Taking A Rational Approach To Democracyby Opinion Express March 16, 2018 0 comments
India has produced a number of brilliant scientific minds, and yet it never fails to disregard reason and logic. It is disheartening to see Indians favor unsubstantiated arguments rather than appealing to reason.
The world lost an amazing and accomplished mind this past week. Stephen Hawking believed in one unified theory to explain all the other ones and his motivation to do so came from a belief that everything is connected to each other, how else could we achieve singularity? He has always believed that there is more to humanity than what meets the eye and has firmly demonstrated the courage to follow what we felt was lying there as an unsolved puzzle to answer many of the mysteries from yesterday to enable us to have a meaningful yet more reformed tomorrow. He has always tried to give shape to something that he felt was hidden but obvious to really give an absolute understanding of how we see or perceive the world that we live in today.
The essence of such an approach is that one should not ignore instances from the past just because the past does not conform to the theory we want to prove. A scientific approach, therefore, is premised on the fact that there is no such thing as an irreversible fact/statement and one should not be too arrogant to believe that there, a particular viewpoint is the only viewpoint that should be considered so long as the person making the argument does so in a rational and logical manner. A scientific approach is not restricted to science only and finds application in the social and political sphere as well. Therefore, as long as a particular viewpoint does not intend to harm, disparage another individual and is backed up by rational argument, it ought to be respected even if one disagrees with it.
A wonderful example of the application of a rational, scientific approach is the Constitutional debates wherein extremely strong-willed and opinionated individuals were willing to listen and engage in intense debate and were willing to amend their point of view if convinced by rational and civil dialogue. It is, therefore, disheartening to see our great country, which has produced so many brilliant scientific minds and often been an example of inclusiveness, abandon this scientific/rational approach.
Instead, the approach that is in fashion now seems to be one where a person has decided his/her conclusion first and then manipulates facts and history to justify the argument. In this piece, I will attempt to highlight how we seem to have disregarded our rich scientific, rational history of peaceful discussion and acceptability of different views in favor of loud, unsubstantiated and often violent disagreement.
A recent example of this is the attempt by some to alter or hide historical facts. This often takes the form of altering the curriculum at schools, to one that suits the narrative of the powers that be, even if it comes at cost of the truth.
We must be wary of such approach as this would encourage children to either miss out on important historical events or require them to learn about mythical events as actual facets of history. One should not be ashamed of our culture. There is an argument for learning about great epics like the Mahabharata and the Ramayana. These great works should not be taught as lessons in history but as impressive works of literature and culture. Children should be encouraged to follow a scientific approach that encourages them to make up their own minds by relying on established facts. We must be wary of brainwashing young children otherwise they will grow up to be non-thinking adults and that would be a great loss for the child as well as the country.
Another disturbing example of manipulating science and research towards selfish political ends is a committee that has been formed by the Government to help research and provide archaeological findings which prove that Hindus are the direct descendants of the subcontinent’s first inhabitants. It should be recognized that nations have been built due to the constant movement of individuals since time immemorial. A modern democracy cherishes its diversified populace rather than finding ways to divide them.
Another example that was in the news recently was on the desecration of statues in Kerala. Irrespective of the political views that one holds, such acts of vandalism are not the hallmarks of a modern democracy. It indicates intolerance towards other ways of life and beliefs. As Indians, our aim should be to disagree with any point of view using our words and engaging in meaningful conversation. Favoring brute force over intelligent discussion indicates a lack of appreciation for our history and a lack of respect for the diverse groups that help make India a vibrant country that it is.
Setting the right tone: In every sphere of life, in order to ensure that the citizens of the country follow the right example, it is crucial that individuals, who are in the public space, set the right example and set the tone for the rest of the public. Due to the presence of 24×7 news cycles and the prevalence of social media, comments made by individuals in the public space are available to everyone. Therefore, in such time, one expects elected representatives and the current Government to be mindful of their words and actions. However, it seems this is too much to ask.
Comments made by certain members of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on a variety of issues have at their mildest been hilariously unscientific and at their extreme have been downright evil. The hilariously unscientific comments have been on a variety of topics, including the theory of evolution which has been rigorously questioned and thoroughly proven since Charles Darwin’s conception of the theory.
Satyapal Singh, who ironically is India’s Minister for Higher Education, suggested that Darwin’s theory of evolution is “scientifically wrong” and commented on how “nobody, including our ancestors, in written or oral, has said they saw an ape turning into a man.”
There was also the comment on astrology by former Chief Minister of Uttarakhand, Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank, who said, “Science is a dwarf in front of astrology…astrology is the biggest science. It is in fact above science. We should promote it.”
Comments like this may seem hilarious at the first glance but we should not underestimate the impact they have on the public who rely on their leaders to act and speak in a responsible manner. Such blatant disregard for science and rational argument sets a wrong example.
Sadly though, in certain instances, there are comments and actions that have evil intentions. These comments are typically backed up by half-truths or a version of facts that have been manipulated to suit this evil end.
In the end though, in order for India to achieve its goal of transforming into a modern, liberal democracy, any behavior that takes away from a rational, scientific approach must be abandoned.
Writer: Ajay Kumar
Courtesy: The Pioneer