Frowning upon "irrational faiths and beliefs", Vice President Hamid Ansari on Saturday said there is "intolerance of criticism and questioning" in the society with individual dissenters ostracized or killed - comments that came against the backdrop of 'intolerance' debate.
"Dubious foundations, irrational faiths and beliefs based on unscientific prejudices and habits still persist, he said while inaugurating a panel discussion on 'Scientific Temper: A pre-requisite for Knowledge based Society' in New Delhi.
Contending that "there is intolerance of criticism and questioning", Ansari said, "Attempts to separate myth from fact, history from mythology, belief from scientifically- verified facts are often frowned upon. Pursuant to it, occult is dubbed scientific and superstition as 'culture'."
He said such approaches have "often taken unpleasant and violent turn: books have been banned or withdrawn from circulation, libraries have been burnt, individual dissenters ostracised or killed, social peace disturbed and violence inflicted on citizens."
The Vice President said, "In each of these cases, the working assumption is that questioning will hurt sentiments, damage or destroy existing order or structures, undermine faith, disrupt social order."
His comments come against the backdrop of debate on 'intolerance' in the country.
He rued that even scientists succumb to practices that derogate from scientific temper and said that the education system was insufficiently equipped to inculcate this thinking in young minds.
Emphasising that public acceptance of scientific temper in the society was a pre-condition for fostering and sustaining the cultivation of innovations and scientific research, Ansari said there is need to create the right ambience and structures to encourage scientific research and innovation.
"Much too often there is a lack of scientific temper in our daily life. In our family life, we don't approve of questioning. Most parents don't like children asking questions. In schools, from nursery to high school, teachers frown upon children raising questions.
"In colleges and universities, asking questions is often considered 'cheeky' and an attempt by students to cast doubt a teacher's knowledge of the teacher," Ansari said
He said this frame of mind is reflected in our attitude to matters of social custom, inherited tradition and faith.