Join 3,561 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Death of a Skeptic Crusader
August 25, 2013 11:18 AM   Subscribe

Across three decades, his goal was to drive a scientist’s skepticism into the heart of India, a country still teeming with gurus, babas, astrologers, godmen and other mystical entrepreneurs. Dr Narendra Dabholkar, a former physician, was assassinated at age 67 earlier this week in the city of Pune. From Times of India: "Since 1983, he was confronted time and again by many religious and spiritual gurus, and faced several threats and even physical attacks. But he rejected police protection for himself. 'If I have to take police protection in my own country from my own people, then there is something wrong with me,' he used to say. 'I'm fighting within the framework of the Indian constitution and it is not against anyone, but for everyone.'"
posted by storybored (41 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite

 
.
posted by AdamCSnider at 11:21 AM on August 25, 2013


More like him please

“He knew this kind of battle is fought across the ages,” he said. “The journey we have chosen is one that started with Copernicus. We have a very small life, of 70 to 80 years, and the kind of change we will see during that time will be small.”



.
posted by lalochezia at 11:24 AM on August 25, 2013 [11 favorites]


.
posted by PROD_TPSL at 11:33 AM on August 25, 2013


.
posted by Quietgal at 11:54 AM on August 25, 2013


.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 12:01 PM on August 25, 2013


What a shame. It's not as though India hasn't seen its share of atheist or anti-supernatural thought in it history. You have various movements within Hinduism that have pushed philosophical lines against god.

Cārvāka, Samkhya and Mīmāṃsā are all part of the Atheism in Hinduism entry on Wikipedia, and that was a quick search, I'm sure there is plenty more out there to find with enough digging.

It is only with the ascendency of the Vedanta school that these other forms have been snuffed out. Religious Fundamentalists of all stripes are dangerous to the free thinking of humans, even to those movements that arose from within their own culture and have a venerable tradition.


.
posted by symbioid at 12:08 PM on August 25, 2013 [16 favorites]


If I have to take police protection in my own country from my own people, then there is something wrong with me

Talk about guts! That attitude is heroic on its own.
posted by gjc at 12:22 PM on August 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


Not sure how to parse the govt response . A decent enough first step maybe.....
posted by asra at 12:42 PM on August 25, 2013


.
posted by 4ster at 12:50 PM on August 25, 2013


.
posted by localroger at 12:53 PM on August 25, 2013


.
posted by tommyD at 12:54 PM on August 25, 2013


.
posted by Michele in California at 1:19 PM on August 25, 2013


.
posted by immlass at 1:24 PM on August 25, 2013


.
posted by acb at 1:29 PM on August 25, 2013


Though is “crusader” really the best term to use?
posted by acb at 1:29 PM on August 25, 2013 [9 favorites]


.
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 1:38 PM on August 25, 2013


I know many are going to automatically assign cultural tenets to any discussion of this. And yeah, that may be necessary.

But the situation also needs to be looked at in a light that takes into account that India is extremely poor. Many of its residents pin their hopes on "spiritual advisors" who take advantage of their poverty to make money off of them.

So yeah, even thought this guy wasn't a "crusader" (I believe the translation for that is "fighter for the cross"), this guy WAS making India a better place for the disenfranchised.

.
posted by hal_c_on at 2:27 PM on August 25, 2013


.
posted by The Vice Admiral of the Narrow Seas at 2:35 PM on August 25, 2013


When there was a craze for Eastern, particularly Indian, mysticism back in the late sixties, a friend said to me, "It's hard to believe that a country with almost a billion poor people would have a lot of con men."

.
posted by Mental Wimp at 3:15 PM on August 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't see why that is hard to believe. Go to the closest convenience store, and you can probably buy an aerosol can of "Money House Blessing Spray".
posted by thelonius at 3:35 PM on August 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


He did a vital service for which he was ill-rewarded. I love what he sai ' believe in God, but not superstition, only God in your heart'
I never heard of this man but I feel saddened to read of his death.
Superstition gives belief a terrible bad name.
Anyone who'd 'have' to kill him actually has far greater problems with their faith than they know or admit.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 3:37 PM on August 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Many of its [poor] residents pin their hopes on "spiritual advisors" who take advantage of their poverty to make money off of them.

Why does that sound familiar?
posted by spitbull at 3:51 PM on August 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


.
posted by learnsome at 5:05 PM on August 25, 2013


Religious Fundamentalists of all stripes are dangerous to the free thinking of humans, even to those movements that arose from within their own culture and have a venerable tradition.

Science too can give rise to fundamentalism, and does so here on the blue with alarming regularity.
posted by stonepharisee at 6:15 PM on August 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


.
posted by Cash4Lead at 7:41 PM on August 25, 2013


Science too can give rise to fundamentalism

There is a phenomenon the late Robert Anton Wilson called "fundamentalist materialism" which takes science as the basis of a fundamentalist belief system, but just as there is also a magic system called "radionics" which takes science as the symbolic basis for a ritual/symbolic system, neither of those things is actually science.

Science cannot be fundamentalist because the science that does not admit to the possibility of its own wrongness and invite the test of experiment is not science.

This does not mean fundamentalists don't try to pass as scientists. There is also a totally religious "creation science" museum out there. Words are easy things to steal. Science does however have a pretty firm definition and it's not hard to tell when you're being scammed if you know what that definition is.
posted by localroger at 7:43 PM on August 25, 2013 [10 favorites]


So, I'm normally on the "Dudes, relax, religion can be pretty okay" side of this argument. You know, "Useful set of metaphors," "Toolkit for personal growth and exploration," blah blah blah.

But this guy sounds right on. If your "useful set of metaphors" is fragile enough to break as soon as someone applies basic statistics or watches your routine from the wrong angle, then fuck it.
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 7:49 PM on August 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


.
posted by EXISTENZ IS PAUSED at 8:42 PM on August 25, 2013


Science too can give rise to fundamentalism

Except that the fundamentals of the various scientific fields of study are all generally testable and falsifiable propositions, so it is a different beast than a system of thought whose fundamentals are all assertions that need to be taken on faith.

And the fundamental basis of science itself is the willingness and determination to be proven wrong.
posted by bashos_frog at 9:45 PM on August 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


.
posted by Vibrissae at 2:34 AM on August 26, 2013


.
posted by Bwithh at 3:56 AM on August 26, 2013


.
posted by Occam's Aftershave at 5:18 AM on August 26, 2013


"Reactions to the murder of Narendra Dabholkar" - International Humanist and Ethical Union collection

"Dr.Narendra Dabholkar – A Tribute" - Nirmukta
Article 51A(h) of the Indian Constitution enjoins every citizen of the country to develop scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of inquiry and reform. Narendra Dabholkar was doing exactly that and it is terribly unfortunate that his work was cut short by such a dastardly act. We condemn this brutal killing and avow to carry his work forward.
posted by audi alteram partem at 5:57 AM on August 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


.
posted by Gelatin at 5:59 AM on August 26, 2013


I don't see why that is hard to believe.

He was being facetious.
posted by Mental Wimp at 8:19 AM on August 26, 2013


.
posted by The Michael The at 8:39 AM on August 26, 2013


.
posted by sotonohito at 9:11 AM on August 26, 2013


.
posted by andraste at 2:00 PM on August 26, 2013


Very sorry to hear.

There's a tribute and interview with Sanal Edamaruku, founder and president of the Indian Rationalist Association, up on the Skeptic's Guide to the Universe podcast.
posted by finnegans at 6:35 PM on August 26, 2013


Participant of a spiritualist organization noted for violence is arrested for Dabholkar murder
posted by audi alteram partem at 4:13 PM on August 29, 2013


A Martyr of Modern Skepticism: The Assassination of Prominent Atheist Narendra Dabholkar
posted by audi alteram partem at 12:31 PM on September 9, 2013


« Older Mind Your Manners is only the 14th music video fro...  |  On August 23, 2013, voice teac... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments