At a time when the world is grappling with the devastating impact of the coronavirus pandemic, the importance of scientific temper guiding public policies need not be overemphasised. Science alone must guide the war against the virus and any attempt to promote superstitions and anti-science campaigns must be strongly discouraged. However, the recent observations made by the Allahabad High Court regarding the power of cow milk amounted to promoting pseudoscience. It is unfortunate that the court should be endorsing such unscientific myths. Quoting unnamed scientists, the court went on to assert that ‘cow is the only animal which inhales and exhales oxygen.’ It also claimed that ‘panchgavya’ — a concoction of cow milk, curd, ghee, cow urine and dung —helps in the treatment of several incurable diseases. The claim that cow ghee gives special energy to sunrays which ultimately causes rains is simply preposterous. What is amusing is that all these claims were made as part of an elaborate justification, citing cultural, religious, and political grounds — for cow protection. Instead of debunking superstitious beliefs, it is unfortunate that the court virtually endorsed unscientific and irrational ideas and practices. Another aspect that calls for scrutiny is the argument that cow should be accorded the status of national animal. This is a needless intervention. The Directive Principles of the Constitution contain enough provisions for cow protection and there is no need to add any further.
During the pandemic, there has been a growing tendency among a section of gullible people to seek solace in mumbo-jumbo claims and unscientific treatment methods. Vaccine hesitancy is another area of concern in the fight against the pandemic. Unfounded fears, often invoking religious sentiments, feed into vaccine hesitancy among people. Despite the vast scientific advancements and incontrovertible evidence in favour of vaccines to fight various diseases, every country is confronting a small section of naysayers who continue to spread canards about new vaccines. Bigotry, superstition, fear-mongering and anti-science positioning have been the major hurdles that the vaccination missions around the world have faced over decades. It is reprehensible to invoke religious fears to spread falsehood against vaccines. In the recent past, some Muslim clerics had raised concerns over the alleged use of pork gelatin in Covid-19 vaccines. And some Hindu religious leaders sought clarification from the government over the reported use of cow blood in vaccines. There is a need to educate citizens, particularly in rural areas, about the need to take the vaccine to save lives. And the best way to prevent anti-science from taking deeper roots and pseudoscience getting mainstreamed is to promote scientific temper among people. Civil society organisations and scientific institutions have a big role to play in this task.
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