Saturday, June 16, 2012

General rambling, but read on, includes theological gems-Part II

Let me first apologize for misleading you  in the earlier post (assuming you've read it. You haven't, you say? Sound chap! Well here's a summary. I called it "General rambling, but read on, includes theological gems", in which I recounted how we went off on a fairly impromptu vacation to Singapore. I had intended to add one bit of theological reasoning that I was the recipient off but didn't because I sort of fell asleep while writing. I intend to remedy that today...)

To continue the tale, we cleared Singapore immigration in record time. This must be the world's friendliest passport control.

In India, whenever we leave or enter, the chap across the immigration desk looks askance. Questions are asked in the most incredulous way possible ("You want to WHAT?!" "Go  WHERE?!" "Coming back WHEN?!"), and the chap, who is evidently trained in this, rolls his eyes in a disbelieving fashion and lets you pass only after summoning all the goodness inside him. None but the brave emerge without their inner garments soaked in cold sweat.

The lady at the counter in CHangi didn't ask any of us a word. Not even me, and my passport clearly carries a photo of me looking like an international criminal.

"Go and find out where we can get a local sim card", commanded the missus, who had now taken over  complete command and awarded herself emergency powers, "while I freshen up".

The boys and I scooted off in three separate directions. Changi airport was looking like the convocation center for Indian Parliamentarians Who Have Passed the Decent Behaviour Test, that is to say, completely empty. Which was unsurprising because it was 6 am Singapore time.

The missus returned all freshened up and found the three of us running around the airport like headless chickens.

"Silly boys!. Can't you see that sign there?" and pointed us to a large kiosk bearing all the telltale marks of sim card salesmanship. You know, smiling people, images of phones and joyous revelations of the enormous sums of money to be saved. We sheepishly went thither and purchased our phone cards.

And here, before I forget, is one of the theological gems gleaned. I was having a conversation with the older son who, having gone through a long season of exams and entrance tests, is a strong believer while I'm a bit of an atheist.

"God does not exist" I told him confidently, after a longish discussion on what god would do to people who eat non-veg on tuesdays. We were both agreed on the fact that god would do nothing, he because he believed god was a cool dude who would surely see how uncool it was to have no nonveg days in the week while I held the view because I was convinced he didn't exist

"How can you be sure?"

"Where is the evidence? We only have hearsay, right? Chaps who have seen or spoken to god and then told the rest of us about it. No hard evidence, no?"

"Yes Annie, but what if suddenly god were to emerge tomorrow and show himself, what happens to your theory?"

"He wont. He can't"

"Why not?"

And the chap was right. How did I know he didn't exist? All I knew was he probably didn't. I couldn't be sure.

And, as is customary when working out involved threads of thought like the aforementioned, the old bean began to throb.

"And even if God doesn't exist, he can get things done" said the lad.

"Eh?"

"You know what 'i' is, no?"

"The ego? The self?"

"No Annie. 'i'. The square root of minus one"

"Oh THAT i. What about it?"

"You know why it is called an imaginary number?"

"Yes, because there is no number which can be squared to give a negative number. So?"

"And yet we use it to solve all kinds of mathematical problems, do we not?"

"Er.. yes...."

"So what difference does it make whether god exists or not if he can solve problems?"

I'm still looking for a suitable response to this one.

16 comments:

Midlife Pop said...

Two points:

1. No one disputes that 'i' is an imaginary number. Everyone admits it is not real. Religious people do not think of God as a convenient but purely imaginary construct devised by humans for practical purposes. Rather, they think that it is God who created humans.

2. I don't remember any of the stuff I learnt about the practical applications of imaginary numbers. But the key question to ask is, "Can those applications be carried out WITHOUT the use of imaginary numbers?" I would guess not. It is unlikely that mathematicians would have taken the trouble to invent something as weird as 'i' if the same operations could be performed without it. God, on the other hand, is neither necessary nor sufficient for the purposes of morality or any other useful social function.

Snowden Peak said...

Even if god didn't exisit, man would have to create him !

God created man, or man created god, the debate is still on !

blissinsamplespace said...

IMHO you come out as presumptuous when you say "He wont. He can't".

When I say "I don't believe in God." that does NOT imply "God cannot exist", instead I am expressing my scepticism, I'm saying "I haven't been presented with compelling evidences confirming the presence of God.".

As of the case he were to pop right into existence out of nowhere and we are provided with enough evidences to support the event really happened, sceptics will be the first one to turn into the so-called 'believers'. After all, Science thrives on questions it cannot answer.

Feynman says it the best: http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2012/05/11/richard-feynman-key-to-science/

As to about the argument including imaginary numbers, there is no _real number_ that can be squared to a negative number. Again, real numbers are just a set of numbers that we like to call "real numbers". Numbers then too are only mathematical concepts. Mathematicians found that they aren't violating any fundamental rules of math and logic if they will take i, the square root of -1, as member of a set(called "complex numbers") which the real numbers are a subset of. It was developed as a concept in pure math, it just so happened people started finding places it can be used at. That is why, a real number, say 5, 42, 8.8734, pi, -63 is just as non-existent as is i.

Now, just because we can do it doesn't mean we would. We can as well call 1/0 some exotic number and that might help us solve various kinds of math problems but we don't. Why? because it violates underlying principals of math.

Lastly, I don't really get "And even if God doesn't exist, he can get things done" part. God gets what things done? He can be of my immediate help as I keep on getting stuck with this Problem set.

I had more to say about supernatural and why ascertaining its existence from an unexplained event is a logical fallacy but you probably get the point.

Good post!

blissinsamplespace said...

IMHO you come out as presumptuous when you say "He wont. He can't".

When I say "I don't believe in God." that does NOT imply "God cannot exist", instead I am expressing my scepticism, I'm saying "I haven't been presented with compelling evidences confirming the presence of God.".

As of the case he were to pop right into existence out of nowhere and we are provided with enough evidences to support the event really happened, sceptics will be the first one to turn into the so-called 'believers'. After all, Science thrives on questions it cannot answer.

Feynman says it the best: http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2012/05/11/richard-feynman-key-to-science/

As to about the argument including imaginary numbers, there is no _real number_ that can be squared to a negative number. Again, real numbers are just a set of numbers that we like to call "real numbers". Numbers then too are only mathematical concepts. Mathematicians found that they aren't violating any fundamental rules of math and logic if they will take i, the square root of -1, as member of a set(called "complex numbers") which the real numbers are a subset of. It was developed as a concept in pure math, it just so happened people started finding places it can be used at. That is why, a real number, say 5, 42, 8.8734, pi, -63 is just as non-existent as is i.

Now, just because we can do it doesn't mean we would. We can as well call 1/0 some exotic number and that might help us solve various kinds of math problems but we don't. Why? because it violates underlying principals of math.

Lastly, I don't really get "And even if God doesn't exist, he can get things done" part. God gets what things done? He can be of my immediate help as I keep on getting stuck with this Problem set.

I had more to say about supernatural and why ascertaining its existence from an unexplained event is a logical fallacy but you probably get the point.

Good post!

Coconut Chutney said...

Parliamentarians who've passed the decent behaviour test - LOL.

Wonderful post Ji! More power to your son :)

parthicle said...

By God! touch the subject of existence of God and expect a deluge of protests!
God by Himself/ Herself may care less whether you question His/Her existence, but you are touching a exposed nerve or two of His/Her "Bhaktajan"
But a real mind blowing reasoning from your son!!!

parthicle said...

By God! touch the subject of existence of God and expect a deluge of protests!
God by Himself/ Herself may care less whether you question His/Her existence, but you are touching a exposed nerve or two of His/Her "Bhaktajan"
But a real mind blowing reasoning from your son!!!

Siddharth said...

If I am not wrong, you both had this discussion before you had coffee right? More blogs coming soon?

Nirav Kanodra said...

1. "i" doesnt exist on the number line, but on a perpendicular plane.

2. Pascal's paradox about God - says rather believe in God, else you would suffer in hell. But then which God do you believe in? If you believe in one religion, but what if another is true?
Thus by negation, all religions are false.

blissinsamplespace said...

My browser reopened this page, and I could not stop myself from making another comment.

Can we, please, from now on refer to god by 'it' rather than male or female pronouns?

I would like to reiterate, pardon my redundancy, there's nothing weird about i.

Snowden Peak made made me recall this fantastic song by XTC, its called "Dear God". ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hk41Gbjljfo )

"rather believe in God, else you would suffer in hell" - A common misinterpretation of religions.

Since discussion about Atheism has popped up here, I would like to mention Samkhya school of Indian Philosophy. It is kind of dualism.

Nitin Anand said...

no one had seen the GOD. god is something in which we believe strongly. if we feel insecure we pray to god. it only gives us unlimited strength to face the problem ahead.
there is no restriction to believe in god.. you can believe in anyone. it may be your dad, mom or any other personality you were admire of.

Sachita said...

What kind of stress have you put the son under that he is doling philosophies like this? :)

Scattered Thoughts... said...

Wow.. I didnt thought it will be so smooth at immigration but well.. The guys in SG are friendly :)

@ Snowden Peak - interesting analogy

Sharatchandra Bhargav said...

You are building up the suspense really well. And the description of people going through the wringer while trying to leave or enter India is so true!

I have never been a math buff, and would've liked to be a Mridangam player instead of a Software Engineer. However, your son's argument is fundamentally sound, and your post has inspired me now to look up the difference between theology and theosophy!

Sharatchandra Bhargav said...

You are building up the suspense really well. And the description of people going through the wringer while trying to leave or enter India is so true!

I have never been a math buff, and would've liked to be a Mridangam player instead of a Software Engineer. However, your son's argument is fundamentally sound, and your post has inspired me now to look up the difference between theology and theosophy!

Sharatchandra Bhargav said...

You are building up the suspense really well. And the description of people going through the wringer while trying to leave or enter India is so true!

I have never been a math buff, and would've liked to be a Mridangam player instead of a Software Engineer. However, your son's argument is fundamentally sound, and your post has inspired me now to look up the difference between theology and theosophy!