A scientific temperament has always been an essential characteristic of an individual’s development. But what exactly is it? The term “scientific temperament” consists of two words, with the first relating to validated facts governed by certain principles of or relating to science. The second refers to an attitude that affects how the individual behaves and feels. Together, this enables an individual to perceive things in the light of facts and make better decisions in life.
In order to do so, it must be noted that one must seek the cause-and-effect relationship in everything, not just the correlation between two things, in order to analyse more efficiently and, most importantly, in a scientific manner.
Jawaharlal Nehru first coined the term in his book The Discovery of India, published in 1946. According to him, scientific temper is a way of life that involves an individual using scientific methods such as questioning, observation, testing, hypothesising, analysing, or communicating on a regular basis. In simple words, if an individual has a scientific approach in his/her decision-making, such as frequently observing and validating facts before forming a hypothesis, he/she is considered to be high on scientific temper.
It is important to understand that scientific temperament extends beyond the realms of science and it can be used by anyone, irrespective of his/her subject of interest and to develop the habit and inculcate its uses in one’s life, be it personal or professional. Scientific Temper is also considered an essential tool for success in the workplace, as it allows one to apply his/her learning in a practical manner. Thus, there is a need to inculcate scientific temperament in the younger generation — especially in India where more than 40% of the population is under 18 — and enable them to think and make decisions rationally.
For a long time, our education system has focussed on teaching students to memorise and reproduce what has been taught to them or what is in their textbooks, instead of encouraging them to question and seek out evidence that would guide them to an answer on their own. What we require is for students to comprehend what they are learning while applying their learning in a more practical way.
Hence, it is the need of the hour that educators help students enhance their curiosity and their exploring nature, besides motivating them to self-learn and seek the answers independently. They must allow students to ask questions and seek answers on their own. Successful learning also involves providing them with an environment that enables them to search for the answer, refuse to accept anything without testing and trial, develop the capacity to change previous conclusions in the face of new evidence, and make them self-sufficient learners.
The writer is Project Director, Knowledge and Awareness Mapping Platform, an initiative of CSIR-NIScPR and NCPL)