Sunday, September 16, 2007

Ram's bridge controversy: Religious claim vs scientific evidence

Thanks to Don for bringing this to my attention. This is an interesting issue regarding science & religion. The dispute is about building a canal near a geological feature known as Ram's bridge (or Adam's bridge) that lies in between India and Sri Lanka.
The canal project proposes to link the Palk Strait with the Gulf of Mannar between India and Sri Lanka by dredging a canal through the shallow sea.

This is expected to provide a continuous navigable sea route around the Indian peninsula.

Once complete, the canal will reduce the travel time for ships by hundreds of miles and is expected to boost the economic and industrial development of the region.

However, there is sacred value attached to the same area:

Hindu devotees believe the area between India and Sri Lanka - now known as Adam's Bridge - was built millions of years ago by Lord Ram, supported by an army of monkeys.

Scientists and archaeologists say the Ram Setu (Lord Ram's bridge) - or Adam's Bridge as it is sometimes called - is a natural formation of sand and stones.

So the matter was in the courts and a report submitted by the government has sparked off protests:

In their report submitted to the court, the government and the Archaeological Survey of India questioned the belief, saying it was solely based on the Hindu mythological epic Ramayana.

They said there was no scientific evidence to prove that the events described in Ramayana ever took place or that the characters depicted in the epic were real.

Hindu activists say the bridge was built by Lord Ram's monkey army to travel to Sri Lanka and has religious significance.

Read the full story here. India's culture minister has now offered to resign due to this controversy and directors responsible for the report have been suspended.

So how should we address the issue? Was the government insensitive in saying that the religious explanation is solely based on a mythological epic? This is an issue where religious belief directly conflicts with scientific evidence and there may not be another way of dealing with it.

Perhaps we can think of Young Earth Creationists, who believe that the Earth is 6000 years old and that this belief is based on information from the Bible (by counting generations, etc). Should scientists be sensitive to this view when talking about, for example, plate tectonics? No, they shouldn't - there is absolutely no reason to consider the idea of a 6000 year old Earth for any scientific discussion.

A more complicated example is the dispute over the remains of the Kennewick Man - the skeletal remains of a person who died roughly 9000 years ago. These remains are of enormous value to scientists. Here the claim of some Native American tribes that the Kennewick Man was their direct ancestor and should be buried by traditional means was challenged by scientists who claimed that there is no direct lineage. The origin story of the Umatilla tribe says that people have been on their territory since the dawn of time and that the government claiming that Kennewick Man has no connection to the Tribe is basically a rejection of their beliefs. This gets more complicated because of complex ownership laws between the US government and Native American tribes.

Thus, these are areas where science & religion conflict is almost unavoidable. While sensitivity toward these issues is necessary, we should not shy away from stating scientific evidence. Yes, Dawkins would have a valid point here and in the case of Ram's bridge, Indian government was justified in saying that it is a natural geological formation.


hedge said...

Darn it. Where's *my* monkey army?

There has been a similar conflict around the display of "La Doncella" mummy in Argentina. This is made even more messy by the fact that the remains were put on display, not being studied. Where do we draw the line between science and education? This mummy and those found with it were left to die of exposure on top of a mountain as a sacrifice; their descendants claim they should be given a proper burial, but that's obviously not what their contemporaries had intended. Where the desires of any of the living conflict with the apparent desires of the dead, who has right of way?

kk5000 said...

While there is clear scientific evidence (Radiocarbon dating for one) contradicting the creationism theory that the earth is 6000 years old there is no evidence contradicting the Hindu belief that the Ram bridge was not built by lord Ram and his army.

The attempt to destroy something of immense spiritual significance to hundreds of millions of Hindus simply on the basis of the claim that no evidence exists that lord Ram ever existed is dubious at best and cynical at worst. By that logic, no evidence exists that Jesus, Mohammed or any other spiritual figure before photography was invented was real and they could all be figments of writer's imaginations.

Ergo we should not be sensitive to any religious monument and destroy mosques, churches etc to use that land for more useful purposes.

I always say, THINK before you blog.

Salman Hameed said...

> there is no evidence contradicting the Hindu belief that the Ram bridge was not built by lord Ram and his army.

Only if the construction left no evidence of its own construction except for completely natural processes. Thus, one can see the bridge as a "natural" phenomenon.

>The attempt to destroy something of immense spiritual significance to hundreds of millions of Hindus simply on the basis of the claim that no evidence exists that lord Ram ever existed is dubious at best and cynical at worst.

None of my comments said any thing about lord Ram's existence. I isolated my comments on the origin of the geological feature sometimes referred to as Ram's bridge.

Anonymous said...

There is a big lies about Ramayana and the
Sand Bridge of PALK Straight. I would like to confront the foolish belief
behind the story with some simple questions.

* #1)* *could somebody ask those forwarding the mail to tell what was
there in the Ocean some 17 lakh years before?*

There was no ocean at all between Tamilnadu and Srilanka even some 10000
years before. Srilanka and India were connected by land and later the sea
submerged the land. And as per the NASA the sand structure is naturally made
not man made.

* #2)* *Why Rama has built a bridge when it was well connected by land at
that time?** *

Is he a Fool?

*#3)* *why did he build an 800 Miles length bridge to cover just 18 miles
distance?(as per Valmiki Ramayanam) *

Is it not *ridiculous* ? May be he started building it from Hyderabad or
may be he built it to reach Andaman Island, Sure it is not towards Srilanka.

*#4)* *If he really built a bridge for crossing PALK Straight, then he must
have built so many bridges to cross Mahanadhi, godhavari, krishna, Penna,
Palar, Cauvery.. (Crossing his route towards Rameshvaram…) Where are they
now? If somebody says they have been destroyed…then how Rama could be
claimed as a god? *

*#5) Is really Ramayanam happened some 17 Lakh years before? *

* * The known history of Civilization dates backs to only 7000 to 5000
years. If we have to believe the below story, that is 17 lakhs years before
Rama has build a bridge and waged War. Then we could comfortably conclude it
is Rama himself a half Monkey that is he never belongs to a civilized
society… and they are nude too… It is even ridiculous to know Rama and Seeta
crossed the Land using a stupid idea called an over-bridge without Wearing

There are many references against Buddhism appear in Valmiki's Ramayana.
So do we conclude Buddhism also 17 Lakhs years old?

The present form (Valmiki) of Ramayana is no more than 2000 years old. And
Rama as a character can never exists before 5000 years.

Those who destructed Babri Masjid told that Rama was there during 700BC,
but now suddenly it become 17.5 lakhs years ago. I don't understand this
sudden swift. May be tomorrow they will come and say that *our Toilet was
once used by Rama some 50 years before. *

* * Because it is all in Belief, Correct??? it is holy if it is belief. It
doesn't matter even if it kills human. It is bullshit, actually… May be
Holyshit for somebody. **

* #6) *when Rama and Lakshman fell unconscious Hanuman brought a big
Medicinal Mountain to Lanka. The pieces of the mountain fell all over India
and it was also fallen in Kanyakumari which is known as Maaruththumalai.

*Is it not ridiculous to go via Kanyakumari when the route to Srilanka
located somewhere **(North to Ramnad)** away from there? *

May be tomorrow any projects come in that mountain the Saffron Monkey group
would say the mountain is holy.

* ** #7) How come Rama's bridge was floating then and now it is submerged?*

*#8** ) is it possible to follow the customs of Ramayana in today's life?*

Laxmanan cut Soorpanagai's (an Aboriginal Girl) nose and breast because a
Suthra girl proposed her love to a Kshatriya Man. If we have to follow
Ramayana customs today then we have to give the same punishment to one
Woman. Her name is *Umabharathi,* who is a Suthra girl proposed Brahman Man
*Govindacharya* .

*#** 9** ) if somebody believes that Ramayan is an historical event, we can
compare other kings with king RAM. *

Karikalan's achievement is kallanai.

Alexander – Greek impact to all civilizations thro his invasion.

RajaRajan's achievement is Big Temple.

King Ashoka's achievement – Saranath stupi, preaching Buddhism across the

Agbar's achievement – modern revenue department

Rama just lost his wife, fought for her chastity and did nothing to
people, where as the great kings of our past did lots of good things to the

*Rama's achievements (Crimes) include:*

· Suspected his Wife Seedha and insulted her in front of everybody
with ugliest words we could find in dictionaries. He asked her to prove her
chastity. (It is the first SATI case). He even suspected Lakshman,
Bharadhan, and Hanuman etc.

· Killed Sampookan only because he is a Suthra, who tried to worship
god directly, which is against Brahmanism.

· Killed many innocents (tribal people) only because they are
against Varnasrama dharma and only because they are against their land being
used for Brahmanic rituals.

· Lakshman killed Dadagai's son. Raman solace Lakshman that he
killed a Suthra so no need to worry.

· Before building the bridge he destroyed a Village at the request
of Sea king, because untouchable (Panjamas) people of the village have used
a common Well in that village.

· Rama himself and by other characters been projected as a Diehard
protector of Varnasrama Dharma. The whole text of Valmiki Ramayana is a
proof for this. And Ramayana is the literary symbol of re-establishment of
the caste society. All other personal characters of him are common to any
praised historic beings.

· Killed Vali and Dadagai in a most cowardly manner.

· Lakshman cruelly cut Soorpanagai's nose and breast when she
expressed her love. It is definitely inhuman act.

· He insulted and chafed old woman kooni. This is surely not a Noble
character to embrace.

We cannot consider one as a God only because he is good for his friends,
brothers and he is loyal to his father. And when he is anti people, Anti
women and pro caste, Pro Sati society, we should actually cast him away from
our Society. Rama actually deserves this and that is one of the ways to
redeem our old pride of casteless society. He is not a model to be followed.

* #**10** ) Rama committed suicide. It is even disgraceful and sure it is
not a noble character to embrace. *

Rama never felt guilty when he tortured Seeta. But he only bereaved for his
brother's demise and committed suicide. Did he really love his wife? Did he
really put faith on his half-in-life, Seeta?

When he was roaming around forest after Seeta was missing, He bereaved
with lustful memories of Seeta. He worried about he is missing the pleasures
of Seeta and he worried about Seeta changes his love towards Ravana. He even
says "if he were in Ayodya he may not worry about Seeta is missing, because
there are alternatives for pleasure available." It is only the pleasure of
flesh that defines Seeta to him. That is why didn't bereave for her. Instead
he bereaved for his brother, where true love bond them. Is this a right
attitude to follow in today's society?

*#11) as per a famous folklore version of Ramayana, Lakshman's wife Urmila
died during her long-sleep. Urmila went into a trance and fell unconscious
when Laxman was serving his brother Rama in the forest. When Lakshman came
back to Ayodya he searched for his wife and found only her Skeleton remains
in her bed. Lakshman's concern about his wife was mentioned nowhere in the
Ramayana. Like his brother Rama, Lakshman also considered his wife just as
an object. *

*Last but not the least question:* Those who are protesting against breaking
the Sand Bridge are the ones who gave rebirth to this project (During the
BJP government this project again came in to picture. Before BJP it is the
British rulers who thought about this project). *Why did they do that? When
they rule** , **is Rama not ****a God to them?** **When they rule, is
Ramayana not a true story** **to them? *

This Story will not open the Spiritual gate of the World instead it will again and
again prove to the world that India is the land of *Half naked Snake
adorning Fools.*

Anonymous said...

Mohamed was alone when he heard the word of god...should we believe that?
no one should doubt other ppl's religion!

Anirudh Kumar Satsangi said...

Myth may also be a reality. Mythological facts are not averse to scientific investigation. We know that some solar systems other than ours have binary star (Sun). Ours has only one Sun. But there may be a possibility that our solar system might also have binary star some millions or billions year ago. It is written in Hanuman Chaleesa:”Bal samay Ravi bhaksh liyo tab teenahu lok bhayo andhiyaro” in English it mean that during his childhood Hanumanji had gobbled up Sun and darkness spread in entire universe. But this is cosmological phenomena. This not possible for some super natural power who assumes physical frame on this Earth Planet to gobble up Sun. The other Sun(?) might have met Its natural death. Hanumanji is believed as the Incarnation of Lord Rudra. According to Hindu Mythology Lord Rudra is the God of Destruction or God of Annihilation.

MonishS said...

Aadhil's comments are simply untrue and reflect ignorance of Hindu history and religion. He has also shown disrespect to Hindu sentiment. Lord Ram is god incarnate and taking his name with disrespect and dishonor is like you insulting your father.

But perhaps that's just how you were raised.

Anonymous said...

If you people says that the ramsetu is untrue because if you visit that place & check there are still some stones lying in the water without any support. & there is a proof of that as well.Please get it verified

diet bellary said...

yes what aadhil says is materially true but he is blinded by religion todays peoplle of his religion see women as objects they say women and horses are there to ride by . what a statement. Why did only md prophet hear the voice of God if it was gods voice every one on the earth could have heard and got converted to islam why struggle in the name of jihad and act as terrorists for getting islam into others lives.he says that based on common knowledge but he must look at it in a deeply spiritual way.Mark my words hinduism had no begining but all religions were founded by men in later stages to suit their needs.A man who married for lust many wives preaches sanctity what absurdity.You say dont worship idols but you worship black stone what is it it is shivalinga.Fool first understand ur religion and its absurdity then try to comment other religions.

Ragu Kattinakere said...

There is a case pending in apex court that the choice of alignment for canal damaging the "bridge" is arbitrary. It is possible to construct a canal without damaging the structure and with less ecological damage. I think it is time "scientists" matured and started worrying about ecology than just blindly opposing "religion". The arguments here are just a rehash of what "science" says in general about "religions".

Anonymous said...

@Aadhil: So after reading your comment(which probably based on rumours u have heared around without using your own wisdom)i just wanna raise one question

"Is your (everyone's rather)quran tells everything true about Mohammad specially the one when he talked to god?

Unknown said...

religious beliefs are different from science, but how do we know for certain that science is always right. if we look into the VISHNU PURANA, then it shows the same finding and theory's of Charles Darwin's theory of evolution. we should always look much deeper into scripture.- i know Hinduism to be a science friendly religion and one of Albert Einsteins quote is... ''When i read the bhagavad gita,and reflect on how god created the world, everything else seems so superfluous. i there fore dedicate all my theory's and base them on the bhagavad gita.- just remember that Hinduism always knew their were 9 planets b4 science and that so many other discoveries as well!!! - dwaraka is also found under the sea as described in the same place the bhagavad gita with radio active waves their proving an ancient nuclear explosion(brahma astra),h=which was only invented now !!!! - so my point is this... NEVER TAKE THE SCRIPTURES FOR GRANTED SCIENCE CAN BE WRONG, - SCIENCE IS HINDUISM, LETS NOT FORGET WHERE NUMBERS CAME FROM BY THE WAY !!!

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