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Tuesday 14 May 2013

Western Science, Astrology and Arsenic - I

This is a response to two articles by Mr. R. Chandrasoma and Dr U P de S Waidyanatha entitled respectively Astrology is humbug and CKDu: Scientific evidence and anti-science zealotry published in “The Island” on 19th April 2013 and 29th and 30th April 2013. I am not an anti science zealot but I have evidence in Aristotelian logic as well as in Catuskoti logic to demonstrate that western science is nothing but humbug. I do not claim that Dr. Waidyanatha calls me an anti science zealot but I thought it is appropriate to respond to his article as well. He has referred to Chulla Haththi Padopama Sutta on coming to conclusions with bits and pieces of information. However, he may not realize that the Chulla Haththi Padopama Sutta is against the so called scientific method propagated by western philosophers of western science.

I do not believe that there is a scientific method as such as claimed by the western intellectuals and their apologists here, but there is a method which could be called storytelling and if one may add one more word it is abstract storytelling which is not found in our culture. Abstract storytelling is found not only in western science but also in western novels and short stories which Martin Wickremesinghe and Ediriweera Saracchandra attempted to introduce to Sinhala Literature. Gunadasa Amarasekera preaches abstract storytelling but to his credit does not practice it. His characters though he may like them to represent abstract people representing what he would wish to call social reality are nothing but concrete creatures who could be identified easily.

The so called scientists in Sri Lanka are probably not aware of abstract storytelling as they are confined to what Kuhn called normal science, very often engaging in “scientific” cookery where one adds one liter of such and such to one gram of something else and heat to a certain temperature. The so called theories in western science are nothing but abstract stories and they are not in harmony with what is advocated in Chulla Haththi Padopama Sutta. No wonder that many a scholar in Sri Lanka have misunderstood some Suttas in their zealousness to rationalize Bududahama. The oft quoted Kalama Sutta is a case in point which a well known Professor who can remember almost anything he hears for the first time but fails to understand even after twenty five years of repeating what he has heard.

Before we discuss the Chulla Haththi Padopama Sutta in respect of Arsenic we will discuss what Mr. Chandrasoma has to say on Astrology. He says among other words of wisdom the following: “It must be remarked at this point that famous and clever people in the past were great believers in astrology - the likes of Kepler and Isaac Newton. These people also believed in Alchemy and Biblical prophecy. That great men in the past were mistaken in some of their fundamental beliefs is no reason to adhere to dated and stupid views that are demonstrably and palpably false given our current knowledge of the world and of man’s place in it. Today, only the daft and the incorrigibly purblind will be persuaded by the argument that a perturbation in planetary positions will influence the marriage prospects of a bipedal Hominid in Moratuwa.” I am not sure how Mr. Chandrasoma came to the conclusion that Astrology is humbug. In my case I have come to the conclusion that western science is humbug after studying it as an adolescent, then as a so called scientist having gained a Ph. D. in Relativistic Astrophysics, having being a member of the so called International Astronomical union, having taught subjects connected with Mathematics and Theoretical Physics in three universities in Sri Lanka though none would take me back even if I was under sixty five today, and of course having studied western philosophy of western science on my own for more than thirty years and not by reading Kuhn, Feyerabend though I am familiar with their work. I wonder whether Mr. Chandrasoma had studied Astrology before he came to the conclusion that Astrology is humbug.

I only hope that Mr. Chandrasoma did not come to the conclusion that Astrology is humbug after reading Popper or any other person great or otherwise as in his own admission “great people” such as Newton had been wrong. On the other hand we do not know whether the “great persons” who claim that Astrology is humbug or words to that effect have themselves studied Astrology. How many western scientists whether Nobel Laureates or otherwise have studied Astrology? If not how did those who have come to the conclusion that Astronomy is humbug did so? Astronomy or Nakshasthra is part of Astrology and the Nakshasthra I have studied including Rahu Ketu and the Rahu catching (swallowing) the Sun and the Moon during what are now known as eclipses are valid concepts. Rahu and Ketu are the points of intersections of the paths of the Sun and the Moon relative to Earth. Only those who are ignorant of relative motion would claim that the Sun does not move with respect to Earth acknowledging the so called absolute motion which perhaps only the God observes. Even the “nonagatha” period during the “avurudda” has a good explanation in nakshastra.

Mr. Chandrasoma, however, asks a very pertinent question. He wants to find out how the “grahayas” ( not the planets or graha vastu according to the official glossary– Planets are some of those physical objects that are supposed to go round the sun, while Rahu, Ketu, Ravi, Chandra are “grahayas” though not planets. Some “grahyas” may be planets but that does mean that all the “grahayas” are planets) could affect the matrimonial prospects of a bipedal couple in Moratuwa. An intellectual in Sri Lanka could have asked why Moratuwa of all the places? Whatever the reason for selecting Moratuwa could Mr. Chandrasoma tell us how the Sun and the other planets affect the motion of the Earth? Or how could these extra terrestrial objects affect the motion of the bipedals in Moratuwa? Or worse than that how could extra galactic objects affect the motion of the bipedals in Moratuwa?

When Newton said that any two particles in the Universe (it must be remembered that Newton did not have the modern western concept of the Universe) attract each other with a certain force called the gravitational force how did he know? Did he explain how the particles could influence each other the way he has preached according to his well known formula? In fact when his contemporaries asked him to explain how the Sun exerted this so called gravitational force he had no answer. There was no concept of force as understood in western science during Newton’s days and all that they knew was an object was either pulled or pushed with hands or using a rope or a pole as the case may be. When the contemporaries of Newton asked the latter where was the rope with which the Sun attracted the Earth Newton had no answer. All that he could say was that it was “action at a distance”.

The action at a distance was not accepted by some of the contemporaries of Newton and the western science had to wait for Maxwell to come out with a mechanism to explain how the Sun exerted a force on the bipedals of Moratuwa or Timbuktu. Maxwell introduced the concept of a field in connection with electromagnetism, and it was borrowed by the gravitational physicists to explain Newton’s action at a distance using the concept of gravitational force. Gravitational field constructed using the concept of an Electromagnetic (Electrostatic Magnetostatic ) field is an abstract story and nothing else. Nobody has experienced a gravitational force or a gravitational field and it is only a mechanism (story) constructed by the western physicists to explain how a particle on the other side of the universe exerts a force on a given particle. The bipedals in Moratuwa are supposed to be comprised of these particles. (To be continued)

Nalin De Silva