Monday, July 11, 2005

'emergent principle': more to life than reductionism

jul 4th

(since this seems to be an interesting discussion, i am reposting it with a future date so that it will remain top of this blog).

nytimes book review

http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9D05EED91038F93AA25755C0A9639C8B63

talks about how the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, much the same as those with faith have always criticized the dry cartesian reductionist (reductio ad absurdum?) tendencies of european science. there is the music of the spheres; there is the balance of the vital energies (eg. vata pitta kapha), but euro-science simply refuses to acknowledge them.

i have thought that a science which cannot tell the difference between a live person and the same person two seconds after he is dead -- of course there is nothing reductionist in terms of his chemical composition that has changed -- is not a very good science. it is indeed missing the forest for the trees.

44 comments:

san said...

LoL Rajeev, here's where I have to firmly disagree. :)

European-developed science and its founding fathers are simply brilliant. Archimedes, Newton, Leibniz, Descartes, Pascal, Euler, Curie, Schrodinger, Bohr -- I could go on and on.

Einstein!
This one man alone did so much for physics.

That doesn't mean that India hasn't made its own strong contributions, or that India didn't have geniuses. Read about Raman or Bose.

As India escapes the clutches of pernicious Left-wing stagnation, Indians will generate more and more luminaries.

But science is science. The laws of physics don't work differently in Europe and India. The most effective ways to investigate them are likewise less the product of nationality than of common sense.

As far as all this metaphysical stuff about life and death is concerned, forget about all that empirical nonsense. The mind is simply a very fragile arrangement of neurons, nothing more. There is no energy or substance ("soul") that escapes at death, simply the breakdown of the pattern. Just like how the circuits scramble when you shut off power to a computer.

I'd say that as scientific understanding progresses people will get a better handle on death and see what it's all about. It's really just a physical phenomenon, one which we can eventually influence and largely bring under our control. It may happen within our lifetimes.

nizhal yoddha said...

san, i do believe we have found an area of disagreement here :-)

first the usual disclaimer. i am not anti-science, mind you, far from it, and on suitable occasions i have vigorously defended scientists (and engineers) against the allegations of touchy-feely humanities types.

but i have a couple of fundamental issues with science. one is that i think science cannot (and unlike you, i suspect it will not in future either) fully explain everything. exhibit a: the heisenberg uncertainty principle. using that as a metaphor, i claim there is a limit to what science can precisely explain. nature puts up irreducible barriers. similarly, a lot of things are hand-waved away by scientists as 'stochastic' or probabilstic functions. that is simply another way of saying, 'i don't know'. it's like econometricians building fancy models which are mere approximations to the truth.

second objection is the 'messiah complex'. we have been conditioned to look in awe at all these european scientists (mostly DWMs) and imagine they were so brilliant it is almost inconceivable that they were human. i think there's a significant amount of hype to that. for instance einstein has gotten so much propaganda that if you do word association, genius == einstein in most people's minds. i think this is a bit much. they were good, true, but not superhuman, and they all, every last one of them, stood on the shoulders of giants. i have a hard time with hero-worship, although clearly i too have my heros.

finally, you mention that the end of life is like the turning off of electricity. precisely. there is a 'force' akin to electricity that is keeping the body alive. what is that? what is life? science doesn't know. i claim that science, that is reductionist science, will never know. it is a holistic principle.

btw, san, you should send me your email address (pseudonym is fine).

infww said...

As a person who firmly believed in science (I still do but I now see its limitations in a much clearer manner than I did before and still am not religious), I agree with Rajeev.

san, I have a few points of contention with your terminology. The term "European-developed" is inappropriate. Modern medicine owes its existence to two key events - (1) Garcia de Orta's book on the medical practices in India. This book was a huge hit in Europe at a time practice of medicine was considered witchcraft of preoccupation with the devil. (2) the idea of vaccination and germ theory both of which were borrowed from India.

As for development in math, the key events were the development of calculus (Newton and Liebnitz stole it from the same source and then accused each other of plagiarism. This source was most likely an Arab translation of Indian texts) and the theory of gravitation (also borrowed from a source that can be traced to India).

Europe also learnt about metallurgy and chemistry from India. As they did about rocketry.

So please don't attribute development of science and founding it to Europeans.

Also, Rajeev's point about the meaning of life is beyond today's science.

san said...

Hi Gentleman, I wish to clarify that I did not mean that Europeans developed all science, I was merely lauding the very substantial contribution by Europeans to the field of science. Just because an American named Thomas Edison invented the lightbulb, doesn't mean it isn't good for all of us. Just because Indians invented the zero, doesn't mean it isn't welcomed by everyone else.

Regarding the Heisenberg Uncertainty, you're right to say that science and technology haven't found a way to measure past it -- YET. There was a time when human beings couldn't cool a cup of water below room temperature, but we eventually discovered a way. Even now there are quantum theorists who are trying to further dissect these fundamental limits, which may eventually lead to ways around them. QuantumElectroDynamics(QED) is a field of study that seeks to manipulate such fundamental limits.

I agree that scientists are themselves flawed people often made to look larger than life, but that can happen with any community. This is unfortunately an inevitable consequence of the gap between the "knowledge givers" (scientists) and the "knowledge consumers" (masses). Some researchers are quacks who manage to get grants solely based on blind faith in their glowing promises.

Regarding turning off the electricity, I would say that the pattern that is the mind is not kept in place purely by electricity, but also by chemistry as well. The melting of a patterned snowflake crystal into a blob of water doesn't mean it's losing electricity. The stoppage of major bodily functions, such as stoppage of the heart and loss of bloodflow, does indeed to lead to chemical decomposition which commences right away at the smallscale.

Anyway, I would say that we Indians should not be a purely inward-looking society. We should be emotionally healthy enough to recognize the achievements of other peoples and countries, even as we strive to make use of them and build upon them. Even if Indians did not develop the transistor, look at what further heights it has pushed us to. Likewise, others will build upon what we have done, and all will draw benefit. That's why educated Americans strongly welcome outsourcing -- not merely because it allows them to save a few bucks today, but because they realize that over the long term the more people there are participating in economic activity/progress, then the faster that progress will occur.

I like these articles about Indians striving to become a 'knowledge superpower'. India's hordes of lower-cost technically capable personnel will flood the marketplace with R&D, and there will a fresh golden age of scientific innovation and progress for the world. Then Indians won't be forced to gain self-esteem by foraging through the distant past for contributions to the world. Our contributions will be continually forthcoming in our vibrant present-day. :)

san said...

Nextly, I'd like to post this article on
Chinese acquisitions in the US

I want to specifically draw attention to the final paragaph:

"We invest too much in U.S. federal bonds, and they don't make us much money," said Pan Rui, a professor at the Center for American Studies at Fudan University in Shanghai. "Now we're learning to invest more wisely, to try to invest in American companies and industries."

This approach should be of benefit to India, too. India is just pouring money into buying US dollars just to maintain the exchange rate. Meanwhile, US is taking full advantage by allowing its currency to depreciate, which is negative rate of return for India on its investment.

India needs to take a page from the Chinese book, and spend its money more wisely. Instead of blindly pouring money into the sinkhole of the US dollar, India should seek to acquire assets that will enhance its current service sector offerings. Like that VSNL purchase of the Tyco fiber optic network you mentioned, Rajeev.

That's a way to maintain the exchange rate in India's favor, while investing in a path for the future. The US dollar's path is unfortunately downwards, at least for the medium term.

san said...

Here's another good article on phytoremediation - a way to use plants to clean up toxic wastes.

quote:
Meagher said he's also hoping to someday deploy genetic engineered trees in northern India and Bangladesh where arsenic poisoning is rampant. Drinking water throughout the region has been contaminated by soils polluted naturally and by spills and drainage from factories.

Decontamination of drinking water is a good way for technology to directly touch the lives of the rural poor. Then BJP won't be left bewildered as to why people outside of the call centres can't find any "India Shining".

Anonymous said...

I do agree with Rajeev about near deification of western scientists - many of them do deserve the credit and the praise, but the implication that Indian scientists stood still as the world raced past them begs to be accepted because of the above fact.
As far as knowing "everything" goes, the business of science is such that it is going to be a perennial endeavor.
Just to pick up on the example in the thread, Heisenberg's uncertainty principle doesn't allow one to determine precisely the position and momentum of particles precisely - but engineers have used the above principle to fabricate semiconductor lasers (I can provide details if somebody wants them). Latter half of the 20th century saw development of observation tools (electron microscopes) and enabled observation of atoms (tunneling microscopes - again making use of electron tunneling).
Different technologies feed each other - early 20th century Physics research led to the transistor and the amazing semiconductor technology. Scientists made use of this technology to study new effects in Physics.
So Rajeev, do not write off science so quickly and San do not hope that everthing can be explained perfectly.
In those unforgettable words of Don Rumsfeld " there might be unknown unkowns" and one just has wait for brilliant minds to unlock his/her imagination to theorize something new (this is no Messiah syndrome BTW).

nizhal yoddha said...

this is turning into a good discussion, folks. btw, hi, infww, haven't heard from you for a while.

quantum electrodynamics and string theory notwithstanding, i believe the uncertainty principle is a fundamental limitation that cannot be broken. it's not that i don't want it to be broken or anything like that, i think it just is: it's nature saying 'enough of this prodding and poking at me!' :-). similarly, the wonderful law of thermodynamics that says that chaos (entropy) is ever-increasing. i think these (at least as we know now) are hard limitations.

sure, anonymous, at the macro level, the effects of quantum theory are not so relevant. you and i don't behave like waves one moment and particles the next. but the fact that on average these effects get blurred is still not a satisfactory explanation of the quantum effects of uncertainty.

i am not writing off science: i realize that science will continually improve itself. i am suggesting that there is stuff that science will never be able to explain, for example the mystery of life. i don't think we'll ever be able to understand how life suddenly appeared (is it contrary to the 2nd law of thermodynamics?) in the primordial soup of molecules. as a confessed theist, i have to think there is a reason, and that this is the will of It, the Creator.

cp snow long ago tried to relate the two cultures of science and literature. can we attempt to reconcile science and faith? not to have an inflated ego about it, but i think we can. we indians have the background in both.

this is tangential to the point infww was making: that much of the scientific temper and indeed, inventions usually credited to europe had its origins in india. while those guys had the unfortunate incubus of the anti-science church overhanging them, the spirit of free enquiry was running rampant in india. in particular, i have some reason to believe that the fundamentals of calculus were invented by the kerala school of math and astronomy circa 1300-1500CE by madhava and parameswara, and that jesuit priests took their knowledge (extremely useful for navigation) to the vatican whence it spread to much of europe. the infinite series for tan, sin etc. were well known to the kerala school centuries before the europeans.

this is meant as an antidote to the DWM-centric and euro-centric grand narrative that is current. have to give credit where it is due; this also comes back to me oft-stated idea that the patent system is really an obstacle rather than a help in the creation of intellectual property.

Anonymous said...

I do agree that there is a huge limitation on the part of modern day science in explaining many things that one observes/experiences.
If one considers the case of astrology, where an attempt was made by M.M. Joshi to introduce it into mainstream curriculum, it was met with utter disdain. From what I have heard after talking to people who prepare horoscopes, very few people in the country know the exact science behind it and because of extensive work in the past, it has now been reduced to a few formulae which one can learn after some home schooling. I presume that it involved calculations of the effect of many masses interacting with the object of interest - similar to "many body theory" but with far less computational complexity. The effects of far away planets are neglected and the influence of Jupiter (largest mass) and Saturn are critical.

The question that I have is this : is it possible for one to formalize the discoveries/observations of Indian scholars so as to rationalize it within the context of modern day science. If so, why hasn't it been done till now ? Is it due to lack of resources (ancient texts that have gone missing, or certain generations that failed to transfer their knowledge to the next) ?
There are lots of Vedic/Sanskritic schools across the country, but am not sure as to what their focus is.

I know that Rajeev has visited some aspects of this in his columns, but any comments/info would probably give this topic a better perspective.

Anonymous said...

Rajeev,

If you have not yet heard about Intelligent Design,you may read this-

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intelligent_design#Criticism

Intelligent Design (or ID) is the controversial assertion that certain parts of existence are best explained by positing an intelligent designer.

Murali K Warier said...

Rajeev,
It is true that there are certain things which science doesn't know now and quite possibly certain other things which science will never be able to fathom. But why should we assign divine will to things that we don't know (we have been doing that throughout history, including something as simple as rain and lightning)? If we can't know something, how are we sure that it is the Creator's will or anything else? Why do we teach and preach things we don't know? Just admitting that we don't know (science does that) is simpler and more honest, right?

Now I can guess how you will answer the preceding: the so called 'intuitive system' or ESP or divine knowledge or whatever, which gives people the power to look into things that science can't. Unfortunately, this is a fallacy, as science itself is the product of the failure of these 'divine' systems. Most religions started out as a quest to answer mundane questions, and in spirit, they were similar to science. That they got the wrong answers for questions that appear so simple today, is what ultimately led to the scientific method.

Anonymous, very few people know about the exact science behind Astrology simply because there is none :)

nizhal yoddha said...

anon,
yes, i am aware of richard dawkins' work on the blind watchmaker and related stuff. but it's not like anybody has definitely proved things one way or the other.

warier,
setting up astrology as a straw-man to attack faith is particularly ineffectual. because astrology has nothing to do with faith. it is a science, maybe a failed science, but a science nonetheless because it sets up some postulates and purports to predict certain outcomes. almost exactly the definition of a science. besides, the father of european astronomy, kepler, was an astrologer: horoscopes he did are available at the UCSC library. most other famous astronomers were likewise astrologers. it doesn't require you to believe in a Creator to believe in astrology.

besides, to focus on astrology for a moment, i think its 'malefic planets' are no more strange than einstein's 'space-time continuum', and in fact they may both be the same. that is, the space-time warp at the time of your birth (or conception) having an influence over your life = astronomy. not such a difficult thing to imagine if you agree that massive objects have an influence on the continuum.

the other thing about science that you misinterpret is that science does purport to have the answers to everything. science *never* admits we don't know. the absolute truth is just the next theory or experiment away, isn't it always? it's just that we cannot quite yet measure this or that, but we surely will next week, right? wrong!

besides, it is really amazing how much faith science requires. you believe really bizarre micro things because science seems to correctly predict the few macro things that you can observe. for instance, science predicts that the sun rises in the east because we live on a rotating planet. but then, by massive extrapolation, we are expected to believe it when the same science says that it put a man on the moon (there are sceptics who claim the whole thing was a stunt in a hollywood sound stage). similary, we are expected to believe that the tsunami is a probabilistic function based on certain unknowns in an earthquake, while certain sceptics claim it was set off by a deep-sea-trench nuclear explosion. you *choose* to believe the high priests of science, but if you read about their petty quarrels, they are no more dispassionate than anybody else: the latest row i remember is about the noble prize for the invention of the mri.

so it is amazing how much blind faith you need to have to believe in science these days, because it is so far outside the realm of personal experience. you believe because the media and the textbooks tell you. i am sure the media and the textbooks had very convincing reason to make people believe that the earth was flat and there were all these complicated epicycles (ptolemaic astronomy) which could actually model the movement of the planets and the sun around the earth.

how do you know you are not being fed a load of bull by science today? every few years, scientists tell you that everything you knew all these years is absolutely wrong.

bottom line, there are all these bombastic notions about 'exactness' and 'precision' and the 'scientific method', but they all dont amount to a hill of beans. it boils down to whom you choose to believe.

and why is that so different from a theist choosing to believe in the Creator?

Anonymous said...

San,
You said "But science is science. The laws of physics don't work differently in Europe and India." - true. But why then you take so many names, including einstein and all that...does laws of physics work differently because of them ? Or something else is there ? What about those arrangement of neurons ?Do you understand what relativity could be about ? I think you are stuck in the old systems. The best question to ask, that non of the reductionist systems answer is, What if I say your thoughts are product of some worthless arrangement of mere neurons, just like dead neurons were circulating in Bin Laden, in merely a different pattern ? You see, you would object to this one! Your ideas have been worthful to you, here you would just twist the argument - forget the mind, it is all about arrangement of nuerons, implicitly your neurons are better off or valuable Replacing a word with a scintific word doesn't help.

san said...

Anonymous, regarding "science is science" -- Einstein did not create the physical laws, he merely articulated them in an excellent way, giving us a good perspective through which to deal with them. His Theory of Relativity was a masterstroke. You can certainly say that I have the same neurons of Bin Laden, or made of the same flesh and blood, but what of it? If I have the same blood type as him, or hair colour, what is the significance? I am not diminishing the value of the thoughts generated by our neurons just because I recognize that they are formed by the pattern arrangement. On the contrary, we human beings put great value in patterns. We love music because we find appeal in its pattern of sound, we love beautiful pictures and scenery because of their appealing patterns of shapes and hues.

san said...

Rajeev, I would say that science results from the interplay of observation and theory. Each is used to shape the other.

Regarding astrology and 'intelligent design', these things are pseudo-scientific nonsense as far as I'm concerned. Yes, Kepler may have believed in astrology, and even Newton and Einstein whom I admire were religious while I am not. But I don't need to believe by rote everything which they believed in -- particularly when some of their beliefs were not substantiated with proof.

Yes, the scientific community does have its sacred cows, which can mean that legitimately dissenting opinions can unfortunately snuffed out with scoffery. When Prof Smalley proposed the existence of fullerene carbon he was met with a wall of skepticism from the mainstream scientific community. But later he was able to produce the evidence that vindicated him. Even Prof Taleyarkhan has had to fight an uphill battle on his sonofusion claims. But it's very legitimate for the mainstream community to demand evidence before reposing credibility in something. I feel that it's fair to say that "extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof".

Regarding quantum physics and Heisenberg's Uncertainty, to me it's like the Sound Barrier. People will say it can't be surmounted until someone actually does it. Both Heisenberg with his uncertainty and DeBroglie with his intrinsic wavelengths were talking about the same thing, albeit in different ways.

In highschool we were once asked to look at a speck of floating in a water drop under a microscope. We could see the speck jiggling, as if being battered by invisible objects. These unseen objects were water molecules, and the vibration is the well-known phenomenon of Brownian Motion. In my opinion, something similar is happening which causes DeBroglie's Wavelength and Heisenberg's Uncertainty. The reason why you can't measure a particle's position/speed beyond a certain precision, is because that object is being buffeted by something that we are as yet unable to see. The buffeting, which we cannot yet remove, makes the object's position/speed imprecise. When we can't accurately track something, then we fall back on statistics as the metric of last resort to obtain basic information on it. And yet today's rudimentary descriptors of probability will give clues, which will suggest experiments, which will yield more clues, and so on. And the world below Heisenberg and Planck will be unravelled.

Looking at the development of chemistry, this too was a "black box" affair of probing the nature of unseen atoms and molecules, like the Blind Men Feeling the Elephant. And yet as discoveries built upon each other, a refined picture was created. The same thing will be done for the quantum world. It's a bootstrapping process, and it will take time and effort to yield answers. Some experiments to probe underpinnings of quantum behavior have not borne fruit because they were based on assumptions of linearity.

I previously posted that article on Hypersonic Sound for you all, which talked about non-linear interactions of soundwaves and their amazing applications. In my opinion, non-linear interactions are what need to be looked at to dissect the underlying setup of the quantum world.

nizhal yoddha said...

san,
i fully agree that we dont need to take all of the ideas of an alleged 'great man' without scepticism. the best example is william shockley, an inventor of the transistor, whose later theories about race and intelligence made him a laughing-stock.

on the other hand, your argument about how science will discover new things can be turned around. if you believe the heisenberg uncertainty principle can be overturned by new experiments, why can't a believer in astrology suggest that we will eventually discover the truth behind 'action at a distance' by various planets? good for the goose, good for the gander, etc.

so all these sciences, pseudo-sciences and quasi-sciences fall into the same boat of hoping to be validated at some unspecified time in the future. this is what makes me suggest that einstein and astrology are more akin than you might think.

and frankly, belief that science will be proved right is itself of the nature of faith. (even blind faith :-)

theist faith does have an axiom about the Creator. just as those who believe in science and scientists repose their faith in their infallibility, theists believe in the infallibility of It, the Creator, the immanent one.

in a fundamental way, both science and faith require the willing suspension of disbelief.

there is also the mystical side of things: how intuition works and how one can resonate with the universe and experience at a higher level. science has no explanation for genius and insight. faith does. i like srinivasa ramanujan's intuitive explanation of his genius: the goddess of namakkal inspired it. science has no better explanation.

it has become fashionable in india to be atheistic; in india of all places this is sad, because this is the empire of the spirit. this is where mysticism and faith and intuition reached their greatest heights, in particuarly benign ways.

Murali K Warier said...

Rajeev, my responses to your comment:

setting up astrology as a straw-man to attack faith is particularly ineffectual.

I mentionde astrology not to attack faith, but as a comment to what anon said (that there is a science behind astrology).

because astrology has nothing to do with faith. it is a science, maybe a failed science, but a science nonetheless because it sets up some postulates and purports to predict certain outcomes.

Astrology has a lot to do with faith, because you have to believe inspite of the evidence. Astrology is a pseudoscience, not a failed science. If it is a failed science, why should we continue to believe (and spend billions on it) in Astrology?

besides, the father of european astronomy, kepler, was an astrologer: horoscopes he did are available at the UCSC library.

Why should that give Astrology any credibility? If so, why not alchemy (Newton was a practitioner)?

besides, to focus on astrology for a moment, i think its 'malefic planets' are no more strange than einstein's 'space-time continuum', and in fact they may both be the same.

I should say it takes an incredible amount of imaginative leap to equate astrology and space-time continuum!

not such a difficult thing to imagine if you agree that massive objects have an influence on the continuum.

I don't care about the theory behind astrology, I will accept it if it works (it is very unlikely that James Watt knew thermodynamics when he invented the steam engine). Unfortunately, many controlled, double blind tests have proved beyond any doubt that Astrology doesn't work beyond simple guesswork.

the other thing about science that you misinterpret is that science does purport to have the answers to everything.

Where did I say so? Science very definitely doesn't have the answer to everything, and it may never have answers to certain questions. My only objection is to ascribing divine origin or will to things we don't know. The fallacy of such a scheme has been demonstrated time and again (god of the gaps).

science *never* admits we don't know. the absolute truth is just the next theory or experiment away, isn't it always?

Science never talks about the absolute truth - in fact the quest for the Truth is not science's business. Science just tries to interpret available observations and postulate theories based on available data.

it's just that we cannot quite yet measure this or that, but we surely will next week, right? wrong!

You berate science for being cocksure (it isn't in reality) and you yourselves are cocksure about this and that!

besides, it is really amazing how much faith science requires.

You don't need any belief in fact. If you can prove Einstein's theory wrong, you can do it and claim your Nobel Prize too!

you believe really bizarre micro things because science seems to correctly predict the few macro things that you can observe.

It is not just 'a few micro things' that science 'seems' to correctly predict. In fact, the whole civilization is built on science.

but if you read about their petty quarrels, they are no more dispassionate than anybody else:

Scientists too are human after all. But science as a method owes its success to weeding out the 'human factor' from its conclusions. The quarrels you mentioned in no way reduce the importance of the scientific method.

so it is amazing how much blind faith you need to have to believe in science these days, because it is so far outside the realm of personal experience.

You in fact don't need any BLIND belief. You or anybody else will not be hanged for questioning even established scientific principles and if you can, disproving them. Sure, it is not an easy task and lot of 'establishment' biases will come in your way. But you will prevail, if your theories are correct. Compare this to religions, for example.

i am sure the media and the textbooks had very convincing reason to make people believe that the earth was flat and there were all these complicated epicycles (ptolemaic astronomy) which could actually model the movement of the planets and the sun around the earth.

But the Ptolemic system was thrown out in spite of the media, right?

how do you know you are not being fed a load of bull by science today? every few years, scientists tell you that everything you knew all these years is absolutely wrong.

The answer is there in the second part. There is a method that separates chaff from grain. It may take time, but it will happen. Further, there are very few cases of well established theories (like gravitation) that were proved 'absolutely wrong' later. Modifications and corrections, yes.

bottom line, there are all these bombastic notions about 'exactness' and 'precision' and the 'scientific method', but they all dont amount to a hill of beans. it boils down to whom you choose to believe.

Maybe, but you depend on the same methods when you board the next flight. If it were a load of beans, you wouldn't be here to write these things!

and why is that so different from a theist choosing to believe in the Creator?

Believing in a Creator is a personal thing and that doesn't have any relevance to the physical world. Scientists can't afford this luxury because the very survival of a lot of people depend on what they 'believe'.

infww said...

Anonymous, you asked if Indian inventions and discoveries can be documented in the modern context. Sure they can.

The so called Congreve rockets are nothing but rockets used by the Marathas which were reverse-engineered by William Congreve. Then you have modern medical science which owes its existence to ideas taken from India (as late as 1692, USA believed in witchcraft. Remember the Salem witch hunt?) Fibonacci too introduced the decimal number system of Indians into Europe (his famous series arose accidentally from a practice problem involving rabbits that he formulated for practising addition) as did Newton/Liebnitz the ideas of calculus and gravitation.

Even the idea of using longitudes for calculations related to navigation comes from India. Al Beruni mentions that this was common practice in India. Why, the Europeans believed that the earth was flat until they learnt from Indians that it wasn't the case.

Why is credit not given where it is due? As you can see, I have written this post and I have given credit to Indians. Had I written the history of science, I would have been objective, but since Europeans wrote it, they fabricated claims.

They were so desperate to claim that they invented civilization that they associated themselves with the anciant Greek civilization which was a pagan civilization (in all fairness, pagan = hindu). The Greeks were not even the centre of the ancient civilization, but the edge of the ancient rich civilization that extended from Cambodia to Rome.

Anonymous said...

San,

Anonymous, regarding "science is science" -- Einstein did not create the physical laws, he merely articulated them in an excellent way, giving us a good perspective through which to deal with them.

I understood that :) But just like laws of physical science is independent of India or USA, You said "But science is science. The laws of physics don't work differently in Europe and India. , so also they are generally Independent of Einstein and myself and you and Bohor. As you mentioned Einstein is important for he explained it, or more correctly apparently understood it, or may be somehow derived it, what ever.... If all of us take name of Einstein, as we do[ and I do], it means we are looking beyond the laws of physical science to elsewhere. The old reductionist method ignores such phenophena as retrogade and not worth consideration, though they indulge in it more than anybody else. My point is this - if one mentions/looks to einstein so lucidly without understanding that these are not physical laws , and in the same context he mentions of physical laws being independent of geography, then he is erring somewhere. Read more on the context of physical laws in various periods to understand why so many nuts, marxists, politicians are in logical group merely because of association. This logic is often substituted with scintific, which is just propaganda. These laws and science often are used to hide real questions, including intellectual slavery.

prasank said...

Hi Rajeev,
I have a doubt here (may be a stupid one). One of your previous posts was agaist patents in software. Now, isnt the absence of a patenting system one of the reasons for Indian inventors of early years not getting noticed? Or did ancient India have any similar system? My understanding is that we had something like the open source system. Isnt it correct that most of the scientists "san" mentioned had their work patended right away? One of the reasons Edison will be remembered is the 1000 or so patents in his name.
Publishing a book really helps. I guess all the famous people from ancient India had written some sort of book.
PS: This is a post coming out of pure ignorance. Please dont get offended from any of the above sentences.

nizhal yoddha said...

warier, i cant go through and respond to you line by line. but let me suggest a couple of things.

a. you are mixing up science and technology/engineering. most of what we experience is technology, which is not that dependent on the deep science behind it. for instance, people used astronomical data very well for agriculture purely by observation, even before they knew the science behind the rotating earth and all that. technology has hardware abstraction layers, if you will. someone designing a ship doesn't really care about the microscopic scientific structure of the metal, the gross technical properties are sufficient.

b. banging on astrology is an easy way to score quick points, but it is not meaningful. care to share the details of the 'double-blind' studies done that 'disproved' astrology? i hope this isn't about jeanne dixon or some other white astrologers who are dabblers; whereas the ancient indian systems are more likely to have better than random correlation with events. also, there are plenty of quack astrologers, just as there are plenty of quack scientists. i don't know if there exist too many real indian astrologers who know the theory behind it. and no, astrology is not equal to faith: it is, i repeat, a failed science as it has hypotheses, verification, and falsifiability. i don't find it at all laughable to compare the malefic planets with the einstein space-time continuum: the latter is equally strange, and it is better packaged, and has the weight of DWMs behind it, that's really all. as far as i know, a lot of general relativity and the GUT of physics, as well as the esoterica of charmed quarks, string theory, etc. are still speculative thought experiments, and the practical corroboration is slow to come.

c. science certainly does claim that it has the answer to everything. that is part of the mystique

d. yes, there are clearly failed sciences that have been discarded completely. an example is ptolemaic astronomy. it has not been just 'modified' and 'extended'. it has been comprehensively trashed.

e. technologies that are sufficiently advanced are indistinguishable from magic, said arthur c clarke. technology is what is seductive, the science is usually less exciting

f. don't go around tarring all religions with the same brush. the semitic ones have been highly anti-science; indic ones have accepted the spirit of free enquiry.

i am tired of typing, that's all i have to say.

Jai Hind said...

Everytime i visit this blog, my knowledge (whatever i have) is multiplied & enriched by the contributions made by Nizhal Yodha & the readers of this blog. I would like to thank you all.
Please keep up the good work & the high spirit.
Also, if you folks might have observed, all those barking dogs who have pollutted this blog from time to time ... (i know some george or some one) usually keep mum when something like this is posted on this blog.
I guess like all marxists of the world, they can only make negative contribution to the society.

Anyways, thanks again. This blog is turning out to be a good Knowledge Bank, where anyone can 'deposit' some knowledge & 'withdraw' some , at his/her own convinience.

Welcome to this virtual university. :)

Kalyani said...

I wholeheartedly agree with what Jai Hind says.God bless you Rajeev!

Kalyani said...

Astrology is not a pseudo science nor any planet malefic(sic).It is one's own karma that determines the planets'influence.No astrologer can claim omniscience;God alone is,which is so poignantly brought out in Mahabharatham.Sahadevan with all his profound knowledge of astrology did not know Karnan was his brother!The whole(sole) objective of our birth is to conquer our ego or ahankaram and mamakaram.A deep study of Vedantham,Srimad Bhagavatham,Viveka Chudamani etc does clear a lot of confusion and doubts.We are exhorted not to analyse the seen but the 'seer'!Identification of our Self with our body- mind is the prime cause of misery.

Gopal said...

Hello. couldnt resist adding my comments.
I dont how many of the people have read atleast the review of Reinventing Physics
From the Bottom Down.By Robert B. Laughlin.
ancient indians us have told that there is something non-redcutionist about the universe. and this European approach of reductionism is relatively new, considering the fact that european civiliization was barbarian and cannibalistic at the height of indian civilization , during the age of Nalanda and Takshashila.
while indian civilization has dealt with philosophical problems with a cold 'secularistic' thought , the christian fundamentalists would see his as a way to push their bibblical agenda more into the mainstream.the great flood and etc.

san said...

Hi Rajeev, I appreciate your firmness of convictions, but let me try a different approach in my reply.

Sci Fi guru Arthur C Clarke stated that any sufficiently advanced level of technology would be indistinguishable from magic. The converse of that is that any attempt to rationalize superstition/magic might fall back on elaborately sophisticated invocation of scientific theory. Like the Ptolemaic rationalizations you pointed out. But then, this amounts to putting the cart before the horse. So going out of the way to find scientific explanations to validate a traditional art like astrology forces me to ask why.

Firstly, regarding Science Vs Technology -- Science is our study of the universe as it is, and not of how we would like it to be. Technology however, is about applying science (the rules of the universe as they are), to make things the way we would like them to be.

So when Astrology proponents assert that the predictable motion of the planets have some predictable governing effect on the lives of us earthly human beings, I'll ask why. My answer is that people want predictability and control over their lives. I don't blame them for that, but is looking to the comfortingly predictable laws of planetary motion then the way to achieve this? Similarly, astrology may have strong and ancient Indian roots, but why do we feel a compulsion to justify everything about the past? To me, astrology in the context of these two latter points, astrology is then not about humble acceptance of our world as it is, but is mainly rather catering towards how we would like things to be. Thus it cannot be a science.

Indian civilization hasn't been weak on the IQ side, as posts on ancient knowledge clearly show. However, have we been the best on the EQ side? I would say that EQ measurement and neuropsychology are the best emerging fields on how to analyze and predict human behavior. Our personalities and behavior are more governed and affected by the smallscale workings of our own flesh and blood, than by the macro-scale motions of distant planets.

Please don't knock the EQ thing, people. It holds a lot of answers on how to handle the challenges of getting India onto a better track.

As to whether the quantum world is unravelled, even if this doesn't happen, it won't invalidate the scientific method and its existing discoveries to date.

Anonymous said...

I do agree with your assessment that investigations of non-linear behavior in sound, light will give a better understanding of the transition from classical to quantum rregimes.
I think astrology and the uncertainty principle were just being used as examples to illustrate the outdated and the modern respectively.
I agree with you a 100% about the definition of science and technology. Within the context of your definitions and Rajeev's comment, it was both a failed science and technology (using horoscopes to decide on a auspicious day for embarking on something new).
Clear quantification of EQ would have its own advantages - to rid various phobia for e.g. But it won't explain stuff like why one feels attracted a particular woman ?

Consider a hypothetical experiment - suppose by clear quantification of one's EQ you sort of have a handle on the person's behavior (let's say his attraction to women of certain characteristics). If we gather many women with identical characteristics, in all likelihood he is going to pick only one (let's say the one I referred to above). It is not a probabilistic scenario, since all women should have equal probability of being picked. Even if you repeat the experiment over and over, I bet you would get the same result.


While I am not trying to force a back-door entry to the theory of interacting masses, the EQ science will fall short on many counts (of course it has to be pursued for the many advantages it would provide).

I would like to think that apart from EQ, most of the discoveries didn't get the recognition they deserved because they were never done for profit and there was never an end goal. Also present -day science has been pretty much been defined in the 20th century, and was driven by corporations, governments (Hitler, Manhattan project, Cold war), so there was an end goal in sight in addition to occasions where people stumbled upon many wonderful things.

Absent such a system which does not have a end goal, it is difficult to conceive of people striving for technology development. Rather the spirit of enquiry would be in the philosophical realm (in which India is particularly rich and good at).

But on the other hand, if you place Indians in this country for e.g. many make wonderful progress as innovators and scientists. So the question I hav is this: What would have to happen for India to encourage and sustain technology development in various spheres ? Will the raising of a bogey man - China help?

Whenever there is dire need, people and companies rise to the occasion - pharma sector for example.
Cyber/network security does draw up a lot of the talent.

For example fields like steel-making, defence etc. there are industries which can sustain production, but do not encourage research/development. So they do get caught in this cycle of depending on other nations for expertise.

As has been demonstrated many times over - vinaash kaali vipritha buddi.

Murali K Warier said...

Rajeev,
A few comments. Too little time for a line-by-line commentary.

1. Technology of course rests on science. At any rate, engineers use the same scientific method to test their hypothesis. Therefore, the civilization is built on science, to a high degree.

2. Equating Eisnstein's theory and astrology is without doubt ludicrous. The former got wide acceptance not because of any DWMs (Einstien, by the way, was Jewish, enemy number one for many white supremacists) or because it is Western, but on the weight of evidence. Astrology on the other hand, has not even a phenomenon to explain, much less a theory to do it.

3. Science doesn't claim it has an answer to one of the most fundamental questions : 'why' - like in why do the planets circle the sun.

4. Google 'double blind study on astrology' and you will get a number of hits. And why should Indian astrology alone be true, especially if it is related to space-time warp as you said?

5. I completely agree with you that Indic religions were much more tolerant of open minded inquiry. In fact, Charvaka, an atheist was revered as a great saint and the Naasthika school was an important one in Indian philosophical thought. Interestingly, much of ancient India's scientific progress occured during the era when rationalism had ascendancy in the philosophical community.

Murali K Warier said...

One controlled study on Astrology:

http://psychicinvestigator.com/demo/AstroSkc.htm

san said...

Hi Anonymous, hmm, I'm looking back on my post and perhaps I didn't express myself well enough.

I'm saying that the desire for astrology to be validated is based on a wish to find some quick magic solution to make our lives more controllable and less insecure. Motion of the planets is well-documented since ancient times, and from the limited ancient point of view at the time, it must have looked like we discovered the "Operating System of the Heavens" and thus the "levers on life". But while the skies may be an impressive spectacle which inspired our ancestors (good thing Indians never saw Aurora Borealis, or their eyes would really be popping), these spectacles have little to do with the daily challenges of our lives here on earth. Even Ayurvedic homeopathy has a little more basis in reality (phytochemicals) than Astrology.

I'm saying that just because motions of planets have an appealing predictability and intrigue, doesn't mean that we should make arbitrarily giant (and unsound) leaps of faith on their relationship to our lives.

Medical science has over time found similarly intriguing patterns of behavior inside our bodies, and these on the other hand are indeed much more relevant to our lives.
Our bodies work according to laws of physics too after all, but at least these things are more relevant to us down here than what's happening billions of miles away.

My mentioning of EQ was my observation that we Indians are overly persuaded by our own emotions as contrasted with dispassionate logic. And that's why we fall in love with things like astrology. Perhaps we are on average more left-brained than right-brained. Hey, left-brained emotionalism is often associated with greater instincts for creative thought. Indian society has produced a lot creativity in various fields of arts, culture and science. However let's not forget the downside of it, which is chaotic and erratic behavior. Some Indians take pride in the description that India is a "functioning anarchy" -- personally I don't think that's something to be proud of. It says that we're always barely hanging on the brink. That kind of situation isn't good, nor is behaving like a Van Gogh and cutting your ear off.

So instead of always playing up our creative chaos, we Indians need to see more value in orderly organized behavior. We need to think more about the EQ side, and not just the IQ side. A former boss of mine once said that "It's not what you do, but how you do it."

If Indians expect to benefit from interaction with the outside world, then they need to see the importance of having credibility. The Indian IQ has much credibility with the world, and our IITs are known the world over. However, how much credibility and respect does the Indian EQ have? We are still seen as a country of riotous animals. And really -- is it so far from the truth?

We need to seek a remedy on this question. I don't think it will come so much from Ayurvedic herbalism, and certainly not from astrology. Perhaps the force of culture is the only thing that can do it. The power and pressure of popular values. These are things that will bring order to our lives, and a stable platform for achievement and accomplishment. I don't think that the seductive motion of the planets can quite compare in bringing that about.

Anonymous said...

Has any one heard of a case of "Mental constipation & verbal diarrhoea".
:)

san said...

Anonymouth, I'll frankly say that EQ is the most important advance that Indians can make on the road to prosperity and progress.

Anonymous said...

San,
I do agree EQ is clearly a thing that Indians have to improve upon. But will it come at the cost of creativity (as you have alluded to that fact in your posting) ?
Even my boss has a similar thing to say "it is important how one goes about doing things". If you look at the German/Japanese work culture it is very rigid and allows little room to be creative (most germans/japs prefer to come to the US to buy time for thinking abt new ideas- at least in engineering/sciences) - I don't know if creativity can be sacrificed for inculcating discipline.

The other point I wanted to bring attention to is the historic reasons as to why R&D has never prospered in Indian Industries with a few notable exceptions. Lets assume for the moment the industries include all but software industries.
Was it lack of capital ? Was it lack of will on the part of the owners who saw R&D wing as extra overhead ? Or is it that Indians thrive in different milieu(s) or against something that threatens their existence?

If you believe the number of Nobel prizes to be a yardstick of scientific prowess, it is mainly the west with notable exceptions being Japan, Russia. West and Japan clearly pumped in more money into universities (thru industries) to carry out both goal-specific and open-ended research, which definitely helped scientists to disover and publish many things along the way. Russian scientists thrived(in terms of discoveries) because of the cold war.

But inspite of industrialization, India wasn't able to lead its industries into becoming global competitors. It was always lagging behind, relying on services from companies based abroad. If this trend continues, this is going to be a vicious cycle and only massive investment has any chance to break it.

There are notable exceptions to the above fact - the pharma sector has advanced with minimal help from abroad.

Heavy industries can help lead the way in creating manufacturing jobs and also contribute to products way high up in the value chain, but who will invest - thats a billion dollar question.

san said...

Anonymous, thanks for your substantive comments. I would first reply by saying that the automatic mirror to Freedom is Responsibility. There is only a finite amount of chaos that a person or a society can withstand, so if we want more room for creative chaos to benefit our thinkers, academics, entrepreneurs, artists, etc, then it has to be compensated for with responsibility and regimen elsewhere.

I agree that Japanese/Germans are said to have rigid work cultures, and their countries are famous for their giant corporate monoliths (Japanese call them Keiretsu/Zaibatsu, Koreans call them Chaebol, Indonesians call them Kukong, etc).

I used to work for DuPont, a fairly rigid company, which along with blue-suited IBM was one of the first companies to create the corporate R&D lab, for the purpose of making R&D a pre-planned part of their business plan rather than just fortuitous happenstance.

When I left, I found their innovation environment was decaying, and they were looking like big sluggish dinosaurs surrounded by smaller, flexible mammals. Colleagues were looking enviously at 3M, a rival company known for its de-centralized, innovative and independence-oriented environment. Aside from these, I would read about new inventions and discoveries percolating from university labs across the landscape. Small university labs which once looked enviously at the well-funded corporate R&D labs were now catching up as technology and equipment was becoming more affordable and accessible. DuPont was boasting of tens of millions spent on Cray supercomputers, only to be bested by innovative university grad students setting up cheaper powerful parallel-processing clusters using off-the-shelf PCs.

Yet I would say that there are merits to both approaches -- the de-centralized bubbly approach of the academic variety, and also the focused juggernaut approach of well-funded corporate labs. It depends on the circumstances of the scientific/technical challenge.

Contrastingly, people have laughed at innovative & innocent Apple Computer, saying that they were always having their markets stolen from them by marketing-savvy imitators. Apple popularized the personal computer only to be sidelined by IBM with its PC. Apple then popularized the mouse and windows with its Macintosh, only to see Microsoft steal that ball and run with it. They've come back with iPod, and you know the well-oiled marketing machines of Microsoft and Sony are looking to steal and dominate that market too. This is what Charles Taylor described as The Innovator's Dilemma -- it's far easier to rip off a good idea than to invent a good new one.

I'd really like you to read this article on Disruptive Technology (warning: Adobe Acrobat format) which I originally read back in 2001.

Here is also a good follow-up article from Wikipedia, which all will benefit from reading.

I'm glad that our conversation is steering in this direction, because this is also a very important and relevant topic.

There is a natural cyclical complementarity between the chaotically creative innovator and the rational, coherent, regimented market-exploiter (eg. Apple and Microsoft). One develops the new idea and primes the market, and the other grabs it and milks it to its maximum possible extent. There is a need for the capabilities of both.

As the cycle times become more compressed -- as innovations are brought to market quicker, imitated more quickly, and saturate the market more quickly -- then yes, there is going to be more emphasis on more, faster, cheaper innovation. But the rational coherent market-exploitation side will also have to be done faster too, before the idea/product/service is obsoleted or disrupted more quickly, losing its earning potential.

As the wheel of progress turns faster due to global competition, then people will have to learn to better manage themselves, along with their freedoms and responsibilities.

san said...

Anonymous, regarding why India can't attract investment in factories and industrialization beyond mere call centres, it's because of all our regulatory red tape and legal liabilities (which are ultimately due to our political system), as well as our infrastructure (OUR SHEER LACK OF IT).

There was a recent article by Friedman I posted on this. Some Indians say we are "gradually building an ecosystem" for greater depth and breadth of economic activity, but I'd say we're forced to fall back on this slow, creeping banyan-tree approach because of our inertially counter-balanced action-reaction democracy. The moment someone pushes us to take a step forward, some opposing interest will react to push us a step backward. So we're creeping along with these fractional mini-steps, to maintain our political equilibrium.

Contrast this with Beijing autocrats who can keep the trains running on time, are willing to lay down the water pipes and powerlines quickly, and will bulldoze forrest and muzzle protests if necessary -- all to bring in the factories and manufacturing industry from outside. Our system isn't solid enough for these "great leaps forward", so we have to fall back on "evolution not revolution". But I guess we comfort ourselves by saying that our fluid action-reaction democracy is not brittle.

Regarding our low level of existing infrastructure which daunts outside investors, I guess we're comfortable with our go-slow unprovocative gradualist development, as opposed to timely expediency and associated transitional stresses.

In the West, when GM, Boeing, etc select where to build a factory, you know it's after tough negotiations with local officials at prospective sites to gain concessions from them on taxation and utility rates, and on cost-sharing for support infrastructure -- in exchange for the economic boost to the locality that will be provided from the jobs and related activity due to the factory being built there.

What does India offer in this regard? We offer our outstretched palms-seeking-alms, as decades of social welfare system have conditioned us to do. We expect outsiders to build our basic infrastructure for us.

Some guy on this blog questioned why Coca-Cola and Pepsi should be digging tube-wells to supply themselves, instead of focusing on suppling drinking water for the community. Well, I'm in favor of corporate philanthropy, but may I point out that Coca-Cola and Pepsi are not in the water utility business, but the softdrink business. There are more effective ways to obtain basic infrastructure than waiting for a Coke factory to pop up on your doorstep. That's why I previously posted about Municipal Bonds, which have been utilized in the West for more than a hundred years.

It might be more fruitful for Indians to develop a little more EQ, and temporarily restrain our desire for instant gratification so that we can reap more meaningful results.

Building a call centre doesn't require much infrastructure, and legally they're easy to build and to scrap if necessary. But with a large fixed asset like a factory, our rules completely stymie any prospective investors who worry about an albatross around the neck.

We all know that India needs more than just the white-collar jobs of Call Centres and R&D Centres, because most of the population doesn't have the english or the technical skills for these. We need the factories to provide the blue-collar jobs for the burgeoning illiterate masses who don't have the ability to do white collar work. This is a basic requirement to alleviate social disparity and shore up social stability.

Manmohan recently tried to introduce China-style SEZs(Special Economic Zones) only to have this initiative quickly scuttled by the Left, quite unsurprisingly. It would have been great to have SEZs seeded around, in order to pull in the manufacturing industry and factories from outside.
But our Leftists, who represent entrenched vested union interests rather than the wider employment-starved masses, will fight to cater to these politically-connected constituencies at the expense of the larger population as a whole. These OBSTRUCTIONISTS are the cause of the very unemployment they blame upon reforms.

Anonymous said...

To add to Rajeev's reply to warier reg. "tarring all religions with the same brush", let me quote from Vishnu Sahasranamam reg. the Hindu attitude towards Science: "Veda Sastrani Vigganam Yethat Sarvam Janarthanaath", which roughly means "Vedas, Sastrams and Sciences are all Janathana(God) or Truth". This attitude of treating religion and science as two different approaches towards the same objective of reaching Truth(God/Sath) is found only in Sanathana Dharmam and not in Semitic religions. Can anyone show one example of a Hindu scientist getting procecuted because of his expertise ? I am sure all of u will know about Newton,Galileo et. al. getting scre*** by the Church...

Anand

Anonymous said...

since part of the thread did refer to innovations, here's the latest outlook which catalogues some of rural and academic innovations

http://www.outlookindia.com/archivecontents.asp?fnt=20050718

Anonymous said...

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/07/10/opinion/10rushdie.html?hp

Rushdie has a op-ed piece in NYT. Though he paints India and Pak in the same color, at least he suggests a uniform civil code (or something equivalent) for India.

Anonymous said...

Though the posts have changed course from Astrology to Indian politics, let me too add my two cents about Astrology.

I agree with the post which said "you believe really bizarre micro things because science seems to correctly predict the few macro things that you can observe." Modern Science is full of theories. Facts are few. Nobody is sure of anything. So if somebody comes up better theory then the old theory will go to dustbin. Modern scientist doesn't know if light is a particle or a wave. They don't know the difference between a living thing and a non living thing(For a scientist all matter is made of atoms, isn't it?). Is there a measurement for thinking and thought process in science though we know for sure living people think. Same thing with feelings also. There is no device to measure happiness and sorrow in a living being. So because there is no measuring device does that mean these things don't exist?

Many people in India believe that Astrology in India is an advanced science and future life events can be predicted. There is a famous story about Varahamihira. Varahamihira was a great Astrologer. Before becoming famous as Varahamihira, the king of Ujjain, I guess, asked him how his son will be killed. Varahamihira predicted that a varaha(wild boar) will kill on such and such day. The king ordered to kill all wild boar and went to great extend to secure the prince. But when the designated time came the prince fainted and fell from the balcony on to the snout of Varaha moorthy and died. The story goes that Varahamihira acquired his name after that.

In Trivandrum the king had asked his astrologer to predict the route he would take on a particular day in order to test his skill. The smart Astrologer then wrote in a piece of palm leaf and kept it in a spot in the fort which would be cut to make way for the king later. Even today that portion of fort is called "Vettimuricha Kotta" in Malayalam meaning "The Fort gate which is Cut open".

You go to Vaitheeswaran Kovil and Nadi Astrologer will tell from your fingerprint everything about your history and geography reading from a palm leaf. I have my own experience.

The problem with any Indian study is that most of it is not very well preserved. Mainly because we followed Gurukula system where as in the West it was trade schools and guilds and it was with the society. So it is very difficult to find out how somebody did such and such a thing. The method with which people did a feat in India is practically lost with the death of individual or the family or Gurukulam. Not alone in astrology in many other fields Indians were good. Take for eg:-the case of Tanjavoor Brihadeeswara temple. Some hundreds of tonnes of stone structure is sculpted into magnificient temple and hoisted with out modern cranes,computers,papers and documentation. Surely they had methods. There was no paper to document how they did the calculation.

It is arrogant to dismiss something as stupid or non existent if we fail to understand. Many world experience cannot be explained using a language. That doesn't mean that experience doesn't exist.

Kumar

nizhal yoddha said...

prasank,
the patent system as we know it is a euro-invention. ancient indians followed, as you said, an open-source method, and they were self-effacing to the extent that they did not even sign their works. so they got neither fame nor fortune, but they seemed content with the pure creation of knowledge. it is debatable whether this, or the patent system which caters to the incentive-greed complex, is better. in a world full of individualistic people and the tragedy of the commons, it may well be that a patent system is better.

warier,
technology does not really require science to such a great degree that it is required to buy into the strange theories that science proposes. i personally find general relativity bizarre, and i note that so far as i know general relativity and the GUT (grand unified theory) of physics are both waiting for corroboration, whereas the much simpler special relativity has practical corroboration. i think (i admit i am a layman) these theories are too complex, and by occam's razor there must be a far simpler basic idea hidden behind all this. and unlike san i believe the uncertainty principle is here to stay, it is a fundamental limit like the speed of light.

warier, jews were oppressed in 1930s america and 1940s europe, they are no longer. they are certainly at least honorary whites. after all, the propaganda organs of the us such as the new york times (jewish-owned) and hollywood (goldwyn, mayer, zanuch etc dominated film making) are generally pro-jewish. so dont make an absurd statement that anti-jewishness means einstein is not considered a DWM. he is the king DWM, exhibit a intended to impress on non-whites how brilliant whites are.

the more i argue about it the more this line of reasoning develops: that astrology is a technology so advanced that it appears to be pure magic. san, you asked *why* distant planets affect people's lives, as alleged by astrology. let me ask you a question in reverse, *why* do massive objects affect the space-time continuum?

i agree with warier that science has no answers as to *why*. i disagree with warier that science has answers as to *how*, however. science *claims* to have answers as to *how* -- this is what i meant by its claim to know the absolute truth. but most of the time science has at best a flawed and limited *model* of *how* as well.

astrology may well be a technology (not a failed science) for which we have lost sight of the underpinning theories and science. an example is the architecture of hindu temples. there is a rational theory behind it, using astronomical numbers (see subhash kak's comment that the ratio of length/width of the angkor wat temple is the ratio for the length/width of elliptical orbit of the earth round the sun, and that the construction and brick dimensions of the falcon-shaped vedic fire altars are based on astronomical ratios). but we have forgotten it. so we now have to blindly build copies of existing hindu temples. if we knew the theory we could build brand-new temples using the latest architectural fads, but we have lost that knowledge. similarly it is possible that astrology is an advanced technology we dont quite understand: sort of like an andamanese stone-age tribal would react to the arrival of an ipod suddenly in his hands. (remember 'the gods must be crazy' in the kalahari. btw, i believe the !kung people of that film are now extinct). some people will latch on to the ipod and purport to 'explain' it to others who are more gullible and profit from it.

we have also been totally brainwashed into believing the DWM-dominated euro-science perspective. exhibit a: san's initial comment about how einstein, that one man, did so much for physics! even san, a very sensible person, has been taken in by the euro-propaganda. and the use in common parlance of euro-language: eg, calling someone a blue-eyed boy is ridiculous in the indian context. or 'christening' something, when 'naming' is perfectly adequate and non-denominational. we have to get away from these euro-metaphors, really.

i perhaps go to the other extreme in reaction, and project indian-science and indian analogies forcefully. but then, in a way bringing together two threads on this blog, i could assert that the greatest genius in history is panini, for his GUT of language, an absolutely audacious feat. imagine capturing the infinity of language in a finite set of 4000 rules in panini's sanskrit! just imagining this is astounding, and to actually do this is incredible. compared to this, einstein really did not succeed in created a GUT in physics. and imagine that panini did this 2500 years ago. and that indian astronomers were already observing heavenly objects in 3102BCE. our ancestors were not sitting around twiddling their thumbs for 5,000 years most of which were peaceful and prosperous for them. it is not as though all intelligent thought appeared in europe after the so-called Enlightenment 200-300 years ago, but that's what euro-propagandists believe, and as euro-apes we also believe.

similarly, there is a lot of interesting inner-outer stuff in indian metaphysics that euro-science would look at blankly. incidentally, euro-science is baffled at lots of things: i believe according to the principles of aerodynamics, a bumblebee shouldn't be able to fly!
also, there are many euro-theories which have been comprehensively trashed: an example is the big-bang theory. so it is not inconceivable that a future generation will look at einstein's stuff as absolute twaddle and wonder what idiots we were to be taken in by it.

consider that it was only ancient indians who got a decent idea about the age of the universe: billions of years. and they got the theory of evolution more or less right: see the dasa avataram. they did it through meditation and in effect, merging with the universal spirit, It, the Creator. does euro-science have a better explanation?

why is it that only india developed meditation and these inner sciences? why was saayana able to arrive at what appears like a remarkable number for the speed of light in the 1400CE timeframe through pure intuition?

do planets affect humans? why is the circadian rhythm which we live by synchronized not with the 24-hour solar cycle but with the slightly different lunar cycle? why do we live by this even if we are put in a sensory-deprived underground environment with no access to clocks or visible light?

warier thinks the equation of astrology with einsten is ludicrous. i suggest that his touching faith in euro-science propaganda is ludicrous. it would be better if we were all not so sure, in an abrahamic way, of the fact that we have seen the one and only truth, but left ourselves open to other possibilities. also, i find warier's assertion that indian rationalism (charvakas) was responsible for free-thinking a little too glib in ascribing causality. india was free-thinking throughout history until the sacking and burning of nalanda, a catastrophe of unprecedented dimension.

note in passing that it is always the abrahamists, who are so sure of themselves, who burn books. library of alexandria burned by emperor theodosius and patriarch theophilus, library of nalanda burned by baktiar khilji, ayurveda texts in kerala burned by the british.

this is my last post on this topic. i have not dared to go in the direction of eq that san brought up. but i will say something about christensen, the inventor of the concept of disruptive technologies. he had the startling insight using the disk drive industry that sometimes listening too hard to customers can drive your company to ruin! very interesting stuff: customers don't want you to innovate, but just keep doing what you are doing now, only cheaper :-)

san said...

Haha, bravo Rajeev, you certainly are widely read. :)

Okay, to a limited extent we can talk of the relevance of heavenly bodies. The days and seasons (relative motion of earth and sun), the tides (earth and moon), but those are all I can really think of.

As far as SpaceTime is concerned, back in university I did once read a good physics article which talked about how our memory-forming processes are based on entropy-increasing neurochemical reactions, and therefore this automatically means that our human perception of passage of time is necessarily correlated to increase of entropy in the universe. This is the fundamental reason why the human mind experiences one-way forward motion through time axis unlike for the other axes (x,y,z) where we can choose/change how we move. This itself is a very humbling thought, fraught with great implications.

The mystery of how a bumblee flies was deciphered a few years ago, it's the elastic effect within its body which is able to absorb and return energy into its stroke pattern.

I know the EQ thing was a rough topic to divert into, but it's the central difference between people/cultures which achieve success, and those who do not. That's why we Indians need to pay attention to it, because on average we're weak and vulnerable there.

I also raised it specifically because some of us Indians have a desire to play up every single aspect of Indian history, as if every good thing on earth has some origin in India. It's as if we're groping for self-esteem by foraging through the past, due to the humble circumstances of our present. Well, everyone needs some self-esteem but I think we'll be better off getting it by making achievements in the present. India can regain its path of being an 'Empire of Knowledge' through present-day efforts, and then we won't have to fall back on reminding ourselves about the zero, the wootz steel, and the astrology.

Anonymous said...

an interesting coincidence indeed, limited endorsement by the Macaulayite Jerry Rao of the field (or technology/science) of astrology.

http://www.indianexpress.com/full_story.php?content_id=74199

san said...

European astronomers will be creating a new software telescope which will enable them to probe the heavens ever more deeply than before. Basically, it's made of thousands of simple radio antennae distributed across the countryside and networked together.

Since Indians are experts in software and networking, and also have a tradition of stargazing, I wonder if Indians might be able to do something like this?

When Indians developed the Param supercomputer, it was basically just simple workstations networked together as a parallel-processing cluster. A networked telescope is somewhat similar in that respect.

As you know, astronomy is now graduating from stargazing to a whole new level of discovery in planet-finding. This is a new field that is rich with opportunity and promise of appealing discoveries.

Perhaps India may one day build its own version of the Extremely Large Telescope being planned in Europe.

ka said...

http://www.organiser.org/dynamic/modules.php?name=Content&pa=showpage&pid=86&page=31

A road map for India's goal to glory
By K.K. Sharma

Western scholars claim that since India's best brains devoted themselves to philosophy, it led to neglect in other spheres of life, which caused its political downfall over the centuries. This charge fails to stand the test of an objective scrutiny. I am listing below the causes for the political downfall of India as corroborated by historical events, thus showing that such a charge is baseless.

Decimation of the martial spirit of the people due to the constant chanting of ahimsa, day in and day out. It is to be noted that no foreigner had succeeded in subjugating India before the declaration of Buddhism as the state religion. The persona of Gautam Buddha is given due respect but the doctrines propagated in his name have become the prerogatives of anyone and everyone who critically evaluate them. Only an obscurantist can object to that. An obscurantist must understand that critical evaluation of a doctrine is not, in any way, a disrespect to its expounder.

It is possible that someone may drag in the name of Alexander the Great. This ‘Rambo’ of the Western historians fought with tiny principalities on the Indian soil. His biggest encounter was with Porus, who gave him a tough fight. A magnificent giant, six-and-a-half feet in height, Porus fought to the last, and before succumbing to his wounds he was taken as prisoner in a semi-conscious condition (Early History of India, by Vincent A. Smith 1967, p.74). Subsequently, Alexander’s army refused to engage in a similar encounter and proceed beyond river Beas.

On his retreat, somewhere near the boundary of the Jhang and Montgomery districts, 80 to 90 miles north-east of Multan was the scene of one of the most memorable incidents in Alexander’s adventurous career, admirably described by Arrian on the basis of materials supplied by Ptolemy. There, in a fight with Mallois, he was struck by an arrow with such force that it pierced his armour, punctured his lung and he fell unconscious on the ground. The barbed arrow was withdrawn by a bold operation which involved much bleeding and a possible death. But, he survived and continued to live in India for 19 months. There is, however, no mention of him in Hindu, Jain or Buddhist literature (ibid, pp. 100-101).

Here some may point to the success of Aryan invasion. To them, I will just quote from the words of Swami Vivekananda, “As far as the truth of these theories is concerned, there is not one word in our scriptures, not one, to prove that the Aryans ever came from anywhere outside of India” (Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Part III). The word Arya means noble and nobility depends on one’s conduct and not on physical features, racial or tribal traits. Dr S. Radhakrishnan, in his book My Search for Truth referred to a verse from the Mahabharata saying: “The mark of the Aryan is not learning, not religion but conduct alone” (p. 12, 1946).

The Western scholars gave it a racial connotation without realising the enormity of harm they have done to the cause of humanity. After all, during the Second World War, in order to preserve the fake racial (Aryan) purity of his German sect, Hitler sent six million Jews and half a million gypsies, men, women and children, to the gas chambers. It was a diabolical act and a horrendous crime against humanity.

On his retreat, somewhere near the boundary of the Jhang and Montgomery districts, 80 to 90 miles north-east of Multan was the scene of one of the most memorable incidents in Alexander’s adventurous career, admirably described by Arrian on the basis of materials supplied by Ptolemy.

Those who jump with glee at the mention of the name of Ashoka, because he was eulogised by H.G. Wells, must remember that, the mighty empire which extended from the Bay of Bengal to the interior of Afghanistan and from the Himalayas to deep down into the Deccan, barring the southern-most tip, got so weakened under the constant chanting of ahimsa from the pulpit and the throne that it disintegrated within 48 years following his death. After him, there was a succession of seven kings in such a short period of time. Look at the political instability brought in by his obsession with ahimsa. Last of the Mauryan kings, Brihadrath, was beheaded.

In 259 b.c. Ashoka stopped the royal hunt. The question that arises is: How would a king, who could not face a wild animal, face an enemy on the battlefield and with what result? Before embracing Buddhism, he was a warrior and had conquered Kalinga. But, once he became a Buddhist, his martial spirit simply vanished.

Likewise, Harsha, before becoming a Buddhist, was a warrior. He had secured the release of his imprisoned sister through bravery. But, once he embraced Buddhism, he changed altogether into a different person. His kingdom disintegrated and India’s decline set in. Buddhism flourished under state patronage and eventually took toll of its patrons.

A parallel situation prevailed in India nearly half a century ago. After Independence, Buddhism became the undeclared religion of the ruling elite. Jawahar Lal Nehru carried pictures of Gautam Buddha in the folders he carried, whenever he went on a foreign tour. A fellow Kashmiri, Dr Kailash Nath Katju, Governor of West Bengal (later Home Minister at the Centre), once carried the physical remains of Maha Moglana and Sari Puttar, the two prominent disciples of Buddha, on his head through the streets of Kolkata. Ahimsa was the pet refrain of their speeches, from both the public and private platforms. This obsession with ahimsa had a demoralising effect on the morale of the Indian army. The same army that had won nearly two dozen Victoria Crosses for its bravery during the Second World War, could no longer capture even a dead Chinese in the 1962 conflict with China.

The famous 4th Indian Army Division (Kitehawk), which during the Second World War fought in North Africa against General Rommel and later at Monte Casino on the European mainland and won two Victoria Crosses, cut a sorry figure when posted to defend the Se La Pass, at the commanding height of 16,000 feet. When the Pass was occupied by the Chinese, the Western press interpreted it as a staggering blow to the Indian army. Ahimsa lay raped by the invading hordes. “Nehru was pale and tired,” observed Tunku Abdul Rehman, the then Malaysian Prime Minister who was on a visit to India at that time. It was no fault of the Jawans as the fault lay with the political mindset nurtured by blind adherence to ahimsa under which the soldiers were starved of equipment, training, clothing and motivation. The question that arises is: How can you motivate the fighting forces to action by harping on ahimsa?

Humiliation was so great that Pandit Nehru never left India on a foreign tour after that debacle, which was the result of over-emphasis on ahimsa just for 15 long years. It should not be difficult to mentally visualise the scenario that would have existed in the distant past when blind following of ahimsa was preached in India, day in and day out for centuries, from both the pulpit and the throne.

At one time, Tibet was a military power. “Once they had imposed their authority on the intervening tribes, the Tibetans pressed on into China itself and in a.d. 635 their young king Song-tsen-Gampo demanded and eventually received a Chinese princess as his bride.” (Tibet & its History by H.E. Richardson, pp. 28-29, 1962). But as the influence of Lamaism grew, Tibet regressed into primitivism. And just recall where it was in March 1959? Look at Burma (modern-day Myanmar) with its insular society where Buddhism is still the State religion. This country is conspicuous by its absence at all international fora. Dr. S. Radhakrishnan wrote that Buddhism could not withstand the ferocity of Muslim invasion and thus vanished from India.

Swami Vivekananda wrote that some Buddhist monasteries in India had about one hundred thousand monks. When brain power and muscle power had taken to the monastic order, only weaklings were left for the progeny to defence. At Nalanda, 30,000 Buddhists were slaughtered by one of the Khiljis, literature burnt and university razed to the ground. In fact, all the existing universities were destroyed by foreign invaders; and during the Muslim period, not even one university was raised.

* Indifference to the downfall of a sister State. When Sind fell, it did not bother any other state in India. When Maharaja Anang Paul’s elephant went out of control and ran away from the battlefield and Lahore fell, no other state took note of that. When Delhi fell, Jai Chand was happy. The following year it was his own turn to fall.

b) Jai Chand, King of Kanauj, in order to take revenge for abduction of his daughter from the royal court at the time of her swayamvar, invited the invader from Afghanistan to attack Delhi.

c) The mighty Vijayanagaram empire fell as a result of treachery by its two Muslim chiefs, each in charge of 70,000-80,000 men, who turned their faces against their own king, thus tilting the balance in favour of the invader (see A History of South India by K.A. Nilkanta Sastrim, 1976, pp. 294, 295).

d) Rani Jindan of Maharaja Ranjit Singh sent sacks full of mustard seeds instead of gun-powder to the front and thus the Sikhs lost the battle to the British.

* Discarding State ethics whilst dealing with the enemy and replacing it with religious ethics. State ethics (rajniti) consist of sam (to win) over the enemy by sweet talk), daam (use of money), dand (use of force or inflicting punishment) and bhed (dividing the enemy ranks). Prithiviraj Chauhan discarded all these and made forgiveness the cornerstone of his foreign policy towards the foreign invader. The invader launched 18 invasions on India; 17 times, he was defeated, captured but pardoned and let free every time. On the 18th invasion, Prithviraj lost and he was never pardoned. Had Prithviraj at the time of second invasion used dand ensuring the elimination of the enemy once and for all, the course of Indian history would have been altogether different.

The famous 4th Indian Army Division (Kitehawk), which during the Second World War fought in North Africa against General Rommel and later at Monte Casino on the European mainland and won two Victoria Crosses, cut a sorry figure when posted to defend the Se La Pass, at the commanding height of 16,000 feet.

King Ramaraya of Vijaynagaram empire defeated five sultanates of Deccan, one by one but reinstated the defeated Sultans on their thrones. Later, the defeated five Sultans got together and invaded Vijayanagaram. This combined attack and betrayals by two of his army captains as stated at (3c) above, resulted in his defeat. Had he dethroned the Sultans instead of installing them, the situation would have been altogether different.

*Absence of a central power. The Centre acts like a hub, a unity point and can deliver a mortal blow to the enemy. In its absence, it had been a divided house and the situation continued till August 1947 with 562 princely states. Credit goes to the ingenuity of Sardar Patel who integrated all of them, barring one (Kashmir), into one whole. Kashmir was being dealt with by Jawaharlal Nehru. Today, it is a potential nuclear flashpoint.

*Military strategy was practically always defensive and never offensive. No attempt was ever made to take the initiative to carry the fight to the enemy land and destroy the source of invasion.

*Military armament, equipment and tactics remained outmoded. Alexander had fast-moving horses and sharp arrows. Babar had cannons. The British had naval power and superior armament.

* Blind faith and tendency to accept things without critical examination. Outside the Somnath temple, the forces were asked not to fight as they were told that the idol inside the temple would protect them. As a result, the enemy won without a fight. The idol was smashed to pieces and the temple razed to the ground.

* Disunity and failure to put up a united front. It should not be forgotten that historical accounts relating to the latter half of the medieval age and thereafter come from the chronicles of the invaders, written at a time when flattery was the norm. This norm was in practice as late as 1971, when Yahya Khan delivered a two-and-a-half minute speech on the radio and TV, informing his countrymen that East Pakistan had gone into the hands of the Indian army. West Pakistan was reported to have been stunned at the announcement made by BBC of East Pakistan's defeat because right till the last moment West Pakistan was fed the news that Indians were being routed on all fronts.

When on the battlefield of Kurukshetra, Arjuna was shirking duty and inventing excuses to avoid fighting the enemy, it was the teachings of the Gita which inspired him to cast aside impotence, stand up and fight.

Adi Shankaracharya, the seer-philosopher, in his book Prashan Uttari asks the question as to “who is a living dead”? He answers the question himself by saying, “He who is not dynamic.” He himself was an embodiment of dynamism as he travelled from Kerala to Srinagar, from Dwarka to Puri, disputing and debating all philosophic issues, day in and day out, establishing four monasteries in the four corners of India and thus consolidating the country into one cultural unit.

Shivaji was nurtured by his mother, Jija Bai, on the stories from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. The boy grew up into a warrior, stood up to the tyrant Aurangzeb and carved out a kingdom of his own.

Lokmanya Tilak, the scholar-politician who wrote a commentary on the Gita in Mandlay Jail, inspired the nation with the slogan—‘freedom is my birthright’.

During those dark days, when Chinese invasion was in full swing, in order to boost the Indians’ sagging morale, the Absolute Ahimsa Vadis brought one Shankaracharya, who delivered his speech in Sanskrit, on the foreign service of All India Radio. Furthermore, their radio had also been telling the listeners that Radha, consort of Shri Krishna was from the Lohit division of NEFA, they had realised, though belatedly, as to wherein lay the source of inspiration to face foreign invasion.

From the above it should now be clear that the charge levelled by Western scholars has no legs to stand on.

(The author can be contacted at 29 Paxton Avenue, Slough, 25X, UK.)