“Evolution” and racism in a twentieth century reference book

Over the past few decades there has been a concerted effort among creationists to produce reference books which “tell their side of the story”. Most creationists also spend an appreciable amount of time discussing perceived lapses in evolutionary theory. Although I have seen misrepresentations in these accounts, I have yet to come across any reference that ignores known facts and logic on the scale of a book published in 1926 as the first volume of the legitimate-sounding New Outline of Knowledge reference series. I picked up The Romance of Evolution written by Frederick H. Martens from a library sale because I was interested in how evolution was presented in the early 20th century. Inside the book, I saw a sketch of the Piltdown Man, which was regarded at the time to be an early human species found in the United Kingdom. Later, in 1953, it was discovered to be a hoax. I wanted to see how our knowledge has changed in the last few decades. I was not prepared for what I saw inside.

The book is not a scientific text at all, and evolutionary theory does not even figure anywhere in the book! The book is a pseudoscientific polemic written for a very specific agenda – to tell the reader that the white race is superior to all others from an evolutionary standpoint. Facts to don’t stand a chance and the gross misrepresentations are quite appalling.

Take for example the following passage:

“.. If Evolution’s story is read as it really runs, cleared of the technical jargon and confusing detail which breaks the thread of the greatest narrative ever told by Nature, the master story teller of the all time, it will make clear to you a hundred and one facts about yourself you never have suspected. It will prove to you nothing that lives and breathes on earth, whether it walk, swim, or fly, was born by chance.”

The first odd thing about this passage is that “Evolution” is capitalized. This is intentional, and a awkward attempt to deify the process and attribute it to a specific purpose. Note also the bizarre statement that chance plays no part and everything is preordained. It is all very clear: evolution is biological process, while the fictitious concept of Evolution which the author propagates is simply a vehicle for Intelligent Design.

But these are not the most shocking parts in the so-called reference book. Those sections are reserved for passages of an overtly racist nature not backed up by an iota of scientific evidence:

Some people like to “kid themselves along” that all the races of man have sprung from one common stock, are gifted alike, and equal in mind and brain, if not in body and stature. They like to think – for religious, sentimental, or humanitarian reasons – that there are no inferior races of mankind!

There are the black tribes of Africa today… No amount of sentiment can make them the equals of the white races… Nor do the yellow races, the Mongolian races, stand on a level with the white race…

There are also comparisons of various races to simians, which I do not deign to reproduce here. What infuriates me the most is that racist wolves were donning the sheep’s clothing of science to perpetuate these lies.

And it all boils down to what I feel is the most widely misinterpreted phrase in science  – “the survival of the fittest”. Few knew what it meant back then. Not many know what it means now. Biological fitness is made into a caricature by those who do not care to understand it and those who choose to deliberately misrepresent it. Take for example the central thesis behind the racist agenda in the book:

…only the fittest survive among beasts or men, for that is the ancient law of life on earth, the law that has come from the first day. We were hunted down, killed, and destroyed by a stronger, taller, handsomer, and less hairy race, which swept down on us… and the fittest are the superior not the inferior race.

Usually a misunderstanding of biological fitness goes hand in hand with a failure to appreciate the concept of natural selection. The brilliant American scientist Dr. John William Draper delivered a lecture which was published in Popular Science lamenting the situation:

It is to be regretted that this phrase “natural selection” has been introduced… It implies a personification of Nature. It is anthropomorphic. But Nature never selects, never accepts or rejects, knows nothing about duties, nothing about fitness or unfitness. Nature simply obeys laws.

Those words (written in 1877) have rarely been heeded in the public discourse of evolution.


What scientists say at meetings versus what they actually mean

What they say: I’d like to thank the organizers for inviting me to this session…
What they mean: I’d like to thank the organizers for inviting me to Hawaii in December. In return, I am inviting them to talk in my department’s seminar series.

What they say: The raw data is in the graph next to the results…
What they mean: I hope the graph which has n=9 and error bars convinces you what I’m saying is true even though no one believes me.

What they say: A very interesting talk. In our lab we’ve shown…
What they mean: I don’t believe you.

What they say: On the left is a representative gel showing an experiment we performed…
What they mean: After getting a graduate student to run this experiment a hundred times, this was the only gel that turned out presentable.

What they say: These were very hard experiments to perform…
What they mean: Don’t even think about competing with us, and if you do, these results are not reproducible.

What they say: To the best of our knowledge…
What they mean: We were too lazy to do a proper literature review.

What they say: This is my last data slide.
What they mean: I am over time but also technically correct when I say that this is my last data slide. The next five slides deal with the conclusions, broader implications, future directions, and acknowledgments.

What they say: The implications of this study are profound and have the potential to influence cancer drug discovery.
What they mean: The implications of this study are profound and have the potential to get me a good postdoctoral position.

What they say: How much time do I have left?
What they mean: I know I am over my allotted time by twenty minutes, but this ploy always gets me an extra ten minutes.

What they say: I think we’ve set the stage now and we’re actively looking opportunities to commercialize our invention.
What they mean: I think we can get a patent out of this, but I have no clue how an actual commercial entity works and what they look for in potential products.

What they say: I’m happy to share the source code and reagents with anyone who is interested…
What they mean: I am happy to share this source code and reagents with anyone who is interested but not before we’ve milked them dry for additional publications and conference abstracts.

What they say: This slide represents five years of work done by a graduate student in my lab, Wong.
What they mean: This slide represents nine years of work done by a graduate student in my lab, Partha.

What they say: I see you’re reading my poster and I won’t bother you, but if you have any questions let me know.
What they mean: Screw you. My Principal Investigator would only let me come to Hawaii if I presented a poster.

What they say: Do you want me to run you through my poster?
What they mean: Do you have twenty minutes to listen to me talk about my work without making eye-contact while assuming that you already know the background of my work?

What they say: I have a comment and a question…
What they mean: I have neither a comment nor a question, but I am a tenured windbag. I have a timeshare and am close to retirement.

What they say: I have a question with two parts…
What they mean: I have five questions with seven parts for each.

What they say: No, we haven’t gotten around to doing those experiments. But certainly those are ones that we were planning on doing.
What they mean: No, we haven’t gotten around to doing those experiments. And frankly, we hadn’t thought of them before either.

What they say: That is a very interesting question…
What they mean: That is a lame question. Were you Reviewer 3 who had the particularly harsh comments on our manuscript?

© Text, 2010-2012, Anirban

Facile technology for warding off the evil-eye: inexpensive “nazar suraksha”

Abstract: The “evil-eye” better known as nazar is a severely detrimental energy field that impacts the well-being of individuals in South Asia. Previously, others have demonstrated the effectiveness of the evil-eye deterring pendant known as Nazar Suraksha Kawach which works by interfering the dangerous frequencies of the evil-eye. However, this is inadequate since the protective rays are blocked by layers of clothing and temperatures above and below room-temperature. Further, the pendant must always be in the line-of-sight of the nazar.  Therefore, an effective evil-eye deterring system which would be effective under all circumstances was desperately needed. Here, were describe a facile evil-eye deterring system that counters both the emission of evil-eye rays of the nazarwale and the reception in the brain of the nazarlagi.

Introduction: The evil-eye is the most detrimental cause of lack of progress in South Asia. Earlier scientific studies including television commercials have demonstrated that when individuals either related or unrelated look at others with jealousy or “extreme love” they case nazar or the evil-eye-induced harm (Figure 1).

Nazar is well known in popular culture too. For example, in the film Sasural, Rafi sahab sang the line “Teri pyari pyari soorat ko kisiki nazar na lage” (Your lovely, lovely face anyone’s evil-eye not touch) which is a very strong argument for the existence of this form of jealous energy.

Figure 1: mechanism of action of evil-eye

Women in South Asia have known this for ages and have often drawn a spot on their face to ward off the evil eye. But this is uneffective. According to the television commercial “extreme neurotic rays” converge on the center of the brain and are shot out of the eyes like red arrows created using Microsoft PowerPoint (Figure 1).  These arrows enter the head of the unfortunate recipient and “cause mental disturbance” which casts a dark cloud on the future. Evil-eye technology and other companies have come up with a Nazar Suraksha Kawach which emits blue cooling rays that intercept the red nazar rays much like arrows in B.R. Chopra’s  mythological television serial Mahabharat. Nazar interception may have also been the driving force behind President Ronald Reagan’s ill-fated “Star Wars” program.

There are a number of problems with the evil-eye deterring pendant that independent observers have noticed. First, it is not effective at temperatures above 24 degree Centigrade or below 18 degree Centigrade. The “ions” get restless under either condition. Second, the protective rays don’t work when the pendant is covered by layers of clothing, humidity is high, or the nazar enters through the back of the head. Finally, the cost for a set of evil-eye deterring pendants can run in the hundreds of dollars.

Therefore it was necessary to come up with a cost-effective method to ward off the evil-eye. In this research paper, we  present facile technology for warding off the evil-eye.

Figure 2: Current protection against evil-eye

Our approach was simple. Since anyone can give off rays through the evil-eye or nazar (even unknowingly), it would be best to filter these rays out completely. So we designed glasses coated with five layers of nazar-protecting material (Figure 3). Now when you wear these glasses (which have been scientifically proven to work), harmful rays can not come out of your eyes. They may look like ordinary sunglasses, but they are not. They have been tested in a nazar chamber with various saasbaahu (mother-in-law and daughter-in-law) pairs from desi teleserials.

To protect the brain from nazar rays already in the atmosphere, we designed the nazar-reflective helmet. This may look like an ordinary baseball cap with a bit of aluminum foil over it, but it is not.  It has undergone extensive testing and bears the ISO 90210 seal of approval. It is a protective device that will reflect all evil-eye rays and boomerang them back to the evil-eye-caster.

To order these two life-saving products please leave your name, address, and credit card information in the comments section of this article. It is our hope that finally, through the use of these two devices the menace known as nazar will finally be eradicated from South Asia.

Figure 3: A new effective system for blocking nazar (the evil-eye)

Can you afford to live your pathetic life in abject despair? We say no! Order now.

This is the second installment of a new series of posts on schemes that will help you either get rich fast or get lynched by an angry South Asian mob. To read the first installment click here.

Disclaimer: I guess I should tell people that nazar is real but the rest of the post is a joke, but I won’t. Go ahead. Do your worst. Cast the evil-eye. I’ll be waiting with my helmet and glasses.

Also worth reading Yogesh’s account of how you can make money by importing the Kawach from other countries.

Fair-use rationale for images: All images are low-resolution. Figures 1 and 2 are used only for purposes of demonstration for no monetary gain where a free alternative does not exist. The new product image (Figure 3) was taken by me and created using PowerPoint. Please feel free to share, but attribute the source, m’kay?

© Text, 2010-2012, Anirban

How to treat non-lethal bullet injuries: lessons from Bollywood movies

Abstract: There is currently insufficient detail on how to perform emergency surgery for ridiculous bullet wounds that result from confronting Hindi film villains in everyday situations. Therefore, a clinical survey was undertaken with the purpose of identifying acceptable medical procedures compliant with known Bollywood practices. Two case studies presented here demonstrate that despite identical etiology, disparate outcomes result from the state of inebriation of the patient during the medical procedure. Here, the “daru kharab cheez hai” (liquor is evil) theory is validated using the popular Bollywood actor Dharmendra as a test subject. Therefore, it is the recommendation of the author that caretakers use alcohol only as a local disinfectant in order to avoid unnecessary molestation of health-workers. It is hoped that the research presented here will ultimately lead to a renaissance in modern health-care.

Figure 1: Successful surgical procedure for ballistic trauma

Introduction: The goals of this study are two-fold.

One of the least appreciated concepts in modern medicine is the “daru kharab cheez hai” theory widely prevalent in Hindi films (Vide Anthony Gonsalves et al. 1977). Briefly, this theory states that filmi heroes perform uncommon and unnatural acts under the influence of alcohol, which they would otherwise avoid. However, alcohol is also widely used in Hindi films as a local disinfectant for emergency surgical procedures and to prevent hypothermia after song-and-dance routines in Switzerland. To address this disparity, a comprehensive review of the wide body of relevant Bollywood filmography was performed.

The second goal of this study is to recommend appropriate field practices for treating trauma injuries. Filmi heroes are known to be exceptionally prone to non-fatal ballistic injuries suffered from poor aiming at close quarters by villains and/or their cronies. These injuries can be identified by a simple chemical examination for tomato sauce or water-soluble paint.

Methods: One filmi hero, Dharmendra, referred to colloquially as Dharam Paaji (D.P.), was subjected to different ridiculous, but non-life-threatening injuries (Vide: Kartavya; Shehezaade). A knife was sterilized by the acceptable method of heating on stove. The heroines (Rekha and Jaya Prada, respectively) were then instructed to remove the bullet. In the control study, D.P.  did not drink any alcohol, whereas in the experimental analysis alcohol was taken by mouth at the dose of one bottle of Old Monk desi rum and one bottle of VAT69 blended phoren scotch.

Figure 2: Validating the "daru kharab cheez hai" theory

Results and Discussion: The results presented herein (Figures 1 and 2) unambiguously establish the benefit of using the “knife to wound” method for treating bullet injuries.

Based on the results presented, the author would like to caution against allowing the filmi hero to imbibe alcohol during the 24 hours before or after the surgical procedure as it can result in undesirable outcomes.

Acknowledgments: The author wishes to thank the makers of Kartavya and Shehezade for sharing of materials and methods.

Mandatory Disclosure: No animals were harmed during these experiments.

References:  1. All images are low-resolution and used only for the demonstration of the purpose of the study. Copyright of original works resides with the original creators.

2. The text is subject to copyright (registration in USA and India) and cannot be used without prior permission from the author and publisher (A.M.).

More Bollywood Science here.