Science, Art, Litt, Science based Art & Science Communication
Interactive science series
Madam, I am a student. Recently I attended a meeting where several scientists gave speeches. One of them was a well known scientist and a director of a prestigious research institute. He praised ayurveda and vedic astrology to no end. I am sure he did this to please the political leaders who attended the meeting. After reading your articles and listening to this scientist's speech, I am all confused. How can two scientists express two different views on the same subject? Who should we listen to?
How can a scientist support pseudo-science and ancient science that was not tested properly?
Krishna: I am not surprised. :)
If you read my article on critical thinking , you won't get confused like this.
Right, you read my articles and you heard this scientist's speech. Who discussed things in detail? Who provided evidence in support of the arguments?
Mere opinions don't count in science. One should also provide data, facts, stats, and evidence to support one's argument. You should have asked this scientist to provide evidence in support of his opinions. You should have questioned him.
Now you say you read my articles. Have you noticed I provided proof? Have you considered the evidence I gave in support of my arguments? In case you understood the evidence I provided, have you thought about it? Are you convinced that the evidence is spotless? In case you did, you will realize who is speaking the truth. If you are not convinced with my proof, you should ask me questions ( the student told me later that he 's fully convinced by the evidence I provided) to get clarifications.
If you thought critically, analyzed the evidence provided neutrally, there shouldn't be any confusion in your mind with regard to the authenticity of the different views provided by two people of science.
Now how can a scientist support pseudo-science and ancient science that was not tested properly?
Why didn't you ask this scientist himself? :) Several people are asking me similar questions!
Like I said a number of times earlier, when scientists don't get their training properly in critical thinking or when they treat the training they get like training in car driving - learn it on the road and forget it when they go home - learn it in their class-rooms and labs and forget it when they cross the doors of their labs, such things happen. On the other hand, like you said, the scientist wanted to appease the politicians around to get funds. That is the tragedy we discussed several times before. When people who don't have any knowledge about science and its methodology, people who have irrational beliefs control money matters, some scientists will be forced to dance to their tunes! And some do that quite willingly! Hmmm!
Unless science training is improved in the world, when funds come out of the clutches of politicians and commercial establishments, there won't be any improvement in this situation!
Q: Can people justify their irrational beliefs?
Krishna: Human reasoning takes several routes. It is highly influenced by biases and motivational reasoning. Intuition comes in and corrupts it too using memories of strange kinds and pattern recognition process. But intuition is very limited in its factual basis. Others, like our family members, close friends and relatives, people who we admire and adore, our groups and communities also influence our thought process. Individuals can’t justify their beliefs, but groups are great at justifying things (though not necessarily justifications that would be always right). A little social support from others can generate a lot of confidence and you can confidently go wrong here. :)
We can also reason by deliberating, thinking things through carefully. But we don’t do that very much, and we’re not very good at it as individuals. Unless you are a good independent critical thinker, have the courage to come out of influences, biases and support systems, you cannot free yourself of irrational beliefs.
Nobody can justify an irrational belief properly and correctly.
Q: Is pigeon nest good luck or bad luck?
Krishna: There isn’t anything called good or bad luck. It’s just people’s perception that make them think in such a way. If you are not in control of the situation you are in, you blame everything around you for your difficulties.
But you have to consider these things …
Pigeons tend to breed and roost in groups. The biggest problem they cause is the amount of feces (droppings) they produce. The build-up of pigeon feces on buildings and other structures is visually unappealing and is made worse by the fact that pigeon droppings are acidic and erode metal and stonework.
Pigeon droppings harbour fungi that could lead to hardening of lung tissues in humans and controlling the infection in the birds will help in reducing the incidence of lung diseases.
More importantly, pigeon droppings may pose a health hazard to the general public. Pigeons have been associated with a variety of diseases, including histoplasmosis and cryptococcosis.
Histoplasmosis is a disease caused by a fungus that grows in pigeon droppings. The fungus can also be found in bat droppings or in the soil, and is carried by the wind. When removing droppings, people may breathe in some of the fungus. When exposure is high, the fungus can cause infection.
Symptoms of histoplasmosis begin to appear about 10 days after initial infection and can include fatigue, fever, and chest pains. Most infections have no symptoms or appear as a mild respiratory illness. People with weakened immune systems (like cancer patients or people living with HIV/AIDS) are generally more at risk of developing histoplasmosis. The disease cannot be transmitted from person to person.
Cryptococcosis is another fungal disease related to pigeon droppings and grows in soils throughout the world. It is very unlikely that healthy people will become infected even at high levels of exposure. A major risk factor for infection is a compromised immune system.
Exposure to pigeon dropping is the cause for developing pneumonia in certain cases in India according to health experts.
Although avian influenza (bird flu) viruses are less common in birds more closely associated with human environments such as domestic chickens, turkeys, pheasants, pigeons and parrots, we still have to be careful.
So it is not advisable to have pigeon nests in human dwellings.
Q: Can healthy foods also cause health issues?
Krishna: Yes, some of them do! Like milk products, fruits and vegetables - if you have certain conditions like lactose intolerance, irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease .
Certain fruits like apples and pears, specific vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and onions, whole grains like bran and dairy products, including milk, cheese, and ice cream. These items contain fiber, sugars, and starches that don't digest or absorb easily, eventually causing intestinal gas.
Foods containing sorbitol, a naturally occurring sugar found in fruit can also cause flatulence. Carbonated soft drinks and fruit drinks can cause you excess gas and you have to eliminate them from your diet or eat them in small portions. When it comes to foods to avoid, moderation is key.
But remember almost any food or combination of foods can cause gas. Certain foods don’t get along well in certain people. Some people find they are having trouble in their belly if they eat fruits with proteins, or if they eat starches and proteins together. It’s personal and requires a little experimentation to find out what the culprits are. If you find you’re feeling uneasy after eating a certain food, eliminate it from your diet and see if it helps. Cooking may help break down some of the offending ingredients. But the style of cooking can also decrease healthy chemicals found in vegetables. Boiling seems to break down chlorophyll and other desirable ingredients. Look for recipes that call for steaming, as that seems to be a better cooking method for gassy foods.
And if you are allergic to peanuts, any item made from them causes you trouble.
Healthy foods are healthy, only in moderation and when your body accepts them as safe!
Q: What do you think of scientific illiteracy in your country?
Krishna: Absolutely devastating! We don’t have statistics. But while interacting with others around we can guess to what extent the scientific illiteracy extends.
But life goes on with sheer chance … with people who don’t care.
People suffer, people go through pain and diseases, people die because of their scientific illiteracy. People think it is their karmic destiny. They have a chance to improve it, but refuse to do so with the help of science!
Instead they prefer pseudo-science and irrational beliefs.
What do you call that?!
Yes, life goes on with sheer chance!
And we, the people of real scientific community, are dumbfounded!
Q: If Ayurveda is a science, why are there no results of Ayurvedic medicine?
Krishna: Ayurveda is ancient science. Most of the ayurvedic medicines are untested using modern scientific methodology. People are trying to validate the claims of ayurveda now. Until the safety of these medicines are well established, it is better not to use them.
There will be results when you take them. Unfortunately we have more negative ones like these…
Q: Is there any instance in human history where people refused to listen to what modern science says and suffered as a result?
Krishna: I can give several examples. One thing that makes us wonder is - why do well qualified people listen to street corner pundits or cheats who practice quackery instead of a genuine doctor? General public fall for sweet talk. People of science should improve their Emotional Quotient skills. But that shouldn't be made an excuse to reject science.
One example people give is that of Steve Jobs. Some people call him a genius. But this is what he did...
Jobs had cancer of pancreas, which has very low survival rate. However, he happened to have had rarer type of pancreatic cancer with decent survival rate, IF TREATED EARLY.
Despite knowing that, he refused to listen to his specialist doctors! Instead he riled on a pseudo-medicine diet to try natural healing to thwart the disease. His choice of alternative treatment decreased the chances of survival and "led to an unnecessarily early death".
According to his doctors, "for nine months Jobs refused to undergo surgery for his pancreatic cancer – a decision he later regretted as his health declined". "Instead, he tried a vegan diet, acupuncture, herbal remedies, and other treatments he found online, and even consulted a psychic. He was also influenced by a doctor who ran a clinic that advised juice fasts, bowel cleansings and other unproven approaches, before finally having surgery in July 2004." He eventually underwent a pancreaticoduodenectomy (or "Whipple procedure") in July 2004, that appeared to remove the tumor successfully. Jobs did not receive chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
Now, what do you call that?
The irrational decision of a Genius Mind?!
Q: What is punctuated equilibrium in Biology?
Krishna: Punctuated Equilibrium is the hypothesis that evolutionary development is marked by isolated episodes of rapid speciation between long periods of little or no change.
Q: What is Dunning-Kruger Effect?
Krishna: Unskilled and unaware of it: how difficulties in recognizing one's own incompetence lead to inflated self-assessments.
The Dunning-Kruger effect, named after David Dunning and Justin Kruger of Cornell University, occurs where people fail to adequately assess their level of competence — or specifically, their incompetence — at a task and thus consider themselves much more competent than everyone else.
In other words, “people are so incompetent that they can’t recognize how incompetent they are.”
Q: Does 'luck' exist or is it a result of some blatant chain of events of which we remain unaware?
Q: Does luck play a major role in life? How do you get rid of bad luck?
Krishna: “Luck”, either good or bad is just your perception about a situation you are in? If you are not in control, you feel it is bad.
When several factors decide outcomes, they follow the interplay of scientific rules and routes and exactly fit into the reaction realities. You have to register this in your mind to come out of the misery you are in. Watch it coolly and try to understand it. How a person survives a health condition or a catastrophe depends on the sum total outcomes of scientific factors occurring simultaneously. Other outside things have no effect whatsoever on it. Any connections you make between rituals/superstitions and the outcomes depend on your perceptions and experiences. A positive outcome either to you or others makes you stick with them. A negative result will make you attack them. But the net result doesn't depend on anything that is not related to it! And these unrelated factors are your beliefs, rituals, superstitions and myths.
Failures might occur in life. When they do, you should revisit your problem, analyse it thoroughly in an enlightened way and think you haven't found a proper solution to it yet and that's why you couldn't overcome it, then try to get one, increase your efficiency of the effort, plug the loopholes and go after it with all your might to defeat it. That is how you defeat bad luck.
Q: There is a belief that food shouldn't be taken during an eclipse. Is this just a spiritual theory or is there any scientific explanation behind it?
Krishna: There is absolutely no scientific reason behind this baseless custom and belief. I eat food without any ill effects during eclipses even while watching them outside. And I am a very healthy person!
These customs came into existence when scientific understanding of the world around is dismal and people feared everything happening around because they didn’t know why they happened. If you still follow these irrational beliefs despite our knowledge about them, there will not be any rationality left.
Q: Why do some people say that you should not eat or sleep during an eclipse? Some say that food becomes poison and pregnant women shouldn't go outside during that time. There's no scientific reason behind, is there?
Krishna: There are absolutely no scientific reasons behind these baseless beliefs.
Why do some people till follow them? Misconceptions, fears, irrational thinking, lack of proper education and many such things.
I eat food while watching eclipses outside. Nothing bad ever happened to me. I am living proof to show that eclipses are just natural phenomena and they need not be feared in any way. Go ahead and enjoy your food and sleep during eclipses. That is the guarantee the scientific community gives to you.
Q: Can sweating remove toxins from the body?
Krishna: According to recent research, it can!
Q: Is NLP true science?
Krishna:Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) is a psychotherapy, according to its creators. They claim there is a connection between neurological processes (neuro-), language (linguistic) and behavioral patterns learned through experience (programming), and that these can be changed to achieve specific goals in life.
However, there is no proof that these claims are true. You can disprove a scientific theory simply by showing how the predicted behaviour is not consistent across identical experiments. Theories don't have unpredictable results. Peer review tests the consistency of these predictions. NLP does not offer such strict peer-reviewed experimental evidence. There are no experiments on the neurons of subject brains which consistently demonstrate NLP "programming" those neurons via "linguistic" channels in a predictable way, for example.
NLP also employs words and concepts like "neurological" and "programming", which sound scientific but, there is no experimental proof, which leaves one with an impression of 'sales, not science'.
Q: Is it true that scientists prefer to marry only scientists?
Krishna: :) Recently I read an interesting report (1) which says ...
( Two thirds of academic scientists, and 83% of female academics in the sciences who are in relationships, are in relationships with fellow scientists). Why? Want to hear the reasons the scientists gave?
Well, scientists should be extremely dedicated in order to succeed. Only a scientist can understand the situation his partner could work. So if you choose a scientist as your life partner, your work might not have as many disruptions as you would otherwise have with 'outsiders'.
Scientists need full support and understanding from their partners. Who else can provide it unconditionally except another scientist?
Staying up late and working on holidays and other weekends in the lab is all part of the scientific adventure, and it’s what scientists love. If your partner is your colleague, you can have a good time in your lab!
If you are in a relationship with a scientist, you will naturally be in a good relationship with science too!
Scientists are highly passionate about science. They eat, sleep, think, talk, breathe, walk and live science. 24X7. If they have a scientist as a partner, their life becomes easy.
Scientist couples say they have great talks about their subjects very often and are able to learn from each other frequently. Some personality traits based on their education and work does inspire their thought process. It really is a great life!
Scientists also prefer someone who is at the same level mentally. Who else fits the bill? Another scientist, obviously!
Scientists are mostly introverts. They don't like flashy, loud, exhibitionists. They naturally prefer another introvert.
But not all people will be alike and not all scientists can have these preferences. But the fact that majority of them go for another scientist says a lot about it.
Q: Are scientists paid more than film stars or sportsmen (football, basketball, boxing, etc.) in your country? Do you agree that scientists make more contributions and deserve to be paid higher (on average)?
Krishna: Do we really care? Money makes you happy only up to a certain extent.
We need more funds for research. That way money can help us. Although scientists don’t get as much money as the sportsmen and film stars do, the former are paid in another way. Thrill! Excitement, adrenaline. Getting High on adventure.
Can any movie or rock star or a sport star feel the way Neil Armstrong felt when he first landed on the moon? Or how Watson and Crick felt when they first discovered the structure of DNA?
We don’t want to get compared with others. Our plates are full and overflowing. We love what we are doing. We are incomparable with regard to mind matters. Period!
Q: What are the advantages and disadvantages of science?
Krishna: Only advantages. No disadvantages. If you know how to properly use science.
It actually depends on the person who is using science. Some people complain that science also brings with it a few bad things like commercial GM crops, nuclear bombs etc. along with the good it does to the mankind.
But according to the scientific community – science is like a knife. A knife can be used to cut throats and spill blood. It can also be used for good purposes like cutting fruits and vegetables. It depends on the person who uses it. Likewise science can also be used for the benefit of living beings as well as for their destruction. Which way it goes is in the hands of the person who uses it. The choice is definitely yours, Homo sapiens.
Q: My sister says she hears some noices very often. It seems they tell her to run away from home as she faces danger from people around. What is wrong with her?
Krishna: Please take her to a doctor immediately to assess her health condition. She needs psychological intervention.
What you call luck is actually how your mind perceives a situation you are in. A bad outcome makes you conclude it is ‘bad luck’. Again if you are not in control, you feel it is bad.
There isn’t anything called ‘bad luck’. It is just your perception about a situation. If you cannot analyse the condition you are in properly, if you cannot overcome your difficulties using this analysis, you call it bad luck.
If you can change your situation using your mind’s ability, you can have a different view on this!