• A Perspective on Scientific Temper in India

    Subodh Mahanti

    June 28, 2017

    "The role of scientific temper cannot be overemphasized in a country like India, where myriad dogmas and superstitions compete for one’s attention. Scientific temper is an invaluable tool for the common people engaged in sound decision making not only about science but various issues of social importance. Scientific temper remains elusive even today, in spite of the fact that there is tremendous growth in science and technology and dependence on it for the growth of the country’s economy. The dogmatic beliefs are being spread continually, ironically, through the means of modern science and technology. People who have vested interests in perpetuating the existing social consciousness continue to oppose the basic tenets of scientific temper. The transition towards a society guided by the spirit of scientific enquiry will not be an easy task. It will not be achieved merely by making people simply aware of the concept. It will be achieved only through a democratic political process."

    – From the Conclusion of A Perspective on Scientific Temper in India written by Subodh Mahanti and published in the Journal of Scientific Temper.

     

    Nehru first defined and elaborated the concept of scientific temper in The Discovery of India, making the following salient points (Nehru, 1946:509-15):

    • There is an element of inevitability about the applications of science and technology. However, mere applications of science and technology will not be a sufficient condition. What is needed is ‘the scientific approach, the adventurous and yet critical temper of science, the search for truth and new knowledge, the refusal to accept anything without testing and trial, the capacity to change previous conclusions in the face of new evidence, the reliance on observed fact and not on pre-conceived theory, the hard discipline of the mind — all this is necessary, not merely for the application of science but for life itself and the solution of its many problems.’
    • Scientific temper is the temper of a free man.
    • Scientific approach should be an integral part of our social interactions, as expressed by the quote “The scientific approach and temper are, or should be, a way of life, a process of thinking, a method of acting and associating with life, a process of thinking, a method of acting and associating with our fellowmen.”
    • While we live in a scientific age, there is no evidence of scientific temper in the people or their leaders.
    • Even scientists who practice science do not necessarily have scientific temper.

     

    Following Nehru’s vision, the Indian Parliament adopted the Scientific Policy Resolution (SPR) of 1958, which enunciated the principles on which the growth of science and technology would be based. The SPR-1958 asserted that the Government of India visualised modern science and technology as the chief instrument for social transformation. ‘The dominating feature of the contemporary world is the intense cultivation of science on a large scale, and its application to meet a country's requirements. It is this, which, for the first time in man's history, has given to the common man in countries advanced in science, a standard of living and social and cultural amenities, which once was confined to a very small privileged minority of the population… It is only through the scientific approach and method and the use of scientific knowledge that reasonable material and cultural amenities and services can be provided for every member of the community… (SPR, 1958).

    After Nehru’s death, the Congress Governments at the centre continued the legacy of Nehru. The document ”Science and Technology Policy 2003” of the Government of India urges ‘To ensure that the message of science reaches every citizen of India, man and woman, young and old, so that we advance scientific temper, emerge as a progressive and enlightened society, and make it possible for all our people to participate fully in the development of science and technology and its application for human welfare. Indeed, science and technology will be fully integrated with all spheres of national activity.’ (Science and Technology Policy, 2003).

    Following the initiative undertaken by Satish Dhawan, Abdur Rahman and P. M. Bhargava, a Society for the Promotion of Scientific Temper (SPST) was launched in 1964. Its sole objective was to promote scientific temper in the society. However, the Society did not survive long. Bhargava and Chakrabarti wrote: ‘The Society for the Promotion of Scientific Temper died a natural death: this chapter on development of scientific temper in the country was closed but many lessons were learnt from it, one of them being that scientific temper was an important ingredient of any recipe for not only social and economic but also scientific and technological advancement of our country’(Bhargava and Chakrabarti, 2010:26-29). The SPST also issued a statement, which was published in Seminar.

     


     

    Read the full article here: A Perspective on Scientific Temper in India

    Dr. Subodh Mahanti is the Division Head of Publications for Vigyan Prasar

    Article was originally published in <em><a href="http://op.niscair.res.in/index.php/JST/article/view/1099" target="_blank"><span style="color:#000080;">The Journal of Scientific Temper</span></a></em>, Vol. 1, January 2013, pp. 46-62

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