Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Science and Pseudoscience

The very apparent progress or our civilization from ancient times has been brought about by science. It means a systematic study of anything that concerns us. Science has grown in popularity science the time when scientists were even stoned to death or prosecuted for misleading people against or society.

The people who were really misleading and cheating the gullible people those days still exist. They are either still opposing science or have turned scientific and are misinterpreting science so as to substantiate their theories. This is called borderline science or pseudo science.

The struggle against the persistant and overshelming majority of fools and of those who exploits them as tools is indeed a tough one and with little prospects. But the fight is necessary for without it, the mankind will be in a worse plight. -Albert Einstein

The first group of people argue that science os full of contradictory theories, that many times scientific theories have been proved wrong and that modern science had been discovered by ancient people and has been described in religious and other books (as the books like "The Tao of Physics" or "the Chariots of Gods" say) etc. To make things clear science never considers itself 100 present correct. Each theory discovered is a step further towards the ultimate truth. Many modern inventions have been thought of or fancied about in the past, like the atomic theory or the idea of flying. Science has confirmed these speculations or made these fantasies come true, but it has also disproved many others like the five element theory or the notion of the philosopher's stone. It is childish to argue that because it has been written that Ganapati was fitted with an elephant's head, the ancients could perform microsurgery. As the German born, Oxford educated, Sanskrit scholar Max. Muller says- the historical importance of vedas can hardly be exaggerated, but discover in it the modern science and philosophy, you deprive it of its true characters.

The second group of people take advantage of the incomprehensibleness of modern science to mislead the people. Gone are the days when new developments in science were studied by the public keenly. Science has become increasingly complicated and has been distanced from the common man. For example very few people know that modern physics deals with ten dimensions, or are aware of the unmanned spaceships that landed on mars or of the recent and sensational discovery of top quark. This situation is exploited by some. Today claims are made of scientific proof of astrology, bioienergy, pyramidology etc. But these 'scientific' works do not contain anything scientific but for some exotic scientific terms. All the (real) scientific researches conducted in these fields have yielded negative results (for example in one of these Godfrey Dean in 1986, the individual horoscopes were altered to make them as opposite in meaning to the authentic ones as possible and it was found that the reversed interpretations were accepted as readily as the authentic ones, by the people)

At the heart of science is an essential tension between two seemingly contradicting attitudes, an openness to new ideas, no matter how bizarre or counterintuitive they may be and the most ruthless skeptical scrutiny of all ideas, old and new. The collective enterprise of exactive thinking and skeptical thinking together keeps the field on track
-Carl Sagan

Why is it that inspite of living in 'modern' world people go after such irrationality? One reason is that they promise short cuts in life. They foretell the problems of the future and the means to overcome them. They may also promise good health without having to do regular exercises of cutting down on meat. They even promise to keep milk from getting spoilt without the help of refrigerators. People often confuse between science & technology. They are tired of a mechanized life style and turn away from science. But science is just pursuit of truth. Many scientists live simple lives and some eve have hatred for mechanized gadgets. All the pioneers of quantum mechanics could play some musical instrument or other including Einstein who derived solace from his violin. Science can turn man a philosophical than anything else can. people also follow these 'sciences' because they have been followed by their revered forefathers. It's interesting to note that the same ancestors also observed Sati, Caste system, slavery, polygamy etc.

Why should we keep away from these? First of all because they are all false. They are also dangerous- like consulting astrologers before taking important decisions in life and when you rely upon them you lose your free will and courage. Swami Vivekananda has said- "Astrology and all these mystical things are generally signs of weak mind. Therefore as soon as they gain prominence in our minds, we should see a physician, take good food and rest". Also, the government funding for scientific projects depend upon the public interest in them. Politicians won't co-operate with scientists if spending on military brings them more votes. (As is the case with the money starved NASA space progammes). The last reason is an underlying fear that our civilization may go back to the dark ages of irrationality when for about 2000 years, science was hampered but for which we would have had colonies in nearby planets now and would be communicating with life in some other star systems. Isaac Asimov wrote "when Greek secular and rational thought bowed to the Christianity what followed was a dark age." We can't afford another.

What we need is not the will to believe, but the wish to find out
-Burtrand Russel

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