Scientific Temper in Daily Life – 2

Constitution of India, Section 51A states “It shall be the duty of every citizen of India— …(h) to develop the scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of inquiry and reform;”

Wikipedia states, “Scientific temper describes an attitude which involves the application of logic and the avoidance of bias and preconceived notions. Discussion, argument and analysis are vital parts of scientific temper. It is thus necessarily open — admitting every point of view, however heterodox it might be, or where it comes from. Elements of fairness, equality and democracy are built into it.”

As discussed in various other references, “spirit of inquiry and reform” is part of scientific temper. It is interesting that constitution mentions humanism also along with scientific temper.

Unscientific Thoughts from Scientists

Wordnet ontology from Princeton University defines a scientist as “a person with advanced knowledge of one or more sciences.”

I was invited by a relative for a function at Raghavendra Matt, Kengeri Satellite Town, Bangalore. I was closeted with some dignitaries for lunch in a special room. One of them was a respected senior cardiologist who qualifies to be a scientist from the definition in the previous paragraph. All others in the room were well educated and well placed.

Hayagreeva, a very sweet, rich dish, is a specialty of Raghavendra Matt, which was served during lunch. One person commented that eating Hayagreeva in the temple premises would be fully acceptable for a diabetic patient. This was supported by all present, and the cardiologist was very vocal about the power of the God that would guard the devotees from the ill effects of what they eat in the shrine. With the sanction from the doctor and blessings from Guru Raghavendra, the diabetics in the room relished extra servings of Hayagreeva. I do not know what the clinical tests would reveal, if at all someone cared!

This constitutional duty of a practicing physician is more vital because if people suffering with diseases or disorders believe in such unscientific proclamations form a “Scientist” they could indulge in harmful habits.

We expect our elected representatives to honour their fundamental duties. For some time newspapers have wasted several column-inches on front pages reporting shameful accounts of witch-craft practices by elected representatives of the state.

Contradiction or Complement?

Subbanna was a priest, feasted regularly with rich food, was obese with 95 kg, and showed symptoms of ill health. When advised to visit a doctor, he would brush aside the suggesting saying, “I pray Dhanvantari regularly and He would guard my health.” Subbanna passed away ten months ago at the age of 44, survived by his wife and year-old daughter.

A couple close to a Guruji got a third girl child. The lady said, “if we were keen, we would have asked Guruji to bless us with mantrakshate, which would have ensured that we get a male child.”

Are religious beliefs hurting the constitutional duties?

Do we need not be schizophrenic with spiritual and scientific thoughts – they do not contradict, but can complement.

The Dalai Lama has been closely working with prominent Western psychologists, physicians, and meditation teachers and shedding new light on the mind-body connection for the past 25 years. Topics of inquiry and research include: compassion as medicine; the nature of consciousness; self-esteem; and the meeting points of mind, body, and spirit. The Dalai Lama is questioning all the beliefs and practices of Buddhism and finding scientific reasons for the spiritual beliefs and practices.

Nobel Prize winning economist Amartya Sen in his book “The Argumentative Indian” states that since the Upanishadic or Mahabharata times, arguments, disputations, questions and dialogues have characterised Indian thought.

Let us keep the spirit of enquiry live and not forget our constitutional responsibility.

More later.

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About pgbhat

A retired Naval Officer and an educationist. Has experience with software industry. A guest faculty at different institutes and a corporate trainer with software development companies.
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5 Responses to Scientific Temper in Daily Life – 2

  1. kartik Hosanagar says:

    India is indeed a land of contradictions.

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  2. Rukmani. S says:

    An inquiry has started in my mind as to why did the doctor speak the way he spoke. Is it lack of scientific inquiry or is it lack of guts? I feel it is more of the latter than former. If the same doctor were to be present in a scientific forum surrounded by members from medical faculty would he say the same thing? He would probably say all sweet is bad for “diabetics”. I wonder what would happen if he said the same thing in the matt surrounded by so many “religious” people. Just a thought

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    • pgbhat says:

      Thanks for your observation, Rukmani. Bertrand Russell said, “Religion is based, I think, primarily and mainly upon fear. It is partly the terror of the unknown and partly, the wish to feel that you have a kind of elder brother who will stand by you in all your troubles and disputes. A good world needs knowledge, kindliness, and courage; it does not need a regretful hankering after the past or a fettering of the free intelligence by the words uttered long ago by ignorant men.” If a doctor states what he does not believe, he probably lacks courage. The harm he does is greater as the innocents would believe the convenient lie.

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  3. Raghu Hudli says:

    PG, regarding the cardiologist’s statement of eating hayagreeva in the shrine, he may deserve some credit on the socio-religious aspects. From a scientific perspective sporadic high sugar levels do not present any risk, it is only sustained high sugar levels over a long period of time that poses problems. The cardiologist may have felt that when the diabetics occasionally visit the mutt and eating a little hayagreeva may give the mind a “boost” though it may “momentarily” increase sugar levels for a day and would not hurt the body. I may be making some assumptions about the cardiologist here! If the assumptions are true, the cardiologist not only has courage, but also wisdom and is not being purely technical.

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