Author: Aby Antony Paramby
Company: IBS Software Services
Importance and Relevance of Scientific Awareness in our society
When I think of scientific awareness in our society, the first thing which comes to my mind is this little sentence in Sanskrit – ‘vidya dhanam sarva dhanath pradhanam’ – which means education is the most important wealth among all. Here, vidya means science. This sentence, which used to be taught in Indian education system is a valuable thought derived from the vast experience of lots of people. It originated from observing various kind of wealth over many generations. On comparing various things like money, materials, health, education, etc. people came to the conclusion that education is the best kind of wealth that man can acquire in his life. Education may be on any kind of science like physics, economics, psychology, biology, etc. This small sentence reminds us about the importance of scientific awareness and the relevance it has got in all societies.
What is scientific awareness? It can be simply put as the awareness or knowledge about science. In another way, it can be said as the knowledge about things happening around us and the science behind them. It may not be our direct experience. There are many scientific advances happening around the world in each moment. We cannot demand that all that should be our personal experiences. We come to know about such changes through media. The knowledge we get from media about scientific changes and advances can also be considered as scientific awareness. In other words, scientific awareness all about the general knowledge on scientific world. It is un-doubtful that, if many people in our society has this general knowledge on science, some among them can definitely develop or invent new things. It is definitely good to have many thinking caps than having one or two. So, it can be said that societies having good scientific awareness is a treasure to human race. Scientific awareness starts from the curiosity about science.
Our daily life is very much bonded to science. Earlier people used to wake up to the sound of birds like rooster or cock. Now it is by artificial alarms. We are able to communicate with our near and dear ones through phone calls, sms or other messaging services. Those who had to walk to their workplaces earlier can avail vehicles now to reach in shorter time. We have artificial medicines and medical equipment to help us in our ailments. There are special clothes and rooms which can control heat and cold, bulbs to give artificial lighting, oil rigs and nuclear plants to give us energy, rockets and space crafts to take us to space and other planets, artificial satellites for weather forecasting and information sharing… the list goes on. Most often, we are not bothered about the science involved in all these things. Sometimes, we don’t even care if some scientific principles are involved in these things. We simply use them. All these machines and equipment which make our life easier are result of the scientific awareness of people at some point of time. These things underscore the importance of scientific awareness.
If we just look into the history of mankind, we can see that we have always taken science for our help. Thousands of years back, man relied on forest vegetation and fruits. Accidental invention of artificial fire and wheels changed his life, a lot. Such discoveries made him to think about the science involved. Those thoughts led him to invent more value added things. By concentrating more on physics and chemical reactions, his life advanced. Discovery of metals made him more powerful. Slowly, he understood the necessity of developing scientific awareness.
Mankind was distributed over different places on the surface of earth. Some societies had growth and some remained stagnant. If we analyze the reason for growth and stagnation, there is a high chance that our analysis will end at the difference on scientific awareness levels of each society. Those who depended on science were able to easily reign on other societies and use others resources. Those who were weak on science could not resist the invasions and had to surrender. Great kings led wars beyond their boundaries and won using science. Those kings had enough ministers and citizens with good scientific awareness on weapons, metals and chemical warfare. In recent times, British empire conquered many countries and ruled them. It was mainly due to modern guns and other war equipment that their people had developed.
Above mentioned examples emphasize the importance of scientific awareness in our society. The vast number of facilities we enjoy today are the result of scientific awareness of large number of people in various communities. The environment in which each society lives has a major influence on the level of scientific awareness of that society. The importance that each society attaches to scientific awareness may vary depending on their living conditions. If somebody asks a society reeling from food shortage, to grow in science, it may not heed. They will be more concentrating on quenching their hunger. If their hunger is quenched and then tried to make them aware in science, it will give much better results. Similar will be the result, if somebody talks science to war laden people. If physical conditions do not support, it will be difficult to advance in science. Scientific researches usually need lot of money. Those countries which can’t bear the burden of spending huge amount of money on research, scientific advancement will be far.
Some ancient Indian communities had shown much interest in certain scientific fields like biology, monumental architecture, astrology, economics, etc. We can find enough proof in epics and Indus valley civilization. Ancient universities like Nalanda, Takshashila (Taxila), etc. are examples of scientific awareness of Indian societies. Along with that, there were many reference books from ancient Indian scholars. Sushrutha Samhitha, Arthasaasthra, etc. are only a few among them. Ayurveda still remain as a mega contribution of India to science. Similar is our contribution to mathematics.
Even though, Indian society had given much relevance to scientific awareness at the time of kings, it gradually came down with time. Though they were mostly agriculturists, they had taken out some time for research and experiments. Nowadays most people are busy with their own needs. Nobody cares about the contributions that they could give to humankind through scientific awareness and research. The remuneration and respect that society gives to those involved in scientific research is comparably less in India. If scientists are given respect and encouragement, more people will come forward to do research. For that, everyone should know what is science and what are the benefits of it. Only if the younger generations are made enthusiastic on science and related matters from initial stages of their formal education, then they will show interest in science when they grow up. It is often seen that scientific excursions become mere entertainment tours. Learning should be made an interesting thing by making necessary changes in curriculum after involving those working in scientific fields. Children need to study theory from books. Above that, the self-learning that they get through experiments and observation is very valuable. If they have to be science oriented, there need to have good labs and facilities in each school. Science exhibitions and similar extracurricular activities are always interesting for students. By subscribing to scientific magazines and books at home and libraries, we can guide children to be more scientific aware.
People doing research tend to go to countries where they get good recognition and respect. That itself shows the scientific awareness of people or leaders of the receiving countries. Another reason for this exodus is the lack of good facilities and opportunities for scientists in our country. The contributions that these scientists give to mankind reaches India also. There are occasions when we think that why such contributions are not happening from India too. If governments provide good facilities and financial and other kind of support, our people also will turn to scientific fields giving much reputation and financial gains for our country. By this, the flow of our intellectual property to other countries can be checked to some extent.
Some scientific advancements happening recently in India are enough to attract the attention of outsiders. Space programs of Indian Space Research Organization to Moon and Mars are making others jealous about us. Along with that, we are able to take satellites of many countries to orbits precisely. India has developed its own satellite navigation system. Such achievements are definitely inducing awareness about science in many people. Similarly, the contribution of Indian pharma companies is also getting noticed by common public and is often discussed. Those advances which immediately reach common people gets news coverage and it leads to more thoughts and further advances. These incidents make people with a little interest in science to be more inclined to science. Science which do not give significant contribution to mankind gets little attention. Often they just end up in loose talk and gets forgotten.
Many scientific researches and inventions happening in India is not known to the world. There are a few private research organizations in India which make good with their limited resources. Often, they are supported by our industry for economic benefits. This is attributable to few people with good vision about science. Politicians, who are mostly indulged in slugfest and corruption, do not get time to look after scientific people. In this era, if a country has to grow, it has to have more people with scientific awareness and that should in turn lead to more inventions and discoveries. If our politicians have this insight, our country will grow manifold. There are many highly skilled and talented people who shy away from researches due to lack of support and encouragement.
Kerala is a land with 100 percent literacy. Even though Kerala is good at literacy, it is doubtful that it is good at scientific awareness. There were many eminent scientists from Kerala. But, most of them had to work outside Kerala due to lack of sufficient infrastructure here. We should admit that we failed in providing support to them. If somebody comes with a request to take land for setting up of infrastructure for research, people usually get into unnecessary scuffles and issues and try to block it. The resistance is mostly due to the lack of knowledge of what kind of research is going to happen and what is the relevance of the research. In such cases, there has to be more involvement in teaching the relevance and subsequent concerns to be addressed. This leads to financial and time loss. If people had good scientific awareness, they would have willingly donated land and resources so that processes can speed up and bear fruit at the earliest. They might have even taken some loss for the cause.
Many scientific researches take time to complete and will be giving results only at the end. Even Thomas Alva Edison took many years and attempts to invent electric bulb. Common people will be usually busy with their daily activities. In the fast moving world, they may not have enough time to closely follow the updates on researches, which progress slowly. Society may not have the patience which scientists possess. So people will not be that interested in following up with science. This has to be knowingly changed by releasing intermittent updates on the progress the research is making. This will make the research alive in common discussions and will make people think frequently about it. This information release may not be feasible for national defense related and commercially important researches.
Scientific awareness plays a major role in removing superstitions from society. People where believing that Sun was revolving around Earth till Galelio proved it wrong. When Galelio shared his awareness, people came to know the truth that Earth is revolving around Sun. Similar was the belief that earth was flat. People tend to call God, those phenomena which they do not have knowledge and which scared them. There was a time when people used to worship thunders, sun, moon, stars, etc. considering they were gods. When scientific awareness started to crop in, they were able to understand what these natural forces are and were able to predict their nature to some extent. When people started realizing the fact making animal or human sacrifice has got nothing to do with achieving goals, they have almost stopped it. But there are still certain societies which follow these rituals. Reason – their scientific awareness is low. When science grow, we will also have to learn new things.
Sometimes scientific awareness crosses its limits. Some people accept only scientific things. They reject ideologies and beliefs which lack scientific reasoning. Known as rationalists, they always seek science behind everything. Sometimes they decipher their own and others scientific awareness in the wrong way and make advantage of it. They always question those religious beliefs and sentiments which cannot be easily answered by science. They can make people non-religious. These kind of wrong scientific awareness could lead to anti-social organizations. Some anti-national elements even give out wrong awareness and explanations deliberately and benefit from it. People who are having less education sometimes fall prey to these outfits.
In recent times, internet and other social media is playing a major role in spreading scientific awareness. There are many enjoyable videos and pictures on old and new scientific facts and principles which are continuously shared on these platforms. They are capable of increasing our scientific quotient even without our knowledge. Videos which show the working of many kinds of machines and scientific principles explained in simple ways definitely change our thinking and beliefs about many things. Internet is capable of removing many misconceptions from our head. The only thing is, we need to find time to go behind internet. News which came to us through newspapers, radio and television, now comes to us through internet. They are able to influence our conscious and sub conscious minds. If needed, we have easy access to see and hear those news multiple times from internet. We can even search more and find related stories in internet. When science shows us the correct way to do many things, which we have been wrongly doing all the times, we cannot simply ignore them. When wrong information goes away, our minds enlighten and brain starts producing wonderful things.
We need a society with good scientific awareness. When our society stops fighting on the basis of cast, creed, religion, etc. and upholds science for progress, we will conquer heights. Let us pledge to make coming generations more aware in science. Only if they think about science, nation will progress. Hope their scientific awareness will remove all superstitions, misconceptions and wrong sciences to reach glory through the right way.