Just say it!

I read a blog-post just now and started typing a comment - "idhu vetti scene velamma pethi'oda post, vera'edhum illa. oorukkulla ekka-chakka per indha mari dhan thiriyuranunga..". After a while, I thought I'd rather save it for a post here. Because, it's quite a common phenomenon, not just in blogs.

It's the good old 'I'm going to praise myself under the cloak of confessing my idiocy/phsychosis/neurotic-obsession/misfortune/wantonness' tactic.

"I'm such a geek that I started using Linux in 98"
"I'm such a loser that I paid $4100 for my latest laptop"
"I'm such a TV freak that I bought a 59" LG plasma"
"I'm so unlucky that I have lost my wallet over 50 times during my flight-trips to London"
"My life sucks so much that I studied during my holidays and topped my class"
"I'm so clumsy I ruined my jacket by spilling caviar on it"
"I'm such a man-whore that I have sex with 19 different women every month"
and a long list of "confessions" we hear everyday (probably use it ourselves). All these "confessions" just say one thing - "I'm such a modest wuss that I resort to cheap hackneyed techniques to feed my own ego."

Do/say whatever you want to. Just know that almost everyone knows what you're doing, they are just in a mode themselves - "I'm so nice that I'll pretend like I didn't see through you." So just say it; just say "I'm the shit!"

* - I haven't linked the post to avoid another episode of 'local paaltix' driven squabble (yes, I'm scared). I'll say this much, though: it was about the author's obsession with Harry Potter novels.

Toon Teaser 3: Charlie Brown goes 'metal'

God: life's purpose and unpredictability?

I recently published a podcast that evoked several exchanges between me and a few listeners (mostly in email). My conversation with a listener named Subash is probably worth publishing here.

He Said,
First, I dont believe in any religious god and never have I had any spiritual experience. But I am sure there is something in the universe which we can call GOD. It is, I believe, 'Unpredictability', which has not been properly explained or predicted with numerous probability theories. That is why inspite of the obvious and simple connection to cause and effect of different entities of nature, we are still unable to predict anything of reasonable significance scientifically and may never be able to. The process that causes an 'effect' from a 'cause' is yet to defined for infinite cases in science. As a physicist, I believe that until sufficient ideas come forth to understand the nature of different entities around us the question of GOD will always remain only of any cultural or sociological relevance and honestly it shouldn't be allowed to even enter the realm of philosophy.

In fact, just think if suddenly one day man finds an answer to all the questions that were ever asked and will be asked. Will he be peaceful? What can he do for a living? So just like man's thought is evolving with generations, so will the world around him too atleast as much so that he may never be able to catch up with it to fully understand it. Like I think "Success is an orgasm, its the foreplay that lasts longer", its better to keep searching rather than to find answers because the happiness lasts only a while.
I replied,
About predictability: Some one else had brought the same point and it's interesting that you should relate science’s inability to predict the future with God too. I'll quote what I had said there (along with what he had said).
{{If scientist, atheists are trying to find out, through their equations,comparisons to define the laws driving man,universe- all they are doing is to define some geometric sense,an order in everything. With this order , they want to predict the future.}}

This is just not true. Natural scientists are neither interested in predicting human behaviour nor the future in general. Behavioral scientists, probably. But as you know, psychology, sociology etc., are not 'natural sciences'. They sure use the ‘scientific method’ to arrive at theories, but unlike the natural sciences none of those theories evolve in to ‘scientific facts’. Even a claim as simple as "If you pinch a child, it will cry" is only a theory. It is not a fact. It can be replicated to the extent of 100% success rate for millions of attempts but it is still not a fact (because there are several children who are born insensitive to 'touch' in several areas of their body).

I'll extend the discussion here. Predicting the future may never be possible simply because of the lack of information. Add to that the fickle-minded-human-involvement in the functioning of the world. As you probably know already, all demographic predictions (and sociological theories in general) rely strongly on data that is based on a sample. The accuracy of those predictions is directly proportional to the sample size. That is, the more you know about the present (and to an extent, the past) more you tend to "know" about the future. Even for that they need to make a lot of generalizations -- based on historical patterns and existing theory. Now, think about something that is seemingly plain and simple as predicting the Earth's overall temperature at 2050. It is made complex by carbon emissions, deforestation -- human effects-- and volcanic emissions (especially, lava into the sea bed), global dimming, tectonic movements -- "natural effects" that we do not know about entirely. While we may know the latter thoroughly over the next few decades, the former will remain relatively less predictable. Nevertheless, in spite of all these shortcomings, geologists and climatologists have decent theories (that make decent predictions) about what the Earth will be like, in terms of climate change, in the year 2050.

But I see you are aware of all these things and you're pointing to the 'naturally existing out of human involvement' entities. Once again, I think it's lack of information. Science has over the past few hundred years unraveled some of the "deepest mysteries" giving way to successful predictions (Think about the accuracy of weather predictions 60 years ago and now). New 'instruments' give new information. I think this process will keep expanding, probably not in the quest to predict the future per se, but to explain the present. That's also another reason - we don't know what the 'effect' really is before we could analyze the cause.

I think one needs to be rational enough to realize, as you point out, that science will always have something to "understand." But that cannot be taken as an excuse to allow an 'all seeing' God in public discourse; especially when God has a rather ridiculous definition for over 5 billion people.

You ask a very good question here: "just think if suddenly one day man finds an answer to all the questions that were ever asked and will be asked. Will he be peaceful?" I say the same thing to some of the 'moderates' when they say, "science can only explain the 'how' and not the 'why'". Well, God can't explain the 'why' either. It's funny that most of God believers attribute their life's “purpose” to the one that supposedly created them. That's why I said,
"To put it briefly: So what? What if this universe was created by someone/something? How does that bestow any purpose to our lives? I know who my father is. I know one of his billion sperms made me (through a rather circular process). But none of that will give any "purpose" to my life, would it?"

Your last quote reminded me of a discourse by Osho where he explains that the "joy is in finding."
He replied,
When I say "Unpredictability", I dont mean the lack of information as the handicap. In fact lack of information is not the biggest hurdle to postulating laws. Simply because computers can handle much more information now than before and there is no theoretical limit to it in the future.

So "Unpredictability" is the "fickle-minded-human" attitude which is shared by most of the other entities in nature especially at the nano and femto scopic level. Just like what Heisenberg states in his uncertainty principle, which I am sure you must have come across. It is impossible with current knowledge to predict the final state of an electron when its initial states are given even in a controlled environment. It probably is not an inherent quality of the electron to be mysterious as claimed by Heisenberg, but because we use an electron to study an electron which is why it is so ineffective and there is no other method or any other smaller known particle which can be used.

Imagine having a small ball trying to understand the shape of another ball of the same size. you can hit the target ball (with the ball you have) several times and make a pattern out of the impinged area on a screen to predict the shape of the target ball, which in this case would be a function of probability distribution. If you have a smaller ball than the target ball, you have a higher probability of identifying the shape of the target ball.

You can claim that it still is because of this lack of information whether smaller particles exist in nature that the unpredictability exists. But the claim has to end somewhere since any particle cannot be infinitely divided into smaller entities. The same condition of unpredictability will exist for that smaller particle, which will permeate into the normal world too. So its not really lack of information that necessitates this unpredictability tag, but unpredictability itself. I do believe that existence of GOD cannot be rationally explained apart from this unpredictability, which means that GOD is as confused as we humans are. So the existence of a higher power is only laughable.
I replied,
{{So "Unpredictability" is the "fickle-minded-human" attitude which is shared by most of the other entities in nature especially at the nano and femto scopic level.}} - I completely agree with what you say. We don't even have to go to complex subatomic particles; everyday things have it in them. The example that I often cite, as you might too, is that of a 'coin toss'. The unpredictability of an outcome lies on the inherent nature of the object involved and not on the information we have about it (assuming that it's a "fair" coin toss). What's amazing though, is that even randomness has a pattern (normal distribution). That is, over a million coin tosses we are likely to have close to 50-50 outcomes of the coin's faces.
Disclaimer: I have made few changes to the actual emails. The exchange, quite visibly, has material that is often used by several people (inlcuding movies). It's mostly because of nature of thetopic. So yes, I didn't post it beause it is intellectually stimulating or novel. It's just for the 'record'.

Vegetarian Evangelists

It's always good to see a new podcaster or a new podcast in Tamil. But this one's the age old veg vs. non-veg debate. The same old points repeated. Nevertheless, as I lately jump on any topic that cites religious morality as a reason to do (or not to do) something, I couldn't resist this one.
Anyway, it's just another reason to state my position on something. An ethical perspective is as far as I'm willing take on this issue. Even that, with lesser vigour.

Download mp3

Oh man!

After the infamous "Bad server, no donut for you" error message in Orkut and several other new "teen-like" messages, I got this one today ('ennagada dei?') .

Odeo Error

We have errored.

The page you are trying to request has been eaten faster than Oreos and milk.

Perhaps it was here and working, or perhaps you are requesting a page which never existed.

Vetti Post-2

(This post loads well in IE)

Since I don't have the kind of time to write anything new I'll just post my response to a mail that I got from my friend. He forwarded this post, and asked me what I thought. It's the usual run-of-the-mill 'anti-Brahmin' nonsense. There used to be days when I engaged with 'those types' in attempts to expose the vacuousness of their "rationality." After a point, as with many who try it, I realized that their heads are too far up their butts for any reasonable conversation. It's one of the reasons I stay away from the 'Tamil blogosphere'. They just can't keep off the 'Dravidians were the first to use toilet paper - that's how far advanced our civilization was' rhetoric. But I think I'll use this post to state my stance, though vaguely, on this topic.

It's a big pile of bullshit, that's what it is. And this guy isn't the first one. Ever since forumhub days of mid 90s this group has been spitting utter lies about "Tamil History." The whole theory of an "Aryan invasion" is highly dubious on account of DNA evidence. The whole of the Indian subcontinent, at least racially, were the same people till all 'real invasions' took place (Dravidians or Aryans or edho elavu). There are strong cultural influences from what is now West-Central Asia and Eastern Europe (in terms of bronze age records). But then again, this could be the other way (that is we influenced them, hence the similarties in language patterns etc.). Whatever the case is, the existing 'Aryan-Dravidian split' in many public discourses is false. Check this page.

It's funny that the word Dravidian actually originated from Sanskrit. How ironic is that? It's true. None of the past works of Tamil literature mentions the word 'Dravidan'. Not in Thirukkural, not in Puranaanooru or Agananooru, not in Pathitrupathu or any pre-modern literary work you can think of. Nada. But still these idiots keep talking about Tamils being 'Dravidan'.

Most of these are hypotheses with ostensible assertions. One cannot come to a concrete conclusion based on existing historical findings. But for a critical thinker, the so called Tamil culture will still sound ridiculous. It's just as bad, if not worse, as the "Aryan" culture. Their points can be attacked on an entirely different--conceptual--basis.

How did the people who were mere shepherds gain the capability to defeat a whole race of indigenous people? Did they get 'inside support' from the indigenous people? If they did, I'm sure it was a good number -- more than a few selective "dhrogigal". If huge number of this race were traitors who is he feeling proud about? A race that had a good number of traitors? (more here: "அதன் பிறகு தெற்கே வாழ்ந்த சில தமிழ் மன்னர்களை தம் பக்கம் சேர்த்துக் கொண்ட இராமன் தமிழர்களின் தலைநகரமாக இருந்த இலங்கைக்கு படையெடுத்துச் சென்றான்.")

Hasn't he heard of the saying "fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me"? How many times and how many people fooled the Tamils? So we were just bellicose fools who couldn't fight the "cunning"? And this guy is feeling proud about that "race"? Is that even a good excuse? That "we got cheated"?

And note the part where he proudly argues that, "இராவணன் ஒரு போரில் இராமனை வெற்றி கொண்டு அன்றைய வழக்கப்படி வெற்றியின் அடையாளமாக இராமனுடைய மனைவியை கவர்ந்து சென்றான்.எனினும் இராமனின் மனைவியை ஏதும் செய்யாது கண்ணியம் காத்தான்." What the hell is he talking about? If Raavanan was such a deejuntu fellow why even abduct Sita? And what kind of "culture" makes 'wife stealing' a symbol of victory? It's as bad as patriarchy can get. And this man is feeling proud about that "race"?

I'm not sure if I've got all my 'facts' right. But I think the second part of the mail doesn't need any factual basis. It's out there to be torn apart. It's a shame that these self proclaimed rational thinkers (pagutharivu pannadaigal) find such pride in saying "we were the first patriarchal assholes", i.e. 'Tamil civilization', in India.

* - I've made small changes to the actual email -- cleared a few typos and added some links. Tamil words quoted directly appear better in IE.

Aval Appadithan

I wrote this movie's "review" 3 years ago in mouthshut.com, then posted it here last year. Now I have the movie uploaded in dailymotion. It's my all time favourite Tamil movie. Sure, the movie has been "stolen" from a few mediums before it got here (the audio lag is not because of that, that's how it is even in the actual version) but it's worthwhile.

Update: I did a podcast on the movie too; you can download it.

Screw moderation

I have very often stressed that there are no grey areas in a lot of issues. I don't mean to sound like Bush, but sometimes you have quit trying to be 'nice and neutral' and take a bloody stance. This blog-post does both. It takes a firm stance asserting that all beliefs should be tolerated - a stance that takes no stance. I don't know if I should call it naivety or ingenuous optimism or plain lack of critical analysis. But it's a good thing she expressed it, at least now she'll know who agrees with her and who doesn't (and why). Given that I spent some time to post a reply, I might as well quote a part of my comment there.*
{{Today being an atheist is a fad. People don't realise that it is an extreme point of view and they are no different from religious fanatics.}} - This is a platitude that bears little logical reasoning. You have two factions, one that is totally dogmatic, inherently prejudiced and intolerant based on a certainty that cannot be proven unless you stoop down to a delusional world. And on the other hand you have the most universally accepted epistemological realm in this world (science). Given that evolutionary science has grown so much that the religious ‘fundies’ can no longer play the "it's just a theory" record, one can no longer believe the Gods of Christianity or Islam or Zionism or even Hinduism if they understood science. Atheists of the past, mostly, rejected the idea of God based on moral, ethical and philosophical grounds. Lately it's scientific. If development of modern science is a fad, then sure, atheism is too.

Delusion (aka faith), unlike science, does not follow an inductive method or logical reasoning that is both universal and objective (as universal as human universality and as objective as objectivity can possibly get). Whether there is anything real or not, science is the only way to understand and communicate (with least ambiguites) the idea of reality. So, as someone who's passionate about the truth, Dawkins' supposed militant approach can only be equated to anti-slavery movements of 19th century, the feminist movements of the 1960s (and the civil rights movement of the same period).
Slavery was, at least then, a lifestyle and for many, a belief system that was supposed to help the 'black man'. And I'm happy that not many people were "tolerant" to those beliefs for a long time. There are several belief systems that the need be shown zero tolerance. Religions (especially monotheistic ones) need not be treated different just because of the sheer number of followers. The likes of Ted Haggard are breeding close minded homophobes all over the world. It's an indoctrination that breeds intolerance. Why should it be tolerated?
In the presentation cited below, Sam Harris makes a similar argument. He goes on to accuse the 'moderates' for "providing a cover for the fundamentalists." The same can be said about a few theologians that I've met or listened to. They use their intellect and sophistry to manipulate the semantics of science, albeit embarrassing themselves in the process. Nevertheless, they do provide fodder to the 'god believing lot'. For them the "smart theologians" are a defense mechanism. The theologians (especially the ones who believe in a religious God), are either incorrigible liars or neurologically diseased.

* - Minor changes have been made from the original comment. Please read the comment in its original context to see the footnotes that I had provided.

Addendum: I strongly recommend you to watch the videos from this site. Or search for 'beyond belief' in youtube and watch the edited clips available there.

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