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Overburdening necessarily leads to superficiality. It is an irony of fate that I myself have been the recipient of excessive admiration and reverence from my fellow-beings, through no fault, and no merit, of my own. The cause of this may well be the desire, unattainable for many, to understand the few ideas to which I have with my feeble powers attained through ceaseless struggle. I am quite aware that for any organisation to reach its goals, one man must do the thinking and directing and generally bear the responsibility. But the led must not be coerced, they must be able to choose their leader.

It is certainly true that principles cannot be more securely founded than on experience and consciously clear thinking. It is clear that all the valuable things, material, spiritual, and moral, which we receive from society can be traced back through countless generations to certain creative individuals. From 'Scientific Truth' in Essays in Science , , It is easier to denature plutonium than to denature the evil spirit of man.

It is easy to follow in the sacred writings of the Jewish people the development of the religion of fear into the moral religion, which is carried further in the New Testament. The religions of all civilized peoples, especially those of the Orient, are principally moral religions. An important advance in the life of a people is the transformation of the religion of fear into the moral religion. On quantum theory. In Letter 21 Mar to his student-colleague, Cornel Lanczos.

In Yale Book of Quotations , It is mathematics that offers the exact natural sciences a certain measure of security which, without mathematics, they could not attain. It is not enough that you should understand about applied science in order that your work may increase man's blessings. Concern for man himself and his fate must always form the chief interest of all technical endeavours Never forget this in the midst of your diagrams and equations. In New York Times 17 Feb , p. It is not enough to teach man a specialty. Through it he may become a kind of useful machine, but not a harmoniously developed personality.

It is essential that the student acquire an understanding of and a lively feeling for values. He must acquire a vivid sense of the beautiful and of the morally good. It is not so very important for a person to learn facts. For that he does not really need a college. He can learn them from books. The value of an education in a liberal arts college is not the learning of many facts but the training of the mind to think something that cannot be learned from textbooks. It is not the fruits of scientific research that elevate man and enrich his nature but the urge to understand, the intellectual work, creative or receptive.

It is open to every man to choose the direction of his striving; and also every man may draw comfort from Lessing's fine saying, that the search for truth is more precious than its possession. It is the duty of every citizen according to his best capacities to give validity to his convictions in political affairs. It is the duty of every man of good will to strive steadfastly in his own little world to make this teaching of pure humanity a living force, so far as he can.

If he makes an honest attempt in this direction without being crushed and trampled under foot by his contemporaries, he may consider himself and the community to which he belongs lucky. It is therefore easy to see why the churches have always fought science and persecuted its devotees. On the other hand, I maintain that the cosmic religious feeling is the strongest and noblest motive for scientific research. Only those who realize the immense efforts and, above all, the devotion without which pioneer work in theoretical science cannot be achieved are able to grasp the strength of the emotion out of which alone such work, remote as it is from the immediate realities of life, can issue.

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What a deep conviction of the rationality of the universe and what a yearning to understand, were it but a feeble reflection of the mind revealed in this world, Kepler and Newton must have had to enable them to spend years of solitary labor in disentangling the principles of celestial mechanics! Those whose acquaintance with scientific research is derived chiefly from its practical results easily develop a completely false notion of the mentality of the men who, surrounded by a skeptical world, have shown the way to kindred spirits scattered wide through the world and through the centuries.

Only one who has devoted his life to similar ends can have a vivid realization of what has inspired these men and given them the strength to remain true to their purpose in spite of countless failures. It is cosmic religious feeling that gives a man such strength. A contemporary has said, not unjustly, that in this materialistic age of ours the serious scientific workers are the only profoundly religious people. It is this mythical, or rather this symbolic, content of the religious traditions which is likely to come into conflict with science.

This occurs whenever this religious stock of ideas contains dogmatically fixed statements on subjects which be long in the domain of science. Thus, it is of vital importance for the preservation of true religion that such conflicts be avoided when they arise from subjects which, in fact, are not really essential for the pursuance of the religious aims. It must be conceded that a theory has an important advantage if its basic concepts and fundamental hypotheses are 'close to experience,' and greater confidence in such a theory is certainly justified. There is less danger of going completely astray, particularly since it takes so much less time and effort to disprove such theories by experience.

Yet more and more, as the depth of our knowledge increases, we must give up this advantage in our quest for logical simplicity in the foundations of physical theory In David H. Levy Ed. It seems to me that the idea of a personal God is an anthropological concept which I cannot take seriously. I also cannot imagine some will or goal outside the human sphere has been cited as a statement that precedes the last three sentences here, but this might have originated in a paraphrase, a transcription error, or a misquotation; it does not appear in any editions of the essay which have thus far been checked.

It stands to the everlasting credit of science that by acting on the human mind it has overcome man's insecurity before himself and before nature. It was my good fortune to be linked with Mme. Curie through twenty years of sublime and unclouded friendship. I came to admire her human grandeur to an ever growing degree. It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it.

From Letter 24 Mar in Einstein archives. It would be possible to describe absolutely everything scientifically, but it would make no sense. It would be without meaning, as if you described a Beethoven symphony as a variation of wave pressure. Attributed to Einstein by Frau Born. Paraphrased words as given in Ronald William Clark, Einstein , It would not be difficult to come to an agreement as to what we understand by science. Science is the century-old endeavor to bring together by means of systematic thought the perceptible phenomena of this world into as thoroughgoing an association as possible.

To put it boldly, it is the attempt at the posterior reconstruction of existence by the process of conceptualization. But when asking myself what religion is I cannot think of the answer so easily. And even after finding an answer which may satisfy me at this particular moment, I still remain convinced that I can never under any circumstances bring together, even to a slight extent, the thoughts of all those who have given this question serious consideration.

We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many different languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It doe s not know how. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being toward God. Jesus is too colossal for the pen of phrasemongers, however artful. No man can dispose of Christianity with a bon mot. Knowledge is necessary too. A child with great intuition could not grow up to become something worthwhile in life without some knowledge. Laws alone can not secure freedom of expression; in order that every man present his views without penalty there must be spirit of tolerance in the entire population.

Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving. Quoted in P. Schilpp ed. Man tries to make for himself in the fashion that suits him best a simplified and intelligible picture of the world; he then tries to some extent to substitute this cosmos of his for the world of experience, and thus to overcome it. This is what the painter, the poet, the speculative philosopher, and the natural scientist do, each in his own fashion. Each makes this cosmos and its construction the pivot of his emotional life, in order to find in this way the peace and security which he cannot find in the narrow whirlpool of personal experience.

Marie Curie is, of all celebrated beings, the only one whom fame has not corrupted. May the conscience and the common sense of the peoples be awakened, so that we may reach a new stage in the life of nations, where people will look back on war as an incomprehensible aberration of their forefathers! Measured objectively, what a man can wrest from Truth by passionate striving is utterly infinitesimal. But the striving frees us from the bonds of the self and makes us comrades of those who are the best and the greatest.

Modern anthropology has taught us, through comparative investigation of so-called primitive cultures, that the social behavior of human beings may differ greatly, depending upon prevailing cultural patterns and the types of organisation which predominate in society. It is on this that those who are striving to improve the lot of man may ground their hopes: human beings are not condemned, because of their biological constitution, to annihilate each other or to be at the mercy of a cruel, self-inflicted fate.

Most of the fundamental ideas of science are essentially simple, and may, as a rule, be expressed in a language comprehensible to everyone. Co-authored with Leopold Infeld. Infeld was a Polish physicist My internal and external life depend so much on the work of others that I must make an extreme effort to give as much as I receive. Webmaster has not found any other source for this quote, and cautions doubt about its authenticity.

My passion for social justice has often brought me into conflict with people, as did my aversion to any obligation and dependence I do not regard as absolutely necessary. I always have a high regard for the individual and have an insuperable distaste for violence and clubmanship. My passionate sense of social justice and social responsibility has always contrasted oddly with my pronounced lack of need for direct contact with other human beings and human communities.

My political ideal is democracy. Let every man be respected as an individual and no man idolized.


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My religion consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable superior spirit who reveals himself in the slight details we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble minds. That deeply emotional conviction of the presence of a superior reasoning power, which is revealed in the incomprehensible universe, forms my idea of God. My scientific work is motivated by an irresistible longing to understand the secrets of nature and by no other feeling.

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My love for justice and striving to contribute towards the improvement of human conditions are quite independent from my scientific interests. Nationalism is an infantile sickness. It is the measles of the human race. Nature hides her secret because of her essential loftiness, but not by means of ruse. Nature only shows us the tail of the lion. I am convinced, however, that the lion is attached to it, even though he cannot reveal himself directly because of his enormous size. Quoted in Kim Lim ed. Nature shows us only the tail of the lion.

But I do not doubt that the lion belongs to it even though he cannot at once reveal himself because of his enormous size. Neither on my deathbed nor before will I ask myself such a question. Nature is not an engineer or a contractor, and I myself am a part of Nature. Never regard study as a duty, but as the enviable opportunity to learn to know the liberating influence of beauty in the realm of the spirit for your own personal joy and to the profit of the community to which your later work belongs. Nevertheless, it is necessary to remember that a planned economy is not yet socialism.

A planned economy as such may be accompanied by the complete enslavement of the individual. The achievement of socialism requires the solution of some extremely difficult socio-political problems: how is it possible, in view of the far-reaching centralisation of political and economic power, to prevent bureaucracy from becoming all-powerful and overweening?

How can the rights of the individual be protected and therewith a democratic counterweight to the power of bureaucracy be assured? No amount of experimentation can ever prove me right; a single experiment can prove me wrong. Attributed to Einstein. No one can read the Gospels without feeling the actual presence of Jesus.

His personality pulsates in every word. No myth is filled with such life. His clear and wide ideas will for ever retain their significance as the foundation on which our modern conceptions of physics have been built. No path leads from a knowledge of that which is to that which should be. No, this trick wont work How on earth are you ever going to explain in terms of chemistry and physics so important a biological phenomenon as first love? Nobody knows how the stand of our knowledge about the atom would be without him.

Personally, [Niels] Bohr is one of the amiable colleagues I have met. He utters his opinions like one perpetually groping and never like one who believes himself to be in possession of the truth. Nobody, certainly, will deny that the idea of the existence of an omnipotent, just, and omnibeneficent personal God is able to accord man solace, help, and guidance; also, by virtue of its simplicity it is accessible to the most undeveloped mind.

But, on the other hand, there are decisive weaknesses attached to this idea in its elf, which have been painfully felt since the beginning of history. That is, if this being is omnipotent, then every occurrence, including every human action, every human thought, and every human feeling and aspiration is also His work; how is it possible to think of holding men responsible for their deeds and thoughts before such an almighty Being?

In giving out punishment and rewards He would to a certain extent be passing judgment on Himself. How can this be combined with the goodness and righteousness ascribed to Him? Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts. Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet. This happened in Why were another seven years required for the construction of the general theory of relativity? The main reason lies in the fact that it is not so easy to free oneself from the idea that coordinates must have an immediate metrical meaning.

Now [Michele Besso] has departed from this strange world a little ahead of me. That signifies nothing. For us believing in physicists, the distinction between past, present and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion. Letter of condolence to the family of Michele Besso, his lifelong friend 21 Mar In Tabatha Yeatts, Albert Einstein , Besso died on 15 Mar Einstein died 18 Apr What does a fish know about the water in which he swims all his life? The bitter and the sweet come from outside. For the most part I do what my own nature drives me to do.

It is embarrassing to earn such respect and love for it. Often in evolutionary processes a species must adapt to new conditions in order to survive. Today the atomic bomb has altered profoundly the nature of the world as we know it, and the human race consequently finds itself in a new habitat to which it must adapt its thinking. Once you can accept the universe as matter expanding into nothing that is something, wearing stripes with plaid comes easy. One has a feeling that one has a kind of home in this timeless community of human beings that strive for truth I have always believed that Jesus meant by the Kingdom of God the small group scattered all through time of intellectually and ethically valuable people.

But our equations are much more important to me, because politics is for the present, while such an equation is for eternity. At the time Einstein was one of the Emergency Committee of Atomic Scientists, concerned with informing the public on the atomic bomb and its effects. He was its Chairman from May One of the strongest motives that lead men to art and science is escape from everyday life with its painful crudity and hopeless dreariness, from the fetters of one's own ever-shifting desires.

A finely tempered nature longs to escape from the personal life into the world of objective perception and thought. Albert Einstein and Walter Shropshire ed. One ought to be ashamed to make use of the wonders of science embodied in a radio set, while appreciating them as little as a cow appreciates the botanical marvels in the plant she munches. One reason why mathematics enjoys special esteem, above all other sciences, is that its laws are absolutely certain and indisputable, while those of other sciences are to some extent debatable and in constant danger of being overthrown by newly discovered facts.

Perrett, 'Geometry and Experience', Sidelights on Relativity , One should guard against inculcating a young man with the idea that success is the aim of life, for a successful man normally receives from his peers an incomparably greater portion than the services he has been able to render them deserve. The value of a man resides in what he gives and not in what he is capable of receiving. The most important motive for study at school, at the university, and in life is the pleasure of working and thereby obtaining results which will serve the community. Such a basis alone can lead to the joy of possessing one of the most precious assets in the world - knowledge or artistic skill.

One should guard against preaching to the young man success in the customary sense as the aim in life. The most important motive for work in school and in life is pleasure in work, pleasure in its result, and the knowledge of the value of the result to the community. One strength of the communist system of the East is that it has some of the character of a religion and inspires the emotions of a religion. Only one who devotes himself to a cause with his whole strength and soul can be a true master. For this reason mastery demands all of a person. Without creative, independently thinking and judging personalities the upward development of society is as unthinkable as the development of the individual personality without the nourishing soil of the community.

Our death is not an end if we can live on in our children and the younger generation. For they are us, our bodies are only wilted leaves on the tree of life. Our defense is not in our armaments, nor in science, nor in going underground. Our defense is in law and order. Our experience up to date justifies us in feeling sure that in Nature is actualized the ideal of mathematical simplicity. Printed in Discovery Jul , 14 , Also quoted in Stefano Zambelli and Donald A. George, Nonlinearity, Complexity and Randomness in Economics Our new idea is simple: to build a physics valid for all coordinate systems.

Our situation on this earth seems strange. Every one of us appears here involuntarily and uninvited for a short stay, without knowing the whys and the wherefore. In our daily lives we only feel that man is here for the sake of others, for those whom we love and for many other beings whose fate is connected with our own. I am often worried at the thought that my life is based to such a large extent on the work of my fellow human beings and I am aware of my great indebtedness to them.

Our time is distinguished by wonderful achievements in the fields of scientific understanding and the technical application of those insights. Who would not be cheered by this? But let us not forget that human knowledge and skills alone cannot lead humanity to a happy and dignified life. Humanity has every reason to place the proclaimers of high moral standards and values above the discoverers of objective truth. What humanity owes to personalities like Buddha, Moses, and Jesus ranks for me higher than all the achievements of the inquiring constructive mind.

Sep In Helen Dukas and Banesh Hoffman ed. Our world faces a crisis as yet unperceived by those possessing power to make great decisions for good or evil. The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking and we thus drift toward unparalleled catastrophe.

We need two hundred thousand dollars at once for a nation-wide campaign to let people know that a new type of thinking is essential if mankind is to survive and move toward higher levels. This appeal is sent to you only after long consideration of the immense crisis we face. We ask your help at this fateful moment as a sign that we scientists do not stand alone.

It was also signed by the Federation of American Scientists. Overemphasis on the competitive system and premature specialization on the ground of immediate usefulness kill the spirit on which all cultural life depends. Peace cannot be achieved through violence, it can only be attained through understanding. Peace cannot be kept by force. It can only be achieved by understanding. People like you and I, though mortal of course like everyone else, do not grow old no matter how long we live Perfection of means and confusion of ends seems to characterize our age. In Out of My Later Years , , Physical concepts are free creations of the human mind, and are not, however it may seem, uniquely determined by the external world.

In our endeavour to understand reality we are somewhat like a man trying to understand the mechanism of a closed watch. He sees the face and the moving hands, even hears its ticking, but he has no way of opening the case. If he is ingenious he may form some picture of a mechanism which could be responsible for all the things he observes, but he may never be quite sure his picture is the only one which could explain his observations.

He will never be able to compare his picture with the real mechanism and he cannot even imagine the possibility or the meaning of such a comparison. But he certainly believes that, as his knowledge increases, his picture of reality will become simpler and simpler and will explain a wider and wider range of his sensuous impressions. He may also believe in the existence of the ideal limit of knowledge and that it is approached by the human mind. He may call this ideal limit the objective truth. Politics is a pendulum whose swings between anarchy and tyranny are fueled by perennially rejuvenated illusions.

Pure mathematics is, in its way, the poetry of logical ideas. One seeks the most general ideas of operation which will bring together in simple, logical and unified form the largest possible circle of formal relationships. In this effort toward logical beauty spiritual formulas are discovered necessary for the deeper penetration into the laws of nature. Quantum mechanics is certainly imposing. But an inner voice tells me that this is not yet the real thing.

Letter to Max Born 4 Dec Quantum mechanics is very imposing. I, at any rate, am convinced that He [God] is not playing at dice. In letter 4 Dec to Max Born.

SCEPTICISM

Make believe all the time that you are living, so to speak, on Mars among alien creatures and blot out any deeper interest in the actions of those creatures. Make friends with a few animals. Then you will become a cheerful man once more and nothing will be able to trouble you. Letter 5 Apr Read, and found correct. Reading, after a certain age, diverts the mind too much from its creative pursuits. Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking.

Relativity teaches us the connection between the different descriptions of one and the same reality. Responsibility lies with those who make use of these new tools and not with those who contribute to the progress of knowledge: therefore, with the politicians, not with the scientists. Quoted, without citation, in Norman K. Glendenning, Our Place in the Universe , Science can progress on the basis of error as long as it is not trivial. But even after several decades of investment in chains of scientific institutions, focused on various branches of experimental science, from pure or applied science to technology, the returns on investment in terms of forging ahead in experimental work appear to be quite meagre.

The gap between experiment and theory is perhaps merely the proverbial tip of the iceberg. Science and technology development in India clearly also suffers from a huge gap between research and teaching and industrial production. Agricultural science and technology has perhaps achieved some success in narrowing this gap. Particular sectors like space have managed to maintain some success in converting knowledge into successful delivery in tangible benefits within the scope of their mandate.

Overall, though, from the poor footprint that India has in the realm of patents, copyright and royalties, it is amply clear that innovation in India lags far behind that of the scientifically advanced countries. However the links between science and productive activity as a whole has always remained weak.

Apart from the science-production linkage, it is worth considering the role of the social-cultural milieu, in a society that is still fundamentally has not overcome the downgrading of productive labour, vis-a-vis purely mental or intellectual labour. And of course, even with respect to the latter, speculative thought, in a variety of forms, including traditional religious teachings, mysticism, or magical speculation, receives as much recognition as scientific enquiry. Modern science and technology owes a great deal to the linkage between science and production that was developed during the period of the scientific and industrial revolutions in Western Europe, and later in the erstwhile Soviet Union and in Japan.

Both the scientific and industrial activity began in this country through the transplanting and eventual assimilation of knowledge and methods of knowledge generation that were already developed elsewhere, ready-made as it were. Unfortunately, as a consequence, it has become much more difficult to grasp the linkage between the two streams, which emerged in different spheres of activity.

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In practice, industrial knowhow or technology was acquired by an emergent industrial class with little development of such knowledge on their own. In science, to some extent, independent generation of new knowledge, of a quality that was competitive with the best work globally was the ideal. Nevetheless this ideal was also rarely realised in practice, except in a few centres and among a small, limited number of scientific groups. The gap between science and productive activity is nowhere more strikingly illustrated than in the Science Policy Resolution The text, at the first reading, presents a remarkably inspirational call for the development of science, striking especially in the background of the state of the Indian economy at that time.

And in the tradition of the nationalist movement for Independence, it saw science and scientific development as essential to the building of a self-reliant modern nation. But in doing so, in retrospect, there are clearly three missing elements in the resolution. First, it has a simplistic, linear view of the relationship between science and technology, seeing technology as somehow a direct product of scientific activity, missing the relative autonomy of technological knowledge, especially in its development.

While acknowledging the need for education to enhance the supply of scientific manpower it does not concretely connect the development of science to a programme of universal, compulsory education which in any case was to lag tremendously in the years to follow. Science without radical transformation. Even in the s it was evident to many commentators that the fundamental problem for science in India was that it did not develop in the context of a sweeping economic, social and political transformation of Indian society.

But while acknowledging this influence as we have already noted in the earlier section, the freedom from colonial rule did not mark necessarily a social and economic transformation, directed above all at the transformation of rural society, opening the doors to a thoroughgoing modernisation of Indian society. We will not go into the nature and dimension of this failure here, as this has been extensively written about. But, from the viewpoint of science, the fundamental conditions for its development, namely the creation of the conditions for the rapid development of industrialisation and modern techniques of production were never adequately realised.

The most striking contrast perhaps is with the case of China. The gap between India and China in the first four decades after independence perhaps did not seem large, especially after the setbacks that science in China suffered during the Cultural Revolution. But subsequently the substantially different foundations for the development of science and technology in India and China have been brought more sharply.

It was meant to be an all-inclusive order without any common dogma and allowing the fullest latitude to each group…[it was] infinitely better than slavery even for those lowest in the scale. Within each caste there was equality and a measure of freedom; each caste was occupational and applied itself to its own particular work. This led to a high degree of specialisation and skill in handicrafts and craftsmanship…[caste] kept up the democratic habit in each group. Clearly with such a problematic understanding even in the mind of Nehru , it is unsurprising that the scientific temper debate never truly took the phenomenon of caste into account.

Scientific temper was certainly counterposed to religious obscurantism, but that the caste system, grounded ideologically in the ultimate sense in Hinduism, was the more deep-rooted manifestation of such obscurantism, and the scriptural, dogmatic aspect more of an epiphenomenon was rarely recognized. Even on the Left of the political spectrum, whose leading figures articulated an opposition to both religious obscurantism and the caste system, the intimate connection between these two form of irrationality in Indian society did not always form the core of their fight against obscurantism.

A rare exception is in the writings of the Indian communist leader, E. One has to realise that the rebuilding of India on modern democratic and secular lines requires an uncompromising struggle against the caste-based Hindu society and its culture. In other words, the struggle for radical democracy and socialism cannot be separated from the struggle against caste society. Ambedkar, as we have already indicated, had a far superior understanding of the need to eradicate the caste system compared to Nehru, noting as he did on the eve of the inauguration of the republic, the fundamental contradiction between the ideal of political democracy and the oppressive social and economic reality of Indian society.

The link between Ambedkar and the struggle to uphold secularism and the scientific temper has been discussed in some detail by Meera Nanda in her work. However much it is dressed in modern philosophical and sociological jargon, it is clear that such criticism merely recycles the backward looking response to British colonialism that has a long history in Indian intellectual life. In sum, the long-term challenge to science in India, both in its instrumental sense as part of the development of its productive forces and in its role as part of the intellectual underpinnings of a new vision of Indian society, is to be sought in the failure of agrarian transformation, the key to the eradication of the fundamental contradictions of Indian society that both the Left and Ambedkarite viewpoints have long alluded to.

But the failure to address this in adequate fashion in practice it must be recognized has set the stage for the contemporary crisis of science in India that we must now turn to. Contemporary challenges to science. In the background of the structural problems that science in India continued to face even when the overall development of science seemed to be set on a positive track, the radical shift in the economic development strategy of the Indian state has been nothing short of disastrous for the long-term future of science in India.

Much has been written about the consequences of this shift and the manner in which it marked a break from the past which we need not repeat here But some specific aspects of this in relation to science are worth noting. First, the general downgrading of public sector investment and the call for the general withdrawal of the state from many sectors of development implied that science would no longer receive the kind of support that it used to have in the earlier period.

Second, the few attempts to promote the development of technological self-reliance were to be summarily set aside. It would be simplistic to think that impact of this new policy turn was immediate. Even this has in practice been subverted by the concurrent abandoning of the ideal of non-alignment in favour of an increasing strategic alliance with the United States. India remains an also-ran in the global exports of advanced technology The public sector investments of an earlier era in select scientific and technological institutions such as the Indian Institutes of Technology have made India a global source of high-quality human resources for scientific research but with little of the benefits from these resources accruing to the domestic economy itself, apart from the creation of a narrow high-wage sector in terms of employment in select metropolitan centres.

As the research base in the university system continues to shrink never substantial to begin with , state investment in advanced scientific and technological research and training has increasingly shrunk to a few high-profile institutions While the scientific agenda of the Indian state has considerably shrunk in scope in the last two decades, Hindutva has mounted a parallel attack on scientific temper and rationality in Indian society.

We use the term here for the broad political coalition also referred to as the Sangh Parivar that includes the Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh, the parliamentary politics wing that is the Bharatiya Janata Party, and an assortment of other organisations that have grown in number over the last three decades.

Angels Devils and Science A Collection of Articles on Scientific Temper by Pushpa M. Bhargava

While they maintain formally separate organisations and corresponding organisational structures, their ideological affinities and their close coordination in their activities can easily be identified, despite their protestations to the contrary. Its most dramatic manifestation was the nuclear weapons tests at Pokhran in that we have already noted. Some of these cuts are as yet only proposals but likely to take effect shortly. While these may as yet be reversed, they are only a sharp accentuation of a trend that has been in effect for a much longer period.

The recent attacks have focused in particular on three isssues. The celebration of the Manusmriti, the arch reactionary exposition of the rules of the caste system, composed of a melange of the most absurd rules of hierarchical social behaviour 39 is another Hindutva favourite while the celebration of astrology and its introduction into university curricula as a course of study is a Hindutva success story, achieved under the first spell of rule of the Bharatiya Janata Party.

It is perhaps even fearful of doing so, wary that such a social and political upsurge would sweep its own dominance away, and hence only promotes modernisation in such moderate doses as does not endanger its own existence. At the same time this elite seeks a seat at the high table in the global political order, and actively pursues the accoutrements of global power status. A Divided Opposition.

Why is it that this crisis of science and scientific temper in India has not been tackled with greater political energy and intellectual vigour? Why has it not received the fulsome opposition that it merits? Apart from the larger political questions that this raises, which we have discussed at some length earlier, there are a number of current intellectual trends that have partially blocked an adequate response to this crisis. One has been the rise of a general skepticism regarding science and technology among a section of the intellectual class, among whom mainstream social scientists are prominently represented.

Two influences have fed into this trend in India. The first of these is a general skepticism of science that has been current and perhaps even dominant among mainstream social scientists globally for more than thirty years now. Among these skeptical tendencies may be included an assortment of viewpoints such as post-modernism of which of course there are many variants , cultural relativism, political ecology and social constructivism. These viewpoints have had a significant influence on the Indian academic community.

But the striking feature is that both sides to the debate continue to conflate industrialisation and the role of science and technology in development with the socio-economic transformations that are a necessary aspect of development in general, and in particular the need for an agrarian transformation.

Thus it is science that is the source of the problem, rather than science in a society that has not undergone any radical transformation. In the more benign critiques, modern science is at best irrelevant, while in the harsher versions science is seen as indeed the villain in a romantic fable where the stable equilibrium of a pre-capitalist order, portrayed romantically as free of exploitation and oppression has been destabilised as a consequence of a modernity imposed by the West and subsequently continued by the Indian elite.

A second trend that threatens scientific advance and opens the door to new forms of obscurantism comes from the rise of environmental concerns and environmental movements.


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While the environmental movements have by and large originated with unexceptionably significant issues such as environmental conservation and protection, prevention of pollution, banning hazardous substances, access to forest resources for those who have traditionally used them and depend on them for livelihoods, they have also been accompanied by romantic anti-scientific views that have increasingly become more vociferous. The crux of the problem with environmentalism as a whole, except for a minority viewpoint, is to see environmental concerns as trumping all other socio-economic and political consideration.

Thus all questions of social transformation are set aside or have to be made secondary to immediate environmental action.


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Caste, in particular, is explained away, as it were, or simply ignored. Shockingly, the socio-biological interpretation of caste, justifying it on grounds of ecological sustainability with no mention of its oppressive character , by Madhav Gadgil, a noted environmental scientist and activist, has met with little criticism It is unsurprising that the committee headed by him that was appointed to enquire into the preservation of the biodiversity of the Western Ghat hill ranges in Western India paid no heed in its sweeping recommendations for environmental conservation to the question of the livelihoods of the millions who inhabit the region Environmentalists and environmental activists of note routinely include obscurantist appeals in their appeals 44 and even those who are otherwise critical of obscurantism would concede ground if it were linked to environmental concerns.

A case in point is the opposition to the project to detect and measure the properties of elementary particles known as neutrinos, coming from cosmic rays that was proposed to be set up in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. A wild opposition campaign was initiated by environmentalists from the state, who have succeeded in stalling the project with the assistance of some ill-informed judicial pronouncements and discreet political support. The allegations included charges that the neutrinos were capable of causing radiation damage to the population in the surrounding areas. These are by no means isolated instances.

As in the rest of the world there is rising opposition to the introduction of genetically modified crops, which have stalled further research of potential value to Indian agriculture. Regrettably, such views have also gained a modicum of adherents among the Left in India. Traditionally among the most trenchant critics of obscurantism and backwardness, sections of the Left have been drawn into empathy for such reactionary views in a somewhat roundabout fashion.

While the traditional critique of the Left has focused on the need for equitable access to modern science and technology and social control over technology to mitigate its unexpected consequences, such issues have tended to move to encompass questions of the risk associated with many modern technologies.

However while in its initial stages such questions of risk and safety have been linked to the ownership of technology, in later stages the questions of risk and safety acquire a life of their own intrinsic to the nature of technology itself while the pre-dominantly socio-economic questions are relegated to the background. In many instances it even appears that such anti-technology movements are the visible manifestations of the deep-rooted frustration arising from the inability to organise effectively for radical social transformation.

The sustained agitation against the completion and start up of a nuclear power plant on the eastern coast, south of the city of Chennai, dominated by the protests of local fisherfolk, appears to express this contradiction clearly. It appears to be more the lightning rod that draws to itself the accumulated frustrations of a large number of other issues of greater import in their daily lives that they do not truly believe can be dealt with. The Way Ahead? Our assessment of the current state of science and scientific temper in Indian society is not a positive one.

On the other hand to paint a picture that does not do justice to reality is no option at all. Nor can one share the cheery optimism exuded by sections of industry and business and their spokespersons in the business media that sees opportunity everywhere with little thought as to why the similar optimism expressed on earlier occasions has not borne fruit. A bleak view such as the above does require some qualification. Obviously all science will not come to a grinding halt. A modern state and elite in the twenty first century cannot be without any science at all.

And as sectors like agriculture or space have shown, this level of activity need not be insubstantial. Nor is it impossible for high levels of individual scientific achievement to be registered in scientific institutions, departments and research groups across the country. Nor does the current state of affairs preclude a few sectors of high competence, if not innovation, as in the information technology sector. Nor is it likely, with current trends, to close the currently widening gap between India and the other emerging scientific powers such as Brazil, Korea or China.

For the last four to five decades the fortunes of science have altered between potential and hope on the one hand, and crisis and despair on the other. If a few, whether individuals or institutions, did well or even excellently, the state of the rest was always a matter of concern. Among those institutions that have done well, some of course have managed to retain something of their original purpose and elan or or in the best cases improve their standing, even if there is an inescapable sense of fragility about the well-being of these institutions. More subtly though, the agenda of these scientific institutions and broad sectors of research will continue to change, driven by the increasing imperative of obtaining funds and resources from large private or public institutional donors from outside India, of collaborating with institutions from advanced scientific countries and the demands of large private and institutional players within India itself.

This may of course promote substantial scientific activity but one that is in some fundamental sense misaligned to the needs of the country In the short and medium term much can be done to improve science and technology in the country if a succession of governments increase public expenditure for science and technology, provide a more optimistic atmosphere in the way it manages scientific institutions and their needs and ensures that the private sector meets its commitments to the promotion of knowledge generation to some extent. But a return to the dominance of the public sector in the management of the economy seems a difficult prospect given the far-reaching changes of the last two decades and a half, unless a more widespread and thorough shift takes place in economic policy driven by a decisive shift to a more radical dispensation in the politics of the country.

But even in such a situation, it is not self-evident that science will receive its due, as the advance of anti-science attitudes on the left of the political spectrum indicate. But in doing so, two issues regarding the received notion of scientific temper need to be confronted head on. The first is the need to revisit the classical notion of secularism as the separation of religion from the public sphere. In India however, the practice of caste has deep roots particularly in the various dogmas and practices that make up what is referred to as the Hindu religion.

Views that diverged widely from his were unsustainable. Those who could not convince him of their viewpoint either had to concur or leave. He could be arrogant, on many issues he was mistaken or inconsistent, and he could often seem autocratic and dogmatic. He had his blind spots. To people around him — students, young faculty, the lab-boys, gardeners, drivers, people who managed the instruments, air-conditioning, guesthouse and canteen, and others — he was intensely personal. Cutting across hierarchies, he was one of them, their own PMB.

He made everybody feel that working together towards excellence in all spheres is the way to excel. CCMB was not only known for its science but also its cleanliness, beauty, reliably excellent facilities and the ability to have the scientific faculty, administration, engineering, stores and purchase, gardening and hospitality services work together smoothly, like a well-oiled machine. It would not be an exaggeration to say that all this happened largely due to the contagious enthusiasm that PMB radiated.

He was always there. This was a new approach to the directorial style, one that was uncommon in those days and even now. He made lab rules such that anybody could work at any time of day and night, but in a way that safety was never compromised. He was one of the finest institution-builders in India as he could integrate the Indian culture of togetherness with the western culture of hard work.

Several people who went on from CCMB to other institutions have tried to replicate such an ethos. So have several others who have seen it work so effectively at the CCMB. Beyond the flamboyance and everything else, PMB was a great inspiration. A friend and guide to many, his direct and indirect influence on Indian science and scientific culture will be lasting. When we became an independent republic, our founding fathers adopted the Constitution of India which demands that its citizens abide by and uphold reason and scientific temper.

The statement is available on the website of the INSA , and is reproduced below. Scientific temper encompasses rationality, rights and responsibility in equal measure. It crystallizes what Tagore wanted India to be, namely, a nation. Where knowledge is free;.