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Random rant

On the day of the 449th birth anniversary of Galileo, while flipping through the morning paper, I came across this:


I’ll give you a few moments to recoil in shock and horror at the barbarity of this custom. And then ask you to consider that while this is an extreme case, it’s also pretty ironical that an overwhelming  majority of the most intelligent species on this planet  is still hopelessly wedded to a multitude of  beliefs which are, to put it simply, plain stupid. A trivial, but relevant example  – from a lecture that Richard Feynman gave at the Galileo symposium in 1964, where he bemoaned the absence of a scientific culture in our masses:

… as I’d like to show Galileo our world, I must show him something with a great deal of shame. If we look away from the science and look at the world around us, we find out something rather pitiful: that the environment that we live in is so actively, intensely unscientific. Galileo could say:  “I noticed that Jupiter was a ball with moons and not a god in the sky. Tell me, what happened to the astrologers?”  (And I would say) – “Well, they print their results in the newspapers, in the United States at least, in every daily paper every day.”  

 Why do we still have astrologers?  

(More on that lecture here.)

Well, half a century after that Feynman lecture, and four-and-a-half centuries since the father of science made those (at the time) heretical claims about our world and our solar system, what can we show him now? Astrologers are still thriving. So are religious leaders, god-men, soothsayers, tarot card readers…the many customs and beliefs we blindly follow in our daily lives.. feel free to choose whichever category you swear by.

We may not be hacking anyone’s hands, but in essence, all of these are all based on the same mountain of ignorance as that tribe in Tanzania, who were presumably following their own set of religious beliefs and customs.

On the same day, February 15th,  we were also reminded of our utter insignificance as a species in the larger scheme of things, also known as the Universe. A small meteor crashed in Russia, small enough to not leave a trail of human destruction. A much larger one passed by our planet the same day, and if that one had deflected course by a few thousand miles, we would have probabaly met the same fate as that of those great reptilians 65 million years ago.

The pointlessness of it all. And we waste so much of our time trying to find larger meanings.

End of rant. And 2 quotes from among the many brilliant talks /lectures that I feel like sharing:

“Scientists love mysteries. They love not knowing, that’s the key part of science… the excitement of learning about the universe. And that is so different from the sterile aspect of religion where the excitement is apparently about knowing everything (although they really know nothing)”.                        – Lawrence Krauss 2009 lecture ‘A Universe From Nothing’

A scientist is never certain. We all know that. We know that all our statements are approximate statements with different degrees of certainty; that when a statement is made, the question is not whether it is true or false but rather how likely it is to be true or false. ‘Does God exist?’ When put in the questional form, ‘how likely is it?’ It makes such a terrifying transformation of the religious point of view, and that is why the religious point of view is unscientific. We must discuss each question within the uncertainties that are allowed.  […]

We absolutely must leave room for doubt or there is no progress and there is no learning. There is no learning without having to pose a question. And a question requires doubt. People search for certainty. But there is no certainty. People are terrified — how can you live and not know? It is not odd at all. You only think you know, as a matter of fact. And most of your actions are based on incomplete knowledge and you really don’t know what it is all about, or what the purpose of the world is, or know a great deal of other things. It is possible to live and not know.                 — Richard Feynman, 1964 Galileo Symposium  Lecture                   

Don’t Panic.


Update: This movie promises to be a lot of  fun.

Categories: God, Religion, Science
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