Going Against Ignorance Sep02

Going Against Ignorance

It is a weird world we live in, it is a weird set of people whom we share this world and it is a weird set of philosophies that we live with. Sometimes you see a something that gives you renewed hope in humanity, but many a times it is exasperation and futility that digitally scroll in front of our eyes. We live on the third, blue planet from the Sun, which is a spec on the second arm of the small Milkyway Galaxy: A tiny spec in the vast cosmic ocean. But as Carl Sagan said: “We are a way for the cosmos to know itself”. We are part of such a wondrous event, our cells are made of atoms that were made in super novas, our life a unique celebration of the coming together of what may have been multiple galaxies and multiple stars. We breathe the same air that passed through the lungs of every animal that lived before us, we share the same tree of life. ( Yes, I saw Cosmos: A Space Time Odessey )  When I learn about the cosmos, its power and what it is, I was filled with wonder. A wonder that I could not contain, a wonder that makes me feel like a child learning to walk, a wonder that makes me a voracious consumer of information, a wonder that truly makes me happy  for living here at this age. Where science is reaching a stage if infinite wonders. Science makes me feel wonderful. It tells me that I am awesome and I am a unique universe in myself. We read about anti-vaxxers, salt-in-sea-whale-spermers, moon-landing-hoaxers and suddenly our world appears less bright, our achievements seem less poignant, our lives become less meaningful, the wonders seems to shine less. You cannot know everything about everything in this world. It is a fact, we do not have the time in this world for that, yet. One life time is not enough to consume the knowledge that we have uncovered over the last few hundred years. This was the time of enlightenment. When the human race got out of the shackles of mythology and supernaturalism, to step into a world of knowledge, light, proofs and logic. Becoming rational being, applying ones own thought on topics, proving them wrong or supporting them with new evidence. The gaps where gods could hide became smaller, and smaller, to a point that any mathematician would say, this gaps wont exists for more time. Gods of weather are a thing of the past, gods for crops and harvests turned into fertilizers and farming. Gods that guarded the sea became GPS and Satellites. These were all attributed to god or gods. Their gods exist in mysteries and when there are no mysteries, they decide to call certain things mysteries and be happy in their claps and hymns. [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Oh12ROTQCE] People do not believe in climate change, people do not believe in Big Bang, people do not believe in evolution. Things like these, don’t need belief. They are true and has evidence to prove it to be true. That is why we go Against Ignorance.   “Nothing is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious...

Physics, Biology, Chemistry and “Shastra” Sep02

Physics, Biology, Chemistry and “Shastra”

I am from a country which cleanly has a convoluted and mistaken idea about what is “Science”. It has all to do with what is being called as “Shastra”, a word that denotes “Science” among other things. But then when we consider all the “other things” that “Science” is involved  in India, I guess the actual Science takes a step back. Here, Palmistry is a Shastra. So is Panch-Pakshi Shastra ( it has something to do with some , “Astro Stellar force of an individual” , which I cant associate to any known form of force that human beings can physically conceive. ) Then there are Parrot toting astrologers, (another link ) they can predict future from the tarot cards picked up by parrots. In a country where cows are holy, I guess this is pretty common. Astrology is considered as a science. Even when educated people consider Jupiter, Mars, Saturn and Pluto ( is there Pluto ? ) to affect a man’s life. And also his wife. I just saw a book called “Biorhythms of the Natal Moon”, Biorhythm? Natal Moon? pseudo-science, meaningless words to impress the poor guy who sees such big words and falls for it. Here is the link to the book, and here is the description. The system is unfailing as sit is based on natural laws of five elements (Pancha Mahabhutas) combined with astro-stellar force of each individual.This can be successfully applied in all matters of life in the fields of Horary, Electional, Medical Astrology and especially on Natal  Astrology. What a load of nothing, reading all this is like listening to a Homeopathy doctor who keep on saying.. nothing. Pseudo-Science, Alternative Medicines. In this country, everything is a science, Vasthu Shastra ( It is the metaphysical plan of a building that incorporates the course of the heavenly bodies and supernatural forces. Meta physical plan of a building? Incorporate heavenly bodies and Supernatural forces? ), A  non-Indian “Shastra”, they call it “Pranic Healing® is a highly developed and tested system of energy energy medicine “. ( What is it? Pranic Healing® is applied on the bio-electromagnetic field known as the aura, or energy body, which is a mold or blueprint that surrounds and interpenetrates the physical body. This energy body absorbs life energy and distributes it throughout the physical body, to the muscles, organs, glands, etc. Bio-electromagnetic field? and the rest of it? A load of mind boggling trash.). When all these are called Shastra, along with Physics, Chemistry and Biology, what we have done is create a pseudo sense of authenticity for the “Indian/Non-Indian Shastras”. This pseudo-authenticity is utilized by the “doctors/practitioners” to make money, and get themselves some respectability.  Common misconceptions about “Shastra” give rise to a new generation of people who believe all Shastras are authentic. If anyone has to know what Indian Shastra’s are, check up on Koka Shastra. The real scientists, try to explain Science in simple words, for the common man to understand. Stephen Hawking did not write “A Brief History of Time” to be read by scientists. Richard Dawkins explained evolutionary biology to the common man in The Blind Watchmaker, The Selfish Gene, The Greatest Show on Earth and the rest. How to understand real Science? The one that is said by Dawkins, Hawking, Weinberg makes science simple, they tell things in very simple language,  while all this other “Shastra” scientists make complicated big words to explain what they want to say. Making “Astro Stellar, Bio-electromagnetic, Biorhythm, Memory of Water ( Homeopathy ) etc, sound like things you should know about. But actually , they are collection of words are meaningless. Next time someone tells something like this, Ask them, what is that thing and can I see it and is there proof. I guess, you just got to look at the face of the “Scientist”. On a side note, I have not seen any reason why all the astrologers are not...

How to warn your child about this Irrational World Sep02

How to warn your child about this Irrational World

To my dearest daughter, Now that you are ten, I want to write to you about something that is important to me. Have you ever wondered how we know the things that we know? How do we know, for instance, that the stars, which look like tiny pinpricks in the sky, are really huge balls of fire like the Sun and very far away? And how do we know that the Earth is a smaller ball whirling round one of those stars, the Sun? The answer to these questions is ‘evidence’. Sometimes evidence means actually seeing (or hearing, feeling, smelling….) that something is true. Astronauts have traveled far enough from the Earth to see with their own eyes that it is round. Sometimes our eyes need help. The ‘evening star’ looks like a bright twinkle in the sky but with a telescope you can see that it is a beautiful ball – the planet we call Venus. Something that you learn by direct seeing (or hearing or feeling…) is called an observation. Often evidence isn’t just observation on its own, but observation always lies at the back of it. If there’s been a murder, often nobody (except the murderer and the dead person!) actually observed it. But detectives can gather together lots of other observations which may all point towards a particular suspect. If a person’s fingerprints match those found on a dagger, this is evidence that he touched it. It doesn’t prove that he did the murder, but it can help when it’s joined up with lots of other evidence. Sometimes a detective can think about a whole lot of observations and suddenly realize that they all fall into place and make sense if so-and-so did the murder. Scientists – the specialists in discovering what is true about the world and the universe – often work like detectives. They make a guess (called a hypothesis) about what might be true. They then say to themselves: if that were really true, we ought to see so-and-so. This is called a prediction. For example, if the world is really round, we can predict that a traveler, going on and on in the same direction, should eventually find himself back where he started. When a doctor says that you have measles he doesn’t take one look at you and see measles. His first look gives him a hypothesis that you may have measles. Then he says to himself: if she really has measles, I ought to see… Then he runs through his list of predictions and tests them with his eyes (have you got spots?), his hands (is your forehead hot?), and his ears (does your chest wheeze in a measly way?). Only then does he make his decision and say, ‘I diagnose that the child has measles.’ Sometimes doctors need to do other tests like blood tests or X-rays, which help their eyes, hands and ears to make observations. The way scientists use evidence to learn about the world is much cleverer and more complicated than I can say in a short letter. But now I want to move on from evidence, which is a good reason for believing something, and warn you against three bad reasons for believing anything. They are called ‘tradition’, ‘authority’, and ‘revelation’. First, tradition. A few months ago, I went on television to have a discussion with about 50 children. These children were invited because they’d been brought up in lots of different religions. Some had been brought up as Christians, others as Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs. The man with the microphone went from child to child, asking them what they believed. What they said shows up exactly what I mean by ‘tradition’. Their beliefs turned out to have no connection with evidence. They just trotted out the beliefs of their parents and grandparents, which, in turn, were not based upon evidence either. They said...

Battling Ignorance on the Frontlines Jun11

Battling Ignorance on the Frontlines

  The constitution of this nation states that it is every citizen’s duty to develop scientific temper. Which means that it is every citizen’s duty to pursue the truth using the scientific method, empirically and to make it known to everyone if there is any kind of foul play involved. When a purported ‘miracle’ was investigated by Sanal Edamaruku and shown to be a health hazard to all the people consuming ‘holy water’ that was dripping from a statue in Navi Mumbai because the source of the water was a drainage pipe with stagnant water that had alarmingly high amounts of E.coli in it, he was instantly taken on by the community that had been marketing this incident as a miracle. They hired goons and thugs to threaten him, they filed multiple legal cases against him under the blasphemy law of the country: IPC 295A, an archaic colonial era law that was used to prevent anyone from expressing an opinion contrary to the ruling elite is used nowadays to strong-arm people who have opinions contrary to a majority group, whether it be political, religious or ideological. Sanal was forced to leave the country, for two major reasons, Firstly, because he faced immediate arrest for doing his duty as a citizen of this nation, by exercising and developing ‘scientific temper’ and his skepticism and may even have saved lives, considering that people were going to the extent of drinking this ‘holy water’. Secondly, because his life as well as the lives of his family were being threatened by goons hired by this fanatic organization. I implore you to consider this scenario, consider the fact that in a country of 1.23 billion people, regardless of what one’s opinion is, it will invariably offend at least someone, then does is really make sense to even consider legislatively protecting someone whose views are so feeble that they get offended by the truth? Is it right to force a person who did nothing but ask the organization involved to apologize for perpetrating this hoax (endangering lives in the process) into a self imposed exile? Is it even sane for us to continue with a vestigial law that is a direct reminder of the colonial era when we were subjected to horrendous discrimination based on caste, creed and even skin colour? Now, I dont know if Ive made a convincing argument for the scenario and thus convinced you to see things as I do, but if you have, then I hope that adding a couple of key facts about this story will not change anything. The organisations involved in this particular incident were fanatical Catholic organisations namely the Catholic Secular Forum, the Association of Concerned Catholics and the Maharashtra Christian Youth Forum . I had the honour of meeting Sanal and spending some time with him a while back, a man who had made it his life’s mission to combat superstition and dangerous dogma. He has debunked a number of fraudulent claims and exposed a number of mystics who constantly used to take advantage of the faithful. His life was once threatened by one such charlatan on live television, stating that the man could kill Sanal using his chants alone. The standoff went on with the mystic chanting and Sanal smirking as the country watched that show live. Evidently the supernatural didnt get the memo about helping this mystic out as he made a complete fool of himself. He is the President of the Indian Rationalist Association and currently operates from Helsinki via teleconferencing sessions because of his exile. The point now however is, should we really put up with this nonsense in the name of being politically correct at times and non confrontational at other times when the risks are so high. Is’nt it always better to question one’s motives and be skeptical about everything around us? Question everything, find answers that are sufficiently reasonable and battle...

COMING OUT TO MY MOTHER Jun02

COMING OUT TO MY MOTHER

She was in the kitchen. “Amma, can you come to my room now? I need to tell you something.” “Yes, what is so secret that you want me to come to your room?” “You will understand. I don’t want Achchan to know. Come fast!” Also I figured, kitchen could be quite hazardous for what I was about to do. Once we got it into my room, I closed the door. She found it strange that I’m behaving unusual and was giving a half laugh. “Amma, you may not like what I’m going to say now.” “Is it about your job?” “No.. something personal.” “A love affair?” “No Amma. I’m afraid when you hear it, you may even cry. But don’t make a big scene and let father know.” Those smiles faded away. “Yes tell me, I won’t cry.” “I know you will, but even then I have to say this to you. But before that let me ask you, are you stiff on wanting grandchildren?” “Well.. There is no tenacity that I want grandchildren.” “Then what about my marriage?” “Yes, on that I’m. You need to get married.” “Well.. that’s the problem. I don’t want to get married.. I’m gay.” She drew back in shock. I could see from her face that she didn’t expect this at all. But then she found words to say, “You could be just feeling that. It must be nothing.” “No Amma, this is not just a feeling. This is not something I’m doing on an impulse. I’ve been thinking about how to tell this to you for a long time.” “So what are you? A man or a woman?” “I’m still a man. But it’s that I don’t feel attraction towards gals. I feel that only to guys.” “Is it because of watching all those Friends and Will & Grace?” “No Amma. I had known about this for long time before watching all those.” “When did you start to feel like this?” “Well.. way before my teenage. But that time, I used to think that I could be the only one having this kind of feeling. But when I got internet, I realized that I’m not the only one and that I’m called gay.” “So is there someone?” “No.” “Are you sure marriage is not at all an option?” “Amma even if I do marry a gal, I will not be able to fulfil all her desires. And that is just unfair to her, don’t you think so? Since Indians are not open to talk about homosexuality, many guys will be afraid to tell to their parents. So they agree for the marriage and then without the knowledge of their wives, they continue sleeping with men. I don’t want to betray someone like that. I can never imagine doing that to a person knowingly. There are many instances of failed marriages because of this. Not getting married is much better than ending up in divorce, right?” “Yeah, that’s true.” “You must be remembering that scene from Honeymoon Travels Pvt Ltd.3 where the husband confesses to his wife that he is gay.” I wanted her to know that this i-am-so-cool-about-being-gay was not something that I achieved overnight. “I have always shared everything with you and Achchan. But this is something I couldn’t, even though I wanted to. When I began to feel attraction towards men, I was first confused. I didn’t want to feel that way at all. I couldn’t understand what was wrong with me because my friends were crazy about gals and I wasn’t. There were times when I had been in serious depression. You and Achchan must not have noticed it. But it took me several years to finally accept the fact that what I’m feeling is completely natural.” I then asked, “Did you ever feel even the slightest of indication that I could be gay?” “No..” There was a pause....

Deepak and Don Jun02

Deepak and Don

A conservative society often thinks that same-gender commitment is not possible on a long term; they insist that the government and any religious organizations must not perform witness or bless the rights that unite two individuals of the same gender. We are taught to believe that marriage has always, in any civilizations, been only between a woman and a man. Let us not dig into the history of homosexuality when we have living proofs of partners of same sex. Meet Mr: Deepak(a Keralite settled in the UK) and his partner Don(an US citizen) who shared their tale of love and successful living together. “How did you guys meet and was it a love at first sight?” Deepak-“I met Don at a bear club in the US, where we exchanged sight and it clicked, LOL. We spoke for a while and found the spark in minds of each other which we took home, cherished for a long and here we are” Don-“Exactly, I found Deepak as a genuine personality; his cute smile added to my attachment for him”. The truth that gays are humans who can cherish love in its pure form is vivid here beyond the prevailing myth that homosexual relations don’t last for a long. The lives of these two men prove that commitment between two persons of the same sex is not inherently varied from the same between individuals of opposite sexes.   When people claim the right to marry, their sex or sexuality is not intrinsic to that right, although social prejudice makes it appear so and hence Don adds “We don’t find our relation as a gay relation, being gay is just one dimension of us and our relation encompasses the whole of us, two’. “Do you find same sex relations...