Western science has been dominating the world in its present form since seven to eight centuries. And being scientifically minded has become the tenet of modern living. Cultivation of scientific temper has become the norm and culture of present day. The havoc that has been and being caused by religiously fanatic people is immense and many “rationalists” have sprouted throughout the world condemning religions and associated demerits. They started attacking religion with the strength attained by scientific inventions and discoveries. But it should be noted that rationalism and scientific spirit are present right from the beginning of the civilizations. And the rationalists after Copernicus’s observations have been trying to monopolize rationalist thinking; their rationalism just confined to criticizing the religions and anything related to religion. And they thus became another set of narrow-minded sect in addition to existing religious and ideological sects and factions.
Scientific spirit and rationalism are in-built in human beings; just as aesthetics and faith. The onslaught on religions has undermined the advantage of faith in human learning, setting their behaviors, and getting solace in times of distress and disturbance. Science and religion are dubbed as diametrically opposite organizations of human endeavor. Even current rationalists have become faithful to their rationalism refusing to see the advantages of religion and also of spirituality objectively. It is well known that in all religions; spiritual persons are present, then, now and later too. Thus it becomes obvious that spirituality is beyond and despite religion, language, region, nation, ideology like divisions.
Thus rationalism equated with scientific research, even though all disciplines and endeavors of humans need both rationalism and faith. Many may find this statement a paradox. It is not so, which will be obvious once this article is read. It is a wrong concept that rationalism and faith are opposites. In reality they supplement and complement human pursuits, worldly, secular, scientific, artistic, religious or spiritual.
First let us define scientific temper which is same as scientific spirit. Scientific temper is just not joining science courses and learning science and technology subjects, and talking about science and technology. Scientific temper is an attitude of mind. With such a cultivated mind both science and philosophy together with spirituality seek and experience truth. What is truth?
Truth is what it is or as it is irrespective of perceptions of the individuals. Reality is what “we” see of truth; how much we see of truth. Reality is always dictated by our mental make-up, likes, dislikes, limitations in our ability and willingness to see, view, comprehend and accept the truth. Reality is individual’s perception of the truth. Truth, most of the times, is only perceived and rarely understood or experienced. Scientific temper helps to understand and experience truth beyond our perceptions.
Real situations are compromised states of existence in the attempt of pursuit of the truth. Scientific temper makes us transcend these compromised states of mind. We all talk about truth limited by our perception and not the truth most of the times. We have compulsions inbuilt, acquired or imagined not to accept the truth and allow truth to be spoken or spread through us. But truth is a flowing river. It may flood us but it never dries up. On the other the reality is like a stagnated lake. Our fear of repercussions taking place if we speak, accept or propagate truth, make us real and not truthful. Our scientific temper makes us more objective and makes us pursue truth dispassionately.
Thus scientific temper is not joining science and technology courses or talking derogatively of religion and spirituality and claim to be rationalists. Rationalism is sharpened and made objective when scientific temper is cultivated. Most of the times, we are not truthful. We are all limited and confined to our perceptions of truth. Truth is best revealed when understood or experienced.
Thus truth is completely known or allowed to be known by possessing scientific temper. The fears, imaginations, illusions shape our perceptions and our comprehension of the truth. Many times it appears that no absolute truth exists or known, perceived or understood and experienced. Just as feelings and perceptions of good and bad and other qualities, truth is also relative as “truth to me”, “truth to him”, “truth to you”, “truth to them” and a truth accepted by all is not possible and available to be expressed, accepted or spread and we all mistake our perceptions of truth as truth without understanding or experiencing the truth. Scientifically tempered mind avoids all these pitfalls and journeys smoothly to the goal of experiencing truth and understanding it detached from personal preferences.
Knowledge is compared to light. Brilliance, shine and illumination are its traits knowledge as of light. Acquiring real knowledge makes one scientific and one will have scientific temper. Real knowledge makes one open minded to receive new information and judge its truth-content and usefulness to humanity unbiased by one’s convictions, logic, faith or preferences and like that. Such a person has scientific temper. Merely having rationalist thinking unaided by information available by using faith will be mere rhetoric and mechanical.
Knowledge is also gained and understood through intuition. Many scientists and rationalists who berate religions do not know the existence of intuition as a useful mental tool to understand the subtly present truthful content it gives or points out. Intuition arises from the state of understanding, insight, experience, sense and sets in when logic, mathematical exercises and reason set. The Sanskrit word for intuition is spurat – meaning flash of light. As mentioned above, knowledge contained in and comes out of such flash is always truthful and lights up mind and its functioning and improves its grasp and creative ability to deliver novel and revolutionary expressions. Many a scientist has revealed so much through intuition as the scholars from other disciplines. Thus intuition also part of scientific temper.
Believing and having faith are not against scientific spirit or scientific temper.
Why are we saying that electron exists and also lecturing about its existence and subsequent science about it? We do not know that we have believed in its existence by having faith in the sincerity of scientists and accepted their authority blindly without ever trying to prove the existence of electron.
Similarly, in spirituality, other disciplines and systems of knowledge, and religion, authority rules and common people accept it without questioning; as scholars and intellectuals already accepted the authority of scientists and “believing” in the existence of electron unquestioningly.
Even though, any time anyone, can conduct the experiment of J. J. Thomson and verify for oneself the existence of electron none of us did or do that experiment. We just repeat like parrots what is there in the books by blindly “believing” the contents.
And we must know that we know through three kinds of means: they are direct, through sense organs, by inferring as chemistry students never see the radical but infer its presence by observing the result of their experimental tests and then faithfully accepting the authority of seers and enlightened spiritual persons just as ordinary science students, teachers, lecturers and professors and research personnel, together with self proclaimed rationalists, and the like, accept the authority of earlier scientists without questioning without ever conducting and trying their experiments with belief and proceed from there; and rationalists blindly support everything scientific even though they never studied or learnt science. They merely believe in things scientific but question things spiritual. Theirs is selective rationalism.
So knowledge is obtained and attained directly through sense organs; by inference; and by accepting authority with faith. These three means are same for acquiring any knowledge, scientific, spiritual or worldly. And scientific temper treats all these means equally and helps us to acquire knowledge.
Scientific temper is one human attitude which allows one seek and experience worldly matters, secular, religious and spiritual knowledge transcending one’s own understanding, convictions, biases, and the like limited individual abilities and capabilities. Scientific temper always keeps mind open and fresh to receive knowledge and judge it objectively. Scientific temper is just not studying; science and technology subjects or degrade and attack religious or other beliefs and faith of human beings. Scientific temper is not to shut any door to approach truth and keeps open all options for objective analysis. Sometimes subjective experience and opinion also come under scientific temper.
Scientific temper is judiciously using rationalism and faith in the pursuit of knowledge all denominations.
Intuition is part of scientific temper. Now a days many corporate institutions are trying to include test of intuition too in addition to reasoning and logic since they recognized the importance of intuition in all fields of learning and personal and worldly lives.
Thus we must be cultivating scientific temper when we have open mind and are recipient to knowledge transcending our existing knowledge and preferences and analyzing all knowledge objectively unmindful of its origin.