Subhash Kak

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Subhash Kak
Kak vaxjo2.jpg
Subhash Kak at Foundations of Quantum Mechanics Conference, Växjö, Sweden
Born
Academic background
Alma mater NIT Srinagar, IIT Delhi
Academic work
DisciplineComputer Science
Sub-discipline
Institutions Oklahoma State University–Stillwater
Notable works
Notable ideas Instantaneously trained neural networks

Subhash Kak (born 26 March 1947 in Srinagar) is an Indian-American computer scientist and a Hindutva-based historical revisionist. [1] He is the Regents Professor of Computer Science Department at Oklahoma State University–Stillwater [2] and honorary visiting professor of engineering at Jawaharlal Nehru University. [3]

Contents

Kak has published on the history of science, the philosophy of science, ancient astronomy, and the history of mathematics. [2] Kak has also published on archaeoastronomy, and advocated the idea of Indigenous Aryans. [4] Scholars have rejected his theories on these topics in entirety, and his writings have been heavily criticized. [4] [5]

In 2019, Government of India awarded him with Padma Shri, [6] the fourth highest civilian award in India. [7]

Early life and education

Kak was born to Ram Nath Kak, a government veterinary doctor and Sarojini Kak in Srinagar. [8] [9] His brother is the computer scientist Avinash Kak and sister the literary theorist Jaishree Odin. [10]

He completed his BE from Regional Engineering College, Srinagar (Presently National Institute of Technology, Srinagar)[ citation needed ] and Ph.D. from Indian Institute of Technology Delhi in 1970.

Academic career

During 1975-1976, he was a visiting faculty at Imperial College, London, and a guest researcher at Bell Laboratories, Murray Hill. In 1977, he was a visiting researcher at Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Bombay. [11] In 1979, he joined Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, where he was the Donald C. and Elaine T. Delaune Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering. In 2007, he joined the Computer Science department at Oklahoma State University–Stillwater. [12]

Kak has published on the history of science, the philosophy of science, and the history of mathematics. [2]

He was featured as one of the pioneers of quantum learning in the journal NeuroQuantology edited by Cheryl Fricasso and Stanley Krippner. [13] Kak had proposed an efficient three-layer feed-forward neural network architecture and developed four corner classification algorithms for training it. [14] Despite being criticized for scalability issues; it invoked attention within the electronic hardware community. [14] Kak has argued that there are limits to artificial intelligence and that it cannot equate the biological equivalent. [15]

Kak is the Regents Professor of Computer Science Department at Oklahoma State University–Stillwater [2] and an honorary visiting professor of engineering at Jawaharlal Nehru University. [16]

On 28 August 2018, he was appointed member of Indian Prime Minister's Science, Technology and Innovation Advisory Council (PM-STIAC). [17]

Indology

Kak primarily advocates for an autochthonous origin of the Indo-Aryans from Punjab [4] ("Indigenous Aryans" hypothesis) in contradiction of the scholarly consensus about the validity of Indo-Aryan migration theory; Kak reads the promotion of the latter theory to stem from racist tendencies. [18] Scholars have noted his charges to be without any basis, lacking in any critical examination and primarily intended to promote Hindu supremacy. [19]

Kak has also claimed to find evidences of advanced computing and astronomy in the Rig Veda, in what Noretta Koertge deems to be a "social constructivist and postmodern attack on modern science". [20] [21] He insists that Vedic scientists discovered the physical laws by Yogic meditation and that it is a valid scientific method which can be only evaluated within the paradigm of Vedic assumptions and by those who have attained Yogic enlightenment. [20] He has also asserted a belief in the superiority of Hindus over Muslims. Philosopher Meera Nanda summarized some of Kak's views on the matter in a 2004 critique: according to Kak, Hindus built "cultural empires" without military conquest, in contrast to Muslim "military empires" reliant on conquest. [22]

Meera Nanda writes about Kak being revered as a stalwart of Hindutva and one of the leading “intellectual Kshatriyas”. [23] Edwin Bryant calls him to a well read and articulate spokesman for the Indigenous Aryan hypothesis and for other issues concerning ancient Indian science and culture. [24]

Scholars have rejected his theories in entirety and his writings have been heavily criticized. [4] Acute misrepresentation of facts coupled with wrong observations, extremely flexible and often self-contradictory analysis, cherry picking of data and forwarding of easily disprovable hypotheses have been located. [4] [5] [25] [26] His understanding of linguistics and subsequent assertion have been challenged. [4] [27] Romila Thapar calls Kak an amateur historian whose views on the Indus Civilization were fringe and who was part of a group; which had more to do with waging political battles at the excuse of history. [28] Michael Witzel noted him to be a revisionist and part of a "closely knit, self-adulatory group", members of which often write together and/or profusely copy from one another; thus rendering the whole scene into a virtually indistinguishable hotchpotch. [4] Garrett G. Fagan, a noted critic of pseudo-archaeology has concurred with Witzel. [18] Similar concerns of his' being a Hindutva based revisionist has been echoed from other quarters too. [5] [29] In a critique about faulty scientific reasoning in Hindutva ideologies and theories; Alan Sokal criticized Kak as "one of the leading intellectual luminaries of the Hindu-nationalist diaspora" [30] Koertge as well as Meera Nanda s comments upon Kak's attempts to be part of a Hindutva-based esoteric pseudoscience narrative that seeks to find relatively advanced abstract physics in Vedic texts and assign an indigenousness to the Aryans in a bid to prove the superiority of Indian civilization. [20] [21]

While Kak's interpretation has been included in recent overviews of astronomy in the Vedic period in India and the West, [31] his chronology and astronomical calculations have been critiqued by several Indologists, such as Michael Witzel, [4] and historians such as Kim Plofker. [32]

Reviewed works

Archaeoastronomy - The Astronomical Code of the Rigveda

In the book, Kak proposes that the organization of hymns in the Rig Veda was dictated by an astronomic code concerning the courses of planets—length of solar year and lunar year, the distance between sun and earth et al. [4] [33] He then leverages the proposition to argue for the existence of a tradition of sophisticated observational astronomy as far back as 3000 or 4000 BCE. [4] Kak also states that the construction of fire-altars were a coded representation of their astronomic knowledge [4] and that the Vedic civilisation were aware of the speed of light. [23] He prepared the section on archaeoastronomical sites in India for the thematic study on Heritage Sites of Astronomy and Archaeoastronomy in the context of the UNESCO World Heritage Convention prepared for UNESCO by the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) and the International Astronomical Union (IAU). [34]

Kim Plofker rejected Kak's probabilistic analysis of the presence of planetary period numbers in the Rigveda's hymn number combinations, showing that Kak's apparent matches have "no statistical significance whatever". [32] Witzel has rejected his analysis to be suffering from several shortcomings and questioned his usage of arbitrary multiplication factors to lead to the results. [4] Kak's method depends on the structure of the Rigveda as redacted by the shakhas in the late Brahmana period, well within the Indian Iron Age, when it was organized into mandalas ("books"). According to Witzel, this leaves Kak's approach attempt to date the text flawed, because this process of redaction took place long after the composition of the individual hymns during the samhita prose period. [4] Witzel concludes that the entire issue boiled down to an over-interpretation of some facts that were internally inconsistent and more, to the creativeness of Kak who was pre-motivated to find evidence of astronomy at every verse of Rig Veda. [4] [35] Meera Nanda criticized the arbitrary and absurd nature of Kak's analysis at length and noted his method to be "breathtakingly ad hoc" which "reads like numerology 101" [33] M A Mehendale in a review over Annals of the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute criticized the book for its many shortcomings which did not stand the scrutiny of rigor and remarked it to contain inaccurate and misleading statements. [36] S. G. Dani, a Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar prize recipient rejected Kak's hypothesis as unscientific and highly speculative with extremely vague details and whose results were statistically insignificant. [37]

Klaus Klostermaier in his book A Survey of Hinduism praised Kak, for opening up an "entirely new approach to the study of Vedic cosmology from an empirical astronomical/mathematical viewpoint". [38] Klostermaier's books have been heavily criticized for offering pro-Hindu views that have little currency in scholarship. [39] [40] [41]

Influence

Kak's work influenced Raja Ram Mohan Roy's 1999 book-- Vedic Physics, which sought to prove that the RigVeda was coded per the laws of quantum and particle physics. [23] Kak wrote the foreword to this book commending Roy's interpretations as a new way of looking at Vedic Physics. [23] [30] Nanda noted the result to be a "shameful demeaning of physics as well as the Vedas" resembling ravings of mad men. [23]

In Search of the Cradle of Civilization

Kak co-authored In Search of the Cradle of Civilization (1995) equating Vedic Aryans with the Harappans. [42] and thus, participating in the political controversy around the "indigenous Aryans" theory. [43] The chronology espoused in this book is based on the archaeoastronomical readings obtained by correlating textual references and archaeological remains.

A review by M. K. Dhavalikar over Annals of the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute noted it to be a "beautifully printed" contribution that made a strong case for their indigenous theory against the supposed migratory hypotheses but chose to remain silent on certain crucial aspects which need to be convincingly explained. [42] Guy Beck showered glowing praises on the book in his review over the Yoga Journal. [44] Klostermaier et al. praised the book. [45] Prema Kurien noted that the book sought to distinguish expatriate Hindu Americans from other minority groups by demonstrating their superior racial and cultural ties with the Europeans. [46]

The Nature of Physical Reality

Stanley Krippner, a controversial American psychologist [lower-alpha 1] praised the book as an engaging read that will leave the readers wiser. [53]

See also

Notes

  1. Krippner is an avid supporter of dream telepathy experiments and claimed to have proved the same via a set of experiments. These have not been independently replicated. [47] [48] [49] [50] His books have been criticized for endorsing pseudoscience. [51] [52]

Related Research Articles

Hinduism is an Indian religion and dharma, or way of life, widely practised in the Indian subcontinent and parts of Southeast Asia. Hinduism has been called the oldest religion in the world, and some practitioners and scholars refer to it as Sanātana Dharma, "the eternal tradition", or the "eternal way", beyond human history. Scholars regard Hinduism as a fusion or synthesis of various Indian cultures and traditions, with diverse roots and no founder. This "Hindu synthesis" started to develop between 500 BCE and 300 CE, after the end of the Vedic period, and flourished in the medieval period, with the decline of Buddhism in India.

Historical Vedic religion Religious ideas and practices among most Indo-Aryan-speaking peoples of ancient India after about 1500 BCE

The historical Vedic religion refers to the religious ideas and practices among most Indo-Aryan peoples of ancient India during the Vedic period. These ideas and practices are found in the Vedic texts, and they were one of the major influences that shaped contemporary Hinduism.

David Frawley American Hindu teacher

David Frawley is an American Hindu teacher (acharya) and a Hindutva activist.

Koenraad Elst Right wing Hindutva activist

Koenraad Elst is a right wing Hindutva activist, known primarily for his support of the Out of India theory and publication of Hindu Nationalist literature. He has been subject to criticism from academics for the anti-Islamic and fundamentalist themes of his works.

<i>Vedic Mathematics</i> book

Vedic Mathematics is a book written by the Indian monk Bharati Krishna Tirtha, and first published in 1965. It contains a list of mathematical techniques, which the author claimed were retrieved from the Vedas and supposedly contained all mathematical knowledge.

Vedas Ancient scriptures of Hinduism

The Vedas are a large body of religious texts originating in ancient India. Composed in Vedic Sanskrit, the texts constitute the oldest layer of Sanskrit literature and the oldest scriptures of Hinduism. Hindus consider the Vedas to be apauruṣeya, which means "not of a man, superhuman" and "impersonal, authorless".

Michael Witzel German-American philologist

Michael Witzel is a German-American philologist, comparative mythologist and Indologist. Witzel is the Wales Professor of Sanskrit at Harvard University and the editor of the Harvard Oriental Series. He is an author on Indian sacred texts and Indian history,

Edwin Francis Bryant is an American Indologist. Currently, he is professor of religions of India at Rutgers University. He published seven books and authored a number of articles on Vedic history, yoga, and the Krishna tradition. In his research engagements, he lived several years in India where he studied Sanskrit and was trained with several Indian pundits.

Navaratna Srinivasa Rajaram was an Indian academic and a Hindutva ideologue, notable for his publications from the Voice of India publishing house, propounding the "Indigenous Aryans" hypothesis and asserting that the Vedic period was extremely advanced from a scientific view-point.

Indo-Aryan migration Migration of Aryans into India

The Indo-Aryan migrations were the migrations into the Indian subcontinent of Indo-Aryan peoples, an ethnolinguistic group that spoke Indo-Aryan languages, the predominant languages of today's North India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and the Maldives. Indo-Aryan population movements into the region and Anatolia from Central Asia are generally considered to have started around 1500 BCE, as a slow diffusion during the Late Harappan period, which led to a language shift in the northern Indian subcontinent. The Iranian languages were brought into Iran by the Iranians, who were closely related to the Indo-Aryans.

A controversy in the US state of California concerning the portrayal of Hinduism in history textbooks began in 2005. The Texas-based Vedic Foundation (VF) and the American Hindu Education Foundation (HEF), complained to California's Curriculum Commission, arguing that the coverage in sixth grade history textbooks of Indian history and Hinduism was biased against Hinduism; points of contention included a textbook's portrayal of the caste system, the Indo-Aryan migration theory, and the status of women in Indian society.

Klaus K. Klostermaier is a prominent German-Canadian scholar on Hinduism and Indian history and culture.

Vedāṅga Jyotiṣa, or Jyotiṣavedāṅga (VJ), is one of earliest known Indian texts on astronomy (Jyotisha). The extant text's ideas are dated variedly between final centuries BCE and 14th century BCE but it may have borrowed from earlier Harappan tradition.

Indigenous Aryans

The concept of Indigenous Aryans also known as the Out of India theory (OIT), which proposes that the Indo-European languages, or at least the Indo-Aryan languages, originated within the Indian subcontinent, as an alternative to the established migration model which proposes the Pontic steppe as the area of origin of the Indo-European languages. The indigenist view sees the Indo-Aryan languages as having a deep history in the Indian subcontinent, and being the carriers of the Indus Valley Civilization. This view proposes an older date than is generally accepted for the Vedic period, which is generally considered to follow the decline of Harappan culture.

Voice of India (VOI) is a publishing house based in New Delhi, India, that specialises in Hindu nationalist books and serves as one of the most important tools in the development of Hindutva ideologies. It was established by Sita Ram Goel in 1981, to develop a Hindu triumphalist ideology, and has since published numerous authors subscribing to similar thought-schools.

The history of Indian astronomy begins with the Vedic period, Lagadha and composition of Vedanga Jyotisha . Astronomical knowledge in India reached an early peak in the 5th century CE, with the Āryabhaṭīya. Its author, Aryabhata, uses astronomical calculations to determine the date of the Battle of Kurukshetra as 18 February 3102 BCE. This date has become traditional and is still widely cited in Hindu literature.

Vedic period Ancient South Asian historical period

The Vedic period or Vedic age, is the period in the history of the northern Indian subcontinent between the end of the urban Indus Valley Civilisation and a second urbanisation which began in the central Indo-Gangetic Plain c. 600 BCE. It gets its name from the Vedas, which are liturgical texts containing details of life during this period that have been interpreted to be historical and constitute the primary sources for understanding the period. These documents, alongside the corresponding archaeological record, allow for the evolution of the Vedic culture to be traced and inferred.

Meera Nanda is an Indian writer and historian of science, who has authored several works critiquing the influence of Hindutva, postcolonialism and postmodernism on science, and the flourishing of pseudoscience and vedic science. She currently is a visiting faculty of humanities and social sciences at IISER Pune.

<i>Rigveda</i> Most ancient Veda of the Hindus

The Rigveda is an ancient Indian collection of Vedic Sanskrit hymns. It is one of the four sacred canonical texts (śruti) of Hinduism known as the Vedas.

Puranic chronology

The Puranic chronology gives a timeline of Hindu history according to the Hindu scriptures. Two central dates are the Mahabharata War, which according to this chronology happened at 3138 BCE, and the start of the Kali Yuga, which according to this chronology started at 3102 BCE. The Puranic chronology is referred to by proponents of Indigenous Aryans to propose an earlier dating of the Vedic period, and the spread of Indo-European languages out of India.

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