Meera Nanda on the Dangers of Delegitimizing Western Science

Chris Owen, University of Western Australia [chrsowen@tartarus.uwa.edu.au]

(Forwarded by Jason Walsh, University of Washinton [jwalsh@u.washington.edu])

The efforts of left-leaning intellectuals to delegitimize Western science and to elevate traditional or native ways of thinking have found a sympathetic audience in India, particularly on the religious right. That worries Meera Nanda, a graduate student in science at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. In "The Science Wars in India," an article published in the winter 1996-97 issue of Dissent, Ms. Nanda writes that attempts to democratize science have resulted in some schools' replacement of standard algebra and calculus textbooks with Sanskrit verses alleged to be of Vedic origin. "In the name of national pride, students are being deprived of conceptual tools that are crucial in solving the real-world mathematical problems they will encounter as scientists and engineers," writes Ms. Nanda.

She also cites the introduction of history textbooks that celebrate "all things Hindu" -- including the caste system. She suggests advocates of "multicultural science" consider the impact of such thinking on society, especially poor, disadvantaged ethnic groups and women. "I plead guilty to believing that modern science is not something to be deconstructed and overcome," she writes. "It must have an active role in progressive politics." (The journal may be found at your library or ordered from the Foundation for the Study of Independent Social Ideas [212] 595-3084.)


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