Prism of Science and COVID-19 | Editorial Hunt | 4th April 2020

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IASbhai Editorial Hunt

Believe in yourself! Have faith in your abilities! Without a humble but reasonable confidence in your own powers you cannot be successful or happy.– Norman Vincent Peale

Dear Aspirants
IASbhai Editorial Hunt is an initiative to dilute major Editorials of leading Newspapers in India which are most relevant to UPSC preparation –‘THE HINDU, LIVEMINT , INDIAN EXPRESS’ and help millions of readers who find difficulty in answer writing and making notes everyday. Here we choose two editorials on daily basis and analyse them with respect to UPSC MAINS 2020.

EDITORIAL 44:“Only through the prism of science

       SOURCES:   THE HINDU EDITORIAL/EDITORIALS FOR UPSC CSE MAINS 2020

Edappadi K. Palaniswami

Atul Mishra is an associate professor of International Relations at Shiv Nadar University.

 

      HEADLINES:

Only through the prism of science

      CENTRAL THEME:

India needs its top leader to make people realise why science has no substitute in the battle against COVID-19

SYLLABUS COVERED: GS 3:Health

      INTRODUCTION: 

On Friday, April 3, Prime Minister Narendra Modi made his third COVID-19 address to the nation.

To raise the people’s morale, Mr. Modi asked them to light up candles, diyas (lamps), torchlights and mobile flashlights for 9 minutes at 9 p.m. this Sunday.

Soon after his address, the citizens outreach portal of the Government of India tweeted a video explaining the ‘science’ behind the Prime Minister’s request.

The video had a former president of the Indian Medical Association claiming that the request was based on a yogic ‘principle of collective consciousness’.

The doctor said that if the people collectively thought that they would not be afflicted by the coronavirus, then their collective consciousness would ensure that this happens.

This, he said, was based on a ‘quantum principle’.

The tweet was soon deleted. But the incident shows how pseudoscience may be endangering India’s public health policy at this critical moment.

      BODY: 

NEED FOR SCIENTIFIC TEMPER

  • At no point in its modern history has India needed its people as now to urgently understand how microbiology impacts public health.
  • The Central and State governments are making huge efforts to give us a crash course on the spread and arrest of COVID-19.
  • In this hour of national crisis, India needs its top leader to make the people realise why science has no substitute in battling the virus.

INVOKING ‘MAHABHARATA’

Invoking the Mahabharata again, he told them that the Mahabharata war was won in 18 days and India would win its war against the virus in 21.

In his English translation of the epic, Bibek Debroy, the Chair of the Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister, doubts that the war of the scale described in the epic took place.

Or that “miraculous weapons and chariots were the norm”.

  • Such views are illustrative of a thriving ecosystem of opinions masquerading as ‘indigenous’ science.
  • Science gatherings have been used to peddle such ideas. And public defenders of science have been marginalised.

DISPELLING THE DARKNESS

It is not surprising therefore that a ‘theory’ that sound vibrations kill the virus recently found a large number of takers.

Nothing but the acceptance of this myth masquerading as science explains the outrageous interpretation of the Prime Minister’s call to thank the nation’s essential service providers with applause, bell-ringing and banging of metal thalis (plates).

Several groups of people hit the streets on the evening of March 22 to ‘celebrate’ the ‘Janata Curfew’.

  • They practised intense social proximity and banged metal utensils merrily and mercilessly.
  • Did these actions increase the danger of the community spread of the virus?
  • If they did not, then why did the Prime Minister tweet the next day that many people had not taken the lockdown seriously?
  • Mr. Modi did not ask people to erupt on the streets and endanger public health.
  • However, it is not implausible that it happened because his message was interpreted by groups of people influenced by the present anti-science ecosystem.
  • Dozens of pseudoscientific solutions to the pandemic are floating within this ecosystem.

      IASbhai Windup: 

After Mr. Modi’s Friday morning address, claims about the prowess of light to fight the virus have begun circulating on social media.

And thus, the challenge: we are confronting a pandemic that only science and technology can fight in an ecosystem rife with belief in pseudoscience.

The 20th century philosophers of science, Karl Popper and Imre Lakatos, argued that pseudoscience was a great danger to liberal societies.

We can only hope that it is not irreversibly damaging India’s public health in this moment of crisis.


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