Author: Adeeb A Karim
Company: McFadyen Consulting
Importance and Relevance of Scientific Awareness in our society
We can find several definitions for the word “science”. In general, one of the very high level definition of science may be:
“A systematic study of the surrounding world via observations and experiments”
What makes it differ from mere conclusions or understanding? What make a scientific stand different from a mere belief? To understand more about these questions, we may have to understand how a scientific conclusion is made.
A scientific conclusion is mostly referred to as a scientific fact. Scientific conclusion is made through a scientific method, we referred it as a systematic study in our simple definition. Let us examine the elements of scientific method. It consists of just three simple steps – a hypothesis, some amount of genuine experiments to fight the hypothesis and a reasonable conclusion of the exercise. On the other hand, a mere understanding, is based on assumptions or beliefs which are mostly not validated via a scientific method. This could be based on a gut feel, based on respect on an institution or even based on a un-questionable source. All of us have such understandings, most of them drive our thoughts and deeds to an extend as well.
Free minds always tend to interact with its surroundings rather than being a dead part of it. Some emerges as questions, some as challenges and even some as quarrels that eventually changes the surroundings. The ability to sharply interact, react and manipulate its surroundings made humans different from other living beings. Even other beings also may be doing this; but we are far ahead of them in this aspect.
The ability to question the system or mentality to challenge and cross check before accepting may be referred to as critical thinking. The basis of critical thinking is mostly the convictions, understanding and prejudice our minds forms based on its exposure and information it gains. We may refer the basis of critical thinking as knowledge, which gets enriched every now and then. Critical thinking emerges as scientific thinking, when we adopt scientific method for it rather than relying on mere assumptions. Here our decision making is based on scientific conclusions or facts rather than guesses and clues. Being said this, we always have to have room for fair abstractions; we learn to rely on classified scientific conclusions endorsed by the world. Scientific thinking enables us to build more reliable fact based knowledge base, which can be passed on from generation to generation. This critical thinking in general and scientific thinking in particular, makes human world self-evolving.
Many of our nations and organizations have initiatives to promote scientific thinking. Peripherally the effort we are collectively making to promote scientific thinking may be referred to as scientific awareness programs. Society transforms itself to a scientific aware society, when it accepts and practices scientific thinking to evaluate and decide its course of events.
All we discussed so far seems to be fine, unless we bring the terms like power and money to the table. These two elements mostly drive our ability to acquire scientific awareness. For example, an investment made cannot tolerate the result of a scientific challenge that hinders its returns, a power savvy group may not accept a scientific thought for redefining the power centers.
It may be observed that most of the scientific movements ends up as establishments or institutions that fundamentally negates its original intent. This tendency may be bitter fruit of over institutionalization. In short, most of the institutions and establishments knowingly or unknowingly brings constraints on the scientific thoughts or movements. Here, by institutions and establishments I refer all the small and big entities like families, organizations, religions, casts, nations etc. They emerge themselves as boundaries. Most of the time, a scientific thought has to get in to tough time with them, if it is crossing its predefined limits. Scientific awareness gets more social relevance when we are truly aware of the need of scientific thinking as well as when we are really aware of the challenges in terms of constraints it has to deal with. The social need emerges when the constrains grows themselves to control the system in wrong way. An idle drinking milk, a distant star’s ability to control day today fortunes, ability of a stone to enrich our career or even following a routine in life to attain eternal heights may be seen as tools of constraints for vested interests.
Only when society is more scientifically aware, these types of intrusions can be realized and checked. Especially, when the markets are dull and buying capacity of society is at decline, these tools may be valued much, as it can facilitate false credibility that can drive the system for a while. The impact of these negative notions may be much wider than what we assume. Unfortunately, it tress passes in to the area of fare abstractions we discussed earlier. The manipulated assumptions and propaganda can disguise itself as scientific facts and can become driving factors for a cross section. This threat is what makes scientific awareness more essential and important than its natural need.
Renowned Malayalam poet Kunjan Nambiar once sung before a king, while the king was about to appreciate a baseless argument:
“Yesterday’s mistake may be today’s routine; Today’s routine may become tomorrow’s science; hence do not appreciate it”.
Above verses rightly enlighten us on the importance of vigil we have to keep ourselves scientifically aware and to adopt scientific thought process in our day today life. We have discussed about dangerous trends of prejudice interventions on thought processes with vested interests at a high level. If we look around us, we can view the waves of it around us. Once, we treated believes different from facts. Nowadays, belief professionals are striving hard to sell themselves as scientific believers. Once, we used to gain greatness by experience, now we are forced to swallow it based on the evidence provided to us.
There is a trend to dilute the three very basics of scientific thinking, so that critical thinking can be routed to pre-defined thinking than scientific thinking. Rather than making hypothesis based on observations, pre-packed objectives are being supplied. Instead of allowing experiments and quarrels, evidence will be provided. The ability to make fare conclusions is also at risk as we have skilled decision makers around us. These aspects are around us in various forms and colours.
More than science, technology drives us now. Though technology is facilitated by science, I doubt whether we are losing scientific thinking, which helped us to be here. Science is around us, it will be with us only when we have a scientific thinking ability. Hence, the relevance of scientific awareness to re-instantiate scientific thought process is inevitable to the very evolution of us.
There are several programs and events we could utilize to keep scientific awareness alive:
- Scientific elements of known facts can be debated in social media
- Science Day, Science Week observations can be taken up seriously
- We can get involved in science organizations and circulate their publications
- Appreciating scientists and giving a concise summary of their achievements
- Promotion of DIY (Do It Yourself) with active discussions on scientific elements, make kits/tools available
- Promotion of open source movement to have the spirit of self-doing
The very basic aim of scientific awareness is bringing back the ability to question baseless claims and to enable us to prevent blind acceptance of illogical instructions. More than science, scientific awareness enriches us to build a more informed, responsible and responsive society.