While a handful of thinkers in the Hindu world are debating about the right planetary and zodiacal configurations on which the birthdays of divinities and other festivals are to be celebrated, India also observes National Science Day on February 28 (Gregorian calendar). Started just over two decades ago (1986), it is a day which inaugurates a whole month of Science-related and Science-inspiring activities, and also awards prizes for the best science-popularization efforts in magazines, newspapers, lectures, and books.
Most importantly, like Black History Month in the United States, the goal of Science Day is to raise science-consciousness among the masses, gradually weaning them away from outworn beliefs, silly superstitions, and a general fear of what science is all about. People are encouraged to watch the skies, locate stars and planets, do experiments and read science books.
We live in a world where, contrary to earlier hopes and expectations, science has come to be marginalized in the minds of many. The general public has been led to believe, thanks to academic philosophers who play clever I-gotchya-you logic, that science is just another way of describing the moon or appreciating the rainbow, and has no greater claims to knowledge than mythology, religious revelations, grand poetry, and speculative philosophy. Science is often seen by the public as no more than a tool for games and gadgetry, for medical technology, washing machines, and creature comforts. Then again, some zealous scientists, by degrading the religious dimension of the human condition, have created the impression that science is derisively religion-unfriendly, and is therefore more dangerous than desirable for human culture.
What needs to be emphasized is that the deeper essence of science expands our mind, enhances our appreciation of our world, and uplifts our spirit. These aspects must reinforced periodically in science courses and through public proclamations like Science Day.
Perhaps the United Nations Organization should follow India’s lead in this regard and declare a whole month as Science Month in all countries.
February 28, 2009