What connects yoga, quantum physics and COVID-19? Just pseudo-science
Dr KK Aggarwal, defending PM Modi's appeal to light lamps on April 5, said that the move is based on the principles of collective consciousness as per Yoga Vasistha- chapter six and quantum physics. Experts of quantum physics have slammed the former IMA president and have dubbed his statement as "total nonsense".
Amid the ongoing efforts to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, India seems to be fighting another battle: One against the spread of misinformation and pseudoscience, often from the government itself.
On Wednesday, the central ministry of Ayurveda, Yoga, Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy (AYUSH) issued guidelines to all its regulatory authorities in various states and Union Territories to stop spreading AYUSH related claims for COVID-19 treatment.
The ministry asked the agencies to “take necessary action against the persons/agencies involved in contravening the relevant legal provisions”. It pointed out that under the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), making a false claim was a punishable offence.
But on Friday, it was the turn of Dr KK Aggarwal, renowned cardiologist, former president of Indian Medical Association and a Padmashree (2010) awardee, to make a bizarre claim.
During an interview with Asiaville, Dr Aggarwal said that the call by the Prime Minister to all the citizens to light lamps has a scientific basis and it will help the country in the fight against COVID-19.
A winner of National Science Communication Award (2014), Dr Aggarwal said that the move is based on the principle of collective consciousness as per Yoga Vasistha- chapter six and principles of Quantum level physics.
According to him, when collective consciousness emanates from people "at the same time with a common intention, miracles will happen... In our body, [as Ace 2 receptors will] get blocked by our inner immunity, the virus will not find any place to sit. And virus will die out”.
He said that the scientific basis of this is “quantum physics and quantum mechanics.”
Incidentally, on the same day, different twitter handles linked to the Central government tweeted a video of Dr Aggarwal making the same claim. But these were later deleted.
Social media handles such as a YouTube channel named 'Modi Nama' shared the video to defend PM Modi's appeal for the lighting of Diyas on April 5, at 9 in the night.
Fact check: Does quantum mechanics support this argument?
Asiaville reached out to Physicists who work in the areas of Quantum Mechanics and Quantum Physics to get their comments.
Prof Anil Shaji, a faculty member at IISER- Thiruvananthapuram, whose areas include Quantum Physics said,“invoking speculative and thoroughly unproven aspects of quantum mechanics to substantiate approaches to combating the epidemic in ways that are not grounded on hard science is not only unwelcome but potentially dangerous to public well-being.”
“Quantum mechanics is the science of very small things like individual sub-atomic particles (eg. electrons and quarks). We believe that it does ultimately apply to everything in the universe but we have direct verification of quantum effects only for very small things, maybe up to the size of molecule with a few tens of atoms. Applicability of quantum effects to viruses, bacteria, humans and even consciousness is still quite unknown and any statements to this regard has to be taken to be purely speculative. They have not been tested or investigated sufficiently to come anywhere close to the rigorous standards of modern science.”
Prof. Sunil Mukhi, a theoretical physicist at IISER Pune who works in the areas such as string theory, quantum field theory and particle physics dubbed Dr Aggarwal’s comments as a “total non-sense”.
“Scientists and medical professionals should come together and use cross-disciplinary skills and techniques to meet the challenges posed by this pandemic. But both sides should be very careful when making public pronouncements, which have to be accurate, sober and well-informed,” he said.
“It is deeply disturbing when an eminent doctor connects collective consciousness and quantum receptors, which is total nonsense. In fact, it is unlikely that he personally believes what he said.”
When asked about the growing tendency among several people in the Indian science community to mix "ancient wisdom" with modern science, Prof. Mukhi said that as a scientist, he finds two things very puzzling about the trend.
“One is that there are many genuine, well-documented examples of scientific knowledge in our subcontinent, such as Aryabhatta or Brahmagupta, or in the 20th century C.V. Raman whose spectacular discovery is used in technology and medicine every day. But we never hear any of these people talking about them.”
“The second point is that if these people believe in the miraculous properties of our ancient medicine, then surely they should use these medicines when they themselves fall ill? The protocols followed for the well-being and safety of our leaders do not use traditional remedies; instead they strictly adhere to modern scientific principles. This suggests that what the leaders are saying is only for the consumption of the ignorant, presumably for electoral benefits,” he said.