Monday, June 16, 2008

Decline of Science in India III

Role of God

In my previous two articles [1],[2], I discussed how Science is on the decline in India. The message is clear from all quarters- either it is the number of publications, quality of research, the number of PhDs or the scientific output of the country, Science is on the decline.

This decline has affected all spheres of our life. Rationalism is kicked out of the door. Decisions are made on blind belief, irrationality and superstition. For example, look at the way we have been handling Ram Sethu episode - we posit religious fables and mythologies as concrete proof of evidence in the court of law.

The quality of the debate, either in the Parliament, on TV, or at dinner table, is quite irrational, downright illogical, where mythology and legends mix with scientific theories and facts, where irrationality is just another choice, where superstition is a fashion, and pseudo-science is hyper-science.

I attribute this decline in Science to our growing religiosity. I see a strong correlation between the two.

In Decline of Science in India II, I write:

Many technologists and academicians in India are abandoning the scientific temperament. This trend may not reflect in statistics, but can be perceived indirectly.


Vaastu Shastra is in fashion- more and more engineers, doctors, professors, educated, well-to-do families, seem to take this up while they construct their house or an office.


Many educated and literate people refer to horoscope to choose their partners, and seek an astrologer to plan the wedding, or for that matter any ‘auspicious’ event. We are not talking of illiterate or ignorant people here. All these people have been to top schools of India and graduated in technology, business, medicine, etc.

Scientific temperament is out of the door, irrationality, superstition is the in-thing. Hobbies and crafts are now touted as legitimate science!

Now a survey has cleared the remaining doubts.

Study on Indian Scientists

Now, a study shows that Indians scientists are firm believers in God. A whopping 41% of the Indian scientists profess belief in a personal God. Of these, 26% actually ‘know that God really exists and have no doubts about it’. Science may be on the decline, but looks like the confidence level in belief in God seems to be on the rise. Around 30% believe in a higher power but not a personal God.

Contrast this with the members of Royal Society of England where only 3.3% believe in God in a country where 68.5% are believers. Only 7% of members of American National Academy of Sciences believe in God in a country where nearly 90% are believers.

While most scientists in the Rest of the World tend to be non-believers, which seem to make sense knowing how Scientific Revolution went in hand in hand with separation of church from the state, Indian Scientists consists of many believers. These believers also believe in all hocus pocus and mumbo jumbo.

Miracles

Yes, Indian Scientists believe in miracles. Instead of working hard in a laboratory, they spend their energies invoking the blessing of sky gods. No wonder there is negligible scientific output. 38% of Indian Scientists believe that ‘God works miracles’. And 24% believe that ‘holy men perform miracles’.

Witch-hunting is still practiced in India. Scientists come onto the stage to explain how witch-hunting is a real phenomenon.

Supernatural and After-life

Looks like, instead of subscribing to science magazines our scientists regularly read National Enquirer. 26% of them accept the principle of life after death, a notion that is almost considered ridiculous amongst scientists in the rest of the world. And hear this, 7% believed in ghosts. Next time our rockets take a nose dive, we know who the culprit is.

Taking God’s blessing before firing rockets

41% of the Indian scientists approved of ‘space scientists going to Tirupati to seek the blessing of Lord Venkateswara before launching the rocket and satellite in 2005’. [Is it the same 41% which professed belief in God? Just curious]

Other Pseudo-sciences

While the world scientists have debunked homeopathy as a pseudo-science, 50% of the Indian scientists believe that homeopathy is effective as a therapy and technology for healing. 49% of them believe that prayer is also an effective tool for healing.

14% of them believe in Vaastu, and an equal 14% believe in Astrology. 12% of them believe in predictions based in horoscope. That’s why they run to check horoscopes each time they have run a scientific experiment.

10% believe in palmistry, 7% believe in gem and stone therapy.

Caste System

6% of the Indian scientists believe in caste system. I don’t know what that means.

Conclusion

Religion, religious beliefs, and with it the orthodoxy, superstition, blind belief is seeping into the Indian scientific community. The new generation of Indian scientists is irrational in their outlook which seems to believe more in miracles than verification of scientific theories. 23% of them believe that scientists should NOT confront religious practices even if they contradict scientific theories. And 33% believe that they should confront them ‘sometimes’.

I recognize religion as Biggest Threat to India, I write:

Religion is on the rise with increase in education and upward mobility of the masses. Belief in superstition, blind belief and irrationality is getting institutionalized with increase in prosperity and with better access to opportunity.

I write, as conclusion, in Decline of Science in India II:

By shunning the pursuit of science, we are curbing the free thought, creativity, and the ability to question and reason. By treating our ancient texts as alternate science, we are bringing in sanctity, orthodoxy, to justify ignominious rituals and practices of this country.


As a post-modern rejection of universal values, we will only pave the way for hijacking of our intelligentsia by those who have vested interests in showcasing Indian hegemony. It will lead to academic and sophisticated justification of caste based discrimination, ill-treatment of women, lack of dignity of work, persecution and ostracism of alien religions, child labor, etc, all under the glorious names of Indian Science, Indian Culture and Indian Philosophy.


Science and Education are the only weapons Indian masses possess to (extricate) themselves out of the stranglehold of casteism, poverty, religious persecution and discrimination. It is the only liberating force for women, underprivileged, and homosexuals. As much as religion is important to different people to carry their personal faith and belief system, science and its pursuit as career and temperament are necessary as the balancing forces. They need to be inculcated and nurtured to combat the forces that tend to bring in irrationality, orthodoxy, and sanctity through the backdoor all in the name of sanctity, tradition and culture.

Related Topics: Decline of Science in India I, Decline of Science in India II, Biggest Threat to India, Where are the Indian Scientists?, India low on Vitamin S, Astrology Vs Science I, Pseudo-science: Vaastu Shastra, Sethusamudram Project, ABC of Ram Sethu

15 comments:

  1. I can tell you one thing. It is extremely hard being an atheist in India. In 22 years of my life I haven't seen a non-believer except on blogs :) You are constantly surrounded by people who will bombard you with questions on why you reject the notion of God, why you don't pray like everyone else, some have even asked me if I've gone through really traumatic experiences for me to have become a non believer! :) If you take a survey of the general peopulation I think close to 98% would be composed of believers. In such an environment it is quite hard for the scientists to start questioning the beliefs of everyone around them. Even though the U.S. has a huge population of believers, they also have a significant percentage of vocal atheists who voice their beliefs. They are given the freedom to call the Bible a load of medieval crap, they won't be prosecuted for it. However in our country if a reputed scientist goes public saying that he is an atheist and the Ram sethu is plain bull crap, he will most likey be fired or cases will be filed against him for hurting the religious sentiments of people. Actually in our country freedom of speech is very much relative. It is confined to a narrow range of politically correct topics, there are certain things that you cannot question in the public arena, you can do so only at your own risk.
    Most Indian familes are also devoulty religious and brain wash their children so thoroughly that it becomes pretty hard to unlearn all that you have been taught through childhood.

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  2. Nowadays, Indians are so much crazy to settle in USA by any means. Very strange scenario is happening in Indian society since past few years that Indians from all sorts of careers including Scientists, Army personnel, politicians, sportsmen, police etc are leaving their careers and faking up their Software resume to go to USA.

    This situation is happening due to variety of reasons such as social pressure ( remember the slogan, 'Indians are followers'), good demand in marriage market etc.

    No wonder that the quality of projects done by Indian H1B and L1 visa programmers in USA are horrible, pathetic etc.

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  3. Su_Su_Su_Ki_JaiJune 17, 2008 1:34 AM

    Role of God

    Role of God


    :)

    You said "Role of God" twice. For optimal effect one needs to repeat thrice (watch Indian TV serials/movies where stress is put by saying things thrice).

    Aasmaan gir raha hai. Bhaago. Bhaago. Bhaago.

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  4. Many scientists have said that they do believe in a God who might have kickstarted life. Many do believe they are diests. However that is a far cry from the people I meet in my everyday life who believe in an interventionist God who is supposedly more interested in solving their daily problems like scoring marks or getting a good job. That is the reason most people go to temples. They seem oblivious to the lapse of logic apparent to the rest of us in this mode of thinking. Most people who believe in astrololgy, gems and stones, and miracles belong to this category too. Believing only that a superpower above us exists is very different from believing that the same God is interested in getting you the right job. That is a very ego-centric way of thinking so common in most religious people.

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  5. Sure, religion is a threat to democracy. Forcing our children into our religion is undemocratic.

    What is more dangerous is 'hurt religious sentiments'. It is the single biggest terrorist that exists today.

    But ultimately we are to blame. Most of liberal ones succumb to social pressure adopting a conformist stand to all these medieval practices even when they are convinced of their reactionary role. This eventually gets passed on to the next generation without any attempt to change. Thus we conformists give the next generation the exact environment without even being aware of the depth of the crime we are committing to the next generation.
    "Conformism is the biggest crime we commit against the future generation".

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  6. I think the co relation between scientist and religion in india which you have used in not fair for a simple reason : Target community are scientists in india just because the Governmnet selected them. (Just like u cannot entrprenurs in india if all graduates have to apply to the government job of entreprenurs in residence)
    And I think there exsits a enough number of scientific spirit -rationality loving individuals but unfortunately the number is shrinking because they do not conform.

    BTW do check out the movie "Network" (1976 MGM production ,unrelated to the current post just a recommendation )

    Just another Guy

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  7. Hi Chirkut:

    Thanks for the information on Dr. Francis Collins. I am just curious if he is an Indian.

    He mentions 40% of the scientists WORLDWIDE believe in God. How does India compare to the rest of the world when it comes to religiosity of scientists? Are scientists more likely to start believing "because of" their knowledge?

    Nalin

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  8. The difference between Indian Scientists and foreign ones is that, for the Indian Scientist, it is a choice of profession, and for the foreign scientist it is the pursuance of a genuine interest.

    Thus you will see Abdul Kalam praising Sai Baba (endorsing his miracles) and in the same breath professing scientific temper.

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  9. I work in the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore as a research student. I don't think you'll be surprised to hear this. In our lab, there is a framed painting of three Indian Gods with Martin Onslow Forster(chemist and former director of IISc Bangalore)at the centre(bigger picture than rest of the gods!). A small lamp is lit every morning before any experimentation begins. These gods(including Forster) overlook our work on advanced materials and smart structures.

    But one thing has to be remembered : when a person takes up research as a career, he is bound to see the perfectness of many things around him, thus believe in a greater power or a grand scheme of things. E.g. when we were working on an ultrasonic scan system, we came across how dolphins use sound to locate food and communicate. It was indeed a very humbling experience for us to see how such a complicated process was already present in a living being. I am a believer in the theory of evolution and it has to be said that it is very difficult to fathom how one could develop such complicated communication/ object location systems in one's own body.

    When someone tries to come up with grand theories of everything, it is inevitable that he/she sees this order/disorder combination in the universe(/s).

    Most of us have a few extremely illogical beliefs. As long as they are harmless to others, we should not have a problem with them.

    In the Indian Adhyatmic literature, a work by the name Yajnavalkya Smriti gives an interesting description of God. To put the whole work simply, as Karl Marx said it, 'Religion is the opium of the masses." But, the book also talks of why there are so many Gods in the Indian system of beliefs. A person's idea of God is necessary to some extent for the society to function properly(viz. the sense of good/bad and right/wrong) and there should be enough room for flexibility because the God a person worships tells about the state of the mind of the person himself. And as a person goes from childhood to youth and old age, there should be room for him to correlate the ideals he thinks are of utmost importance to an embodiment of such ideals, that is some 'God'. A God a man or a community creates shows the level of maturity of that man or community. But it is completely wrong for a man or a community to impose their God on somebody else.

    The book also goes on to make a very logical statement :-
    Whatever a man may be-saint, monk, prophet, sage-justifying his actions by the so called word of God is escaping from his responsibility. Such an act is completely wrong as a man should think of the cause and effects for any of his actions and should alone be responsible for it.

    It is a really sad thing that the level of maturity some portions of our society had long back doesn't exist in today's India. Worse- it is hard for such people to live in today's socio-religiously politicised India than it was 2000 years ago before the advent of modern science.

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  10. "It is a really sad thing that the level of maturity some portions of our society had long back doesn't exist in today's India."

    Many people say that we were once a very knowledgeable and wise group of people long before in the past thus invoking a glorious past. I really don't understand how they have come to that conclusion. Several wise and valuable knowledge can be gained from the Vedas and the Bhagavad gita. I accept that totally. However these were the works of wise sages and not the common people. Most people during the vedic times were pastoral nomads. It is like reading certain research work published today by scientists and concluding that all the people of our country were scientifically inclined and intelligent. Infact with time the average intelligence of the human mind has phenomenally increased rather than the other way round. And the society that we are living in is trying to be much more egalitarian than what was probably there some 2000 years ago what with the caste system, discrimination etc. We are improving as human beings and the best is yet to come.

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  11. I am myself an atheist, but if someone else chooses to believe in God, that's his or her own business. As long as official time/resources are not misused for the purpose, it shouldn't really concern others.

    It is easy to extrapolate the decline of science in India to belief in God among scientists, but this is just a conjecture. Decline in science can be attributed to various factors (such as over-emphasis on IT industry), lack of employment opportunities, or even reservations depending on whom you ask.

    When I was at IIT Chennai, the most brilliant physics teachers were an Iyer and an Iyengar who wore their religion on their foreheads, quite literally.

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  12. Thats right. Decline in Science and religion cannot be interlinked. If we are not good at science, it is because we are makku. But the issue is, we neither understand science nor follow religion. So, if you are neither blind nor have a vision, what state is that?

    Destination Infinity.

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  13. Destination Infinity:
    Decline in Science and religion cannot be interlinked.

    I tend to link decline in science with increase in religiosity. Though they may not happen sequentially, there is enough overlap between the two, not in narrow scheme of things, but looking at history over larger periods of time.

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  14. I do not understand how scientific temper is related to belief in god. Almost all atheists point out to darwin's theory to cite the absence of god. The irony of the fact is that darwin himself was a very religious man and a firm beleiver in god.

    Now coming back to Indian religious belief and science, what you have pointed out about Indian scientist is true indeed. I do not wish to take out his name, but a prominent indian scientist who once headed ISRO used to visit tirupati before any major launch.

    I feel religion and god are tools used by man to over come fear. Someone being religious has nothing to do with scientific temper. The most prominent scientists in this century is perhaps Dr.Abdul Kalam, a very religious man, yet he is a good scientist as well, helping India build indigenous missles and rockets. So let's not generalize here, taking a few examples.

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