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

                                          Science Communication series - Part 3

When I compare the scenario of the West especially that of the US with the one in this part of the world, I see a few differences in science comprehension between these areas of the world.

Earlier, we used to admire the West especially the US for its scientific progress.  It is a highly scientifically and technologically developed country. Except for Japan, China and to some extent Korea, other parts of Asia are not as well developed as the West. It is a dream for most people of science in this part of the world to go to the US and do 'research' there as scientific research is very basic because of lack if infrastructure here. But when we read some of the research papers and articles (1,2,3) and see the differences between the scientific world and the ordinary world - in the West  we will be shocked.

Attacking science severely, completely denying a few things and theories of science without giving even a single thought to them, trying to remove science curriculum from schools are completely unthinkable for us in such countries which we consider as 'advanced' scientifically.  Although here scientific research is not as advanced as the West and  people still live in a superstitious state of mind, they don't attack science but give it its due respect! Now that we have seen, read and heard about the things happening in the US, I wonder whether there is a science communication failure to a large extent in the West. After reading some of the articles, I feel my wondering has a true base. Science is unable to penetrate the cultural, emotional, political, and commercial conditioning of the minds of the people there. Why did some people there completely shut off their minds to science?

And we have a different problem in this part of the world regarding science. Although science is respected here, people don't follow it properly and still remain in  superstitious states of mind.  Indian Government gives importance to science education as it is given a fundamental right status in the Indian Constitution. But science is still limited to class rooms and is unable to come into the living rooms of homes!

So what are the reasons for science taught at schools not being able to penetrate the minds of people and triumphantly  staying there forever? What is the way out to remove cultural, political, commercial, emotional and religious conditioning of minds? How can you open completely closed minds? These are very important questions this article tries to address.

For a successful science comprehension, you need a detached and neutral state of mind for the reasoning to take place impartially.
There are two types of reasoning:
(1) the one that is attached to emotions and beliefs
(2) the one that is detached and neutral

If you are attached to a belief, it fogs your reasoning power out of fear, hope, love or respect and affects your behaviour. A mind that is agitated by belief can never be free and therefore never know truth. Therefore science asks us to do neutral reasoning (4).

Until you do an impartial reasoning like a true person of science, you won't be able to receive facts with open minds, analyse them, relate them to the conditions on the ground , understand things as they should be understood and make independent decisions.

I have seen even people of science saying and doing silly and stupid things with regard to both science and religion/ordinary things. This is because these people are unable to overcome their own difficulties and weaknesses while reasoning. So when even scientists cannot come out of the spheres that control their detached reasoning power, we cannot expect ordinary people to do this. This again shows how difficult it is to be neutral and detached. Scientific training all over the world has failed miserably in stressing this point and make people overcome this difficulty.

The religious and emotional conditioning are making people reject evolution theory. The political and commercial conditioning of minds are making people reject climate science and GM crops.

Therefore, the main challenge before the science communicators today is how to make people come out of other spheres of influence, make them neutral, reason without the influences of various attachments so that they can open their minds to the scientific way of life. And how to make people accept facts and make completely independent decisions. I feel sitting merely in their air-conditioned offices or labs, journalists and scientists cannot do this.                           Going to the public, talking to them directly, understanding their emotional and cultural states of mind, then trying slowly to open their minds, showing them the facts, making them understand things in the way they should be understood and leaving the reasoning part and decisions based on them on how to go about accepting science will help a long way.

If you remove the other conditioners, there will be a void and communicators should try to fill this gap with science. Unfortunately, as science is still in it s infant stage (5), it is not in a position to answer all the questions posed by people. But that shouldn't stop us from trying .

I will give an example here. Once I went to a Church - as one of my close friends was a Christian and she invited me to the Baptism ceremony of her son. I patiently listened to all that religious  heads there said - I have an open mind and usually try to understand what and why people of any religion say what they say.

At the end of the ceremony, suddenly one person got up and in a very agitated tone shouted at the pastor : "You say God will take care of everything if you pray. I have been praying since I was three.  I do all that a good Christian should do very religiously. But look at what God has done to me. He gave me a blind child. Now I am worried about his future. Why did God do this to me when I am his humble servant?" He was crying.

The Pastor tried to say something to console the person. But he wouldn't listen. All that he said was "Why, why, why and why me?" The Pastor couldn't  give a reasonable answer.

Then I got up and said to the crying person, " I can understand your agony. But I will try to tell you why this happened to you or why this happens to anybody.

When the egg gets fertilized in the womb of a woman several factors like Genetic, Biochemical, Environmental - control the development of the fetus.  During this process when hundreds of actions and reactions that are taking place under the influence of so many things, anything can go wrong, anywhere and at anytime (9).  It really is a miracle how most of the babies come out of the womb so healthily without any problems. Some babies won't be so fortunate. Something goes wrong for them during the development. Unfortunately, yours is one of them.  God or what you have done have nothing to do with it. Don't blame God or yourself for it.

But still in this age of science, you need not worry. You can take care of your son. Take him to doctors, discuss things with them then decide what is the best way to bring up your son like any normal person. I am sure he will be able to overcome this physical challenge, and grow up to become a great human being. If you need help, I will help you!"

The person looked at me and said, "I am a science graduate, but still couldn't understand the situation in the way you explained. I was angry at God, at religion at everybody and at everything! Thank you for showing me the way!" Everybody, including the Pastor, started asking me questions about the explanation I gave! I answered all the questions very patiently and  returned home with a highly satisfactory state of mind. Because I did something I never imagined I could and would do - inviting the church gathering's attention, make highly religious people hear what I said in the presence of their  heads and convince them about the scientific way of understanding and doing things! And without clashing with their beliefs! Maybe the emotional situation there helped me. Maybe my trust in science helped me. Maybe the open minds people had helped me.  Whatever it 's, whenever I think about that incident, I still feel very happy and excited because I used the situation to the advantage of science communication.

They say seeing is believing! The people in the Church saw how science reasons, explain things based on facts and help them. And they got convinced! That was a beginning. Whenever they meet me since then at my friends home, they treat me with respect and listen to what I say. I see a positive response from them.

Religious people feel a threat from science. Because if people go the scientific way of life, they would lose their jobs. Some  won't be able to exploit their innocence and ignorance. Naturally they will oppose people of science and science communicators with all their might. Therefore, the latter should think how to overcome this problem. You cannot remove centuries old beliefs over night. The very identity of that person will be at stake if he tries to change or deviate from the core of his beliefs. But constant working at them by sieging the opportunities we come across will do the trick. If they are convinced that a new identity is not a bad idea and this might even help them in the long run, they might cooperate.

During our family gatherings, where all most all our relatives and family members are from the commerce faculty, we usually discuss science and I am the only person from the field of science! I don't know much about business so I try to tell interesting stories regarding science , explaining things in a scientific way so that people want to hear more about them and discuss science! In a way I unwittingly high jack these meetings! And people around me love this! Because they now can see the world differently from a scientific knowledge point of view, value it differently and are benefiting from it!

I have noticed the religious people attracting men by appealing to the emotional states of their minds - like the peoples'  necessity for love, somebody listening to their problems, understanding, and other  emotional requirements. Some also exploit the fear of the unknown. Science communicators therefore, should be able to attend  to these emotional requirements of people themselves. When people see that they can trust you while dealing with their emotions, then only they will listen to you.

Some religious fundamentalists frighten people into submission. Like the ones in Pakistan. A fear psychosis   is being created by killing health care workers who are with Polio eradication mission. Therefore, giving protection to those who work for science and medicine is very important in those places.

Watch this video to see how two scientists tried to teach science with the help of Santa Clause and Christmas:

Now comes the problem of cultural conditioning of minds. I will give another example here:

There is a thing here called Vastu Shastra (6) which is concerned primarily with architecture – building houses, forts, temples, apartments and other buildings. Earlier it was used in Temple construction but now people stated using it during the construction of houses too ( the vastu pundits didn't have much business to do- so they targeted house building businesses too). I don't know how much it is relevant in today's haphazard city construction business but people here got so obsessed with it that they are refusing to live in houses that don't obey vastu rules! So much misinformation and fear psychosis  has been created to make people obey it by vastu pandits! People who are in the consultant Vastu business are spreading the fear that if you don't construct the houses according to Vastu rules or live in such houses that don't adhere to them will face several troubles, lose money, fall ill or even get killed! They are completely conditioning the minds of the people! Now nobody wants to live in a house that might bring him/her ill luck!

This is a huge problem here. My father, who was brought up in a family atmosphere that followed Brahma Samaj - founded by Raja Ram Mohan Roy - a social reformer - never believed in such superstitions! So he bought a house that was rejected by everybody and  constructed by Government at the end of a lane - the lane leads to the house entrance directly which is termed as Veedhi Shool. It seems, according to vastu experts, such houses will bring not only all ill effects to the house dwellers but also might cause death to its owner! Who will have the courage  to live in such a house? Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear according to Mark Twain. My father was one such person who conquered fear with his reasoning.  To show people that it is just a superstition that 'veedhi Shool houses' bring bad luck to the people living in them, we started living in the house to everybody's horror. People would curiously inquire us whether we had any problems and when we answered them in the negative, they would get surprised! And we lived in the house for 25 years without having any ill effects! Now people slowly started accepting our reasoning that a house  doesn't cause ill effects but several other factors do! Now we have rented it out to tenants but people still ask several questions before accepting to live in it! They are trying to associate even fevers they get with the house. I still take pain to explain people that fevers are caused by several other factors and the house is not one of them! We had to slash the rent below the market value to make people accept to live in our house! Proving  the superstitious beliefs and the unknown fears wrong is the only way to overcome the cultural conditioning of the minds. But its grip is so tight it takes lots of time and efforts of several people to make human minds to overcome  this aspect.

And I read a very interesting news recently. We have a very severe water problem in this part of the world now. The ground water levels are going down. People are unable to find ground water even if they go very deep. In such conditions, it seems, citizens of our country are trusting science rather than Vaastu (several news paper reports confirm this!). According to Vaastu Shastra, a bore well or a well has to be in the North-East direction. But when people are digging them in that direction, they are not finding any water even if they go very deep by spending lots of money. So they are taking the help of Geologists to know where they can find water and if the Geologists confirm that they can find water in South-East or South-West or North-West, people are digging their bore-wells in these directions and not in the corner what Vaastu-pundits say is the right place! Aha! Experience! Yes, it can teach you what science is and what superstition is and which one is better to follow!

Then commercial establishments pay money to manipulate science and science communication to suit their agendas. That is why you get so many contradictory 'research' studies these days. Haven't we heard several stories of companies like Monsanto, Glaxo {which now says it will stop paying doctors to promote its  drugs which is an encouraging sign (8)} etc. manipulating things to suit their companies' plans? Science communicators should be alert towards this commercial manipulation and be strong enough  not to come under the influences of these people.They should be able to differentiate between real facts and manipulated ( cooked) ones and bring them before the public.

Political affiliations for science and science communicators is bad too. The political lobbies in the US and the affiliation to some of the communal political parties  whose mind sets are still lodged in the ancient times in this part of the world is a real problem to science communicators. I have seen the media just quoting the statements made by politicians  and raising controversies but not making much effort to dislodge the baseless beliefs and replacing them with science. I am afraid without the co-operation of media and  a wholehearted effort, it is  extremely difficult for anybody to bring the change the world of science wants to see.

To achieve at least some science comprehension science communicators themselves have to be neutral first. They should have full trust in science and its accomplishments. They should have good knowledge in science and of its culture. They should have the ability to effectively take the messages to the public. Can they stand up to these tough challenges? A million dollar question on which several equations hang on!











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