Tuesday, December 3, 2013

When god flips the coin

Consider the following hypothetical case of someone (say Mr.X) riding a motor bike in a highway along with 50 other fellow bikers. Suddenly a Meteoroid falls on Mr . X and injure him severely.

Mr. X asks himself: “why me?”. “How come I got hit while the 49 others escaped unharmed”?
In circumstances like this, we resort to the supernatural. “It must be the work of God or some devil or Mars in the wrong box of your horoscope”.
It seems logical to think that there must be a reason why the Meteoroid fell on Mr.X. This is human tendency, to look for reasons and connect anything associated with any event (happy or sad). For example, suppose if Mr.X was wearing a black helmet on that day instead of his usual white helmet, then he is likely to think that the black helmet caused the meteoroid to fall on him.

What is the position of science on things like this? These are called Random Events.
But is there a reason why it fell on Mr.X? Is every random event the work of God (or some unknown supernatural power?).

Let us take the example of tossing coin. You can get “heads” or “Tails” if you toss a coin. It is impossible to predict (using science or otherwise) the outcome of a single coin flip. Now you can extend the Meteoroid logic to the coin flip and you can ask the same question “Why did I get Tails this time? There must be a reason why I got “Tails”? Then we can conclude that there must be someone who is deciding on the outcome. In this case, perhaps God is deciding on the outcome of the coin flip? (Every time anyone flip a coin?)

Suppose we continue to flip the coin and note down the result (heads or tail), after doing this say 100,000 times ( making god work longer!), we will discover that nearly 50% of the time we got heads (or tails). (50% probability). This tells me that there is a pattern for this random event (it still wouldn’t tell me how to predict the outcome of a single coin tosses).

Suppose you pray to god every time you flip the coin and hope for a particular outcome (head or tail), you will notice that God answers your prayer sometimes and not other times! Overall the probability getting heads would still be 50%. Roughly god will answer your prayer 50% of the time (that is if you keep flipping for a long time!- the number of trials should be large to get close to 50%).

There is no supernatural force deciding on the fate of the coin, it is just natural random pattern. Contrary to what you think, a lot of things that happen in our life are just “random”.

Swamy Kujrarananda's Life Curve
Our life is just random. You cannot predict what would happen tomorrow (good or bad). There isn’t any supernatural thing that is going to decide how your day would go. But there is a pattern. We all go through various emotions - happy, sad, sick and joy, love and hate, revenge and forgiveness, etc.

At some point in our life nothing will work, we are miserable ; unhappy; on some other days we are happy as heaven ( see my Life Curve). The pattern of life is same for all – whether you are the Queen of England or a beggar on the street, whether you are priest or an atheist, white or black. This, the natural pattern, is like tossing the coin – it is random, but there  is still a pattern. (Ever wonder why astrologers always tell you something good or bad will happen in six months’ time?)

Our life goes through a pattern of happiness and sorrow – with or without God, with or without angels, demons or fairies or astrologers and the like.

So when a Metroid strikes and injure you, just bear the pain and know that this is random.
Not because you sinned in your past life (karma) or forgot to pray, or that planet mars was angry.

Bad things  happens. It happens to me, to you, to the atheist, the priest and the preacher, and every one on this planet. You need to learn how to deal with them and have the patience and courage to go through them.

In fact what make us happy are all the sad things that happened in our life. Just look back in your life and recall the moments when you had to go through hardship and suffering- the low points in your life. Then take a deep breath and look at your life now. How do you feel now? Happy?
(OK if you are going through hell now, you need to wait a few more months or years and look back!).

Life is just Random… take it with your chin up..

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

In Science We trust

There  is a gross misunderstanding on the concept of science. We hear religious folks paint a picture of science being imperfect or wrong. Often they misquote science. I hear statements like “Netwon’s laws are wrong they contradict with quantum physics, Einstein’s theories don’t work on quantum level” etc. The fact is that mostly they are talking out of context. Since most of us do not understand science we seem to think that science is a guess work as much as religion and astrology.

The fact is science works. It works reasonably well. I say “reasonably” because there is room for improvement, always. Newton’s laws may have limitations at certain scale, but we still launch rockets and send man to moon. The fundamental laws of physics have their own use and limitations.

For example, the absolute temperature - Zero Kelvin cannot be reached through experiments. So does that mean the whole science governing cooling and heating is wrong? Are we talking about some mythological unicorn called Zero Kelvin?


In reality, the laws of thermodynamics that governs heating and cooling still works as we can verify this by the application. We are able to produce liquid nitrogen. We are still able to cool gasses pretty close to absolute zero (down to 0.000 000 000 1 of a kelvin). So you can see how we can be misled by statements like the above which are factually correct but contextually wrong that it conveys a wrong impression.

Science works on an incremental basis. It is challenged and changed over time. This is not a weakness; this is strength.

When was the time when any of the holy books were updated? When was the last time when the astrological theories were updated?

For example, astrological predictions are based on astronomical observations made by our ancestors 1000 years ago. Since then the position of the starts and zodiacs have change significantly due to a phenomenon called “Precision of the equinox”. Also, there are 13 zodiacs recognized by the International Astronomical society. None of the astrologers have updated their calculations to include the 13th zodiac! Also, there is a significant difference between the charts used by the astrologers and the chart based on actual observation. The error in western (greek) astrology is as much as 30 days and the error in vedic astrology is around 3-5 days when you compare with real time observation using telescopes and satellites. In you input wrong data, you would get wrong output even if the program is correct!

Shouldn’t astrologers use the latest findings of astronomy and update the predictions?

Science doesn’t work this way. You can ask questions, you can challenge anything. This is the beauty of science.

I conclude with the following beautiful quote.

Experience is the only source of knowledge. The same methods of investigation which we apply to the sciences and to exterior knowledge should be applied to religion. If a religion is destroyed by such investigation and found it was nothing but a useless and unworthy superstition; the sooner it disappeared the better. Why religions should claim that they are not bound to abide by the standpoint of reason no one knows. For it is better that mankind should become atheist by following reason than blindly believe in two hundred million gods on the authority of anybody. Perhaps there are prophets, who have passed the limits of sense and obtained a glimpse of the beyond. We shall believe it only when we can do the same ourselves; not before. It is said that reason is not strong enough, that often it makes mistakes. If reason is weak why should a body of priests be considered any better guides?- Swamy Vivekananda

About Me

I am an Engineer by profession. Spritual and Anit-guru advice is my part time job!