Reality Check India

Science and Sensibility

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on September 19, 2007

These past few days have made me really happy. Indians are rising up asking for science and economics to take its rightful place. “Where are the scientists when we need them most ?” wonder many.  How can we let the country be hijacked by monkey stories in the 21st century ?

Yes, it is time for another Reality Check

There are two universes, each with its own laws.

Universe 1 : The Universe of Life Stories


Who lives here ? The faithful and those who just want to piss off the atheists.

Laws : The system is completely based on life stories.  Example : Karthi had money problems, went to Tirunallar and he became wealthy. Lakshmi prayed to Tirupati and passed her exams. Robert had a disease and a pastor touched him and he was cured.

History : Belief is history and history is belief. Depending on the flavour of the universe, history goes back in time. In the Treta yuga (when the Ramayan) happened, people lived for 10,000 years. So, you would have guys who are 6820 years old, and that would be normal.  In other flavours, people could part the seas and turn water into wine.

Role of science : None. Science doesnt work here. Any scientific argument can be defeated with ease. This happens by just upping the ante until you link it up to a known scientific conundrum.

An example argument demonstrating the futility ( Faith -> Science -> Faith..)

Ram Sethu was man made -> No, it was formed by waves and coral deposits -> Ok fine, then Ram Sethu was made by God -> How did God make it ? ->  He summoned the waves and the coral deposits. -> What about the vanara sena, then ? -> They are just metaphors representing divine forces -> What divine forces ? -> The sum of all scientific unknowns -> End of discussion. Science cannot win ! This is what I call a religious wall in my previous post.

Why are you asking scientists not to explore the absurdity of the Narasimha avatar or Hanuman ?

It would be a waste of the scientists PhD if they worked on research papers to address issues like the following.

“The feasibility for a monkey carrying a mountain to generate enough lift to become airborne ?”

It does not take a 5th standard kid to see the absurdity in this if he did not live in this “universe”.  On the other hand, even Nobel Prize winning scientists who live in this “universe” will take up highly nuanced positions rationalizing this type of impossibility.It would result in a paper like this great lampoon.

Universe 2 : The Universe of the real world


Who lives here : Everyone including all those who live in Universe 1.

Laws : The system here is based on science. The behaviour of populations are influenced by game theory. Life stories are not acceptable here. We need each and every action to be based on scientific, economic, or social indicators and data.

History : Written mostly by winners of any given age. Needs evidence that can satisfy the measurement tools we have at our disposal today.

Role of life stories : Life stories have absolutely no role to play here. Everything must be touch and feel. This means Ekalavya stories and Manusmriti must not be considered to be evidence of the actual occurance of the events, established laws,  or the characters. These characters belong in Universe 1 (life stories) and have no role here. We need data to validate every claim. Policies based on 5,000 or 10,000 year old events – must be pulled up by scientists.

Role of data and detailed examination : Critical.  Simply because living in Universe 2 (the real world) is not optional. Words cannot substitute numbers. Poverty is real. Oppression is real. Words are not real, numbers are real.

We need scientists, sociologists, and economists in Universe 2. Do not waste your valuable time in Universe 1. Lets leave it to the atheist clubs.

What happens when the two Universes collide

This is where we loose our bearings. We run around like headless turkeys. Scientists forget they work in Universe 2 and make a fool of themselves by attempting to investigate events and characters in Universe 1.

In the Ram Sethu issue, scientists, geologists, and environmentalists must not attempt to address any issues in Universe 1. Instead, engage in an informed debate about the economics, environment, oceanography, and geology of the issue. Even then it may turn out to be a futile exercise because it may be that Faith trumps everything at this point in Indias history. Just do your job professionally and forget about the results (whether or not the Sethu is blasted). Incidentally, this approach is one of the beliefs of Universe 1 too (See the secret of work in the Gita  – one of my personal favorites).

The role of the government 

This is when the government (the ruler of the real world) must make a call. It is fully possible to steamroller the Ram Sethu ( a central artifact of Universe 1).  Taking it a step further, it is even possible to outlaw Universe 1 altogether. China banned all religions until recently. If may also be possible to outlaw certain flavours of Universe 1. (Saudi bans all flavours except one).  All these options are open.

It is all a question of balancing the two Universes. You are completely free to hit at Universe 1, but you are not free to avoid a backlash. If you think you can survive the backlash, there is little sense in not hitting. 

At this point in history, too many people in India live in Universe 1. It is possible that in 100 years, membership to Universe 1 will drop or would move to another flavour of Universe 1 (water-into-wine flavour for example)

It is for the powers to decide whether they can withstand a backlash against an attack on Universe 1 now, or whether they should wait until conditions are more in its favour at some future point in time.

9 Responses

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  1. Jai_Choorakkot said, on September 19, 2007 at 10:35 am

    Good post. Nice summary.

    1. …” if you can withstand the backlash, there is no sense in not hitting”….

    I didnt quite get that, are you essentially saying might is right? Isnt it better to work with the majority to contain and minimize said backlash.

    If we divide this into a scientific minority vs a religious majority and apply democratic principles, the majority wins.

    Introduce ‘minority rights’ and protections, and I dont know, maybe we get a draw.

    2. What about the greater common good?

    I am not convinced on the benefits of SethuSamudram, but if tomorrow, a dam across the Ganga is opposed (how dare one obstruct the Holy River / Mother from following its divinely ordained path to the sea?!!) it would certainly be required of scientists of all kinds to confront Universe1.

    But the more I think abt the Ganga analogy, I lean towards the conclusion that we are partly rational and do some cost-benefit-analysis even in belief.

    The opposition to a GangaSamudram may never take off on these lines, because of clearly perceived worldly benefits to the faithful. Justifications will be found, bhajans or ballads praising the bountiful river goddess for her increased contribution to the welfare of her children will be sung.


  2. realitycheck said, on September 19, 2007 at 11:03 am


    I know it sounds bad. I had to address the issue of weak opposition from Universe 1. Most likely the government would not stop a dam project because some tree revered by a weak group of tribals would be submerged.

    >> we are partly rational and do some cost-benefit-analysis even in belief. >>

    Absolutely !

    People still have to eat food, drink water, and educate their kids. This is why no one objects to damming of Kaveri at so many places. Yet, they would never allow a resort to be built at the scenic ridge of Talakaveri. You cannot sell them on any economic and employment benefits of this resort. You cannot sell them any scientific analysis of the origins of the spring either.

    The Ram Sethu issue has been further compromised due to the use of uncultured language by the Dravidian leadership. If at all this project needed to pass, it would have to happen in an environment of goodwill and sweet talk.

  3. xyz said, on September 19, 2007 at 11:48 am

    I am shell shocked by the bus burning barbarism.

  4. xyz said, on September 19, 2007 at 11:52 am

    So much hatred for TN in karnataka.

  5. xyz said, on September 19, 2007 at 2:21 pm

    i have a different take on the whole issue.

    Things are not that complex.

    There is no reason why the two views cannot coexist.Or one cannot be subsumed in another.

    This is the viewpoint of advaita vedanta.One need not take the puranic viewpoint to be absolutely true.

    For instance in the Srimad Bhagavatham,it is attributed that in suka’s final sermon to parikshit,Suka says that many kings and rulers have come and gone,the episodes of the bhagavatha are not parmaarthika,but meant to instill devotion to the Supreme.

    Swami Tapasyananda of the Ramakrishna Math intreprets this to mean that the factual validity need not be completely true.

    In the Vishnu Purana,Lord Narasimha is supposed to have to the court of Hiranyakashipu from the outside.While in the Bhagavatha(and the alwars),the Lord emerges from the pillar.

    There are factual discrepancies between the Hari Vamsa(a supplement of the Mahabharatha),Vishnu Purana and the Bhagavatham on the Varaha Avatara and bala leela of Sri Krishna.

    Even Sri Ramanuja admits in his Sri Bashya that there are discrepancies in the accounts of the puranas,but they inculcate devotion to the supreme.

    There are innumerable versions of Ramayana,but Sri Rama is revered in each one of them.

    Nothing is above critical scrutiny in the modern age but thugs like TR Baalu(he refers the sethu as Adam’s bridge) cannot be allowed to further their own agenda while being members of the cabinet.

    For some devotional sects,though,the above viewpoint might be difficult to accept.

    I am not competent to talk about the need/financial viability/environmental impact of the sethu project.But it is not something about essential.The local people have no enthususiasm for the project.In fact they have concerns.There is reverence for Sri Rama among hindus of Ramanathapuram district.The fisherman are mainly muslim/christian.

    What is astonishing(not really,what else to expect)is the brazen attitude of karu.

    We should have an open mind on possible realignments.

  6. […] Check in his recent post – gives a different perspective on a topic – thinks our earlier work is a “great […]

  7. […] or rational legs to stand on. You cannot use science to prove anything in the religious domain. Yes, not even the absurdity or Narasimha Avatar or Sanjeevani mountain. Sorry for bringing this reality check to your doorstep. If you want to take  a crack at this, […]

  8. Revathi said, on September 25, 2007 at 7:26 am

    I think this is a very good analysis of the human mind. I am a scientist and believe in scientific truth but I am also aware that human mind is a very complicated instrument and is not necessarily objective. Therein comes the power of faith that has made people “move mountains”. Marxism just replaces this faith in god with the faith in a man and in many instances this has also proved to be a great driving force. If people in universe1 convert to universe 2 they would still need something to hang on to – science is too cruel, it tells you the truth, it says that human body is not eternal, it is a collection of cells that will die. So much better to hear that the soul is immortal and merely changes the body.

    So, do you want an eternal soul or a collection of cells that are dying in millions every day?

  9. […] Check in his recent post – gives a different perspective on a topic – thinks our earlier work is a “great […]

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