“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.

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New products that every Indian needs!

I am as lazy as the next person, so when Telesky Shopping Network comes on and the TV remote isn’t within foot-length, I sit there and watch the commercials touting products with religious and cultural overtones. In previous posts, I’ve come up my own versions of Rudraksh and Nazar Suraksha, but these products only augment existing ones. What we really need are innovative products that can be marketed to desis with disposable incomes.

Now, I’d like to present a few product ideas that won’t need much marketing. I’m pretty confident that these sell themselves. I don’t know why you would be reading my blog if you have any money to invest. But, if you do please drop me a line and we can work out licensing of these products.

1) Soul-purifying Deodorant:

Tired of the nasty odors that cling to your soul as you go through the day cheating, stealing, and lying to others? Well, you’ve come to the right place then! Atmasaaf™ roll-on soul-purifying deodorant will purify your soul with one application to the armpits  after your daily bath. Long-lasting protection with our proven formula fights evil auras and bad karma for up to 24 hours. No need for costly and time-consuming daily mantras, vaastu, or visits to holy sites. You’ve taken care of your atomic smells, not deal with your atmic ones.

Available with a fragrance consisting of the combination of the proven soul-cleansing ingredients of pancha gabya or milk, curd, ghee, cow urine, and cow dung.

2) Vedic Dentistry:

Fed up with the twice-daily chore  of flossing and brushing? Bills to the dentist piling up when you fail to pay attention to your molars? You too can obviate the need for proper dental hygiene using Vedic Dentistry, a concept we have trademarked as the Sanskrit-sounding Daantestree™.

Just as dipping in the Ganga is known to wash away a lifetime of transgressions, gargling with our patented mouthwash whenever you have a toothache, unwanted plague buildup, or gingivitis will  get rid of dental problems. Your breath may smell like rotting flowers and corpses floating in the Ganges, but you should be safe in the knowledge that “your teeth will last as long as you fast ™”!

3) Extrasolar  Astrology:

Traditional Vedic astrology or Jyotish-vidya gives you only nine grahas or “planets” including the sun and Rahu and Ketu, which frankly are so-called “celestial positions” which no one really understands. Even with the recent demotion of Pluto from planetary status, we think it is still unfair to customers not to have additional planets to chose from. At least 450 extrasolar planets have been identified and all of these impact your life. Did you know that marital discord is the result of TrES-3 in the fourth quadrant?  What we offer now is the ability to predict your future accurately based on accurate charts using these extrasolar planets. Now, for a limited time, avail of these services included in our Extrastrology™ package for the introductory price of 101.01 USD.

Please note that our charts can be interpreted only by our trained astrologers and scientists who are now independent consultants. Act now and for a limited time you’ll get both a CD and a printout of your own accurate chart!

Postscript: I came up with two out of these three ideas on Twitter, but I felt that I needed to expand to include a full-fledged advertising campaign. I’m hoping to make this a regular series too.

On another note, if you liked my last post on corporate lingo, check out LEB’s post on what a manager says and what he or she means.

© 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 get a bank loan in India

Or how to forge your own signature.

Our NRI friend Pappu Patligali recently applied for a personal loan from a local bank. He was planning on applying to one of the swank new privately-operated banks, but was advised not to by his elderly patients. “All our lives we have only transacted with the Tropical Bank of India,” they said, sagaciously.

Pappu picked up the form and got together an application packet with all the primary documents, supporting pieces of evidence, and annexures. Properly-dressed and armed with the bulging file, Pappu arrived at the bank at 11 AM. He walked up to the loan officer, who was annoyed that he was interrupted from relishing the juicy gossip in the morning papers. A Bollywood starlet was pregnant, and there was speculation that the father of the love-child was a flamboyant Australian left-handed batsman.

“Yes? What can I do for you?” barked the loan officer as he peered up from his glasses.

“Well, I came the other day. You gave me a form so that I could apply for a loan…”

“Hmmm. I need ALL documents on this list. If you are missing one only, then sorry I cannot help you,” said the loan officer as he sipped his chai. This was usually an adequate deterrent for most applicants.

“Yes, I know. I’ve brought the listed ones plus a few others. Originals and attested photocopies.”

A look of disgust crossed the loan officer’s morose face. Why were these people intent on spoiling his day? Everyone should have known by now that his mornings were devoted to scanning the newspapers. He did an hour of work in the afternoon and then went for tiffin. After a final round of chai, he was in the habit of leaving for the day so that he could yell at his wife and kids.

As he was about to find some excuse to put this aside, the loan officer looked up at Pappu and felt pity for him. Perhaps it was the martyred expression on Pappu’s face. He said, “leave you application materials and come back after one week.”

One week passed by.

“Hi. My name is Pappu Patligali. I applied for a loan last week.”

“Yes. Please sit down. I am sorry, but you will need to fill out another application form,” said the loan officer.

“What? Why? I thought I had included everything” said Pappu incredulously.

“No sir. You were supposed to provide your full signature on the line here,” chided the loan officer.

“But I did. Right here. P. Patligali. That is my signature.”

“No we need FULL signature for official purposes. Please, you write, Pappu Patligali,” corrected the loan officer.

Realizing that arguing was going to get him nowhere, Pappu sighed. He picked up another form, “signed” it with his first and last name legible, and handed it over.

“Thank you sir. Please come and check again next week.”

“Next week? But you’ve already taken a look at all the documents! Why should it take so long?” said Pappu furiously.

“No please understand. This is not America. These things take time in India or have you forgotten saab?” said the loan officer sarcastically.

Another week passed by.

“Well, have you now had a chance to look over my application?” said Pappu, hoping to finally get some sort of resolution.

“Sorry, I cannot help you. You will need to apply again,” said the loan officer coolly.

“What! What the hell is going on here? What’s the matter now?” yelled Pappu.

“There are three signatures on the application form. In two you have signed ‘Pappu’ with the capital ‘P’, but one looks like small ‘p’. I will get in trouble because it looks like fraud case.”

Pappu was furious. “I signed those documents in front of you! What is going on here? I demand to see the Bank Manager.”

Arre, no use getting gussa. What will Manager do, saab? I am here to help you, na? But try to understand. We are understaffed and this is lot of work for me.” said the loan officer with a tragicomic look on his face.

Pappu finally understood what the delay was all about. He reached for his wallet to provide some chai-paani to grease the wheels, but was stopped short. “What you are doing? Not here,” said the loan officer. “Your address is on the form, saab. You are married, na? I will come to your house and bring some sweets for bhabhiji and little ones. Oh and you please not to worry, saab. I am telling that you will get loan.”

More of The Charmed Life of Pappu Patligali here

© Text, 2010-2012, Anirban

Will the real Nithyananda please stand up?

My fellow desi ladies and gentlemen:

I stand here humbled by the historic significance of the moment. Last night from the chawls of Chennai to the  burbs of Boston, from the galis of Gandhinagar to the gulleys of Galipoli, from the sarson fields of Sasaram to single-flats of Stratford-upon-Avon, we rose together in unison to praise and deify Swami Nithyananda Paramhamsa!

Those who do not know the Divine One may ask sacrilegiously, “who is this Nithyananda? Of what element is he made?” In fact, before last night, I myself had not heard his name.  But when I heard the call of duty from a Higher Power [1], like thousands of my fellow countrymen, did I not rise to the occasion? Swami Nithyananda, the spiritual and temporal master, he of strong will and firm body, owner of sacred Ashram in Bidadi, conqueror of almost all the vices, [2] did he not deserve deification? [3]

When we heard that Swami Nithyananda and an anonymous devadasi [4] were together, we knew it was to maintain divine mingling of shakti and purusha and to restore the Cosmic Balance of the Universe.  The ethereal moment passed through ethernet and guru and shishya were (and I quote from an  article)  “lying on a bed and doing personal things with each other”. Aah, who can fathom the leela of His Worship?

Passing the baton of messages, [5] across the globe, thousands of us chanted the mahamantra [6]. It was the day and night stugggle of good and evil- the devas and the asuras, the yin and the yang. And by his benevolence and the prayers of his devotees, #nithyananda became a trending topic on Twitter reaching a million souls [7] ! So that the pearls of wisdom do not get lost in the sands of time, these were painstakingly collected [8] for future generations.

But now the following day, as the demons of darkness [9] try to insult Guruji, should we sit and do nothing? Shall the enormity of the moment lapse into distant memory? Nay, I say for we must remember to heart the scriptures that were chanted.

Last night in the midst of the mellifluous strains of tweet-sangeet we realized the Absolute Truth.

I am Nithyananda. You are Nithyananda. We are all Nithyananda. Tat tvam asi.

Thank you.

________________

Footnotes:

[1] namely, Ramesh Srivats

[2] lust is insignificant says Sri Hallmark.

[3] not defecation

[4] Ranjitha

[5] 140 characters or less

[6] “___ by day, ___ by night”. Some mantas here.

[7] reach calculated by the Wall Street Journal

[8] by Blogadda

[9] Times of India

If you have no clue what this spoof is about, please read this piece in the Wall Street Journal.

Shri 419: the Nigerian scam

Section 420 of the Indian Penal Code has given us a lively term for cheaters – the “420″. If however, you search for “419,”  you will find that this number refers to a section of the Criminal Code of Nigeria dealing with various types of advance-fee fraud.

Why does this matter to you? Well, you’ve probably received some version of the following email which I fished out from my spam folder:

Sir/Madam:

Reaching you is courtesy of my favourite international business directory, which vividly tells your position and capability to execute this business presently with me in my office. We have Twenty Million, Five Hundred Thousand United State Dollars only, ($20,500,000.00) which we got from over-inflated contracts awarded to foreign contractor in the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (F.A.A.N).

We are seeking your permission to transfer this money into your bank account.  This money will be shared between you and we (Colleagues) over here in Nigeria.

We have agreed to share the funds as follows:
I. 30% of the total sum for you (Account Owner)
II. 65% of the total sum for us (The official involved)
III. 5% of the total sum of setting all financial expenses been incurred by you and us in the course of this transaction.

We will visit you immediately we include this transaction to collect and invest our share of total sum into any viable business you may advise in your country. Please, let me know if you are interested in this business by replying urgently. Full details of this business will be sent to you upon receipt of your reply.  For the purpose of communication in this matter, please give us your telephone and fax numbers including your private home telephone number.

We await your urgently reply and be rest assured that this transaction is 100% risk free, there is not risk involved on both sides.

Yours faithfully,
Geoffrey Chaucer

I have not changed the name since fraudsters are known to impersonate prominent individuals (like 14th century English authors). The grammatical error in the last sentence is also unaltered and amusing. I imagine that the fraudsters meant to say “no risk on either side,” but blurted out the truth: of course the risk is completely on the recipient’s side.

As soon as you contact the fraudsters, they inform you that certain “processing fees” are required to release funds and that you will be contacted as soon as funds become available. Of course this is a hoax and soon you are have lost your hard earned money.

With the globalization of world economies in the early Nineties, unscrupulous individuals in West Africa (and primarily in Nigeria) began to use the internet to send out unsolicited invitations to hundreds of thousands of unsuspecting individuals. The widespread availability of email and pharming software transformed local cottage start-ups into multinational corporations complete with offices, machinery, and salaried staff.

India’s first 419 victim was Piyush Kankaria who registered a section 420 complaint in 2003. Unfortunately, most victims do not get any form of compensation due to the international nature of the racket and the connections of the educated, management ranks that run the scam corporations. A report in Wired in 2006 estimated that Americans lost around $200 million that year to West African 419 scams. A more recent report mentioned that 419 scams resulted in worldwide losses estimated at over $9 billion making it anywhere from Nigeria’s fifth to third largest industry. Estimated rates of success via unsolicited email spamming vary from one in one thousand to one in ten thousand.

In fiction, Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani’s celebrated debut novel I Did Not Come to You by Chance provides a humorous fictional perspective on the lives of scammers. But 419 scams don’t just result in loss of money, many are tied to kidnappings and murders.

In scanning recent headlines, I came across the news-story of a woman in New Zealand who stole NZ $450,000 from her employer in the hope of cashing in on millions. She had planned to pay her employer back once she received money, which of course never happened.

I am shocked by incredulity of the situation. What toxic mix of greed and incomprehension compels middle-class white-collar workers to resort to criminal activities?

Text: © 2010-2012, Anirban