Thursday, January 25, 2007

Guru: Why I didn’t like the movie!

I am disappointed with Mani Ratnam. Guru turns out to be a lackluster, slow-paced and very predictive movie. The latter part of the movie turns slow and quite boring. The songs were not spectacular either.

But that’s not why I didn’t like the movie. I didn’t like the movie for the message it conveys- Do whatever it takes to succeed, even if it is the corrupt or illegal means. The message is dangerous and it epitomizes the attitudes of the new generation of India- inimical to itself. When a poll was conducted if the Indian youth would resort to the methods employed by a scandalous stockbroker to earn the ‘success’, majority of those who polled said a resounding ‘yes’. When I saw that result in a magazine few years ago, I couldn’t believe it. India has changed. It has changed for good in many ways. And it has changed for the worse in many ways. The Indian youth has wrong role models and that’s not a good development.

While I expected the protagonist to be punished for his illegal practices, the movie condones, accepts and legitimizes those actions. Such condoning, then accepting and then legitimizing all pervading corrupt practices leads to institutionalizing them forever. The present India needs to moves away from doing that- we need to move away from corruption that seems to touch every Indian soul. We need to say what is right and follow it, however hard that path may be. We need to know what is wrong and discard it, however hard that path may be.

Babudom, corruption, untouchability, casteism, nepotism, dynastic politics, etc, are all bad things of India. Legitimizing those practices perpetuates them. This movie does the same.

Should judiciary be influenced by public opinion? I think NOT. In this movie, the judiciary falls for the applause and approval of the corrupt protagonist and basically gives him a clean chit. I came out of the movie with a heavy feeling. What has become of us? Why are we rationalizing and explaining away the wrong acts as if we are victims of this system? What Guru Bhai does is plain wrong. Just because the system is wrong, we cannot use subversive tactics to undermine it and capitalize on it, to reap rewards from it.

Just because the tax system in India is fallible, should we stop paying taxes or evade taxes using ‘smart’ techniques? Should we disobey traffic laws just because they are not perfect? Our corporate laws are not perfect. I face these imperfections everyday in my life. We all get ample opportunities to easily subvert the system, go around it, to basically reap the bounties. That’s not right. We need examples of heroes who have done it right in spite of the flawed system. Not the examples of those who have ‘smartly’ outmaneuvered it.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Astrology Vs Science II: Linda Goodman debunked

In the previous topic, I lingered upon astrology a bit [I also talked about Vaastu Shastra here]. In this episode, I have taken Linda Goodman’s book SUN SIGNS to ridicule some of her propositions. I took Libra for example. She says about Librans:

Librans hate to be rude, yet they’ll straighten the crooked picture on your wall and snap off your blaring TV set.

I took Librans for discussion because I happen to be one of them (according to my birthday and sun signs) and many of my family members and my close friends are also Librans. I am married to a Libran too. I have a sample of 12 people from this group whom I know very well. Nothing about the above statement makes sense. All of them tend to be rude once in a while and most of them don’t seem to straighten a crooked picture- especially not my wife.

Like gentle doves of peace, they go around mediating and patching up quarrel between others; still they enjoy a good argument themselves.

I ask you, who on this planet would not like to be seen as above? Many of us want to enjoy a good argument, and be seen as gentle doves of peace.

They’re good natured and pleasant, but they can also be sulky, and they balk at taking orders.

The way she puts it, almost everyone on the planet qualifies for the above. Everyone likes to be seen as good natured and pleasant. Is that true that Librans balk at taking orders? If so, should we make sure no Libran enters the Army?

Libras are restless people. But they seldom rush or hurry.

Now, I am beginning to doubt her expertise on this subject. She doesn’t take a stand on what Librans are. For each assertion, she puts a rider, negates it, or tones it down. By doing this she is making sure nobody will accuse her for being patently wrong. She can then always say, but I always said BUT. In the above four sentences, she uses words like, ‘yet’, ‘still’, ‘but’, ‘but’. Then she goes onto say:

Just because the sign is symbolized by the golden scales of justice, don’t ever think that Librans are always perfectly balanced… However, did you ever watch the balancing process on a pair of old-fashioned pharmaceutical scales?... First one side is low, then the other. Up and down, and they dip until there’s perfect balance.

This is when you really start doubting her theories. Is she telling me that I am supposed to correlate myself with a sign that is laid out on the stars and constellations which some primitive man out of boredom called it a ‘balance’ in the night sky? Actually, there is no limit to the number of constellations. There is no reason why it can’t be 1024 constellations instead of just 12. With an ordinary telescope one can conjure up many signs in the night sky- starting from a computer, a train, a bus, an airplane and even a floppy disk. The more bored you are, the more weird the object in the sky. The constellations are a pattern of stars as conjured up my man’s imagination. They constellations are not even closely held entities. In the same constellation, some stars are very close to us while some are extremely far away. It’s almost like one star being about feet away while another one is next to the moon. Just because our ancestors saw an object that resembles a balance we Librans cannot be correlated or uncorrelated with a balance in any of the wildest theories. I could look at the same pattern and can conjure up a sexy lady and will that have a damn effect on how every Libran is made? Then she goes onto say:

Librans features are almost always even and well-balanced… (About dimples) There will usually be a couple in the cheeks or one in the chin.

Man O Man! I am not sure how people have read this book. According to the cover page, more than 4 million have been sold. None of my Libran friends or relatives that I know has any dimples on the cheeks or on the chin. On the other hand, other sign people seem to have these. Is she telling us that one in 12 people on this planet will have a dimple on the cheek or chin? Then she goes onto say:

(About dimples)… If they’re not in the face, you might check to see if the knees are dimpled. Many Libran knees are.

:) This is an extremely clever statement. No wonder she sold 4 million copies. If I don’t find a dimple on the cheek, I should look at the chin, and if I don’t find one there, I guess I should look for the knees. Can someone tell me how should a dimple look like on a knee? You know what, take this from me- all knees on the planet, including that of animals have dimples. Go check! (It all depends on how you want to defined those knee-dimples) But she is not even sure of that, so she adds:

But be careful. Very few girls will believe you when you tell them you were staring at their knees “because I want to see if you were born in October”. Be discreet, but check. With the men, of course, the trousers rule out that clue…

Hmm! Clever woman, huh! She should have said, “Look under the armpits for dimples!” That would have made her theories irrefutable.

Don’t get discouraged if you find dimples, then discover the person was not born in October. Those fetching dimples have a right to be there, because he or she will have a Libra ascendant, so your guess is still correct.

Now, this gets interesting. As I said earlier, everyone would have dimples on their knees- it all depends on how you want to define a dimple on a knee. She wants to protect herself now. She adds in another factor- Libra ascendant. So, you end up with so many factors, that now it has become a loop of ‘if, but also if, or else, and if not, but, yet, and not so often,’ and so on.
What does this whole argument about dimples prove? Or what should I conclude? Do Librans have dimples or not? Do the people having dimples Librans or not? No conclusion! So much for her theories!

That’s when I tossed the book into the nearest garbage can!

Friday, January 12, 2007

PSLV launch: why we need more such symbols

The recent PSLV launch which put four satellites into space is a great achievement in the list of many other achievements from ISRO. When it came up on the news I was quite happy. In this news item, the director of ISRO was introducing the whole team one by one. It was a nice occasion. I can imagine each of them brimming with pride. [I would have loved it if the camera was focused on each of those individuals while the introductions were made. Instead, the camera was just glued to the director who was making the introductions.]

The first PSLV launch went unsuccessful. This was long ago, in 1993. I was talking to some educated people and they were criticizing our initiatives to send rockets into space when our poor do not even have food. In India, there is this notion that we should NOT spend money on ‘extravagant’ things till our poor get food. And to satisfy this notion, we did not take up any major scale infrastructure projects in the last few decades. Whatever was done, it was done during Nehru times. After that, building a dam is considered against-poor, building roads is considered against-poor, sending a rocket into space is also considered against-poor.

I want us, and especially the kids, to celebrate the grand achievements such as this PSLV launch. I want the kids to be taught different stages of the rocket, and what happens during each stage. I want them to see this achievement in awe and wonder, and say to themselves- 'I want to be one of those rocket engineers when I grow up'.

Each time a Tejas (LCA) aircraft flies by in Bangalore, close to where I work, I can’t help but admire it, and be envious of the scientists and engineers who have made it happen. Yes, I know that the LCA project is painfully slow. I would have loved it if they had done it earlier. But at least, the planes have started to fly!

Each time I see a BEML truck on the road, I take few moments to look at it. I am filled with pride each time those big wheels are rolling along on the road. When I look at such engineering achievements, I want to be able to do it! I want to be able to build planes one day, make trucks one day. I look forward to doing something more in life than what I am doing currently. We have that spirit in each of us- we just need that little boost, that little dose of encouragement, that little extra dose of aggressiveness, that little dose of being able to finish what we set out to do. We need that extra dose of maturity to handle risks, criticisms, and discouragements. Such achievements provide us with these extra doses of that spirit.

India needs more such achievements. I call them symbols. We all need symbols. If we are making progress marginally, from 5.0% increase in economy per year to 8.0% increase in economy per year, we can’t sense the growth. We don’t know if we are improving, we can only believe the business news channels to get that comfort. We have a need to associate a symbol to our achievements. We all need some icons and symbols to say to ourselves- ‘Yes, I am proud of that’. That’s why sports are so important to a civilization. We just can’t tell ourselves, ‘let’s ban sports, because it is sucking up money, while our poor do not have food’. Even the poor people of India revel in the victories of India in the cricket game. We all need such wins. Achievements and victories boosts our morale, makes us confident, and give us inspiration to work, for something better, something more than ourselves.

The PSLV launches, the Chandrayan Mission to moon, etc, are symbols according to me. They tell us that we have something to be proud of in the contemporary history- without having to search our ancient texts to seek the moments of glory in a remote past.

All those detractors who say the money could be well spent should just look at the kinds of funds that are returned by many government agencies every year because they were unspent. Don’t ever tell me that India does not have money. It has loads of money. And if it needs more money for such projects, there are so many out there in the world who are willing to invest in us.

In addition to the real benefits these rocket launches provide, they give us these symbols- of hope, of achievement, and of success. We all need those symbols. If the nation can generate that hope, desire and ambition in its youth, the price we pay for these launches is worth it!

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Peevish Indians

We are peevish! We are easily annoyed or irritated when someone says anything negative about India or Indians. All of you out there in the world, if you want to write about India, write something positive, write about our glorified ancient history, rich heritage and culture, celebrate our achievements in the software industry, or compliment us on our hospitality. But don’t write anything negative. We don’t believe you.

We don’t look at our garbage filled pavements, pot-hole ridden roads, or the sorrow on begging children. Actually, we don’t have any misery. If there is any, we have learnt to close our eyes when it appears. We don’t have AIDS, and if there is any news about AIDS, it is highly exaggerated. We don’t suffer from poverty; your definition of poverty doesn’t hold well for us. We want to be compared on purchasing power, not absolute per capita.

We are the world’s biggest democracy; don’t write about its flaws, because we don’t have any. We don’t have dowry deaths, we don’t have untouchability, there is no caste violence- they are things of the past. If they do happen, they are isolated incidents, exaggerations and propaganda campaigns. Where we live, those things don’t happen.

We have learnt to live with corruption and therefore it’s not a problem for us, it’s actually a way of life, the middle path, which we Indians have learnt and which the West will learn when it gets civilized. We have learnt to live with all inequities. They are actually natural harmonies; we live with them, in tune with all those inequities. We are not apathetic to our environment, it just happens that we live in it, harmoniously, and therefore we don’t see what you see.

And before you criticize us, look at yourself. We see gaping holes in you. ‘Those who live in glass houses should not throw stones at others’. You have flaws too, therefore you can’t criticize us.

Ah, you talk about our proud city, Mumbai, and say that it is the rudest city on the planet? We don’t accept your study and its methodologies. They are flawed. You say that we have gone down the index on freedom to press and media? It is flawed too. You are envious of our progress and therefore you rank us low. You say that our country has AIDS and therefore wish to donate millions of dollars? How dare you do that? Do you think we are beggars to accept your money? Moreover, we think it’s your way of ‘unnecessarily’ highlighting the problem and blowing it out of proportion. We have everything under control. In fact, we have just erased two zeros from the number of AIDS patients. See, now everything looks perfect.

And please don’t write books that show us the stark truth. We are not used to seeing our flaws in the mirror. Don’t write about anti-Sikh riots of 1984, we will ban it. Don’t show our gods in nude, we will ban them. Oh, what about the ones in our temples? We prefer not to look at them. The temples are so dark anyway. We catch a glimpse of our God, ask what we want, and we quickly get out without admiring any of the architectures.

And please don’t use our gods on your T-shirts, sandals, toilet seats, and don’t use them on your CD covers. We will protest, use our muscle power to make sure you won’t sell any of that stuff.

Please don’t write anything generalizing Indians. We are completely oblivious to color of the skin. We don’t care whether you are black or white. Our Lord Krishna was actually dark. We don’t use any creams to become fair. It’s just a marketing gimmick; you can’t base your argument on that. We are not racist. We are just class-conscious. We are just following our ancient texts which clearly lay out the principles of natural hierarchy which when followed only reflects the harmonious balances of the universe as seen by Supreme Being.

Don’t criticize our Vaastu. Don’t you have Feng-Shui? Our Vaastu is far more advanced and scientific than your Feng-Shui. Don’t you know that if your plot is in the shape of a turtle, you are bound to die? Your website sucks? Use Vaastu. Our ancestors anticipated websites much before you could even read or write. They have laid down all the rules for making a good website thousands of years ago. Once you follow these rules, positive cosmic energies will flow through your website, making it successful. It’s all written in Vaastu, you just need to understand it. We have many experts. We can export some to you.

And please don’t even go near our national issues. We strictly do not tolerate any discussions on our national integrity. If you feel that any of our people are unhappy, then you have no idea what you are talking. All of our people are very happy with us. It’s just that we have bad neighbors who keep sending these unhappy elements into our country. And stop writing anything to solve it, we consider it sedition and we will pack you off to jails. Already, we have POTA, TADA, and many other such acronyms; you will fit into one of them for sure. And then you are history.

Please don’t tell us about tolerance. We ARE tolerant. Don’t you know that Hinduism preaches "sarva-dharma-samabhava"? It’s inherent in us to be tolerant. And if you say anything more, we will crush you and shove all our tolerant principles down your throats.

We are diverse. Look at our people; they come in all shapes and customs, all languages and religions. We don’t know much about them, their culture, or their identities, but so what? Can you speak as many languages as we do?

And yes, our governments bodies, academic bodies and industry is completely filled with upper caste Hindu groups, and that's because they are good at them. Those who are not good at them are given other menial jobs. This is our definition of diversity; you don’t have to teach us what it is. Your civilization is only few thousands years old. We are more than ten thousands years old. Don’t you know the new archeological expedition sponsored by Dr. Murli Manohar Joshi dates us way back into end of Ice Age? We are pre-historic. You are kids in front of us.

We don’t like to get our people converted to other religions. Yes, we believe in freedom to practice a religion, but we believe one should practice the religion he is born into; not convert. Conversion is against the natural order prescribed in our ancient texts. Just imagine if all your blacks suddenly became white, wouldn’t that upset your natural balance?

Modern Science? Don’t even go there. Our Vedas have all your science combined and ten times more, written in a language that only selected few can understand. It’s just that we can’t really decipher them when we need them. And it usually happens that we understand them only after the Modern Science has clearly explained it, just the way Nostradamus’ prophecies are explained after the events happen. You may think it’s cryptic. For us, it’s very natural. We have no problems in calling airplanes birds, and we look at quarks and atoms as bears and wolves. It’s our way of speaking and alluding to complex physical and mathematical concepts.

How did we derive our alternate sciences? Hmm, we just sat under a tree and meditated for long, and then Behold! Everything became clear and then we wrote it down. Sorry, we don’t believe in empiricism and your Kant’s dialecticism. We arrive at truth in one single stroke. No deduction, no logic, no reasoning, no hard work. That’s why you see so many Indians doing nothing, sitting and sipping chai, trying to look for answers to the world’s problems, while you waste away your time in labs doing unnecessary research and engineering.

We are Indians. Let us be the way we are. We don’t like to be criticized. We know enough about you and we are smart enough to find loop holes in all your arguments and send you back home with tails between your legs. We don’t like to be corrected. We are already correct. We don’t like to improve. We are already perfect. We don’t need to learn anything from you; we are all learned pundits here.

So, please don’t tell us anything negative about us. It’s not welcome here. We get really pissed off when someone does that. We will call you a traitor, an enemy, a fool, and abuse you, and threaten you to shut up. If need be, we will come to your home, raid your works, burn up your paintings, shut down the theatres, and run around the streets with a sense of accomplishment.

Yes, we are peevish, and we are proud of it. After all, we are Indians!

Corporate: “How many people report into you?”

You are measured by how many people report into you. The number of people reporting into you is the direct indicator of your success. Soon, every Project Leader wants to ensure his team size increases. Every Project Manager wants to increase his team size. So on. Read more >>

Pseudo-science: Vaastu Shastra

A word on pseudo-sciences

Most pseudo-sciences are designed to deceive people. Smarter the people, smarter the deceivers! The proponents of pseudo-sciences devise elaborate mechanisms, terminology, and introduce new concepts which closely resemble those of real science. This ‘resemblance’ is played upon heavily. This ‘resemblance’ to science is what makes them attractive to gullible educated masses. By using astronomical objects, such as planets and stars, and using mathematical tools, such as calculations, calculators and computers, astrologers try to posit their belief systems as science. The educated people do not like to be seen as gullible people- they never want to admit to themselves or to others that they are gullible. Instead, they like to be seen as those who ‘question’, then ‘verify’, and only then ‘accept’, just like in real science. Such educated people, while growing up, study science as if it is a complicated subject, never actually question what is taught, but accept it as another dogmatic notion. To some extent, they think that Theory of Gravity and Quantum Physics is some imaginary topic concocted by some weird scientists, whom they cannot relate to. They end up not understanding the real meaning of such topics. For them scientists are too far away- unable to connect to them, while these quacks, knaves, godmen, astrologers, vaastu experts, etc, seem to connect to them so well. Just because these educated people have scored high marks in the subject called Science, they think they don’t need to learn anything new. Without actually understanding what science is and what science stands for, they enter the real world; without having developed the scientific temperament, they start representing the elite.

They spend little time in trying to ‘question’ and ‘verify’ if astrology, vaastu shastra, numerology are indeed sciences. Enter the proponents of pseudo-sciences with tools and theories constructed from false assumptions built on fantastical premises, substituting fallacious argument for logic where necessary. These gullible educated people fall for it. Actually they are believers already; they have acquired these belief systems through parents, teachers, books, TV shows, college friends, etc. At a minimum, they have resorted to ‘questioning’ as a perfunctory exercise. They ignore most of these obvious fallacies, get enamored with other 'seemingly logical' explanations, get satisfied that indeed it is science. Such educated people who become believers are the dangerous lot. They occupy high positions in the society- they are celebrities, sports players, famous actors, prominent leaders, top businessmen, elite academicians, and highly reputed professors. When such people endorse the pseudo-sciences, the believers get further boost. When such people enter the mainstream media and use these notions as accepted truths, the belief system gets further fillip. Now, it is no longer a question of being valid, it has already become the truth- it is science indeed. The argument goes- “if it was bogus, how come it is prevalent for so long and how come it is accepted by so many?

A word on Vaastu Shastra

I didn’t know where to start. So, I start with an article that appears yesterday in the THE HINDU in Property Plus section.

# 1. Here, S. BS. Surendran is considered a ‘specialist’ in Vaastu and Feng Shui. He is an electrical engineer who turned into a believer. When such learned people endorse it, what becomes of common man? He says, “Basically vaasthu speaks of air, ether, water, earth and cosmos”.

What is ether? Didn’t we debunk it long ago? What is cosmos? Does he mean the Universe? If so, isn’t earth, air and water already a part of it? No science can take on such elements to construct a theory. That the whole world has five elements, fire, earth, water, air, and ether, is a very old and archaic notion that has been debunked, rejected and completely relegated to myth and folklore hundreds of years ago. That it should reappear in a newly packaged form is unfortunate. It’s like studying once again that earth is flat and that it is the center of the universe, that sun is actually an angel running around in a chariot pulled by horses.

# 2. Next, this Surendran jumps into the world of science from the world of faith without making any distinction between the two. He says, “Vaasthu predominantly focuses on the flow of energy, i.e. the magnetic lines of forces existing in the earth”.

Yes, the magnetic lines are a theoretical construct to study and explain the behavior of magnetism. By borrowing an idea from science, a proponent of a pseudo-science tries to posit his belief system as science. The electromagnetic theory from real science is good enough to completely deal with all effects of magnetism, so how come we need vaastu to explain the same force once again? Most proponents resort to using the concepts from accepted sciences once in a while. This way they confuse the believers. The believers think: “we know this already from science, we cannot deny this, therefore what he says next is also undeniable.”

# 3. Talking about vaasthu, he says, “It is believed that each has a specific wavelength and field; so, adding and removing a few things ensures balance in your environment”.

Hmm... notice how he has used the terms like, ‘wavelength’ and ‘field’. Those are the words used in real sciences. Any heat generating object radiates and has a wavelength. A charge or a magnetic pole has a field around it. This is known to all who study science. But a home does not have a charge, it is grounded. We don’t speak of a man’s wavelength in science. We do that figuratively in language. Now, do homes have a specific wavelength and a field? That’s complete gobbledygook. What is balance when talking about a wavelength? Can we say, ‘Ah! Now we have attained the balance in wavelength?’

Another favorite thing these pseudo-sciences try to do is humanize the sciences. The proponents realize that scientific theories like Theory of Gravity have no bearing on one's personal life. Gravity cannot better your scores in the exams or solve your marital problems. To bring home the science, they concoct theories which seem to have a bearing on your life- affecting your daily life, helping you in business, in exams and personal relationships. They talk about energy all the time- positive energy, negative energy, cosmic energy, balance of energy, etc. We all went to school. I ask you all one question- can energy be negative or positive? That’s complete bullshit. Energy is neither negative nor positive. It’s a scalar quantity. There’s no such thing called ‘negative’ energy in science. One can use this term for describing emotions, but that’s not science- it does not come in joules. Most of these proponents use these words interchangeably, changing the context arbitrarily- sometimes it’s the energy from the magnetic field, and next moment it’s the ‘negative’ energy surrounding a person. By using these words which are used in science and also in literary world, these proponents deceive us into believing that they are all the same. According to them, emotions is science, science is emotions.

# 4. He, then says, “There may be a sudden change in the ‘luck cycle’ of the occupants”.

Hmm, this is where it becomes completely nonsensical. You say it is science, and then you talk of ‘luck cycle’! What is ‘luck cycle’ anyway? How can luck be changed by adjusting wavelengths and fields? This is something nobody knows and nobody cares to explain. All pseudo-sciences are based on big gaps in logic which they cover up with weird new concepts, like ‘luck cycle’, ‘chakras’, etc.

# 5. He says, “The most common negative energy built up is the cluttered home.” Really? Does home’s energy go down because it is cluttered?

# 6. And it becomes more interesting. He says, “This mess is either cleaned or moved and causes a block to the free flow of energy leading to some kind of a stagnation”.

I say, “Imagine a gutter, throw some garbage in it, and see how the movement of the water gets restricted. Hmm, let’s apply the same analogy to energy as well. You see, the energy is liquid, it is flowing from one place to another, if you don’t clean your home, this flow gets restricted; it stagnates, like in the gutter”. Such wrong analogies are dangerous. People can be easily swayed into thinking that energy indeed gets obstructed by clutter and mess in the house.

# 7. He then says, “It’s sad that one looks at these sciences as a ‘first-aid-kit’”.

You know, what’s sad? That engineers like him should embrace such rubbish notions calling them science to fool people and to earn some quick money. The history is fraught with miracle men, who sell you trinkets telling you that it will get you good luck. The danger now is that even educated people are turning into miracle men who want to bring you good luck by selling you some fantastic stories as science.

# 8. Talking about Fish tanks, laughing Buddha and miniature fountains, he says, “Symbolisms and gadgets are sidetracking people”. What he means is that these 'other' frauds are taking away his business. He wants to make sure people do not get their luck sorted out by such quick-fixes. He says about them: “These commercialized items enhance negative energy if placed in wrong places”. Hmm, that’s interesting. Do they enhance ‘negative’ energy because they are commercialized items, or because they are in the wrong places? Make up your mind!

Before the reader goes away, he wants to make sure you take his expert advice (which always includes some kind of remuneration and reward for him): “I carried corrections by just re-orienting furniture and cots”. If it is indeed science, shouldn’t we all be in a position to buy a book, study it, calculate the amount of ‘negative energy’ our home offers, and then add ‘positive energy’ item to strike a balance? We should be able to put our map of the house into an open-source software, and get the results! None of the pseudo-sciences offer such packages. They all want you to consult an expert. All these proponents profess to be experts, look down upon and talk down upon ‘other’ experts, dismiss them as knaves, and tell you that it is something like a rocket-science-complicated-complex-equation-oriented-art-craft-science that only he can solve and make it right for you. That’s when you should wake up and walk off.

# 9. Talking about wind chimes, he says: “In all our religious practices too, sound energy is used to cleanse the space, invoke positive feelings and disperse negativity”.

In our ‘religious practices’? I thought you were discussing science here. When did we change the topic to religion? Oh, I forgot, all you quacks mix religion, faith, belief, superstition, and position it as science, right? Imagine sound energy cleansing the space. So, I guess, I can play music at extremely loud volume and clean up the entire space, and kick out the ‘negative energy’ for good!

And hey, how come you started talking about positive ‘feelings’ now? I though you were talking about positive ‘energies’. Oh, never mind! You guys interchange these words at your whim-and-fancy to suit your purpose. Feelings=energies! Great! To increase the potential energy of a rocket, one just has to put lot of good ‘feelings’ into it. Lo and behold! It is now flying away into the space powered by the ‘feelings’ of the entire nation! Not a drop of rocket fuel needed anymore. From tomorrow, I want to ride my scooter on my feelings- I don’t have to spend money on petrol!

# 10. And now for the finale! He says, “We in India have a mindset to be skeptical about our own faiths and beliefs”.

I on the other hand think that we are better off being skeptical. What we need is an overdose of that skepticism towards our faiths, beliefs, and superstitions, not the renewed faith in such arcane belief systems. We need to embrace science, question superstition, and bring in rational thought. I am happy to know that he thinks that we are being skeptical. But coming from him, who has been selling me a completely cooked up and fantastic story, I don’t believe this either!

Vaastu is another of those hobbies that is being touted as alternate science. Such belief-oriented pseudo-sciences curb creativity by imposing not-so-well-understood rules, bringing in occultism back into our lives. Such methods are based on how one man's interpretation is better than the other without allowing the common man to make an independent verification.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Sexual Practices in Nature

In one of my article, I contented that homosexuality is natural. Understanding nature helps in understanding humans. It helps us in realizing that this nature has all kinds of sexual practices and that our notion of normal sex is just one of many other possible ‘normal’ practices. Here I list some of the sexual practices in Animal Kingdom which I noted down while watching a show on National Geographic.

No need for male

A type of lizard does not need males for reproduction. It doesn’t need sex with a male at all to lay eggs. The female of this species can give birth without sex. The male has become redundant in this species, but is still around. Now, what’s interesting is that females participate in lesbian sex. Why do they do this? This lesbian sex stimulates the female and helps in releasing the desired hormones necessary for reproduction. In this act of lesbian sex, one female rides another as if it is a male partner and makes movement as if in a copulation. They even rub each other’s genitals in this sexual act. So, the sex in this species is purely for emotional reasons and not for reproduction.

Sexual orgy

A mollusk, Sea Hare, is a hermaphrodite. It is both male and female and it wants to satisfy both the organs. It can take care of its masculine and feminine side at the same time. Two Sea Hares come together and start copulating and soon many others may join them; they all form a chain or a ring to participate in a sexual orgy. Such a sexual marathon can go on for hours resulting in many eggs.

Pregnant Daddy

Male Sea horses take the role of a mother in carrying the baby in its ‘womb’. After sexual copulation, the female deposits the eggs in Male Sea horse’s womb. The male carries the egg in its pregnant womb and it acts as the incubator. It provides the nourishment and gives essential nutrients to the babies. The female moves away and continues its life after she deposits the eggs into the male’s body. The female goes onto have sex with another male. The male assumes the responsibility of giving birth to the babies. Looks like this species is quite OK with the alternative life style.

Changing sex

Nemo can change sex. Yes, the clown fish can completely change its sex. Say, if the female in a group dies, a male can turn into a female and produce eggs. There is a hierarchy in a group, and the sex ratio is maintained in this group by change of sex.

Successful Transvestites

In a snake species (red-sided garter snake?), the female is much larger in size than the males and the population consists of 90% males, very few females and some she-males (or transvestites). At a time, 100 or odd males try to have sex with one female. The female is identified through a scent. So, while the males are all trying to have sex with this one female, the transvestites simulate the female’s scent and mislead some males into having sex with them while these transvestites now try to have sex with the female. The transvestites turn out to be successful because of this diversion tactics.

Incest welcome

There’s a species of mite that shows a bizarre sexual behavior. While inside the womb of the mother, the brother mite has sex with all sister mites and then dies. These baby girl mites burst out thus killing the mother in the process and then continue to make babies. The sex is incestuous, so what about the problems associated with incest? Well, they don’t face any problem because they don’t possess recessive genes.

Monogamy is rare

Looking at the animal world, scientists wonder if monogamy is even possible? Monogamy, which is seems to be highly valued virtue in humans, seems to be very rare in the animal world. The birds, which we believed to be monogamous, turn out to be very unfaithful- in fact 90% of bird species have been found to be unfaithful. Except for few species such as black vultures, a species of mongoose, a species of penguins, a species of owl, hornbill, etc, most animal species are not monogamous. In fact, monogamy seems to be the ‘truly deviant behavior’ amongst animals. Fidelity is a rare commodity and monogamy is ‘the most unusual sexual practice’.

A question

If the god or the nature could have thought of so many sexual behaviors, can it be true that the god or the nature has deemed only certain sexual behavior to be ‘normal’ for human beings?