Author: Mohammed Musfir Naduvil Nalakath
Company: Krearqa Solutions Pvt Ltd aka Cognub Decision Solutions
Importance and Relevance of Scientific Awareness in our society
Among the wonders that never cease to amaze and surprise me is the fact that I represent the most dominant and the most advanced species in the animal kingdom, that despite being a baby; who spent nearly 9 months of embryological development before being flushed out, yet with no appreciable survival instincts, nor camouflage or protective organs. It should have taken the early man a lot of thought and rational reasoning, to realize that the very and nearly the only capability is his ability to seek and reason out and rationally validate the patterns and secrets within the physical universe around him. This allowed him to mimic and develop skills, tools and amenities that many a times proved to be in par, or sometimes even beyond the instinctive elements of other organisms around, thus installing him as the most dominant living form on earth. The relentless curiosity that allowed him to acquire new knowledge and even correcting and integrating findings into the knowledge that already existed, later evolved itself to what we know today as science. In other words, science is nothing but a disciplined artistic approach towards the physical environment to explore anything observable around us, which is powered by rational thought and augmented by an ability to correct contradictions and fallacies in the existing notions, believes and other forms of knowledge.
Science according to literate man of the day would seem limited to what we know as Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Mathematics, thus allowing him to define it as a subject merely for technological and professional advancement. In fact a scientific approach is essential in every walk of human life, be it personal, societal, economic, political and ethical aspects. An absence of such an approach would often prove detrimental to the existence of an individual which would later prove the same for the human race at large. A quick glance into the history of destroyed civilization and downtrodden communities of the present day would be enough for one to be aware of the fact. The right to think; be it the conventional or the unconventional way, ought to be preserved for the sustenance of mankind. When the human mind ceases to reason, it gives way for institutionalization of available set of doctrines, philosophies and even factual knowledge, without considering the circumstantial and causal elements, which yields to a set of beliefs, superstitions and intangible principles that would prevent nurturing the creative, intuitive and rational capability. The institutions often cease to appreciate the difference between myths, fables, miracles and often yield all of them as elements of truth and facts to the upcoming generation. When a being is deprived of the right to think, he yields easily to these, thus making him prone to different forms of slavery.
Hypatia – the Greek philosopher from Alexandria, is quoted to have said : “To teach superstitions as truth is a most terrible thing. The child mind accepts and believes them, and only through great pain and perhaps tragedy can he be in after years relieved of them.” .Very often we see that the superstitions and doctrines, when once installed in a society, is very difficult to be amended or even reasoned, as they would have taken forms of religious, cultural and socio-political system. Any act to measure them with a yardstick of rationality would be defined as foolish, treason or blasphemous, thus depriving the society of its right to think, innovate or introspect. What once was knowledge would be reduced to mere beliefs that cannot be proved, yet have to be defended and preserved. A society seasoned to such a form could easily be puppeteered to realize its failure and destruction. It would always become a little late before some of the beings in society realizes their loss and begins to reason out, which is often seen as an act of rebellion. Isn’t that what Albert Camus inked in his book, The Rebel – “Rebellion is born of the spectacle of irrationality, confronted with an unjust and incomprehensible condition.”
One would assume that the technological advancement is equivalent to advancement in science, which is often not true. Technology is an outcome of thought that devours on the fuel, that is scientific knowledge. To think the of a society that is highly updated to modern technology as rich in scientific awareness may prove as erratic as thinking a state with the highest number of automobiles to be rich in oil resource. Where the technology is a way to enhance ease the human lives, the scientific knowledge allows exploration and facilitates the way of thought that empowers to resolve the ailments and problems, augmented with the creative and intuitive ability. We live in times where we have numerous socio-economic, political and resource crisis. Where on one side we have the population explosion, there is the refugee crisis on the other. Where we have an inflation and resource crunch on one hand there is economic slowdown and collapses that trouble us on the other. When it is the terrorism and other radical elements that needs to be addressed, we find racial and ethnic discrimination and subjugation on the other. While we have to fight the known epidemics we find new varieties of parasites and germs that bring in new challenges to evade. Technology does enhance our efficiency in providing and ease out our ways in implementing known resolutions, but the new challenges that evolve around us very often call for a sound understanding and reasoning of the causal aspects and aftermath of the solutions we arrive. That would be possible only when we are ready to embrace a scientific reading on all walks our life.
The responsibility to master the scientific reasoning capability and educating the very same to the rest should not be seen as a responsibility of a particular profession, class, country or institution. It in fact is the collective responsibility of society to preserve and enhance these skills, so as to complement one another in the efforts to sustain. Where we have the taxonomists and researches sweating hard to classify and provide a cure and remedy for the Ebola outbreak, the efforts may go in vain when a holy man claims that he has a bottled panacea that could heal the individuals. The efforts of the scientists to prevent a Zika outbreak may fail when the public around is not rational enough to appreciate the need for hygiene, even if its costs a fortune. When religious or social communities begin to spread that the AIDS is a punishment for sins committed by mankind, the investments and research into preventive contraceptives and ART drugs is stalled, thus killing the hopes of millions of patients on earth. We see that when the engineers and scientists invent airplanes, supercomputers and other space travel vehicles and when doctors discuss on novel ideas of grafting and surgery, the very spaces of scientific discussion being used to prove a mockery of these efforts by trying to stage them as mythical analogies. At the very same time where the color of the skin or other genetic traits are explained to be the magic of genetic combinations, there still lies room for them to be claimed as a sign of racial superiority and a sign of divinity. A scientifically aware community provides no room for such exploitation or unreasoned claims, thus posing them as the primary enemies of institutions that yield on doctrines and beliefs. No man would ever dare to be rationally challenged unless he or she has a very sound evidence on the claims, thus it becomes the call of the day to educate and train the masses to confront unprecedented illogical statements and expose the fallacies in them.
Today as the access to knowledge is made quite easy to the mankind, we see that the common man often vacillate between the claims of the doctrinaires and those of the scientific world. The religious institutions and doctrinaires are on a scramble to draw scientific analogy to every claim and belief of their school. This is quite amusing as despite the fact that science being an element and method that they fear the most, the very element is being exploited to instigate a sense of pride in their followers thus crippling the decisive capability. Very often the clerics and preachers pose themselves as the evangelists of scientific reasoning there by trying to affirm the doctrinal fallacies as scientific theories. This is quite alarming in times we see, for example that where the shape of earth is doubtlessly proven and we have our foundations on such, we still see quite a few schools sermonising it to be flat. Where the science challenges the principles, the tool of blasphemy is sought to control, thus creating an intolerant radical outfit, that fails to appreciate anything against the school. It is high time that the aware in us arise and educate the lot, so that we do not kindle the fire of self destruction.
The process of scientific understanding could be cumbersome, painstaking and disturbing, as it involves the acceptance of the tangible nature of truth. That being uncomfortable to a seasoned community at comfort; refuting the existing notion would be beyond their imagination and often leads to clashes and rivalry against the rational minds. Science has never been a piece of cake walk. Though all we see is the inventions, theories and honorary titles the achievement we see today is the aftermath of numerous relentless sacrifices. It is often worthwhile to provide a gist of the scenarios where Socrates had to take the cup of Hemlock to prove himself right, the emotional tolls that Newton had to undergo to prove his observations – often simplified to the apple story, the price Einstein had to pay for his family life, the toll Tesla had to take for standing unto his findings, the tragic story of the Curie family, the toils of S. Ramanujam and many more. Though the pains and toils they had all gone, what they found was a joy in revealing the truth and standing for it, moreover they saw it a moral responsibility towards humanity. Science is the one medium that binds us to this universe unifying us all despite the diversity in each of the organisms on earth. In times where the jingoists, hate mongers, racially radical outfits, superstitious institutions and greedy corporate tycoons try hard to yield the unfair share out of the common man, his liberation and hope is engraved deep in the primal survival instinct – rational reasoning capability,and it becomes the duty of every one of us to educate the society, so that the fables would remain fables, mythical instances remain myths, miracle stories scene as such and the truth they believe do not become intangible, thus realizing the words of Hypatia. Towards the end of the read, let us join hands to prove Alvin Toffler wrong when he wrote in “Rethinking the Future” “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn”.