Gandhi and Science



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Gandhi and Science

  • Pankaj S. Joshi
  • Mumbai
  • First Kaka Saheb Kalelkar Lecture
  • (Sahitya Parishad, Ahmedabad, 18 April 2009)‏
  • Aldous Huxley was among the first to
  • brand Gandhi and his movements `anti-science':
  • “Tolstoyan's and Gandhiites tell us to `return to
  • nature', in other words, abandon science
  • altogether and live like primitives....the trouble
  • with this advise is it cannot be followed...
  • science and technology allowed human
  • population to double...but they advocate
  • slaughter...compared to which Timur and Changiz
  • Khan would look trivial...”
  • Nehru responded to Huxley: “It [Gandhi's] may
  • not be a correct attitude; its logic may be faulty...”
  • This was followed up by Indian Science policy
  • makers and scientists such as Meghnad Saha,
  • who told Russians that he and his brother
  • scientists had “as little regard” for Gandhi's
  • economic and social theories as you
  • 'the Russians' have for Tolstoy...
  • All in all, Gandhi was branded as entirely
  • retrograde
  • They made clear divisions: He was some one
  • who could mobilize masses, and therefore useful
  • in that way, but he was a `religious man' and
  • not a `science man', and to that extent
  • irrelevant in the modern age, with retrograde
  • views
  • Even today, these views are shared by a
  • large section of Indian intelligentsia,
  • even when they readily acknowledge Gandhi's
  • ability to mobilize people for freedom movement
  • This is to such an extent that
  • Science policy writings in India, creating the
  • Vision of a Future India
  • thus make no mention of Gandhi
  • There is in a way a `Missing Gandhi' in the
  • Science and Intellectual policies of India, and
  • at the same time there is a missing `Science'
  • in the Gandhian studies.
  • This is not good for a healthy intellectual and
  • cultural growth of the Nation!!

Was Gandhi anti-Science? Was Gandhi Totally Unscientific?

Was Gandhi always against Machinery and Industrialization?

  • The sewing machine, Mahatma Gandhi declared, `
  • `was one of the few useful things ever invented'.
  • Machines are merely tools
  • and Not our Masters...
  • This image of his being anti-science dates
  • back from the early days of his book
  • HIND-SWARAJ
  • which just completes 100 years in 2009
  • Probably he just told it too strongly
  • and it appeared to many that he was plainly
  • anti-Science
  • Gandhi did not condemn the scientific
  • temper of west, but he objected to the use of
  • scientific discoveries against humanity.
  • It is not realized often that he was a severe critic of Modern Civilization but not of Science or Scientific Method

The Nature of Science

  • What is Science?
  • In its essence, it is the Search for Truth; the
  • fundamental laws that govern the Universe
  • In that sense, Gandhi's method had its
  • scientific basis.
  • As he explained clearly: “...my life consists of
  • nothing else but numerous experiments with
  • truth... If I can narrate them in a dispassionate
  • and humble spirit...Far be it from me to claim any
  • degree of perfectness
  • “I claim for them nothing more than does a
  • scientist who, though he conducts his
  • experiments with utmost accuracy, forethought
  • and minuteness, never claims any finality on
  • conclusions, but keeps an open mind...
  • “I have gone through deep self-introspection,
  • searched myself through and through, and
  • examined and analysed every situation.”
  • If you study his Thoughts, Actions and
  • Writings, you find that he analysed and
  • investigated his own life in same microscopic
  • manner, going to the minutest details
  • Introspection and going into the Finest and Minutest Details was his key strength

His was clearly an extremely Logical Mind...no question on that

  • “Geometry was a new subject in which, I was not
  • particularly strong...and the English medium
  • made it still more difficult for me.
  • When, however, with much effort I reached
  • thirteenth proposition of Euclid, the utter
  • simplicity of the subject was suddenly revealed
  • to me. A subject which only requires a pure and
  • simple use of one's reasoning power could not be
  • difficult. Ever since... geometry has been
  • both easy and interesting for me.”

On mother tongue instruction

  • “English became the medium of instruction in
  • most subjects from the fourth standard.
  • I found myself completely at sea...
  • If our education were more systematic, and if
  • children were free from the burden of having to
  • learn subjects through a foreign medium...”
  • A scientific knowledge of one language
  • makes a knowledge of other languages
  • comparatively easy.
  • Throughout his life, he kept telling this; an
  • example: “...Tomorrw Dr J C Bose will be
  • making a speech. If he speaks in Bengali I will
  • have no quarrel with him. I will have quarrel
  • with him if he speaks in...”

He was in contact with best of the Scientific authorities of his day

  • Sir J. C. Bose came and met him (Mum.1924)‏
  • Previously (1917), he went to Calcutta to attend
  • “opening of Bose's research Institute”, and said,
  • “It was spiritual affair rather than a public show.”
  • “Thanks to the marvellous researches of ...
  • Bose...his discoveries are revolutionizing the
  • accepted...”
  • Sir C V Raman and Lady Raman come and
  • discuss with him (1936)‏
  • Important scientists such as J. C. Bose, C. V.
  • Raman and P. C. Ray were put as Members
  • of the Khadi Development Board

Post-graduate Research

  • 'Gandhi Seva Sangh' (1935) was meant for
  • post-graduate study and thinking and research.
  • Gandhi suggested that other institutions, mainly
  • busy with `Action' would not have time
  • to do this. Gandhi Seva Sangh must study,
  • understand and investigate the key principles
  • and basics on `khadi', `charkha', `Ekadasha
  • Vrata' and such other basics.
  • It is obvious that Gandhi laid enormous
  • emphasis on Study, Thinking & Research
  • and analysing the Fundamentals

P. C. Ray and Gandhi

  • When Gandhi established and created a University, the Gujarat Vidyapeeth, in 1920,
  • He invited Dr Prafullchandra Ray to inaugurate
  • The same
  • ANY POLITICIAN OR FAMOUS STATESMAN WOULD HAVE OBLIGED HIM, BUT IT IS INTERESTING THAT HE THOUGHT OF A SCIENTIST
  • Dr P. C. Ray came over and did the Inaugural...
  • Was Gandhi aware of The Amazing Universe The Profound Puzzles that it brings & Future Directions and New Perspectives Emerging

The Universe

    • The visible Universe is made of Stars and Galaxies
    • Each Galaxy contains 400 to 500 Billion Stars
    • Universe has Billions of such Galaxies
    • Universe is Expanding
    • NOW, WE FIND THAT THE UNIVERSE ACCELERATES!

Gandhi & the Universe

  • “...this Universe which is millions of times vaster
  • than the earth...”
  • “..and what are we in this mighty Universe? We
  • are less than...And what about the magnificent
  • canopy of heaven...”
  • “if...heavenly bodies do not work like machines,
  • the Universe would come to a standstill...”
  • “..like atom in this Universe..our existence as
  • embodied beings is purely momentary...”
  • “..An all pervading, conscious Power fills our
  • Universe which we call God...”
  • “...If we carefully observe and examine the
  • Universe, we shall see that...”
  • “...As in the body so in universe. The body ever
  • dies, yet lives. Similarly the Cosmos as
  • expressed in the creation ever dies yet remains
  • alive..”
  • “...that talent which can see the Universe in an
  • atom...”
  • “..there is an orderliness in the Universe, there is
  • an unalterable law...over the will of every
  • man...so that none of us can wrong the
  • Universe...”
  • “..would befall the universe if the sun became
  • capricious and went in for a variety of pastimes..
  • there is a monotony that sustains...”
  • “..A man of world can as little comprehend the
  • Universe as a fish living in the ocean can fathom
  • its depths...”

The Universe

  • “There is an orderliness in the Universe,
  • there is an unalterable law governing
  • every thing and every being that exists or
  • lives. It is no blind law; for no blind law
  • can govern the conduct of living beings.”
  • HE APPEARS TO BE AWARE OF THE
  • VASTNESS AND INFINITE NATURE OF THE
  • UNIVERSE
  • Of course, as is well-known, Kakasaheb has
  • written wonderful articles on Nature, Aakash-
  • darshan, Stars, sky-watching, astronomy
  • WOULD GANDHI BE INTERESTED IN
  • TELESCOPE?
  • WELL, HE USED TELEPHONE
  • Probably he would also be interested in the
  • Space Telescope TODAY,
  • because just as he analysed his
  • own life in Microscopic detail, in the same
  • way, he had a Telescopic vision and always
  • wanted and tried to see things faraway.
  • HIS COMMENTS ON MODERN CIVILIZATION
  • EXACTLY SHOW THAT

The Amazing Universe

    • He was always interested in knowing about New
    • Discoveries and Developments in Science
    • He was aware that we need
    • New Eyes to See the Universe
    • He also looked aware on the Deep relation of Human Mind and the Universe
    • He did not say why bother about Universe
    • -Do We not have enough problems on Earth?-
  • “I KNOW NOTHING OF THE SCIENCE OF
  • ASTROLOGY AND I CONSIDER IT
  • TO BE A SCIENCE, IF IT IS A SCIENCE, OF
  • DOUBTFUL VALUE, TO BE
  • SEVERELY LEFT ALONE BY THOSE
  • WHO HAVE ANY FAITH IN
  • PROVIDENCE.”
  • AT THE SAME TIME,
  • Totally Against Blind Faith
  • Criticized strongly the Lack of Research
  • in Ayurveda
  • His dialogue with Vaidyas continued for
  • a while and he strongly emphasized that we must
  • not just have Blind Faith in all that is “Old”
  • and all that is “Traditional”
  • He emphasized the need for Research and Investigations again and again, Be it Khadi, Ayurveda or any any other discipline
  • International Connections with Scientists and Philosophers
  • Madam Curie's daughter, Eve Curie meets
  • Gandhi (1942), Gandhi reads the Madam Curie
  • book, and has the following to say: “Vah to Sacchi
  • tapaswini thi. Muze hota hai, Paris jake uska ghar
  • dekh aau. Hamare kisi vigyani ne aisa dukh nahi
  • bhoga...Hamane to Angrezo ki maherbani se
  • Angrezo ke dhang se kam karana hi sikha.
  • Shodh vibhag aadi ke Safed Hathi khade kar liye.
  • Itana paisa kharch hota hai. Itani badi
  • prayogshala e Tata ne, sarkar ne khadi ki, par
  • kam vaha par kitana hota hai?”
  • (From Sushila Nayar, `Karavas ki Kahani')

His affection to Scientists and the Scientific Method

  • Sushila Nayar says: “Madam Curie ki kitab se
  • to bas Bapu chipak gaye hain. Is kitab ki lekhika,
  • unki ladaki Eve Curie Bapu se milane Delhi main
  • aayi thi. Bole, us ladki se muze aachhi jan-
  • pahechan karani thi...syam ko muz se bole,
  • Tuze is kitab ka Hindi main sunder anuvad
  • karana hoga...”

Gandhi-Einstein Correspondence

  • The two greats never met, but have had an
  • exchange of letters where they deeply
  • appreciated each-other's work
  • Einstein writes to Gandhi in 1931, when he
  • was in UK, “...your work shows to the world
  • that goal can be achieved without violence...
  • I hope to meet you in future..”
  • Gandhi replies to him in Berlin, “...its a matter
  • of great satisfaction that you found my work
  • useful...look forward to meet you, that too in
  • India, in my Ashram..”
  • THE GREAT RESPECT TO EACH OTHER
  • IS OBVIOUS

But then, Gandhi was highly unconventional, and there were major debates --The Gandhi-Tagore Controversy--

  • The Bihar earthquake—A major tragedy
  • Gandhi relates it to the Sin of Untouchability
  • Tagore is furious—Writes a strong protest, saying
  • This is highly unscientific!!
  • Gandhi sticks to his guns—Owns full
  • responsibility—“Yes, I believe so and that was
  • what I said!”
  • To top it, He then asked:
  • Does your Science know All Answers?
  • Is it really perfect in all its Aspects?
  • He also made a prophetic statement:
  • “The Science of Love and that of Life is much
  • greater than that of Matter; and much greater
  • Discoveries will come in the former in Future.”
  • We see an element of the mystic Gandhi
  • in this episode!!
  • In a famous talk recorded by BBC, he
  • suggested: ''....There is a mysterious force
  • that pervades the Universe...it can work
  • wonders if we allow it to work through
  • ourselves...”
  • No Question that he was a Deeply Religious
  • Person

WHY BOTHER UNIVERSE?

  • Do we already not have enough problems right here?
  • What is the Use?
  • Answer: Firstly, at Some Stage or Other in your life, you cannot resist asking Questions on your Very Existence—Who You are; Where You Come from and Where You Go; What All this Universe around You is..
  • Basically, we want to Understand `How the Universe Works', and its `Nature, Structure and Fundamental Laws' ..

WHY BOTHER UNIVERSE?

  • Secondly, Enormous practical benefits have resulted from the Study of Universe...And Gandhi
  • was always interested in that...
  • Examples: Teflon in kitchen, X-Rays, Medical Applications of Physics and more recently the Nano-technology..
  • Trying to Understand Atom led to Quantum Theoryand that is what led to Modern Electronics, IT Industry, and the present-day Computer Revolution

The Unity of Nature

  • Further, trying to Understand the Planets and Stars led to secrets of Gravitation, and this in turn created the entire Space Technology, and Satellites, and the present day Communications Revolution
  • Today, the Nano-Physics is about to create Another Revolution in Biology and Health Sciences
  • UNIVERSE IS ONE, NARROW VIEWS DO NOT HELP, LIFE TO BE VIEWED IN ENTIRITY!

Profound Puzzles

    • How to Explain Such Ultra-High Energy Happenings in Cosmos?
    • The Universe and The Atom
    • What is the Relation between the Microcosm and Macrocosm?
    • Fundamental Forces governing the Universe
    • Dark Energy and Dark Matter?
    • THE LIST IS FAR FROM COMPLETE!!
  • From his statements on the Universe, his
  • comments on the Scientific Method, his
  • Contacts and Conversations with
  • Important Scientists of his time, it appears
  • that
  • He was aware of this Global Perspective
  • He did not want to see cosmos in a fragmented
  • way
  • &
  • Was aware of our place in this vast Universe
  • and
  • Our great Ignorance on Universe and its
  • Basic Laws
  • Man & the Universe
  • There is the Smallest World of Atoms from our Scale -and there is the Vast Universe around us..
  • What is our Place in the Universe?
  • These are the questions we must think
  • about and which we cannot escape
  • In fact, we must note, Gandhi did that in an
  • extensive manner through out his life
  • Numerous Examples: His very Initial list
  • of Questions to Shrimad Rajchandra,
  • Vinoba-Gandhi dialogue,
  • Interactions with very many
  • Scientists & Philosophers of his day,
  • Contacts with Maa Anandmayi, Raman
  • Mahashi, Swami Yogananda and such others
  • HE WAS DEFINITELY NOT A SINGLE TRACK
  • PERSON—WAS VERY OPEN FOR SEARCH
  • OF TRUTH

Our discussion and analysis so far show, I hope, beyond any reasonable doubt, that Gandhi was certainly NOT anti-Science

  • In fact, he always enjoyed taking interest in the
  • the things scientific, was himself an extremely
  • logical person who greatly respected and liked
  • the methods and workings of science, and
  • who always emphasized and valued the need for
  • research, as is clear from the examples of
  • his discussions on Ayurveda and other
  • issues

Can we fathom Gandhi's Mind, his Priorities and Actions Today?

  • It will be only Conjecture, Only A Speculation...
  • Can we Try?
  • We must seek help of
  • Gandhian scholars,
  • Shri Narayan Desai and others with
  • much insights on Gandhi, to that end,
  • and
  • Do What we can in our own Humble Ways
  • What Gandhi would have done Today? Can we speculate?
  • An extensive Research and Development work on
  • Solar energy?
  • Massive Use of Mobile and TV & Communication
  • Technology to create a Worldwide Awareness
  • on Global Problems of the day?
  • Other Initiatives on Renewable Energy and
  • Sustainable Development
  • HE WAS VERY AWARE ALWAYS OF THE
  • IMPORTANCE OF EDUCATION, SO,
  • He would have Communicated and Interacted
  • much better with Educationalists and Scientists
  • once He got more time after the freedom struggle
  • Environmental concerns featured always
  • very strongly in his work and writings, even
  • though he never used this word explicitly.
  • Today, he would have criticised the Modern
  • Culture of Polluting Machines even much
  • more strongly!!
  • He would then have launched a Major
  • Environment Protection Movement of an
  • absolutely International Magnitude, using all
  • currently available Modern Communication
  • Tools!!
  • HE WOULD HAVE PERHAPS LOVED THE IT
  • AND NANO REVOLUTIONS, CALLING THEM
  • `NON-VIOLENT SCIENCE' COMPARED TO
  • ROCKETS AND NUCLEAR, AND WOULD
  • MAKE THEIR FULL USE!!
  • It is a pity that this aspect of Gandhi's
  • personality is not, and was
  • not fully realized by thinkers, scholars,
  • and intellectuals
  • That has been a real loss to the
  • Humanity and Mankind as a whole!
  • SO,
  • WHAT IS REALLY NEEDED TODAY IS
  • The list would be long, there are many more things to say, we can go on—but the Key Point is:
  • Gandhian Science & Gandhian Cosmology
  • A deeper Dialogue
  • and Thinking on the
  • Gandhi's Way of Looking at the Universe
  • Is This the right time and ripe time to do it in
  • an
  • International and Global Way ??

Acknowledgements

  • My warm thanks to the Sahitya Academy
  • for this
  • kind invitation that offered me this excellent
  • opportunity to think on this wonderful and
  • important subject
  • I am very grateful to many friends for Discussions
  • and vital inputs. Shri Kanti Shah's analysis
  • on `Hind-Swaraj' was very useful to me.
  • I warmly thank V.Acharya,N.Bhatt,M.Mehta,
  • S.Shah, R.Thakkar,M.Vasavada and many
  • other friends of Bhavnagari Group for their kind
  • interest and encouragement.


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