No one believed when Copernicus proposed that the Sun was the centre of the solar system and the Earth and other planets revolved around it or when Galileo proposed the principle of the pendulum and the law of falling bodies. They were demonised and persecuted because they said something which was against the popular philosophical religious discourse at that time. Science, which in broad terms means inquisitiveness, rationality, urge to discover and invent, to find the truth and not to believe in what has been told even for centuries without evidence. Discussion and debate are the means to reach a conclusion and not imposition or aggression. Therefore many a time there has been contradiction, even conflict between those who believe in the philosophy of divinity & eternal and those who look for the reasons about the happenings in nature.
Belief systems have been prevalent in every society. The rationalist thought has to struggle to counter them with evidence. Belief to seek blessings of the divine, will stay for long time to come because the nature is so vast and endless that we will never be able to explore it fully. In the ancient times the events in nature were attributed to the celestial happenings and powers beyond our control. Belief in the unknown became a dictum, so must we fear from it. This fear was perpetuated through centuries of propaganda. Those who came up with different ideas were demonized as evil. Questioning would meet aggression, verbal or physical. We have the example of Rishi Charvak in our ancient times who was burnt alive when he tried to question the prevailing Brahminical discourse. Similarly Socrates was made to drink poison for his rational thoughts. But such people never relented from speaking the truth.
As the number of those who questioned has been less, the majority got swayed away by the constant propaganda of belief and fear of the unknown. Slowly this propaganda got organised and took the form of what became to be called as religion. Though the basic concept of religion was belief in the divine and fear of the unknown, the principles and practices varied in different parts of the world. To sustain in public life the religion tried to preach the values system. Whereas science believed in change, the philosophy of divinity was made dogmatic.
The ruling classes have used this to retain and cling to power. King was declared to be God sent. He cannot be questioned or opposed. This was done through clique between the clergy and the ruling circles.
As the society advanced, particularly after the period of renaissance, when new technological developments took place, the voice of rationality and reasoning increased. This has been reflected in some modern philosophies.
The inimical forces however have not taken this lying down. They have used different strategies and there is persistent effort to keep their thoughts alive by eulogising our ancient past, of which every citizen is naturally proud of. Several stories about our ancient past have been manufactured and propagated to appear as truth.
Efforts are being made to replace science by the Pseudo-science. The Prime Minister and his bandwagon have taken up this task. They have also promoted some religious preachers to serve them. Even the healthcare has not been left out. We have the statements about using Cow urine and cow dung as treatment for COVID even though they are waste products with no medicinal value. Worse was that people were made to clap, bang thalies and light Diyas to get rid of COVID in 21 days.
In the recent past such effort has increased manifold. The Prime Minister immediately after the elections in 2014, while addressing a meeting of the doctors in Mumbai, had said that science in ancient India was so much advanced that we could transplant elephants head on human body. Also the Ideas like Udan Khatolas (equivalent to modern space crafts), stem cell research and powerful ‘Astras’ (equivalent to nuclear weapons) are being propagated even though all this sans evidence. People’s mind set is prepared through constant propaganda to believe in such irrational ideas.
These forces always use such manufactured thoughts and people’s beliefs to garner crowds around them. First such trial was done in 1995, when mass hysteria was created around statues of Lord Ganesha drinking milk. This gave such forces an idea that the people can be mesmerized by such obscurantist ideas and may be used to any extent.
During the COVID that experiment was used by asking the people twice to bang Thalies and to clap and shout “Go Corona Go”. They believed in Prime Minister’s statement that we will defeat Corona in 21 days the way we won Mahabharta in 18 days.
The recent example is the frenzy created over the Pran Prathishta in the idol of Ram Lalla. These forces can turn the situation uncertain and volatile by creating hyper-nationalism, jingoism and aggression. No space is left for debate and rationality.
This will go on for some time. But the truth always prevails and scientific knowledge ultimately supersedes such mythical obsolete concepts. Not long after Galileo and Copernicus were persecuted, their theories were accepted worldwide.
Even today obscurantist ideas are being challenged continuously. Several people have challenged the concept of putting life into the stone through the ritual of Pran Pratishtha.
Dr Arun Mitra is a Practicing ENT Surgeon in Ludhiana, Punjab. He is also the President of Indian Doctors for Peace and Development (IDPD) www.idpd.org