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Scientific temper- A duty embedded in our constitution

By Saurav Kumar
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Scientific temper- A duty embedded in our constitution

Science in India has craze as a subject which needs to be learned further to be understood, ending up scoring marks in the respective exam which an individual faces. But its significance has a larger perspective to known to all definitely beyond the image of a subject. Probably, the Constitution of India is the only Constitution in the world which reminds its citizens to practice “Scientific Temper”. Fundamental duty Article 51 A (h) states, “It shall be the duty of every citizen of India to develop the scientific temper, humanism and spirit of inquiry and reform”. India as an independent nation started well on prioritizing science. The first prime minister of Independent India Jawaharlal Nehru was the pioneer to coin the term “Scientific temper” which forever remains as a gift to scientific community and Indian masses. In his autobiography The Discovery of India, 1946 he writes- “Scientific temper is a way of life- an individual and social process of thinking and acting which uses a scientific method which may include questioning, observing reality, testing, hypothesizing, analyzing and communicating.” In span of 15 years between 1948-1963, Jawahar Lal Nehru gave India 32 educational and scientific institutions.

This was a boost for science, India and its people just after attaining Independence. Further on March 4 1958, the Scientific Policy Resolution (SPR) of Government of India stared clearly, “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.” The Technology Policy Statement (TPS) of 1983 emphasized the need to attain technological competence and self-reliance. The Science and Technology Policy (STP) of 2003 highlighted the significance of science and technology (S&T) together. It emphasized the need for investment in R&D to address national problems. The Science, Technology & Innovation Policy 2013 articulated the need for innovation and creation of a national innovation eco-system.

SCIENCE LITERACY EQUALLY CRUCIAL AS SCIENCE EDUCATION-

Science as a subject is part and parcel of our curriculum. It is integrated in our education system i.e. is omnipresent in school, college and universities where teaching fraternity thrives hard to make them reach it to students in every possible manner but this phenomenon has become more of a static process where marks and degree take an upper hand with theoretical knowledge and extremely less focus of hands-on science teaching-learning method. So science education exists but what about science literacy? Science literacy stands on four pillars namely-

  1. Knowledge of basic facts of science
  2. Understanding of methods of science with question-experiment-observation-inference
  3. Appreciation and Propagation of the positive results after scientific experiment
  4. To reject unconquered beliefs.

 

In words of Jon Miller, Director of the Public Opinion Laboratory at Northern Illinois University, “Scientific literacy is one of those terms that is often used but seldom defined. The scientifically literate should understand the temper; while as a contrast, even one who has not been a science student can possess scientific temper.”

In the backdrop of this concept of science communication and literacy, India has been witnessing many such efforts in form of People’s Science Movement (PSM). The first prominent movement took place in 1960’s in Kannur district of Kerala by Kerala Shashtra Sahitya Parishad (KSSP) which was a Forum of Science Writers. It devised a new way of involving the masses with science by taking out ‘Science Jathas’. The Jathas were a small group of scientists, teachers, students and youths, travelling from village to village in a kind of procession, staging proper theatre shows at every stop, accompanied by songs and distribution of leaflets. A decade later, KSSP undertook a theme called ‘Science for Social Revolution’. This was termed as the best initiative focused on Science literacy much more than Science education. Its result was seen in literacy movement in Kerala which made Ernakulum district as nation first 100% literate district.

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In 1981, the Nehru Centre in Bombay, released a document by P N Haksar, along with Dr Raja Ramanna and Dr P M Bhargava named- A Statement on Scientific temper. In the Introduction to the document, Dr Raja Ramanna says-

The nation owes a deep debt of gratitude to Jawaharlal Nehru, more than to any other, for the sustained growth and many-sided development of modern science and technology in India, as viable instruments of social transformation. The need of the time is the diffusion of science and technology into the societal fabric at all levels. This can only be achieved by promotion of what Jawaharlal Nehru chose to call the Scientific Temper – a rational attitude, the importance of which he emphasized time and again. Indeed, the Scientific Temper has to be fostered with care at the individual, institutional, social and political levels.”

Presently this template of science popularization and communication is being carried out by All India People’s Science Network (AIPSN) which is a network of over forty Peoples Science organizations and Bharat Gyan Vigyan Samiti (BGVS) with units in 23 states, 350 districts with 300,000 volunteers in more than 10,000 villages with an underlying aim of bridging the Knowledge divide, Economic divide and Social divide.

HOW AND WHY SCIENCE COMMUNICATION CAN BE STRENGTHENED?

Today we are in midst of fast media communication where social media has created an important space between electronic and print media. But science as the popular tool remains less visible. At present, there are six science magazines nationwide available to readers- Resonance by Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Science Reporter by Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Sandarbh, Science Festival, Current Science, Dream 2047 by Vigyan Prasar and Safari Magazine. But science communication in all three formats of media- print, electronic and social, is in a gloomy state when compared to the past. Science popularization is a direct answer to a humongous number of death due to superstition in this country, superstition in day to day life like not to have food during an eclipse. A strong science communication can lead to meaningful public debate where scientific values are grasped by common man easily. This trend has a potential to make science open and accessible to the public. We as a nation whose Constitution empowers its citizens with duty towards science must have-

  1. An Indian Science Channel which will be a watchdog on ongoing development taking place in the field of science.
  2. Annual Science festival which shall include government support, different science organizations.
  3. Science parks, science museums, planetariums must become mandatory for every state of India which will act as a bridge between the scientific community, common man, the media and the government.
  4. Educational career programs on science communication and popularization must be prioritized by the government.

After independence, India has seen bright and best science communicators such as Satyendranath Bose, Meghnad Saha, C.V.Raman, Jagjit Singh and JBS Haldane. In recent years eminent scientists like Jayant. V. Narlikar, Yash Pal, P.M.Bhargava have been popularizing science through articles, lectures, science fiction books, etc. Even an organization in Maharashtra has been popularizing Mathematics through “Hand-On-Teaching” method replacing the fear of the subject with its interesting “Do and Discover” technique.

There are two big advantages-

  1. This effort in education is nurturing the young generation not only in understanding a subject but also impregnating the ideals of Scientific temperament which our first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru had envisioned.
  2. Science is crossing the conventional boundary of just being a subject to score. Presently, Science literacy is the ultimate product which we are receiving at the end of all these accomplishments.

A THREAT ON SCIENCE TO RESIST –

Successive science policies of past governments have put enough emphasis on communication of science but still the results on the ground are disappointing. Science communication and literacy have taken a back seat in recent years when compared to growth of science education. Last year, Delhi-based Centre for the Study in Developing Societies (CSDS) and Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS), a German foundation associated with a political party, conducted a sample survey on 6122 respondents in the age group of 15-34 years in 19 Indian states on views of Indian youth on various issues, a majority also believed that religion (47%) should take precedence over science (33%).

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Narendra Modi government is unleashing an assault on Indian Science. In 102nd Science Congress ‘40-engine Plane and ancient surgery’ overshadowed the significant event in response to this Dr Ram Prasad Gandhiraman, a scientist with the Nasa’s Ames Research Centre in California, filed an online petition demanding that the session be cancelled because it had fused science with mythology. Instead of popularisation of science, the government of India under Narendra Modi is polarizing masses on issues which are anti-science. This regime is hell bent of demolishing what we had achieved in seven decades as a free nation. In response to the politics of suppressing science, the science community came up with a resistance. In 2017, there was a rally demanding need for increase in government funding in the science sector and enacting policies based on evidence-based science.

In April 2018, a march for Science against pseudo-scientific claims of ministers of the government of India was seen in New Delhi.

In totality, all efforts in form of science journals, science writings, science fiction stories, hands on teaching in education signify and give a crystal clear message-  Scientific temper has nothing to do only with science but more to do with method of science and process of the scientific enterprise. It is an attitude or mental construct to look at things with reasons and methodology to follow. In parallel to science education, science literacy has a significant dual role to play- one, it needs to percolate in minds of our citizen as way to lead life based on question, experiment, observation, inference and secondly, to understand, science’s role in shaping our society by offering solution to various existing crisis. But at the same time, we as citizens of India must resolve hard and fast to uphold, enhance and protect the legacy of scientific temper which all these years enabled us to be world’s one of the most scientifically advanced country.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of NEWSD and NEWSD does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.

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