For someone who has a strong faith in the scientific temperament, India’s growing intolerance towards rational thought seems rather disturbing. Our media has not left any stones unturned in glorifying these ‘enemies of reason’, as Sir Richard Dawkins would have addressed them, while those who speak of logic and science have been put aside and often brutally obliterated, as in the case of people like Narendra Dabholkar. A minister outrightly denying Darwin’s theory, or a former judge trying to advocate for a peacock’s sexual chastity might appear very benign at first but the kind of effect these claims can have on the public conscience is tragic. We are teeming with hatred in the name of religion, which is almost exclusively politically motivated. The dystopia that now seems closer is when any voice that speaks for reason, any mainstream effort to propagate scientific understanding shall be brutally eliminated.
The sad part is that our country’s scientific manpower largely appears unaffected by this serial mockery of logical thinking. Our research labs and academia are often full of passive scientists who are privileged professionals choosing to keep a distance from engaging with the laymen. They do participate in armchair dialogues, attend international conferences but fail to influence a kid going to a remote school somewhere in the hinterland with their science. Scientific institutions in this country have been made so aggressively remote that no public activism ever tries to explore the possibility of engaging with these temples of knowledge to create an impact on public opinion. Politics and religion are the only issues that influence our collective conscience today.
So what’s the way forward?
Media plays a very critical role in raising public opinion about an issue. We need dedicated resources directed towards dissipation of scientific knowledge to the masses in a way that they can relate to. Moreover, we must start with logic before trying to make sense of larger scientific theories and propositions. Young people should be encouraged to take part in constructive dialogues to provoke reasonable arguments from the most downtrodden and underprivileged class because that is where superstition hits the hardest. Nevertheless, political activism should learn to adopt science as a tool for change. We must realize that all our 21st-century policy of growth cannot sustain as long as science and reason fail as an ideology. The question to ask should not simply be what is right and wrong, it ought to be what is logical and what isn’t. Only a scientifically aware society can appreciate the necessity for dialogue and dialectic in a democracy which is so incredibly diverse.
“Faith that does not allow itself to be questioned on the basis of facts or truth is a superstition.” ~Dr. Narendra Dabholkar