Stick with science

Indians need to stop glorifying the past and work towards a better future by embracing science

‘No one saw an ape turn into a man’, claimed Satyapal Singh, HRD Minister of State, while commenting on Darwinian evolution. Moreover, our country’s Science & Technology Minister himself made a comment claiming that Stephen Hawking considered theories of Vedas superior to Einstein’s theory. Such statements by our elected representatives are perhaps a representation of what we think of science as a culture.

We spend peanuts on R&D, a mere 0.7% of our GDP. To add to the woes of an already malnourished research community, a share of these funds go into a long discredited pseudoscientific fields like homeopathy and cow urine. Yoga was hailed by Ramdev as the cure for HIV. In 2016, Union Minister of state for AYUSH Shripad Naik promised to cure cancer by yoga in a year (spoiler alert: he hasn’t) A report revealed that 88% of journals recommended by UGC are dubious. Labs in schools are under-equipped and teaching is substandard. What was supposed to be a journey of discovery and innovation is now reduced to rat races of JEE and NEET. Science in India is truly in a sad state, which stems from a deeper insecurity of the Indian minds.
Internet, computers, satellite, electricity, vaccine, antibiotics, petrol, plastic — all these, and many others, are products of science. Each one has its own story of curiosity and discovery that has shaped our existence. science is indispensable. It has kept us alive for centuries and it will keep doing so for many more to come. In all these discoveries, the one thing that is common is the lack of India’s contribution.

In my journey as a scientist in making, I have hardly come across any Indian researcher in my textbooks. Most of them are filled with ‘Smith’s’ and ‘John’s’. We have this insecurity as a country that we haven’t contributed enough. We try to fill this diffidence by trying to gloat how advanced and scientific the Indian culture is. How we had airplanes, nukes, and genetic engineering many centuries ago. As a young adult, I understand insecurities at a very personal level, but trying to curb it by turning a blind eye is not the answer.

Denial does not change the truth, and the truth is that we need a lot of investment in science and technology right from middle school to post-doctorate. Even if the Indian history was better than modern science, how does that matter now? Thousands of kids die each month of something as trivial as diarrhoea in our country. We need to invest more, we can’t change everything overnight. It took hundreds of years for Europe and America to become the leaders of science and if we want to be in that position then we need to start investing and wait patiently to catch up.

Science is a disciplined force. It has no space for nonchalance, ignorance or ‘chalta hai attitude’. It demands persistence, determination and resolution. Clinical trial for drugs spread over many decades and still sometimes end up being rejected. It takes as much as R16,000 crore to develop a single drug. That is the kind of research that qualifies as good science. One can’t veil their fiction as science and act like it enough. Being lazy and always choosing the easy path over the tough one is never an option. Why spend our entire youth on a PhD to prove something when we can simply cite Vedas? Why spend billions on cancer research when one can simply dispel cancer as karmic justice? Why invest in technology when everything is after all controlled by the arrangement of stars?

Science is not just hidden in vaulted labs or treasured patents. It’s a way of life. Science is not loyal to any god or religion, it’s only loyal to the truth. There is nothing that is absolute in science, even the most fundamental conventions are always up for debate. Science is about asking questions, about finding solutions and enriching lives. It is the light that wards out the darkness of ignorance.

Science belongs to anyone who seeks it, from a farmer experimenting with his seeds to a learned researcher. But you can’t embrace science if you keep diluting it with fiction. Our past doesn’t define India, but what we do now know does. Either we can choose to drool at our glorious Vedic past or move forward to a better future
of enlightenment and discovery.

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