Science Nay-Sayers in the West and their Cultural Counterparts in Sri Lanka.
Posted on March 31st, 2015

By Chandre Dharmawardana, Ottawa, Canada

Galileo nearly got burnt at the stake for heresy when he claimed that the Earth orbited around the sun instead of being the fixed center of the God-created Universe. At that time most people were science Nay-Sayers. A century before Galileo, when Christopher Columbus defiantly sailed  West seeking Eastern India, most people  believed that the Earth was flat, as was evident to the eye. This view was common to almost all cultures, be it Hindu, Buddhist, Chinese or Hebrew. Today many of us happily believe that people are well informed in this age of the internet and Google.

Amazingly, the very opposite  is also true. Rich counties like the USA  or the Oil Kingdoms are not educated societies. Fundamentalist religions remains powerful and science Nay-Sayers are well funded and articulate. While the Western nations spend billions in  scientific research, the average citizen prefers to use the fruits of science (i.e., technology) while  refusing to come to terms with  what he/she finds incomprehensible, counter-intuitive and often going against traditional beliefs and practices. Instead of expecting to build an improved world using science, Science Nay-Sayers take a very distopian view of   modern knowledge.  They, like their counterparts during Galileo’s times,  seek  to find solace in returning to traditional ways”, even though Humpty-Dumpty cannot be be put back, with some 22  million new people ( population of Sri Lanka!) added to the global population every two month!

Flat-earthists and science as Patta-Pal-Boru”.

The rejection of  information which is supported by over-whelming  evidence has  been greatly facilitated with the growth of the  internet  with its wired free-thinker” cults who want to rid themselves of the shackles of science”  with its demand for evidence  regard as `”infantile”, unreasonable”, or even authoritarian”. Even the shape of the earth is contested. The concave-earth”  is hollow and  we live inside it, facing the sun, moon and  planets at the center;  the stars are an illusion.

Dr. Mendis, a Peradeniya philosopher of the 1960s argued that  directly perceived understanding has credence over abstract constructions fantasized” by the mind. His seminars were dead serious about  the earth being flat. The nearly spherical-earth belief is rejected as  a  strongly held urban myth” or a Rudyard Kipling story.  Mendis, a Catholic philosopher,  held that all truth comes from God. So Mendis quit  his University  and became a Trappist monk.  Philosophers who hold extremely  idealist solipsist positions have been known from ancient times.   Modern science skeptics like Bruno Latour or Nelson Goodman even regard science as a dangerous conspiracy hatched against society. I have discussed some of these in chapter 2 of my  book entitled  A physicist’s view of matter and mind”.

Dr. Nalin de Silva come two decades after Mendis, with a baggage of  physics, Buddhism and Sinhla Jaathikathvaya” (roughly, nationalism”). Dr. Silva’s command of Physics has been increasingly shaky, with his recent claims of a mass for the photon, based on his misunderstanding of Einstein’ s famous equation (see the Lankaweb article. http://www.lankaweb.com/news/items/2015/03/17/the-accepted-meaning-of-einsteins-emc2-the-mass-of-the-photon-and-some-misconceptions-about-them/ )

Dr. Nalin de Silva  is known in Sri Lanka for his claim that science is  a   Patta-Pal-Boru” (fully-fermented lie). Dr. Mendis referred to abstract mental constructs as fantasies” or urban myths”. Dr. Silva  also rejects abstract knowledge.  Knowledge” possessed by all  ordinary people (the ‘pruthagjana’), i.e., those who have not become  Arhanths,  is really false knowledge or Musa ” ( lies). He  forgets that  one of the precepts in Buddhism is to not to utter ‘Musaa-vaada’. This is impossible to practice  if the prutagjanas know only Musa!.  Dr. Nalin de Silva (who is a pruthagjana), claims that only  the Arhanths have true knowledge! This is simply the paradox of the Cretan who said that all Cretans are liars!

Dr. Silva’s  pruthagjana uses the sense data coming from his five senses and from the mind to make abstract constructions, or kathandara” (stories) which in the end become formulated into Patta-pal-boru” (fully-fermented lies).  This rejection of scientific knowledge is also  condemned  as  Western science” linked to the culture of the Judo-Christian religions”.   That modern science was a struggle against the myths of Creator-based religions is well known to historians of science. In fact, the Buddha was one of the earliest thinkers to emphasize the importance of the experimental method in the Gnana Sutra”, where it is asserted that truth must be tested, just as a noble metal (e.g., Gold) has to be distinguished from a base metal by testing it on the touchstone (for a discussion of this, see Tchirbatsky’s book on Buddhist Logic”, Vol. 1).

Although eastern science” is also based on Musa”, that Musa  is preferred by Dr. Nalin de Silva. After rejecting science as abstract and falsely based on induction”, Dr. Silva embraces the occult sciences and claims to be currently studying ”extra-sensory perception”. His notoriety here is in his trust of the words of a lady, a Pruthagjana,  who hears the voice of God Natha”, the God of the Naga tribes, absorbed into Buddhism as a Bodhisatva (as evident from a stone Inscription found at Mihintale).

Pesticides,  Wi-fi radiation and  Cancer claims.

Allegedly, God Natha  revealed  the presence of Arsenic in the Rajarata environment, as the cause of Kidney diseases among its residents. Dr. Silva chastises Dr. Jayasumana for proposing  Glyphosate” as a cause without the sanction of the God (deviyanta horaaa”). There is no experimental  evidence  for the presence of significant amounts (e..g, even 10 parts per billion)  of Arsenic or Glyphosate in the water table of the Rajarata. But Dr Silva  regards that his type of knowledge is not subject  to such authoritarian constraints as needing evidence”.

Even in capitalist countries like the USA where social welfare and subsidies for the poor are treated as creeping communism,  there is a strong distrust of big business  and even public health or environmental policies (e.g., on global warming). A strong divide exists between scientists and the public with respect to fertilizers,  pesticides, as well as with cell-pone radiation (wi-fi). Many members of the public oppose them in the  belief that they cause cancer” (while perhaps happily puffing a cigarette !).

Even the WHO has  yielded to NGO activism and  declared  the need for further rounds of investigation into the safety (or not) of  wi-fi radiation. The  8 billion cell-phones, laptops, tablets, etc., that used wi-fi during the last 10 years, and the lack of any authenticated cases of  cancer from wi-fi, imply that the probability of  cancer from wi-fi in the next 10 years is less than one in eight-billion! Einstein’s 1905 theory of the photo-effect which won him the Nobel prize tells us that wi-fi photons cannot cause the chemical changes needed for cancer. But such arguments do not move the Science Nay-Sayers propelled by public fear.

Leftist groups opposed to big business”  use the public fears of fertilizers and pesticides against Agri-Giants” like Monsanto by inventing evidence”  for what they perceive to be the public good”. Dedicated anti-GMO activism of well established environmental” organizations like Greenpeace, caused  some  Directors to resign in protest against deliberate mis-information”.

These Nay-Sayers of science  have no hesitation of using science”  to support their beliefs. When a  recent WHO report on Glyphosate (Roundup”) was released, the anti-GMO lobby ignored the most important parts of the report and zoomed in on the non-committal claims based on statistical interpretations of the data that could be construed to mean that Glyphosate is probably carcinogenic” on long exposure to it. The activists ignored the definitive  finding that microorganisms treated with large doses of Glyphosate suffered no toxicity. Micro-organisms have no immune systems or well-developed waste elimination organs like the kidneys.  If toxicity exists, it is most visible at that level. Instead, this was downplayed, and an incident created by demanding Dr. Moore, a supporter of GMO foods and Glyphosate to drink a glass of Glyphosate if he actually believes it to be non-toxic! Glyphosate is not a food. But even with a food like sugar, NO one should gulp down a glass of maple syrup or Palm treacle claiming that sugar is non-toxic. Many people would pass out on ingestion of such large amounts of sugar. Sugar is the favourite food of cancer cells; it causes  type-II diabetes, obesity etc., and should be banned since our food  provides enough of it.

The news media high-lighted the carcinogenic claims in lead articles, in synch with the 63% Nay-Sayers among the lay public. TruthOut.org”, an advocacy news organ,  claimed in early 2013 that Glyphosate causes chronic Kidney disease in Sri Lanka and Nicaragua. The WHO findings of the lack of significant amounts of Glyphosate in the affected areas in Sri Lanka was not revealed. A  hypothesis” published in a  private electronic journal” with no scientific standing was enough for TruthOut. One of the authors of the paper” had previously claimed that the aetiology of the disease had been revealed to her by  divine intervention. From there, TruthOut  was quoted by other internet Gurus” like Dr. Mercola ( http://dh-web.org/health/RitterTruthout.html ) .

A survey by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAA)  in January 2015 revealed that  85% of scientists supported GMO foods,  while more than 60% of the public OPPOSED them. Thus, although a large scientific consensus exists, the Nay-Sayers make out that scientists are at loggerheads” about such matters.

The Golder Rice controversy.

Ms.  Shiva Vandana, (SV) is an Indian anti-GMO activist who flaunts her  scientific credentials”, thought she abandoned science immediately after her Ph.D in an arcane area of physics, and not in agriculture, biology or chemistry. Dr. Patrick Moore, an ex-Director of Greenpeace who resigned from the NGO accuses  Ms. Shiva Vandana for indirectly causing  the death of millions of poor Indians by her campaigns preventing the  use of golden rice” (a GMO rice that is fortified with carotene genes) in India (  http://www.allowgoldenricenow.org/  ).

SV  is against farmers  using even non-GMO high-yield hybrid seeds that mature quickly and need less water and manure. Her position is ideological, lauding traditional methods and traditional seeds”. I have argued elsewhere that traditional rice varieties must be promoted for specialized niche markets”, and as a source of bio-diversity, while the new varieties are essential to feed the population (http://www.lankanewspapers.com/news/2012/7/77370_space.html ). Followers of Shiva Vanadana in  Sri Lanka  turn out to be,  strangely enough, Marxist activists like  the late  Sarath Fernando of ‘Movement for National Land and Agricultural Reform’ . They  have recognized that the cries of traditional agriculture and rice” could be used for the purpose of organizing farmers for their objective, viz., the class struggle. These Nay-Sayers  reject the green Revolution” of Borlug, and  the tremendous achievements of the rice scientists of Sri Lanka at Bathalagoda and Kundasale.

Anti-pasteurization and anti-vaccination lobbies.

Some science Nay-Sayers deny the origin of many diseases  via microbes and other pathogens. Evil forces, Karma, divine wrath, dis-equilibrium among the  tri-dosha,”, i.e.,  va-pith-sem (air, bile and phlegm) are blamed. Scientific medicine is rejected and alternative medicine is held to be the correct approach.  Public antipathy  is found, especially in the wealthy, organic-food eating upper classes,  demanding a free-choice” for themselves in regard to pasteurization of milk, the use of fluoridation of water to prevent dental disease, or the use of  vaccines against measles and other illnesses.  In Canada 28% of the public  distrust  vaccines, making the work of public health officials a nightmare. Un-vaccinated children contract the disease and create the potential for new mutants.

Medical questions cannot be entirely dealt with using hard science since the human body is as yet too complex for present day knowledge. Mental processes  have an immense impact on health but neuroscience is an extremely young science.  Hence traditional knowledge integrated with science is the way forward, at least for now. What science recommended regarding cardio-vascular diseases and nutrition has changed every few decades, and the public is bewildered. The Nay-Sayers of Science use this to advantage.

Bottle necks and information controls.

Another reason for the rise of skepticism of science is the muffling of  science by governments. Government scientists  in Health or Agriculture have to state things that fit government policy”. Even if fish stocks are dangerously low, this cannot be revealed. In the UK, scientists were not allowed to reveal the actual situation with regard to Mad-Cow disease. Close collusion between government regulators and drug companies leads to the approval of inadequately tested drugs, or lack of penalties for hiding  relevant data. Nuclear industry became unsafe  as  the regulatory agencies began to be funded by the industry itself, as happened in Japan!

Evolution has of course been a favorite issue with Science Nay-Sayers. A recent survey showed that 99% of scientists believed that humans have evolved from simpler” animals, while  nearly 40% of the US public rejected it, with this latter number increasing much more in southern USA. It would be interesting to obtain data for a country like Sri Lanka, a high-literacy Asian country with a Buddhist culture.  There is respect for science and knowledge in Traditional societies like China, Japan and India. The small but influential westernized urbanites  and Post-modernist journalists  are the intellectual vanguard of the Science Nay-Sayers in Asian capitals of countries like Sri Lanka or India.

Unfortunately, politicians ask researchers to fund their research from industry”, and do industrially relevant research”, while cutting  independent funding available for research. The old idea of ivory tower” universities, independent of industry or even governments, and funding their  research using their own wealth is feasible only for a few world renowned  universities. It is the governments and the profit motive that have politicized science and killed the hen that laid the golden eggs”.

5 Responses to “Science Nay-Sayers in the West and their Cultural Counterparts in Sri Lanka.”

  1. NeelaMahaYoda Says:

    Monsanto money talking.

    The world authority on cancer, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) of the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the herbicide glyphosate ‘probably carcinogenic to humans’ in its latest expert assessment [1, 2]. A Working Group of 17 experts from 11 countries met at IARC headquarters 3-10 March 2015 in Lyon, France. The meeting followed almost a year of review and preparation, including a comprehensive review of the latest available scientific evidence. The experts were selected on the basis of their expertise and most importantly, the absence of real or apparent conflicts of interest. The Working Group considered “reports that have been published or accepted for publication in the openly available scientific literature” as well as “data from governmental reports that are publicly available”. They evaluated five organophosphate insecticides and herbicides including glyphosate. The results, announced 20 March were as follows. The herbicide glyphosate and the insecticides malathion and diazinon were classified as probably carcinogenic to humans (Group 2A). The insecticides tetrachlorvinphos and parathion were classified as possibly carcinogenic to humans (Group 2B).

    This is enough for us to consider these chemicals as dangerous. You can run round a circle and say otherwise. We don’t believe it. Just give up mate.

    Please see
    Generation Orange: Heartbreaking portraits of Vietnamese children suffering from devastating effects of toxic herbicide sprayed by US Army 40 years ago

    Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2401378/Agent-Orange-Vietnamese-children-suffering-effects-herbicide-sprayed-US-Army-40-years-ago.html#ixzz3W0IeB1he
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  2. Lorenzo Says:

    NMY,

    You hit the nail on its head. NOT the first time!

    But the WORST part is some people in addition to denial, DISCREDIT Nalin’s GREAT findings.

    What matters is SAVING LIVES. We ALL know roundup, etc, cause cancer, CKD, etc. when used in some contexts.

    In SL, Monsanto stuff kill people EARLY from CKD so they will not live to the phase of cancer. So they will say NO CANCER by their stuff!!

  3. Independent Says:

    “Dr. Nalin de Silva is known in Sri Lanka for his claim that science is a Patta-Pal-Boru” (fully-fermented lie). ” – Chandare

    Nalin did say this and still saying this from the view point of Buddhism. Science is at the moment is simply a “mind perceived, experiment proved” concepts and proven hypothesis. Thus it is very limited in truth.
    The writer generalises his statement, which is wrong. His statement shall be taken within the context.

  4. nilwala Says:

    As once a laboratory scientist myself, but who was and is ingrained into the “open mind” perspective and world view, and observing the manner in which Science has been subverted to suit political agendas which today have become so enmeshed with global corporate objectives, I am shocked at the manner in which this issue is being presented by Dr. Dharmawardena in this simplistic manner of grouping those of us who question the results of SOME scientific experimentations as NAY-SAYERS.

    Dr D. insults the very basic and fundamental value system that a training in Science ingrained in us, by comparing today’s scientists who have the courage to contest some other scientific finding that Dr. D agrees with, to the Flat Earth believers who were for the most part non-scientists and subscribers to some form of theistic ideology.

    That today’s scientific research on chemical and pharmaceutical products is largely dependent on funding by the global corporations that have market objectives cannot be dismissed. That the environment we live in and the food that we consume, as well as the over-medication that we indulge in have resulted in a poisoning of Life on the Planet are also observations by other scientists as well as those of the thinking public cannot also be dismissed. So too that the watchdog agencies like WHO and FAO may themselves be infiltrated by lobbyists is a possibility. To dismiss those who stand up to present the dangers of what is going on, like Dr. Vanadana Shiva,and Dr. Nalin de Silva as “Nay Sayers” is being disdainful of Science itself. It is competitiveness at its worst.

    This essay by Dr. D appears to be a revival of the Glyphosate issue, and perhaps brought on by a challenge to a Monsanto lobbyist who when asked to consume a CUPFUL of the “inert” weedicide when he claimed that a “QUART’ of the stuff could be drunk without a problem, and his having made a quick exit in a huff. Such challenges may become more commonplace in the future with those advocating Glyphosate and other claimed as “inert” chemicals being asked to demonstrate by consuming even small amounts as proof?

  5. charithsls Says:

    There are some futile arguments here for instance ten years is too short a time to test the detrimental effects on body & congenital abnormalities. Big businesses run the capitalist countries & we do not hear anymore of the ill effects of GMO food or for that matter, on anything that will harm the big economy because who is going to fund counter research, not the governments. Media too is under the tentacles unable to take on big industries. Mr D seems to speak gloriously of science & improved technology but see what net effect it has on the humans. The causes may be different, but we still die of horrendous diseases, accidents & disasters some brought about as a result of the very same technology. Can we say our suffering is less now because of the new science than what was in the past, definitely no & so no wonder religions flourish in the very same USA. We may feel our health,longevity & feeling good factor have improved with science but our forefathers were healthier, contented & led more peaceful lives. Take one example, our old generations went to bed by twilight with no electricity,computers,TV & radios & woke up at the crack of the dawn.Now we do not go to bed till the wee hours, technology giving us light,entertainment & transport damaging our bodies. Of course none of us will choose to live in the past because we’re addicted to technology & indulgence. Buddhism stands out as the beacon light & there is a good reason why Buddhas are selective to be born at the right time.

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