Relevance of Vedic or palm "science"

By Moorthy Muthuswamy, April 2001

Reportedly, the Indian government has been thinking of introducing the above two subjects in schools. As a physicist, I would like to make a few observations.

It is important to understand the role of verification or experimentation in developing scientific understanding. At each step of developing such an understanding, tests need to be conducted to see whether what is described is really occurring. A corollary to the above requirement is that when a civilization develops an understanding of nature, it must also develop an increasingly sophisticated industrial infrastructure for verification. Unfortunately, archeological evidence does not point to the existence of a significant industrial infrastructure at the time of ancient Indian civilizations compared to what we have today. Thus we reach an inevitable conclusion: The so-called scientific knowledge described in Vedas or the palm "science" is hardly any knowledge at all by today's standards.

Unfortunately, there is a tendency among Indians to talk about the "greatness" of ancient Indian civilization. Until, now, this attitude has been India's undoing. Indians would be well served by learning from a successful civilization such as the US rather than seek knowledge from an unproved Vedic past. This is the secret behind the success of South Korea, Taiwan etc. By the way, the Afghan Taliban is an extreme example of a current civilization that really wants to go back in time!