Sunday, March 23, 2008

Scientific Temper

The biggest challenge of the 21st century would be inculcating scientific temper in students. Why so?

There are a number of parties have vested interests in preventing the scientific temper from spreading. The recent and still on-going saga of Evolution vs Intelligent design is only a precursor to other stumbling blocks that that are expected in the path of expanding our scientific knowledge.

Why are people with no scientific backgrounds allowed to propose theories and also expect them to be taught in schools? If the few who are are so convinced of Intelligent design theory, why can't they come up with evidence to validate such a theory? Why don't such people publish in scientific journals so that the rest of the scientific community can scrutinize and evaluate the theory? But instead the Intelligent design community discusses the postulates and theories in the media with pundits who have absolutely no knowledge about biology or science. These people want science textbooks to add a note saying Evolution is only a theory and there are other plausible theories that could explain the diversity in the living organisms. I do not dispute the fact that there could be other theories, but why do they only stop with Evolution? How about Newton's theory of gravitation, Relativity, Quantum mechanics and on and on. The fact of the matter is that science is always finding a better theory or model that can explain the observations. None of the theories: gravitation, relativity, quantum mechanics have all been accepted as sacrosanct, but instead there are a number of scientists who question each and every aspect of these theories and try to prove them wrong using observations and experiments. That is why we have had so many models for the atom: Rutherford's model was superceded by Bohr's which in turn was improved by Schrodinger. Do we finally have a perfect model of the atom? No. Everything is not explained, but now we do have a way better idea of how the atoms work compared to what we knew about them 80 years back.

Why don't the few who dispute intelligent design also start disputing other scientific theories? The answer is they don't have to. They can achieve their main goal by just sticking with opposition to evolution. What is their main goal: to discourage scientific temper and thinking. Are they achieving their goals? YES. They are getting more and more people into believing what ever they proclaim and the herd is growing. Not only have all the republican candidates rejected the theory of evolution (to pander to their constituents), I have seen very educated people coming from very diverse backgrounds from various countries now starting to question evolution and believing in Intelligent design. This is tragic.

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