Garbha Sanskar: The “Emperor’s new clothes” business model

pregnant woman

A garbha sanskar event organized in Kolkata got challenged in the High Court by doctors over its claims to create super babies. This is a most welcome development in a country fast drowning in superstition.

There is a trend these days to sell superstition in the name of science. As though faith is not enough to do the absurd, there are claims of scientific evidence backing absurdities. But they use a very basic model of fooling people. I’ve started calling it the “Emperor’s new clothes” business model in honor of the Emperor. If you can claim that some nonsense is backed by science confidently enough, few people take the time to examine it, and instead have blind faith in the claim (ironic, no?).

The latest such confidence trick to make news is when “Garbha Sanskar” program of Arogya Bharti ran into trouble in Kolkata when their event was challenged in court based on the claims they had made. While the court did not find enough evidence to ban the programme alotgether (because it does little more than mumbo jumbo to begin with), it specified that specialists could lecture but not treat anyone there (no problem, no one is treated there) and attendees couldn’t be charged. Note, the “Garbha Sanskar” programme is basically a collection of ritualized superstitions that claim to create “super babies” – their basic claim is that while genetic engineering is done “in vitro” garbha sanskar is the “in vivo” method already given to mankind through vedic knowledge.

When I tell this to you like this, it is easy to see the absurdity of it. If vedic knowldge didn’t give superbabies in so many thousands of years, the chance of a superman flying out of your loins within a few months is negligible. But when you are surrounded by the gullible hopeful in a room where the authority figure tells you this, it sounds like some secret key to the universe is handed exclusively into your hands. And no one pauses to ask why of all the people in the world, fate would choose such a lazy custodian who did little more than pay Rs. 500 to deserve such a potent miracle. Because our conceit enjoys hearing that we are special. And we don’t mind playing a few dozen harmless games to enjoy the illusion for longer.

Here are some quotes from various garbh sanksar claims, teachings and so on.

Garbh sanskar can produce genius babies.

This is usually accompanied by some tall anecdotal “evidence” of what is possible “if you do it correctly” – so if you have an ordinary adorable baby waving arms wildly and blinking unfocused eyes on birth, you must have missed adding the superhero cape somehow.

60% of the brain development is complete in the womb (or some variation of it)

60% of a chicken’s formation is completed in the egg. This doesn’t mean you pay 60% of the price of an adult chicken for an egg, right?

But this is actually a very popular line to convince parents that they need to act urgently if they want a super baby. But here is the thing. 60% of brain development doesn’t mean 60% of lifetime intelligence. These are biological processes and the foetus in the womb does all the “learning” it needs to do by figuring out how to move limbs and so on. It doesn’t need to understand language since the most important sounds around it are generated by biological processes. It may recognize the mother’s voice as it vibrates through her own body as well, but it doesn’t understand meaning. Nor is the brain developed enough to link sounds together and make sense of them – even newborns don’t figure it out for quite a few months after birth. That is simply how the brain creates connections and develops more complex functionality. the 60% is about the brain’s ability to function and not intelligence.

Looking at art or listening to music is no more likely to make your child the next art world celebrity than driving all through pregnancy is likely to make him a driver or eating several meals a day during pregnancy is going to make him prone to overeating (or able to eat at birth). This is nonsense and I have met several garbh sanskar children and found them no more or less remarkable than other children – their parents are another story.


Will add more of the absurd claims here when I get time, but frankly it isn’t rocket science. It is pure mythology applied to life and if you have the slightest ability for critical thinking, seeing through this rubbish is a breeze.

Basically what happens here is an authority figure makes claims of religious mythology being backed by science without providing robust evidence. But because we are conditioned to not question “scientific proof”, we decide to believe it – this is the opposite of science. When you cannot verify something, it is called “unverified” not “probably they are right and let me obey to be safe”. There is no such thing as science that cannot be questioned.

The Emperor’s New Clothes business model is an old brainwashing tactic and it is refreshing to see doctors challenge it in courts instead of merely allowing it to proliferate stupidity in the guise of “harmless belief”.

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