Thursday, January 24, 2013

Rationalist at IIT-M

In an antidote of sorts to this fiasco from December, IIT-M invited Mr. Narendra Nayak (President, Federation of Indian Rationalist Associations) to present a lecture on the topic of "The Need for Rational Thinking." The video of the lecture has also been posted [Caution: over 2 hours].

As an event, it's not particularly worth blogging about (for an outsider like me, especially). But, as IIT-M's student magazine has reported, something interesting happened near the end [if you feel like watching it, it appears a little after the 2-hour mark in the video]:

The lecture itself was quite captivating, and had the audience of around 300 very captivated and 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 abscence,” 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.

* * *

Javali Carvaka, a member of the audience, has an extended post on the event. [I thank Carvaka for the comment-alert.]


  1. Ravi Venkataraman said...

    I went through the whole lecture. It is well worth the time spent.

    Prof. Ganesh's challenge to Prof. Nayak were a disgrace to an institute of such high standing. I know the human mind can compartmemtalize different things, but I sometimes wonder if these people pray before they run their experiments or their software programs.

    I was excited by the fact that some students had the courage to challenge Dean Ganesh's statement, they were probably from another department. Also, another faculty member flatly contradicted Prof Ganesh's statements with counterexamples. It is nice to know that the younger generation is more vocal and fearless on these issues than my generation.