Science is on the verge of producing human clones & robots with human-like intelligence.
While we are all closely following how science is growing rapidly and its outreach is expanding exponentially, the proportionate and unprecedented rise in superstition and pathological beliefs within the ecosystem of religion has somehow escaped our notice.
Futurist Alvin Toffler, in his book ‘Future Shock’ had forecast a gradual change in human and social behaviour in the form of death of permanence, death of reliability and the demise of bureaucracy. He was recording his observations in the context of nations changing over from a controlled economy to free economy. Is it, therefore, possible what Toffler wrote could finally be coming true? And, if at all it is happening, the transformation of his vision into reality is turning out to be much quicker and larger than one would have imagined.
Science is on the verge of producing human clones and robots with human-like intelligence. Developments in stem-cell and genetic research are all set to produce miracle cures making man’s cherished endeavour of becoming God-like highly attainable. Paradoxically, global warming is triggering unprecedented climatic disturbances that are manifesting in the form of deadly cyclones, untimely hailstorms in deserts and high temperatures in the temperate zones. The recent smog cover over the national capital – New Delhi – and its surrounding cities has forced closure on the schools, choked the people who abound there, and has once again put the spotlight on the effects of our actions on the climate. Pollution has never been so imminent a health risk and seen from such terrifyingly close quarters in Delhi, which is now being billed as the most polluted city in the world.
But, there is another pollution that is consuming our mind and is corroding the fabric of our society. If we take the bird’s eye view, while India is competing hard with China to emerge as an economic giant, the United States (US) is believed to be rolling back into a slowdown. Free economy has let loose a new strain of virus — commercialism — that has crept into society polluting everyone’s mind. Greed, an offshoot of commercialism, has become an essential in business, the de-facto ingredient that is driving all economies around the world. The result is stark and unmissable. Heroes like Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr and Lal Bahadur Shastri have now been replaced by the Bachchans, Khans and the Kardashians.
Curiously and quite significantly, commercial lust has not even spared religious faith.
The Toffler Theory becomes even more intriguing and impressive when you find gods and deities being transformed into a profitable industry. There is a clear spurt in the number of large temples and places of worship of different sects mushrooming across the length and breadth of our country. There is self-allotment of immovable assets by some of these organisations that claim to represent God. Even the Income Tax Department has swooped in on them as income generating sources and has started serving notices directing them to declare their income.
People, however, trust these bodies taking them as the almighty’s messengers and donate to them in the name of God allowing them to grow within a holy environment. Despite economic exploitation at the hands of this economy that works in the garb of religion, the janta (public) that seeks spiritual experience and pleasure from donating for a cause, inadvertently becomes the “advertising agency” for this “innovative” industry.
In this era of globalisation, devotees have come to adopt the role of stock market players who reshuffle their portfolios of deities to garner maximum benefits in a lifetime. An observation of this “market” trend shows established gods like Rama, Krishna and Durga are slowly being overtaken by Ganesha, Hanuman and Shani. This is because, in a material world, Ganesha is the obvious choice among worshippers seeking prosperity. At the same time, one needs a powerful and dependable friend, and who better than the Monkey God (Hanuman) to protect worshippers from unscrupulous elements grabbing their earnings and assets. Shani, the Saturn God, who is attributed with shaping of our fates, obviously needs to be pleased. One, therefore, finds worshippers queuing to offer oil at Shani temples on Saturday, while representatives of Shani can be seen collecting alms in lieu of “protection” at various traffic signals.
In our country, this trend continues as we believe miracles are frequent and everyone has a chance to witness more than one. Truly, the interface between the brain, the environment and the mind is moving towards the phenomena of escapism, which happens to be a by-product of globalisation.
-Dr Ashok Panagariya
The author is presently the professor Emeritus Neurology, a former vice chancellor and a Padma awardee and recipient of prestigious BC Roy award. Contributes on Mind, science of life and consciousness in pub Med publications.