“Believers without belief”: The curious case of atheist scientists in India

Representative image [Courtesy: Amazon.com]

The West has always been fascinated with accounts of the East. While there is no unique “Western” or “Eastern” culture, scholars on both ends of the globe have practiced an “exoticisation” of Eastern systems of beliefs and traditions. This may limit the wider engagement with a plurality of ideas prevalent either in the West or the East.

It is this perspective that Renny Thomas brings to the discussion on ideas of rationalism, atheism and unbelief among Indian scientists, in his article Atheism and Unbelief among Indian Scientists: Towards an Anthropology of Atheism(s) published in Society and Culture in South Asia (2016). In this ethnographic account Thomas notes that several Indian scientists referred to themselves as “atheists”. But on closer scrutiny, he reveals that these “atheist” scientists neither subscribe to the “New Age” “scientific atheism” of (say) Richard Dawkins nor have they abandoned the lifestyles and practices associated with the religion of their birth. Continue reading ““Believers without belief”: The curious case of atheist scientists in India”


Anna Mani – meteorologist extraordinaire

Anna Modayil Mani was born the seventh of eight siblings on August 23, 1918 in the formerly princely state of Tranvancore (now called Kerala) in the southern part of India. Her father was a prosperous civil engineer who owned large cardamom estates. The family was a typical upper class household where the boys were groomed for professional careers while the girls were readied for marriage. Anna, however, had plans of her own. By the time she was twelve she had read almost all the books in English and Malayalam (the regional language) in the local library. On her eighth birthday, she declined her family’s customary gift of a pair of diamond earrings, choosing instead the Encyclopedia Britannica. Such was her passion for knowledge.

Continue reading “Anna Mani – meteorologist extraordinaire”