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Science and Society (Muhammad Naved Ashrafi)

At the opening of 100th session of Indian Science Congress in Kolkata on 3rd of January, 2013, Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh accentuated the need for developing ‘Scientific Temper’ in the society. National daily, The Hindu reports, ‘Speaking at the 100th annual session of Indian Science Congress, he [Dr. Manmohan Singh] said there was need to enhance scientific temper in the country through greater investment in popularizing science, not only in schools and colleges, but also homes, workplaces and the community at large.’

Why Science?

There, now, crop up many questions on why there is a dire need of adopting science in our daily lives! What is science? What is society? Is science something different and intractable for ourselves to get percolated deep in our society? What can be the relation between the science and the society especially when science talks about those things that seem not to exist explicitly in the society at present and considered irrelevant by us? What should be the ultimate goal of the society and how should it be achieved? Why does the Constitution of India, the Supreme Law of the land, consider it a Fundamental Duty ‘to develop scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of inquiry and reform’? This article is written mainly for the youth of India as they are the inexhaustible assets of this largest democracy. They have mountains round their necks. We would label this article as MUST READ for young generation that usually keeps itself aloof from science and consider the latter as monster. Here, we shall discuss the essentiality of science to the progress of Indian society. We shall treat science as a heart and soul of society. We trace the origin of ‘science’ in the human society and its various aspects, viz, social, economic and political. The discussion that follows runs in retrospect to the time of early Greeks that gave us people like Aristoltle- Father of both ‘Science’ and ‘Politics’.

What is Science?

The term ‘science’ has been derived from a Latin root- scientia means ‘to know’. Etymologically science is a part of life which exhorts us to know or reveal the truth and the obscured logic behind everything that we see, feel and do every day. It is very much beyond solving numerical problems of Physics and Mathematics. Even cleansing your teeth in the morning involves science. It is the ‘eternal’ process of learning in the society for benefit of the society. Oxford Advanced Learners’ Dictionary (7th Edition) defines science as ‘a system of organizing the knowledge about a particular subject, especially one concerned with aspects of human behavior and society’. Moreover, renowned Evolutionary Biologist and Historian of Science, Stephen Jay Gould, in his treatise TheMismeasure of Man observes, ‘Science, since people must do it, is a socially embedded activity. It progresses by hunch, vision and intuition. Facts are not pure and unsullied bits of informations; culture also influences what we see and how we see it’. Thus science is nothing but a quest to ‘think out of the box’.

Inextricable Linkages

Every discipline of study and practice involves science. To do things with inquisitiveness- is the basic tenet of science. Generally, students of Humanities neglect this aspect of their discipline. While studying History, they are not required to learn Einstein’s Theory of Relativity but they should think like Einstein. They even undermine that Early Man was very inquisitive which tend him to invent wheel, hunting tools, fire etc. Such inventions by early man entail his acumen for scientific inquiry. Why did civilizations evolve on the banks of rivers? What invoked alchemist to make iron pillar at Mehrauli rust free? What is the logic of tilt in Leaning Tower of Pisa? Was it a pre-determined design or a serependity? Why were Havanas performed in ancient India to save environment and climate? There is a huge gamut of such questions that may create a huge revolution in the study of Humanities.

What is Society?

An individual is the smallest entity of existence. Individuals make family, families form society and societies culminate in to the State. State is the highest authority and institution that governs human existence on earth. Physically State exits nowhere but Executive, Legislature, Judiciary, Constitution, Police etc. are some of its attributes. Thus, society is a collection of families governed by the State to fulfill the aim of all round development of humans. Societies manage the State and vice-versa.

Science and the Society

Science is sine-qua-non for the progress and welfare of the society. For instance, if a pulley would have not been invented, then it have become very hard to pull water out of the well!!How dacoits in Chambal valley are related to scientific phenomenon of nature to fulfill their mala fide intentions. Scientific inquiry reveals that soils in Chambal were loose and sandy. When water flowed through the valley, a peculiar phenomenon of soil erosion took place. Substantial volumes of soil ran away with waters and gullies were formed in the region. These gullies now act as strategic abodes for dacoits. When science can be exploited by illiterate dacoits in mala fide practices, why can’t we make use of it in formative purposes of the society! Other problems that science can avert are- casteism, communalism, alien attitude towards female child, poverty, unemployment etc.

Science and the Economy

Science and the economy are inter-related. Higher Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the country also emanates from the science. Higher GDP hinges on higher production of goods and services that ultimately depends upon capacity building in the society, development of scientific skills among youth, farmers, laborers etc., human resource development, innovations in agriculture like High Yielding Varieties (HYVs) of seeds, drought resistance crops, flood resistance crops, organic farming, novel and efficient methods of irrigation, better automotive transport, scientific storage of grains etc. Agriculture in economy assumes primary sector activity. Other two sectors of economy can’t flourish until we employ scientific methods in agriculture. It is now apt to say that the Green Revolution was more a ‘scientific movement’ and less a ‘economic overhauling’. Even the spoon that we use while eating rice, is an outcome of science.

Is Science a Western Cult?

Western countries have always been the champions of scientific inquiry. Apart from them, Arabs who invented today’s number system for counting, were the ardent and passionate workers in the field of science. In Indian subcontinent, time and again, it is assumed that learning science is a nefarious Western cult that fall in breach of Indian traditions and culture. This mindset has always been a major cause of our backwardness. But this is totally against to what exists in reality. Aristotle in his theory of Best Practicable State acknowledges the epistemological wisdom of the East. In his theory, he emphasized that in a Best Practicable State people should be physically as strong as the people of Northern race (eg: Greeks) and mentally as sharp as the people of Oriental race (ie. India, China, Japan etc.). It’s therefore obvious that scientific temper had been a relic of the East.

Plato and His Concept of Science

Plato was a student of Socrates. He is the earliest political scientist known to the world. According to Plato, Politics is the ‘Best Science’. It shows that Plato considered ‘best’ to what we call today ‘dirty’ politics. It was only by the dint of his scientific approach to understand social phenomenon. In his book The Republic he wrote, ‘a person who knows no politics, is an idiot’. It is how the term ‘idiot’ evolved. To Plato, a person without science keeps no worth. Plato called politics the best science because it is the discipline that deals with the management of society of men and the state. As the best inquiry is about the men, politics as a science does an absolute justice with the task.

In his theory of Ideal State, Plato said that an ideal state should be governed by the Philosopher King who is the most intelligent and possesses the highest element of reason; he is scientific in his approach. He would govern the society with utmost justice and highest efficiency because he is the man of ‘reason’.

Plato is credited with the opening of the first Western university- The Academy. The Academy was an institution dedicated solely to the study of society and politics. But it will be astonishing to know that Plato clearly mentioned it on the gate of The Academy, ‘Those who don’t know the Mathematics needn’t enter The Academy’. The reason was tangible i.e. to infuse rationality in thought and spirit of science and inquisitiveness among students. But today the situation is very dismal. Politicians and students of Politics know little or nil Mathematics, on the other hand, in Plato’s time it was a prime necessity. In contemporary India, lack of scientific temperament among politicians and youth has led severe political instabilities in various spheres of life. Plato was the first person who defined the concept of ‘Justice’. In his concept he proved to be very rational and scientific. In The Republic, he observes, ‘Justice is what one owns by nature and dispense his duty accordingly’. It means that one should adopt only one profession at a time which suits best to his/her nature, skills and expertise. He should not interfere others in their work. We can relate this philosophy to the ‘social organisation’ and ‘division of labour’ in hives of honey bees. Also, it is very much similar to a computer system where each component of the system performs its duties without disturbing other parts and follows only those commands that are directed to it. This promotes harmony in the system with least possible wastage of time and energy. Such a system creates efficiency to a level that man can now enjoy super-computers!!

Aristolte: Father of Science, Biology and Politics

Aristotle was the pupil of Plato. He is known as ‘moving encyclopedia’. Arabs called him Mu’allim-ul-Awwal (The First Scholar) in the world. He wrote Politics after a deep study of 159 constitutions of the world. No other book in the world has been written so far that can be proved more pragmatic in the field of politics. Political scientists in contemporary world hold that Politics by Aristotle keeps no alternative hitherto. Reason for such a sublime treatise was the scientific approach adopted by Aristotle. Young student should think if a single man, at a time, can be a Father of Science, Biology and Politics!! Aristotle should be treated as an exemplary by the youth. Like his master Plato, Aristotle in his Theory of Education paid an emphasis on Mathematics, Higher Mathematics, Medicine and Dietics for children who were taught to become the king of the state.

F.W. Taylor: The Scientist of Management

Rapid industrial and societal growth in the last century owes its genesis to Industrial Revolution. On the basis of industrial revolution human history can be divided in to two broad periods- pre-industrialization and post-industrialization.

With the advent of industrial revolution, many problems concerning the efficiency and economy of the industries came on horizon as the industries were not performing at the anticipated rate. Malady was understood and diagnosed by Fredrick Winslow Taylor, the founder of Scientific Management School. The reason came out to be ‘lack of scientific approach in working’. Most developed countries of the world adopted Taylor’s philosophy and reached the zenith of prosperity in a trice. But India adopted it partially whose repercussions are now manifested in forms of problems like poverty, unemployment, occupational diseases, low productivity etc.

Science in Indian Scenario: Conclusion

India is a land of varied cultures and religions. For India to be a heterogeneous yet a stable nation, it should be an open society. It should be keen enough to adopt good and new things promptly. Rigveda says: let the noble thoughts come to us from every side. Likewise, Prophet of Islam says: Seek wisdom from cradle to grave and seek wisdom even when you have to go China. The only way to wisdom is the science. Indians should have adopted the policy enshrined in their holy books but real picture is quite gruesome! Science, being a part of teachings in these books, was undermined due to our ignorance and arrogance.

In 1947, India’s literacy rate was 12%. By 2010, it rose to 63%; we became literate but not scientific! Science requires us to be rational to respect human feelings, to promote nation building and to strive to establish the Welfare State. On contrary, we remained confined to our shibboleths. It is brazen mockery that we never fight on sharing of knowledge but always on trivial issues of religion and worship. We never take pain to consider our candidature for Nobel Prize. Because of immigration, societies in the West have now become more diverse than ours yet they never witness such communal and caste disputes. This pathetic scenario on account of lack of science in our societies made Justice Markandey Katju to declare that 90% Indians are idiots! Reiterating Plato, idiots are those who are unaware of science !!

*Author earned his Bachelor of Science (Honors) in Botany from Department of Botany, AMU. He is now pursuing Masters in Public Administration at Department of Political Science, AMU. He can be reached at navedashrafi@gmail.com
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