Science, Art, Litt, Science based Art & Science Communication
Interactive science series
Q: You explain everything in terms of science. Can science also explain the behaviour of an anti-social?
Krishna: Absolutely! There can be several reasons for an anti-social behaviour. Recently I watched a neuro-scientist explaining the complexity of human conduct. It was really interesting. Please watch this video and you will understand how difficult it is to control your manners unless you are trained in a very scientific way.
And I want to add here, what you eat, the pollution around you, the pesticides you consume with your food also play a part in shaping up of your behaviour.
Q: Do proponents of evolution care that most people who accept evolution have no clue or care how most of it works, so that they are basically taking it purely on faith?
Krishna: Evolution is taught in most of the schools world over. And most of the people who received some sort of science education in schools know how evolution works.
And the media ‘educates’ people in its own way about evolution. So I think anybody who knows something about evolution can assess themselves whether it is true or not or can even test it!
Science doesn’t demand anybody to accept anything on faith.
Anybody who takes new flu shots frequently knows New flu vaccines are released every year to keep up with rapidly adapting flu viruses. Because flu viruses evolve so quickly, last year's vaccine may not protect you from this year's viruses.
You can use antibiotics indiscriminately and see how evolution works at microscopic level to make microbes resistant. That is what’s happening all the time all over the world. One should be blind not to notice things that are happening around each moment of the day! And problems we are facing because of ‘‘evolution”!
I don’ think people are so dumb as to accept things scientific just based on faith.
Q: One astrologer suggested me to wear a white pearl and an yellow sapphire. Will it work for me according to science?
Krishna: A white pearl or an yellow sapphire cannot change things in your life. If you believe they do, you would be chasing a myth.
Q: What does science say about things like - one should not use footwear in the house, dining room, puja room or places where we conduct certain rituals?
Krishna: Science says that one has to be moderately clean to avoid certain diseases. It would be better if you leave the foot wear you use on the dirty roads outside before you enter your house to avoid harmful microbes, toxins etc. entering your home. It would be better if you don't touch them with your bare hands to untie the shoe laces and unbuckle the belts. In case you touch them, wash your hands immediately with soap and water.
But...the footwear you use exclusively inside your house are equal to your own feet. You can wear them inside your home without any restricted area except the toilets.
But people consider footwear to be 'dirty' and 'lowly' things. So they say these should not go to places where rituals are done. One 'learned Godman' once said, that rule is belittling God himself. Because, according to some religious beliefs, God is omni-present - i.e., present everywhere on this planet in each and every atom of this universe and you won't find a place where there isn't God. And restricting God to a certain place is disrespecting God! So in that case you shouldn't wear your foot wear at all!
Once we visited a holy place in another city. The sanctum sanctorum is situated a furlong away from the main gate of the place. The tourist bus took us to the place at around one in the afternoon. People there asked us to remove our footwear at the gate and we obliged. Then we had to walk a furlong on the severely heated ( because of the mid summer sun) granite flooring of the holy place. Our feet burned, so we literally ran the distance with all the speed we could gather but still several hurtful blisters developed on our feet. We couldn't walk anymore for some days and cancelled our trip midway. "Never again will I visit such places'', I told myself.
In olden days people used to sit on the floor to eat food. Then your footwear would have made food dirty and unhealthy by kicking dirt on the floor while you were walking. But now people are using tables and chairs. So this rule too should be revisited.
Diabetics and people with foot diseases should wear their foot wear without which they might harm themselves. When you wear foot wear you avoid hurting your feet when you hit something like table feet, walls etc. and things scattered on the floor like broken glass, wood and stone pieces on the floor.
If you use foot wear your bed too will be clean and neat because of your clean feet. The place you sleep and spend most of your time should be clean!
I remove my footwear I use outside while entering my home, wash my feet immediately as soon as I enter it and use specially designed footwear inside my home. I use separate footwear for toilets and leave them there only after use and don't bring them inside other rooms. Therefore, I don't like it when people ask me to remove my foot wear which I use solely in my house because I don't see any difference between my feet and the footwear I use at home.
Yes, you can wear foot wear wherever you want - provided you use separate ones for each specific use -and be clean and neat too. Then why impose restrictions?
The footwear you use at home should be comfortable and should not irritate your feet. They should not be closed but open and allow the sweat to evaporate quickly. Children should wear the ones that don't deform their growing feet.
And like you wash and clean your feet, you should also wash and clean the footwear you use in your home using soap and water frequently.
If you follow all the above things I said, I don't think it is bad to wear footwear inside your home.
Q: Do questions lead to discoveries?
Krishna: Yes, they do most of the time. Discoveries are seeing something that everybody sees
but asking a question nobody has asked before. Then while trying to answer the Q, you find something new! WOW! You made a discovery!
Q: Is "science" a religion in itself?
Krishna: No, it isn’t! While practicing religion, you believe something just based on your perception and feelings about it without any evidence.
We don’t blindly believe anything in science. We question things over and over again and try to falsify our theories and understanding. Only when what we think is true passes out with flying colours several times without any exceptions, it becomes a provisional fact, waiting to meet someone who can ‘improve’ on it.
You need not believe anything in science and therefore need not fear it in any way.
Religion and science work in opposite ways.
Q: Do scientists have biases too?
Krishna: If there’s one thing the scientific community values most, it’s objectivity. Objectivity amounts to a scientist’s ability to conduct work that is not skewed by personal, political, financial, emotional, social, and/or other biases or opinions. Often, scientists try so hard to become objective that they come to believe that they have no biases. Science demands that.
However, scientists are human beings too. For some scientists it is difficult to come out of these biases.
Most of the scientists are unbiased when they are dealing with science. Outside the field, however, they might behave like normal human beings.
Q: What if somebody told you that Earth is only 6000 years old?
Krishna: I would just smile and move away from him or her. The person is not worth talking to or taking seriously.
Q: If vaccines don't cause autism, what causes it?
Krishna: Usually autism develops at the same age as you get vaccinated for several diseases. So people think vaccination causes autism which is not true according to several research studies.
Then what causes autism?
There’s no one cause of autism. Research suggests that autism develops from a combination of genetic and nongenetic, or environmental, influences.
These influences appear to increase the risk that a child will develop autism. However, it’s important to keep in mind that increased risk is not the same as cause. For example, some gene changes associated with autism can also be found in people who don’t have the disorder. Similarly, not everyone exposed to an environmental risk factor for autism will develop the disorder. In fact, most will not.
Research tells us that autism tends to run in families. Changes in certain genes increase the risk that a child will develop autism. If a parent carries one or more of these gene changes, they may get passed to a child (even if the parent does not have autism). Other times, these genetic changes arise spontaneously in an early embryo or the sperm and/or egg that combine to create the embryo. Again, the majority of these gene changes do not cause autism by themselves. They simply increase risk for the disorder.
Research also shows that certain environmental influences may further increase – or reduce – autism risk in people who are genetically predisposed to the disorder. Importantly, the increase or decrease in risk appears to be small for any one of these risk factors:
Factors that increase the risk are ... advanced parent age (either parent), pregnancy and birth complications (e.g. extreme prematurity [before 26 weeks], low birth weight, multiple pregnancies [twin, triplet, etc.]), pregnancies spaced less than one year apart
Factors that decrease the risk... Prenatal vitamins containing folic acid, before and at conception and through pregnancy
Factors that don't have any effects on risk are...Vaccines. Each family has a unique experience with an autism diagnosis, and for some it corresponds with the timing of their child’s vaccinations. At the same time, scientists have conducted extensive research over the last two decades to determine whether there is any link between childhood vaccinations and autism. The results of this research is clear: Vaccines do not cause autism. The American Academy of Pediatrics has compiled a comprehensive list of this research. You can view and download the list here.
Q: Will aliens be bad people? Why do some scientists like Stephen Hawking are afraid of meeting them?
Krishna: First realize that aliens need not be 'people'. They can be in all shapes and sizes.
Then they need not be bad. But it is sensible to be cautious when you meet strangers who we feel are technologically more advanced than us - because they could contact us or come all the way to Earth to meet us - it is better to learn from history which tells us that when more advanced civilizations meet less advanced ones, less advanced civilizations get either terminated, decimated, enslaved, otherwise conquered, or a combination of all these things can happen.
Anyway, don't worry about what Hawkins says. It is highly unlikely that we would meet anyone from another solar system in the near future. Anybody who knows how difficult it is to travel interstellar realizes this.
Matter cannot exceed the speed of light, then no aliens could ever possibly get here unless they came from the nearest handful of stars, and even then they’d have to be dead set on coming here—enough to embark on a massively expensive, hugely dangerous, one way trip. If this kind of travel isn’t possible, all but the closest of neighbors will never, ever, cross paths, not in the entire age of the universe. That is what most scientists think.
Some propose several other ways to overcome the hurdles of interstellar travel like using wormholes, Alcubierre drive and The Relativistic Rocket but there really is no place in the visible universe that could not be reached by a healthy, relatively young life if a relativistic rocket capable of continuous acceleration (such as the ) was available.
Q: What is proto-science?
Krishna: Protoscience is the earliest form of science when it isn't much developed and still in the embryonic state. It mostly involves 'History' of science.
This can also be extended into the present times, involving the distinction between hard and soft sciences, in which various sciences or their branches are ranked according to methodological rigour. In this sense, the physical sciences may be considered as science whereas psychoanalysis may be labeled as protoscience because not all of its theoretical foundation is based on empirical evidence. Protoscience in this sense is sometimes distinguished from pseudo-science by a genuine willingness to be changed through new evidence, as opposed to having theory that can always find a way to rationalize a predetermined belief.
Q: Is Ayurveda science or pseudo-science?
Krishna: Ayurveda is ‘ancient science’ and 'proto-science' and the methodology that followed to test medicines then was primitive and not very reliable. Some people are trying to re-test them using modern scientific methods. Until the safety of these ayurvedic medicines are fully established, it would be better not to use them.
I don’t want to generalize but my mother herself has faced severe consequences of Ayurvedic medicine toxicity and was asked to discontinue using them. But she suffered the consequences of using them throughout her life.
I am well versed with modern scientific methodology. I have read some of the papers published on the subject but most of those that published these papers are not reliable journals…
And here are my references that say, some of the medicines of Ayurveda are not safe…
Some more reports that say Ayurvedic medicines are toxic…
Now come to your own conclusion…
Q (Related to the above one): “Some people are trying to re-test them using modern scientific methods.”
But what about that propaganda that the Modern Scientific method in itself is an essentially WESTERN thing (read conspiracy) and cannot be applied to our great old Shastra . To top that government supports it and ordinary people fall for it.
If someone questions them they point fingers to some malpractices by some individuals related to the system and then conclude that the whole thing is a conspiracy.
I personally met Dr. Hegde this time in Bangalore and we were discussing this. One of the points that came out was that Alternative medicine practitioners do give more time to the patient and that gives them (false) confidence.
I also had a visit to the Sri Sri Ashram and a free tour by their bus. The tour guide parroted everything and every conspiracy theory we read on the net and making a bundle of all unrelated things and of course praising the government.
There is no hope that what you are saying will percolate down to where it is needed most.
Krishna: Science is science and its modern methodology is universal and highly reliable in Nature. It is the best to keep us away from our delusions. Those who want to dodge ‘establishing facts’ and afraid that they will lose their jobs if modern scientific methodology refute their claims will say several things. I just hit the ignore button. But try to educate people all the same.
Q: How can we respect someone without respecting his or her baseless beliefs? Isn't disrespecting their beliefs means disrespecting the people themselves?
Krishna: Just yesterday, I was travelling with my aunt and uncle in a car. We found grey pumpkins on the way and my aunt wanted to buy one.
"Do you want to prepare 'fryums' with it?" I asked her.
"No. I want to hang it in front of my house. The old one has become black because of peoples' nazar', she replied.
Before I opened my mouth, she immediately added after seeing the expression on my face, "There is no need to criticize me. My beliefs are mine. You have to respect them if you want to respect me".
My aunt very well knows I don't believe in such superstitions. So she tried to put a brake on my lecture on them.
I respect my aunt as she is older than me, loves me and looks after me. But that doesn't make me respect her beliefs. Why? Because her baseless beliefs are harming the societies we live in! How?
She goes and tells everybody around that 'Nazar' can cause harm and therefore each and every person should use grey pumpkins to neutralize the effect of 'Nazar'. Okay, if that gives them some sort of satisfaction, we have no right to say people cannot follow what they believe in. But when she spread this superstition, everybody around started believing in it. So all her neighbours started using grey pumpkins too. These pumpkins, after sometime, became black, not because of 'nazar' (or evil looks or views) but because of fungal spores.
What is worse is these spores come out of the pumpkin and spread all over the place whenever a breeze brushes it causing allergies in people. Imagine a whole neighbourhood infested with these spores spreading asthma in the vulnerable! How can I respect such a thing?!
No, I cannot respect my aunt's beliefs. I respect her and her right to have such beliefs to make her mind remain calm with a belief that a grey pumpkin can remove 'nazar' and protect her and her family. But it is causing harm to the society we live in! Therefore, I have every right to criticize, educate and remove these misconceptions and baseless beliefs. That doesn’t make me disrespect my aunt. I am only trying to protect her and other people with my ‘disrespect’!
Therefore, I started my lecture…