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Window Seat: Scientific Temper

17/10/2021 at 6:03 AM

The term ‘scientific temper’ is broadly defined as “a modest open-minded temper”—a temper ever ready to welcome new light, new knowledge, new experiments, even when their results are unfavourable to preconceived opinions and long-cherished theories.

Jawaharlal Nehru in The Discovery of India, writes, “Scientific temper is a way of life — an individual and social process of thinking and acting which uses a scientific method which may include questioning, observing reality, testing, hypothesising, analysing and communicating.”

When the fundamental duties were added to the Constitution in 1976 through Article 51A, the eighth duty stated: “It shall be the duty of every citizen of India to develop the scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of inquiry and reform.”

This made the Constitution one of the few that requires the spirit of inquiry and scientific temper as a foundational aspect of society.

However, in reality we are a nation of people deeply mired in superstition and lack the spirit of enquiry. We have more faith on miracles than science. It has been proved time and again during the Corona pandemic.

For as long as people put their faith in miracles over science, the enlightenment industry will continue to flourish, and its false prophets will keep finding ways to exploit them. This is happening across the world. Countries with more number of poor and illiterate people suffer the most. In Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, South Africa, Mexico, El Salvador, Venezuela and other African and Latin American countries, millions of naive working class and poor people give their little savings to unscrupulous one-man church pastors in the hope for a miracle to help address their respective life challenges.

The most brain washed people in the world believing in the most ridiculous rituals and beliefs. A corrupt society openly willing to bribe god himself with offers of jewellery and sweets in return for passing exams, a good job, recovery from ill health etc.  Even the so called educated peole also fall prey to this.

Scientific temper is nothing but critical thinking and questioning.

We are exposed to tons of facts on a daily basis. What we need to do is pause, think and analyse. The irony is we are doing that.  

Why are we so self-centered?

Have you marked, as soon as a train stops or a plane lands, every one jumps up and seems to be in a tearing hurry to get out. Many jostle with co-passengers, try to elbow others to move ahead.

Same thing happens at many of the temples. While everyone jostles, elbows and tramples over everyone else, we pray only for our welfare and prosperity and, of course, for our family. This, again, needs to be appreciated as an act of seeking ‘individual salvation’ not necessarily (or rarely) for the community, although our sages said basudheiba kutumbakam The world is our family) thousands of years ago. The lavish gifts or daana at the temples are often quite transactional in nature.

What triggers the ‘me-first’ attitude among Indians that really stands out more in international comparisons? And in India nobody seems to care or even aware of this trait. Former culture secretary and present Rajya Sabha MP Jawhar Sircar in his article titled Are we Indians too self-centred?

says “ It is quite possible that we inherited this socially accepted behaviour that shaped our cultural genes and stamped our ‘memes’, which, in turn, left its indelible mark on our general attitude to life.

Whatever may be the reason- this bahaviour needs to change- if India aspires to be Viswa-Guru or to earn from tourism.

Social Media

The more I am reading on and about social media, the more fascinated I am becoming towards it. It is not just a medium, it is emerging as an ecosystem with its own grammar and eco system, its own follies and idiosyncrasies. It is still growing and evolving- after all it is just about 15 years old. It is a big worldwide ‘adda‘.

‘Adda’ is a typical Bengali word which has elements ranging from idle gossip to serious intellectual discourses- all at one go. In Odia there is a word with almost the same meaning: khati, the difference being khati is always taken in a negative sense while adda could have both positive and negative sense.

Where the glass is always full..

Where the glass is always full of beer….

And the friend is high…

Where the snacks are free…

Where the papads are not broken down into narrow fragments…

Where cuss words come out effortlessly

from the depths of quenched hearts…

Where tireless striving waiter stretches his arm to grab the tip…

Into that heaven of a Bar, my friend, let me have a drink!!!

  • RumBeerNauth  Touborg

(With apologies to Rabindranath Tagore)

(Courtesy: Social Media)

About the Author:

Journalist turned media academician Mrinal Chatterjee lives in Dhenkanal, Odisha. He also writes fiction and plays.

He can be reached at mrinalchatterjeeiimc@gmail.com

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