[Editorial] Science Vs Pseudo-Science – The Truth and The Lies

Arrogant? Really?

That’s how it is. Science has long lived with the ignominy of being called arrogant. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Scientists not only collect data from experiments and observations, but they spend day-after-day establishing error bars, which are a measure of how confident they are of their own results. Years are spent trying to justify hypotheses and building theories. It’s the utmost test of humility. Theories are accepted on the basis of how many times they have been proved correct, not how long they have existed. In fact, the older a scientific theory is, the greater its chances of undergoing a revision. Tradition means nothing. Modern science is more correct than science a few decades old. Try this: Take out the pioneering papers of any science subject. You should see, first hand, how much things have changed since the 1930‘s or 1950‘s (if you’re into physics) or 1859 (if you’re into biology). Self-correction is such an integral part of science that the two might be considered synonyms.

Popcorn and the Pope: One can hold popcorn for love-struck couples at a movie theatre and the other, well...

Compare this with our belief systems. No religion has liked persistent questioning, preferring instead to force a veil of respect along with numerous attempts at gagging free speech. No religious leader has ever stressed the incompleteness of his (and it’s never her’) beliefs (As Dawkins once put it, Has a clergy ever said from the pulpit We are waiting for more evidence’?). How many times have you heard the word authority’ in the religious context? How many times have you been told to kneel in reverence of the person in the elaborate white garb? Is the garb a standard of proof? Apart from the necessary attire the lab coat for protection, the space-suit for survival or the mere shirt-trouser combination for covering oneself up science has never required any practitioner to dress abnormally.

Signing off…

Carl Sagan once wrote, Not explaining science seems to be preserve. When you’re in love, you want to tell the world. Science is too wonderful not to fall in love with, but, for many, too high-maintenance to stay in love. However, attractiveness of charlatans like Uri Gellar or Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (or transcendental meditation fame) or the garden variety astrologer or religious teacher pale in comparison with the wonder of a truthful explanation of a natural phenomenon, even though it might be partial.

Curiosity is integral to everyone’s mental toolkit. Being curious about Atlantis, Near Death Experiences or psychic powers is, thus, natural. But there is much more out there than you can dream up in your philosophy. Carl Sagan, always wise, puts it beautifully, There are wonders enough out there without inventing any.

Published by

Debjyoti Bardhan

Is a science geek, currently pursuing some sort of a degree (called a PhD) in Physics at TIFR, Mumbai. An enthusiastic but useless amateur photographer, his most favourite activity is simply lazing around. He is interested in all things interesting and scientific.