“Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers.”
V.Raghunathan in his essay ‘A Scientific Religion’ tackles the often-befuddling intertwining relationship between the two pillars of humankind – the age-old belief in Religion and god and it’s more pragmatic counterpart, Science. However, what sets ‘A Scientific Religion’ apart from other pieces on this complicated matter is that Raghunathan, apart from posing his problem, also supplies the reader with a hypothesis- a potential solution for unison between Science and Faith- A ‘Scientific Religion.’
In this piece of prose, Raghunathan discusses the possibility of ‘marrying’ Religion with Science, and like much deliberation in regard to any ‘marriage’, he wonders if it this union would be a ‘good match.’ In essence, religion, which is centered on blind faith, is contradictory to scientific temper, which is based on reason and pragmatism. This makes any such ‘marriage’ incongruous on paper. Yet, a union is not to be ruled out between Science and Religion because the primary objective of both these conflicting schools of thought is to help bring out the best in mankind and make our lives easier and more comfortable, albeit with a completely difficult modus operandi.
Raghunathan these goes on to write about why people (particularly in the Indian subcontinent) turn to a fanatic form of Religion and put all their eggs in this particular basket. He believes that this comes down to two reasons – a flawed education system coupled with ‘enormous socio-economic stress.’ What worries the author more than an obvious lack of even elementary education in most parts of our country is a lack of scientific temper among the more educated strata of society. The answer lies in developing a system of liberal arts to be incorporated into the school curriculum so as to promote critical thinking, thus placing emphasis on a scientific temper. One must also make sure that education happens in the right areas. It makes no sense for one to be educated and still treat his wife and elders with disrespect. Education apart from teaching concepts of Physics and Chemistry, must also teach ethics, morals and righteousness, ensuring that every educated mind is of some use to our society.
The author’s problem does not merely lie in the structure of our education system or the students (or a lack of them!). He is also critical of the way that teachers today are teaching their subjects. They promote rote learning and are killing pragmatism and questioning to this effect. He says “Our teachers need to teach how to question; they need to make our children curious, and teach them how to go about finding answers to those questions and satiate that curiosity.” A formalized education that fosters critical thinking and questioning the essence of things is the way to go forward.
Intellectually, the youth of our nation will stagnate if our prevalent system of rote continues. One does not become smart if s/he manages to memorize definitions of inflation and reproduce it in an exam paper. However, if one does understand inflation in it’s essence and it’s causes and methods of prevention – we then know our education system is revolving around the correct axis.
- RAYHAAN IMAM