Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Stanford Daily: Scientist slams philology

feb 20th
good. scientists are now jumping into the fray. this is by a scientist at stanford slamming pseudo-science.
important points about falsifiability and other characteristics of scientific theories. aryan invasion mythology is unfalsifiable and unverifiable, hence it is not science, but faith.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
This article slams Aryan Invasion Fantasy, philology, Max Muller, and Vinay Lal and speaks up for science. Scientists are fighting back!

The Stanford Daily, Friday, February 17 2006, Page 4
Oppose creationism

By J.Sreedhar

An issue has been quietly brewing in California regarding the contents of school textbooks. In the past few months, there have been repeated clashes between scientists and creationists in Sacramento's corridors of power, which are likely to spill over into the mainstream. In particular, creationists have managed to influence decisions made by California's State Board of Education.

It is well known that proponents of biblical creationism object to scientific ideas like evolution and regularly clamor for equal treatment of their beliefs in school textbooks.

In the scientific method, one makes observations and comes up with a hypothesis that makes accurate predictions. The results obtained by the scientific method are repeatable and the hypotheses themselves are potentially falsifiable by new evidence. On the other hand, pseudo-scientific theories make assumptions that can neither be proved nor disproved but are taken as truth. They do not follow the rules of logic, discard scientific evidence and are based on faith.

A field that qualifies as a pseudo-science and is based on creationism is philology which was developed in the 19th century. By cloaking its arguments in academic language and claiming to reconstruct human history by analyzing the roots of words in various languages, it passes off biblical descriptions as historical events. One of the pioneers of philology, Max Müller, was a self-admitted believer in the historical foundation of the description given in Genesis and asserted that "we still speak the language of the first ancestors of our race." He went so far as to write to Charles Darwin that evolution is false because the languages of animals do not resemble those of humans.  

Although today's scientists do not consider philology to be a legitimate science, believers in the literal interpretation of the Bible insist on using philology to promote their views. One such view, which has been repeatedly discredited by science, but is still being pushed for inclusion in California's textbooks without mentioning its biblical aspects, is a theory known as the Aryan Migration Theory. According to this theory, descendents of the biblical character Japheth invaded India after the deluge and populated it. Inclusion of this theory in school textbooks would indirectly give sanction to creationism and open the doors for future frontal assaults on science.  

A recent paper co-authored by Peter Underhill in our Genetics Department analyzed genetic evidence and concluded that there is no such thing as Aryan migration into India. This is consistent with evidence from other fields such as carbon dating, fossil studies, archaeology, geophysics, linguistics, metallurgy, and satellite imaging. However, in a letter to the California State Board of Education, Vinay Lal – a humanities professor at UCLA and believer in philology – dismisses such scientific conclusions as "palpable falsehoods" and "alleged evidence of some unknown geneticist." He avers that science has no role to play in overturning "the long established view on this matter."

It is incumbent upon us at Stanford to stand up for science and oppose creationism. We should do our part to help California public schools improve their ranking which is almost the lowest in the country.

J.Sreedhar is a research scholar at Stanford University. He can be reached at jsreedhar@gmail.com.


virat0 said...

One wonders whether such stanford scintists as this author should give a crash course on rationalism and modern science to comrades like Romilla thapper and comrades in general.

iamfordemocracy said...

There is a book written by Michael Shermer, the publisher of 'Sceptic' magazine (http://www.skeptic.com/) , titled 'Why people believe weird things'. I went through some of the chapters in the book just to find out more about David Irving, the person who was recently convicted in Austria for making a statement denying holocaust.

The book examines why some apparently smart and intelligent people believe wierd things. One good reason is that such a person has found a nice 'nest egg'. Donations, book sells, publicity follows such radical ideas, and there always are fundamentalists of every hue, willing to support such ideas.

Aryan Invasion Theory, I am beginning to believe, must now be included as a 'wierd thing'. Do please write to Shermer if you can, and let him know about this. I hope he included it in the next edition of his book, as another wierd belief. That way, more people will know about the myth, and how some academics are exploiting it to further hatred and to justify their own position in academics.