March for Science, India needs it

March for Science, India needs it

The 'March for Science', to be held by scientists, researchers and students on Saturday in India and all over the world, is an effort to highlight the values of science and the need for its practice against the rising attacks on it and attempts to devalue it. Science marches were held in many major cities of the world on  April 22  last year to protest against US President Donald Trump's climate policies and anti-science stance. In India, the march was held in August last year, but this year the marches all over the world are being held on the same day. There is an increasing concern in India over the actions and decisions of governments that hurt science education and research and over statements of people in power which misrepresent or even question science. A culture of superstitions, retrograde practices and quackery is taking hold and is being encouraged while science scepticism and hostility to it may be rising.  

Those who should encourage science are debunking it and promoting pseudo-science. The prime minister once claimed that plastic surgery and techniques of artificial reproduction were practised in ancient India; Union minister Satyapal Singh recently dismissed Darwin's theory of evolution as wrong because "no one had seen man evolving from monkey, nor had our sages mentioned it"; the minister for science and technology Harsh Vardhan falsely claimed that the late scientist Stephen Hawking had said that the Vedas had a better theory than Einstein's E=mc2 equation. It is not only politicians who are undermining science. Educational institutions of repute and other bodies are also to be blamed for promoting pseudo-science, either under pressure from or to please the powers-that-be. Some IITs have conducted seminars on "cow science" and a central government committee has been set up to validate the properties of panchagavya. A paper presented at the Indian Science Congress claimed that ancient Indians used spacecraft. The Madhya Pradesh government is planning to set up 'astrology OPDs' in hospitals. Unscientific ideas are being introduced in textbooks.  

All these constitute a threat to science, its spirit and its practices - the very basis of our modernity. They are part of a bigger political and social worldview that seeks to take the country back to the past and disallows questioning, which is the basis of scientific culture. The allocation for science research and development in the country is very low at 1% of the GDP, while the spending on pseudo-science is increasing. Article 51A of the Constitution makes it the duty of every citizen to promote scientific temper, and the country's development needs genuine science and technology. There was a time when the call was to take science to the people, but now the stage has come to go to the people to save science.

Liked the story?

  • 0

    Happy
  • 0

    Amused
  • 0

    Sad
  • 0

    Frustrated
  • 0

    Angry