National Science Day: A day to embody the true spirit of science
- The Government is organizing a Science Week “Vigyan Sarvatra Pujyate” as a prelude to National Science Day.
- It will commemorate Sir C.V. Raman’s discovery on light scattering.
National Science Day - Objectives
- The programme is designed to make youth be proud about India’s scientific achievements.
- This event celebrates the true spirit of science that defies all types of intellectual curtailments.
- Also to promote critical thinking in our academic centers.
The Essence of Science
- Science is a mosaic of partial and conflicting visions.
- The one common element in these visions is rebellion against the restrictions imposed by the locally prevailing culture, Western or Eastern.
- The vision of science is not specifically Western.
- It is no more Western than it is Arab or Indian or Japanese or Chinese.
- Arabs, Indians, Japanese and Chinese: a big share in the development of modern science.
- Freeman Dyson(A prominent physicist of our times): In his book “The Scientist as Rebel”, makes a clear argument about why dissent is the soul of science.
- “There is no such thing as a unique scientific vision, any more than there is a unique poetic vision”.
- Omar Khayyam(Arab mathematician and astronomer): Science, a rebellion against the intellectual constraints of Islam.
The main takeaways from Dyson:
- Science is universal like music, dance or poetry, there is nothing like Indian, American or Chinese science.
- Science is an alliance of free spirits in all cultures rebelling against the local tyranny that each culture imposes on its children.
- Evidence-based modern science as an intellectual rebellion or as a form of dissent against social constraints.
- Examples: Islamic and the European renaissance of science of the Middle Ages, Reawakening in India around the 19th century.
- What is true of science is also true of poetry.
- Poetry was not invented by Westerners.
- India has poetry older than Homer.
- Poetry and science are gifts given to all of humanity.
Past and Present together
- For Indian scientists in the past: Science was a double rebellion, against English domination as well as the fatalistic ethos of Hinduism.
- This rebellious spirit led to a resurgence of science in India.
- There is an ideological shift toward the right these days.
- The academic freedom is now under greater pressure to tow the official line than ever before.
- Science is an inherently subversive act: a threat to establishment of all kinds, whether it upends a long-standing scientific idea or it questions the received political wisdom or irrationality.
- Such ideas must have played in the minds like Einstein and others when they turned the scientific theories upside down.
- Galileo Galilei and Nicolaus Copernicus: took a firm stand against the prevalent wisdom despite their religiosity.
- Haldane(1957): began to refer to the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) as the Council for the Suppression of Independent Research.
- Sudhir Kakar and Katharina Kakar: In their book “The Indians: Portrait of A People”, writes “Indians is Homo hierarchicus” - a term originally employed by Louis Dumont in his treatise on the Indian caste system.
India and Pseudoscience
- The Indian family landscape is authoritarian and patriarchal, also benevolent to the obedient in its dealings.
- Indians grow with a loss of self and learn to subsume our worth as an individual.
- Indians are culturally tuned to uphold the family’s integrity, religion, caste and/or regional identity rather than her individual strengths.
- Societies with patriarchal moorings automatically generate conditions for authoritarian rule & generating an ambience of fear.
- It tends to feed the conceit of the rulers by inventing make-belief science or pseudoscience.
Need of the Hour
- Tradition-bound countries such as India need to free themselves from the cultural chains of the past to foster original thinking.
- Good humored disdain for perceived wisdom and disregard for authority(called ‘irreverence’) is important in science.
- The cultural shifts are not easy to accomplish, particularly in a tradition bound society.
- Scientists have a special duty to foster a free and unfettered intellectual ambience.
- It can be done by actively engaging in the transformation of values both within and outside workplaces.
- A fundamental challenge is how to strengthen social democratic norms within the institutes.
- National Science Day should offer forums where freewheeling discussion of such themes are organized & epitomizing the true spirit of science.
- Finally resulting in unleashing its tremendous transformative power.