A founding trustee of the Stephen Hawking Foundation has said he is certain that the late scientist “did not support the claims” made by Union minister Harsh Vardhan that “our Vedas might have a theory which is superior to Einstein’s theory of E=mc2”, reported The Telegraph today.
Malcolm Perry, who is also a professor of theoretical physics at the University of Cambridge, said in an email response: “I am not aware of Stephen Hawking making any comment on the Vedas.”
Perry added: “It is quite possible that he made a reference to the Vedas playfully when discussing creation myths — such as found in the Bible or the Vedas — when comparing them to the now conventional scientific picture of the big bang accompanied by a period of inflation, or perhaps when discussing the noboundary proposal for the creation of the universe.”
“I am certain that he did NOT support the claims made by your minister that ‘our Vedas might have a theory which is superior to Einstein’s theory of E=mc2’,” said Perry, who is on the governance panel of the Stephen Hawking Foundation, a not-for-profit entity established on the initiative of Hawking in 2015.
Vardhan, who had on Friday asked journalists to get in touch with him if they could not find the source of his claim, was in Bangalore on Saturday and could not be contacted by this newspaper despite repeated attempts.
In the UK, the president of the Royal Society, Venkatraman “Venki” Ramakrishnan, wasn’t impressed when Vardhan’s assertion was put to him.
“I’ve commented many times before on these sorts of things, and India needs to deal with its own problems,” said Ramakrishnan, a Nobel laureate who researches at Cambridge where Hawking too had researched.
“In any case, the people who don’t like what I say simply dismiss me as a westernised outsider,” he added. “In this case, you ought to ask the three — not just one — Indian science academies what their response is.”
Ramakrishnan’s parting shot was: “A better Stephen Hawking quote would be, ‘The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, but the illusion of knowledge’.”
The minister had made the comment at the inaugural session of the 105th Indian Science Congress in Imphal on Friday.
Two years ago, Ramakrishnan had attended the congress in Mysore, dismissed it as a “circus where very little science was discussed” and vowed never to attend another.