Gona are the times when children were expected to remain silent in children were expected to remain silent in classrooms and around elders. Today, the world wants to hear the voices of youngsters. Their questions make leaders, thinkers, and scientists reflect on the path that humanity is trudging along. But to enable youngsters to ask the right questions, it's pertinent to instill in them the value of scientific temper.
Despite being a Constitutional mandate, few efforts are made by the collective society to include this vital value in the otherwise exhaustive menu of our value systems that we teach children. Why is this so?
We live in an era of deepfakes and fake news. Blindly believing unverified claims and unsourced information has resulted in riots and cost lives around the world, including in India, in recent years. The fine line separating reality from perceived realities has blurred beyond visibility in the digital era. In these troubled times, scientific temper is the only solace that can help us sift and find truth.
Scientific temper can be explained as a mindset that encourages curiosity. skepticism, and, most importantly, a willingness to question established beliefs. For instance, while encountering new, unheard information, a person with scientific temper would stop to think, ask questions, and seek explanations.
They will not jump into conclusions based on the face value. They will not allow their emotional response overtake logic. Scientific temper helps us actively engage with the world around us and understand it better. It helps us avoid knee-jerk reactions in sensitive situations, thereby preventing any unnecessary consequences.
Indian’s first Prime Minister, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru wrote about the importance of "scientific temper" in his book "Discovery of India" in 1946, stressing its necessity for everyone to think like scientists. This concept of scientific temper found its place in the Constitution, much later, in 1976.
It was included under clause (h) of Article 51A through the 42nd amendment. This amendment bestowed upon every citizen the duty to develop scientific temper, humanism, and the spirit of inquiry and reform." In 2014, the theme for the National Science Day was "Fostering Scientific Temper."
Developing a scientific temper helps an individual develop as a good citizen, and a good human being. It helps youngsters manage their professional and personal relationships with minimal conflicts, while contributing positively to their immediate society. It is a critical building block for a healthy democracy as well
Scientific temper values the importance of questioning established beliefs and being curious. This practice will make individuals voice their opinions and raise questions, thus facilitating collective input in decision-making processes. When students learn to think scientifically, they learn how to make smart choices and solve problems.
In professional settings, it helps them resolve conflicts. Manage teams, and succeed in large matrix structures.
Scientific temper has played a significant role in the development of India from a primitive civilization into a modern, emerging global war. Over generations, social reformers worked tirelessly to rid India of many, many social evils that arose from inherent superstitions. During this process, they appealed to the scientific temper of the general populace to shed their blind beliefs through reasoning and verbal articulation.
From human sacrifice to window remarriage, intouchability and religious divide- they addressed many issues. Some of these practices have been abolished from our contemporary society while other continues to haunt us even today. Only, continuous and concerted efforts to inculcate scientific temper will help our country move forward from narrow social constructs to embrace peace, prosperity, and pluralism.
Parents, educational institutions, media, and publishers of content for youngsters have a role to play in this process. As Nehru wrote, ‘’ what is needed is the scientific approach; the adventurous, the search for truth and new knowledge, the refusal to accept anything without testing and trial, the capacity to change previous conclusions in the face of new evidence… (This) should be a way of life.
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