrary must be faked". To some
extent, their faith in the servility of the Indian intelligentsia is justified:
Indian journalists in particular rarely question any statement by a Western
scholar. They believe that anything coming from the West must be true, and it is
not for any Indian to question it.
As a former US academic I have the
unhappy duty to shatter this illusion: the University of Utah and many others in
the US are by no means distinguished for research excellence. Some may recall
that more than ten years ago a couple of electro-chemists from the University of
Utah (Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischman) claimed that they had created 'Cold
Fusion' in a bottle. This amounted to the claim that they could create and
control an unlimited energy source like a hydrogen bomb in a bottle, which would
eventually solve the world's energy problems. It has not turned out that way.
California is having daily blackouts. The work reported by Michael Bamshad and
his colleagues-also from the University of Utah of Cold Fusion fame-falls in the
The message of all this is that any
claim should be subjected to critical scrutiny and not accepted simply because
it happens to come from a person and/or institution that enjoys prestige. To
take an example from the other extreme, the mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujam
was working as a clerk in the Madras Port Trust when he made some of the
greatest discoveries in modern mathematics. And Albert Einstein was himself a
"clerk, third class" at the Swiss Patent Office in Bern when he
discovered the Special Theory of Relativity. Yielding to prestige is the
response of an illiterate.
What is happening in academia for such extravagant claims that fail to stand
scientific scrutiny to be becoming increasingly more frequent? One might almost
say, the less substantial the research, the more extravagant the claim made for
it. It is a complex issue, but may be summarized as deriving from polarization
of academic life in the US. There is a severe shortage of technically qualified
people. As a result, US is forced to import scientists and engineers in large
numbers. Soon, teachers will be in short supply. This shows that American
universities, especially research universities, are just not graduating enough
scientists and engineers-or even science teachers. The feeling is widespread in
America-among the public as well as in official circles-that universities are
neglecting the educational needs of the country in the name of research. This
has reduced the flow of money into universities, forcing them increasingly to
seek funding from outside for their research: all they have to sell is their
'research', not their usefulness to society or meeting its educational needs.
The demand for such funds is always greater than the supply. As a result, these
researchers have also to be salesmen. This has resulted in an explosion of
journals and other publications, recently supplemented by electronic journals
(websites). To be heard in this cacophony of claims and demands, one is forced
to make more and more extravagant claims. Quality becomes secondary and quantity
becomes all-important. This is called "publish or perish", it is not
entirely new, but now it has assumed unmanageable proportions. In such an
environment, survival takes precedence over concern for quality or even truth.
So almost anything is published as long as it adds to the researcher's bio-data.
This is what is behind publications like the one authored by Bamshad & Co.
In the final analysis, what we are witnessing is a struggle for survival by a
disenfranchised academic priesthood that will resort to any means to ensure its
survival. And this includes hot air and Cold Fusion.
Writing as far back as 1939, Sir Julian Huxley, one of the
great natural scientists of the century, observed: "In England and America
the phrase 'Aryan race' has quite ceased to be used by writers with scientific
knowledge, though it appears occasionally in political and propagandist
literature. In Germany, the idea of the 'Aryan' race received no more scientific
support than in England. Nevertheless, it found able and very persistent
literary advocates who made it appear very flattering to local vanity. It
therefore steadily spread, fostered by special conditions." (1887-1975),
British biologist and author, who achieved renown
both as a scientist and for his ability to make scientific concepts clear to the
public through his writings. He served as the first director-general of the
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
Huxley was knighted in 1958.