Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Thursday, Mar 18, 2004
Science & Technology
Columns - Impressions
Science and superstition
Some scientists believe that though science has delivered many useful gadgets there is a "certain inconclusiveness on the big issues of everyday life".
Even in the US the citadel of scientific innovations a Harris Poll found that most Americans believe in miracles. Also, almost half the population believes in ghosts and a third in astrology.
"There is obviously a kind of split personality about these things," said Dr Owen Gingerich, a historian of astronomy at the Harvard Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics, "as science gives you cold comfort at times of death or sickness and so on."
Some scientists are constrained to observe that the pursuit of physics, it appears, has reached a plateau.
For instance, since nuclear arms were identified as the greatest threat to humanity, particularly in the hands of rogue nations and terrorist outfits, research on taming of fusion energy which powers the sun and developing a theory of everything seems to have hit a rough patch.
In his book The End of Science, John Horgan states that abstract physics "has wandered off into the fantasy land of higher dimensions and superstring theory and has really lost touch with reality".
In life sciences, for example, a growing body of people all over the world believe that Darwin's evolutionary theory is wrong as it postulates that purely random natural processes produced life.
Somehow, it goes against the ingrained notion that human beings are inherently superior to all other forms of life, having been created in the image of God.
Despite authoring several mind-boggling advancements in food, public health, medicine, life expectancy, and so on, scientists have been helpless in their efforts to stem the creeping social disaffection for science.
A scientific view by itself appears militantly atheistic and is, therefore, in constant conflict with faith-based organisations.
"Scientists are presenting a much more complicated, much less ethically grounded view of the world and it is hard for people to take that in," says Dr David Baltimore, the Nobel Prize winning biologist. That, perhaps, explains the public apathy to embrace and internalise a sustainable scientific temperament.
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