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


A girl sent  me this message  some time back : Dr. Krishna, I am an 18 year old girl. I read all most all your write-ups and blogs. Strange it may seem but I feel you are from another world, completely different from mine. I was brought up in an atmosphere that has some beliefs, customs and traditions. We don't question them and follow what our elders told us to do. But as soon as I read your - what you call scientific facts - some sort of  disturbance occurs in my mind. I feel like running away from you.  I find it difficult to accept your scientific facts. But I cannot negate them too. I keep coming back, don't know why. How do I face this turmoil? What should I do? Run away from you? Or my people who instilled these beliefs in me? I am in a dilemma. In turmoil. I hate you as well as like you. Please help me. 

Krishna :) I am glad I created this turmoil in your mind and in those of several others.  This means I succeeded in making people realize questioning something when it is not the right thing is alright and to accept that there is a better alternative  called scientific way of life which can enlighten you and enhance your life's quality.
But this isn't an easy victory for us too...
My colleagues and I got shot several times for communicating genuine science and countering the pseudo-science and ... science says - shooting the messengers is a real condition when people face turmoils in their minds because of the message!
It is human tendency to dislike the people who deliver bad news like scientists do sometimes. 
Yes, we say some things you believed till now are not correct - like homeopathy doesn't work, our culture, traditions and religions are not science based, astronomy is pseudo-science, Vaastu is pseudo-science, DMIA is pseudo-science, being positive doesn't work always, cow's urine doesn't cure cancer, brains are not differentiated into pink and blue ones, water dowsing doesn't work, detoxification is a scam, and ... and... and ... and...
Yes, we know. We are creating a cognitive stress in your mind.  As soon as we mention something that goes against your profound belief this is what happens in your mind ...
First shock ...

Most people don't even know in the first place  that these myths had been busted or their beliefs had been  blasted.  Media, in order to grab eye balls and attract traffic, most of the time propagate them suppressing the fact that they had been disproved.

People who want to control you will always try to keep you in the darkness.   This suits them well.

So you have no way of learning that you are being mislead unless you really try to come out of the situation you are in.

Then denial ...

 "Belief perseverance" is another contributing factor and it's a widely studied phenomenon. All of us fall prey to it to some extent, but some people are more prone to it than others.

What exactly is at work here? To put it very simply, the human mind will go to great lengths to keep the peace. Cognitive dissonance is a very uncomfortable thing. It refers to the mental discomfort of facing inconsistency in one's thoughts, beliefs, perceptions and/or behaviours more so when completely opposite views to yours are presented to you.

Most of us indulge this tendency to some degree. We all want to feel comfortable with our thoughts and actions, and it's a whole lot harder to change than it is to stay the same. We can see cognitive-dissonance theory at work in everyday life. A parent who believes her child to be brilliant believes the test he failed was poorly written, even though the rest of the class did fine on it. When an otherwise rational person holds an irrational belief in the face of significant evidence against it, cognitive dissonance is usually involved. How the mind facilitates this is a study in self-preservation, and it typically involves a mental tendency known as confirmation bias.

Confirmation bias can explain everything from unbudging stereotypes to increasing political polarization. The theory goes: We are more likely to believe (or seek or remember or even notice) the "facts" that support our current viewpoints, and less likely to believe the ones that would require mental adjustment. The more deeply ingrained or self-defining or consequential the current viewpoint, the further the mind might go to ignore the new evidence that would disprove it. Attempts to debunk an irrational belief will tend instead to reinforce it, as the believer may have come to see his or her perseverance as heroic, as standing up to the "establishment". When that new, threatening evidence takes the form of overwhelming scientific data, there are some approaches that work particularly well to keep the conflict at bay.

An  example : Until her removal in 2008, the South African health minister, Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, a trained medical doctor, claimed a combination of garlic, lemon juice and beetroot fought HIV better than anti-retroviral drugs (2)! What do you call this? A trained medical doctor believing in something that goes exactly opposite to her own education? Lack of Critical Thinking  skills!

Falling prey to conspiracy theories created and propagated by vested interests.  Creating a conspiracy is one of the easiest ways to reject evidence. Conspiracies by nature are irrefutable. It's all happening in secret. Anybody can be in on it. The data is faked. The photos are re-touched. The corporate-funded media will say anything.

Example: When a parent who refused to vaccinate due to the autism link, who spoke out publicly on the topic and even criticized his friends for following the schedule, is faced with overwhelming evidence that there is no link at all, he may determine that "evidence" to be the product of a far-reaching medical, governmental and corporate conspiracy to maintain high pharmaceutical-industry profits.

It's not the only way, though, to validate a threatened belief. The collection of techniques that enable what has come to be called denialism is a varied bag of tricks. Sometimes in the form of a technique called "reinterpreting the evidence." This involves analyzing any new facts in such a way as to support the original belief. This creates pseudo-science ! This is exactly what is happening in India right now. In order to confirm their age old beliefs, some people are trying to interpret things using science to provide ''cooked up evidence".

One can also create their own standards of proof that science can't possibly meet, such as, "I'll believe that climate change is a result of human actions when I see proof that Earth has never undergone a temperature increase before"! Or seeking out "experts" who support the irrational belief through pseudoscience , misinterpretations, misrepresentations and logical  fallacies.

Pretty effective on their own, these (and all) belief-perseverance techniques have received a tremendous boost with the advent of the Internet. Those looking to maintain an irrational viewpoint need only perform a simple search to locate fellow believers, entire communities of them, and the "experts" who back it all up with appropriate jargon. These people derive comfort in the company of 'like-minded groups'.

In the end, it's not about science at all. It's about avoiding the stress of unlearning, considering completely opposite  points to your beliefs, the possibility of regret or the shame of having been wrong. And so, in the interest of cognitive harmony, otherwise reasonable individuals believe vaccines can cause autism, human actions have nothing to do with climate change, smoking doesn't cause cancer, and the test, obviously, was wrong.

Some people find it extremely difficult to go against the beliefs of their groups, families, friends, and colleagues  as 'groups' give them some sort of emotional support. Swimming against the tide is enormously strenuous.  

And above all some vested interests who cannot exploit people if they go against them by following facts won't allow their followers to go the scientific way. So they create rifts purposefully.

Human psychology at work here and need I add in a deplorably negative way?

Finally unable to bear this trauma, people start shooting the messenger 

So you start hating the person who caused this tension in your brain. That is a type of relief. 

 According to psychologists , the desire to "shoot the messenger" comes from people's inherent need to make sense of bad or unpredictable situations. People also can't help but try to ascribe ill motives to such messengers or see them as incompetent, WORST OF ALL PERCEPTIONS, AS ENEMIES - even if that makes little logical sense (1).  

People don't like those who make them uncomfortable. We perfectly understand this. That is why you hate me sometimes.  But the gun in your hand doesn't make us stop from moving forward. We know we are in the war zone. Facing fire doesn't frighten us. My courage here and fact based knowledge make you like me. 

But think about this: We are not your enemies. We came to know about an evidence based fact and we want to tell about it to the whole world. We want to help the world by using the information. Stop people from  getting harmed because of misconceptions. 

We are just unraveling the mysteries of this universe and doing the duty of messengers carrying the message between  the universe and the people. Are we doing something wrong? NO!

 If you truly respect a person, you must look past their words to see their intended meaning. Most people I interact with do understand exactly what I say. If they agree, they just get surprised at the authenticity and bold reality I put before them. If they don't agree, most of them just keep quiet and walk away because, they know they cannot argue with a mathematical theorem and an evidence fortified fact. I know their minds would undergo severe torture. Why? Because they are now awakened into reality but still are unable to overcome their conditioned mind. 

Several people told me I made their hands go up! What does that mean? It means they are surrendering to unbeatable reasoning power :)

It is a great triumph for science! 

Regional culture and tradition here also says you have to give respect to people who have knowledge and listen to them if they say something.  Then why shouldn't you follow this? :)

Now how can you overcome the urge to shoot us, the messengers? And how can you help yourself? Try this ...

1. Try to control your emotions. Yes, they have been rattled. Someone caused you severe stress. But who is that someone? Your ardent well-wisher! Honest!

2. Try to understand what is being said just as it is even if it causes serious  cognitive strain. It is a good medicine, though tastes bitter! True!

Overcome that dissonance by coming to think that the tasks really 're interesting and enjoyable.

3. Analyse what 's being said using critical thinking and only critical thinking because it is the highest form of thinking ... read here why :  Critical Thinking

Then you will realize what is right and which way should be chosen. 

We are not asking you to completely abandon your identity. Keep all that is good and discord things that harm you and people around. 

4. Try to take your loved ones along with you to avoid friction. If everybody is standing against you, turn back and try to lead them!  :)

Once you start benefiting by following the scientific way, you will realize you didn't make any mistake. 

A common way to reduce dissonance is to increase the attractiveness of the chosen alternative and to decrease the attractiveness of the rejected alternative. This is referred to as "spreading apart the alternatives."

We value most highly those goals or items which have required considerable effort to achieve.  And accepting the scientific way is one such thing that require considerable effort. We find it easier to persuade ourselves that what we have achieved is worthwhile and that's what most of us do, evaluating highly something whose achievement has cost us dear. This method of reducing dissonance is known as 'effort justification.'

 I live in an extremely wonderful world. I want to show this to others too. How much they are willing to view it is up to them. But I have no doubt in my mind that if they allow their minds to expand with real knowledge, they can benefit to a great extent. Their thrill in life increases. Their minds become stronger. They can have a mind-blowing life like me!  If only everybody around me can say this that would be wonderful....

Krishna in a wonderland

It's a ten million colour band
Anthocyanins, aurones, chalcones, flavonols, proanthocyanid
Lycopene, canthaxanthin, astaxanthin,  carotinoid!
Newton-described Classical world
Where man-made satellites are hurled
Natural satellites are whirled
Around stars and their planets going around!

Einstein-defined light speed
Becomes great brain-feed
Neutrinos and dark matter are searched under-ground
Particle-accelerators where God-particles are found!

The strange magic of Quantum world
That entangles your mind
You are surely enchanted 
By the many states encountered!
Seen  many a chemical bond 
With the help of which life formed 
And conditions medicines cured
With the knowledge captured!
Communications in your hand
Protect you from disasters Nature hurled
New facts gathered
Defend you from the consequences unwanted 

Magical changes happened
In everything  a scientist's hand touched 
A result of genetics modified
Made life so fascinated!
Was  all that she watched
A dream come true for the mankind?
Give her more and more of this kind
Her thirst for it will never be quenched!


( poem written in answer to the Q 'what makes science important and fascinating')

 I am standing at the gates of a  highly promising and thrilling world to welcome you, baby. You will regret it if you run away from it!

 PS: After reading this message of mine, people asked me these Qs ...

Q: What is pseudo-science? And how does it harm us? Is it wrong to accept and follow pseudo-science?

Q: Why do you want to fight pseudo-science? Why can't you leave us alone? We have every right to believe whatever we want to believe!

Krishna: According to scientists, Pseudoscience is a system of claims that are not scientific, but merely pretend to be. They attempt to borrow from the intellectual credibility and cultural authority of science to prop up their views without doing any of the actual scientific work. Proponents of pseudoscience reject some aspects of modern science and promote their own skewed and twisted beliefs. This is often done by the application of denialist debating tactics. These are slick rhetorical tactics which involve obfuscating the basic science, quoting scientists out of context, conspiratorial thinking, confusing the scientific debate about details with a alleged debate of the validity of an entire field, the appeal to false balance and many other well-known techniques.

Against the destructive forces of unreason and crankery stands scientific skepticism. It is a method based on the rational and empirical evaluation of questionable claims by asking for evidence and using scientific knowledge. A skeptical approach often leads to the collapse of pseudoscientific claims and beliefs because of the lack of evidence for it or because the evidence contradicts it or both.

Some people think that accepting pseudoscience is not wrong. They ask: what if it is wrong? What is the harm, they say, in letting people believe what they want? While everyone has the right to his or her own beliefs, they cannot have their own facts. The promotion and spread of pseudoscience and denialism can have very harmful consequences. During the presidency of HIV/AIDS denialist Thabo Mbeki in South Africa, an estimated 330 000 people died earlier than they had to because Mbeki blocked access to antiretroviral medication and offered garlic and lemon instead. Alleged psychics exploit human grief in psychologically vulnerable people for money. Proponents of quackery peddle “treatments” that range from clinically ineffective to the outright dangerous. 

Some people rob you off your hard earned money with fake claims. You get cheated if you believe them.

You will get killed if you listen to quacks and alternative medicine practitioners.

Pseudo-science can harm and harm like hell. It can even kill people.

Now even after knowing all this should we keep quiet? NO, we can't. As responsible people of science, we can't allow people to get into harm's way. We can't let people die.

So, our fighting against pseudo-science continues.

Q: One problem with this proposition of facts and what to do. If I am told that getting a vaccine to protect me from something that might save my life BUT another group tells me they will cut off my arm if I do. Science is not going to win. 

Krishna: We are realistic. We perfectly understand what we are dealing with. When people realize, they are going to get killed like in the measles epidemic in the US that is spreading right now, they think losing your arm is better than getting killed! :)
Q: Have you faced Cognitive dissonance  too while studying science? How did you overcome it? 
Krishna: NO! NEVER! Surprised to hear my reply?
The reason 's the way I was brought up. My paternal grand father was a social reformer. In fact I feel he 's more advanced in his thoughts and actions than most present day youth. Several inter-caste and inter-religious couples who were in love and ran away from home used to approach my grandfather to get married. He performed several inter-caste and inter-religious marriages. He was totally fearless and swam against the tide. There were absolutely no superstitions, no irrationality, no false beliefs. Of course  my mother and grand mother had some but were over-ruled by my grand father and father. I was given 'absolute freedom' to choose whatever I wanted to follow. That made a lot of difference in my life.
Science is highly revered in my family. We followed science in everything we did. 
So I never faced cognitive dissonance in my life. But still I can very well understand how others face it. 



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If anyone, no matter who, were given the opportunity of choosing from amongst all the nations in the world the set of beliefs which he thought best, he would inevitably—after careful considerations of their relative merits—choose that of his own country. Everyone without exception believes his own native customs, and the religion he was brought up in, to be the best; and that being so, it is unlikely that anyone but a madman would mock at such things. There is abundant evidence that this is the universal feeling about the ancient customs of one's country.

— tr. Aubrey de Selincourt


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