Internet during the Mahabharat and Ganesh as evidence of plastic surgery - these fantastical claims of the origin of Indian science have produced much internet fun and ridicule. For the first time and speaking exclusively to NDTV, Nobel Prize winner for Chemistry Dr Venki Ramakrishnan has agreed to reality check all such claims in great detail.
Appearing on NDTV's show by the same name, Dr Ramakrishnan said all such utterings were "pseudoscience nonsense" and all of those uttering these claims would "flunk any decent science exam."
Reacting to the Andhra University Vice Chancellor G Nageshwar Rao's claim that Gandhari giving birth to 100 Kauravas in Hindu epic Mahabharat was an instance of test tube babies, the author of the book 'Gene Machine' said, "Its complete nonsense to put it bluntly," adding that such stories are to be taken "in an allegorical way" and not literally.
Arguing even if the Mahabharat was true then it wasn't indicative of science. "Science means you have to propose something that is testable and done by experiment. You have to show the experimental evidence but it's not that you have to show it. You have to show it in a way that anyone else who is expert in this can read it and reproduce it. So when people talk about IVF and test tube babies, if in those they would have been a detailed description about how to produce a test tube baby that we could reproduce today, then it would be science but otherwise it's not science. People have fantasised about flying machines and so on but unless you have a detailed blueprint and instructions on how to construct and create an aircraft that we could follow it's not science. Science is experiment, evidence in a way that is reproducible by other people, so that's the fundamental property that distinguishes science from what I would call pseudoscience."
These claims have come so frequently from politicians and even academics that the Indian Science Congress had to recently issue a letter recently about such theories. However, they continue to emanate from the highest office. Reacting to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's claim that the birth of Karna in Mahabharat was stem cell technology, he said, "The concept of a cell didn't even exist until the 1600s because people didn't have the technology, people didn't have the powerful enough microscope to be even be able to see a cell let alone know the existence of cell so the idea that somebody knew about cell you know several thousand years ago is something again that boggles the mind."
What about Tripura Chief Minister Biplab Deb's claim of the internet during Mahabharat? "If there were such a thing why is it that nobody described even the fundamental things like Newton's law of motion which is the basis of satellite technology? The whole business of technology was not really understood until the 1800s or even the late 19th century so you know to claim that these things existed because of some description of events doesn't make it true. Again if they have described how to generate electricity, what electricity was and how to generate the internet and generate computers, you know internet which depends on computers and computers which depends on transistors and which depends on quantum mechanics none of these things existed, nobody knew about them, where were they if they existed 2,000 years ago. So again its complete nonsense and I have no idea why people say that it makes them feel better. Indians should get over this colonial inferiority complex."
The Nobel prize winner who won for his work on ribosome told NDTV that there were enough achievements in Indian science which should be promoted instead of claims like these.