04 Nov

Science – The first line of Defence

When i was a kid, i was always enthralled by the night sky and all those twinkling objects. My school teachers taught me that objects that twinkle are stars and the ones that don’t are planets. Little did i realize that these stars and planets were thought to have profound influence in the life of people and is a major decision maker in most people’s life.

I have been to temples, I have prayed, and hoping for some divine intervention for scoring good marks in exams, or just pray for a teacher to be absent for the day whose homework i hadn’t completed. I have listened to the prayers in the name of the star i was born with, and each time, I have felt better, that supreme power has listened and will make sure my problems fly away. Why did i believe in all this? Because people around me everywhere did so. It was considered a trait of good people. Good people pray.

Almost all major decisions in life that people around me in the society make, are highly influenced by divine intervention. Decisions like choice of life partner in marriage, starting a business, building a house, or in even worse cases deciding the career are heavily under the influence of stars and planets. As a kid, though I wasn’t bothered about this whole ‘predict your future’ stuff, I also did not feel to ask why or how all of this were true. Sometimes even when i felt to ask, wouldn’t know how to proceed in understanding these things.

Once, when i was searching online for top 10 science books that every science lover must read, I came across a book by Dr. Carl sagan – ‘The Cosmos’. Ever since I started reading it, I have been on a reading spree. Through his book, he had written in depth about how to think rationally and why it was important to reason things out, not just for the sake of an individual, but for the entire mankind and its future. He showed me how science was not just a subject, but a rational approach to study things.

Imagine someone looking at your horoscope and telling you that your time is good for starting a business, and you do start and actually end up doing it good. You would start to firmly believe in astrology and start making your future decisions also based on whether the time is good or bad. Also the person who predicted it for you, would take up your case a success story and start marketing it. His prediction could have equally gone wrong, according to principles of probability!

If you give a little thought on this, the above case can be compared to predicting a head on a coin toss and claiming success if the result actually turns out to be head. It always had a 50 percent probability to happen. Some of the predictions may seem very less likely due to chance, but not impossible, wherein people will believe in divine intervention. Any event that an astrologer claims to predict will always have a non zero probability of happening. If prediction turns to be true, we celebrate, if not, we move on.

Science doesn’t work this way. Newton’s laws works for everyone, everywhere, everytime. Gravity works for everyone, everywhere, everytime. The evidence doesn’t rely on case to case basis. The evidence in Science is all about the experiments and results that can be replicated anywhere by anyone across the world. It is not a belief system that any one person or a group of people can claim ownership for.

The most important thing in Science is to question, question anything. Questioning opens up the mind. It empowers you. Sometimes the answers to the questions can shake the very foundations of the belief system that you put your life on. We must learn to embrace things with evidence and reject things otherwise.

It is human tendency to fall for such pseudoscience phenomena and this is where science becomes the one most desirable thing for a human as the first, and the only, line of defence against such ‘stuffs’. I am leaving you with a quote by Dr. Carl Sagan:

“Science is not perfect, it is often misused. It’s only a tool, but it is the best tool we have. Self correcting, ever changing, applicable to everything. With this tool we vanquish the impossible. “

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About Obuli Chandran

Science Enthusiast | Educator | Entrepreneur | Amateur Astronomer