Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A Pseudo-scientific Case For Vegetarianism

Vegetarianism is a lifestyle choice and I respect that. There are a variety of reasons given for being a vegetarian, like empathy for animals. But there are some vegetarians who use religion to justify their choice and argue that it is a superior choice which everyone should follow. Had there been some rational basis in their argument, I could concede their argument is sound. But predictably, religious vegetarianism is based on irrational ideas. It makes copious use of pseudoscience.

"You are what you eat"

That is one common premise of religious vegetarianism. Sites like these give a good explanation for that premise. To sum it up, the human body is composed of different levels of energy, with the mind and consciousness having the highest energy level. Different food sources have different energy levels and effect the body differently. Somehow meat has a negative energy level and affects that body negatively. Vegetables and fruits have optimum energy levels that help the mind vibrate at maximum potential.

There are other similar forms of justifications of vegetarianism, but central to all of them are energy and vibrations of food. Now onto why such justifications are plain stupid.

Retard Arguments

Energy is a word that has been raped through all of its orifices by pseudoscience peddlers (I'll abbreviate them as PPs). They have no basic understanding of how energy works, but pepper their arguments with it.

The human body gets it fix of energy by way of chemicals like carbohydrates, fats and proteins. Those chemicals are broken down in our cells and release chemical energy. It is that energy which drives the human body and not things as energy levels or vibrations (whatever the crap they mean in a pseudo-scientific context. Pseudoscience rarely gives precise definitions of terms).

Also, the human body doesn't care what the sources of those chemicals are - vegetables, fruits, leaves or meat. There's a reason why humans are omnivores.

Willful Ignorance

Processes of life are complex to understand. It requires knowledge of physics, chemistry and biology and considerable investment of time. PPs can't be expected to put in that kind of effort when there are people to be hoodwinked. They have an easy way out. They use fictional ideas of energy levels and vibrations to explain life. When using fiction, you are not restricted by those pesky laws of the Universe. Anything goes!

Ancient Nonsense

A chemical molecule is the same regardless of whether it comes from a plant source or animal source. That is fact which was unknown to the authors of ancient texts like the Upanishads. They didn't know the composition of matter. That is why they have invalid arguments like the food we eat has a direct correlation to the composition of the mind. But for PPs, ancient equals truth. Evidence doesn't matter. PPs piggyback on religious credulity to spread nonsense from ancient texts.

Friday, August 20, 2010

A Different Kind of Oneness

Upanishads talk about knowing the Self and being one with everything. They say that the ultimate goal in life is to attain that oneness. Now there is good evidence that the oneness has its origin in the physical and mutable brain. Apparently damage to certain regions of the brain causes one to lose the concept of one's own body and feel unity with everything.

A few people in ancient times might have achieved that state of oneness (I'm merely speculating here) by damaging parts of their brain. But it does look like Brahman, after all, has its origins in the mundane physical brain and not in some lofty all pervading infinite entity.

Does that mean one has to intentionally tamper with their brain to achieve moksha? No. There are better ways to do that, thanks to science. It involves not giving into the illusion that the real world is an illusion and an imaginary abstraction is reality.

Life has a sense of oneness at multiple levels. At the base level, all parts of the Universe appear to be subject to the same physics. At the next level, to use Carl Sagan's words, we are made of star stuff. As atoms heavier than hydrogen did not exist in the primeval Universe, they were forged inside the cores of stars. The next level is that all life on Earth is replicator based and had a common origin.

To actually appreciate the beauty of those multiple levels of oneness you need to know how the Universe works. Achieving that knowledge was no mean feat. It is the culmination of thousands of years of quest for knowledge with contributions from all civilizations on Earth.

Ignoring that achievement and clinging to a very narrow set of neurological phenomena as the ultimate truth is the ultimate form of parochialism. When the Universe is beckoning you, it is sheer ignorance to renounce it as mere maya. It is escapism in the face of immense complexity.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Sanskrit - The Best Language For Computer Programming?

From time to time I get emails on "Amazing facts about India". One of those facts is that Sanskrit is the best language for computer programming. Being familiar with computer programming, I wondered if there was any truth to that statement.

The claim is based on this paper by Rick Briggs, published in AI Magazine. It talks about using Sanskrit in natural language processing (NLP). The idea of using a natural language for computer programming is to make it easier for people to talk to computers in their native tongue and spare them the pain of learning a computer friendly language like assembly/C/Java.

The Rick Briggs' paper makes a case that natural languages are not that difficult to use for computer programming. He cites Sanskrit as an example as its grammar can be easily translated to a form understandable by a computer. But nowhere does it say that using Sanskrit is the best way to program a computer. Say if somebody manages to create a computer language based on Sanskrit, how likely is it that it will get adopted by non-Sanskrit speaking people?

There is a lot of difference between Sanskrit being suitable for NLP and it being the best or perfect language for computer programming. For Sanskrit to be truly a best language for computer programming, a majority of computer users should be fluent enough in it. Otherwise it is much easier for them to learn a computer friendly language than to learn Sanskrit and then use it for programming a computer. By that logic, I fail to see how it is the best language for programming a computer when the number of people who are fluent in C outnumber the number of people who are fluent in Sanskrit.

But that did not stop some Indians from expanding their chests with pride based on a false premise. They are so lacking in knowledge of history of India, that even when there are other real reasons to proud of Sanskrit (for example, its influence on modern linguistics or its similarity with Backus-Naur form), they ignore them and spout second hand nonsense to inflate their egos.

Perhaps the people who originate these kinds of falsehoods expect everyone all over the world to recognize the technical merits of Sanskrit and throw away their native tongues and instead adopt Sanskrit. If that really is the case, their hypocrisy is mind boggling. These are same people who are likely to make a stink about "western" elements destroying traditional Indian elements. Yet they would like other cultures to throw away their cultural artifacts just because a researcher published a paper saying that Sanskrit is a good language to use in NLP.