Science, reason, and superstition - 2: The superstitions in science

C. K. Raju

Contrary to the 19th c. story, the church is not at war with science, for the fact is that it was the church which brought science education to India (and to all colonised people), and we never asked why.

So, what exactly does “science” mean? If “science” means accepting empirical evidence, and reasoning, and battling all superstitions, I am all for it. Indeed, this is NOT something “culturally alien”, as propagandists like Hoodbhoy keep asserting, ironically oblivious of the empirical evidence to the contrary. Thus, every traditional system of Indian philosophy, without exception, accepts empirical evidence (pratyaksa pramana) as the FIRST means of proof. And all but one (Lokayata or people’s philosophy) accept “reason” or inference as the second means of proof. And, as I have repeatedly pointed out,[1] the experimental method was being used in India, 2500 years ago, to put to test even religious beliefs, such as those about the soul.[2]  Indian scholars contested a variety of superstitions, such as the belief that eclipses are due to demons.[3]  These facts are contrary to numerous false Western myths, stuffed into colonised minds, for example that the experimental method started with Francis Bacon 2000 years later. Indeed, the slightest check of facts shows that Bacon laughably maintained that the gospel was the surest cure for superstitions![4]

The fact is that the church ruled Western minds for some 1500 years, and the fact is that church ruled by using superstitions to drive terror into the hearts of the ruled. This protracted church hegemony made superstitions common in the West. So common, that they have crept even into Western  “science” and “reason”.  Historically, this is the origin of the religion-science, and religion-reason nexus in Western science.  I should clarify that I use the term “Western” science, NOT in the sense of the false history that science is Western in origin,[5] but in the sense that the social conditions in the West made this version of science compatible with many church superstitions.

Most  people find this creep of superstitions into science hard to understand because they are ignorant of science, whether black holes or Hawking singularities. This widespread ignorance of science, perpetuated by colonial education, is essential to propagate superstitions through science, for the ignorant can only go by trust. And colonial education teaches trust (only) in that science which is approved by the West.

That is, most people are easily tricked into uncritically accepting Western  authority through talk of “science”. In practice, science today is all about acceptance of and by Western authority. Today, “good science” is about “reputability” not Popper’s refutability. The “good science” is about publication in authoritative journals after SECRETIVE refereeing, etc. (a church system), and not so much about empirical evidence.  We hear so much about black holes, but what is the empirical evidence for black holes? A false-color composite showing a dark region in space? However, acceptance of authority of whatever kind is NOT real science or “scientific temper” but a recipe for mental slavery of exactly the sort which led to colonisation.

Now, I earlier[6] gave an example of how superstitions crept into even Newton’s “laws” of motion, which are today taught as the first lesson in serious science in school. The belief that there are “eternal laws of nature” with which God rules the world is a superstition of  Christian theology first put forward by Aquinas,[7] and accepted by Newton.  It is a Christian superstition incorporated into science.  It is a superstition aggressively championed in the name of “science” by propagandists like Hoodbhoy.  To understand the superstition one needs to understand Newton’s physics. But as pointed out in the earlier article, most people would not be able to explain even Newton’s first “law” of motion.

Nevertheless, anyone can easily see that the belief in eternal laws of nature is 100% a superstition:  for there can be no possible empirical evidence for it. At best, we can speak of certain observed regularities, but cannot be sure how long they will persist. Unfortunately, the colonised mind, accepts this last argument only in the name of a Westerner, the racist David Hume, who basically took  it from the Islamic theologian al Ghazali, known even to Aquinas. Indeed, for centuries, students in Western universities learnt from the texts of his opponent Averroes or Ibn Rushd. Therefore al Ghazali’s argument (repeated in different words by Hume) was surprising (but not incorrect, or a superstition).  But that Christian superstition about “laws of nature” was used by Christian priests to attack al Ghazali, and it is used today by scientists like Hoodbhoy to exactly the same end of attacking Islam.[8]

The point I am making is, I hope, clear. Western science is infected with superstitions; hence uncritical use of “science” may easily become a vehicle for propagating select superstition instead of a cure. The church very well understood this and continues to exploit it: in an earlier article, I gave a specific example of how Cambridge university pro-actively supports this practice of using the credibility of science to propagate Christianity to this day.[9]

Dishonest apologists for the West typically misrepresent and caricature my argument as a wholesale rejection of Western science.  So, to reiterate, my demand is to  critically re-examine present-day science, to identify and eliminate any and all Western superstitions in present-day “science”. This is what I mean by decolonising science. To do this, we first need to enable people at large to understand real science by decolonising science and math education.

(To be continued)


2. दीघनिकाय, Hindi trans. Rahul Sankrityayan, Parammitra Prakashan, Delhi 2002, Payasi sutta.
3. लल्ल, शिष्यधीव्र्द्धिद, chp. 20 मिथ्याज्ञाननिराकरणम्, and वटेश्वर, गोल, भूगोल: 5.5. For an account in English, see “Indians against superstition”, extract posted at:
4. Novum Organum, p. 89, The Works of Francis Bacon, ed. J. Spedding et al.,
5. C. K. Raju, Is Science Western in Origin?, Dissenting Knowledges Pamphlet Series (Multiversity, 2009).
7. Thomas Aquinas, Sumnma Theologica, n.d., First part of the second part, 91,1.
8. C. K. Raju, “Islam and Science,” in Islam and Multiculturalism: Islam, Modern Science, and Technology, ed. Asia-Europe Institute University of Malaya and Japan Organization for Islamic Area Studies Waseda University, 2013, 1–14,
9. “Minutes of a Discussion in the Philosophy Department of the Universiti Sains Malaysia,” accessed May 26, 2020,

Prof. C. K. Raju, TGA Laureate, Honorary Professor, Indian Institute of Education Tagore Fellow, Indian Institute of Advanced Study

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Jun 8, 2020

Prof. C. K. Raju

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