Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Academic Oddity of the Day: "Philology is based in Creationism"

A field that qualifies as a pseudo-science and is based on creationism is philology, which was developed in the 19th century. By cloaking its arguments in academic language and claiming to reconstruct human history by analyzing the roots of words in various languages, it passes off biblical descriptions as historical events. One of the pioneers of philology, Max Muller, was a self-admitted believer in the historical foundation of the description given in Genesis and asserted that "we still speak the language of the first ancestors of our race." He went so far as to write to Charles Darwin that evolution is false because the languages of animals do not resemble those of humans.

Although today's scientists do not consider philology to be a legitimate science, believers in the literal interpretation of the Bible insist on using philology to promote their views. One such view, which has been repeatedly discredited by science, but is still being pushed for inclusion in California's textbooks without mentioning its biblical aspects, is a theory known as the Aryan Migration Theory. According to this theory, descendants of the biblical character Japheth invaded India after the deluge and populated it. Inclusion of this theory in school textbooks would indirectly give sanction to creationism and open the doors for future frontal assaults on science.

A recent paper co-authored by Peter Underhill in our Genetics Department analyzed genetic evidence and concluded that there is no such thing as Aryan migration into India. This is consistent with evidence from other fields such as carbon dating, fossil studies, archaeology, geophysics, linguistics, metallurgy and satellite imaging. However, in a letter to the California State Board of Education, Vinay Lal -- a humanities professor at UCLA and believer in philology -- dismisses such scientific conclusions as "palpable falsehoods" and "alleged evidence of some unknown geneticist." He avers that science has no role to play in overturning "the long established view on this matter."
J. Sreedhar, Stanford Daily

The relationship between Sanskrit and Greek is pretty well-established. This is one of the weirder guilt-by-association arguments I've seen.

I wonder if this writer's perspective is rooted in Hindu nationalism.

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