Q.1. What should governing bodies and funding
agencies do to encourage original research?
Ans. Stop funding replicative research to
the extent being done now. Make it 50 : 50, for original and replicative research, then 75:25 over a five year period. And
have original researchers on panels which select research projects for grants also in the same proportion. Let us just hope
that’s not a tall order. And if funds lie unused let them not lapse. Let them be carried forward to the next year, and
the next if need be. Let them not be sanctioned hurriedly at the end of the year, for that makes it eminently suitable for
Q.2 . How can Indians graduate to original
research from replicative research?
Ans. By encouraging original thinking at
every level, starting from childhood itself: by motivating them to ask questions, even though embarrassing to adults. Also,
by appreciating those who want to set new trends, to chart new seas and cross new frontiers in their respective fields. By
creating a climate conducive to questioning and enterprise rather than conformity and obedience. And by being ready to absorb
the turmoil that results during this transition.
Q.3. In which fields is original research
taking place in this country? And to what extent?
Ans. This is a question for individual specialists
to answer. But nuclear science, biotechnology, indigenous systems, pharmaceuticals, computer applications, agriculture and
agro-based industries hold the greatest promise. It is to a minor to modest degree at present, but canm change in a decade
Q.4. What changes in educational
pattern in schools/colleges will ensure that Indians take to original research in a big way?
Ans. i) Stop emphasis on rote learning;
ii) encourage students to ask questions,
howsoever embarrassing to elders, and seek answers rather than accept ready made solutions (and we curb our eagerness to supply
iii) allow students to understand and
formulate concepts rather than mouth empty phrases learnt by heart from insipid textbooks;
iv) learn to wonder at phenomena,
to observe nature and society, to question established beliefs, opinions, dogmas;
v) reduce society’s emphasis
on conformity, traditionalism, by first of all teachers and parents becoming such;
vi) Spot out exceptional merit for creativity
/ originality (and not just for scoring more marks) and develop concrete programmes to hone and further it;
vii) appreciation and recognition of originality
/ creativity in school/college students by teachers, parents and educational governing bodies and absorbing them into a programme
to see to it that it does not get snubbed by conformity seeking curricula or pedagogy (which will always remain, and do serve
their own purpose for sure).
Q.5. Will science ever answer questions like:
Is there God? Is there an afterlife? Are miracles for real? etc. etc.
Ans Science will always ask for verifiable
evidence of everything. As at present, it doesn’t have the necessary tools to verify these phenomena. So it should withhold
comment. The possibility that it will develop such tools in the near future are remote. But one thing is certain. Anyone who
attempts to answer these questions will be able to succeed with a large number of people and for a longer time if he has the
scientist’s mind and the mystic’s intuition. The example of Narendra’s questions to his guru, Swami Ramakrishna,
and the latter’s answers come to the mind here. These will never be a final or only answer. It will be a fusion of sorts.
Unsatisfactory for the purists of both sides. True. But that’s how it is.
Q.6. How can scientific temper and religious
belief coexist? On this planet? In an individual?
Ans Neither scientific temper nor religious
belief are complete methods in themselves to explain all phenomena. Scientific temper gives supremacy to evidence and reason,
religious belief gives supremacy to introspection and intuitive experiences. For holistic understanding of phenomena, both
approaches are necessary. A healthy interaction between them, and their fusion are necessary both at the social and the individual
level. They are not only competing but complementary approaches.
Q.7. Will scientific progress ultimately
lead to mankind’s annihilation? Is there an antidote?
Ans. Yes, I believe that scientific
progress will be responsible for mankind’s annihilation as and when it occurs. But that will only happen when man forgets
science is just a method and an approach, to be necessarily regulated by ethical-moral principles of truth, justice, compassion,
universal welfare and fair-play which converts it into a system and, though battered beyond recognition by man’s ulterior
motives, are still recognised as legitimate aspirations by all right thinking men everywhere. The
antidote, if any, will come from a scientific religiosity. This will involve not just a fusion of intellect and emotion, but
of reason and devotion.
Q.8. If evidence
is so important, what happens to belief and devotion? Should they be discarded, although they are useful to mankind at every
Ans. Certain beliefs and devotions
are eternal, certain situational. Belief in God for example, is eternal, belief in a
God is situational; so with many other such entities. The eternal will remain, the situational
will get modified, may even get discarded. Belief and devotion as methods, however, will always remain to help mankind understand
both the external world and calm internal turbulences.
Q.9. The clinician believes the research evidences presented to him in conferences
and journals. Should he discard this belief and trust only his own evidence? Is that a practicable method of working?
Ans Yes and No. Yes. The clinician believes
the research evidence presented in conferences, journals etc. because that belief is backed by verifiable evidence which is
the hallmark of the scientific method. And it is replicable by another researchers, and also refutable. And undergoes self-correction
as well. As and when this belief is found unverifiable or unreplicable, he will and must give it up. So an evidence-based
belief is integral to scientific progress, as well as necessary for its application to people’s welfare, especially
so in the field of the medical sciences. No, he cannot discard this belief in research evidence, but this evidence must be
corroborated by his own clinical experience. If the researcher says, for example, Venlafaxine is three times more potent than
Fluoxetine and the clinician finds they are only equally good, if at all, he must trust his own clinical experience rather
than the researcher’s proclamations. So, if, and when, the researcher’s conclusions do not get corroborated by
his own clinical findings, he must question this belief and reject it. For the research evidence’s credibility stands
to question, at least for him. And he must exercise his clinical judgement for the patient’s welfare as of overriding
value, even if contrary to current research and trends. For what is current today may get refuted tomorrow. And this is one
of the ways it may get refuted.
Q.10. ‘Science without religion is
lame, religion without science is blind.’ So said the great Albert Einstein. Is that sufficient enough resolution of
the divide between religion and science?
Ans. Yes, it is a beautiful resolution
as it goes. Science without religion is lame because it will not lead very far. Religion without science is blind, because
it will not be able to show the way if not backed by reason and observation. So a lame science can ride a blind Religion and
both can complete the journey. However if the converse occurs, then we are in for a big, big problem. If a blind religion
rides a lame science then it will spell disaster for mankind. Not possible? Well what were the dark ages but that, when scientists
were tortured by fanatical religionists? Lame science and blind religion are being used today as well: weapons of mass destruction
are supplied by a lame science, powerless before ulterior men’s machinations. Fanatical followers use blind religion
to fuel discord and raise terrorist squads to carry out self proclaimed jehads. And
the future holds no less a menace. So Einstein does make sense. And it is useful to think of the fusion of science and religion,
as it is to think of their divide. Their division is important for their individual welfare, their fusion is important for
mankind’s welfare. Both are equally important. So they must remain good neighbours, knowing their boundaries alright,
but ready to collaborate for collective welfare.
Q.11. ‘Every genuine scientist must
be... A metaphysician’, said George Bernard Shaw. Does this not have the danger of making him a poor scientist?
Ans. Yes, it does entail the danger of making
him a poor scientist. But it also entails the possibility of making him a great scientist. A poor scientist runs a definite
risk by dabbling in metaphysics. A great scientist actualises himself by indulging in it, becoming great only if and when
he does so. Why? A poor scientist may take the shelter of metaphysics to explain ill-understood phenomena and conveniently
escape answering embarrassing questions. A great scientist will take the vision of metaphysics and seek direction from it
to understand and further science and scientific theories.
Q.12. How do you like the proposition: howsoever
thin you slice a cake, there are always two sides?
Ans Yes, I like it. I like the cake and its
sides as well. And I would like it even if it had no sides. And I would like it even if had four sides.
And, come to think of it, a cake actually
has six sides.
And that’s a usual rectangular
cake we are talking of. You calculate how many sides a hexagonal cake will have.
As with cakes, so with perspectives.