Pseudo-science: Vaastu Shastra

Dec 14 2011

A word on pseudo-sciences

Most pseudo-sciences are designed to deceive people. Smarter the people, smarter the deceivers! The proponents of pseudo-sciences devise elaborate mechanisms, terminology, and introduce new concepts which closely resemble those of real science. This ‘resemblance’ is played upon heavily.This ‘resemblance’ to science is what makes them attractive to gullible educated masses. By using astronomical objects, such as planets and stars, and using mathematical tools, such as calculations, calculators and computers, astrologers try to posit their belief systems as science. The educated people do not like to be seen as gullible people- they never want to admit to themselves or to others that they are gullible. Instead, they like to be seen as those who ‘question’, then ‘verify’, and only then ‘accept’, just like in real science. Such educated people, while growing up, study science as if it is a complicated subject, never actually question what is taught, but accept it as another dogmatic notion. To some extent, they think that Theory of Gravity and Quantum Physics is some imaginary topic concocted by some weird scientists, whom they cannot relate to. They end up not understanding the real meaning of such topics. For them scientists are too far away- unable to connect to them, while these quacks, knaves, godmen, astrologers, vaastu experts, etc, seem to connect to them so well. Just because these educated people have scored high marks in the subject called Science, they think they don’t need to learn anything new. Without actually understanding what science is and what science stands for, they enter the real world; without having developed the scientific temperament, they start representing the elite.

They spend little time in trying to ‘question’ and ‘verify’ if astrology, vaastu shastra, numerology are indeed sciences. Enter the proponents of pseudo-sciences with tools and theories constructed from false assumptions built on fantastical premises, substituting fallacious argument for logic where necessary. These gullible educated people fall for it. Actually they are believers already; they have acquired these belief systems through parents, teachers, books, TV shows, college friends, etc. At a minimum, they have resorted to ‘questioning’ as a perfunctory exercise. They ignore most of these obvious fallacies, get enamored with other 'seemingly logical' explanations, get satisfied that indeed it is science. Such educated people who become believers are the dangerous lot. They occupy high positions in the society- they are celebrities, sports players, famous actors, prominent leaders, top businessmen, elite academicians, and highly reputed professors. When such people endorse the pseudo-sciences, the believers get further boost. When such people enter the mainstream media and use these notions as accepted truths, the belief system gets further fillip. Now, it is no longer a question of being valid, it has already become the truth- it is science indeed. The argument goes- “if it was bogus, how come it is prevalent for so long and how come it is accepted by so many?”

A word on Vaastu Shastra

I didn’t know where to start. So, I start with an article that appeared in the THE HINDU in Property Plus section.
# 1. Here, S. BS. Surendran is considered a ‘specialist’ in Vaastu and Feng Shui. He is an electrical engineer who turned into a believer. When such learned people endorse it, what becomes of common man? He says, “Basically vaasthu speaks of air, ether, water, earth and cosmos”.

What is ether? Didn’t we debunk it long ago? What is cosmos? Does he mean the Universe? If so, isn’t earth, air and water already a part of it? No science can take on such elements to construct a theory. That the whole world has five elements, fire, earth, water, air, and ether, is a very old and archaic notion that has been debunked, rejected and completely relegated to myth and folklore hundreds of years ago. That it should reappear in a newly packaged form is unfortunate. It’s like studying once again that earth is flat and that it is the center of the universe, that sun is actually an angel running around in a chariot pulled by horses.
# 2. Next, this Surendran jumps into the world of science from the world of faith without making any distinction between the two. He says, “Vaasthu predominantly focuses on the flow of energy, i.e. the magnetic lines of forces existing in the earth”.

Yes, the magnetic lines are a theoretical construct to study and explain the behavior of magnetism. By borrowing an idea from science, a proponent of a pseudo-science tries to posit his belief system as science. The electromagnetic theory from real science is good enough to completely deal with all effects of magnetism, so how come we need vaastu to explain the same force once again? Most proponents resort to using the concepts from accepted sciences once in a while. This way they confuse the believers. The believers think: “we know this already from science, we cannot deny this, therefore what he says next is also undeniable.”

# 3. Talking about vaasthu, he says, “It is believed that each has a specific wavelength and field; so, adding and removing a few things ensures balance in your environment”.

Hmm... notice how he has used the terms like, ‘wavelength’ and ‘field’. Those are the words used in real sciences. Any heat generating object radiates and has a wavelength. A charge or a magnetic pole has a field around it. This is known to all who study science. But a home does not have a charge, it is grounded. We don’t speak of a man’s wavelength in science. We do that figuratively in language. Now, do homes have a specific wavelength and a field? That’s complete gobbledygook. What is balance when talking about a wavelength? Can we say, ‘Ah! Now we have attained the balance in wavelength?’

Another favorite thing these pseudo-sciences try to do is humanize the sciences.
The proponents realize that scientific theories like Theory of Gravity have no bearing on one's personal life. Gravity cannot better your scores in the exams or solve your marital problems. To bring home the science, they concoct theories which seem to have a bearing on your life- affecting your daily life, helping you in business, in exams and personal relationships. They talk about energy all the time- positive energy, negative energy, cosmic energy, balance of energy, etc. We all went to school. I ask you all one question- can energy be negative or positive? That’s complete bullshit. Energy is neither negative nor positive. It’s a scalar quantity. There’s no such thing called ‘negative’ energy in science. One can use this term for describing emotions, but that’s not science- it does not come in joules. Most of these proponents use these words interchangeably, changing the context arbitrarily- sometimes it’s the energy from the magnetic field, and next moment it’s the ‘negative’ energy surrounding a person. By using these words which are used in science and also in literary world, these proponents deceive us into believing that they are all the same. According to them, emotions is science, science is emotions.

# 4. He, then says, “There may be a sudden change in the ‘luck cycle’ of the occupants”.

Hmm, this is where it becomes completely nonsensical. You say it is science, and then you talk of ‘luck cycle’! What is ‘luck cycle’ anyway? How can luck be changed by adjusting wavelengths and fields? This is something nobody knows and nobody cares to explain. All pseudo-sciences are based on big gaps in logic which they cover up with weird new concepts, like ‘luck cycle’, ‘chakras’, etc.

# 5. He says, “The most common negative energy built up is the cluttered home.” Really? Does home’s energy go down because it is cluttered?

# 6. And it becomes more interesting. He says, “This mess is either cleaned or moved and causes a block to the free flow of energy leading to some kind of a stagnation”.

I say, “Imagine a gutter, throw some garbage in it, and see how the movement of the water gets restricted. Hmm, let’s apply the same analogy to energy as well. You see, the energy is liquid, it is flowing from one place to another, if you don’t clean your home, this flow gets restricted; it stagnates, like in the gutter”. Such wrong analogies are dangerous. People can be easily swayed into thinking that energy indeed gets obstructed by clutter and mess in the house.

# 7. He then says, “It’s sad that one looks at these sciences as a ‘first-aid-kit’”.
You know, what’s sad? That engineers like him should embrace such rubbish notions calling them science to fool people and to earn some quick money. The history is fraught with miracle men, who sell you trinkets telling you that it will get you good luck. The danger now is that even educated people are turning into miracle men who want to bring you good luck by selling you some fantastic stories as science.

# 8. Talking about Fish tanks, laughing Buddha and miniature fountains, he says, “Symbolisms and gadgets are sidetracking people”. What he means is that these 'other' frauds are taking away his business. He wants to make sure people do not get their luck sorted out by such quick-fixes. He says about them: “These commercialized items enhance negative energy if placed in wrong places”. Hmm, that’s interesting. Do they enhance ‘negative’ energy because they are commercialized items, or because they are in the wrong places? Make up your mind!

Before the reader goes away, he wants to make sure you take his expert advice (which always includes some kind of remuneration and reward for him): “I carried corrections by just re-orienting furniture and cots”. If it is indeed science, shouldn’t we all be in a position to buy a book, study it, calculate the amount of ‘negative energy’ our home offers, and then add ‘positive energy’ item to strike a balance? We should be able to put our map of the house into an open-source software, and get the results! None of the pseudo-sciences offer such packages. They all want you to consult an expert. All these proponents profess to be experts, look down upon and talk down upon ‘other’ experts, dismiss them as knaves, and tell you that it is something like a rocket-science-complicated-complex-equation-oriented-art-craft-science that only he can solve and make it right for you. That’s when you should wake up and walk off.

# 9. Talking about wind chimes, he says: “In all our religious practices too, sound energy is used to cleanse the space, invoke positive feelings and disperse negativity”.

In our ‘religious practices’? I thought you were discussing science here. When did we change the topic to religion? Oh, I forgot, all you quacks mix religion, faith, belief, superstition, and position it as science, right? Imagine sound energy cleansing the space. So, I guess, I can play music at extremely loud volume and clean up the entire space, and kick out the ‘negative energy’ for good!

And hey, how come you started talking about positive ‘feelings’ now? I though you were talking about positive ‘energies’. Oh, never mind! You guys interchange these words at your whim-and-fancy to suit your purpose. Feelings=energies! Great! To increase the potential energy of a rocket, one just has to put lot of good ‘feelings’ into it. Lo and behold! It is now flying away into the space powered by the ‘feelings’ of the entire nation! Not a drop of rocket fuel needed anymore. From
tomorrow, I want to ride my scooter on my feelings- I don’t have to spend money on petrol!

# 10. And now for the finale! He says, “We in India have a mindset to be skeptical about our own faiths and beliefs”.

I on the other hand think that we are better off being skeptical. What we need is an overdose of that skepticism towards our faiths, beliefs, and superstitions, not the renewed faith in such arcane belief systems. We need to embrace science, question superstition, and bring in rational thought. I am happy to know that he thinks that we are being skeptical. But coming from him, who has been selling me a completely cooked up and fantastic story, I don’t believe this either!
Vaastu is another of those hobbies that is being touted as alternate science. Such belief-oriented pseudo-sciences curb creativity by imposing not-so-well-understood rules, bringing in occultism back into our lives. Such methods are based on how one man's interpretation is better than the other without allowing the common man to make an independent verification.

The author is an active blogger, entrepreneur, founder and CEO of Sloka Telecom, a radio access network solution provider.
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