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.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Science:Linux::Religion:Windows

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.

13 comments:

Agniwesh said...

quite interesting, but ishita with my limited knowledge, i want to put light on the following:
1. you said- science say - "What we cannot measure, we cannot know.....what cannot be measured is unimportant and unworthy of our observation.." Science now is sneaking in all the spheres, even the presence of god, spirits, afterlife experience etc which was supposed to be the domain of myths and religion.
2.Comparing "human" with "light" is quite fascinating and interesting but as I said above Science is still searching its answers about the eternal forms, as it has found dual nature of light, may be some day it can find the same about humans (and all other living beings), even infinite forms, not only mortal and eternal.
3. I am not sure about your views in point (b)"these things(religion) have logic and rationality at their foundations".
and point (c)" 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."
Both contradict each other. if the religious views have logic and foundations, how come age and origin of earth resources are differently explained than that of science.

Of course biasing and emotions are there in science too, but ultimately science triumphs. If I start giving examples, it will be endless.

Problem with religion is that the starting of it is so nice, everything good for everyone, but generation to generation, the it slowly turns non flexible due to senseless addition/morphing/ maligning the beliefs and customs and its usefulness for the society decreases. One can't do the same for science, because it is based on continuous revolution in ideas.

Ishita Roy said...

Science doesn't triumph, because there is no war to be fought here. Both are useful ways to understand the universe in different contexts. (Except for war in market share - which is an entirely different issue).

The point I'm trying to make is that Religions also have a body of knowledge that evolves just like science does. Religion is not static! It provides stability, not stagnation.

Yes, science can turn stagnant too - read the biographies of Rutherford, Turing and others. The problem lies in us, not in religion.

Yes, I know science is getting better - see the next sentence "There is nothing beyond the limits of our vision...

No I'm not comparing humans with light - I'm saying that we are capable of understanding and accepting paradoxes as logical.

I'm not contradicting anything. I'm saying that a certain question and its answer can be irrelevant in the religious worldview. And that not all religious people are literalists who try to find the age of an ocean from Scripture.

Agniwesh said...

See, there is no point of stability , be it in religion , be it in science. Stability is not good for either. The moment u turn stable and stop taking new ideas,problem starts from there. Earlier, Aryans had the society classification based on work, not on birth. The moment they adopted caste system, the base of stability was laid. People started adopting it blindly. The same is with Islam.

Let us see it with todays view.'

"Kashmiri militants are brainwashed to believe that they will go to Paradise only after India is conquered by an army of Jihadis. Listen to speeches of Masood Azhar, founder of Jaish-e-Muhammad. He talks of Ghazwa-e-Hind prophecy where Prophet made conquest of India a precondition for opening doors of Heaven.
In name of religion, the same poison is spread in minds of Kashmiri youth to make them militants.

They torture their prisoners by burning their bodies with cigarettes, piercing ear-drums with hot rods, puncturing eyes before removing them, breaking most of the teeth and bones, fracturing the skull, cutting the lips, chipping the nose, chopping off limbs and private organs of these soldiers besides inflicting all sorts of physical and mental tortures.

This makes the killers “Ghazi” – who as per these fundamentalists gets highest number of most beautiful virgins in Heaven. All you need to do to be a Ghazi is to celebrate killing of a non-believer." (copied)

Now do u still think stability in religion is good. Don't we need to change, rather remove these evil hellish perceptions.
I wish if there would have been no castism right from early period, we would not have needed reservations in India. If Islamic ideology would have got a better thought source in the later ages, such monsters might not have been born among us.

And see, religion (or you can say culture) is no different. Its just a reflection of our ancient and contemporary views. That religion (or culture) that doesn't adopt new ideas, is not worthy to exist.Still people do same, and you are right. Its humans who create imbroglio, not the religion.

And yes, you are right. Religion has(d) a body of knowledge. That was none other than science. Those new ideas were seen in early days also (This was science) E.g. Nagarjuna (Indian master of Chemistry, Charak (medicine), Kanad, Aryabhatt ....examples are many.Al Khwarizmi was father of Algebra (Al jabra)... So Science was growing in the cradle of our culture, our civilization. Who knew someday it will turn huge that it will put impact even on our own cultural beliefs.

I think I have understood the concept of stability in this way. I have not read much of the stuffs, so I am not so philosophical and knowledgeable. I penned down what I saw and read.

Agniwesh said...

A question is what type of stability religion provides ? I mean it gives a way to lead your life,see the nature- this I understand. But the stability !

I wish it would have been so good, if any religion would have been so flexible to incorporate the new changes in itself, both science and religion would have gone hand in hand. That is why Dr. Ambedkar embraced Buddhism lastly (even Buddhism has developed so many ornamented falisified notions, which was not taught by Buddha, still it is much better than other religion).

Agniwesh said...

Please do read it:

http://www.downtoearth.org.in/content/religion-v-science-desperate-claims

Ishita Roy said...

I'm going to ignore the first of your two comments because you have clearly not understood what stability means, and everything you said in it was consequently off-topic.

Agniwesh, my article is extremely clear. I have likened both religious and scientific worldviews to an operating system. I have explained why the comparison makes sense. If you accept the analogy, you will find that most of your doubts are answered.

e.g. when I speak of stability, I mean its dictionary definition i.e. the strength to stand or endure. When you see it in the context of an OS, you get the definition like:

"A "stable" OS, much like a "stable" application of any kind, is simply one that is not prone to error, or is robust enough to deal with said error without the operating system ceasing to operate."

This is the same definition of stability we use when we describe the stability of markets, governments and other institution.

Stability does not mean lack of change. Leaders are mortal therefore governments have to change. Market forces will keep changing so markets will also have to change. Stability means that the change is in gradual steps - each of which is also inherently stable. The change must not be chaotic.

When you upgrade an OS, it goes slowly. XP ran for 12 years, during which time it got upgraded from SP1 to SP2. In the meanwhile several upgrades were released - some severely unstable such as ME and Vista, some properly stable such as 7 and 8, and some only initially unstable such as 8.1. In the case of Linux - it has a massively high update frequency. But only a fraction of those updates are actually stable.
A wise person therefore does not update her computer blindly simply because she has to stay updated.

Same way with Science and Religion.

You want evidence that Religion updates itself? Go look at the Catholic Church's official stand regarding Creation v. Evolution (hint: it's a syncretic concept called Theistic Evolution, and it has been their stance for 60 years). Islam was the first religion in the whole world to give women property rights and the right to divorce (look it up). If Hindus weren't progressive, the Hindu Marriage Act and other provisions abolishing sati and untouchability would not exist.

But some people will continue to use or promote the religious equivalent of Windows ME. Whose fault is that? Only the peoples'!

At the end of the day both Science and Religion are tools. You can choose the OS you want to buy. You can use both OS on the same machine. They are not mutually exclusive.

When Pranoy Dutta pointed out Mac OS (OS X) that was a perfect example. It is built on the UNIX framework (like LINUX), but it handles like Windows. The ultimate idea behind my analogy is that Science and Religion are not really different, and that our goal should be to unite them - not to wipe either of them out.

Ishita Roy said...

I read that. He's answered his own questions - and unjustly accuses the RCC of being "one of the biggest opponents of reasoning". As for Modi and his bizarre speech, read this: http://www.ndtv.com/article/opinion/the-prime-minister-and-early-indian-science-613890.

My point is that the very fact that religion continues to exist speaks volumes about its utility. The war between Science and Religion is only a war of market share - and not of utility. If you want to understand the war of the market share - that is a totally different article.

Agniwesh said...

On getting your comment, I understood the "stability", but my comment is not totally offtrack. You said stability as "dictionary definition i.e. the strength to stand or endure". An OS simply one that is not prone to error, or is robust enough to deal with said error without the operating system ceasing to operate."

My question is enduring against what , prone to what error ? In language of OS, if you say the endurance is against malwares or virus or system garbages, then they refer to what I have stated in my first comment that says about Hindu castism & islam. And you can see what endurance religion has shown.

And regarding the "├╝pdating of religion", everyone knows how difficult it was for Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar to pass Widow Remarriage act. You are not coming ground reality. Almost every religion is stiff.

You can't compare and modulate every comparison in terms of OS with religion, though the same can be done with science.

As I said earlier " the starting of religion is so nice, everything good for everyone, but generation to generation, the it slowly turns non flexible due to senseless addition/morphing/ maligning the beliefs and customs and its usefulness for the society decreases. One can't do the same for science, because it is based on continuous revolution in ideas."

Your concept of Linux and Windows can't be applied in above case. The stability - telling endurance or dealing with error. Religion still can't readily and easily deal with errors in after stages. It needs someone like Ishwar Chandra. Regarding Catholics, it took decades and centuries for them to accept Darwinism and Galileo theories. These were the revolutionary views that can't be compared with "fraction of updates". I don't agree with comparison of religion with OS in this case of endurance.

My comparison is in terms of metallurgy (if u permit)

Religion is like wrought iron which intialy while formation is hot so is malleable (susceptible to have changes ans as u said endurance or dealing with errors), on cooling is we find hard and brittle. So on later stages its endurance siezes.

While science is stainless steel. It is malleable and ductile. I know this analogy might not fit your definition.

Agniwesh said...

On getting your comment, I understood the "stability", but my comment is not totally offtrack. You said stability as "dictionary definition i.e. the strength to stand or endure". An OS simply one that is not prone to error, or is robust enough to deal with said error without the operating system ceasing to operate."

My question is enduring against what , prone to what error ? In language of OS, if you say the endurance is against malwares or virus or system garbages, then they refer to what I have stated in my first comment that says about Hindu castism & islam. And you can see what endurance religion has shown.

And regarding the "├╝pdating of religion", everyone knows how difficult it was for Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar to pass Widow Remarriage act. You are not coming ground reality. Almost every religion is stiff.

You can't compare and modulate every comparison in terms of OS with religion, though the same can be done with science.

As I said earlier " the starting of religion is so nice, everything good for everyone, but generation to generation, the it slowly turns non flexible due to senseless addition/morphing/ maligning the beliefs and customs and its usefulness for the society decreases. One can't do the same for science, because it is based on continuous revolution in ideas."

Your concept of Linux and Windows can't be applied in above case. The stability - telling endurance or dealing with error. Religion still can't readily and easily deal with errors in after stages. It needs someone like Ishwar Chandra. Regarding Catholics, it took decades and centuries for them to accept Darwinism and Galileo theories. These were the revolutionary views that can't be compared with "fraction of updates". I don't agree with comparison of religion with OS in this case of endurance.

My comparison is in terms of metallurgy (if u permit)

Religion is like wrought iron which intialy while formation is hot so is malleable (susceptible to have changes ans as u said endurance or dealing with errors), on cooling is we find hard and brittle. So on later stages its endurance siezes.

While science is stainless steel. It is malleable and ductile. I know this analogy might not fit your definition.

Agniwesh said...

I am still waiting for your response Ishita !!!

agniwesh said...

You said "Religion is like Windows. It is popular because it takes care of the mundane."

True but u know it was long back. Let me gv example through movies.
It was long back when mythological movies were so famous. Still they are famous. But now movies based on science are becoming much more famous. take Jurassic park, Lucy, Avatar, now Interstellar etc. People are understanding and becoming much closer to science.

In Lucy, Lucy turned out to b god by excessive use of drugs. Avatar showed the concept of incarnation. Interstellar showed the concept of 5th dimension , gravity and time. The hero in movie enters in time dimension and tries to contact his small daughter whom her girl thinks to b a ghost.

These imaginations or scientific ideas relating religious ideas tells that people are coming closer to science than they were in past. Still science is complicated coz we have to put our brain in it.

agniwesh said...

so u r rite in comparison of religion with windows, science as linux for "common mass".

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