Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Logic and Science

Advisor: This is my blog, hence everything thats written here are my thoughts. You have the job of separating the wheat from the chaff.

From dictionary.com:

Logic: The study of the principles of reasoning, especially of the structure of propositions as distinguished from their content and of method and validity in deductive reasoning.

Reasoning: An underlying fact or cause that provides logical sense for a premise or occurrence

Scientific principles rely on logic and reasoning for their support. Throw away those two, and the entire structure crumbles. The term logical sense in the definition of reasoning is important here. It means what appears logical to us, what seems to be common sense. But, as we know from a century (or more?) of upheaval of our understanding of physics, what appears to be common sense need not be true.

A couple of thousand years ago, common sense dictated that the earth was flat. Till about a hundred years ago, common sense told us that speeds of two objects approaching each other should simply be added to each other to obtain relative speeds. Einsten proved that it is only an approximation at low speeds, and the correct equation is a little more complex.

Many a times, a radical approach at thinking, which does not confirm to common sense, fits our observations better. Quantum physics is a continuing example of this. The point I am trying to make here is that simply because certain ideas do not appeal to common sense, one must not disregard them as ridiculous. They might just turn up to be one of the more profound ideas that have been tought of. Science, as it describes the universe, is not perfect. It is not wrong, rather it is incomplete. There are still huge gaps in observable phenomenon that have not yet been explained. But science will get there, one baby step by baby step. Eventually.

Unobserved phenomena. If it's not seen, it's not true. Right? Not necessarily. Consider these examples. The so-called "primitive tribes" have a very close association with nature (in my opinion, that in itself is enough to make them more advanced than us modern beings, considering our near total lack of understanding of how nature works). Some tribes claim that they "talk" to animals, other claim that they "talk" to plants. Of course, it is a silly notion, how could we ever talk to plants or animals? Or can't we? The point is that we do not know. It may well be true, and in our arrogance and belief in our supposed superiority, we cannot believe that the "primitive" people have a more intimate knowledge of nature. These people have entire belief systems that worship nature, and make the best use of what nature has to offer to make their lives easier. The Hindus have a religion that has a very close association with nature as well. Consider the neem (tulsi) for example. Some Hindus worship the plant. I do not see what is wrong in that. We know that the tulsi has many medicinal properties that the medicinal community has acknowledged. But these properties can be easily verified. The practices of many tribes are, at worst, obscure, but that is no reason to dismiss them as superstition.

The Dogons are a tribe in the Republic of Mali that worship the star Sirius. They are believed to have been in existance from about 3000 B.C. Every 50 years, they celebrate a festival and pray to God (the star) that it be freed from the clutches of evil (I am not sure about the exact details of the celebration here). Superstition, you say! In fact, Sirius has a companion star, Sirius B, which orbits Sirius every 50 years, and the timing of their festival coincides with (you guessed it!) the eclipse of the companion by the main star. And we advanced people obtained this knowledge only in the 1970's.

On a more grandoise scale, Hindu stories are full of descriptions of warfare using weapons that can be initiated with a mantra. The ancient people had weapons that had nuclear radiation (sic) in them, weapons that could accurately track their victims (by following the energy signature of a person, which as a concept, is absolute magic to us!), and three-storied vehicles that could fly, and resembled entire cities, with vertical lift-offs, an invisible mode, et al. Today, we are quick to dismiss these stories as mythology*.

But remember that in those times, humans had a much closer association with nature. Today, we are almost hopelessly out of tune with nature (although that is changing for the good). We cannot believe that such claims by the tribes and such things as described in the texts are possible. We have imagined technology (and our intellect) to have always advanced as time progressed.

Have you even entertained the idea that our paradigm of technology progess may not true, that mankind once possessed such knowledge as we can only dream of today? That perhaps, at some point in time, something happened and a whole knowledge system was lost, save in bits and pieces that we see as practices by primitive people? We should step down from our high pedestal, and objectively look into the reasoning behind practices of the tribes. There is a whole wealth of information in there, more than you can imagine. And yes, this includes Hindu scriptures, whose knowledge we have been quick to disregard with the advent of the colonial conquest of India.

Give "primitive practices" a chance.

*

Mythology means "A body or collection of myths belonging to a people and addressing their origin, history, deities, ancestors, and heroes." (again, from dictionary.com) I believe it is really unfair to call Hindu stories mythologies, especially when Christians call theirs as history! (or am i getting paranoid?) Of course, not all Christians call it history, those involved in scholarly research call it mythology, but the difference is that all Hindus call their stories mythology (another colonial initiative).

9 comments:

Ramiah Ariya said...

Sailesh,
I have heard the thoughts you mention in your post repeated over and over again in India (including the evolution theory part). But I disagree...and here is why:
At some point we have to distinguish between flights of fantasy by innovative writers (such as Vyaasa or Valmiki) and repeatedly testable scientific frameworks. You should note that Aristotle believed we see because our eyes emit light. A simple question - why we are not able to see in total darkness - shatters his belief, but was never asked for a thousand years. After 1600 AD mankind has reached a totally different stage socially and hence intellectually. We cannot ignore this and keep pretending that the ancients tapped into somekind of primitive consciousness or that they had superior knowledge. There is nothing wrong in saying this - as long as we realize that this does not make them lesser, inferior people. The same holds for tribes around the world - we need not invest them with divine knowledge to respect them. They deserve respect whether they invented something or not.
The same Hindu mythology that "describes" evolution also has myths about how the world is supported by 8 elephants or that turtles support the universe. This is why they are treated as myths - because you can never be sure about their content - not because the ancients were always wrong. Myths contradict themselves all the time.
It is surprising to me that we do acknowledge that we are at a new stage as far as society goes - liberty and equality to a large extent have been attained in developed countries at least. We do acknowledge that women have more freedom. We do acknowledge that the caste system and racism are wrong and support actions to get rid of them. Thus we do acknowledge that socially, we are at a new stage or that we have evolved. But we refuse to acknowledge this in the scientific realm. We refuse that a new form of scientific methodology has emerged after 1600s. We refuse that the scientific framework DOES support challenges to it and manages change pretty well. To believe that present day science is somehow at the same level as Dashavataram stories is a stretch. There is good reason not to believe that the Mahabharat war saw the actual use of nuclear weapons, all knowledge of which was subsequently wiped out mysteriously. Purely because some fantasies have come true does not mean that all that writers imagine will come true or were true at their time.
It is actually a big matter of concern in India that people constantly refer to the fact that newtonian gravity was questioned by Einstein and then make the leap to justify astrology! Newtonian gravity was tested repeatedly and does provide accurate answers for low speed motions while astrology could never predict anything right dependably.
To feel that we are out of touch with nature is natural in the planet's current condition. To respect nature, to respect tribals and the ancients is one thing, but it is a leap to impart them with superior knowledge and question the evolution of science in the last 400 years.
My concern is also that frequently these efforts are merely undertaken because we read text books that say that the "West" pretty much "invented" everything in the modern world and feel left out. To me the "West" does not exist. Intelligent Human beings have improved our lives; every one of them owe much to all society as we owe them. They belong to the world - in spite of efforts to confine them to one race or color.

Sailesh Ganesh said...

Shankar, these are some extremely valid points that you raise, and I admit some of the things I mentioned in my post (e.g. about lost knowledge) are merely what I think, and not necessarily what is true.

At some point we have to distinguish between flights of fantasy by innovative writers (such as Vyaasa or Valmiki) and repeatedly testable scientific frameworks.

My point here is that we do not know what is true at this point. I am not advocating blind belief that those things happened, and to remain in that comfort zone forever. In fact, what I am trying to say here is that there may yet be some knowledge in Hindu books that people are not aware of. The number of such books available are huge in number, and efforts must be made to read through them to gain a better understanding of the knowledge we possessed. Of course, we may find nothing that we deem useful, but it would still have been worth the effort to document everything in them. But I doubt we'll find nothing.

Similarly, as the example of the Dogon tribe showed, tribal practices are not always superstitions. We have never taken an effort to really understand why they do what they do, and without doing so, we have no right to dismiss their practices. The unfortunate fact is that it is this very labeling of superstitious practices that makes us call those people primitive. Unless the usage of the term "superstitious belief" stops - and this can only happen when we prove that they are not superstitions - they will continue facing the stigma of being called primitive. It is not enough that you and me decide not regard them as inferior, the world has to acknowledge that.

What began in the 1600s is modern science, and that has happened for the better. It furthered our understanding of nature, and the momentum of learning continues today. Sure, it took us out of the dark ages, but are you absolutely sure there was nothing preceding the dark ages?

Modern research has placed the Rig Veda (as an oral tradition) as having been developed at the very latest, by 6000 B.C., and more likely, around 8000 B.C. I cannot, for one, believe that the people who developed such an intellectual work as the Rig Veda remained in the "dark ages" for more than 7000 years.

The descriptions provided in the Mahabharata, of the destruction caused by the so called nuclear weapons, are uncannily similar to what we know are the effects of a nuclear attack. The descriptions of the flying vehicles include the properties and preparation techniques of 7 different types of metal (or alloys), of which most are not known on earth today. They include details of 8 different types of mirrors, including mirrors to trap light energy to power the vehicles (but hey, such concepts did not exist then!), and mirrors that reflect light as a counter-attacking measure. Sure, it might just be some over-zealous brain at work. Excavations at Mohenjadaro have shown the presence of an unsually high amount of radioactivity in the bones found. Sure, might have been some secret nuclear testing, or better yet, might have been the presence of radioactive aliens.

The alternate theory that I propose might not be true, but surely, something doesnt fit in here.

My point - do not ignore ancient practices.

Sailesh Ganesh said...

I didnt really respond to your argument about undertaking movements to impart the ancient people with advanced knowledge in my comment. That movement may be true for that very reason, but that is not why I advocate looking into ancient practices. To me, knowledge is knowledge, and the very idea of Hindu knowledge or tribal knowledge, while a pointer to where it came from, should not make any difference. Whatever knowledge we would obtain from the process is for the whole world.

But perhaps, on second thoughts, attaching the pointer might be better, if only to stop plagiarism of such knowledge. Example: the "patent" awarded to some company for the production of basmati rice, which is something that Indians have known for a long time. Last I knew, the Japanese were looking to patent the word curry (whatever happened there? Were they laughed off the court? Please tell me thats true!!). But then these are secondary issues, lets not get side-tracked by them; the main issue is of the knowledge itself.

Ramiah Ariya said...

Sailesh,
I have wanted to have this debate with somebody for a loooooong time.
The Rig Veda being from 8000 BC and Mahenjadaro having radioactivity are modern myths - they have no basis among serious scholars in Sanskrit literature or archaeologists.The vedas are not dated, oral or otherwise, older than 2000 BC. In fact it is doubtful that the people who lived in Mohenjadaro had anything to do with the vedas. I don't know what modern reasearch you are referring to. I took the History of sanskrit literature as separate courses 10 years back and nothing that we studied said 8000 BC. In fact suggesting 8000 BC as the origin of ANY oral tradition would be laughed out of hand by any modern anthropologist.
This kind of super dating the Vedas or other Indian literature is done by Hindu ultra nationalist academics and has little support outside of India.
Most of Vedic India's studies were primarily in philosophy and people do study them constantly and provide knowledge. Plus we can learn a lot about how people lived in that day and age. That knowledge is worthy in itself, without claiming that it has something to do with present time. Nobody is saying this kind of learning should not be done. It is being done all the time - people study ancient Sanskrit texts throughout the world out of interest. In fact people who study Indian philosophy and vedic history would have nothing to do with super revising Indian literature's dates. They are serious academics.
There is a difference between ancient practices, their study and then trying to follow them today. People study ancient practices all the time in universities around the world. They are worthy of study in themselves, without imparting them with some secret knowledge. The same goes for myths - myths are worthy themselves without them revealing secret knowledge.
Where we differ is in defining "knowledge". The fact that ancients wrote stories and poems itself makes it "knowledge". The most interesting parts in Mahabharat are the plot, the characters, the complexity of palace intrigues, the Bhagavad Gita (which was probably added later). Whether there were 8 different forms of alloys is irrelevant - more interesting "knowldege" would be the language used to describe them.
Knowledge is not merely mechanical - literature, etymology, anthropology and philosophy are knowledge too..

Sailesh Ganesh said...

Astrological dating of the Rig Veda places it at atleast 6000 B.C. Not by Indian scholars, but by western scholars. A German scholar, H. Jacobi, discovered that the Vedic Brahmana texts describe the Pleiades coinciding with the spring equinox, and older texts describe the spring equinox as falling in the constellation Orion. Astronomers (again, western) have computed that this happened around 4500 B.C. This was in 1989. More recently, Frawley has cited references in the Rig Veda to the winter solstice beginning in Aries. On this basis, he estimates the date of the Rig Veda to be atleast 6500 B.C. (again, western). Other astrological details place the text, varyingly, at 8000 - 7500 B.C. (by B. G. Siddharth at the Birla Science Institute, Indian this time!)

Granted, the radiation at Harappa probably has no scholarly standing (I checked that one out, my apologies for the faux pas). But there is circumstantial evidence to suggest the presence of nuclear radiation. Note, I'm not saying absolute proof here.

For example, (not my words) "Until the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, modern mankind could not imagine any weapon as horrible and devastating as those described in the ancient Indian texts. Yet they very accurately described the effects of an atomic explosion." With reference to some passages in the Mahabharata.

When R. J. Oppenheimer was asked in an interview at Rochester University seven years after the Alamogordo nuclear test whether that was the first atomic bomb ever to be detonated, his reply was, "Well, yes, in modern history."

These are from references used in a class taught by Prof. Heinz Insu Fenkl from Vassal College, admittedly "to be taken with grains of salt".

Finally, my point was "give ancient practices a chance". Not Indian practices, but ancient practies. Since I do not have details about other civilizations, I have mentioned only Hindu books. This is not an attempt to prove that Indians were superior while the rest of the world were barbarians, but rather "a suggestion" that the entire world was on a different scientific level. Might be too radical an idea though, but that doesnt mean anything. Real evidence is, however, lacking to support this thought.

Rahul said...

boy, that is some exchange, i must say...

Sailesh Ganesh said...

Someday, Rahul, I am going to corner my cousin and thrash this entire thing out with him. Make him see where I am coming from ;)Btw, where are your thoughts?? I'm sure you have some.

Anonymous said...

Six Steps to Success
Throughout the centuries history tells of men and women with the midas touch, who achieved greatness against what seemed insurmountable odds. To some their successes appeared to be the result of blind luck, to others the reward for hard work, but the truth about the successes of men such as Andrew Carnagie and Henry Ford is much more interesting.

Success is a state of mind to which all people should aspire. Like many others you can unlock te gate to achievement and the fulfilment of yor personal desires. With the six steps outlined below anyone can arrive at a set destination, with the added advantage of renewed self-confidence and secure in the knowledge that every goal is attainable.
Step 1. Desire
The key factor involved in the process of achieving any desire lies in the response of one's mind to the objective. If a complacent attitude is apparent then there will be a lack of enthusiasm leading to failure or only half-success.
If a goal is to be reached determination is needed to carry set plans through to a successful conclusion. This determination must have enough mental 'weight' behind it to propel you forward onto the road of achievement. This mental state can only be instilled by one thing - desire!
As can be easily seen, when we look around us, it is this desire-force that has launched mankind on his frenzied zest for ever-new knowledge and has enabled him to push back the boundaries of science to never dreamed of achievement.

It is this same desire-force that must be used in our business and personal affairs if the success we seek is to materialize. It is not very hard to develop this kind of desire for all you have to do is go after what you really want - its that simple. With this desire you will have all the persistence you need to accomplish your goal. There is a great saying "you never fail until you give up"!
Take heed of what Napoleon Bonaparte said "What we ardently and constantly desire, we always get".

Step 2. Goals
If success is to come your must realise what is expected to materialize. This statement may seem obvious at first but if careful thought is given its meaning takes on deeper significance.
Many people fail to gain satisfactory results from their endeavours because they did not know what they wanted to accomplish in the first place. Your objective must not be hazy or incomplete. Before you reach your goal you must be able to identify how your life will be different when you achieve it. You must know exactly what it is that you want to achieve. How will your life be better/different? How will you feel? What way will you look? What situations will you find yourself in? Will other people in your life be effected and if so how will they react? You need a clear definite picture in your mind of what the attainment of your goal will mean to you.

Step 3. Belief
Belief is the back-up system of desire. It keep the fires of enthusiasm burning and makes us continually strive to get nearer the goal attainment. Faith can truly move mountains; the mountains of fear, inferiority, worry and low self esteem - 'the success killers'!
Once a goal is firmly fixed in mind and our desire-force is hurtling us toward seemingly insurmountable obstacles, the firm belief that we can gain a favourable outcome can spur us on to victory. When the mind has been manipulated to reflect this state, wonderful physical results can ensue, producing symptoms of success in our lives in every area imaginable.
Although many can attest to the power of belief and to the wondrous accomplishments that were achieved through nothing else except faith, it still remains that many individuals find it hard to believe that a positive outcome will be forthcoming when they are faced with momentous opposition. Whether the opposition is mental or physical the fact that nothing seems to be going right and everything seems to be wrong is enough for even the strongest of us to 'throw in the towel'. But it is in these very situations that faith can conquer all. Faith in yourself, what you are doing and belief that that your objective will be reached.
There are some who bemoan "easier said than done". This is exactly the kind of mental attitude that sustains the problems that they are trying to eradicate. If your belief power is not apparent, take hope for it can be acquired.
Each morning and night recite your intentions from a written list of your goals. Voice your belief in your own abilities. Tell yourself that in due course you will be successful. As you go about your daily affairs reflect as often as possible on your goals and affirm that they are yours now. Fool your mind into believing it and you will see your world reflect it!

Step 4. Plan
Having decided upon your goal and being determined to build your faith you need to give your desire-force a 'vehicle' through which it may materialize. This 'vehicle' will take the form of a definite plan of action.
Do you need to acquire certain skills? Do you need to know certain people or be in certain places to help you achieve your goal? Make a plan that will help you get closer to your end objective. Research your desires and get clear on what you need to do. Then do it!
Ensure that your plan is workable and realistic for you. Although your plan should remain flexible so that changes can be made when appropriate only make changes after careful consideration. Trial and error will eventually show the way to a good plan although you should be open to intuition also.
However, I should point out that, it is very likely your goal will materialize in a most unexpected way. The fact that you have set a plan for its accomplishment tends to set things in motion and like a chain reaction (or the butterfly effect) subtle changes made by you may cause dramatic changes elsewhere and your goal may come before your plan is completed.

Step 5. Visualization
Visualization is the art of creating mental movies of your completed goal. This has many beneficial effects upon your consciousness. Without going into the deeper esoteric benefits of using this art let me just say that you are truly designing your life when you use it. It has one other major benefit - it strengthens your desire and persistence because you momentarily experience the thrill of having achieved your goal!
Just form a mental picture of having achieved your goal. See what you will see. Feel how wonderful it will be. See how it effects everyone around you. Hear people congratulate you. When this state is experienced nothing will stop you in your quest for your objective and thus your belief-power will also be reinforced.

Step 6. The Subconscious Mind
It is within the subconscious part of your mind that you hold all th positive and negative beliefs about yourself - your self-image. These beliefs are reflected back to you in the form of attitudes. Therefore it is from the subconscious mind that the thought of failure or success comes.

Attitudes are just mental programs and so is your self-image. They can easily be changed (yes I said 'easily'). Any attitude or belief can be changed by using the formula outlined in this article - by combining affirmations with visualization. Henry Ford used it, as did Ralph Waldo Emerson and even Arnold Swatzeneger. It is reported in some circles that a similar technique was employed by Bill Gates to build his global empire. Andrew Carnegie used it exactly as described to attain and give away multi-millions even though he was an unschooled manual worker when he started it. Carnegie's legacy can still be seen today when you freely borrow a book from any Carnegie library of which there are thousands.
If you use these six steps there is nothing you cannot achieve. Luckily we have the advantage of living in the Twentieth Century with all its new technology and innovations such as hypnosis and subliminal programming. Use these steps in conjunction with your favourite personal development system and you are assured success. subliminal

personal development said...

When we are born our brains are like empty computers waiting to be fed information. As we grow our peers act as our programmers, they supply us with the knowledge which we channel through the conscious mind into the subconscious (our hard drive). The subconscious mind is the biggest hard drive ever developed - it stores everything we come in contact with and by no means is all of this information of a positive nature.
All that we have heard, touched, smelt, tasted and seen are stored in the recesses of our minds. The subconscious mind holds on to this information until we need to recall it. For example when you were young your curiosity lead you to investigate your surroundings. When you approached a substance that was dangerous, such as fire, your parents or guardians would most likely have rebuked or scolded you if you ventured too near the flame. Perhaps you may even recall an incident when you were physically burned. Your subconscious mind then began to relate scolding (or pain) with the intense heat of the fire and would therefore feed the feelings of the scolding incident back to you whenever you got too close to fire again, thus acting as an early warning system.
This is the mechanism used by our brains to learn. It is also the same method employed by the mind in every situation. The subconscious mind has a tendency to emulate what it sees - it tends to replicate its environment. This is why so many people find themselves in similar relationships and situations that they saw their parents in while they were growing up. Most people also hold very strongly or similar views of their parents.
Think of a time when you gave yourself praise. What words did you use? Do you use the same words that your parents or peers used when they were praising you? The same is applicable when you scold yourself.

Watch your internal dialogue. Look at it closely. It takes diligence to change the way you think. When you notice yourself thinking a negative chose to think the opposite. This way you neutralise the negative thought. Now the think the positive thought again! You have just reversed the negative thinking in that moment and remember you only have this moment. No other time exists!
Daydream about what might be. Imagine things they way you wish them to be. If you catch yourself thinking "this is just a daydream - a fantasy" then stop! Think the opposite. It is not a daydream it is your reality. Now think it again.

By doing this simple procedure you will begin to retrain your subconscious mind to think positively and you will ultimately begin to consciously create a life that dreams are made of! self hypnosis