Developing a scientific temper

Though we hold science on a very high ground, we fail to apply it in our daily lives

May 23, 2021 12:28 am | Updated July 06, 2022 12:17 pm IST

Growing up in India, we hear a concoction of ideas that shape the people around us. However, if there is one thing that at some point all of us are told is that science is superior to anything you will ever study. As much as this theory is flawed, I have also come to realise how simply it highlights the hypocrisy our society promotes.

I have always believed that India is a country of faith. Hope is something we are all taught early on. Our beliefs make us feel less lonely. The irony, however, lies in the fact that this habit tends to push us into the direction where we believe without questioning anything. As a people we hold science on a very high ground, but we fail to apply it in our daily lives. For us, science is our appliances, our phones and a way of making money. The reality is far from it.

Developing a scientific temper is a fundamental duty under the Constitution. The term was held dear by our first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, who used it in his book The Discovery Of India . He described the implications scientific behaviour will have on our country as a whole.

India has great potential in science. Many of our practices have deep-rooted scientific bases, which were, however, twisted as they made their way down the generations. Our ancestors followed the Ayurveda way before it was adopted by the world. Funnily enough, now it’s the foreigners who are teaching us more about our own practices than we ever knew.

What I am talking about is “understanding over ignoring”. Our education let us down because while it gave us the weapon, it never taught us how to use it. Scientific temper is nothing but questioning. Science is just finding and looking for ways to prove what is being read or heard.

We are exposed to tons of facts on a daily basis. What we need to do is pause, think and analyse. The people we hold on a high ground manage to endorse pseudo-science, and we believe it in the blink of an eye. We need to inculcate the habit of critical thinking.

In this money-making world, driven by our attention, clicks and likes, it is very hard to tell the lies from the truth. Since the economy is not changing anytime soon, and while social media remains a platform of free speech, we need to protect ourselves against being used. Massive organisations benefit every day by promoting ideas that people might like and share. Fake news travels faster than the truth because the truth is usually bland. Scientists fail to communicate to common people, and popular science is still lying somewhere in a dark pit. We managed to create such powerful religions and I am not saying to let go of them. Integrating science into our religion, however, can be magical. Imagine what we can do with that much morality that goes hand in hand with knowledge.

Science is not something that is happening in labs somewhere out there, science is everything we do from the moment we wake up. It is keeping us alive and believing in it might be one step closer to getting in touch with our subconscious. As much as not sneezing before you go out is harmless, believing that COVID-19 is a myth is life-threatening. We as individuals have a responsibility. We need to fact-check before pressing that little arrow next to a post. We need to question our beliefs. Not for us, but for everyone.

As Marie Curie, the first person to win two Nobel Prizes, said, “You can’t hope to create a better world without improving the individuals. To that end, each of us must work for our own improvement...”

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