UGC Chairman’s comments on the social sciences and on introducing astrology courses in universities
We strongly object to the comments of Dr. Hari Om Gautam, Chairman of the UGC, about the social sciences, particularly political science and sociology, and his attempt to reduce these established disciplines to the plane of Vedic astrology while defending the retrograde proposal for the introduction of astrology courses in universities (Asian Age, 19 April 2001). This view is disturbing when expressed by someone as important as the Chairman of the UGC. Furthermore, this perspective appears to be widely shared by policy makers in the educational establishment today.
In his effort to claim a scientific status for astrology, Dr. Gautam has defined science in a misleading manner, arguing that it involves ‘probing research, investigation and prediction’. By defining science entirely in these terms, he has lost sight of the fundamental tenets of science. Science constitutes a body of knowledge which is not only testable, but is open to interrogation and refutation. It provides explanations for a certain group of phenomena through an integrated and mutually consistent set of
propositions. The totality of its propositions, both those involving cause and effect relations and the mechanisms through which they operate, must in principle be testable. All the social sciences are informed by this widely accepted understanding of science. Astrology is not. Otherwise all practitioners of occult and black magic can be called scientists because much probing and prediction are inherent in these areas as well; these subjects too should then figure among courses offered by universities!
Besides, if astrology, which claims to predict everything from earthquakes to disease, is to be accepted as a science, then there would be no scope left for any other science, such as seismology and medicine, for example. Astrology, whose purported domain is all-encompassing – from planets to human affairs – must then be either accepted as the sole science or rejected in toto.
It augurs ill for higher education in the country if a person who is unable to distinguish between science and superstition or science and ritual, and who casts aspersions on the social sciences while institutionalizing the propagation of unreason, is at the helm of the affairs of the UGC.