Yuva - India

How Relevant is the Science vs. Pseudo-science Debate?

Anything that cannot be proven via established scientific methodologies is termed as ‘pseudoscience’. Practices like Astrology is an example of being known as one amongst the scientists. Sometimes even Ayurveda, Yoga etc. are labelled the same way by few. While some beliefs, practices, rituals, etc. do need to be analyzed based on scientific parameters, is it really that necessary to ridicule certain practices and beliefs of common people for the same reason always?

Recently, the country saw a lot of controversy over the Prime Minister requesting the citizens of India to show regards to the COVID warriors by clapping which would also give a sense of togetherness during the times of crisis. While there was no further reason given by the Government, some people were openly criticized and even ridiculed for linking the act to some source of positive energy. The recent SUTRA-PIC program was also mocked at for intending to research on Panchagavya from indigenous cow breeds. While analysis of any project or program based on rationality is welcome, what was bothering is that the purpose of mockery was largely based on the reverence of the native cattle by many common people, who often attempt to back this up by scientific arguments which in reality may not be based on proven facts. Here, the experts must understand that a commoner’s attempt to find scientific reasons behind one’s act must not be disregarded as pseudoscience which in reality is just an innocent attempt to catch hold a few tides in hands in the vast ocean of science. This also, nowhere means that the person is reluctant to develop ‘true’ scientific temper. Rather, this assumption becomes an assertion backed by no proof, experiment, observation, etc. A non-expert in science trying to rush one’s mind over the scientific attribution of any belief actually shows the readiness to test things based on logic rather than simply acting as preached. From here, the experts rather must take up the duty to propagate what they see as the ‘scientific temperament’.

Moreover, there are also examples when an idea fits into the frame of pseudoscience being a premature stage of some real scientific revolutions. For instance- The great scientist JJ Thomson firstly put forth the plum-pudding model of an atom, when asked about the arrangement of electrons and protons in it until Rutherford proved the existence of the arrangement we read about today. Some areas in science also see the scientists divided into factions with one side seeing the conclusions of the other side as pseudoscience. Light, being a photon particle by some and as a wave by others has seen similar kinds of conflict for years. Therefore, one must realize how complicated the field of science is and how there have existed so many experimental failures which ultimately contributed to the evolution of science as we see it today. Thus, even when the thoughts and ideas of great scientists can be vulnerable to not coming out with any proof, how much right is it to expect common people to be free from explaining their way of life as an outcome of science? And yes, some of these scientists even chose to stick to their ideas even when the experiment gave no result to back it up.

Coming to India, we Indians fail to admire the fact, how our great scientists from ancient to modern times have picked up working on complete foreign ideas. This includes Aryabhata, Bhaskara II, Charak to modern era Ramanujam, Meghnad Saha, Satyendra Nath Bose to name a few. These great minds never discarded taking up an experiment or analysis considering it as pseudo-science that doesn’t deserve one. Unfortunately, many people belonging to cancel-culture ideologies, who themselves are no scientists, dilute the great scientific heritage India has, many times even labelling many works like Ayurveda as a pseudoscience. Meanwhile, the people actually having in-depth knowledge of the field still take inspiration from the same heritage both nationally and internationally. Here, worth mentioning is the idol of Sushruta, the father of surgery, adorning the premises of the Royal Australia College of Surgeons in Melbourne.

Science is too vast to be bound in the limits of few methods and established facts. While anything harmful must be rejected in any field, beneficial things must be propagated too. Also, while the common people need to get rid of anything that blocks their ability to enlarge their views towards the world and are pseudoscience that can harm humanity, the curiosity to see how some ideas and culture have scientific reasoning shan’t be mocked too. Also, not having a proof to something, is not a proof in itself. Thus, one shall either let the masses organically develop their ways of life, reasoning etc. without imposing our science expertise over them, or try to enhance the boundaries of science to make it more inclusive. Else, science would become the perception of an elite of the world, to prove which, they got the opportunity to experiment. Also, let us remember Newton who said, ‘I seem to have been like a boy playing on the seashore and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me’. We must be careful that in this race to label every ‘ordinary’ as pseudoscience, we don’t miss out on the ocean.

Shobhna Dheemati

Intern, Goa Chronicle
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