Friday, June 13, 2008

The small of God things

If ever one needs a mental punching bag, one of the most tempting options is the debate on faith vs. atheism. In this article, Jug Suriya tries his punches on this bag, from both sides, and ends up a bit bruised. Triggered by some apparent research on the relation between of belief (or lack of it) and intelligence, longevity etc..Jug tries landing various punches on the believers and the non-believers, mostly the non-believers.

Fact is belief is not rational and atheism, going by it's own standard practices, is not complete, consistent and cannot answer all the questions. And so, both of them are sitting ducks - for quacks on both sides to have a go at, and cry foul when they fail.

Often, it is cool strategy to not take sides, and let the battles go on, and when the end is apparent, sing songs about the emerging victor while being gracious towards the near vanquished. However, on the divine debate, the end is no where near. (Doomsday proponents, irrespective of which side of the divine debate they might be, will need to contend that the doomsday, if it ever happened, is likely the end of the earth - or something larger - but not necessarily the end of the divine debate. An idea can exist in nothingness.)

Given this fact that the divine debate is not likely to end sometime soon, sitting on the fence (like Jug) is likely to give you a sore bottom rather than strategic advantage. So, I'd take a side - the side of rationality, the side of intelligence, as against that of "intelligent design".

The believers often call into question the theory of evolution, citing the "million monkeys on a million keyboards, producing the works of Shakespeare" etc to cite that the universe is a carefully constructed entity, following principles that we often fail to understand, and is driven (as is every creature, living or not, within the universe) to a destiny as ordained by the omni-potent intelligent designer.

Methinks this is a lot of gibberish. Often one hears that "Belief begins where science ends" - fact is this statement implies the following:

a) Science has certain ends - but this is a temporal phenomenon. These limits of science are constantly pushed by mankind and never before have the limits been pushed as far away as they have been in the last 50 years. As Alvin Toffler, in a completely different context explains, 99% of all that we know has been discovered/invented in the last century. Given a few more centuries, who knows where the new limits of science will be?

b) Often, modern limits of science is far beyond the comprehension of most commoners. 99% of university graduates do not understand what a positron is. Nor do they understand what exactly is DNA. But the common man believes in the existence of DNA because he is aware of the applications related to it. Note that the common man does not need to understand DNA to believe in its existence. Applications drive belief. For pieces of science that have no immediate application value to the common man, they don't stand a chance of acceptance. This simply means that belief begins where demonstrated science ends. As time progresses, belief will be pushed farther away....

c) Looking at the million monkeys theory: For people who claim that the earth is not a result of order emerging from chaos, may I ask why is there no order - "earth-like" or otherwise on the moon or the mars? Modern biology has progressed far beyond Darwinism and succeeds in explaining (for the patient, intelligent, hard-working student) the theory of emergence - of emergent phenomenon - of how order emerges from chaos in case after case...There are scientists who, for various reasons, would like to take the route of mathematical induction (= supreme global generalisation of a concept based on a couple of local observations) and define grand theories of the universe. This is probably far-fetched for even a few hardcore scientists to accept. And the common-man, limited by lack of deep understanding, is confused by the disagreements between the knowledgeable. That apart, the theory of emergence is a honest theory, which can only grow in the years to come and will push the envelope of reason into the far recess of faith.

A nice way to end this is with an attempt to translate a part of a DVG kagga:
Devearembudenu kaggattaleya gaviye?
Naavarilaaradara ottu hesare?
---> transates to
Is God a dark, black cave?
Is it the name we give to all that we dont know?

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