Wednesday, January 31, 2007

"Anyone who loves you is in for a lot of pain..." writes Albert Camus in his novel A Happy Death, and when i read this sentence, the first person who came to my mind was myself. :)

Saturday, January 27, 2007

"Look for the girl with the broken smile" says Maroon 5 in their song 'She will be loved'. And i have always wondered, 'What does a broken smile look like?' and my meagre limits of experience and imagination have not been able to conjure up any image. And i imagine myself walking down some street, years later in unknown future, minding my own business, and suddenly i would spot a smiling girl, and Eureka! The song would come into my mind like a revelation and i would exclamate in the joy of discovery, "So, this is what a broken smile is!".
Ah, the joys of fantasy. Talk about romantic expectations! :)

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

It struck me today that in many ways, our thoughts resemble habits... and there is a deep insight in the commonly used [and commonly ignored] term 'thinking habits'. Just like we developing different habits like smoking, or biting nails, we develop habits of patterns of thinking. Just as these physical habits are determined by conditioned reflexes, type I [Pavlovian] and type II [reward and punishment], the thinking habits are also reinforced by social conditioning. Due to different factors, the patterns of thinking are cemented and it becomes really difficult to change them. It is sometimes said about some person 'He is pessimistic by nature'. But no person is pessimistic [or optimistic] by 'nature', it is the conditioning of his mind which has led to the habit of thinking pessimistically. And like any habit, thinking habits can be changed as well, but it requires patience and consistency, just like in changing physical habits.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Why is virginity associated with body and not also with the soul? Are not the brushes of first love as much important a psychological event as the physical act of coitus? Mental and physical virginity are surely distinct and i think it is quite possible that a prostitute might still be a mental virgin... she may have experienced sex but has she experienced love?

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

"I have reached a point where I consider no woman really attractive. No defect can be hidden from me. That is impotence."
I. B. Singer, A Friend of Kafka

Friday, January 12, 2007

If a woman becomes aware that a person is interested in her because of her beauty, would she be flattered or offended?
Flattered, because it is a compliment to her looks.
Offended, because this admiration ignores her personality and what she is as a person.
I had a chance to read a dialogue between Richard Dawkins and Francis Collins on the issue of God and Science, organized by TIME magazine. The debate can be seen at this link:http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1555132-1,00.html
I'd like to make some comments about it.
The dialogue was good in the sense that it made clear the two conflicting positions of Dawkins and Collins. It would have been foolish to expect some sort of a compromise or a synthesis of the two views. It is not a simple matter of reason, because both Dawkins and Collins were presenting their ideas on the basis of some 'belief', forming a kind of closed system. When you begin to conjecture about things that have at the moment no possibility of empirical or rational verification/ falsification, then it becomes impossible to refute the opposing view.

For example, one of the reasons Collins gave for his belief in God was that it is almost impossible by pure chance alone that the values of the six universal constants are all in such perfect harmony with each other to produce a universe that makes life possible.

TIME: Both your books suggest that if the universal constants, the six or more characteristics of our universe, had varied at all, it would have made life impossible. Dr. Collins, can you provide an example?
COLLINS: The gravitational constant, if it were off by one part in a hundred million million, then the expansion of the universe after the Big Bang would not have occurred in the fashion that was necessary for life to occur. When you look at that evidence, it is very difficult to adopt the view that this was just chance. But if you are willing to consider the possibility of a designer, this becomes a rather plausible explanation for what is otherwise an exceedingly improbable event--namely, our existence.

The hypothesis of this God is purely theoretical conjecturing. It is of course a possibility that a designer might have tuned this constants, but it is not a necessary explanation. For, as Dawkins shows, there might be other explanations. A unified physical theory may show that these constants are interlinked and not free to vary. Or there may be billions of universes, and among them it would not be improbable for one universe to have these constants in harmony.

DAWKINS: People who believe in God conclude there must have been a divine knob twiddler who twiddled the knobs of these half-dozen constants to get them exactly right. The problem is that this says, because something is vastly improbable, we need a God to explain it. But that God himself would be even more improbable. Physicists have come up with other explanations. One is to say that these six constants are not free to vary. Some unified theory will eventually show that they are as locked in as the circumference and the diameter of a circle. That reduces the odds of them all independently just happening to fit the bill. The other way is the multiverse way. That says that maybe the universe we are in is one of a very large number of universes. The vast majority will not contain life because they have the wrong gravitational constant or the wrong this constant or that constant. But as the number of universes climbs, the odds mount that a tiny minority of universes will have the right fine-tuning.

But this explanation too is purely theoretical at the moment. The first possibility is based on hope. There is at the moment no such Unified Theory regarding this constants. And there is no proof also about this multiverse idea. Hence, this too is a sort of 'belief', a belief which is based on the extension of science, but nevertheless incapable of verification/falsification.

Now, since both these explanation are incapable of being proved or refuted, we can't say who is wrong and who is right. Which one you feel more inclined to believe simply depends on you.

Dawkins is right when he says that a belief in God is some sort of an evasion to find scientific causes of things.
'Now Dr. Collins says, "Well, God did it. And God needs no explanation because God is outside all this." Well, what an incredible evasion of the responsibility to explain. Scientists don't do that. Scientists say, "We're working on it. We're struggling to understand."'
And by attributing a cause to God, it becomes kind of sacred, and most people tend to avoid thinking about alternatives. When it was believed by people that God sent rain, or God chose the sex of the baby, it became almost blasphemous to discuss these issues from a scientific context. At present, based on similar thinking, there is immense discouragement to study the mind-body relationship from a scientific perspective because people consider it blasphemous to deny the existence of soul. In this way, religion does impede scientific progress.

Dawkins recognized the possibility of something 'grand and incomprehensible and beyond our present understanding', which Collins immediately labelled as 'God'... but Dawkins pointed out that this God could be any of the billion Gods. To believe this God is the Yahweh, God of Jesus, or say the Islamic God is almost irrational.

Collins was right when he pointed out an aspect about atheists. "Atheists sometimes come across as a bit arrogant in this regard, and characterizing faith as something only an idiot would attach themselves to is not likely to help your case."
I surely agree with him. I am a regular visitor of the Atheist vs Theist forum on Orkut, and the arrogant and insulting behaviour of the atheists is very marked. And it is also wrong to believe that only an idiot would in a God, because this is not the cause. Most of the greatest and brilliants minds of mankind believed in some sort of a God. True, belief in God is not logically necessary, but it is surely logical possible, and is certainly not irrational.

The concluding comments of Dawkins are surely worth quoting:
But it [the idea of a supernatural intelligent designer] does seem to me to be a worthy idea. Refutable--but nevertheless grand and big enough to be worthy of respect. I don't see the Olympian gods or Jesus coming down and dying on the Cross as worthy of that grandeur. They strike me as parochial. If there is a God, it's going to be a whole lot bigger and a whole lot more incomprehensible than anything that any theologian of any religion has ever proposed.

Sunday, January 7, 2007

A person, who later got quite close, said to me once, "Wah je... position in f.sc, topper of entry test, philosopher, poet, thinker.....and a long list, inspite of all dat u managed to FALL IN LOVE...hah, i am really amused."

I suppose i should consider this a compliment! :-D
The Nobel Laureate author I. B. Singer developed his own brand of religion after a phase of skepticism. He called it 'Private Mysticism'. "Since God was completely unknown and eternally silent, He could be endowed with whatever traits one elected to hang upon Him."

And it is my own observation that different people have a different concept of God, although they may not be explicitly aware of it. Generally speaking, there are three types of God which people have in their minds:

1) The Benevolent God: A merciful, gracious God who loves humanity and is willing forgive the sins of mankind.

2) The Just God: A God who has laid down some rules of reward and punishment and doesn't deviate from them.

3) The Malevolent God: An angry, revengeful God who takes delight in tormenting the people in the burning fires of hell.

Most of the time a combination of these three types is present, but usually one of them is in dominance. Which sort of idea you come to have of God depends a lot on your family and the concepts to which a child is exposed to as he is growing. Your idea of God also determines your behaviour and relationship to religion.

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

My learning of epistemological and ethical skepticism has rendered me invalid and incapable of thinking 'normally'. My world has been reduced to a set of possibilities and probabilities. Certainty has become a myth. Can you say that you trust your friend when you are aware that there is a 1 in 100 chance that he might be lying to you? Can you say that this or that scientific theory is true while accepting the fact that the very next observation may refute it? Ah, how i crave for certainty and ah, how it hides itself beneath layers of veils.
 

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