DOES INDIA RESPECT ITS SCIENTISTS ?
At a party the other night the discussion came around to vegetarianism. Someone said that non vegetarians tend to be more violent than vegetarians. This sparked an intense debate.
At one point I said that there are at least two ways to approach this topic.
The first way was to talk of anecdotal evidence and this invariably leads to an outpouring of emotions which, my past experience has shown, will lead to someone claiming as ‘evidence’ that India is one of the few nations that has never waged a war except in self-defense and India is a vegetarian nation.. Before long the group that listens to this line of thinking will be divided along religious lines. As in all such discussions what we will see is a debate not a discussion. All heat and no light.
The other way is the way of science. The scientific way is the way of logic, reason and credible evidence. The starting point in any scientific study is to form a hypothesis, collect evidence in an objective manner and then try and reach a conclusion. Thereafter the findings are thrown open to debate by fellow scientists and if they concur with the methodology and findings the latter are accepted into the scientific arena.
But –here there is a major difference—these so called authoritative findings are always treated as true till further research disproves or modifies it. In other words all ‘scientific truths’ are ‘temporary’ and all scientists accept the possibility of being proved wrong.
Using these broad principles. I, a non scientist, set about discussing the hypothesis that non vegetarianism promotes violence. To be sure many of my listeners were not comfortable with my treating the starting statement as a hypothesis—they felt that it was an ‘obvious truth’. This is where science begins to depart from any other form of discussion
Next I presented what little evidence I had viz
1. Jesus Christ was a non vegetarian yet is an apostle of non violence. A search of the internet— which I did in their presence– show this, although one could do more research to prove or disprove this.
2. Buddha was a non vegetarian. So is the Dalai Lama.
3. Gujerat— a predominantly vegetarian state– exhibited the kind of violence that came as close to genocide as the modern era has seen..
4. The claim that India has never engaged in a war except in self defence may not be accepted by, say, Pakistan.
5. To say that most wars in history involved non vegetarian nations does not mean much since almost all nations [including India by the way] are predominantly non vegetarian nations.
6. It is statistically not true that India is a vegetarian nation. Traditionally it is only sections of the Brahmin community that have been vegetarians. They are a small minority.
To cut a long story short what I concluded was as follows;
Violence needs to be studied in much greater depth. It is not correct to suggest a direct causation between diet and violence. Correlation if it exists, is not causation. Many researchers have studied violence and it seems that many factors contribute to a tendency to be violent of which diet may play a small role if at all but this needs much more rigorous research.
What does all this mean in a general sense ?
The first questions is
WHY DO INDIAN SCIENTISTS ACHIEVE SUCCESS ONLY IN THE U.S AND OTHER COUNTRIES?
The other question is
ARE WE IN INDIA SHOWING RESPECT TO SCIENTISTS? ARE WE FAILING OUR SCIENTISTS?
My view is that we lack the scientific temperaments across the board. Thus when an American loses his job he consults experts on what skills he needs to acquire in order to get a job. He will then attend a course, obtain practical training and soon enough he will land a job. Even on the job he will be alert to the possibilities of equipping himself to acquire new skills to rise in his career.
In contrast an Indian when he loses his job will probably run to an astrologer or guruji or other religious authority for succour. The astrologer will attribute the loss of a job to some constellation of stars and will advise doing some pooja or propitiate some ‘god’ or ‘goddess’, a procedure that will invariably involve doling out large sums of money to the only man who can get him a new job—the astrologer or guruji I refer to Hindus here…
The lack of a scientific temperament is evident in every walk of life. All issues however critical are discussed in the public domain with little reference to facts and figures. There are far too many examples to be featured here.
In education rote learning is the norm even at post graduate level., Thus my friend who is studying for a law degree in Mumbai University tells me that he is expected to memorize each and every sub section of each and every legislation! I told him that in a court case the lawyers and judges can and do carry the law books with them.
I suggest that if we inculcate the scientific temper at all levels we will be laying the foundation for a society that respects science and scientists. There are a host of other issues but this is not the forum for a detailed discussion on such a vast subject. Suffice it to say that we have along way to go as a society. We are still a medieval society and our attitudes are still of a 15th century vintage. No doubt I will be inundated with a barrage of hate mails telling me of Chandrayaan, of computers and mobile phones etc as evidence of our ‘advances’ in science. These are true but insignificant achievements when viewed in the context of the pace of progress the world over..