What If Scientists Behaved Like Mullahs?

Contributed by Muhammad Tahir Ranjha

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Science is a branch of knowledge which carries the study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment. All the scientists reach to the same conclusion when they test a theory irrespective of their religious faith, origin, race, colour or ethnic group. While doing science one doesn’t presuppose things as facts, rather one follows a neutral and coherent logical path to find the answer. Interestingly, a scientist try to prove his theory wrong as much as he tries to prove it right. Scientists don’t have prejudice and biases, and they don’t have any personal agendas to guard. Instead, scientific truths are based on rational and empirical reasoning.

There is a wider opinion among underdeveloped and developing countries that science has old mystic origins. For instance: Indian  prime minister Narendra Modi claimed India’s legacy in plastic surgery by arguing that Hindu god Ganesha with head of an elephant on a human body was an evidence that genetic science existed in ancient times. Similarly, one could find such sort of absurd claims by some Muslim theologians as well to take the credit for their old traditions or set of beliefs..

This trend may seem stupid to a scientist but one cannot deny that ordinary people easily accept such ideas. Common men are concerned with their identity, respect, pride and traditions much more than what’s the truth. Indians may want to show that all good, including science, came from their ancestors and Pakistanis may want to get the credit by referring things to Muslim science. All people appear ready to dig out science, from black holes to quantum mechanics, from their religious scripture, and seeking pride in an absurd way.

What happens if Narendra Modi and Sultan Bashiruddin Mehmood are true that science came from their tradition? Although all faith based traditions are mutually exclusive, still each claims to be equally true. Why is that? Is it because that people are unaware of the scientific method and their approach is not that of a scientist.

If scientists acted like mullahs, then they would have incited to kill people on not believing in black holes.

Here comes an interesting proposition. What if the mullahs were dealing in science in their traditional way? Let’s consider a scientific issue entertained by them: Why did all dinosaurs become extinct? Suppose the organisation, named PAEC, says that an asteroid killed them. Suddenly SUPARCO claims that PAEC is misleading the people and those who believe in its claim have very hollow beliefs. At the same time, National Centre for Science (NCS) starts claiming that their president has personally received a message from his spiritual guide that dinosaurs in fact died of plague, and that anybody who thinks that asteroid killed them is a heretic. And then the next day NCS issues a fatwa against those believing that dinosaurs were killed by asteroid and calling those wajib-ul-qatl (liable to death) who don’t follow this fatwa.

This all would certainly lead to an ugly chaos and even bloodshed. Scientific truth would become a word associated with one’s personal opinion, instead of an established fact. There won’t be any consensus among the scientists in such a scenario; all such attempts would go in vain.

Good news is that such didn’t happen, doesn’t happen and won’t happen with scientists. It is because they follow rationality in the pursuit of truth, instead of their emotions, desires, likes or dislikes. One cannot find any fatwa by any scientist about accepting or not accepting the concept of gravity or the theory of relativity. There’s not a single example in the history suggesting that any scientist was killed or he killed someone for not accepting any theory. If scientists acted like mullahs, then they would have incited to kill people on not believing in black holes.

Luckily, it does not happen because science is not like a traditional faith system hijacked by extremists. Scientific facts are demonstrable and questionable, and hence, tested and verified. That’s why science has progressed well over the centuries and contributed for the well being of humanity. It would be appreciable if the masses start following scientific approach in their lives, and learn to live in harmony instead of fighting against each other over their differences.

Contributed by Muhammad Tahir Ranjha

The writer teaches physics and mathematics in Punjab Education Department. He has a keen interest in science and its impact on the society.

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