This wide world has got its benevolent principles and petty prejudices. Noble virtues are juxtaposed with ignoble vices. Laziness and lethargy versus alertness and activeness. In other words, an antagonism prevails between original and duplicate. So also the discord between science and pseudo-science.
The challenge to scientific progress is not obscurantism but ignorance in the form of pseudo-science. This positive versus negative seems to be with an order or disorder of the day. Therefore it is the bounden duty of every right thinking person to restore the orderliness to its proper perspective. Otherwise, this unending war between currency and counterfeit will continue to be forever. Let us see, in the meanwhile how far the pseudo –science plays a role in public life.
The pseudo science such as astrology and numerology in modern world, and the real science are distinguishable. But the tragic irony is that Carl Sagan, an eminent astronomer-scientist brings out a long list of astrological predictions and beliefs that are well-grounded and deeply rooted, even in countries where science is predominant. It makes us feel and say what Thomas Gray observes that “ignorance is bliss and it is folly to be wise”.
Despite our strong belief in science, pseudo science and superstitions keep on getting their way. Frequent tragedies in the deep waters of Bermuda and dead people manipulate with the hands of the living are all the examples of pseudo science.
It easily gains currency into the mass of public by addressing to their emotional needs. The notion of achieving our hopes with hard work and good luck is rather enchanting and seductive. Believers in luck are still proliferating rather than putting in hard work.
Religions all over the world prove to be the nurseries of pseudo-science. In a number of countries, even high –level government leaders, apart from the general public believe in precognition and astrology.
In Algeria, for example there are about 10,000 soothsayers and clairvoyants and of whom roughly one half, practice the trade with a license from the government. Commoners in Britain believe in ghosts. Japanese young women are the clientele of thousands of fortune-tellers. In Thailand’ physical ailments are treated with pills manufactured from powdered Scripture sheets.
Astrology is rife in India as geomancy is widespread in China. In China astrology was deemed as a potential art and an exclusive property of the emperor. Private use of it by the Chinese public is a capital offence. Ronald Reagan, the former American President relied on an astrologer both in public and private matters without this being known to his countrymen. Crucial decision-making in the country is thus in the hands of the charlatans.
The most successful recent global pseudo science in India is the popularly televised Hindu doctrine of transcendental meditation. Even among innocent young minds, its founder Mahesh Yogi is almost a God. He is said to have occult powers to diminish the crime rate in Washington and to have collapsed the Soviet union, even though there is no smattering of real evidence to prove those claims.
In Tsarist Russia, scientific thinking was ruthlessly expunged – but religious superstition was encouraged. But in communist Russia, even though pseudo-science was suppressed, critical thinking was neither recognized nor was it taught in the schools.
Western pseudo-science emerged in China, where Chinese practices astrology and fortune telling. The government of China laments that superstition of feudal ideology is getting revived in rural areas and activities of superstition and ignorance have been growing.
This global scenario of the effect of pseudo-science is comparable to that of what Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre recount – an historical event that took place on the dawn of India’s Independence.
Due to a simmering political pressure, Lord Mountbatten spontaneously announced that the final transfer of power to Indian hands will take place on Friday, the 15th of August 1947, unaware of the belief, ofcourse false, that the day was inauspicious. He was protested for having done this without consulting the most powerful occult body in India, the jyotishers or the astrologers.
As soon as the radio announced the date fixed by Mountbatten, astrologers from the holy city of Benares, Calcutta and many places in the South began predicting a magnitude of disasters to the country. Particularly one Swami Madmanad wrote to Mountbatten that the day was cursed by the stars and so floods, famine and massacred will follow. Hence he further appealed that the date must be postponed.
Now, is that the reason why India suffers from abject poverty, unemployment, pestilence and floods? To unlearn the ingrained superstitions in our Indian psyche is a very difficult task. Is it not?
Our nation is a bundle of contradictions and confabulations. When we refer Indian Constitution Article 51-A, it says that it shall be the duty of every citizen of India to develop scientific temper, spirit of enquiry, humanism and reform. But what we are reminded of, is the global scenery that is pictured above.