When we encounter the word “Science” many things may pop up in our heads. Like giant infrastructures, space rockets, high-end tech gadgets, and now, corona vaccines.
After all, vaccines have saved us and science made it happen, but are we grateful enough to the scientific community? And to the years of solid research that they have done to make this possible?
Most people may know the name of the company that manufactured it. In the case of India those “Thank You PM” posters. But no mention of the individual or the group of scientists who have achieved this feat.
There is no doubt people are ignorant of science. You may either be radical enough to think of science as some sort of enemy corrupting minds. Or you may be in denial about the scope of science. People still feel “Science is the concern for people with science degrees”. These people are wrong. As it is an indispensable fact that science incorporates every sphere of our lives.
We keep listening, about viral unscientific claims and practices. Not only regular people but giant public figures are propagating irrationality. Such claims going unquestioned shows the lack of scientific temper in society. We are in the scientific age and nowadays Anti-Science denialism has become cool for a few.
These people are the ones who say India is going to become a superpower someday. So, why is the upcoming superpower struggling with the only thing that is going to make it a superpower? Why are people comfortable being Anti-Science? What’s going wrong?
SO, HOW DO WE DEFINE SCIENCE?
The definition on Wikipedia says, “Science is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe.”
Understanding the universe is something that many different enterprises have tried. Religion over the years has tried to achieve it, but the fundamental difference between them and Science is the evidence-based study.
The scientific community is decentralized. Whenever a discovery or invention happens, these communities look into it deeply. They follow certain standardized principles & guidelines. Only after receiving consensus, will it get established as an evidence-based invention or discovery.
Scientific theories are falsifiable. It means with every discovery, the old theories will improve or get discarded by the new ones, but enterprises like Religion do not offer such freedom.
From simple gadgets to complex space shuttles, science is present everywhere. Science is hard but its working is evident in the simplest forms. Through science, we can explain something as common as “why the sky is blue?” to the more complex something like the “Evolution of Eye” via natural selection.
Everyone knows the falling apple story of Newton. That simple observation has helped in formulating the Laws of Gravitation. Apples have certainly been falling from the trees for centuries. Not only apples, many things but no one before has ever stopped and asked why. And that made the whole difference.
Curiosity is what drives science. Every great discovery or invention has its roots in simple questioning and inquiry. So consciously or unconsciously we all practice science in some form. It may be an oversimplification but it should give us all the more reason to learn things and ask the right questions.
Scientific temper is important for the development of any society. Science is there in school curriculums. Governments promote scientific activities. Developing a scientific temper is one of the constitutional duties. Article 51 A(h) of the Indian Constitution says “To develop scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of inquiry and reform.” And this makes being scientific a duty towards the nation.
Thus, cultivating scientific values and normalizing questioning is necessary for a healthy society. Not only in terms of modernity but also in morality. But are we working towards it?
Acquiring science degrees to get a job is different from encouraging curiosity. As one may follow science as their education or profession but they may not believe in Evolution. It is absurd but the truth of our time.
WHY THE ANTI-SCIENCE HYPOCRISY?
Hypocrisy is the accurate term to define the anti-science position of some people. Though this proud anti-science sentiment is not the result of recent times. It is a result of flawed practice from generations which is “NO MATTER WHAT, NEVER QUESTION THE AUTHORITY”.
It is not specific to India also. Galileo was put under house arrest. All his books were banned because he had proved that Copernicus’s Heliocentrism was true. Copernicus proposed that “the Earth was a planet like Venus or Saturn, and all planets circled the Sun”. With this discovery, the religious sentiments of the Pope were hurt so he put him under house arrest.
In India, it starts from the houses where we were taught to “respect our elders”. It translates to “never question authority”. As life goes on, this small dominance of a few people, controlling your life, gets shifted to society. After that society will decide what you will study, where you will work, and who you will marry. You will learn new things in the world outside your home. But if it contradicts the belief system of your family it will get discarded.
Now the present government wants to take that from society into their hands. It seems that someday all the decisions will be made by the state. When you fall into this trap of narrative where you don’t ask questions, you start following the herd. You start to believe in these fake past glory anecdotes. Like “all the scientific theories are in our scriptures already”. “The Internet was there in the time of Mahabharata”. “Cure for Covid-19 is in the Vedas”. You start believing in miracle cures. You start believing in the superiority of your religion or your caste. In the end, you will become the same hypocrite. You will spread these fake anecdotes and hateful messages across social media.
Criticizing science without even realizing that you are doing it on a smartphone. Another consequence of the same herd mentality. It sounds ridiculous why someone would fall for it. But to them, it makes sense because their instinct of questioning is dead.
There is evolutionary evidence that Humans are social animals. We have survived for so long and evolved to be conscious beings. Not to exercise hatred toward someone because of the social hierarchies or the way they look.
Instead, society should be driven by Reason. We all have to correct the historical errors. We have to unlearn many things that have been fed to us our whole lifetime. You may ask why only science? And the simple reason is that “IT IS DEMOCRATIC”. If we try to ask “whys” till the point it starts to make sense to us it should be done, because it is healthy to ask questions.
WHAT SHOULD WE DO ABOUT IT?
It is a major misconception that the change should be drastic and dramatic to be effective but it can be small too. So start small and you can start by questioning this blog. Then question the society, the culture, and then yourself. Science is a way of life and it should be treated that way.
Two simple principles of “questioning” and “learning” can transform your life. Check facts first hand. Want to understand the world’s existence, read Astrophysics. Want to understand about your being, start reading biology. If you are still confused about “who invaded whom and who destroyed the Mandir”, read history.
You may ask what we will achieve from the mental labor of questioning, and the answer is Truth. It is the road to a better understanding of ourselves & the world around us. This understanding will lead to informed decisions throughout our life. At least now you have to make the conscious choice. Either pursue the truth no matter what or forever stay ignorant.