A recent initiative at Muffakham Jah College of Engineering and Technology, Hyderabad, India, has resulted in setting up a program called Centre for Environment Studies and Socioresponsive Engineering which seeks to involve undergraduate students in studying and solving environmental problems in and around the city of Hyderabad, India. Two pilot projects have been undertaken — one focusing on design and construction of an eco-friendly house, The Natural House, and another directed at improving environmental and general living conditions in a slum (...) area. The paper describes our attempts and experience of motivating our students to take interest in such projects. In an interesting development we invited a member of a student-faculty team at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.) that is doing a project in Nepal on safe drinking water. We report in our paper how the presentation by the guest from M.I.T. served as a catalyst for generating interest among civil and mechanical engineering students in our own projects. The paper includes contributions from one of our students and the M.I.T. staff member, reporting on their experiences related to the slum development project. (shrink)
The paper addresses the question of whether, as Nanda claims, treating all knowledge traditions including science as local, denies the possibility of criticism. It accepts the necessity for criticism but denies that science can be the sole arbiter of truth and argues that we have to live with holding differing knowledges in tension with one another.
This study explored the relationship of current incidences of academic dishonesty with future norm/rule-violating behavior. Data were collected from 154 college students enrolled in introductory and upper-level psychology students at a large Midwest public university who received credit for participating. The sample included students from many different majors and all years of study. Participants completed a self-report survey that included a measure of Academic Dishonesty (including three subscales: Self-Dishonest, Social Falsifying, and Plagiarism) and an Imagined Futures Scale (five subscales that (...) included Norm/Rule Violating, Physically Threatening, Culturally Diverse, Emotionally Distressing, and Agentic Futures). Correlation analyses indicated a significant positive relationship between all three Academic Dishonesty subscales and an imagined norm/rule-violating future. Further, regression analyses revealed social falsifying as being significantly predictive of a norm/ rule-violating future. Suggestions are made alerting educators to the importance of monitoring and discouraging academic dishonesty as it may lead to rule-violating behavior in the future. (shrink)
Meera Nanda arguers first-world intellectuals who espouse anti-science, anti-enlightenment, and relativist epistemological theories are guilty of supporting reactionary religious-political movements in India (and elsewhere in the third-world). I contend Nanda's argument betrays the very enlightenment ideas it aims to defend.
The rise of chauvinist, bigoted and sectarian politics in India coincided with the critique and blanket dismissal of modern science by some Indian intellectuals. The elective affinities between these two developments and the larger global intellectual and politial context have been analyzed in great detail by Meera Nanda. This paper provides a critical examination and appreciation of the enormous intellectual and political significance of Nanda's work.
Mid-Twentieth Century declarations characterizing science as a 'Little democracy' and as autonomous from society continue to shape the arguments of scientists' and critics of science studies, including Meera Nanda's arguments. Yet such an image of science has long lost whatever empirical support it ever posessed. This article shares Nanda's concern to envision sciences which support social justice projects, but not the particular criticisms she makes of Feminist, post-colonial, and post-kuhnian science studies.
This appreciation of Meera Nanda's book 'Prophets Facing Backwards' deals primarily with the contemporary socio-political relevance of her work. This essay highlights the significance of the book in the study of the Hindu fundamentalist stance towards the natural sciences and its roots in the construction of the world view of neo-Hinduism. It also situates the emergence of the post-modernist critique of science in India, that has made ideological common cause with Hindu fundamentalim on the question of science, in the (...) context of a long tradition of political debate about the relevance and significance of the role of science and technology for India's socio-economic development. This essay also deals with some major lacunae in Nanda's reding of the ground realities of the intellectual space in Indian society today and the manner in which this is reflected in her analysis of Hindu fundamentalism and the sciences. (shrink)
Though the resurgence of Hindu nationalism as a political phenomenon is well-understood, Meera Nanda is correct in suggesting that the ascendancy of Hindutva has other dimensions, such as the avent placed by cultural nationalist on 'Vedic science'. However, apart from this rudimentary insight, Nanda's contribution, far from being a resounding demonstration of potmodernism's complicity in the projects of Hindu nationalism, is a striking testament to her own commitment to a rigidly positivist, ferociously intolerant, and intellectually sterile conception of modern (...) science and the Enlightenment rationality which she views as the pinnacle of human achievement. Nanda displays an impoverished understanding of the scholarly contributions of the last three decades and is unable to countenance the idea of a plurality of sciences; at the same time, in veiw of her deliberate conflation of Hindutva with Hinduism, and her attempts to equate Hinduism as such with Nazism, it is clear that Hinduism itself stands condemned, and not merely resurgent Hindu nationalism. Nanda's book is an indiscriminate and uninteresting assault upon the innumerable enemies of reason, and it is, ironically, likely to have the result of further eroding confidence in self-proclaimed champions of rationality such as herself and the modern science of which she claims herself to be a true and peerless inheritor. (shrink)
“The day the Enlightenment went out”, is how Gary Wills described the re-election of President George W. Bush in an op-ed column in the New York Times (November 4, 2004). Reflecting upon the conservative religious vote that put Bush back in the White House, Wills wondered if there was any connection between the fact that many more Americans believe in the Virgin Birth than in Darwin’s theory of evolution and that 75 percent of Bush supporters actually believed—without an iota of (...) credible evidence— that Iraq was directly responsible for the terrorist attack on 9/11. Wills asks if a people that have lost respect for evidence and critical reasoning can still be called an enlightened nation. “Belief that does not require proof or evidence” is how the Webster New World Dictionary defines the word “faith”. It also defines “faith” as “faith in God”. The American elections, then, turned out to be a massive faith-based initiative in both these senses of the word. Belief and policies backed not by evidence, but by religious values wedded to an aggressive nationalism are driving American politics. In this America is not alone. India, the subject matter of much of what follows, has had its own brush with faith-driven politics in which an aggressive Hindu nationalism came to color public policies, including science education.1 The question is: how do secular democracies like the United States and India (the world’s first and the world’s largest democracies, respectively), manage to square off their official commitment to enlightened values of openness and religion–state separation with the realities of faith-based politics? How do matters of fact—that is, questions that in principle can be decided by empirical evidence—end up getting decided on the basis of religious faith. This alchemy of turning secular matters of fact into religiouscivilizational matters holds the key to understanding the democratic-populist route to religious fundamentalism.. (shrink)
Intellectual Impostures seemed at first to create something of dilemma for me. My position was obviously an example of the kind that Sokal and Bricmont's set out to critique, but I found myself entertaining a variety of responses, why be so nasty, so sneering, why overstate the case, why attribute failings of individual's arguments to all of some supposedly homogeneous group be they constructivists, sociologists of science postmodernists or whatever? Why be so earnestly tendentious? Yet, did I not agree with (...) much with what they had to say? I too find plenty of contemporary scholarship obscure and irrelevant, and most importantly, I agree with them about the necessity of criticism, especially political criticism. Hence it seemed inappropriate to respond with equally over the top denunciation. Fortunately, I had time to look at some of the associated literature particularly Flight From Science and Reason and A House Built on Sand where I discovered two writers dealing with important issues in the Culture Wars. Philip Kitcher trying to find some middle ground and a way to recognise that some important and valuable work is being done in Science Studies, and Meera Nanda formulating some telling criticisms of the 'localist' thesis including some of my own work. (shrink)
A complex process of place-making by Vedic and Purāṇic primary narratives and localized oral secondary narratives shows how nature in India is perceived from a deeply humanized worldview. Some form of cosmic descent from other place-worlds or lokas are used to account for the sacredness of a landscape in the primary narrative called stala purāṇa, while secondary narratives, called stala māhāṭmya, recount the human experience of the sacred. I suggest that sacred geography is not geography of “terrestrial” but of implaced (...) otherworldly materials––rivers, mountains or forests. An ecological ethics based on sacred geography must therefore take into account the sacred aspects of such narratives and encourage normative values that could apply to both the sacred and the ecological for such places. (shrink)