Another example of faith standing in the way of progress.

Over in India the government is attempting to build a shipping canal between India and Sri Lanka that would provide a continuous navigable sea route around the Indian peninsula reducing travel time for ships by hundreds of miles and boosting the economic and industrial development of the region. Sounds like a great idea, right? There’s just one teensy little problem:

Hindu hardliners say the project will destroy what they say is a bridge built by Ram and his army of monkeys.

Scientists and archaeologists say the Ram Setu (Lord Ram’s bridge) – or Adam’s Bridge as it is sometimes called – is a natural formation of sand and stones.

Ram is one of the Hindu gods and supposedly he got an army of monkeys together, which just proves how cool a god Ram is, and built a bridge to Sri Lanka so they could go out drinking or beat someone up or something. I don’t recall the specifics at the moment, but you can be damned certain they had a good reason to build that bridge and the faithful believe that the bridge in question just happens to lie in the path of this canal project.

So the Indian government, using an uncommon sense of reason not employed by the U.S. Government, decided to get together with the Archaeological Survey of India to see if there was anything in the way of cold, hard evidence to back up this religious story which is “solely based on the Hindu mythological epic Ramayana. They looked at the facts, they wrote it down in a report, and they presented it to the courts:

They said there was no scientific evidence to prove that the events described in Ramayana ever took place or that the characters depicted in the epic were real.

The Indian Hindus, being perfectly reasonable and thoughtful people, agreed that the report was a fair and accurate accounting of the facts and dropped their opposition to the canal project.

Ha ha! Just kidding! What they really did was go batshit insane:

In the last two days, the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has launched a scathing attack on the government for questioning the “faith of the million”.

On Wednesday, Hindu hard-line organisations blocked roads across India to protest against the Sethusamudram Shipping Canal Project.

Commuters in the capital, Delhi, were stuck in traffic jams for hours as Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council) and Bajrang Dal blocked roads at various places.

Road blocks were also held in Bhopal, the capital of the central state of Madhya Pradesh, on the Delhi-Agra highway and on the Jaipur-Agra highway.

Train services were disrupted in many places across northern India.

It’s always a bad idea to tell deluded people that they’re deluded and reality is something other than what they think it to be. The government, realizing that it governs over a lot of crazy people, decided to withdraw the report from the court:

Worried about the adverse reaction from the majority Hindu population of the country, the Congress Party-led government has now done a U-turn and withdrawn the statement submitted in court.

The government asked the court for three months to try and sort out the issue.

Additional Solicitor General Gopal Subramaniam, appearing on behalf of the government, said they would set up a mechanism to hear concerns expressed by those opposed to the canal project.

The court adjourned the matter for three months saying they would take up the case again in January.

In the meantime, the court has said that dredging work for the canal could continue, but Ram’s Bridge should not be touched

Now it’s important to have an idea of just what’s at stake here so here’s a picture of this land bridge and here is Wikipedia’s description of the bridge:

Adam’s Bridge, known in India as Rama’s Bridge or Rama Setu, is a chain of limestone shoals, between the islands of Mannar, near northwestern Sri Lanka, and Rameswaram, off the southeastern coast of India.

The bridge is 30 miles (48 km) long and separates the Gulf of Mannar (southwest) from the Palk Strait (northeast). Some of the sandbanks are dry and the sea in the area is very shallow, being only 3 ft to 30 ft (1 m to 10 m) deep in places, which hinders navigation.

So what we’re dealing with here is basically a partially submerged land bridge that a bunch of people at some point in the past made up some religious story about that has now made it into some sort of sacred place that can’t be touched for fear of a monkey army revolt. Or something. The upshot of it all is that thanks to a majority of the Indian population being True Believers™ ships are forced to travel all the way around the peninsula because a canal is out of the question. Just one more example of superstition slowing down progress.

Update: Forgot to mention this was sent in by Tom McCann.

10 thoughts on “Another example of faith standing in the way of progress.

  1. Two thoughts:

    Is there any doubt that the Indian government was just plain old stupid taking this course?  Rational or not, kicking sand in people’s faces about their religious faith is about as stupid as doing the same about any highly charged emotion item. 

    Beyond that, imponderable and emotional associations often trump pragmatism.  So, for example, if someone said, “Hey, we could do something that will make a lot easier and cheaper for companies to drill oil if we demolish that pesky Mt Rushmore … and, oh, by the way, it’s not a very pretty sculpture and there’s no intrinsic value and, by the way, Teddy Roosevelt really shouldn’t be up there,” people might very well go “batshit insane” (and predictably so).

    The same if someone noted that running a rail line down the middle of the Grand Canyon—or through Yellowstone—would be the most efficient route for moving coal from southern Utah mines to power plans in Southern California, a lot of people would go batshit insane.

    We all make a lot of decisions based on emotional considerations trumping “making progress” ones.  Religious ones are a part of that—and certainly shouldn’t be absolute, but neither are they negligable.  It’s crazy (so to speak) to not take those sorts of factors—“God, Mom, and Apple Pie”—into consideration for political purposes, if nothing else. 

    By doing so, the Indian government has politically poisoned the well, such that, yes, folks are counter-reacting beyond armchair rationality.  But it’s not, I’d argue, just a matter of “irrationality vs. progress,” any more than folks’ reaction to drilling in ANWR is just “irrationality vs. progress.”

  2. My “two thoughts” sort of merged in the writing of the above.  Apologies.  They were:

    1.  Kicking sand in people’s faces is bad politics.  Insulting someone’s mother is a bad negotiating tool.

    2.  We sacrifice lots of “progress” for emotional, aesthetic, and ideological reasons.  Indeed, a lot depends on what one considers “progress.”

  3. The proper course is for the faithful of India to bankrupt themselves by cutting the “bridge” from the rocks and transporting it elsewhere, and then to pay to train another army of monkeys to build a new bridge over the new shipping channel. Oh yes, and there should be lots of singing and dancing.

  4. The upshot of it all is that thanks to a majority of the Indian population being True Believers™ ships are forced to travel all the way around the peninsula because a canal is out of the question

    That’s democracy… but it could be a lot worse and I don’t have any better fool-proof (or at least somewhat) suggesions

    Government isn’t in a position where it can afford to directly kick sand, I think, as ***dave suggested in other words, it needs to keep it’s cool to keep opposition down. Perhaps there’s an alternative plan that though might be less efficient, might cause less problem.

    Once violated though, a ‘sacred’ or environmental area it’s easier to justify devolopment (ie recent athens fires freed up space that was being used by trees, etc)

  5. Another ticklish issue.  How do we balance respect for people’s mistaken beliefs with the need for progress?  In other words: what price are we willing to pay for what progress?  While this rama’s bridge issue seems close to the ridiculous edge for us Westerners, what about mining uranium on sacred Native American lands?  If that seems too obviously on the other end, there are any number of issues in between: for instance, the Native Hawaiian objections to the observatory on Mauna Kea.

    And what about this, in some ways a mirror-image of rama’s bridge: the Northwest Passage is now free of ice for the first time in recorded history.  As a result of our religion of pumping CO2 into the atmosphere, arctic ice has melted to the point that it’s now possible to sail without an icebreaker from Asia to Europe- a mere 15,000 kilometers, as opposed to the previous route via the Panama Canal of 24,000 km.  What progress!  How much cheaper it will be to ship cars to Europe!  Of course, there are a few flies in the ointment…

  6. How do we balance respect for people’s mistaken beliefs with the need for progress?

    It’s an issue that becomes more ticklish when the people holding the belief are in the majority.  At that point, I think they get what they want since that’s the democratic way.  When you’re in the minority, however, then society will only go so far to “respect” your beliefs.

    As a result of our religion of pumping CO2 into the atmosphere …

    I think you mean consumerism.  Fouling the air with excess CO2 is just one of its sacraments.

  7. It’s an issue that becomes more ticklish when the people holding the belief are in the majority.

    …and more ticklish still when they are well armed…

    I think you mean consumerism.  Fouling the air with excess CO2 is just one of its sacraments.

    LOL

  8. Putting faith aside, as I agree it is pointless, how about another perspective? In order to boost an already shit economy, they are going to destroy an obviously well known and beloved landmark to the Indian people. Their religion aside, this would be like destroying any one of the national, natural landmarks in American State Parks, or Ayers Rock in Australia, or any other such well known landmark, simply for the sake of progress.

  9. Here we have a European hindu who thinks he’s irreligious while believing in the same shit. These European trailer trash follow the same religion of 5000BC aka Hinduism and thinks of themselves as ‘free thinker’ and ‘irreligious’…lol….

    I truly wish Russian race liberates European races with full force! However, what he stated in the article it true!!….

    But still you are a religious man without a hat !

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