We humans are getting more and more scientific each day. This is evident from the growth of scientific knowledge, scientific temper and scientific systems continually. The last 2,000 years and more so the last 200 years have witnessed a phenomenal growth of scientific implements and devices. Scientific inventions have brought products aplenty unimagined by our past few generations.
It is also true, as stated above, that scientific inventions are the result of application of knowledge with a scientific temper. The latter is characterised by a rational, logic-based and matter-of-fact approach to things. It is natural to believe that the growth of scientific knowledge and application would be attended by an increasing degree of scientific temper and attitude. Thus, human beings are expected to be more rational in their thinking with the surging tempo of scientific application and technology.
The 21st-century world too abounds in irrational beliefs, false presumptions and superstitions. In the age of the internet, mobile telephones and sophisticated space technology, there is no dearth of beliefs and ideas not grounded in reality.
Consider the following facts.
The Westerners still dread the number ‘13’. In many hotels and motels, numbering of rooms with ‘13’ is skipped. It is a number associated with misfortune and mishap. In India, many people do not buy appliances made of iron on Saturdays, because of the jinx that such appliances if bought on a Saturday will not work properly or create some problem during use. In Delhi, the capital city of India, some weeks in the year are considered auspicious for wedding functions by astrologers.
The result—prior to 2020, many places in Delhi and NCR remained highly traffic-jammed and seriously congested in the evenings through the first five days of the week because of marriage functions being performed simultaneously across hundreds of localities. This happened in other cities of the country too. The problems were much more than mere traffic snarls.
The accretion to the already high level of air and noise pollution and the pressure on the existing public and private infrastructure were the other adverse fall-outs. These auspicious weeks arrived regularly through the calendar year, partially paralysing the movement of city traffic on the roads everywhere. The problem had reduced after 2020 only because of restrictions on public gatherings due to the pandemic and would likely recur.
Our country’s laws dealing with air and water pollution fail to check popular practices which leave damaging and deleterious effects on the environment because these practices are strongly rooted in tradition, even if they be steeped in superstition. Our PM’s highly laudable campaign for ‘Swachch Bharat’ (clean India) aims to clean rivers, rivulets, ponds and canals. But this can hardly be achieved without penalising people for another superstitious ritual—regular bathing and ablutions besides immersion of paint and varnish-smeared idols by the hundreds and thousands into the water bodies.
Superstition can be understood better in terms of precepts of spiritualism.
Any practice, which violates the purity and wholesomeness of the physical environment, is a source of pain and discomfort to living beings and is improper and irreligious. It cannot be conducive to anybody’s welfare and well-being. In the universe, what we give comes back as what we get. There is nothing auspicious about timing events and activities that will congest and pollute our cities and paralyse transportation. The loss of time and wasteful burning of octane and diesel on the traffic-jammed roads is a huge monetary loss. And the addition of pollutants to the air is harmful to all living organisms.
Superstition is based on half knowledge and ill-conceived ideas, even if traditional. Superstition is based on fear—of the unknown and unscrutinised. It is the product of mass insecurity and inevitably leads to a herd mentality in which people imitate each other without applying their innate sense of logic. Scientific temper takes a back seat then. In fact, it would be commendable if people began subjecting traditional practices to close scientific scrutiny.
Scientific approach needs to be applied not only to the invention of implements for increasing human comfort and satisfaction of human curiosity but also to the preservation of environmental purity, mutual goodwill, peace and harmony. To this end, we need to bust and waylay all superstitions. Superstitious practices are followed in all global communities to a smaller or greater extent. These have done incalculable harm to humanity and must be shed. Shedding such practices will save tremendous amounts of money, time, energy and other resources, which can be gainfully and productively utilised.