The Muse

The sheer variety of symbols and artefacts in use across the ages and geographies does not necessarily point to a multitude of assumptions and values from which they spring. The study of mythology and folklore then, is a reverse approach to anthropology. This blog is dedicated to my favourite symbols, tales and artefacts - both ancient and contemporary.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Divine Paradox - Part I - Which came first, Deity or Story?

A Deity is more than a character in a mythological story. However, we cannot know the nature of Deity without portraying the same as a character and weaving a story around him/her/it. This is the Divine Paradox.

Sunday, November 2, 2014


Yet another Facebook debate (Albeit sparked by me).
Science is a religion because it is a world view of considerable complexity with a number of major tenets. Most of these major tenets are as follows: the universe is real, and therefore a valid object for examination; it is of value for human beings to examine the universe; the universe makes sense - that is, it follows certain laws and is predictable;
The neophyte scientist, recently come or converted to the world view of science, can be every bit as fanatical as a Christian crusader or a soldier of Allah...we have emotional as well as intellectual motives to smash the idols of primitive faith. A mark of maturity in scientists, however, is the awareness that science may be as subject to dogmatism as any other religion

The notions of science themselves become cultural idols,... In its laudable insistence upon experience, accurate observation and verifiability, science has placed great emphasis upon measurement... But by virtue of its success, measurement has become a kind of scientific idol... It is as if they were to say, "What we cannot measure, we cannot know; there is no point in worrying about what we cannot know; therefore, what cannot be measured is unimportant and unworthy of our observation."

perhaps we shall soon be able to say: "There is nothing beyond the limits of our vision. If we decide to study something, we can always find the methodology with which to do it."

When we are able to say that "a human is both mortal and eternal at the same time" and "light is both a wave and a particle at the same time," we are speaking the same language.
These quotes are taken verbatim from a book called "The Road Less Traveled" written by M. Scott Peck, an M.D. in Psychiatry. A similar opinion has been expressed by sociologists, anthropologists and scientists like Carl Sagan. Sociologists BTW are the blokes who define what religion and science are.

My point is this, to most of us, the Universe, just like a computer, is a 'black box'. We don't really know anything about the hardware or the software, but we know if we put in certain inputs in a certain way, we can expect certain outputs. To that end, we have to use an operating system.

Science and Religion are both operating Systems through which we experience and understand the known (and unknown) universe, and most importantly, make it do something useful. Some OS like Linux, focus on understanding the machine/universe at a relatively deeper level so that we may better control it. Other OS like Windows, focus on getting the job done, without having the user spend valuable time and energy in training themselves in esoteric fields such as programming.

Science is like Linux. Supercomputers are run on it. All CGI companies use it. Android OS is based off it. But its popularity will always be limited because most people don't need to use supercomputers or make CGI.

Android is to Linux what Technology is to Science. Again in the case of Technology, just like with Android, most people neither  root their android devices or realistically use a fraction of the awesome features that android actually has (features, not apps).

Religion is like Windows. It is popular because it takes care of the mundane. It is uncomplicated and intuitive. The hole in the wall project would not have succeeded with Linux. Like Windows, Religion gets the job done. And it can be just as fascinating to the nerds as Linux.

So to speak of your specific objections:

a) scientists are human and therefore science is not free of subjectivity, emotion and personal biases. Science is not universal - it is a platform where consensus can be built or broken about the way we understand the world.

b) religions are also based on research and deal with the basic political, economic, social and legal realities - in case it isn't clear to you, these things have logic and rationality at their foundations

c) The problem is not with religion - it is with human nature and our tendency to be dogmatic.

The age of an ocean is a question that makes sense to a geologist. To the religious, that age is an irrelevant number - because it doesn't affect the way we treat that ocean and its resources and the organisms in it.

And all religious people are not Literalists. Remember, Buddhism is also a religion.