Friday, August 3, 2012

Problem of Evil

The most often asked question by skeptics, or atheists as an argument against the existence of God is what is popularly known as the Problem of Evil.

The question is that If there is indeed a God who is omnipotent, omniscient and benevolent , meaning, one who is capable of everything, and one who knows everything, and ones intent is good, how can he allow the existence of evil, which we see all over the world every single day.

If we analyse what is Evil, we can simplify it as something that causes hurt. Anything that causes hurt is Evil. The scale can be as large as we see or hear in the news. Sometimes these are acts of nature, sometimes human errors, sometimes intentional, sometimes in error of judgement and so on. Whatever be the cause of these hurtful events, there is human suffering. A God cannot co-exist along with the presence of Evil. This appears a fair argument.

This has been addressed by philosophers and theosophists for a long time. They in general bring in the notion of Free will and Karma to create a consistent world.

Let us look for a simpler explanation. 

For this to become more clearer, we need to perform a 'thought experiment'. Let us assume a world, where Evil does not exist. No hurt to anybody. The omnipotent God lives happily in harmony without any complaint from the skeptics. Since none of us have experience of such a world, we do not easily understand how such a world would be. Since we assume that when there will be no Evil, it will be a very happy world.

In order to 'experience' anything, one has to know what the absence of it is, or an alternative of what it is. If one must have the experience of a pleasant weather, one must know or have experienced an unpleasant weather. Let us assume that we have perfect weather control over a large piece of land, and that the temperature, humidity etc are always in the so called comfort level, all the time. can we say we are experiencing a pleasant weather all the time? One might be tempted to answer yes. But the actual answer is that while we will not be uncomfortable, we will not have an 'experience' of pleasantness. Since we do  not have a reference against which to measure this experience, we would just miss it! Let the weather control breakdown for half an hour, and when its back on, people can be seen experiencing 'relief', they will certainly have an 'experience' of pleasant weather there!

This seemingly simple example, has a profound truth. It is impossible to create experiences in this world without differentiating. The eyes cannot perceive the world if there was just one color! when the only color is blue, then we don't even call it blue! We will not even have a concept of color in such as case! It is the presence of multitudes of colors that makes this world a rich place!

Same with the case of a computer scientist who knows very well that it is impossible to create a meaningful  piece of information with just one symbol say '1'. We need a minimum of two symbols to create meaning! hence the binary 0 and 1. That is the least needed. else everything is a meaningless monolithic blob! So it is with any system. so it is with the world and so it is with life. Since Evil is the other side of Good, life is an inescapable combination of these.

Even the most chilling of the Evils, are of the same nature. The need for a more complex texture in life in order to create that element of differentiation results in more complex Evils. A small 8-bit word can already have 256 variations, imagine the possibility of 64-bit or a 128-bit or a much larger word. Who could tell that all the chocking emotional scenes that are evoked when father  meets son in Finding Nemo are all nothing but zeroes and ones! that's what a few billion bits of 1 and 0 can do! and at times things get 'ugly'.

This of course requires much deeper contemplation, since we in general do not approve hurt and hence do not approve Evil. Once it becomes clear that Evil is inevitable ,not as in a 'hopeless' sense, but just as in the impossibility of experiencing a world without it, God being omnipotent and omniscient and the Existence of Evil do not pose a logical inconsistency.

One may wonder then what is the need of such a world and the place for a God in such a world. You may want to ponder that for a while. That we will address another day!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


Often times we hear the term Survival. At times we say 'Survival is difficult', then we say 'Survival of the Fittest'. etc. Survival at the most elemental level, is merely the ability to live biologically. All living things are born, they survive and eventually die. The survival is an instinctive thing. It was so for humans too. Henry Thoreau, in Walden, was very clear when he defined Survival. Survival is natural and hence the efforts were natural.

Beginning at the beginning, Hunter-gatherers 'Survived'. All their actions were aligned with this need for Survival which was of utmost importance. Civilizations expanded and evolved largely based on this need to survive. All great Civilizations thrived along river banks. Since river gave water and water gave food.

We have evolved from that basic need for biological survival to far more sophisticated survivals.

Today's needs are also based on Survival. Survival however has taken a new meaning. 
For an athlete, Survival is not biological existence, but being the fastest man on earth. He has to Survive being the fastest man.

From merely Surviving, the need has shifted to Surviving 'As' X. and X can take infinite avatars. From Being the Powerful person, to Richest Person, to Beautiful Person, to Famous person, to the most Knowledgeable Person etc. And strangely this X keeps changing too.

This world is a beautiful place, and existence is such a beautiful thing. Mere existence is beautiful. As we observe the movement of the Universe in apparent time, there are endless events of endless possibilities. When this need to 'Survive As' is traded for just 'Survive', or in other words, from the necessity to 'Be As',  becomes to a simple 'Be', we wake up.

We realize that our true self is merely Being. Everything else moves, everything else changes, evolves, grows, attaches, detaches, gets born, dies, but the Self does not. It simply Is.

Realizing this truth, when the necessity to 'Be As' is eradicated, The Self is realized, the truth known, the Phenomenon is separated from reality, The endless Summer of Joy begins.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Perceiving Infinity

Though the abstract concept of infinity is a very intriguing idea, with little bit of effort, a bit of examples and logic, one can grasp the notion.

Image courtesy

The usual place where infinity is discussed is space. Space is infinite. when such a statement is made, it is not made quietly. it is a progressive conclusion, that begins with the here and now, and goes beyond the boundaries of the town, the city, the state, country, continent, the planet, solar system, galaxy and so forth. each one is an order of magnitude larger. This introduction of infinity is indeed mind boggling. In fact mind numbing. Obviously this results in the incomprehensible nature of infinity. The simple statement infinite is endless, is accepted for its literal meaning by most, and is left at that. 

But an inquisitive mind, is never at rest. For instance, the progression in the expansion of space is very clearly accessible to the human perception. one can see the house, the street, the town, can travel the country, can travel around the planet... and this teasingly possible nature, also creates an ultimate desire to perceive infinity. This perpetual desire, also creates an hopelessness when one keeps on learning the expanding size of the universe, and the impossibility of perceiving the infinity.

The other approach to infinity is through abstract notion of numbers. There are infinite numbers. There is a progression from small numbers to larger and larger numbers , or smaller and smaller numbers, as the case might be. Here again, the act of symbolizing numbers, makes it teasingly a possibility to eventually 'count' infinity.

This problem of grasping infinity by the perception, either through the physical or the mental faculties, is somewhat circumvented by merely simplifying infinity, into a logical notion. "There is always a number after every number". Or in terms of space, space is never ending, so "once you come to an apparent 'end', you always see a further point".

The real solution to the impossibility of the perception of infinite lies in the fact that the physical reality is not infinite. Infinity does not exist.

Its a mere fabrication of the mind. What you see, what you perceive, what you 'count' is all there is. So in that sense you are perceiving infinity. What you see, what you think, what you know, is all there is, and always so will it be! The notion of time is an illusion, because one can only perceive the present. Past and future are perceived as notions only in the present.

So, the endlessness of space is possible only when we travel in space AND time. There must have been a time when we reached and saw only so much, say point A, and then at another time we pursued and found another further point B. But there were no two points in time to say, "we saw point B after A, and this seems to go on forever and hence space is endless".
Space, time and for that matter anything in this universe is finite, and what we perceive is all there is.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Why a Scientific Theory of Everything can never be a theory of 'Everything'

One of the quests of science is to have an explanation for everything. It is famously known as the Theory of Everything. ToE.

The 'everything' that science deals with is limited to the observable phenomena. Anything that is observable, measurable, describable forms part of the realm of science. 

Size, weight, speed, volume, etc are phenomena that can be 'observed'. By observation, it is meant perception. An act that suggests the existence of something.

Even abstract notions are observable. For instance a complicated mathematical theorem, exists in the form of symbols. the symbols are not necessarily pen and ink on paper, or the electrical/mechanical impulses in a system. It could exist as a sound, or a thought, and as long as it is observable, they belong to the concrete realm of science.

Emotions, and other psychological phenomena can be observed through the behavior of a person, and can be postulated and proven to exist.

So, science in its quest for an explanation of Everything, only seeks things that are observable.

One might question, if something exists that is not observable, then where is the proof for its existence? Why are we going to bother about science not dealing with a non-existing entity?

If say there exists an entity A, and it is not observable, then we can say that the science is not including everything. Because it ignored A, since its not observable.

Now, How do you 'find' an example of such an entity that is not observable?

In other words, an entity that does not have any physical attribute is impossible to find! by definition it is not observable.

Science concludes, since we will eventually explain everything that is observable, and only observable things exist, we will eventually have a Theory of Everything.

Well, here is a simple experiment. Ask yourself this simple question. Do I exist? If you answered 'Yes', try to find that 'You'. Try to find You in this observable Universe.

You might in a simplistic sense say well, here am I, pointing to your body, and say this is Me. But is it that simple? Every single organ that you have is some thing that 'you' 'have'! 
I have a Hand. so I am distinct from the Hand. 
I have a body, so I am distinct from the body. 
I have life, the physiological energy, and hence I am  distinct from life. 
I have a mind, I am distinct from my mind. 
I have thoughts, so I am distinct from thoughts.

you can go on like this, and will conclude that 'Everything' that you think is part of you, and is Observable, is distinct from you. 
I am in Chennai, I am distinct from Chennai, 
I am in San Francisco, I am distinct from San Francisco,
Wherever I am, I am distinct from Space.

I am in such and such a place, at such and such a time, So  I am associated with Time. 
Wherever and Whenever I am , I am distinct from Time.

Every single such attribute that is observable, is distinct from me. and yet I exist. How?please refer to the point where you admitted to it.

So, there you go. You have a rather important entity, which is You, which is not observable, and hence Science will not include you in its future Theory of Everything!

Hence the Theory of Everything, when its there, will never be a Theory of Everything :)

Btw, if you had negated your existence, then none of this really matter.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Moon IS

The Moon is different things to different people.

A satellite of Planet earth, revolving and rotating helplessly from time immemorial. It has a shape, form and size. It has a geology. It has interestingly poke marked surface, making people debate about the origins of them, some say its the bombardment of meteorites, and some say they are indigenous volcanoes.

For some people, its a place to explore. Is there water? when was it formed? Whats its mass, and whats the density. Whats all the moon dust made of? Some people do travel to the moon, walk on its surface, do those gravity defying leaps. and ... some other say, its all a hoax.

The moon waxes and wanes, its a permanent trusted companion of mankind. Always there for you. Some people observe the moon as it traverses the stars and constellations. As the moon moves from house to house  in the expanse of the stars, different things are said to happen to different folks.

The moon appears to influence a lot of things. It creates wild tides in the oceans. The towering waves with their roaring sound, are a sight to behold.

The moon can be very scary for some people. It instills the eerie feeling that most people dread as dark clouds hide the moon, and make it look sinister.

The moon gently illuminates objects of interest, creating a tranquil moment. A moment of peace and love.

It creates drama and romance. It triggers the creative juices of poets and musicians and lovers alike.

Though the moon appears to do all of this and more, and at times may even seem to be smiling, In reality the Moon simply IS.