Rationalism

Scientifc Outlook

Superstitions caused many obstacles in human progress till man invented ‘Scientific Outlook’ that cleared his vision and illuminated the path of progress. He found a new way of looking at happenings around him. It says -there is a cause behind all that exists or happens; human intellect can grasp this cause; some causes may not be discernible for a while but man now knows the way to find them and this is the most reliable way of acquiring and enhancing knowledge. Whatever a person has to suffer is not the making of god, his fate, time of his or her birth or sins committed in the earlier births. There is always a cause behind the exploitation of any person which can be diagnosed, established and remedied.

However when an attempt is made to draw attention to these exploitative superstitions and remedy them, even those at the receiving end of exploitation ask you, “Who gave you the right to make these abrupt changes in our lives?” and  “does your science know everything?”  To be able to answer such questions, the activist should understand the philosophy of social change that supports scientific outlook. Although it is not possible to remove all the obstacles in the path of progress, one can certainly light the path and cautiously avoid the pitfalls. Past history tells us that man had to face such innumerable obstacles and pitfalls till the thought of ‘Scientific Outlook’ struck him and lighted his path.  The Polish Astronomer Copernicus proffered two theories; one that the earth and all planets revolve round the Sun and the second that the earth rotates on its own axis from east to west and completes a full rotation in one day. This turned the cause-effect relation between the sun and the earth and the planets, as was spelled out in the Bible, topsy-turvy. The Bible had said that all this is caused by the will of the Father in the Heaven. People did not take notice of Copernicus’ theories then. But when Bruno confirmed Copernican theory he was burnt alive and Galileo had to beg for pardon for experimentally confirming the truth. But this proved to be the beginning of a new age of science. It enabled man to discard the religious theories of god, providence, destiny or the Hindu theories of Praktan, Prarabhda, Karmavipak etc. For the first time man became independent of the Word, the Book and the omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent God controlling every human thought and action. It gave man a new self assurance, and confidence.

Scientific Outlook blessed humanity with three more boons. In India women and Dalits were not allowed to acquire any knowledge. But this new way of thinking was available to all irrespective of caste, creed or gender. Secondly Science does not claim to possess answers to all questions and to know the ultimate truth, as do most of the religions. Thirdly, so far, there is only one means or technique, available to mankind, of getting valid knowledge and that is Scientific Outlook. It has proved that whatever knowledge becomes accessible to mankind will be through Scientific Outlook and not revelation.
In simple words Scientific Outlook means believing anything to the extent of the evidence available for it.
Observation, reason, inference, verification and experiment are constituents of Scientific Outlook.
Scientific Outlook is not a mere mathematical process. Its core contains values. Those values are modesty, independence, exactitude and fearlessness.

It is the duty of every Indian citizen to Adopt Scientific Outlook. Inculcating this outlook is mentioned as one of the core elements of education. It is also an important value that has to be inculcated in the minds of students in their school days. An activist should note that adopting and inculcating Scientific Outlook that helps eradication of superstitions is mandated by our constitution and National Education Policy. So ANiS’ activities are recognized legal activities, known for their uprightness and have unequivocal support of the constitution.

Scientific Outlook can be defined as: any logical statement that can be universally validated by observation, examination, rigorous logic, mathematics, verification and experiment. This new outlook came into existence only 400 years ago. But it has completely changed mankind’s outlook towards the whole universe. It is not just a mathematical process but has an intrinsic value system in it (as stated above) although practicing all those values in everyday behavior is very difficult for common people. Yet talking about rationalism, eradication of superstition, discarding or reforming the age old traditions and customs cannot be called pretense; because such mere discourse too requires courage and can lead to confrontation.
Reasons why Scientific Outlook could not spread its roots deep into the Indian soil:
1. Caste system and subordination of women: This system debarred women and Dalits from acquiring any knowledge. Casteist psyche emerges from the dishonest logic of determining an individual’s status by his birth. It hampers the advancement of Scientific Outlook that is based on reason and experiment.
2. The philosophy that ‘the invisible Brahma alone is true; all the visible material world is illusory’
3. The age old unchanging system of education that does not encourage asking questions
4. Dictatorship in the family
5. Idolization of individuals and avoiding criticizing them out of reverence
6. Lack of progressive movements

India had a long tradition of independent thinkers who propounded their own theories. ‘Zero’ was conceived in India and the mathematics progressed by leaps and bounds all over the World. Nagarjun, a renowned chemist discovered how to make mercury compounds. Aryabhatta had proffered the theory that the earth revolves round the sun, a thousand years earlier than Copernicus and Varahmihir knew ages before, that the sun is a star. Though this knowledge was derived from observation, investigation, exploration, scrutiny, discourse, use of elementary mathematics and the genius of those ancient scholars, it was yet not the Scientific Outlook as we see it today. There are reasons why this tradition disappeared without developing into the modern Scientific Outlook.
Such factors as the caste system, subordination of women, restriction on propagation of knowledge, prohibition of independent thinking, validity of and reverence for the word and the book and negating dignity of labor stopped not only the spread of knowledge but also stopped rational free thinking altogether.

The ‘Adwait’ doctrine of identity of the human soul and the divine essence taught us that the emancipation of a human being lies in uniting one’s soul with the divine essence (whatever it means!). The material world that we see and experience is Maya, not real but illusion. Our education system also discourages inquisitiveness. Asking questions, on the part of the students is seen as an affront to his teachers or elders. Idolization has become so rampant in our society that self respect is replaced by pride and arrogance; criticism is impossible as it is construed as insult or abuse; because of intolerance the individual and the society has become over sensitive and aggressive. To add to this tense, volatile situation, there are many religions, each with many sects and deities or hallowed saintly persons and the multitudes of their worshippers. Another and more important reason is the lack of political strength and will that can straighten out the fabric of the disorderly society. We are not prepared to give up the obsolete, senseless and exploitative customs and traditions or even to re-examine them. Politicians reap benefit out of pampering these orthodox people and pandering to their chauvinistic demands. Such atmosphere cannot promote Scientific Outlook.

Objections raised against Scientific Outlook

Scientific Outlook is accused of not answering any questions regarding the existence of god or Atma (soul). These people do not know what is meant by Scientific Outlook. Atma and other similar concepts are beyond the pale of human observation and experiments. That is why its stand is that of an agnostic. Moreover it believes that it is not possible for human beings to obtain any knowledge that is not accessible to observation and experiment. Another accusation is that common people are not capable of assimilating scientific outlook; they need support of the religion instead. This is not true. The common man believes in any phenomenon, incident or a thing only to the extent he gets the proof of its validity. In fact understanding scientific outlook is much easier than understanding any religious doctrines. The third objection is that because of science, morality declines and indulgence increases. This too is not true for it is possible to be moral and evade indulgence without the aid of religion for, not religious tenets but reason, gives rise to morality. Religionists also claim that religion does not mean the religious rituals. Religion is the philosophy that is based on morality. Scientific Outlook too is not just mathematics. It is the cause-effect relationship – the reciprocal relationship that is revealed in the Biblical adage ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you’. Scientific Outlook gives your thinking a moral turn. As one adopts Scientific Outlook, he begins to question the accuracy and reliability of all the fancy concepts like magnet therapy, Reki, Vastushastra, astrology, revealing what is in store in the future as well as the spiritual ideas like Moksha, Brahma, Parabrahma, Swarga, Atma, Paramatma, etc. and eventually discards them as useless.