ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Science, Astrology, and Democratic Society

The proposal of the University Grants Commission (UGC) to start courses in astrology has drawn predictable responses. These have by and large opposed astrology because it is not ‘scientific’, thereby unthinkingly and uncritically valorise ‘science’ as it is practised and taught. Both the content and utility of science, in their arguments, are sacrificed at the altar of method and procedure. Astrology, it is being said, cannot be introduced in universities because they cannot meet the scientific standards of reliability, validity, and falsification among others. At the same time, the larger context in which astrology is located in Indian (read Hindu) society is ignored. This discussion is based on articles in the media, many written by leading scientists, criticising the UGC proposal.

Breaking the Spell of Dharma

This paper makes a fresh case for the renewal of an Enlightenment-style critique of the dharmic understanding of nature and society in India. Challenging the postmodernist and postcolonial critics who reduce the Euro-American Enlightenment to discourses of western imperialism and patriarchy, the author seeks to recover the critical impulse behind it and attempts to find cultural homologues for an Enlightenment-style 'revolt against superstition' in Indian society. By analysing how Hindu dharma naturalises hierarchy and patriarchy, the paper argues for the need for a scientific demystification of the order of nature. Without a critical engagement with the content of Hinduism's sacred tenets, it is argued here, secularisation of consciousness and culture cannot succeed.
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