December 14, 2007

Open Letter: Challenges of Science

[The below article appeared in the Times Of India, dt 12-12-07 in the extra edition. It was, however, modified and not posted in it's entirety, and few sentences were reworded that made my stance on the subject of Ayurveda and Yoga look a little lenient. In the future, I will note that any modifications to my articles need my review. Below is the article as I actually wrote it]

Open Letter: Challenges of Science

Dear Parents and Teachers,

As recent events have shown, science is under attack by superstition, and seems to be losing. Television has many campaigns that extol the virtues of various methods and objects without any verifiable evidence. Even more disheartening is that there is no active movement against these.

I would thus like to shed a little light into the future we are entering. The world is being fully interconnected and Indian children will interact with people around he world. A group's intellectual powers are measured based on how rational their view of the world is. That is sadly not the future Indian children will thrive in.

Given the dominance of superstition and dogma in the country, the proponents of science have an uphill battle at hand. The first step would be to eradicate superstitious beliefs from the minds of it's citizens. A seemingly scientific idea that is not based on any rational and verifiable studies is known as pseudo-science.

Pseudo science in India includes Astrology, Palmistry, Mind-reading, Ayurveda, many types of Yoga, Vaastu Shastra, Homeopathy, Chiropractic treatments, Lucky gemstones and numbers, Rudraksh necklace, etc. At best these ideas will waste time and money of it's pursuers and at worst can cause bodily harm due to negligence of other truly scientific methods that would've worked. When any of the above has worked, it is due to plain chance, placebo effect or by processes that are understood by science.

Minds seemingly grow immune to change of ideas with age. Thus, emphasis has to be given to educating children on science and instill critical thinking into their bloodstream. This is ensure that the upcoming generation will be more open to ideas than the current. With this goal, we need to drive nation wide programs to spread the word of science. I'm not experienced enough to say what these could be, but there are many who could. Those in power need to encourage and those who promote science and take action against fraudulent practitioners of pseudo-science.

I hope we can look into a future where dogmatic beliefs would make way for rationality. Into a future where we would prefer reason over authority. If there's a challenge we need to overcome, this is one.