The term “scientific temper” is very subjective and hard to define (Editorial page, “The power of persuasion”, February 27). Science taught me to question everything and I began questioning science itself after I came across criticism of scientific methods by Karl Popper and found it to be valid. In order to develop scientific temper, as mentioned in the Constitution, there is a need to make science objective, which I feel is quite difficult to achieve in democracies such as India. This is the major reason why superstitious beliefs continue in India. A completely rational society is a utopian idea.
B. Vishnu Theja Reddy,
Kadapa, Andhra Pradesh
The article has made valid points with the writer putting forth the point that the power of persuasion can help curb the adoption of a superstitious mindset and develop scientific temper instead. But when scientists of the Indian Space Research Organisation, a torch bearer of scientific temper, perform rituals in religious places for the success of their hard work or when Chief Ministers of States offer rituals for the prosperity of their State, the utopian goal is not going to be achieved.
Alvin P. Koshy,
Vayala, Adoor, Kerala
Superstition is most often portrayed as a symbol of backwardness and even an indicator of poverty which often gives rise to the idea that it is in poor countries that superstition rules supreme. India ranks as one of the most superstitious countries in the world but how many of us know that it is prevalent in even the developed world? All superstitions do not cause harm. There are also some acts of superstition that can be explained scientifically. For example, stringing a cotton thread through a lime with chillies is because the thread absorbs the juices which when vaporised are/where said to have some benefits. There are of course a majority of superstitious practices that have no scientific basis.
Superstition continues to rule the lives of people, as such beliefs are closely linked to faith in god. It is against this that one must consider how scientists and rationalists have been endeavouring to spread the message of science in their own limited spheres. But their efforts are like drops in an ocean. Larger efforts by the State or humongous social movements are required to eradicate superstitious practices. For example, practices such as sati were not eradicated by ‘persuasion’ but due to the enormous efforts put in by social reformers and ultimately by legislation. ‘Persuasion’ is an excellent tool, but is limited in its scope and reach. Finally, educationists and governments must ensure that people are suitably educated to develop scientific temper and rational thinking. Childhood is the best period to sow the seeds of scientific thinking and to develop reasoning. The media has a great role to play in this regard as its reach in this technological age is unlimited.