Ajai R. Singh MD

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Scientific Temper, Faith and Religion (Concluded)

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GOD, AFTERLIFE, MIRACLES AND SCIENCE

Q.6. Will science ever answer questions like: Is there God? Is there an afterlife? Are miracles for real? etc.

 Ans. 6. Science will always ask for verifiable evidence of everything. As at present, it doesn’t have the necessary tools to verify these phenomena. So it should withhold comment. The possibility that it will develop such tools in the near future is remote. But one thing is certain. Anyone who attempts to answer these questions will be able to succeed with a large number of people and for a longer time if he has the scientist’s mind and the mystic’s intuition. The example of Narendra’s questions to his guru, Swami Ramakrishna, and the latter’s answers come to the mind here. These will never be a final or only answer. It will be a fusion of sorts.

Unsatisfactory for the purists of both sides. True. But that’s how it is.

 

COEXISTENCE OF SCIENTIFIC TEMPER AND RELIGIOUS BELIEF

Q.7. How can scientific temper and religious belief coexist? On this planet? In an individual?

Ans7. Neither scientific temper nor religious belief are complete methods in themselves to explain all phenomena. Scientific temper gives supremacy to evidence and reason, religious belief gives supremacy to introspection and intuitive experiences. For holistic understanding of phenomena, both approaches are necessary. A healthy interaction between them, and their fusion, are necessary both at the social and the individual level. They are not only competing but complementary approaches.

 

MANKIND’S ANNIHILATION

Q.8. Will scientific progress ultimately lead to mankind’s annihilation? Is there an antidote?

Ans. 8.  Yes, I believe that scientific progress will be responsible for mankind’s annihilation as and when it occurs. But that will only happen when man forgets science is just a method and an approach, to be necessarily regulated by ethical-moral principles of truth, justice, compassion, universal welfare and fair-play which converts it into a system and, though battered beyond recognition by man’s ulterior motives, are still recognised as legitimate aspirations by all right thinking men everywhere.

The antidote, if any, will come from a scientific religiosity. This will involve not just a fusion of intellect and emotion, but of reason and devotion.

 

SHOULD BELIEF AND DEVOTION BE DISCARDED?

Q.9. If evidence is so important, what happens to belief and devotion? Should they be discarded, although they are useful to mankind at every step?

 Ans. 9. Certain beliefs and devotions are eternal, certain situational. Belief in God for example, is eternal; belief in a God is situational; so with many other such entities. The eternal will remain, the situational will get modified, may even get discarded.

Belief and devotion as methods, however, will always remain to help mankind understand both the external world and calm internal turbulences.

 

SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE AND BELIEF

Q.10. The clinician believes the research evidences presented to him in conferences and journals. Should he discard this belief and trust only his own evidence? Is that a practicable method of working?

Ans. 10. Yes and No.

Yes. The clinician believes the research evidence presented in conferences, journals etc. because that belief is backed by verifiable evidence, which is the hallmark of the scientific method. And it is replicable by other researchers, and also refutable. And undergoes self-correction as well. As and when this belief is found unverifiable or unreplicable, he will and must give it up. So an evidence-based belief is integral to scientific progress, as well as necessary for its application to people’s welfare, especially so in the field of the medical sciences.

No, he cannot discard this belief in research evidence, but this evidence must be corroborated by his own clinical experience. If the researcher says, for example, Venlafaxine is three times more potent than Fluoxetine and the clinician finds they are only equally good, if at all, he must trust his own clinical experience rather than the researcher’s proclamations. So, if, and when, his own clinical findings do not corroborate the researcher’s conclusions, he must question this belief and reject it. For the research evidence’s credibility stands to question, at least for him. And he must exercise his clinical judgment for the patient’s welfare as of overriding value, even if contrary to current research and trends. For what is current today may get refuted tomorrow. And this is one of the ways it may get refuted.

 

ALBERT EINSTEIN’S STATEMENT ON SCIENCE AND RELIGION

Q.11. ‘Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.’ So said the great Albert Einstein. Is that sufficient enough resolution of the divide between religion and science?

Ans11. Yes, it is a beautiful resolution as it goes. Science without religion is lame because it will not lead very far. Religion without science is blind, because it will not be able to show the way if not backed by reason and observation. So a lame science can ride a blind Religion and both can complete the journey.

However if the converse occurs, then we are in for a big, big problem. If a blind religion rides a lame science then it will spell disaster for mankind. Not possible? Well what were the dark ages but that, when fanatical religionists tortured scientists? Lame science and blind religion are being used today as well: weapons of mass destruction are supplied by a lame science, powerless before ulterior men’s machinations. Fanatical followers use blind religion to fuel discord and raise terrorist squads to carry out self-proclaimed jehads. And the future holds no less a menace.

So Einstein does make sense. And it is useful to think of the fusion of science and religion, as it is to think of their divide. Their division is important for their individual welfare, their fusion is important for mankind’s welfare. Both are equally important. So they must remain good neighbours, knowing their boundaries all right, but ready to collaborate for collective welfare.

SCIENCE, METAPHYSICS AND GEORGE BERNARD SHAW

 Q.12. ‘Every genuine scientist must be... A metaphysician’, said George Bernard Shaw. Does this not have the danger of making him a poor scientist?

 Ans12. Yes, it does entail the danger of making him a poor scientist. But it also entails the possibility of making him a great scientist.

 A poor scientist runs a definite risk by dabbling in metaphysics. A great scientist actualises himself by indulging in it, becoming great only if and when he does so.

 Why? A poor scientist may take the shelter of metaphysics to explain ill-understood phenomena and conveniently escape answering embarrassing questions. A great scientist will take the vision of metaphysics and seek direction from it to understand and further science and scientific theories.

 

CAKES AND PERSPECTIVES

 Q.13. How do you like the proposition: howsoever thin you slice a cake, there are always two sides?

 Ans. 13. Yes, I like it. I like the cake and its sides as well. And I would like it even if it had no sides. And I would like it even if had four sides.

And, come to think of it, a cake actually has six sides.

And that’s a usual rectangular cake we are talking of. You calculate how many sides a hexagonal cake will have.

 As with cakes, so with perspectives.

 

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