News Item: Creationism Comment Violated Constitution


A teenager in California has win his lawsuit  against a public school teacher who called creationism “superstitious nonsense” during a classroom lecture. Chad Farnan sued Capistrano Valley High School history teacher James Corbett for that and other anti-religion comments  he said made Christians in the class feel uncomfortable, disparaged their beliefs, and violated the establishment clause of the First Amendment”

The age of debates and discussions has degenerated into one of conflicts and confrontations. There was a time when deeply religious people used to think that atheists and non-religionists are evil. Now the non-religionists imagine the religiously inclined to be mentally challenged. There was a time when non-religious and anti-religious people used to be closet dissenters. Now they have become bolder and bolder: one can write books calling religion a delusion and god as not great, and not only get away with it, but make tons of money in a book deal. All this is fair and good in a free society. But given that one can’t insult certain religions and its scriptures explicitly in public without provoking international repercussions and risking one’s own personal safety, Christians are also becoming more sensitive to continued abuse by local atheists.

The way I see it, there is no need to make believers feel small and stupid in a class-room even if one wishes to say that scientific perspectives on creation differ considerably in methodology and conclusion from the religious. After all, matters of origins are very complex, and no one can be a hundred percent sure of how or why it all began. Respect for scientifically gained knowledge and insight need not necessarily belittle other fundamental beliefs that are meaningful to millions.

More important than scientific theories and religious dogmas is respect for the other, in so far as no hurt or hate is involved. This is what will bring peace to the world, not  whether one accepts the Big Bang theory or the Book of Genesis as the true account of how the world came to be. Of course in a science course one should talk about the Big Bang and not about the seven-day creation. Religious beliefs are not matters for discussion or debate in a class-room devoted to a science course, but as the same time  insensitive and disparaging remarks about the religious sentiments and convictions of students are unworthy of a teacher whose responsibility is to teach the subject and to inculcate values that should include respect for others.

The teacher in this case may have been right in saying that religious views of biogenesis don’t quite resonate with what science seems to have established without a reasonable doubt, but he may have crossed the line if and when in the process he made one or more students in the class feel like duds along with their parents and preachers.

There is little hope for peace and harmony in the country or in the world as long as true-believing warriors on both sides of any issue are out to desecrate and destroy the framework of their opponents with little understanding or empathy for the other.

V. V. Raman

May 8, 2009

Is the Universe fine-tuned for life?


The answer to this question will depend on what one means by the significant terms used in the question.
First the universe. We live in the only universe we know. It is entirely possible – and some theories in physics make this a not implausible possibility – that there are several other universes, There may or may not be any life in many of them. So there is nothing unique in the phenomenon of life to warrant a universe that is specially intended to make life a possibility in a remote niche of its stupendously vast stretch.
Next is fine-tuned. The implication is that conditions and parameters that could be arbitrarily arranged have been given optimal values for the attainment of a specific goal. Indeed, if the initial assignment of values had been different ever so slightly, the intended goal or current situation would and could not have been achieved. Note that the verb is used in the passive voice, but the customary by X has been omitted. That is to say, one leaves open the question: fine-tuned by whom? Perhaps the implication is that it was by an intelligent designer, but this is not a phrase one dares to use in scientific discussion these days. This is also a reason why most hard-core atheist physicists and biologists shudder to contemplate this sort of anthropic or biopic principle.
The third important word is life. That life is a remarkable property of agglomerations of inert matter on our planet is undoubtedly a perplexing situation. We know that life emerged on our planet because of the external conditions of temperature and atmospheric pressure for a sufficiently long time period of time, and the abundant availability of certain elements and compounds. Unique as life seems to be on our solar system, one can also imagine other entities in the universe that are unique to some planets and satellites: volcanoes, atmosphere, water/ice, common salt, and clay. Or again, orbiting planets and comets may be unique to some stars. On the basis of these could one argue, for example, that the universe was fine-tuned for rings around Saturn or planets with satellites?
In sum, then, the question cannot be answered with a simple yes or a no, although in probabilistic and cosmic history terms it seems highly unlikely that parameters were fine-tuned for such a late and fleeting event that was to occur several billions of years after the big bang genesis.
But the simplistic answer to the question could be, of course yes. Otherwise how could life have arisen at all?
May 9, 2009

Is the Universe fine-tuned for life?


The answer to this question will depend on what one means by the significant terms used in the question.

First the universe. We live in the only universe we know. It is entirely possible – and some theories in physics make this a not implausible possibility – that there are several other universes, There may or may not be any life in many of them. So there is nothing unique in the phenomenon of life to warrant a universe that is specially intended to make life a possibility in a remote niche of its stupendously vast stretch.

Next is fine-tuned. The implication is that conditions and parameters that could be arbitrarily arranged have been given optimal values for the attainment of a specific goal. Indeed, if the initial assignment of values had been different ever so slightly, the intended goal or current situation would and could not have been achieved. Note that the verb is used in the passive voice, but the customary by X has been omitted. That is to say, one leaves open the question: fine-tuned by whom? Perhaps the implication is that it was by an intelligent designer, but this is not a phrase one dares to use in scientific discussion these days. This is also a reason why most hard-core atheist physicists and biologists shudder to contemplate this sort of anthropic or biopic principle.

The third important word is life. That life is a remarkable property of agglomerations of inert matter on our planet is undoubtedly a perplexing situation. We know that life emerged on our planet because of the external conditions of temperature and atmospheric pressure for a sufficiently long time period of time, and the abundant availability of certain elements and compounds. Unique as life seems to be on our solar system, one can also imagine other entities in the universe that are unique to some planets and satellites: volcanoes, atmosphere, water/ice, common salt, and clay. Or again, orbiting planets and comets may be unique to some stars. On the basis of these could one argue, for example, that the universe was fine-tuned for rings around Saturn or planets with satellites?

In sum, then, the question cannot be answered with a simple yes or a no, although in probabilistic and cosmic history terms it seems highly unlikely that parameters were fine-tuned for such a late and fleeting event that was to occur several billions of years after the big bang genesis.

But the simplistic answer to the question could be, of course yes. Otherwise how could life have arisen at all?

V. V. Raman

May 9, 2009

Can Many Religions All be True?


Someone was once asked: “How come there is only one science, but there are so many religions?” The answer that was given was: Because there can be only one right answer to a question, but there can many wrong ones. This flippant reply may satisfy atheists and those who attach little importance to religions, but it cannot be taken seriously, given that religions have played such a major role in culture and civilization. It is difficult to accept that over the centuries hundreds of thousands of intelligent people have been persuaded by the truths of religion.

And yet, given that there are so many religions, it is legitimate to ask: “ (How) Can Many Religions All be True?” The answer to this question will depend on the meaning of the word true in the context of religions.

Truth, as commonly understood, is an attribute one associates with facts and other elements that have tangible existence. With this meaning, it is logically impossible for different religions, adhering to different and often mutually contradicting doctrines and dogmas to all be true. Not all the colors of the rainbow can be white.

However, it is important to realize that there are truths that touch the core of our being, that bring meaning and relevance to existence, that reveal hidden dimensions of the human condition. The truths of literature and art, in music and myths and in religion belong to this category. These endopotent truths are not more true or less true than the facts and laws that undergird the physical universe (exopotent truths): they are truths of an altogether different category. Endopotent truths have greater value to individuals, communities, and cultures than the equations of quantum mechanics, the existence of quarks and leptons, or the big bang origin of the physical universe.

Endopotent truths are multi-valued: i.e. they can be manifest in multiple modes: as Vedic hymns to ancient sage-poets in India, as the Commandments conveyed to Moses, as the enlightened utterances of the Buddha and of Mahavira, as the Sermon that Jesus gave on the Mount, as the revelations to the Prophet Mohammed, as the syncretic insights of Guru Nanak, and so on. So, indeed, there are many religions, and they can all be true in this sense, just as every interpretation of a great poem or work of art has validity for the keen student, just as every piece of music is equally music.

But it is important to realize that all truths have both positive and negative impact potentials, depending on the actions and attitudes they enable (exopotent) and inspire (endopotent) us to.

With both religion and science, then, what is important is to inquire is not so much their truth-content in the conventional sense of the word (which will invariably lead to confrontation and mutual disrespect, if not contempt and belligerence), but to be concerned about what their impact potentials are. Any religion that leads to positive actions and attitudes such as caring, compassion, ecstatic spiritual experience is desirable; and any that engenders hate, hurt, and persecution is not. Likewise, any science that leads to improving human health and the human condition is preferable to one that can be used for destruction and devastation.

V. V. Raman

April 15, 2009