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Bringing Science Together, An Initiative at St Joseph’s College, Bengaluru

In the library of my college, 5 different people belonging to different associations of sciences and humanities sat together around one of the many large tables. These tables in the library usually support books and notebooks of students, are occasionally clattered upon with pens and confused fingertips and sometimes gives space for a head to sleep. But with 5 of us sitting, the table was empty and we rested our hands only on our chairs. Heads up and among each other, we shared our ideas on how to create a dedicated space to discuss ‘Science’; its significance, its implications in different political and social scenarios, its history or deeper questions of ‘What is it actually?’ and ‘Why is this methodology a better world view than the others?’. The 5 of us discussed about a need of such a space and how it would be helpful to a student.
At the end, we conceived an upcoming science discussion forum in our college titled ‘Galileo’, named after the most prominent figure in the making of modern science, an upholder of rationality and most importantly a promoter of dialogue and discussion, Galileo Galilei.

The need of such a forum should be seen as a response to the way science is taught and projected in classrooms. I certainly go to classes of my Bachelor of Science course, which includes Physics, Electronics and Mathematics as its main subjects, and find a certain, stingy lack of science. Day in and day out we ink our notebooks and stare at the blackboard being filled with words and equations supposedly of science. I understand that we follow a curriculum and a syllabus and teachers are obliged to stick to this structure of the system of education, but this stringency in adherence of the system leads to dilution, if not complete evaporation of the essence of what science is. We continue to cluelessly jolt down notes in the library, at home, in the same way we do in classrooms without knowing what we are dealing with in the first place. The essence of the ‘scientific method’ is nowhere to be seen.

A forum or a group of people that understands such a situation can create an atmosphere of discussion and debate about science in its true sense and in various other contexts. That said, the other contexts can be social, political and economical in nature and thus calls for a flexibility of this forum to take into consideration, the people who are not directly connected to science i.e. the humanities and the social sciences. The title might be a little misleading as ‘Bringing Science Together’ seems to concentrate strictly on science and people of science, though I personally believe that science and humanities are just two separate blocks of buildings in my college, with different subjects but the flow of knowledge should be both ways: students of science should be able to think in a humanitarian and societal context and the students of humanities should bear a scientific way of thinking which they can also apply in pursuit of their own subjects (hence social ‘sciences’).

The forum aims to bring the different associations of St. Joseph’s College to a common ground and connect the seemingly segregated, varied principles of science and society into a superset of science and hold off discussions, talks and debates regarding various aspects such as ‘Is Science Political?’, ‘Role of Science in Social and Economic Issues’, ‘Science and Social Responsibility’, etc. All this come under what is called ‘Philosophy of Science’ and consolidation of students under such a heading is much needed, at least at this point of time when anything can be passed on as science and greatly expanded upon, even if it abhorrently defies scientific rationale. Many different associations have been contacted such as the UG Chemical Society, Natural Science Association, Literary Society, ABACUS (A Mathematics Association), etc. and they have extended their support for this initiative by the Physics Students’ Association on which I preside. I am currently in the process of contacting other colleges across Bengaluru to take part in this initiative.

This venture is being started off with a talk on ‘Philosophy of Science’. I have contacted Sundar Sarukkai, who is a professor of philosophy at the National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bengaluru and have got an enthusiastic confirmation from his side. He was the director of Manipal Centre for Philosophy and Humanities at Manipal University, and has authored several books regarding science and philosophy, few of them are ‘Philosophy of Symmetry’, ‘What is Science?’ and ‘Indian Philosophy and Philosophy of Science’. He is a renowned public speaker and writer among the intellectual society in India and has been receptive to contemporary society.

The talk is going to be held on 24 November 2017 and from then on the forum will continue. We the students of St. Joseph’s College welcome all students, teachers and others from different backgrounds and colleges to join us in this initiative of ours.

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