Opening the 105th Indian Science Congress (ISC) Union Science and Technology Minister Harsh Vardhan Friday claimed British cosmologist Stephen Hawking, who died this week, had “emphatically said that on record that our Vedas might have a theory which is superior to Einstein’s theory of E=mc2.”
The quote Vardhan attributed to Hawking is from the website of the Institute of Scientific Research on Vedas (I-SERVE), which in turn referenced a post on a fake Stephen Hawking profile on Facebook. A source close to the minister confirmed Vardhan had quoted from the I-SERVE website.
In a November 24, 2013 post titled ‘Dr Stephen Hawking’s Opinion on the Science in Veda’, the author (IserveAdmin) writes: “Stephen Hawking, The Scientist, theoretical physicist, cosmologist, general relativity and Quantum Theory expert in Cambridge University, U.K. has referred the Vedic science books authored by Dr. Sivarambabu (Organising secretary, I-SERVE) and said that Vedas might have a theory superior to Einstein’s law E=mc2. His statement on this subject is reproduced below.”
But the statement is from a Facebook post written on November 10, 2011 on a fake profile, which has a picture of Stephen Hawking as the display picture and is run by the handle @hari.scientist and is followed by 1,533 people. Hawking’s verified Facebook page is under the handle @stephenhawking and is followed by 4.3 million people.
The Indian Express spoke to Dr. Sakamuri Sivaram Babu, whose theory Vardhan referred to Friday, who said he was not aware of the minister’s comment since he was working on his book on the Yajurveda.
“According to the research paper I wrote in 2007, there is an intermediate stage between the Yajurveda and the Atharvaveda which suggests that energy cannot directly convert into matter. There is an intermediate stage. So what I proposed was a modification from the Einstein theory to a Vedic theory,” he said.
Babu said he had forwarded this research paper to Hawking who replied with an endorsement. As proof, he showed the text of the fake Facebook post. He wrote a second research paper which he said was published in the the Vedic Science Journal in 2013.
Babu approached Hawking again: “Later I asked him (Hawking) to comment on my other paper for which he expressed his inability due to health reasons. Initially, he commented himself for my first paper,” he added.
“Both times we were not able to connect with Hawking. The only reply we received was an email which was not directly related to us,” said K.V. Kirshnamurthy, former chairman of I-SERVE. The website states that I-SERVE is “recognised by DSIR, Government of India, as a Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and is registered under FCRA, Ministry of Home Affairs in September 2008.
At the inaugural session of the ISC, in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Vardhan said: “We know that scientific temper is part of our Indian heritage, as well as the guiding principles which have been enshrined in the Constitution. Each and every custom and ritual of Hindus is steeped in science. In fact, every modern Indian achievement is a continuation of our ancient India’s scientific achievement.”
“We recently lost a renowned scientist, renowned cosmologist, Stephen Hawking, he also emphatically said that on record that our Vedas might have a theory which is superior to Einstein’s theory of E=mc2,” he said.
Speaking to reporters later, Vardhan said: “Einstein ka formula hain na, usse bhi behetar ved ke andhar hone ki sambhavna hain. (There is a possibility that the vedas contain something better than Einstein’s formula).” He later tweeted this statement.
In his speech, Modi referred to Hawking as one of the “greatest physicists of our time” and said Einstein was the “the greatest scientist of the last century.”
Modi also said Hawking was a friend of India. “Let us also join the world to mourn the death of one of the greatest physicists of our time, Stephen Hawking – one of the brightest stars of modern cosmology. He was a friend of India and had visited our country twice. The common man knows Hawking’s name, not because of his work on black holes, but because of his unusually high commitment and spirit against all odds. He will be remembered as one of the world’s greatest motivators of all time,” he said.
Modi also said: “The greatest scientist of the last century, Albert Einstein, had given the theory about gravitational waves. It is a matter of immense pride for all of us that 37 Indian scientists from nine Indian institutions participated in the international Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO) Collaboration and proved this theory correct three years ago.”
Referring to the theme for this year’s ISC ‘Reaching the Unreached through Science and Technology,’ Modi said: “The Session’s theme also raises some questions. Have we done enough to ensure that children in India are sufficiently exposed to science? Are we giving them a conducive environment to develop their inherent talent? Our scientific achievements need to be actively communicated to the society. This will help inculcate scientific temper among the youth.”
Reflecting on Vardhan’s speech made earlier, Professor in Physics at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Mohali, Dr. Arvind told The Indian Express: “Mixing technical science with religious scriptures is an injustice to both as one is frozen knowledge and the other is knowledge which gets updated all the time. I am unable to understand the agenda behind making such statements where one tries to re-interpret science as being already contained in religious scriptures, this approach is itself un-scientific.”
Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research (JNCASR) professor in the theoretical sciences unit in Bangalore, Shobhana Narasimhan said: “My understanding is that analogies can be drawn from the vedas, you can draw parallels between ancient Indian texts and certain discoveries of quantum physics or cosmology. But that is not the same as saying that ancient Indians knew modern physics.”
“I have heard about such statements being made from the 1970s, but my perception is that such statements are getting much more attention these days. My feeling is that it would be better to promote the very many genuine achievements of Indian culture and science, rather than stretch analogies too far,” she said.