Response to Hoodbhoy

C. K. Raju

This refers to the article on “Corona: our debt to Darwin”, by Pervez Hoodbhoy published in Frontier Weekly 8 April 2020 [1] reprinted from the Dawn, 4 April. The article makes only a vague connection of the fight against the corona virus with Darwin. Hoodbhoy uses the occasion to pour scorn on all indigenous systems of medicine. He offers no source, just assumes that traditional medicine offers (and all that it has to offer) is gobar (cow excrement) for each and every ailment. This is contrary to commonsense, and I know of no actual source which claims this. On the other hand, I do know of a common “probiotic” scientific medicine under the brand name “Vibact” which contains mainly streptococcus faecalis. The use of Latin terms presumably makes excrementivorousness scientific, does it not? Likewise, “fecal transplants” are used in modern medicine to transplant faeces from one person to another. Since it is done in one case, on Hoodbhoy's technique of wild caricature, it indiscriminately applies to all cases, so all one needs to “scientifically” fight the corona virus is loads of human excrement! We should right-away stop flushing this precious “gift of science” down the toilet!

Certainly, the virus will not go away by beating thali-s and lighting candles. Certainly, also, early testing and timely care will help as the cases of Germany and South Korea have shown. But certainly, also the fact is that “science” has no cure for this virus or any virus. Hoodbhoy’s suppression of this plain fact reminds one of Macaulay who likewise poured scorn on indigenous medicine (“medical doctrines which would disgrace an English farrier”) while hiding the fact that Arabic texts on medicine (such as Ibn Sina’s or Avicenna’s) were translated into Latin and used as prescribed texts in European universities for nearly six centuries. Obviously, Macaulay’s aim was to mislead and dominate. Is that also Hoodbhoy’s aim? Even in the case of bacteria, the supposed triumph of antibiotics has been short lived, as bacteria adapt and become resistant.

The sad fact is that most people don’t understand science. And, what does “science” mean to those who don’t understand it? Blind trust in big pharama which is hence getting tons of money right now? Anyone understands that big pharma is motivated solely by profit and willing to do all sorts of underhand things, and can get away with it by “controlling the narrative”. And the fact is that the most honoured scientists are often those who help private capital make the maximum profits, or help the state kill the maximum number of people (as in the number of Nobel prizes given to scientists who participated in the Manhattan project).

Everyone has surely heard of Event 201 in which Johns Hopkins University simulated a pandemic due to nCov (yes, that is exactly what it was named!). As stated on their website [2], this was done in collaboration with the World Economic Forum (!) and the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, and predicted 65 million deaths. This simulation exercise was held on 18 October 2019, some one-and-a-half months BEFORE the first case of novel corona virus, or nCov as it was then called, was reported in China. Don't get me wrong: my point is NOT that the pandemic actually was deliberate, but only how easily it could have been, and another pandemic could be tomorrow. Scientists undeniably have the capacity to genetically engineer such a virus, and, as willing slaves of the state and private capital, which they mostly are, they have little concern with larger ethical questions.

“Scientific” creationism
By a coincidence, I was to have spoken at length last month at the Berlin festival on time issues, [3] on the issue of Darwinism vs the persistent politics of creationism [4] in the US, from the Scopes trial to Ben Carson, but in the context of the much deeper church politics of creationism. (The program was cancelled at the last minute due the pandemic.) The key relevant point: the church is NOT at war with science, as some people in the 19th c. thought. Being smarter than bacteria and viruses, the church is smart enough to adapt and understand that the mass of people who gullibly believe in what scientists say, without understanding it, can be easily conned by promoting false gods of science, as in promoting Stephen Hawking to promote creationism.

Briefly, the big bang is not necessarily a beginning of time, a singularity (supposedly) is. And Hawking claimed to have proved the existence of a cosmological singularity or “the actual point of creation”, where the “laws” of physics break down. [5] (As explained in his more popular writing, this meant that “God would have had complete freedom to create the world of his choice”.) Hawking never got the Nobel prize, though millions of people believe Hawking was a great scientist. Why not (especially when he had the right politics)? That is because this is transparently not science, for there is no way to empirically test or refute such claims about creation of the cosmos. But it is religion, and Hawking’s sidekick and co-author G. F. R. Ellis got the million dollar Templeton Award for putting together science and religion for having “established” that science has proved the truth of the Christian doctrine of creation. The last claim has also been made explicitly and repeatedly by the physicist Tipler, [6] based on Hawking’s singularity theory. Is this the “science” one should believe in?

The real problem is that belief in science without critical understanding is merely another superstition, whichi can be exploited, as many people from Vivekananda to Kosambi have emphasized. And the fact is that most people (including professors of physics) don’t understand the (bad) math behind singularity theory, [7] as became evident during my two-day debate [8] with Roger Penrose, the originator of singularity theory (for black holes). Indeed, Ellis himself was afraid he would be exposed by my challenge to debate this issue publicly in his very own (math) department at the University of Cape Town. [9] Therefore, he instead used the racist and church press to try to “control the narrative” by attacking me personally, to hide his inability to respond to a single one of my arguments. Pervez Hoodbhoy, too, probably doesn’t understand the math, hence he never dared to respond to my long-standing related critique of what he has written on the related issue of Islam and science.[10]

Eternal “laws” of nature
But let me take a simpler example. Hoodbhoy compares Darwin with Newton. But gravity was surely known long before Newton. For example, Vateswara, [11] in his Gola (V. 3-7) refutes the fear that the earth may fall down by arguing that all things fall towards the centre of the earth, so there is no “up” and “down” in space and the earth hence cannot fall. “If you are inclined to believe that it [the earth] falls down, say what is “up” and “down” for an object standing in space. The globe of the Earth. . . in what direction should it then fall?” [12] Indians had developed sophisticated models of planetary motion, such as the Nilakantha model credit for which is falsely given to Tycho Brahe, who, as Astronomer Royal to the Holy Roman Empire was a natural recipient of the astronomy texts stolen, translated and transmitted from India by Jesuits in the 16th c. CE. [13]

What Newton certainly added was the church superstition that there is an ETERNAL LAW of gravity. As a fanatic Christian (though abusively anti-church) [14] he believed God made laws of nature. This Christian superstition that “God rules the world with eternal laws” originated with Aquinas, [15] and, today, “intelligent design” theorists love it. (One must here discriminate between invariable laws and mere regularities, or models, or habits, which can be broken.)

Is that added superstition what makes it science? Yes! That is EXACTLY Hoodbhoy’s position: he has written a whole book claiming that Islam is unscientific just because it does not accept the superstitious belief in eternal laws of nature (since al Ghazali). But of course, the belief in eternal laws of nature is a mere superstition, for it cannot be refuted on Popper’s criterion of refutability as the test of physics.

But it is an important superstition for the church, and it continues to be used in missionary propaganda. Indeed, the church, with its influence over the education system, is still propagating exactly that belief in laws of nature as essential to science. As a specific example, Cambridge University (a church institution) gave a PhD in the philosophy of science to a person who knew no science but was trained only in Christian theology in the Singapore Bible College. He then used that “prestigious” degree to turn the classroom into a pulpit by teaching the theological belief in laws of nature as essential to the philosophy of science. As a Senate member of the Universiti Sains Malaysia I was called in to mediate, and the hilarious minutes of the resulting meeting are posted online. [16]

Newton's “laws” of motion
Let us also take the specific case of Newton’s “laws” of motion, for it is part of the first lesson in serious science our schoolchildren learn. How exactly does one test Newton’s “laws”? Are they science on Popper’s criterion of refutability? Let us look at the first law which states that a body continues in its state of rest or uniform motion in a straight line in the absence of external forces. Let us set aside the matter of “external force” and “rest” as complicated issues. (E.g., a pen lies on the table in front of me. I stare at it for a minute and it does not move. Is it at rest? No. Because just the orbital motion of the earth around the sun has carried it along some 1800 km. And there are so many other motions involved, such as the galactocentric motion of the sun, which carries the whole solar system along at some 250 km/s, or 15000 km/minute.)

Let us focus on uniform motion. Uniform motion means that a body covers equal distances in equal times. But what are equal times? One cannot compare one hour in the past with one hour in the future by dragging them both into the the present to inspect their equality by direct observation. One needs a clock and to know whether the clock is “accurate”, one needs a definition of equal times. While Newton’s predecessor Isaac Barrow made an attempt to define it, and even declared as “quacks” those who lacked a clear idea of it, [17] Newton declared it unimportant to know what are equal intervals of time, and spoke instead of “absolute, true, and mathematical time [which]...flows equably without relation to anything external” (or metaphysical time as known to God). [18] To be sure, one could use many clocks: but that is the problem, there is a democracy of clocks which disagree with each other. Without a definition of equal intervals of time, one cannot choose between them. That is, in the absence of a definition of equal intervals of time, Newton’s first law is not even physically meaningful.

In fact, Newtonian physics failed a century ago, just because of this lacuna, that he failed to ground his physics on a physical definition of equal intervals of time. [19] At any rate Newton’s laws were not eternal; they failed a century ago when special relativity corrected this conceptual error in Newtonian physics about the non-definition of a proper clock. (Newtonian physics also fails beyond the solar system, for the motion of stars in the galaxy is not prima facie compatible with Newtonian gravitation, without accumulating hypotheses.) So much for the pitiable faith of the colonised in eternal laws of nature.

But Hoodbhoy declares the belief in “laws” to be the basis of physics because of his ideological and colonial commitment to slavish imitation of Christian superstitions about laws of nature, an ideology he wants to force on people using the authority of science, just like Macaulay. What he is using is just a modification of the preacher’s doomsday argument (“Covid is round the corner; repent and uncritically accept the authority of science”). Scientists are not more honest than other humans: there are any number of scientists who were and are rascals, just as there are any number of doctors today who are commercialised and dishonest. One uncritically trusts their authority at one’s peril. One can understand why Imran Khan, in a televised debate, got irritated enough to ask Hoodbhoy what he was paid for his propaganda!



4.     E.g., But the scope of the lectures was later expanded and spread over 7.5 hours. Among other issues, I was to take up the issue of social Darwinism and the accompanying racism, and how Darwin’s theory of natural selection relies on the bad mathematics of the anti-poor preacher Malthus.

5.     S. W. Hawking and G. F. R. Ellis, The large scale structure of space-time, Cambridge University press, 1973, p. 364. (Bottom line of the book.)

6.     F. J. Tipler, The Physics of Immortality, Macmillan , 1996. Tipler boasts of having published half a dozen papers in the journal Nature. Also, The Physics of Christianity, 2008.

7.     For an account of how singularities can be easily handled even within formal math see, e.g.,

8.     The Matter of the Mind, 22–23 December, India International Centre, New Delhi, 1997.

9. Videos of the part of the debate actually held at the University of Cape Town are online at, More details at

10.   C. K. Raju, “Islam and science”, Keynote address, Univ. of Malaya, 2013, First published in Indian Journal of Secularism, 2011.

11.   Vatesvara Siddhanta, and Gola of Vatesvara, ed. and trans. K. S. Shukla, pt. II, English translation and commentary, Indian National Science Academy, New Delhi, 1985, pp. 638–639.

13.   C. K. Raju, Cultural Foundations of Mathematics: the nature of mathematical proof and the transmission of calculus from India to Europe in the 16th c. CE,  Pearson Longman, 2007.

14.   “Newton’s secret”, chp. 4 in Eleven Pictures of Time, Sage, 2003.

15.   Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, First part of the Second Part, 91,1,

17.   C. K. Raju, “Time: what is it that it can be measured?” Science&Education, 15(6) (2006) pp. 537–551. Draft at

18.   Isaac Newton, Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy, trans. Andrew Mott, Florian Cajori, Encyclopedia Britannica, Chicago, 1990, p. 8. 

19.   C. K. Raju, Time: Towards a Consistent Theory, Kluwer Academic, Dordrecht, 1994. Fundamental theories of physics, vol. 65.

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Apr 11, 2020

Prof. C. K. Raju

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