Scientific Temper

Nobody is going to pour truth into your brain. It’s something you have to find out for yourself. – Noam Chomsky

I feel deeply distressed when I see that condescending and obviously racist articles like this written in the foreign press are shared with great fervor by some Indians without bothering to check for their veracity and logic. In essence, what these guys are doing is perpetuating the efforts of the British to destroy our pride and our self-respect, which they did so that they could rule over us – make us feel ashamed of ourselves, and hence appear superior. It would be somewhat acceptable if the same people also highlighted the positive contributions of Indian scientists and mathematicians to the world of science. And, If they looked objectively at different issues, with more depth.

My undergrad degree was in science and I can’t help notice the difference in attitudes between the top scientists in India, and some of the so-called liberal “intellectuals” here (Liberals in the US are more logical and believe in science- eg: Noam Chomsky) who get to write many articles in the press. Most of them don’t seem to have a science background, or scientific temper, any curiosity for new subjects, or open-mindedness. They have preconceived prejudices and clear agendas to propagate their prejudices – very, very unfortunate indeed  🙁 🙁

In contrast, the “intellectuals” that I used to encounter in IISC, Raman Research Institute, and ISRO (all in Bangalore), when I used to haunt those places since I had intentions of pursuing a Ph.D. in physics long back, were totally different. They were so open-minded, always curious, childlike even though they were in their 50’s and 60’s, creative, interested in the arts and humanities and other subjects as well, also proud of being Indian, and somewhat patriotic – without being communal or dogmatic. It used to be a pleasure to talk to them, learn from them, and inspiring to be with them. They never had agendas – were only interested in the “truth”.

For example, some Indian intellectuals look at “nationalism” with a binary viewpoint. Nothing can be further from the truth. To start with, in reality, there are many different kinds of nationalism!! And they refer to only Germany and Hitler, but comparing India to Germany is like comparing apples to oranges! We were colonized, Germany wasn’t, and there are so many other differences like size, history, etc.! European nationalism is very distinct from Indian nationalism. Nationalism in Europe generally refers to when the people in Europe rose against their own monarchial rulers with an aim to establish democracy. Whereas, nationalism in India emerged as an opposition to the foreign (British) rule.

Without nationalism in India, we wouldn’t have ever gained independence!! Therefore, an inclusive, benign, and positive version of nationalism might actually be great for India – to cure us of our colonial hangovers, from the pain of partition, and the other problems that we are facing now. At least, why not be open-minded and discuss the idea before you trash it? Everything in this world is far from being binary – there are many layers and dimensions to everything, and those coming from the humanities should be aware of that!

I sincerely feel that there is a dire need to reintroduce scientific temper and intellectual honesty into our educational system, and most of all into our media. And more and more scientists should take an interest in the humanities, and vice versa.

PS: I don’t support a cow dung cure for coronavirus, but in the article below, the view of someone in the fringe of whom I’ve never heard before has been deliberately given undue importance and made into international ridicule.

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