The Need For Rationality


In contrast to a previously held Extra Mural Lecture about ‘Vedic Sciences’, on Wednesday (23th January), the EML team organized a lecture on the ‘Need for rational thinking’. The speaker was Mr. Narendra Nayak, a medical biologist by profession and a well known rationalist who had worked for 28 years as a teacher of biochemistry at Kasturba Medical College, Mangalore. He also happens to be the current president of the Federation of Indian Rationalist Associations, an apex body of more than 65 atheist, rationalist and humanist groups in India and a member of Folks Magazine’s Editorial Board.

Mr. Nayak, over the years, has traveled to many villages and towns across the world to debunk superstitions and expose ‘godmen’ who exploit people. Through the lecture, he tried to bring some of these claims to the forefront and clearly indicate the difference between science and pseudo-science. He spoke about ‘so-called religious miracles’ and also debunked the ‘myth of homeopathic medicine’. He claimed that almost every religious ‘miracle’ was a trick in disguise, and that he was not against people practicing religion, but against the use of it to promote superstition.

“As the largest scientific manpower on earth, are we doing enough to reach out to people?” he asked the gathered students. He remarked about the top brass of various scientific institutions in India praising these ‘so-called godmen’ and their rituals, and called for such things to be stopped.

The lecture itself was quite captivating, and had the audience of around 300 very involved. However, it took an even more interesting turn towards the end, when the Dean of Students, Prof. L.S.Ganesh was called upon stage to hand over a memento to the speaker. Prof. Ganesh had objections to the Mr. Nayak’s claims about Satya Sai Baba and said that he (and another professor) had visited the late guru once and witnessed firsthand the creation of a ring within his palm, from thin air. In reaction to this, the speaker himself recreated the same trick on stage in an attempt to demonstrate its falsity, amidst some laughter from the crowd. Prof. Ganesh also claimed to believe in the power of homeopathic medicine and recalled examples wherein two german shepherds and a 2-month-old baby had been cured by it. “Absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence,” said Prof. Ganesh. “Just because there is no evidence of the existence of something, you cannot debunk it. It is human arrogance to think that we know everything,” he went on. At this point, the stipulated time for the lecture was over, and the whole affair was called off, with Prof. Ganesh, the speaker, and a few students still discussing the issue.

A video of the lecture, along with the question-and-answer session towards the end, and Prof. Ganesh’s discussion with the speaker has been uploaded by the EML team :

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