Excerpts from an article I read in Time magazine by Aravind Adiga while riding the train to Berlin yesterday:
Technology may be vibrantly alive in the U.S. — cell phones and laptops are everywhere — but faith in the science that produces this technology has weakened in the past decade. Evidence ranges from the proliferation of street-side palmists all the way to the White House: in 2005, the religious fundamentalists who oppose Darwin's theory of evolution got a boost when President Bush suggested that American schools should have the freedom to choose instead to teach intelligent design — a slick, pseudoscientific version of Biblical creationism. To a visitor from the supposedly mystical East, all this is disturbing — even repulsive.
In my family, as in most middle-class Indian families I knew when I was growing up, science and mathematics were held in awe.
Reason has replaced God for many Indians of my generation. Nothing gives us greater pride than the importance of India's scientific and engineering colleges, or the army of Indian scientists at organizations such as Microsoft and NASA. Our temples are not the god-encrusted shrines of Varanasi, but Western scientific institutions like Caltech and MIT, and magazines like Nature and Scientific American.
How disturbing, then, to come to the U.S. in 2008, and find that faith in science has diminished..
Why blow the whistle as the West declines into mumbo jumbo? Let them take our dozen-armed deities and magic incense sticks; we'll transfer their busts of Galileo and Descartes to our engineering colleges and outsourcing companies. One day soon, their mystical children will wear turbans and serve our rational children at restaurants in Mumbai.
The author addresses a very real possibility in America's future. We are used to thinking that we are the "best and brightest". But in a country where scientific evidence is denied in favor of religious belief, and where pseudoscience is accepted without discernment, we are at risk of falling far behind. Technology and science are progressing in leaps and bounds. If we don't shake ourselves out of our stupor we will wake up to find that the rest of the world has left us far behind.
For a country that relies so heavily on technology, scientific advancements, and the freedom to speak and think as we choose, we show practically no gratitude to the ideals that brought these things to us.