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Saturday 19 November 2011

On so called scientific knowledge – VIII

The so called science is nothing but western science and there is no science as such which is universal and common to all. It is true that we study so called science at schools and universities without paying attention to this problem not only in Sri Lanka but probably in the whole world where there are schools and universities of the western type. The curriculum has been forced on us and we have no alternative at present but to imitate it. The so called science has not become part of our culture and it has not been absorbed by us into the culture. The so called science meaning western science is being created in the Judaic Christian culture and is not independent of a culture. It is not difficult to show that the so called scientific knowledge is in essence nothing but Biblical knowledge, as given in the Old Testament, in Mathematical symbols and the jargon of western science.

Though so called scientific knowledge is supposed to be objective it is not so as it is culture dependent, like any other system of knowledge. There is no objective reality as such and nobody is capable of demonstrating that an objective reality exists without appealing to subjective concepts. Unless one can show that, without using any mental concepts or theories, there exists an objective reality (in my usage a so called objective reality) independent of the mind, in the sense of any concepts created by the mind, one cannot demonstrate the existence of an objective reality. It is not possible to say that so called scientific knowledge approaches Truth or objective Truth as without knowing the Truth in advance we do not know whether so called scientific knowledge is approaching Truth or not. On the other hand if we know the Truth already then there is no necessity for a so called science that attempts to discover the Truth. The objective reality is also a creation of the mind, and has no so called objective existence.

Then there are people who having failed to show that it approaches Truth or represents so called objective reality. claim that so called science is useful and dependable. These are based on instrumentalism and utilitarianism and such philosophical traditions in the west, but unfortunately for these proponents of western science it is not peculiar to so called scientific knowledge. People of yesteryear believed in Ayurveda, Sinhala Vedakama, Siddha, Unani and other systems and they were useful to them. Even today there are many people who would go to a non western medicine practitioner when they are not well, in spite of a teacher in the Faculty of (Western) Medicine of the University of Colombo who had apparently said in his lectures that there are some diseases that are cured when treated, while some diseases cannot be cured, whereas some diseases are cured even without taking and medicine. According to this particular lecturer the diseases cured by Ayurveda belong to the third category. The Ayurveda and other systems continue to exist even after the defamatory remarks such as the one purported to be made by the lecturer mentioned above, simply because many people have believed in these time tested systems of knowledge and as far as they are concerned such systems are useful. Thus it is not the prerogative of so called science to be dependable and useful, and even on this score western science loses its so called uniqueness.

While medicine and engineering belong to western technology and not western science one has to admit that there is a connection between western technology and western science. The western science and western technology are created in the same Greek Judaic Christian Chinthanaya and Judaic Christian Culture and in that sense they are interrelated. However it is not necessary that the practitioners of western technology should be educated in western science. It is well known that James Watt did not know the second law of Thermodynamics and that Thomas Alva Edison did not know Ohm’s Law. However, developments in western science have helped western technology and vice versa. In order to live in this society we have to make use of western technology the same way our ancestors made use of Sinhala Technology in the ancient times to live in that society. It is possible to go to an “aranya” and live without making use of any so called scientific knowledge but some people may prefer to live in the present society for various reasons, including criticizing so called western science.

There are some Professors of western scientific disciplines who would not want to identify western science and technology as such. Recently when western medicine was referred to as such by some others one of these Professors to whom western mathematics is only a tool, wanted to object to it claiming that there is no western medicine. He wanted to define western medicine and thought that if the term western medicine is not used in official documents in general then that implied that there was no western medicine as such. This person seems to think that if a term is not used in official documents or not defined then there is no entity that is represented by that particular term. The educated Sri Lankans who only imitate the west have been brainwashed to think that western medicine is medicine and western science is science. The westerners who think no end of themselves with their political cultural hegemony have named their science and technology the science and technology often considering the other systems of knowledge as myth, and some of the Professors of western disciplines in Sri Lanka who are mere imitators and who have not contributed any original concept or theory to their subjects want the others to obey meekly their masters in the west the way they do.

Then there is the claim that so called scientific knowledge is reliable. It is difficult to understand what is meant by reliable. Newtonian gravitation may be reliable to some such as the University Lecturer in Chemistry who claimed that gravitation could be felt and is sensory perceptible without knowing that according to Einstein apples “fall” due to the so called curvature of space time. It is known that Newtonian gravitation could predict the motion of planets around the Sun and may be reliable to some people as a method of calculation. However, it is only a story, and in fact Newton’s story on how apples fall to the ground. In spite of Einstein, not that he is the ultimate authority on knowledge, telling the world that apples “fall” to the ground due to the curvature of space time, there are millions who hold to the Newtonian view dogmatically. It is not easy to claim that so called scientific knowledge is tentatively true whereas other systems are dogmatic about truth. All systems of knowledge consist of stories created by the human beings and as long as these stories serve the people to “understand the world” (create a world for themselves) they believe that such knowledge is useful and help them to live in the relevant societies.

The so called western science is not unique as a system of knowledge and it is wrong to say that so called scientific knowledge has always brought happiness to the people. The technology related to the so called scientific knowledge has sometimes brought immense hardships to people and one cannot forget Thalidomide babies. It is now established that Arsenic from agrochemicals is the main cause of the Rajarata Chronic Kidney Disease (RCKD) and whenever Arsenic present in agrochemicals mix with what is known as “Kumburu Pasa” and hard water the ground is set for the spread of RCKD. The innocent people in Rajarata and other areas where this particular soil and hard water is found continue to die of Arsenic poisoning and unfortunately the western medicine the counterpart of western agriculture in the field of medicine has no cure for the damage done by the latter. (To be continued)

Copyright Prof. Nalin De Silva