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Science, Art, Litt, Science based Art & Science Communication

Science communicators, get thick skinned to communicate science without any bias

Science communicators, if you are going to be involved in the rough-and-tumble of communicating the science of climate change and its impacts to the public, you have to have an increasingly thick skin and some amount of resolve. This is true not just of climate change but of other societally contentious areas of science such as evolution, stem cell research, pharmaceutical research, environmental contaminants, GMOs, pseudo-science and so on.

Yes, this is true! You will get attacked by vested interests. I thought this is true in the West where some people are deviating from science. But I found it to my shock this is true in the Indian context too. While dealing with pseudo-science and 'ancient science', I went through hell.
I will explain how. 

There was a debate sometime back on pseudo-science here. And several journalists asked : 

"Why do our scientists not speak out?"

And people started attacking scientists severely on various fora of social networks saying that they are cowards, opportunists and bad science communicators which is why we are in this state of affairs.

I got involved in one such debate when people invited (challenged is the right word here) me to join. And I did. Because I don't depend on anybody for anything and quite independent and not afraid of calling a spade a spade.

But I realized to my dismay, some people don't even try to read/see/consider the evidence provided. They just ignore it and continue to live in their own world of 'ignorance and pseudo-science'.

Unable to fight you in the right way, some try to frighten you too. They bring in their friends in large numbers during discussions and make them 'up vote' or 'like' or 'clap' for everything they say -including rubbish! They think they can intimidate you with numbers and raised voices. You wonder when you have provided all the evidence to prove your view point and when they didn't, why people are still supporting them and not you! They make you doubt yourself with this act of theirs!

And some scientists are unwittingly helping them (yes folks of my field, you are!). Before you ask me, 'how?", here is my  evidence to you:

During several discussions and debates on pseudo-science (as people are inviting me to deal with it over and over again) and Astrology, no matter how much evidence I showed to prove that it was pseudo-science, astrologists who took part in them (I would usually be alone dealing with about five to ten of them) were reasserting their arguments that astrology was science ( because it is called 'Jyotish shastra' and in the Indian context "Shastra" roughly means 'science') by saying... 'We came across many scientists, doctors and professors  wearing gemstones, believing in astrology, consulting us - pundits in the field, and following us religiously. If astrology is not science, why are they doing this?'

And they are giving me big lists containing the names and professional addresses of these professors and scientists who visit them as proof! And telling me I have no right to say anything in this matter as it is their personal choice!

Defending science against people who practice irrational things is difficult enough. But defending science against people who are trained to do rational thinking  is the worst thing we expect to do. 

I passed through this hell several times! I had to deal with this over and over again! And all this started to make me very distressed. 

Science training in India - for that matter in several parts of the world  - is faulty. People treat it like coaching in car driving - learn it on the road and forget it when you go home. Science is limited to the classrooms of the schools, colleges, universities and research institutes. You can erase it from your memory as soon as you cross their gates! This is the attitude of some of the people with regard to science.

But sorry, my dear colleagues, training in scientific methodology is not like preparing to become drivers. Once trained in this field, science has to be with you  24X30X12X60! It should enter each cell of your body, your blood, neurons, brain and strictly regulate your thinking processes. It should guide you in everything you do. It should make you think critically and supervise you in taking rational decisions. Then only you can consider yourself a real person of science. Otherwise you will become a laughing stock (yes, the astrologers, journalists and people listening to them laugh gleefully when they  give me the names along with the addresses who visit them) and find a place among people of irrationality like the astrologers and their dedicated followers!

And humanity will suffer if you yourself forget the rules of science. If people of science themselves go against the scientific methodology and rules, who will defend it, protect it and sustain it?

                      "Being a scientist is a state of mind, not a profession!"

Then another problem arises for people like me who are in the forefront of the battle field. Should I say something against  my own colleagues in the field who are following irrational methods for various reasons (1) and condemn their actions in public? Or should I keep quiet?

My critical thinking gave me this solution: Science is greater than individuals who don't follow its rules properly despite their training in the field. So, I am forced to choose and take the first action. Anybody, irrespective of his/her field and training, who is not following the rules of science will be denounced for the sake of science. Period.

But folks, over the years I have learnt how to cope with this. Refuse to get intimidated either by numbers or sizes or high pitch voices or positions or friends or relatives or colleagues. If you think you are right and have all the evidence to prove that, stick to your ground and fight with all your might and in the end people who don't have proper evidence will have to run for cover. Science communicators, you have to be really courageous to do all the fighting against vested interests on social media and in your circle.

Remember, it is not the size of the dog that counts in the fight, it is size of the fight put up by the dog that counts. So stand up for science and put up a big fight. And win for science's sake and the welfare of humanity.

References: 

1. http://kkartlab.in/group/some-science/forum/topics/science-s-rules-...

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Shastra referred to any treatise, book or instrument of teaching, any manual or compendium on any subject in any field of knowledge, including religious. It is often a suffix, added to the subject of the treatise, such as Yoga-Shastra, Nyaya-Shastra, Dharma-Shastra, Koka- or Kama-Shastra,[5] Moksha-Shastra, Artha-Shastra, Alamkara-Shastra (rhetoric), Kavya-Shastra (poetics), Sangita-Shastra (music), Natya-Shastra (dance) and others.

Shastras are predominantly post-Vedic literature, that is after about 500 BCE. However, it is unclear when various Shastras were composed and completed. The authenticity of the manuscripts is also unclear, as many versions of the same text exist, some with major differences. 

The shastras are not consistent or a single consensus documents. Dharma-sastras, for example, contain opposing views and contradictory theories. This is in part because they represent an ideal of human behaviour, while at the same time recognising the need to account for likely failings. The shastras do not present life as it was lived. Rather they reveal an idea of what life should be. The shastra texts constitute one of the great bodies of literature of the ancient world.

Authenticity and reliability of manuscripts  of "Shastras' is highly disputable. 

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