Mark Watney, the character played by Matt Damon in the 2015 Hollywood blockbuster The Martian is stranded all alone on Mars. But he announces defiantly that the only way he can survive and return to Earth is to “science the shit out of this!” This quote came as music to the ears of scientists worldwide, and all those who saw science as the all-redeeming vehicle for seeking truth, and the sole authority to make life better for us earthlings has generally been assumed by the larger public. But is it really so?
To begin with, what we accept as science is what is published in academic journals after experimentation and after scrutiny by expert reviewers. But recent evidence points out that several experiments published in reputed journals are not always replicable – meaning they do not yield the same results when the experiment is performed again. In other words, the science behind the experiments may not be reliable or worse, fake. Continue reading “Science, truth and modesty”→
Whenever scientists achieve a breakthrough in understanding the fundamental laws of nature, it is often accompanied by an age-old question: has science nailed its final nail on the coffin of religion? This debate was reignited in 2016 with the detection of gravitational waves.
The West has always been fascinated with accounts of the East. While there is no unique “Western” or “Eastern” culture, scholars on both ends of the globe have practiced an “exoticisation” of Eastern systems of beliefs and traditions. This may limit the wider engagement with a plurality of ideas prevalent either in the West or the East.
In 2013, Queen Elizabeth II granted a posthumous pardon to British computer pioneer, Alan Turing. This came almost six decades after he was (sadly) convicted of “gross indecency” for having an affair with another man. His conviction overshadowed his significant contributions to the field of theoretical computer science and even put an unfair, early end to his life.
Theoretical scientist and astronomer Stephen Hawking recently warned that the best way to ensure the survival of humanity was to “spread out into space, and to other stars, so a disaster on Earth would not mean the end of the human race.” On the brighter side, he added that the end of planet Earth would become a certainty only in the “in the next 1,000 or 10,000 years.” Still, the search for habitable planets has gained momentum with efforts led by government agencies like NASA and billionaire entrepreneurs like Elon Musk.
Humanism is the ethical and philosophical stance that emphasizes the value of human beings, affirmed by their ability to improve human lives through reason. We do not know if Hawking and Elon Musk call themselves “humanists”, but they do believe that the challenges of this age demand new and ingenious solutions even if it goes against conventionally accepted wisdom. Interestingly, a group of alternative medical practitioners in the Renaissance Era, the Paracelsians , also believed that theirs was a “violent age”. The Paracelsians sought new sources to solve the challenges of their age—including mystical. divine and occult sources—as Allen Debus elaborates in his book, Man And Nature In The Renaissance. Continue reading “The Mystical Origins of Modern Science and Medicine”→