Gandhi was not anti-science as is commonly misunderstood. Through a look at his various experiments, many unrealized in his time, it is shown that Gandhi’s life defined a space for an alternative science for civil society that would operate with different methods.
Gandhi’s view on science has often seen as presumed upon his views on machinery, the machine age and modern civilization. This paper is organized into four parts: 1) Gandhi’s early critique of science, 2) the fundamental critique of existing scientific practice 3) Khadi- best site for his experiments in an alternative science practice and 4) Distinguishing scientific method
Gandhi’s early critique of science
Modern civilization, far from having done the greatest good to humanity, has forgotten that its greatest achievements are weapons of mass destruction, the awful growth of anarchism, the frightful disputes between capital and labour and cruelty inflicted on dumb, living animals in the name of science. The boast about the wonderful discoveries and the marvelous inventions of science, good as they undoubtedly are in themselves, is, after all an empty boast. The above quotes indicate Gandhi’s strong views on science very early in his public life. The use of the phrase ‘falsely so-called’ indicates that Gandhi believed that the prevailing practice of science had defects but this was not necessary intrinsic to the scientific quest. Popularisation of science, Gandhi suggested was not a linear transfer of knowledge from the expert to the lay person but had to be a collaborative effort. Gandhi’s critique of science emanates from his dissatisfaction with the divorce of science from morality.
Existing scientific practice
Scientists, in Gandhi’s conception needed to recognize their own role in this cosmos. What science saw as progress, Gandhi wanted to qualify based on his experiences of the colonized and as a spokesperson for the dumb creation. For Gandhi, the real challenge of science lay in carrying out experiments not on the ‘other’- the colonized, the ex communicated brothers, or the dumb creatures- but on the self. With this view, he exhorted the science students to work with their hands, as science was one of the few things that involved accuracy of thought and accuracy of handling.
Alternative scientific procedure
One of the Gandhi’s earliest experiments, both at the Ashram and outside was in the field of science education. Gandhi’s educational scheme was base on an emphasis on the role of manual work, practical training and the use of vernacular as a medium of instruction. Gandhi was keen to break the vice like grip that the English medium had on education in science. He cited Japan as an example of an educational system that taught science in the vernacular. True development of the mind commences immediately the apprentice is taught at every step why a particular manipulation of the hand or a tool is required.
Gandhi’s scientific method
For Gandhi India was an ideal site for experiments on the self and he saw himself as a scientist experimenting to prove the fallacies of the dominant argument in science. Gandhi did not see science as an autonomous search independent of the individual scientist. The scientists had to be conscious and self-reflecting. Gandhi did not provide ablueprint for a scientific method but gave general guidelines for experimentation. He saw his community workers as scientists. The practice of science Gandhi emphasized required an attitude for research more than scientific qualifications. In Gandhi’s method, lack of resources could not be an excuse for not practicing science. He also sought to reconstitute the relations between fact and value, science and religion in his method. The role of a scientist lay not in the realm of fact alone nut in creating meaning (values). To him they were not to be separated. Unlike many reformers and secular scientists, Gandhi did not see science as outside of religion. On the contrary, he tried updating religion to include science and science too to include faith. But unlike the Vedantists, for Gandhi to be scientific was to practice one’s dharma.
From this paper, it is shown that Gandhi is not anti-science as is commonly misunderstood .Through a look at his various experiments, many unrealized in his time, we have also shown that Gandhi’s life defined a space for an alternative science for civil society that would operate with different methods.
- Srinivasan(1993) for a critique of Bose’s method in Noakhali and his separation of the ‘self’and ‘other’ in the field work.
- Veeravalli (1999) for a comparison of Einstein and Gandhi’s views on the science of peace.