Atanu Dey On India's Development

Extraordinary Claims Investigated by the Profoundly Stupid

| 20 Comments

Would you believe it that there are newspapers that report total bs without an apology? Here’s one from the newpaper DNA with the rather puzzling slogan “Read the world” : a yogi has gone without food or water for 65 years. That’s an extraordinary claim. But it does not stop there. There are “scientists” who are seriously investigating the claim. That the more extraordinary bit.

These so-called scientists don’t understand the most fundamental of universal laws — that of conservation of energy. All processes in nature involve the exchange of energy. If the yogi walks up the stairs, he is using energy. If the yogi is breathing, he is using energy — besides, the only reason for breathing is that it gets oxygen into the blood which then circulates it for the various processes within the body which generate energy through oxidation.

From time to time, we get these charlatans. There are IIT profs who investigate how some idiot converts water into petroleum using some sticks. Then these investigate milk-drinking Ganesh statues.

The claim that a living being can live — which involves the expenditure of energy — without any input of energy — through food and drink — goes against a fundamental feature of the universe. These claims are made by people, perhaps including the yogi himself. It is of course possible that the yogi indeed has some powers that allow him to tap into some form of energy that is unknown to the current state of physics knowledge. It is also possible that these claims are false. The latter is more probable. Indeed, it is more likely that those making the claim are telling lies than the likelihood that there is a yet undiscovered source of energy and further that humans can tap into that source.

Let’s remember what David Hume wrote about 250 years ago: “No testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such a kind, that its falsehood would be more miraculous than the fact which it endeavors to establish.”

This is clearly a case of extraordinary claims being investigated by the extraordinarily gullible.

  • anup

    “Dr G Ilavazahagan, director, DIPAS, said, “The exercise of taking this yogi under a medical scanner is to understand which energy supports his existence, if not food or water.”

    This esteemed Doctor of DIPAS seems to think that water provides energy!

  • Pranav

    Few of the investigators in such episodes suffer from a disease called identity crisis.These news item episodes are dear to the media, getting involved in to investigating them as the scientists give them lime light in the media. Which postpones their disease for some period of time.When they get exacerbation of the disease,they again find out such BS.

  • http://ketanpanchal.blogspot.com/ Ketan

    It there some problem with comments’ system today? Not being able to get my longer comment across. :(

    • http://www.deeshaa.org Atanu Dey

      Ketan, the spam guard automatically sends long comments to spam. I found four long (duplicate) comments by you. I approved one and deleted the rest.

  • http://ketanpanchal.blogspot.com/ Ketan

    Welcome to the *next level* of reasoning, Atanu! ;)

    *Start of Next Level of Reasoning*

    The law of conservation of energy you quote is based on observations made through fallible means, viz., your sense organs that are intrinsically misguiding. The conclusion is based only on observations made up till now. You claim to be broadminded, but actually you’re as close minded as you accuse others who believe in Baba’s story to be. The moment you assign probability values to two contending hypothesis, they are your biases at play. So, there goes your Hume. And why did you accept Hume’s a priori assertion?

    How do you know, what you or scientists up till now have seen is all that’s there to see in the world? Why can’t the Baba be the first instance of violation of law of conservation of mass & energy?

    Have you yourself observed 4 hydrogen nuclei fuse into 1 helium nucleus? No? Then, why do you believe that’s the process that makes Sun shine? Now, don’t give me that shit about spectral lines. Just because on Earth, hydrogen emits specific wavelengths, does not mean same wavelengths measured in sunlight have to correspond to hydrogen. See, see, even your theory has unverifiable assumptions, & you call yourself ‘scientific’. Ha!

    If you have not observed 4 hydrogen nuclei fuse into a helium nucleus, & yet believe the scientists, then why can’t you believe the specialists that are attesting to the miraculous method of living of Baba?

    If you talk of peer review, then remember all the scientists could be biased &/or wrong at the same time.

    Also, isn’t 30 specialists attesting at the same time just like a peer review?

    *End of Next Level of Reasoning*

    In all honesty, I had found such arguments difficult to counter. The fundamental conflict, as you could see, is between naturalism & supernaturalism.

    There are distinct advantages of naturalism:

    1. Gives predictable results. While, supernaturalists claim to predict, the fact is they don’t turn out true with probability any greater than pure chance. The simple idea that when you put on a switch, the lamp will glow is actually a prediction based on naturalistic principles. Can supernaturalism make such fixed predictions?

  • http://ketanpanchal.blogspot.com/ Ketan

    Thanks, Atanu! Will continue the comment in 2 more parts.

  • http://ketanpanchal.blogspot.com/ Ketan

    …2. Naturalistic reasoning accounts for every observable phenomenon. Supernatural reasoning can account only for exceptional cases, & might in fact be in conflict with established naturalistic hypotheses, which account for far greater number of events. Which of the two should be taken as a ‘better’ explanation – one, which explains only one phenomenon or which explains all but one phenomena?

    3. Naturalistic thinking is economical, in the sense, it’s possible to live without using supernatural thinking, but it’s impossible to live without naturalistic thinking. So, all those who harp on about unreliability of naturalistic thinking are indulging in double standards. They use naturalistic thinking in all mundane activities, but suddenly switch to supernatural thinking when want to believe certain things. For instance, if just like the said Baba if a news would be published that “a man daily saves 10 min by not using elevator to get down, but directly jumping down from the window using a special mantra – ‘fuck you, gravity’”, I’m sure very few would be openminded to try this method. ;)

    Not everyone has seen someone fall from a high rise & die. But naturalistic logic tells us that when we slip on the floor or fall from bicycle we get hurt. Also, greater the height things fall from, greater is the damaged sustained. This thinking allows us to jump from reasonable heights, say 1 to 2 m, but we’d be wary of jumping from greater heights.

    How do supernaturalists determine, which supernatural claim to believe in & which not to? I guess, again by using naturalistic methods.

    But I have seen quite intelligent people on both sides of the naturalistic-supernaturalistic divide.

    Supernaturalistic thinking is usually resorted to, to validate one’s religious/birth-based affiliations. In the news you brought out, quite possibly, it would be revealed that Baba could develop these abilities through meditation, yoga & leading the life of an ascetic. The subconscious thought process that goes on in the mind of a Indian/Hindu who happens to believe the news would be: “the philosophy of the religion/country I was born into is better (more effective) than philosophies of other religions/countries”. If in the same news, had the reason for Baba’s success been quoted to be spitting every morning on idol of a revered God, then the said hypothetical Hindu would not believe!…

  • http://ketanpanchal.blogspot.com/ Ketan

    …There are other reasons too that make people use supernaturalistic thinking. One is many people’s disgust for science (which is greatly based on principles of naturalism). People do not possess the rigor required for critical thinking ( http://2nd-son.blogspot.com/2010/01/effortful-thinking.html ). Magical thinking makes life interesting ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:KC_Panchal/Reflections – left incomplete ). Some people when pointed out their leaps of faith respond by trying to avoid its repetition, whereas others withdraw in a shell & start hating science all the more.

    Lastly, naturalism-based rational thinking is the only way to discard contending explanations for anything! Once we give into supernaturalism in one instance, what will prevent us to use in in all other instances? And which supernatural explanation will we accept, & why?!

    Sorry for the long comment. Hope, you don’t mind!

  • http://ketanpanchal.blogspot.com/ Ketan

    anup, You don’t know that when you drink water there are turbines in your esophagus that produce *hydroelectricity*?!

    Also, wanted to add, 2 year’s back when the news of CERN’s cyclotron was doing rounds, a neurosurgeon had written in ‘Speaking Tree’ in ToI, something akin to “our rishi-munis had always know about anu & parmanu. The scientists at CERN are doing nothing new. Instead of spending so much money on costly experiments, one must turn inwards to gain more knowledge about the Universe”!

  • http://ketanpanchal.blogspot.com/ Ketan

    One more thing, I’d read in a cell biology book that some snails in New Zealand were found to have eaten algae, that were phagocytosed (taken up) the cells lining the gut, which in turn had retained the chloroplasts, thus being able to perform photosynthesis!

  • http://ketanpanchal.blogspot.com/ Ketan
  • surya

    Ketan said:
    anup, “our rishi-munis had always know about anu & parmanu..endquote

    Ketan, thats among many other stunning facts stated in vedas. The creation has ‘beginningless and endless’ and the concept of advaita (non dualism) are future discoveries for scientists to come up with. As always the literature review by them will not include vedas. WE have a responsibility to underscore these vedic statements in various blogs. Cheers..

  • surya

    The investigators have stated they cannot attest the claim made by the sadhu about his past life of fasting. But the investigation with round the clock in camera scrutiny was already done 2 yrs ago. He didnot drink eat for 2 weeks during that sitting. This time defence (DRDO) is involved as well which means a stamp of approval for the methods and materials for the experiment..after 10 days of absolute fasting this old man is holding up well. Lets wait for their findings…

  • Sundried Atheist

    Hey Atanu, quite and interesting account of naturalism. I wonder what your views about interaction between creation (for example man) and creator (nature, by default).

    I personally believe (although it is just a hypothesis and I have no proof for it) that all creations, inanimate of animate converse with nature knowingly or unknowingly. This interaction is what creates changes at the macro as well as the micro level, and hence this interaction leads to evolution, plate shifting, etc. Sometimes I like to think this way because this does not reduce man to a purely material level and it certainly fascinates to no end.

    I also believe the philosophy is the precursor to science (not I am not talking about religious theology) is a certain precursor to science and provide a kind of base on which science works futher to gain proof.

  • surya

    sundried atheist,

    lots was discussed in some blogs, i will try to post the weblinks. Vedas stated all that changes is unreal (maya). You,me, aeroplanes earth and galaxy included are maya (probably in terms of longevity of the creation). The creation is beginningless and endless (vedas). Once the scientists say ‘infinite’ (BTW a hindu discovey), they concede science can not measure it. If an object is not quantified science ceases to exist in terms of describing that one object.Not just earth even sun and our galaxy will evaporate at some point in time.Currently, the term universe has been replaced by multiverse. In that case, big bang falls flat on its face. Big bang explains our UNIverse only not the origin of other universes around it.

  • surya

    Sundried Atheist
    read coments of caveman. he was rapackaging advata with all new vocabulary. Deepak chopra does it tad better in his debate with sam harris, a good recent debate in california (youtube search it)
    http://www.newsweek.com/id/235462/output/comments

  • Vishnu

    Atanu,

    I just noticed an update on this story, after the doctor’s concluded their investigation. Please read about it here:
    http://www.themedguru.com/20100508/newsfeature/82-year-old-indian-healthy-after-7-decades-fasting-86134962.html

    “He was closely watched for 10 days in a special glass-walled room with the toilet sealed to verify that he felt no urge to urinate or defecate.

    He was allowed a small amount of water for mouthwash which was then collected and measured to make sure that none had been swallowed.

    Despite such a starvation of diet, his body exhibited no signs of damage and he was normal and perfectly healthy.

    Scans revealed some urine accumulation in his bladder, but this seemed to be re-absorbed by the body because it was never passed.”

    My personal take – the starving for 65 years claim (or even a 1 year claim) is most probably false. However, I believe that the experimental conditions here were valid and robust, and it remains remarkable that the man’s medical condition was good after a couple of weeks of starvation. We have all heard stories of rishis meditating for days on end, with sparse clothing and no apparent movement in the Himalayas. I think there is some truth to these accounts. There is something remarkable about the effect of meditation on the physical body that has yet to be fully explained.

    • http://www.deeshaa.org Atanu Dey

      It is very understandable that meditation has physical effects. That isn’t surprising. I am was only remarking on the stupidity of the researchers who seemed to believe that the man actually has not eaten anything for years. I read a report today that the man gargled and also took showers. Well, call me a skeptic but it is easy to take a leak when you have a shower. Besides, what’s the big rush to have a shower, eh? For someone who does not take a urinate or defecate, surely he is capable of not sweating — and therefore can do without a shower for a couple of weeks. The whole thing stinks up to the high heavens. The guy is super-normal in the sense that he can survive without eating for a couple of weeks, but he is absolutely normal in that he lies without hesitation — I consider any claims made by anyone about not eating for years to be total bs.

  • Vishnu

    I was searching more about this claim and came across a wikipedia page on Inedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inedia

    Here is the section on Prahlad Jani, based on a starvation episode in 2003:

    “Jani was not engaged in strenuous exercise during the ten-day trial, and longer trials were not recorded under similarly strict observation. Further, his weight did drop slightly during the 10 days, casting some doubt on his claim to go indefinitely without food. Jani claims a goddess sustains him through amrit that filters down through a hole in his palate. The Indian Rationalist Association labels him a “village fraud”"

    – That Amrit sentence makes me cringe! I don’t have any regard for the Indian Rationalist Association though, based on what I knew of their management in the 1980s (seemed like an anti Hindu organization as their goal then was making larger unkind statements about Hindu religious practice than debunking non-provable hypotheses).

  • Pushkar

    Atnau,
    You have somethings against Baba’s? Dont mind but i think you are not being open minded to any thing thats not defined with in parameter of science, tommrow if hypothatically scientist find a way to say take a pill and then not eat for 2 weeks?