Spirituality And Science: Who Knows What?

Author: Dr. Asim Yousafzai

Dear Mr. Khan,

On May 5, 2019, you laid the foundation stone of Al-Qadir University in Sohawa near Jhelum in the Punjab province. You emphatically, albeit with some difficulty, announced that “we will convert Spirituality into a Super Science”. The government of Pakistan’s Twitter account wrote “Al-Qadir University would provide both Islamic and scientific education to the students and help them become morally, intellectually and spiritually accomplished persons”. Your government’s Information Minister, Firdous Ashiq Awan, was quoted as saying that “the credit for the unique and creative idea of Al-Qadir University goes to PM Imran Khan and the First Lady. To make the idea practical, the PM and First Lady played a personal role”.

Mr. Khan, your statements are baffling, to say the least. There is no such thing as “super science” and no one has ever claimed to convert “spirituality” into super science. Science is based on logical questioning, critical thinking, experiments, and drawing conclusions from testable hypotheses. In science, we try to comprehend the universe at the atomic and sub-atomic levels by designing simple and complex experiments.

Spirit comes from the Latin word “to breathe” and “Spirituality” is based on the inner workings of a human soul. Consequently, theology and science serve two different domains and confusing one with the other can be an explosive mix. Both science and spirituality can have some overlap, but no one has ever proposed to fuse the two. The next solar eclipse can be precisely predicted by science rather than spirituality. Polio cannot go away by going to a witch doctor, vaccination is the way to go. It appears like you are conflicted about both science and spirituality.

Spirituality (and meditation) is practiced all over the world and it appeals to the internal mechanisms of a human body. Paradoxically, yoga, which is a form of spirituality, is looked down upon in Pakistan. Spirituality has been reduced to a dogma – a voodoo – where tombs are worshiped, and “Najoomi Professors” bring “Mehboob” to your front door after reading your palm.  By providing easy answers and “awe moments”, superstition and pseudoscience has hindered Pakistan’s progress since its inception in 1947 and you and your government are adding and abetting it.

The world of science has made incredible progress – there are at least three new experimental frontiers that are being investigated to gain perspectives into mind-body interactions; a) lab experiments on the origins of life; b) search for extra-terrestrial intelligence and c) Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning. Mr. Khan, how much is your country contributing to these highly scientific endeavors? The answer is none.

Mr. Khan, let’s assume we take your proposition of converting spirituality into super science at face value. How are you going to achieve it? Pakistan is 117th out of 180 countries in corruption; 150th out of 189 countries in Human Development Index, 800th out of 1000 University Rankings and 147th in GDP per capita out of 181 countries. Last month, your government slashed higher education funds by 50% thus depriving poor but deserving students of a golden opportunity to receive higher education. This is an alarming situation!

For the sake of argument, let’s also assume that 100 students graduate from Al-Qadir University in the year 2023 with a degree in “Spirituality and Super Science”. Where will they be employed? Pakistan already has a very high number of unemployed and underemployed graduates and adding more to this list would be a disservice to the country you often claim to love.

There is no scientific and technological infrastructure in the country; the bridge between research and development and the industries was never developed. Pakistan does not produce any satellite information, and has only one satellite in geostationary orbit which was launched from a Chinese platform. The neighboring India has six satellites in orbit and is planning for a Mars mission for 2022.

Fawad Chaudhry, Minister for Science and Technology in your government, recently claimed that SUPARCO sent the Hubble telescope into orbit – no Sire, it was NASA. Currently, Pakistan spends a meager 0.00025% of its GDP on science and technology, one of the lowest for developing countries. The nation would be eternally indebted to you if you focused on improving the current infrastructure of science and technology in the country rather than making new, unfounded, claims.

Mr. Khan, you also mentioned “students will be given financial assistance and scholarships, quite like Namal University. This will then be extended to other cities and towns”. How do you know that it will be extended to other cities? Are you or your wife stakeholders in the project? As a private entity, you or your wife should not have any stakes in this project.

In my opinion, educating students at Al-Qadir University would be tantamount to dumbing them down – they would neither become good scientists, nor good yoga instructors. On the contrary, there is a good chance that these students would end up as confused citizens and would be a burden on society.

At the end, Mr. Khan, I would frankly request you to stop patronizing such dubious projects which are counterproductive and will further erode the confidence of the current and next generation of scientists, doctors, professors, technologists and engineers. Pakistan is replete with religious seminaries of every color, value and hue catering to the needs of every sect and every denomination in the country. Let the private ownership take care of their own theological needs.

With best wishes.

Asim Yousafzai

GeoScienctist

Dr. Asim Yousafzai

Dr. Asim Yousafzai is a Washington DC based geo-science professional and regularly writes on technical and geo-strategic issues. He is the author of the book “Afghanistan: From Cold War to Gold War”. He is also an AP editor. He can be followed @asimusafzai

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