Worldviews and Opinions of Scientists in India

The Worldviews and Opinions of Scientists Project –by the Institute for the Study of Secularism in Society and Culture at Trinity College, Hartford Connecticut— is aimed at conducting a series of surveys in countries with differing cultures, in order to learn who today’s scientists are and to compare their thinking about a range of contemporary social, economic, cultural, moral and ethical issues. Under this project, first survey was conducted among Indian scientists. According to the project website, India was the first country chosen mainly because of its growing global importance in science and technology and in the education of scientific, medical and technology professionals. Among the 7,500 contacted science and technology majors, about 1,100 (~15%) from 119 institutions responded. Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur had the largest number (58) of participants.

The survey resulted in some very interesting trends. For example, a majority thinks that they studied sciences for personal interest and curiosity, something which, for some socioeconomic reasons in India, is hard to fathom. A majority thinks that India today does not fulfill its constitutional duty (viz, “to develop scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of inquiry and reform”). I belong to that majority. A majority had faith in current economic policy in India, that of a mixed economy. Majority also believed that there are less women in science due to the cultural influence. I would like to see the response from US or European scientists to the question whether they endorse Evolutionary theory or not, for I think, in India, 88% concurring with the theory is too less for scientists. The most surprising response (to me) was to the question whether there is any efficacy in alternative curative and diagnostic techniques! I was surprised and somewhat embarrassed to see that half the scientists in India believe that Homeopathy is effective, and close to half believe that prayer is effective! Moreover, 44% approve astrology. There was a very interesting question in the survey, viz, “In 2005, space scientists went to Tirupati to seek the blessing of (some) lord before a launch. Do you approve the decision?” The response was shocking! 41% approved that action!

Needless to say, majority among the respondents (66%) said they were Hindus. Only 10% were in Atheists/Agnostics/No Religion category. 26% believed strongly in God and its existence. 28% believed that God does miracles. Majority of scientists were spiritual.

Most of the respondents were practising scientists. I’d also like to see such a survey conducted among students, not just in sciences, in India.

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8 thoughts on “Worldviews and Opinions of Scientists in India”

  1. Spirituality accepts that the most important aspects of our world are hidden beyond human comprehension. It labels this realm spirit, soul, and God. Are we simply a collection of cells that eventually becomes sick and die? Is there a plan for us? Science addresses the first question from a different perspective than spirituality, and it ignores the second question. Spirituality focuses on the second question, and it answers the question with an emphatic yes. Healing the Rift, by Leo Kim explains the connection between Science and Spirituality.

  2. Why isn’t the answer “there is no plan or purpose” acceptable? Why is it so hard to grasp that life is just an accident or an event with positive probability that just happened? Let me guess. Oh yes, there won’t be any jobs left to the “spiritualists” if that answer is settled upon. Science never asks one to just live life or live in misery or happiness; it is just not concerned about it. If one really wants to give it a (subjective) purpose, how about the following? It rather assumes that, since we are due to an accident, we make it our purpose to know what the reality is.

    Is there a plan for us? We do not need spirituality to answer that question, IMHO. Spirituality implies René Descartes’ mind-body dualism (formulated by Descartes, although the school of thought is at least two millennium older than him). It is a beautiful mental construct, Descartes’, and it is philosophy. Philosophy remains philosophy unless there is an evidence supporting it. Some might interpret me wrong, so let me make it clearer: I love philosophies and mental constructs (why not? I study Mathematics for my living!), but I cannot claim those to construe ‘real’ before knowing the supporting evidence. Yes, the thoughts and mental constructs are real, but what those constructs represent need not be real.

    I’m sorry to have jumped on to ‘reality’ without properly defining the term. I do not intend to define it, instead I assume that the reader has (at least) a vague idea of what I meant in the previous paragraph.

    Melissa mentioned the book by Leo Kim. I can cite hundreds of others that can refute every argument in Kim’s book. Does that change anything?

    Let us argue the old way, one which the spiritualists have not been able to deal with yet. Spiritualists say that there is a plan. My question is, “What is that plan?” If you can’t come up with an answer and still persist that there is a plan, dare I say, you are an imbecile! (I’m sorry if the word is offensive, but due to my limited vocabulary, I cannot come up with a better one.)

    Unless one knows the way, does one use it en route? Of course, there could be a way, and it could well be better, significantly reducing the effort she puts in to reach her destination, but since its existence did not affect her till now, how could it affect her until she knows there is?

  3. Ah, but perhaps there is a plan and it’s as simple as walking out the door into the natural world that scientists study. That’s how I found my spirituality with a minor in biology decades ago. When I began to study the stars in earnest and understood there were huge predictable cycles happening. We only have to begin the study of them. That understanding brought me to spiritually moving towards being an authentic person and self actualization. To begin your understanding go to http://www.astromoon.com and begin your Journey into Yourself!

  4. A.G comments are typical atheist bullying. The psychological tendency or need to bully exists in some people, in others it does not. Some psychologists claim the need to bully is caused by being subjected to bullying. There is evidence to support this, but epistemically there remains the problem of who then was the first bully, who was not bullied by another?

    Professor John Searle, Chair of Philosophy at UC Berkeley and a leading expert in analytical philosophy and philosophy of mind, recently wrote a book titled “Rediscovering the Mind”, in which he describes the logically fallacious “games” played by many atheist intellectuals, and describes some of them as bully games.

    Prof Searle is an atheist.

    I am an engineer. My understanding of math and science does not make me thing there is or is not a god or some kind of soul or spirituality. Both math ans science are nothing but measurement for the purpose of altering materials and energy into humanly useful forms. But the ability of the mind to analyze and discover hidden aspects of matter and energy is truly amzazing and difficult to explain. This was the subject of Immanuels Kant’s philosophy.

    Back to Searle: Searle claims that the mind “understands” and has “intentions” and “beliefs” based on backround and deep background brain processes and structures that may not be deconstructable into component parts. Such deconstructibility has been, for over 100 years, a necessity for the typical Western scientific atheist.

    The Western atheist tradition seeks as an end game the complete deconstruction of consciousness itself, and thereby the complete devaluation of humanity and life in general into material to be used and altered as needed. Searle points out that this bizzarre direction of the traditional Western atheism is not at all scientific, as it’s proponents claim, but is a result of a bias against religion, especially Christianity.

    As Christianity holds that human life has intrinsic and ultimate value, then an anti-Christian bias would naturally lead to total deconstruction into value-lessness, or only a philistine type of valuation.

    Searle admits that spiritual feelings come from the same deep backgound of the brain as does the ability to compare and contrast two objects, which is the foundation of scientific deconstruction or empiricism. Thus, it becomes difficult to dismiss spiritual feelings or interpretations without dismissing everything that comes from the deep background. And this deep background is what Kant called apriori intuition – knowledge before experience, which should be impossible according to empiricist atheists.

    But just to show how biased, and thus dishonest and mask wearing so many atheists are, there are theories from evolution that suggest that since the brain was formed in various animals and then man out of matter, and by evironmental forces – energies – then the deep background or apriori intuition may simply be the imprint of the processes against which consciousness makes comparisons to check for valid logic. Deep backgound is also what is typically called common sense.

    So it may not even be necessary to deny apriori intuition in order to maintain a purely physcial explanation of consciousness. Then the huge amount of anti-apriori literature post Kant suggests nothing but anti-religious bias.

    Thus, I assert that A.G is not only a bully, but not very well read in philosophy of science, neuroscience, philosophy of mind, and perhaps emotional psychology, nor even logical fallacy, such as ad hominem attack.

    Another problem with scientific reductionism: such perspectives limit the imagination to that of a philistine. A better way to make a product for sale can be envisioned, but solutions to social problems are typically particularly vexing for the empiricist.
    “engineered” social solutions, a favorite of political liberals and in the USA, Democrats, have a very bad track record. Vast sums of money have been wasted on social programs that don’t work. These programs typically deal with the human in behavioralist terms and ignore underlying needs, wants, intentions, beliefs, etc. When the programs go wrong, the authors are always baffled. The usual excuse for failure is “we need more money”

    An example of successful non-empiricist solution: most street kids in developing nations are rescued by religious people. These kids usually have deep emotional wounds and scars and need more than just food, shelter and education. The need healing. No empirical study what so ever can deduce exactly what they need to regain normalcy, nor can such a study produce a list of “best practices” for “best outcomes” that could then be followed and applied by anyone who read the list, for instance, a bureaucrat or a plumber. Yet such a list could be followed for the production of cement.

    The empirical fact is that currently, religious people not only rescue these children, but do a good job of healing their emotional wounds and scars, and this is because they have some kind of “understanding” that comes from their deep background, one that they rely upon for guidance, and one that lets them see when their methods are effective. Of course this does not amount to a proof of god or soul or anything like that in a scientific way.

    But it does bring up the idea that some people may be deeper, may have deeper deep backgrounds than others. Also, note that street kids are foul and have bad habits upon first rescue. Rescuers have to have special qualities to deal with these kids. Are these special qualities simply conincidentally built into these rescuers, or is it, as they claim, their belief in God or a Buddhistic belief that enables their effectiveness?

    We can take the word of those who actually do this dirty work, or we can pretend to know more than they, pretend to know their minds better they, and tell them they are simple minded. hmmmm….

    to learn more about street kids, go to http://www.streetkidsupport.org and click on street kid info.

    The totality of Reality can’t be described by science. Science deals only with materials and energy for philistine purposes. That’s why the atheist Friedrich Nietzsche called the scientist “his master’s first servant”, and considered the scientist to be petty and ignoble.

    Cheers

  5. Additional comment:

    Indians have a long history of religion and philosphy, dating back the Upanishads, which is a good read still today.

    Indians seem to have a better understanding of duality of context than do Westerners. An Indian can mix a pragmatic and/or scientific statement with a spiritual or social statement and another Indian will understand, while to a westerner it sounds like a conflict of ideologies.

    I think that only someone born and raised in India can understand the Indian context. It is the bizarrest civilization on the planet, and they just landed a spaceprobe on the moon, and are working on a Mars probe. Yet children scavenge the waste dumps for survival.

    Cheers

  6. @rob h

    you say indian civilization bizarest only because u can not understand it.
    then, why don’t u call spritual things bizarrest????
    i know u don’t know the answer
    god may not exist, but i can tell u one thing for sure that u westerners are among the DEVILS

    so,
    cheers!!!
    u are responsible for earths destruction!!!!!!

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