Saturday, February 21, 2009

Freedom to question - Continues

Thank you for all the appreciation most of you gave me for my previous post “Freedom to question”. Of course, there were few criticisms too. I posted an abstract of it in a public forum as a reply to a question why Indian students are losing out on creativity. Subsequently, after I posted the abstract, the following was the comment

“I would disagree with the timelines. There were significant pioneering contributions from India in the fields of science, astronomy  and mathematics till ~1000 AD and am sure those would not have been made if people during that time were not questioning”

I followed with a question…

May I know the pioneering contributions from India in the fields of science, astronomy and mathematics till ~1000 AD? I know about “zero” being discovered in India. What else was discovered between 0 AD – 1000 AD ?

While there were several people who answered about the contributions done by Indians, some of which I wasn’t aware of, there was one reply that was very annoying.

Are you Indian?  I am not even talking abt the mind, body soul kind… Just plain citizenship wise, born and brought up in india, are you?

This was my reply to the above comment.

Thank you for that comment. You actually helped me in putting my word in a more understandable way. For your kind information, I am born and brought up in ‘Republic of India’. By mind, I want to work for scientific development of India, my soul I get touched by all the disheartening issues happening in our country and my body (Genetically, I believe I am Dravidian but I am waiting for genome sequence to get decoded and then I might undergo a test to know my ancestral origins.)… oh yeah.. when I die, my body will be mixed in Indian Soil.  Do you want to see a photocopy of my passport or birth certificate? ;-)

-- Continuing the discussion

In my earlier post, I stated that there is no freedom for questioning in India, look precisely that’s what happened here. I asked a question but in return my nationality gets questioned. Of course, asking someone’s nationality is also a question and I am OK with answering it. But what I want to highlight here is the manner in which it was questioned. It is not a particular person’s mistake - it is more of our general instinct. When someone questions us, instead of giving answers, we either try to silence them or question them such that they never ask questions again.

Note, this has happened in forum consisting of some of the most talented people of India. Imagine how hard it is for an ordinary person to ask a question in a public forum in India. He/she would get roasted with all sorts of comments until he/she compromises and adjusts with the people around.

Asking questions and finding right answers is of paramount importance when it comes to nation building. For that matter, asking questions and finding relevant answers is of paramount importance even when it comes to developing great software. I am sure many of you had brain storming sessions where every nook and corner of the application is questioned and discussed before it goes into market. Why? Because questions propel us to find right answers. And right answers help us in improving. Merely following what has been told to you ultimately results in collateral damage to the whole system.

Coming back to my question that I asked, May I know the pioneering contributions from India in the fields of science, astronomy and mathematics till ~1000 AD?

There is a reason why I asked that question. Scientific contributions have always existed in the darkest period of history. What makes the difference is whether it’s a pioneering contribution or just another contribution? No doubt, ‘zero’ was the pioneering contribution and I am sure there were many more contributions that we have failed to recognize and evangelize them globally such that contributors receive their formal recognition.

Part of the problem lies with the fact that we mixed our science with metaphysical reasons. Also, when you formally call something as science, one should be prepared for scientific scrutiny.

Consider for example the field of Vaastu-shastra, when my house was being constructed, someone suggested that Kitchen should have windows eastwards because it is Vaastu complaint. I asked him “why is it so?” He gave me some metaphysical reasons which had no relation with science. So, I spent some time researching and thinking, is there any scientifically valid reason for Kitchen having windows eastwards? And believe me, I found answers - sunlight consists of UV rays that kills bulk of the bacteria/germs. The intensity of UV spectrum of Sunlight increases from morning to noon and later decreases. Kitchens are generally the breeding grounds for bacteria and germs and having a window eastwards will bring in the UV rich sunlight killing the bacteria. Note, UV rays have harmful effects on humans, that’s why size of the window and it’s altitude also matters. Now, the obvious question arises that whether Vaastu-shastra is a branch of science or branch or something else? I believe that it started as a scientific study, but somehow when people failed to market it as science - they mixed some metaphysical reasons to sell it. Similar marketing tactics were used for other branches of sciences developed in India. When people started questioning about the validity of certain things, we started the culture of not questioning our elders. And even today’s that’s continuing.

Point to be noted, I am not trying to hurt anyone’s sentiments here. All am I saying is, we need to question to find the right answers. And unless we live in an environment where people are allowed to ask questions, there is a little chance of being the best in world in coming days.

February 14 5:28 PM

2009

1 comment:

jagadish said...

I landed from google search of "Freedom to question Vaastu shastra"
Thankfully your post has shown some practicality in vaastu Shastra. But I am quite skeptic if the modern indians would follow it.
And regarding some early contributions in the fied of science, technlogy and maths in India...here are few links,
"List of Indian inventions and discoveries" - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Indian_inventions
"History of Indian science and technology" - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Science_and_technology_in_ancient_India