(This is a dialogue between a teacher and a tenth grade student, to be performed by one person. When he speaks as the teacher, he puts on glasses a bit down on his nose, and maintains a composed face with upright shoulders. When he speaks as the student, he puts the glasses back on his eyes, keeps fingering the glasses, and maintains a convulsed face [which becomes relaxed with time] with drooping shoulders. He rolls about by ninety degrees while shifting character.)
S: Umm. I.. have a question.
T: Speak up dear.
S: Why is studying science imperative?
T: (Raising an eyebrow with a smile) Huh?
S: Aren’t the studies in humanities enough for the society? Moreover science makes us so mechanistic and cold-hearted. We don’t even stop to think about the malnourished kids of Africa while we gaze away at our touch phones. Shouldn’t empathy be taught rigorously instead? That’d make a happy society.
T: And what makes you think that studying empathy isn’t doing-science?
T: Let’s begin with defining science. It is a sub part of philosophy, one that resorts to empirical modes of knowledge. By empirical modes I mean observation and experimentation. Now what in the world is studied without observation and experimentation? You brought in empathy. Well, in studying empathy you observe a lot of things which are termed as ’empathy’, and try to find a general pattern. Because, it is a general pattern, an objective pattern, that helps you make optimal decisions in every scenario. Now you put the general pattern to test, you experiment. Once you see that your pattern predicts the observed behaviour, you state that the pattern is reasonably true. But even the slightest inconsistency makes the pattern obsolete, and you start over. Are you following?
S: Yes ma’am. I see your point. That makes science a part of everyday life. (Smiles) But then if empathy is a part of science, why isn’t it taught to us? Why is it always Newton’s law, chemical reactions or animal taxonomy?
T: (Smiles) Well, to be frank, analysing Newton’s laws is easier than even pinpointing the definition of empathy. Physics, chemistry, biology – physical sciences – in their crude forms are easier to experiment with as there we don’t experiment with humans, thus largely removing the factor of subjectivity – which is the biggest hurdle owing to its unpredictability. Also, because of that hurdle, we cannot tone down the arguments given in the social sciences, thus rendering them difficult to read.
S: Then teach those steadily. Why leave them out? Difficulty shouldn’t be a reason to discard something that important.
T: Because what’s necessary is implementing in people a sense of rationality. Irrationality – superstition, blind faith – is eating away at society’s freedom. When people resort to their instincts to make decisions, they inadvertently think that that’s what others should do too. It’s human nature – to preserve one’s ideals, to maintain one’s stability – and that calls for making others see as you see. Add groupism to that, and at the extreme you get fanatics. Whereas in science, we teach you to think, to reason things out. And when you question things, you realise that they aren’t that simple. That instils in you a sense of humility and open-mindedness, thus resulting in a free, thoughtful, happy world. (Pauses) Sorry for the digression. I agree that throwing the social sciences out entirely isn’t the right choice. But then, it is being taught in schools. The level of complexity should increase, I agree. Well, at your age, and maturity, I think you should be given the choice to pursue a full-fledged course in philosophy or the likes. But then we have a huge population, and too few teachers and all that pressure of industrialising the nation..
(The student looks overwhelmed)
T: (Laughs) I’m sorry dear, I lose it sometimes. You got the point right?
S: I think so. (Smiles) Science rocks.
T: Well, try not to go militant with that slogan. (Both laugh) Keep an open mind, but don’t take any nonsense either. (She looks at the watch) Well, I got to go. See you.
S: Thanks ma’am. See you.