August 27, 2010
What kind of treatment really a title of this kind deserve? For one thing this cuts more juice than one can drink. Scientists, Indian scientist, westerner scientist, bias. And add to that the question of background of the author.
The back ground of the author is undoubted. He is undoubtedly a scientist. And everyone who knows this, knows that. This is also very dearly believed that he is a man of his own ways as much as he is a man of his own words.
So as the author of this topic, I need to stop on the temptation of self description and give a little justice to why I am speaking of such a bias. Does such a bias really exist? Has anyone else mentioned of such a bias? If there is plenitude of such a fact then how does the author, the renowned scientist, deals with such a mind blowing scene in the international scientific community? (Its mind clogging, any more, than its mind blowing, I tell you)
But before answering such an interesting (funny) topic I need to point out with the charm of direct speech or the so called literal meaning. Because the title is in itself a direct one, one usually does not see such direct hammering. First of all “why?” is a personal question. You may have heard the version of one scientists understanding of “why” and you may have come across another’s. And then yet another’s. It’s all interesting and depict something quite opposite to what we all hear in high school. That, in science we are often inspired to ask the why. And then each of the scientists above they come forth with the explanation that it’s not a why it’s a how. That differentiates a scientist from the not so ones. They know what the latter know from their training even if this training means a dogma which is carried out religiously. The scientists therefore can come up with clear insights like “it’s a how not a why”. The why is a personal question. The how is a technical question. Its in the details, it’s about the process and effects and not about our whims or arrogant rejection of truth. The latter, of which you may also come with trillions of examples, is personal while the former belong to the understanding of nature as much as it is a question of pure inquiry. Inquiry of that kind which comes up with answers of tremendous value has made our life worth living, despite of the pain nature inflicts on us, it also shows us way to alleviate such pain, without linking it to third power such as Gods. Nature is not amenable to religious manipulations. I may not know enough and I may not know complete picture of such a Universe. That makes my life worth living. But I know enough to say God is a third power as much as Natures ways are concerned. And I can take a beautiful trail in the midst of nature and not concern myself about my lack of knowledge towards the worldly affairs. Because in these worldly affairs a God seats with thousand smile when men so venerate him by making fun of their own intellect and succumbing into their fallibility by making their Gods and their beliefs about such Gods infallible.
Now that I have shown you the charm of direct speech I may not continue onto the other such personal depictions in the title. But I just initiated my essay. So now I must take into the meaning of bias. Well, showing a little less restraint than I intend I am attracted to using the language of science again, to replace bias by prejudice. Because in doing so I would be more personal, in line with the punch of my topic title. Bias is often understood in science as a measured or a measurable variable that must be taken into account to reach a desired result or a technical tool to understand something. That is bias is a systematic change or a change introduced by a system and as much we are trying to understand that change we are trying to understand the system as well. They are interconnected and bias therefore is a necessary variable in any study of the system. And nature is a system. And it must be devoid of a God because God may interfere with nature with his whims and nature doesn’t like that. But if you contrast bias with prejudice although they may be used interchangeably in a social perspective you will do yourself some good by realizing that prejudice is like a social stigma. That prejudice is a social variable and therefore the very fact that one society can hold it against another is a fact enough to create further prejudices and not further knowledge about such prejudices. That is, one prejudice will lead to another like in a chain reaction. It’s like an epidemic. A bias on the other hand leads to further understanding or just a blind spot. Period. Therefore my topic title must read:
“Why there is so much prejudice ………….” And if I would have done so you might have come up with your answer “You know people can really be ignorant about others culture to a degree they consider the others culture to be inappropriate”. But I made a mistake which I realize now. Because of that I gained some insight. But now that we are here discussing many interesting ideas so far, what’s really the role of this topic title??
But this is exactly where I hit my nail. Or I would prefer to. Hasn’t the so called western society been propagating a culture of science whose torch bearers are held with high esteem? And when these torch bearers have shown the path in science, they hardly called upon themselves as great Greek soldiers and great European scientists. Their voice did reach beyond the continents. And of such luminaries all were almost westerners although I have to do a research to find out exactly when the word westerner was created. Because such luminaries as Galileo and Einstein and Newton and Tesla are held with great veneration in the non-western world. Well the first three are venerated with a zeal that doesn’t cut any resemblance with geographic, nationalistic or cultural linkage. So the whole prejudice of “western scientist Newton” doesn’t cut any meaning at all. And such prejudice is not only meaningless it won’t find any adherent either, except in the perennially stupid. But the 4th of the list I gave here is a well accepted scientist from the western shores well into the non-western shore possibly because his genius and scientific temperament being well accepted in the west was transferred to the non-west via literature and media and communication and with time people came to know about him, from where he is not from.
So there is possibly no prejudice in the minds of non-westerners that many great scientists and thinkers of present and recent times (many centuries) are westerners. But this whole concept of being a westerner is such a whack. What the hell we really mean when we say westerner?? I mean Minneapolis is west of Winnipeg. So is someone more learned in the ways of science if he is from Minneapolis? “Well you know we usually mean the west of the globe and east of the globe.” I see what you mean by a westerner. You fought 3 wars on the scale of the west and then called it world war (or two?) based on the fact that the world is in danger because of one particular type, the Nazis. I think the history of western wars is so less understood by me that I tend to call these wars of whims rather than wars of any real animosity.
(And excuse me the world is in danger because of us human beings and not because of the nuclear weapon, many people devoted their whole lives to prove just this and won many peace prizes, but also to their credit there is no more war involving the nuclear weapons. but there still are wars, everywhere, Palestine Vs Israel, Iraq Vs Hegemony, Iran Vs axis of whim)
And now it’s all become “one west”. What is it which is so unificatingly true about all the westerners (the Japanese people sometimes think themselves a part of the western bandwagon) Is it a blind race theory? The skin tone? Because if that’s so the westerner is yet to see the non-westerner in its full variation. And since my topic may consider Indians as the lot facing that as a prejudice the westerners is yet to see the full Indian spectrum. But there could be something unificatingly stigmatized in the Indian and erroneously associated with the scientific output of the same. Like every other stigma this needs to be taken with importance and save him from the vilification. Eg I have read many stories about the glorious past of India in contributing towards science. This is mostly written by the Indians themselves. But this doesn’t have the desired outcome.
(To my knowledge even many other countries have similar responses towards the seemingly “western” prejudice towards their scientific contributions. But I think this is quite closely linked with what you may call “internet mob”, One guy writes something, the other likes the idea behind it and then propounds his own version about something and it propagates before forming a formidable myth)
But to bring forth the desired outcome one needs to consider a lot of factor. Such as establishing truly scientific enterprise with an academic purpose not necessarily with an academic rigor. I think an academic rigor is less important than a scholastic investigation. And such a topic can really be an interesting effective research object of an anthropologist, a sociologist, a philosopher and a scholar of religious study or the historians of science. The fact that there are folks in such academic spheres but they are writing merely to propound their master’s credibility, when this master is a Nehru or Indira or name any so called visionary statesman who propounded science in India, they are doing a disservice to the goal of seeking truth and as such their studies can not be taken very seriously. If a scholar does not use or leverage his scientific tools towards exploration of truth it’s not scholarly, actually. And if, today the west doesn’t know much about Indian science its because, somewhere down the line of history, all the scholars, the scientists, the truth seekers and the philosophers and the researchers they all became slaves to their masters and when they were beating drums of independence music and irritating lore of folk chirping and shouting and what not they were doing a dis-service to the nation as well as to the inter-nation and the international community.
I believe and very honestly believe that I am right, that the west is sometimes quite prejudiced in not respecting the true colors of Indian science but India is as much a culprit of their own behavior and narcissistic pleasure in forgetting to discover their true self and making a 100 scriptures of noting their true scientific heritage, linkages, history and vision because they are always busy somewhere else which are often mindless pursuits at large.