Book Review

Avijit Roy's "Alo Hate choliyachey adharer Jatri"
- an Effort to Highlight Scientific Truths Against Superstitious Beliefs

Shabbir Ahmed

Published on May 2, 2005

Cyberspace opened the door for exchanging ideas on various issues among Bangladesh-origin freethinkers. It helped a good number of Bangalees to express their opinion in different Internet forums. A few of the forums were started by brave Bangalees, who allowed the writers to express their opinion freely against religious bigotry and superstitious belief system. Of these forums, Mukto-Mona ( took the lead in allowing freethinking and exchanging ideas based on rational thinking. The founder of this forum is Avijit Roy. He participated in many discussions himself and allowed others to do so. In fact, he played the role as one of the pioneers in bringing together a group of Bangladesh-origin writers in Mukto-Mona. Especially, he writes eloquently in both Bengali and English. To convey the messages to a wide group of Bangalee readers, it is important to write in Bengali. Mainly, the young Bangalees should get the knowledge on scientific facts by reading science-based essays and eventually be able to question the philosophies of bigotry and superstition. This is what Skepticism is - a vital part of science. In this respect, Avijit Roy has a superb capability in communicating his rational thoughts in Bengali. I read many (if not all) of his essays in both Bengali and English. While writing rebuttals and taking part in discussions, he was writing investigative essays in an organized fashion. In particular, he devoted his investigation to use scientific truth to rebut the beliefs based on nothing but mental blindness and superstition. Based on his diligent effort, he has written the recently published book titled "Alo Hate choliyachey adharer Jatri." (Publisher: Ankur Prakashani, April: 2005, ISBN : 984 464 124 1) This book will definitely help a good number of Bangalee readers to open their minds about the scientific truth against myths and superstitions. 

In the book "Alo Hate choliyachey adharer Jatri", Avijit Roy presents science as a means to understand the origin and existence of the natural systems of the universe in both space and time. To make the "spatial and temporal processes in the universe" understandable to the readers, he writes about the contribution of the great scientists in a systematic and logical fashion. He started his book with the analysis of the contribution of Isaac Newton and continued explaining the monumental contribution of Galileo, Albert Einstein, George Gammow, Jocelyn Bell, Vera Rubin, John Schwarz, Joel Scherk, Ed Witten, Sheldon Glasgow, Steven Weinberg, Stephen Hawking and many other illuminating scientists whom Avijit correctly denotes as �Alo Hatey chola Adharer Jaatree�. Readers will also get inspiration to see the contribution of Meghnad Saha, Satyen Bose, C.V. Raman, Abdus Salam, Chandrashekhar et al, indeed some of them were from our Bangalee origin. In addition to the analysis of the contribution of these scientists, he writes quite eloquently about the phenomena of the Expanding Universe, Inverse law of Gravitation, Special and General theory of Relativity, Dark Matter, Dark Energy, Vacuum Fluctuation, Big Crunch, Accelerating Universe, Big Rip, Superstring theory, etc. in a way that would be understandable to most of the Bangalee readers having little or no scientific background. While explaining these complex phenomena and processes, he adds a scholarly appendix at the end of his book for the satisfaction of more educated readers. He also points out extensively about the struggle of the scientists for establishing the scientific facts against the superstitious belief system in those days. Unfortunately, the struggle of the scientists and freethinkers is not over yet, especially, in a country like Bangladesh. That's why, a book in Bengali titled "Alo Hate choliyachey adharer Jatri", is a timely and a courageous effort of Avijit Roy, a great freethinker and an emerging scientist.

The blind believers believe that everything came into being just because a supernatural power thought to create all the processes at a certain instant of time in the infinite past. It is an over simplification of the existence of the whole complex processes in the universe. With this sort of belief system, a good number of Bangalee scientists work on their areas of expertise without questioning "why" and "how" regarding the changes in the universe, evolution in earth, theories contradictory to the sudden creation, etc. In fact, if it were so simple to analyze based on the will of a great creator, then it would have been better because the scientists in the past and at the present would not have to worry about the complexities centering the origin and existence of the spatially and temporally varying universe. But, it is not simply true based on the solution given by a great creator. Unfortunately, the believer scientists and gullible philosophers around the globe do not try to go into the in-depth analysis contradictory to the belief system centering a great creator. They continue their research and development on theories of physics, mathematics, biology, philosophy, etc. to try to solve current and future problems without questioning the contradictions caused by the simplified belief system on the variations of the processes in the universe from the infinite past to the infinite future. Avijit Roy very carefully highlights the simplified conclusions of the believer scientists and philosophers that bear no scientific basis. In many cases, the believers jump into conclusions to justify their belief system using the facts/hypotheses of the hard working scientists. They even try to give credits to the great creator (whom they believe in unquestionably) based on the findings of the heart and soul efforts of many great scientists. Avijit Roy gives many examples. In one example, he gives the statement of an Islamic thinker on Big Bang theory. One of the prominent Islamic thinkers named Mr. Harun Yahya wrote ("Alo Hate choliyachey adharer Jatri", page 67): 

"Scientists are now certain that the universe came into being from nothingness as the result of an unimaginably huge explosion, known as the "Big Bang". In other words, the universe came into being - or rather, Allah created it."

The above statement reflects the views of many defenders (scientists/thinkers) of the blind belief systems that only teach them to over simplify the complex processes in the name of an almighty creator. With appreciation, I should say that Avijit Roy explains the facts against the blindness of the believer scientists/philosophers. As an applied scientist, he broke the norm and started questioning and searching about the space-time relationships of the processes in the universe. Through his continued efforts, he learned about the contribution of the scientists and the complex processes of physics that explains many of the questions of a freethinker. In chapter two, maintaining an impartial style in describing history of science and demystifying all types of religious bigotry, Avijit demonstrates how Christian fundamentalism once literally shackled the minds of men for thousands of years, and held back the advancement of science. The Biblical belief system was used as evidences against Galileo and Bruno, who argued for the theory of Copernicus that the earth was not immovable, rather rotated around the sun. Interested readers will find that it was just few years ago- in 1992, after 350 years of demise of Galileo, Pope John Paul II (recently deceased) formally apologized for the persecution of Galileo, though the Church till date is silent about Bruno (Alo Hate, page 33), who was brutally burned at stake � a more severe persecution from the Church compared to the fate of Galileo, for supporting Copernicus�s heliocentric model, which was to become the key insight that led to our present view of the world. In chapter seven, Avijit writes extensively about the mysteries of the universe and the contradictions caused by the simplified belief in a great creator. His essays remind us late Carl Sagan, famous astrophysicist and advocator of Modern Scientific Humanism:

The idea that God is an oversized white male with a flowing beard who sits in the sky and tallies the fall of every sparrow is ludicrous. But if by God one means the set of physical laws that govern the universe, then clearly there is such a God. This God is emotionally unsatisfying... it does not make much sense to pray to the law of gravity. [Carl Sagan]

Avijit Roy reveals himself as an engineer in the book. In fact, engineers are supposed to be the applied physicists and applied mathematicians. Unlike many engineers, I find his exceptional inquisitive mind that he used to search for scientific truths like a physicist. His latest book tells us how science leads us toward rationalism, basing conclusions on logic and evidences. He organized all of his findings and put together in a book to enlighten fellow Bangalee readers. I thank and congratulate him for all that he did in this regard.

[The Review has been published in Daily Independent (28/05/05), Daily Observer (12/06/05), Weekly Holiday (13/05/05), Daily News From Bangladesh (05/05/05) and many other newspapers.]


Dr. Shabbir Ahmed, a research engineer and cyber commentator, writes from Jacksonville, Florida, USA. He can be reached at [email protected]