Experiments with faith
It’s survey time again — the moment when we can pretend that some monumental insight has been provided into yet another human mystery. The Institute for the Study of Secularism in Society and Culture in Connecticut in connection with the Hyderabad-based Centre for Inquiry has found that 93 per cent of the 1,100 Indian scientists surveyed defined secularism as “tolerance for various religions”. This, of course, does not automatically mean that these scientists are believers themselves. But it does point to the fact that secularism, as defined by the practice of keeping faith and daily activities lives in separate compartments, does not apply to a majority of our scientists — or to our Constitution, come to think of it.
But what everyone is talking about with excitement is the fact that 26 per cent of the scientists ‘knew’ God exists, while 30 per cent believe in a higher power. In other words, 56 per cent of India’s scientists believe in something irrational. ‘How on earth does that make them real scientists’, say the astounded ones.
Well, if one does believe in the real definition of secularism — that you can drop by at the temple and then jaunt across to the lab without carrying God in your pocket — then a scientist, and a darn good one, can jolly well believe in the metaphysical. Like the old dogma about communists not being the Real McCoy if they live in comfort, there’s no logical reason why scientists have to be atheists.
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