(This is the message of Comrade Krishna Chakraborty, Member, Polit Bureau, SUCI(C), sent to the All India Science Conference organized by Breakthrough Science Society in Bangalore from 17 to 19 October, 2014)
Dear President and Newly Elected Members of the Council of Breakthrough Science Society,
I had a deep desire to be physically present at this historic Science Conference of yours. But unfortunately, I was suddenly laid down by a severe viral attack and had to be shifted to the hospital. It is still not certain when I would get discharged. Hence this written message.
A science conference of this kind that you have organized with the renowned scientists, research scholars, science students and people interested in science and a conference with the aim of truly practising science, developing scientific attitude and method of thinking and for cultivation of human values that only science can show to us, is no doubt a unique venture.
It is no doubt a noble endeavour at the same time, particularly, when true scientific bent of mind, method of study and cultivation of higher human values have become rare not only in our country but in the whole world. I am constrained to say that such qualities can hardly be found even in those who are seriously engaged in studying sciences. Naturally, it is a noble struggle, but a very difficult challenge at the same time.
You know the history of development of modern sciences. It started from the middle of the fifteenth century, with Copernicus. Science had to develop in a very hostile environment when Giordano Bruno was burnt alive because of his pursuit of science and his fight against established religious beliefs. Almost similar was the fate of Galileo who also had to face inquisition. No great struggle of the world has developed in favourable condition so far. It had to face stiff opposition from the ruling class and most conservative religious heads who feared science. In feudal conditions of life a vast majority of the people were victims of prejudices, superstitions and obscurantist ideas. Blind faith was the greatest obstacle to the struggle not only in those days but also for the present as well. The bourgeoisie who in the rising period of capitalism fought for development of social production and for that had to fight for the development of sciences, is afraid of science today in the period of overproduction due to lack of market. So, even today the most powerful section of the society, that is, the bourgeoisie who rule are the greatest enemy of science. Why? It is because science tells the truth. Science shows that everything changes and changes from quantity to quality, from the lower to the higher. You should always keep in mind that in this material world nothing is permanent, nothing is absolute, nothing is all perfect. Of course at a given time there is a highest development of a thing. But with change of time it becomes inadequate and imperfect. In course of change and development, reaching its nodal point, again it undergoes radical change. No phenomenon can avoid this process. The bourgeoisie also knows that capitalism also must go. And they fear this very truth.
There is a popular saying as well as a belief even within the educated section of the people because of long and vicious propaganda, that science may give worldly goods but cannot deliver peace of mind or solace. If you analyse this motivated propaganda or belief of the ignorant, you can easily see that nothing can be more dangerously misleading and confusing than this. The fact is that man finds peace of mind only when he comes to know the truth. But truth of what?
Truth of the material world. What do we mean by truth of the material world? Material world means nature, society and thought in their correlation and integration.
All branches of science have proved beyond doubt that nature is infinite and will go on changing and developing infinitely. Nothing can exist beyond nature, nothing is therefore supernatural. Again this material world is governed by objective laws. This material world existed and will go on existing independently of human consciousness. Even when man was not born, nature existed and was governed by objective laws. Man tried to know this material world from the very beginning, even when he was in primitive society and his thinking was also primitive. In course of millions of years of struggle man found an instrument, science, to know the material world and its reality. And that method is a systematic analysis of anything on the basis of observation, experimentation and verification. Firstly, science does not accept anything to be true unless it is experimented and verified in a scientific way. Secondly, it believes that this material world is governed by objective laws. That this objective material world is governed by objective laws means, laws do not exist because of man’s likes or dislikes. Thirdly, it believes that these objective laws can be known only by following this process of analysis, observation, experimentation and verification and by no other means.
Those who think that science cannot bring solace to mind, what process do they follow to know the truth? The fact is that they do not have any process. They blindly believe in the sayings or predictions of great men. But however great a man can be, he cannot find truth simply by meditation or ‘heavenly power’. And their findings can hardly be experimented and verified.
Friends, you should never forget that only truth can give peace and solace of mind and establish justice in this society. Those who tell that science cannot bring solace to mind they also read sciences but believe in some supernatural power. So you will find that many lecturers of science at the universities keep tilak or vermilion on their forehead and shave their heads at Tirupathi. Though all do not do it consciously but still it is a hypocrisy. All branches of science have shown that there exists nothing beyond nature, everything is part of nature or natural. They read these things in books academically but do not believe in them. Their truth lies in blind belief and faith. Blindness brings fanaticism and regimentation of thought. The more the blindness, the more the fanaticism, and that lays the solid foundation for the growth of fascism and not democracy. You should never forget that blindness is the enemy of science and so of man.
All should know and remember that in history science could grow speedily and could develop in the most free and open atmosphere where discussions, debates, polemics on the basis of philosophical tolerance were encouraged in the society at the beginning of the Bourgeois Democratic Revolution. But today that very bourgeoisie, being afraid of their very ultimate doom, are gagging the voice of the opponents, killing the atmosphere of debate and discussions, trampling down all democratic norms and values. You must wage determined struggle against it, and fight out these most undemocratic trends and tendencies and ensure free and open exchange of different thoughts, for true democracy that finally gives birth to truth.
One more important condition under which science can develop is secular atmosphere. Bourgeois Democratic Revolution in its initial days fought against all religious fads, supernatural beliefs and obscurantist ideas. One of the great pioneers of renaissance, Jean Jacques Rousseau said that man is born free, but everywhere he is in chains. ‘Break the chains, break the fetters’ were the slogans of the bourgeoisie during the rising period of capitalism. Now at the dying stage of capitalism, the bourgeoisie has distorted and diluted the concept of secularism which started with non-recognition of any supernatural entity and reduced it to the concept of encouraging all religions. The dialectics of capitalism has forced the bourgeoisie to go against the idea on which bourgeois renaissance movement started. You friends, who are fighting for growth of science should stubbornly fight against this motivated distortion of secularism.
Some are so blind as to say whatever you see today, say aeroplanes, rockets etc., all were there in our ancient India. Modern science has only taken from those things. These people clearly do not understand the difference between mythology and history. There are exaggerations, imageries, fantastic similes, wild contemplations etc., in all mythologies. In Greek mythology some of the Greek heroes could go to the sky with just sandals on their feet. Likewise there are angels and fairies in all fairy stories. Are there truly any angels or fairies in reality?
There are no such things in reality. But they are not totally unreal also. But how to resolve this paradox then? Man cannot think anything which is not there in the material world. Then how could this happen in fairy stories? It could happen because there are beautiful ladies and children and there are birds which fly with their wings and there is desire of man to fly. So in imagination one can cut the wings of the birds and add it to the bodies of the beautiful ladies and children and dream them to be flying.
In this connection, I would like to tell you a fact that happened in my life. In Chennai, one gentleman who belonged to rationalist movement attended one of my discussions. He was so impressed that after the discussion he met me and presented one of their publications. Next, when he met me he asked me how I liked that. I told him, ‘If you do not mind I could not appreciate your logic. You try to prove that the Hanuman could neither carry the hill on his hand nor could he put the rising sun under his arm pit far less could it make a jump to reach Lanka crossing the sea. I would not have read Ramayana or Mahabharata unless there were some such things in them.’ While the rationalists ridicule these things, the vast majority of our people blindly put faith on them, believing that those feats could be really performed by Bajrangbali. Both the sections took things in extremes, none of them could understand that this was the form of art of writing epics of those days.
However, the propagandists of old Indian heritage relate those ‘achievements of the past’ with national heritage. They are so ignorant of the historical development of society that they do not know even this preliminary thing, that, not to speak of Vedic age, even during feudalism there were no nations anywhere in the world. Nation is the product of Bourgeois Democratic Revolution like the French Revolution, the Industrial Revolution of England, the American War of Independence, etc., or the freedom movement of our country. We became a nation after 1947. Before that, though there were many nationalities, there was no nation in India. The nation was in the making during the freedom movement.
These people talk of old national heritage, glorify the achievements of the past so much so that they do not look to the future but look to the past. They propagate that our Vedic science is a great science. So all should learn Vedic science, Vedic mathematics, etc. A vast section of the people blindly believe in this. They say in the past we were so great, we had everything. They say what is there to learn from the Britishers, we were so great that when we were in great civilization they were in the jungle. You perhaps read some of the works of great novelist Sarat Chandra Chatterjee. He was not just a great novelist: a great novelist he was of course, but a philosopher as well. He understood that this idea of so-called old national heritage will make our students and youths blind and fanatic and thus will obstruct the growth of their intellectual and cultural ability. They must have scientific approach to history. This is why addressing the students and youths in one of his speeches he said, “I do not feel any pride to loudly declare we were so great — ‘you the Britishers are nothing in comparison to our old civilization.’ In reply to that if the Britishers say that if you were so great then why you were once under the feet of Huns, then the Pathans, then the Moghuls, and now under our feet? Then also I feel ashamed to dig out the history of the past and say you Britishers, you were also under such and such peoples one day. I say Britishers you are great. You have built up a great civilization but we have also all the potentials to become great. This nobody can suppress. Even you cannot.”
See the difference between these two approaches! They say go to the past; the past was so glorious. They magnify glory of the past. Can you really go back to the past? Many like to go back to childhood because in the present-day society all-pervading crises, not only economic, political and social but also ethical, moral and cultural, all these together have made life unbearable, suffocating. So we imagine how beautiful was the life of our boyhood and girlhood. No worries; go to the school; if there is rain on the way get drenched in that and ask the teacher to give leave. Then one goes to play and enjoys life. But objectively or historically can we really go back to boyhood or girlhood days? That is a simple and pure dream. That is historically not possible. This is equally true for the society. More so, boyhood and girlhood definitely have potential but are surely not greater than youthful days. Only in youthful days a man or woman can attain very high level, both physically and intellectually. But critically speaking, of course mentally you can go back to past. That means you have made your thinking itself old. Thereby you have made yourself thinking wise and old though you are physically young. That is, your ideas will be the ideas of people of two thousand or three thousand years old. That is not really modern thoughts. That is highly backward, reactionary and not progressive. Again Sarat Chandra Chatterjee says to the youths, in what language can we define youth and the old age? He says, ‘He is old who fears to look to the future, who lives in the past and fears to get dislodged from the past. He likes to spend the last part of his life clinging to the past. Otherwise he feels he would be dislodged in life and become insignificant. Here is the victory of the youths. Youths are those to whom past is nothing more than past. The lessons of the past brighten up their future.’ And this is the real and progressive concept of life.
Friends, I know you will not get confused by the confusions of the ignorant or get misled by this reactionary propaganda. Rather you will definitely carry this idea to the vast masses of the people particularly the youths and students who are innocent victims of this mischievous propaganda. This of course is a very blunt propaganda, but there are other propaganda or confusions as well, which are more subtle. Those who do not so bluntly cling as the above mentioned motivated and innocent people to imaginary achievements of mythological stories, some of them magnify true achievements of ancient India as the manufacturing of steel and the mathematics of Aryabhatta or the achievements of Sushrutha in medical science. Those were no doubt big achievements in those days. But, for whatever reasons their ideas could not be advanced further. So they remained backward. What we call modern science did not develop on the findings of those days of India. As I have already mentioned and you all know, this started with Copernicus.
There was an attempt during the first BJP rule at the Centre to introduce astrology in the university curriculum. Many believe that astrology is a science. Others who are not that blunt also believe astrology to be a pseudo-science. But the fact is that it is not just pseudo-science it is anti-science. Astrologers believe in fate and fatalism and not in objective material world. In some of my discussions earlier by citing an example I tried to make this point clear. We fear darkness. Why? Because in darkness we cannot see what lies before us. We do not know whether there is a snake or a tiger or a pit or a hole or thorny bushes in the front. So we fear to move ahead. But if we have a torch in our hand that throws powerful light in front of us and brightens it up so much so that even a speck of sand can be clearly seen, then we can easily find out our path and can walk on that boldly. That way man has advanced and built today’s civilization with the help of science. No astrology can and neither could achieve it. Because real science throws light on the material world, reveals its hidden laws and thus shows the path, while astrology throws light on our eyes that makes dark future still darker and obstructs our progress.
Lastly, I will tell you about a serious confusion about science. Both the motivated campaigners against science and the ignorant section of the people to which even many academically qualified people like lecturers, professors of the universities belong, believe that science gives us professional knowledge and not ethical or moral sense or concept of values. This is the most dangerous confusion. Actually the correlated knowledge of science has developed, which only can develop sense of higher ethical and moral principles and value concepts. All branches of science have got their own ethics, so also medical sciences are having medical ethics. It shows that science has developed very high sense of ethics of modern times. And those who have truly developed this higher ethics, only they became great scientists, as we see in the cases of Copernicus, Bruno, Galileo, Lavoisier, Newton, Einstein, Marie Curie, Louis Pasteur and others. They all have reflected very high cultural and ethical standards in their personal lives. They had fought against the age-old ethics and value concepts to uphold truth and higher ethics. For this Copernicus had to suffer whole of his life; Bruno sacrificed his life; Galileo had to face inquisition. And see the ethics of Einstein; he says whatever I take from the society, say, for example the shirt I use, the food I take all are the products of society and social labour. This obliges me to pay back in equal measure to the society. It is a high ethical concept and a social value as well. Madame Marie Curie could, and in fact was requested by many, to patent her great finding — the radium. This could make her one of the richest persons of the world. But she stubbornly refused it. She desired that this should serve even the needy people. This is a very high social value.
Today when all old value concepts have become totally exhausted, the correlated knowledge of science alone can develop real sense of ethics and social values. Our way of life should be that we practice what we believe in. You should believe in it. Those who read all these ethical concepts from text books but do not believe in them, rather believe in the age-old concepts of ethics and morality, they try to take the country back to that feudal period. But by only fighting these old concepts of ethics and morality and the value concepts and replacing them with higher ethics and morality and social values which are historically developing in social life can we advance our country forward. This is true for all countries of the world.
In this context we should also remember to give recognition to the contribution to human knowledge of any people of any nation which is a high ethical concept. When in blind glorification of so-called national sentiments, we forget the contributions of others, it is highly unethical. The fact is that in the vast field of knowledge of modern sciences and in the other fields of knowledge also Indians have made very little contribution. It demands higher ethics and true modesty to accept this fact. History of development of modern sciences will definitely show to anyone who is freed from prejudices that, except in a few fields of science like the contributions of Jagadish Chandra Bose, Prafulla Chandra Roy, Satyen Bose, Meghnad Saha, C.V.Raman and others, Indians have very few contributions in developing the vast treasure of modern sciences. Only by admitting this fact with all humility, we shall be able to contribute to human knowledge.
We shall never forget that knowledge has no national boundary. Without the knowledge of Copernicus and Galileo, Newton would not have come in history. So also without the knowledge of Newton, the emergence of Einstein would have been an impossibility. I have named a very few. The emergence of Einstein’s thought is the coordination and assimilation of the ideas of very many scientists who appeared before him and during his time. Einstein gives recognition to this fact. He said that today’s science could develop only by standing on the solid foundation that his predecessors had laid down.
Another great scientist Louis Pasteur, pointed out that knowledge has no nation or national boundary. Knowledge is the product of the struggle of the entire mankind. Those who narrow down knowledge with national character and confine it within the national boundary, knowingly or unknowingly, they actually obstruct the development of the whole country, while chanting nationalist mantra.
Lastly, man so also animal fight for life against nature. But the difference between the two is basically that in course of struggle animals can per chance survive, otherwise perish. They are victims of natural laws. But man because of his power of thinking not only survived but has been conquering nature increasingly. This is not because man can change objective laws. Objective laws of nature, society and thought neither can be created far less can be destroyed. Then how does man change the material world? This is because with the help of science, man has come to know that laws of nature or society work under favourable conditions. Man has known that laws cannot operate under unfavourable conditions. So, man can create favourable conditions in which life grows, society advances. But man can neither create nor destroy objective laws of nature and society but with the help of science, man has learnt that he can create favourable conditions for those laws which help him to grow and develop, so also create unfavourable conditions for those laws which harm the society. Thus, man could create present civilization and will be creating still higher conditions of life with the help of science. Those who do not understand this objective process of development of life and society, they are to know it. But those who oppose this concept virtually obstruct the growth of life and hence are enemies of mankind.
The message may appear to be a long one but I shall not be held responsible for this. Confusions in the field of science are so many and so deep that this could not but take the space. Still then I could not deal with some other minor confusions which also need to be fought out. This I may try in future.
At the end I again congratulate you and not just hope but believe that you would make your science movement victorious.
With best wishes,