Scientific thinking & all that goes with it

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Scientific thinking & all that goes with it

Thursday, 19 August 2021 | Vinayshil Gautam

Scientific thinking & all that goes with it

The scientific method requires evidence-based reasoning to navigate the uncharted domain

There is much emphasis in scholastic dialogues on the scientific method. This has roots, since ancient times, in many disparate, unlinked traditions, existing simultaneously. Confucius in the Chinese tradition, Chanakya in the Indian tradition, Socrates in the Greek tradition, laid emphasis on the scientific method. It requires evidence-based reasoning. In many cases, there is no choice because without reasoning it is difficult to set direction with confidence. Even so, it is equally important to realise that reasoning has its limits.Take the case of the theory that there is a God particle in every atom. An atom can be identified but the God particle cannot be. Sanatana theology for millennia has propounded that there is ‘Godliness’ in every element. It was dismissed as ‘hocus-pocus’ by the ultra-rationalists. Reconciliation of the two vantage points of perception in the preceding paragraph — ‘the presence of God particle in every atom' and ‘Godhood in every particle’ is yet to take place. Given the focus of this text, there is a need to examine the strengths and the limits of the scientific method. This is specially so in the current pandemic context. The globe is enveloped in several contradictions in understanding the pandemic situation. The origins of the pandemic are unclear. Worse, it has been politicised. The near-obsession with sanitisation involving masks, washing of hands, social distancing, etc., continues to be serenaded. There are parts of the worldtoday where combat and conflict are rampant. Afghanistan is a good example. It would be interesting to know the views of the Taliban on Covid-19 or is it that coronavirus cases are ‘non-existent’ in Afghanistan? Under such disturbing situations, the locus standi of scientific thinking becomes severely nebulous. So many aspects of the pandemic are under ceaseless debate. To what extent does the virus travels across surfaces? What is the antidote to the virus, at what stage of virulence? How does the reversal of the disease get organised? What are the collateral damages of the disease on the human body and to what extent can it be reversed, if at all? How effective are the vaccines? Are booster doses needed? Of what periodicity? The questions are endless.

The answers are limited. The confusion is extensive. Family, social, national, global debates are all over. Even maintaining sanity in domestic situations is up for grabs. The wonder is not that there is so much stress, anxiety and worse. The question is the sheer miracle of keeping a semblance of logic afloat. But the basic question remains, what is the strength of the logical force? To what extent can scientific thinking provide the answers? A prolonged period of home isolation has its effect on healthcare. Exercises and skincare would be only two of the several platforms on which the health dimension would have an effect. The solutions have to follow the scientific method. Whereas doctors, therapists and healthcare workers have attempted heroic levels of lateral diversification, the mismatch between the number and skills required to the response is huge. Whereas there is a progressive movement towards some clarity, there is also a lot that still looks like ‘fiddling with wires in the dark’. With all the connects that the scientific method is entitled to, there is a need to reinforce it with extrapolated experience, faith and spirituality. This would help in navigating the uncharted domain. Scientific thinking has to be reinforced with applied creativity. Applied creativity needs to include experiential reasoning. One has also to extrapolate distilled experiences. This may not be a matter of choice in certain areas. It may require a well-thought-out Delphi approach and more to navigate.

(The writer is a well-known management consultant. The views expressed are personal.)

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