JACOB PEENIKAPARAMBIL - The highly literate Kerala was shocked to hear on 7th February that a mother hacked to death her six-year-old son as “sacrifice to God”. As per the media reports, a woman called Shahida from Poolakkad in Palakkad district of Kerala, informed the police about the killing and reportedly told the police that she offered her son as a sacrifice to God.
Media reported last month another horrific incident in which a couple in Andhra Pradesh’s Chittoor district killed their two daughters, hoping that they would come back to life within hours due to spiritual power.
It is a paradox that many so-called educated people with graduation, post graduation and even doctorate become highly superstitious and indulge in acts of horror that are unimaginable. Naturally a question comes to our mind why people are becoming more and more superstitious in an age marked by unprecedented scientific and technological progress. There could be various reasons for the coexistence of blind faith and scientific progress.
Flawed understanding of education as acquiring degrees and qualifications is one among the reasons. The three goals of education, according to Swami Vivekananda, are building character, strengthening willpower and expansion of intellect. For Swami Vivekananda, expansion of intellect means developing critical thinking or scientific temper. Article 51 A of Indian constitution which deals with fundamental duties makes it a duty of every citizen to develop Scientific Temper. It is the Scientific Temper that helps in developing humanism, spirit of enquiry and reform.
Scientific temper or critical thinking consists of different aspects like welcoming and encouraging asking questions, giving logical explanations to observed phenomenon, presenting principles free form dependence on personalities, prescribing actions consistent with observable results irrespective of the person doing it, giving logical explanations to the prescribed actions and keeping the doors open for further enquiry and questioning. A person with critical thinking will never blindly follow anyone or any ideology or belief.
According to Jawaharlal Nehru, the essence of scientific temper is “the refusal to accept anything without testing and trial, the capacity to change previous conclusions in the face of new evidence and reliance on observed fact and not preconceived theory”. The absence of scientific temper or critical thinking is the most significant reason for the growth of superstitions in the people. The incidents like offering human beings as sacrifice to God indicate our failure as a nation to inculcate critical thinking in our people as demanded by the constitution.
If education focuses on promoting spirituality that is universal and common to all religions, and instilling scientific temper or critical thinking in people, the spread of blind faith can be effectively prevented.