Global meet roots for rational way to progress

On Friday ( 9 August 2019) visitors entered the heavily guarded premises of Mulunds Mahakavi Kalidas Natyamandir with vegetable seeds embedded In their identity cards and exited with war cries of humanism planted In their heads. The auditorium played host to the first-ever International rationalists conference on August 9. An event, that served us piping hot lunch by volunteers from Vidarbha along with burning questions by activists who had flown in from Italy and the UK.

Organised by Maharashtra Andhashraddha NirmuIan Samitl (MANS), a voluntary organisation founded by slain rationalist Narendra Dabholkar in 1989, the conference commemorated 30 years of its existence with speeches and discussions aimed at promoting free thinking”. Predictably the threat posed to this idea by the global resurgence in right-wing populism pervaded the air of philosophers and humanists took turns to mourn the murder of rationalists such as Dabholkar and drove home the need for a stronger crusade against superstition, black magic and pseudo-science.

All over the world fundamentalism is spreading like wildfire” said Bob Churchill, director of communications and campaigns for Humanists International, who inaugurated the event. We are strongly affected by violence of all kind,” added Churchill stressing the need to build an environment where intellectual and cognitive biases are removed through the dialogue.

India, which is fighting the potent nexus of pseudo-science and ideology, also got a dark sort of resurgence from Dr Stefano Bilgiardi, assistant professor of philosophy at Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane, Morocco. The 38- year-old Italian deliberately parted with his impressive credentials of having worked In several European countries “not because I Iike my own biography but to tell you that pseudo-science is everywhere”.

As proof, he cited the Scandinavian queen who has recently opened a university where students study how to communicate with angels and also mentioned the conspiracy theories about aliens that are popular in his own home country of Italy. Stating that there are times when pseudoscience and religion align and times when they collide, said Bigliardi offered that while a certain amount of deep-seated irrationalism was ineradicable. An interdisciplinary approach towards fighting it has a long way to go. A poignant moment came when Dr Narendra Nayak, president of Federation of Indian Rationalists Association, said that he was proud to find his name on the hit-list of extremists who have been accused of the murders of Dabholkar and Journalist Gouri Lankesh. “It means we are effective.” said Nayak.

Laying bare the looming fear among those like him about their state protection being withdrawn, Nayak insisted that the onus of keeping rationality alive now rested with the future generations “I am 68 now I don’t know how long I live. I have made sure that when I die, my cadaver will be donated to a medical college,” he said. Then came the clincher. That is if I am allowed to die a natural death.”

Courtesy: Times of India