China’s top science institute recently got itself embroiled in controversy after performing religious rites to mark the beginning of construction for its nuclear facility.
Critics accused China’s Academy of Sciences (CAS) of mixing science with religion for holding a Taoist ritual ceremony at a site meant for the advancement of science.
The ritual, held in northern China’s Gansu province last Thursday, reportedly involved burning paper and killing an actual sacrificial lamb. While such ceremonies are common practice among local construction firms in China, many have found the practice to be out of place.
It soon generated backlash online after the images of the ceremony went viral, according to Quartz.
“This seems like the project’s builder really believed in the ritual. Does this mean that our high-technology projects are built by a group of illiterates who don’t trust science? Can we still believe in the quality and precision of the project?”
a Chinese netizen was quoted as saying
“If this happened decades before the foundation of China we might understand, but it’s already 2018.”
However, there are those who pointed out that the ritual should not be rejected outright as superstition but instead viewed as a part of China’s heritage.
“China has had a complex feeling with the land for thousands of years… People often show respect to the land because it provides the food we need for survival. They also fear the land for the disasters it might bring,” a social media user said.
The reactions have prompted the institute to issue an apology on Monday.
“Affiliates of the CAS are responsible for technological advancement and scientific communication, but some relevant technology programs have failed to restrain cooperating parties, which resulted in a deviation from the scientific spirit. We offer the most sincere apologies… and we will enhance political education,” CAS said in a statement.
The controversy also resulted in the suspension of two nuclear scientists from CAS affiliate Shanghai Institute of Applied Physics who both attended the ceremony.
While the institute maintained that the construction company working on the site organized the ritual, it said it decided to suspend the two nuclear scientists for failing to stop it.