Scientific Thinking in Historical Perspective

Habib, S Irfan


We talk of scientific temper today in the context of Nehru's overt commitment to the idea. It can be safely said that scientific temper is also one of the important Nehruvian policy legacies which we inherited and have always tried to keep alive, of course, not as successfully as we would have liked it to be. Most of the times it gets embroiled in confrontation with faith and all sorts of arguments, for and against, are exchanged between the votaries of each of them. We tend to forget, in the heat of arguments, that people of faith have played crucial role in the progress of science from times immemorial, including modern science as well. It is not a question of either/or, just a reconciliation of the two. Religions have also been emancipatory in intent, as was the case with Islam in the early centuries and before it got institutionalized and mired in superstitions. I will try to engage with some of the related issues in historical context, a period when the term scientific temper was not around, yet there were a large number of autodidacts and intellectuals who appealed for a rational approach in our daily lives and also disseminated modern science in local language. They used science to fight against dogmas and superstitions proclaimed in the name of religions.

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