When Einstein died, Michio Kaku was eight years old. Recalling the incident he says: “When I was eight years old something happened which changed my life. My teacher announced that a great scientist has just died and I’ll never forget the picture they put in all the newspapers which made headlines around the world. There was a picture of his desk and the caption said ‘unfinished manuscript of a great scientist of our time.’ And I said to myself, wow! Unfinished manuscript. Why couldn’t we finish it…? Later, I found out this man was Albert Einstein and that unfinished manuscript was, The Unified Theory of Everything. He (Einstein) wanted an equation no more than one inch long that would allow us to read the Mind of God!”
With an unwavering passion, Michio Kaku set his heart on completing the unfinished work of Einstein, and finding the one inch long equation that would reveal the secret of Everything. At long last he co-founded the String Field Theory, a branch of String Theory, which according to him is the fabled Theory of Everything.
Pivotal questions arise: What made an eight years old Michio Kaku so much passionate about science? Why children in our society are indifferent to science and find it hard to understand its very fundamental concepts?
The expectable answer: Natural disposition of a child steers his interest towards a particular field. Some children are naturally predisposed towards science, others, simply are not.
This is not always a valid and sound argument. Generally, nature requires appropriate nurture for innate talents to flourish; it needs an environment that can stimulate the mind of child in the desired way. Without conducive environment and proper nurture the brightest of minds can go dumb. This intellectual stimulation comes from parents and home where primary socialization of a child occurs.
Children are born with an amazing sense of curiosity. They tend to ask very many questions, which is the first requisite of acquiring knowledge in general and a precondition for science in particular. Science asks for an inquisitive mind, capable of asking question, breaking stereotypes and thinking of impossibilities. Unfortunately, in our homes children are appreciated more for being submissive, docile and incurious than being inquisitive and questioning. Subservience kills curiosity and a docile mind can be anything but scientific and inventive.
Similarly, School is the place where a child learns new ideas and stimuli. Our schools too, hardly motivate young minds towards science. On the contrary it is the school where children develop a phobia of science subjects. The obvious reasons are: school textbooks which are insipid and boring, and teachers who have dismal and poor science-teaching skills. Lamenting this dislike of Pakistani students for science, Pervez Hoodbhoy, the well-know Pakistani Nuclear Physicist and Essayist, says that the indifference of Pakistani school children towards science is because of the text-books, which “seem designed to kill curiosity rather than nurture it”.
Teachers are equally worse especially when it comes to teaching science subjects. Parroting scientific definitions verbatim is encouraged than understanding conceptual and contextual meanings. Students are restrained from asking ‘too many odd questions’. Consequently, they develop an indifferent and hostile attitude towards science subjects.
Then there is society, which influences the intellect and attitude of a child. A biased view about science still exists in our society. There are people who view science to be antithetical to Religion. According to Pervez Hoodbhoy, three contrastive attitudes about science exist in our (Muslim) society. First, a small number of people reject science seeing it as immoral and materialist, second, a large number try to find a reconciliation between science and religion, and the third dominant faction regards science and religion essentially unrelated.
It is mainly on account of these misplaced biases that young minds have been unable to develop interest and proficiency in science education. Our progress and performance in field of scientific development and innovation can be measured from statistics: as of 2015 out of 870 individual Nobel Prize winners, only 12 are Muslims. Seven of the twelve have won the Noble Peace Prize. Only three, including the lone Pakistani Dr. Abdus Salam, have won it in field of science! That speaks volume about our intellectual impoverishment and our retardation in scientific fields.
Science is the most important field of knowledge which has enabled mankind to move out of caves and explore the farthest parts of cosmos. Without scientific knowledge and inventions this incredible human progress would have been virtually impossible. Learning science is a requisite in today’s world, but it requires casting off all form of biases. And, unless we throw off these prejudices against science and provide our children an enabling environment that promotes free and unprejudiced thinking we would never be able to learn science, much less produce one brilliant scientist who could dare read the Mind of God.