Archive for November, 2015

Ganita vs mathematics: Ten myths of Western math

Tuesday, November 17th, 2015

Note: Am locked out of my website. The following “abstract” is for the forthcoming 39th Indian Social Science Congress, Mangalore, a talk at Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, and an international meeting on plurality in math in Kolkata. The idea is to talk and discuss publicly, not publish in secretively reviewed journals.

Ganita vs mathematics

Ten myths underlying formal math and the need to reject them

C. K. Raju

Centre for Studies in Civilizations, New Delhi

Extended abstract

We reject the myth that Western math is universal. That was always a normative universality: while it was admitted that other ways of doing math existed, it was claimed that Western math was “superior”. This claim of “superiority” (e.g. the claim that metaphysical proofs are “superior” to empirical proofs) rests merely on some anti-scientific church dogmas born of hate politics. Further, the purported “superiority” of Western math, exactly like racist claims of “superiority”, is supported by the very same fabricated church/racist/colonial history (e.g. the myth of Euclid and the myth of his deductive proofs).

Any serious study of plurality in math must critically re-examine other ways of doing math, and select the better way of doing math. Which math should be taught in schools and universities? We cannot just assume that existing (colonial) math education should persist. Nor even can we continue to justify it merely on unexamined Western myths and dogmas, even if they are widely believed today (just because colonial education propagates them). Indeed, since math is taught as a compulsory subject in schools today, if the present way of teaching it rests on (and subtly propagates) religious dogmas, and related myths, as it does, its teaching must be changed in schools in any secular country.

To this end, of deciding which math is better, we compare formal math with religiously-neutral Indian ganita (together with the explicit philosophy of zeroism). We have selected ganita not for reasons of its Indian origins, but because it concerns practical value, which is surely more universal than Western dogmatic metaphysics. Further, most math taught in schools today (arithmetic, algebra, trigonometry, calculus, probability) historically originated as ganita. Also, those same ganita techniques of calculation continue to be used today for almost all practical applications of math to commerce, science and engineering (and indeed in all computer-based numerical calculations, such as those used to send a spacecraft to Mars, or to make stock-market predictions).

While the West imported ganita for its practical value, its epistemology clashed with the religiously-loaded epistemology of math in the West (e.g. all computer-based numerical calculations are today declared “erroneous”). Ganita was made theologically correct by (a) giving it a veneer of metaphysics (e.g. the use of metaphysical limits in calculus, to align its notion of infinity with church dogmas about eternity), and (b) packaging it with a false history (e.g. that Newton and Leibniz invented the calculus). This cocktail of practical value, religious metaphysics, and false history, was just declared “superior” and globalised by colonial education. Selecting ganita over formal math preserves the practical value, while eliminating the false history and bad metaphysics. Indeed practical value is enhanced: e.g., eliminating Newton’s conceptual confusion about calculus leads to a better theory of gravity. Or, e.g., teaching calculus as ganita enables students do harder problems.

However, the bad metaphysics and false history, underlying formal math, is a key part of colonial indoctrination (“education”). The indoctrinated cling to myths: when one myth is challenged, they try to “save” it by appealing to another (e.g. if the myth of Euclid is challenged they invoke the myth of deductive proofs in the Elements). Hence, to decolonise, the whole collectivity of myths must be simultaneously denied. If this denial is to be intelligible, it cannot also be brief: for brevity assumes shared beliefs. Thus a demand for brevity, in this context, becomes a trick to block dissent.

(more…)

Education policy, secularism and traditional values

Monday, November 2nd, 2015

Many traditionalists whether in India or in Iran regard secularism in education as the biggest enemy of traditional values. (A recent example of this thinking is Bharat Gupt’s article posted at http://indiafacts.co.in/religious-pluralism-and-distorted-notions-of-secularism-in-education/ )  These traditionalists are dead wrong: the church has succeeded so well because those it considers its biggest enemies don’t even recognize it as an enemy.

The biggest enemy of traditional values are the church dogmas, which have crept even into mathematics and hard sciences, and which are so much a part and parcel of colonial education.

The primary problem facing Indian education today is that it is a thoughtless continuation of colonial education, which itself was a continuation of church education. (The first bill for secular education in Britain dates to 1872, so Western education was 100% church education when it first came to India.) Church education, designed to produce missionaries, teaches subordination to church/Western authority. That suited colonialism but does not suit a free country.

Decolonisation of education is needed even in the hard sciences such as mathematics and physics. Few have noticed that church dogmas creep even into mathematics and science as taught in our universities today. For example, physics uses differential equations which require calculus. But calculus as taught in our universities requires that time should be like the real line. However, all Indian values, especially the value of moksha (or nirvana), are based on the notion of quasi-cyclic time.1 So, just teaching calculus, in the present way, teaches that those Indian values are fundamentally wrong and anti-science, hence lack credibility.

(more…)

Science and Islam

Sunday, November 1st, 2015

As part of a series of workshops on science and various religions, there was a day-long workshop on science and Islam at the Universiti Sains Islamic Malaysia.

USIM workshop-1

USIM workshop-2

USIM workshop-3

My presentations are posted online: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

This developed the paper on Islam and science presented as a keynote address at a previous international conference on Islam and Multiculturalism at the University of Malaya.