Meera Nanda

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Meera Nanda (born 1954) is an Indian bio-scientist, writer and philosopher of science based in the United States,[1] who has authored several works on religion and Hindu nationalism.

Life and career[edit]

Nanda was educated in science and philosophy with a PhD in biotechnology from the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi and a PhD in science studies from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.[2][3]

She was a John Templeton Foundation Fellow in Religion and Science (2005–2007).[1][4] In January 2009, she was a Fellow at the Jawaharlal Nehru Institute for Advanced Study, in the Jawaharlal Nehru University for research in Science, Post-Modernism and Culture.[5] Currently, she is a visiting faculty of history and philosophy of science at Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Mohali.

She has authored several works on religion, most notably Prophets Facing Backward: Postmodern Critiques of Science and Hindu Nationalism in India (2004),[6] and her 2009 book The God Market which examines how India is experiencing a rising tide of popular Hinduism, including Government of India financing of Hinduism despite the nation's secular characteristic. The book was also reviewed by William Dalrymple in Outlook Magazine.[7][8]However, her views have been criticized by Koenraad Elst, who views her rhetoric as alarmist, scaremongering, and that she "hates Hinduism, and her academic work is written in the service of that hate"[9] Similar criticisms have been leveled against Nanda by Swaminathan Venkataraman of the Hindu American Foundation in response to claims made by Nanda that Yoga has no link to Hinduism, such as her views being colored by her alleged hatred for Swami Vivekanada, and that Nanda fears "the emergence of an articulate, credible, and professional Hindu voice that is bringing authentic, apolitical Hindu perspectives into the public sphere"[10]

However, her views have been criticized by Koenraad Elst, who views her rhetoric as alarmist, scaremongering, and that she "hates Hinduism, and her academic work is written in the service of that hate"[11] Similar criticisms have been leveled against Nanda by Swaminathan Venkataraman of the Hindu American Foundation in response to claims made by Nanda that Yoga has no link to Hinduism, such as her views being colored by her alleged hatred for Swami Vivekanada, and that Nanda fears "the emergence of an articulate, credible, and professional Hindu voice that is bringing authentic, apolitical Hindu perspectives into the public sphere"[12]

Rajiv Malhotra criticised her for "virulently denouncing" Indian culture and "painting" Hinduism as intrinsically anti-scientific, while considering Protestantism (whose Templeton Foundation funds her) as scientific and progressive.[13]

Nanda notes the popularity of yoga exercises in the west, and the discomfort of Indians with this popularisation, who "blame Americans and other 'decadent' Westerners for reducing their spiritually rich tradition to mere calisthenics."[14] Yet, she questions the idea that yoga is a "timeless" and "eternal" practice, which lies at the heart of Hinduism.[14] She has criticised the Hindu American Foundation (HAF) for

The purist Hindu position [...] that all yoga, including its physical or hatha yoga component, is rooted in the Hindu religion/way of life that goes all the way back to the Vedic sages and yogis.[14]

Her ciritique has been rejected by American Hindus. Swaminathan Venkataraman, of the Hindu American Foundation, alleged that Nanda harboured "hatred" for Swami Vivekananda, and that she feared the emergence of an articulate Hindu voice bringing Hindu perspectives into the public sphere.[15] Rajiv Malhotra criticised her for denouncing Indian culture and painting Hinduism as anti-scientific while allegedly praising Protestantism as scientific.[13]

However, Nanda has pointed out that her criticism was equally applicable to all "resurgent religious-political movements" not only among Hindus, but also Christians and Muslims. The Bush White House's recruitment of Christian evangelicals and corporate scientists to shape policies on issues such as open support for Biblical Flood geology and stem cell research was very similar to the state support for Vedic astrology by the Hindu nationalists.[16]

Reception[edit]

Her views have been criticized by Koenraad Elst, who views her rhetoric as alarmist, scaremongering, and that she "hates Hinduism, and her academic work is written in the service of that hate"[17] Similar criticisms have been leveled against Nanda by Swaminathan Venkataraman of the Hindu American Foundation in response to claims made by Nanda that Yoga has no link to Hinduism, such as her views being colored by her alleged hatred for Swami Vivekanada, and that Nanda fears "the emergence of an articulate, credible, and professional Hindu voice that is bringing authentic, apolitical Hindu perspectives into the public sphere"[18]

Michel Danino points out severe distortions in her writings regarding the origins of the Pythagorean_theorem and the number zero.[19]

  • The intellectual Talibanism on display here reeks of censorship more akin to a communist country and not befitting the free world. The last time I checked Trump was losing; but his spirit of sending his opponents to jail seems to be alive here. [1]

Swaminathan Venkataraman of the Hindu American Foundation, in response to claims made by Nanda that yoga has no link to Hinduism, described her view as being colored by an alleged "hatred" for Swami Vivekanada, and that Nanda "fears" "the emergence of an articulate, credible, and professional Hindu voice that is bringing "authentic", "apolitical" Hindu perspectives into the public sphere."[20]

Rajiv Malhotra criticised her for "virulently denouncing" Indian culture and "painting" Hinduism as intrinsically anti-scientific, while considering Protestantism (whose Templeton Foundation funds her)[citation needed][dubious ] as scientific and progressive.[13]

However, contrary to unfounded claims, Nanda recognizes this tendency to "take on the prestige of science for their objectively false and outdated cosmologies" in all societies formed on the basis of religion :

The logic of deconstruction of modern science simultaneously provides the logic for the construction of “sacred sciences” by the resurgent religious-political movements that have sprung up among the Hindus, Christian and Muslims alike. Even though the book is set in India, the concerns I raise are becoming increasingly relevant to the United States as well. The patterns of reactionary modernity that I describe for India under the Hindu nationalists are, unfortunately, beginning to gain momentum in America under George W. Bush. One shared symptom of reactionary modernism is the aggressive state sponsorship of pseudo-sciences aimed at absorbing science into the religious worldview, which in turn is yoked to nationalism in varying degrees and forms in both countries. The White House’s active induction of Christian evangelicals and corporate scientists (who often work together) to shape science policy, ranging from the open support of the Biblical Flood geology in the Grand Canyons to the research policies and funding for AIDS, contraception and stem cell research 4, is not very different from the state sponsorship of Vedic astrology and Vedas-inspired research grants to unproven indigenous “sciences” (in medicine, architecture, and even in defense) during the Hindu nationalist years that I describe in the Prophets.
Meera Nanda, Response to my critics

Meera Nanda (as well as others, such as Indian historian Irfan Habib), had been critical of Minister for Resources and Human Development Murli Manohar Joshi's term in office, during which time he had made controversial changes to textbooks for school children. In 2004, following the National Democratic Alliance's electoral loss to the United Progressive Alliance, Nanda described in an opinion piece for The Hindu titled "Calling India's Freethinkers" the potential opportunity India had then of "achieving a society that has internalised the principle of separation between science and spirituality."

References[edit]

  1. 1.0 1.1 Meera Nanda Profile Three Essays.
  2. Reception of Darwinism in India (A talk by Professor Meera Nanda), Indian Institute of Science
  3. Meera Nanda Posts and Profile
  4. Ranjit Hoskote (21 November 2006). "In defence of secularism". The Hindu.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. List of scholars invited to JNIAS JNIAS Jawaharlal Nehru University website.
  6. Ranjit Hoskote (May 03, 2005). "Book Review: Paradigm shift". The Hindu. Check date values in: |date= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. William Dalrymple (Jan 18, 2010). "Review:The Glitter In The Godliness". Outlook (magazine).<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. "Books: A market for holy men: How globalization has had an impact on Hinduism and our public sphere". Mint (newspaper). Aug 21 2009. Check date values in: |date= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. Hinduism, Environmentalism and the Nazi Bogey, A preliminary reply by Dr. Koenraad Elst to Ms. Meera Nanda, by Koenraad Elst, August 12,2004
  10. Swaminathan Venkataraman (7 March 2011). "Disguised Hinduphobia". OPEN Magazine. Retrieved 7 March 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. Hinduism, Environmentalism and the Nazi Bogey, A preliminary reply by Dr. Koenraad Elst to Ms. Meera Nanda, by Koenraad Elst, August 12,2004
  12. Swaminathan Venkataraman (7 March 2011). "Disguised Hinduphobia". OPEN Magazine. Retrieved 7 March 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 Malhotra, Rajiv; Neelakandan, Aravindan (2011). "India: A left-wing frontier". Breaking India: Western Interventions in Dravidian and Dalit Faultlines. Amaryllis. ISBN 8191067374.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 Meera Nanda, Yoga. Not as Old as You Think, OPEN 12 February 2011
  15. Swaminathan Venkataraman (7 March 2011). "Disguised Hinduphobia". OPEN Magazine. Retrieved 7 March 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. Nanda, Meera (2005). "Response to my critics". Social Epistemology: A Journal of Knowledge, Culture and Policy. 19 (1): 147–191. doi:10.1080/02691720500084358.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. Hinduism, Environmentalism and the Nazi Bogey, A preliminary reply by Dr. Koenraad Elst to Ms. Meera Nanda, by Koenraad Elst, August 12,2004
  18. Swaminathan Venkataraman (7 March 2011). "Disguised Hinduphobia". OPEN Magazine. Retrieved 7 March 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  19. Michel Danino (13 October 2016). "In defence of Indian Science". New Indian Express. Retrieved 13 October 2016.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  20. Swaminathan Venkataraman (7 March 2011). "Disguised Hinduphobia". OPEN Magazine. Retrieved 7 March 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Malhotra, Rajiv, Breaking India

External links[edit]