Subhash Kak, Ph.D.
(Quantum Theorists & Historian of Science)
6.18 – The God Particle (8.15.14)
Subhash Kak (born 26 March 1947 in Srinagar) is an Indian American computer scientist and a Hindutva historical revisionist. Kak has been criticised for propagating fringe and revisionist views.
He is the Regents Professor of Computer Science Department at Oklahoma State University–Stillwater and has made contributions to cryptography, artificial neural networks, and quantum information. Kak has also published on the history of science, the philosophy of science, ancient astronomy, and the history of mathematics. He is also an honorary visiting professor of engineering at Jawaharlal Nehru University.
In 2019, Government of India awarded him with Padma Shri award, the fourth highest civilian award in India.
Early life and education
Subhash Kak was born to Ram Nath Kak, a government veterinary doctor and Sarojini Kak in Srinagar. His brother is the computer scientist Avinash Kak and sister the literary theorist Jaishree Odin.
He completed his BE from Regional Engineering College, Srinagar (Presently National Institute of Technology, Srinagar) and Ph.D. from Indian Institute of Technology Delhi in 1970, where he was immediately offered a faculty position.
During 1975-1976, he was a visiting faculty at Imperial College, London, and a guest researcher at Bell Laboratories, Murray Hill. In 1977, he was a visiting researcher at Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Bombay. In 1979, he joined Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, where he was the Donald C. and Elaine T. Delaune Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering. In 2007, he joined the Computer Science department at Oklahoma State University–Stillwater.
He was featured as one of the pioneers of quantum learning in the journal NeuroQuantology edited by Cheryl Fricasso and Stanley Krippner. Kak had proposed an efficient three-layer feed-forward neural network architecture and developed four corner classification algorithms for training it. Despite being criticized for scalability issues; it invoked attention within the electronic hardware community. Kak has argued that there are limits to artificial intelligence and that it cannot equate the biological equivalent.
On 28 August 2018, he was appointed member of Indian Prime Minister’s Science, Technology and Innovation Advisory Council (PM-STIAC).
Kak primarily advocates for an autochthonous origin of the Indo-Aryans from Punjab (“Indigenous Aryans” hypothesis) in contradiction of the scholarly consensus about the validity of Indo-Aryan migration theory. Kak has also claimed to find evidences of advanced computing and astronomy in the Rig Veda in what Noretta Koertge deems to be a “social constructivist and postmodern attack on modern science”. Kak insists that Vedic scientists discovered the physical laws by Yogic meditation and that it is a well valid scientific method; that can be only evaluated within the paradigm of Vedic assumptions and by those who have attained Yogic enlightment. He also claims the greatness of Hindus over Muslims in that whilst the former built cultural empires, the latter built military empires.
Meera Nanda notes of Kak being revered as a stalwart of Hindutva and one of the leading “intellectual Kshatriyas”. Edwin Bryant notes him to be a well read and articulate spokesman for the Indigenous Aryan hypothesis and for other issues concerning ancient Indian science and culture.
Scholars have rejected his theories in entirety and his writings have been heavily criticized. Acute misrepresentation of facts coupled with wrong observations, extremely flecible and often self-contradictory analysis, cherry picking of data and forwarding of easily-disprovable hypotheses have been located. His understanding of linguistics and subsequent assertion have been challenged. Romila Thapar noted Kak to be an amateur historian whose views on the Indus Civilization were fringe and who was part of a group; which had more to do with waging political battles at the excuse of history. Michael Witzel noted him to be a revisionist and part of a “closely knit, self-adulatory group”, members of which often write together and/or profusely copy from one another; thus rendering the whole scene into a virtually indistinguishable hotchpotch. Garrett G. Fagan, a noted critic of pseudo-archaeology has concurred with Witzel. Similar concerns of his’ being a Hindutva revisionist has been echoed from other quarters too. In a critique about faulty scientific reasoning in Hindutva ideologies and theories; Alan Sokal criticized Kak as “one of the leading intellectual luminaries of the Hindu-nationalist diaspora” Koertge as well as Meera Nandas notes Kag’s attempts to be part of a Hindutva based esoteric pseudoscience narrative that seeks to find relatively advanced abstract physics in Vedic texts and assign an indigenousness to the Aryans in a bid to prove the superiority of Indian civilization.
While Kak’s interpretation has been included in recent overviews of astronomy in the Vedic period in India and the West, his chronology and astronomical calculations have been critiqued by several Indologists, such as Michael Witzel, and Western historians, such as Kim Plofker.