Debunking Pseudoscience in Pakistan: a Tough ‘Nut’ to Crack

The sole reliable method to scrutinize a scientific claim or discovery is a peer review by one or more people of similar competence within the relevant field. A peer review focuses to establish the credibility of a scientific work by evaluating its viability, sustainability as well as novelty. The scientific process goes as follows. When a researcher has a scientific discovery with sound mathematical models, scientific laws and experimental results supporting his claims, he proceeds to submit a detailed research paper to a renowned journal or conference and goes through a strict evaluation process called peer review. If his submitted research paper gets through this process and it really consists of a ground-breaking discovery or a novel invention, he can further go for a patent, a right granted to the owner of the invention that prevents others from making, using, importing or selling the invention without his permission. This process is known and practiced since centuries in scientific world and it works just fine.

Related: Pakistani media fooled again by fake scientist peddling a “virgin” concept

Any scientific claim made outside the realm of the well-established scientific evaluation methods will be merely taken as a pseudoscience. Nevertheless, in Pakistan, pseudoscience is a powerful tool to gain overnight fame and earning money. After all, we believe in magic, rather than the scientific laws governing the universe. Be it the scam of running car on water, creating energy out of nothing, proving the existence of Jinns and black magic, curing lethal diseases by herbs, defying the basic laws of science, refuting Einstein’s theories, solving the energy crisis of Pakistan with magic; people have lent ears to every crap and made such claimants their heroes until some sensible person steps forward and cries out over the rape of science.

On 6th July, 2016, leading Pakistani newspapers came up with another Pakistani Einstein (just a little better) who has unraveled the secrets of the universe by proposing a theory referred to as “magneto kinetics”. At first, I was charmed by the scientific jargons and mumbo-jumbo written in the articles covering his story. I wasn’t able to grasp even a single scientific term and the practical application of the scientific claim. Neither there was any mention of how the researcher reached to these conclusions. Being a researcher, I was intrigued by the magnitude of the claim and rushed to ascertain its veracity.

It didn’t take too long before the truth unveiled. To my surprise, I didn’t find any history of the subject. This amplified my curiosity and I couldn’t help searching the whereabouts of the scientist named Prof. Qadhi Aurangzeb Al-Hafi, only to discover that there is almost no mention of his affiliation anywhere. Instead, I stumbled across some news describing him a fake scientist and a fraud. I breathed a sigh of relief. I had met with another Agha Waqar.
This is not the first time he has demonstrated his pseudoscientific skills. He has done this before. In 2011, he was titled as “one of the ten global thematic merit icons of the decade” by one of Pakistani newspapers which was retracted just after a week when the authenticity of the claim could not be ascertained.

The news covering his current story state that “Prof Qadhi Aurangzeb Al Hafi is a multidisciplinary scientist of Pakistan, currently engaged as the principle investigator for post-doctoral research works in several reputed universities of Asia, including Punjab University”. This is insufficient to establish any clue about his specific affiliation. Without any surprise, a press release glorifying his earth-shaking research can also be found on the website of University of the Panjab (Don’t be surprised if you don’t find this press release any more on their website after the word gets spread). Besides praising his scientific discovery, the press release further states that “Prof. Aurangzeb Al Hafi is a world renowned Pakistan born planetary researcher who has brought numerous laurels for his motherland Pakistan during the last two decades of his uprightly intriguing career in different capacities.” This was the highest magnitude of pain I could take. I quit following further.

No scientific research paper, no peer review process – thank you very much. You become a hero and nobody cares to verify your claims even by a simple Google search.

Pseudoscience is known to be lethal since forever. Any idea which is not compatible with well-established scientific theories can turn out to be devastating. Ironically, the countries like Pakistan are heavens for pseudoscientists due to the scientific unawareness prevalent on account of deteriorating science education in the country. Let alone the poorly educated masses, even our well-educated class takes no time to blindly believe in such nonsensical claims and propagating them. This was how Agha Waqar, the water-kit hero, fooled the naïve masses of Pakistan for two months until he was debunked by Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy who couldn’t get on his nerves any more. Remember how our “renowned” scientists like Dr. Samad Mubarak and Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan had endorsed his claim in the first sight. This proves that the scientific unawareness is not limited to only common masses. Hence, the poor media cannot be held solely responsible. Despite of his claims getting busted, he is still revered by many who consider it a conspiracy of oil mafia.

Another factor causing to lead to unintentional pseudoscience and non-scientific conclusions is mixing religion with science. The history shows that Muslim researchers are involved in this futile practice since forever, causing frequent embarrassment in the scientific communities. It is vital not to confuse religion with science and keep both the worlds apart. Scientific theories are prone to be criticized and modified, a practice rare in religion. Moreover, science relies on experimentation, evaluation, reproducibility of experimental results, and the mathematical models describing the underlying mechanism of an idea. An amalgamation of science and religion can merely lead to the conclusions which can never be tested on scientific scale.

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