|Galileo facing the Roman Inquisition by Cristiano Banti, 1857.
If we keep
doing the same thing, we will keep getting the same result. Albert Einstein is
credited with that saying. But Einstein’s genius is not required to say
something as obvious as that. Yet, in spite of the backing of Einstein’s
genius, we keep doing same things and keep getting same results. Our petty
jealousies and violent spirituality, craze for power and race for wealth, idolisation
of a Hitler or a Modi in the name of something as evasive as culture or race –
nothing has changed over centuries.
We need a
paradigm shift. Desperately so. We have messed up this world of ours terribly.
We need to reshape our earth and our heavens. We need a paradigm shift.
One of the
most influential philosophers of science of the 20th century, Thomas
Kuhn, introduced the concept of paradigm shift. A paradigm, according to his
definition, is a collective set of attitudes, values, procedures, techniques,
etc that form the generally accepted perspective of a particular discipline at
a point of time.
the Ptolemaic system gave us a paradigm of the cosmos with the earth at its
centre. That paradigm was very flattering for human beings because the sun,
moon, stars, and planets all orbited the earth. The earth was a special planet,
in other words. Religions, particularly the powerful Catholic Church, were
mighty pleased with that paradigm. It fitted well with the Biblical paradigm of
the earth being the chosen place of Yahweh and homo sapiens being the chosen
race. [This chosen race narrowed soon to clutch only the Jews many of whom must
have wished again and again to be liberated from God’s special fondness for
In the first
half of the 16th century, the Ptolemaic system gave way to the
Copernican one and that was a revolutionary paradigm shift. The earth lost its
most favoured status and became one tiny nugget of a planet in a gigantic
cosmos which had many other heavenly bodies that were probably far more charming.
This paradigm shift meant much to religions, particularly the powerful Catholic
Church. The Church’s God could have lost His supremacy in the universe if all
people accepted Copernicus instead of the Bible as a source of truth. Human
beings would become insignificant creatures on a very minor planet in a
gigantic system. Priests would lose job. That didn’t happen, however. The
Church prohibited the Copernican theory and set in motion the bloodiest attack
on truths. Inquisitions came into existence. Thinkers and truth-seekers were
shifts are not easy affairs. Especially when gods come into play.
of truth refuse to be deluded by gods. So we have had a lot of useful paradigm
shifts along the way. Aristotelian mechanics gave way to classical mechanics in
the 17th century. Later Newton gave way to Einstein. In psychology,
cognitive approach superseded the behaviourist approach. In economics, Keynes
turned an entire set of pet notions upside down.
one place where a paradigm shift was most wanted and that did not happen, alas.
Our gods continued to demand blood and we killed fellow beings for them. We
claim to redeem souls from perdition but they are the most irredeemable entities.
That’s a terrible irony. Jesus came to redeem his religion (and presumably all
religions) from heartless rubrics and rituals. But his followers ended up
establishing the most heartless religion with a whole range of absurd rubrics
and rituals. The Buddha was a bold paradigm shifter before Jesus. He ended up
as another blind squatting idol in the hands of his followers. More recently, Mahatma
Gandhi tried to elevate the heart above everything else (like vindictive nationalism)
and his country today stands diametrically opposed to all that he stood for
and, irony of ironies, in the name of the very religion which Gandhi believed
We need a paradigm shift desperately today. It is obvious
that religions can’t bring about that. Even gods failed when they tried to do
it by coming amongst us in our own shapes and forms. But we need a shift from
our self-centredness to a cosmic outlook. Who will bring about that shift? You.
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post in this series: Outliers