On the Clash of Cultures

It is no secret that there are overt confrontations between extremist Islamic fundamentalist-activists and Western, Christian, and other cultures. This has led to the idea of the clash of civilizations. Because the extremists of one particular religious group are more vocal in their hatred of the others, more intolerant in allowing other religious groups in places where they hold power, and often engage in violence and massacre of innocent people, one speaks of a clash of civilizations. But this gives only a partial, if not a wrong, picture of what is happening in the world today.

In the current world the appropriate distinction should not be made between Eastern and Western, American and European, Indian and Japanese, Jewish and Islamic, cultures. Rather, one should consider those whose minds have been opened by modern science and its methodology, and whose hearts and worldviews have been awakened by post-Enlightenment values on the one hand (the Future-inspired Group), and those who still remain anchored to ancient truth-statements about the physical world  and mistreat fellow humans on the basis of race and gender, caste and color, belief and unbelief (the Past-inspired Group). The clashes between these two groups is not always violent, but are very intense all the same.

In this profounder sense with  potential for enormous long-range impacts on the course of the history of many cultures, the clash of cultures/civilizations  is not so much BETWEEN nations and religions, but WITHIN nations and religions. That clash is  between the awakened and the unawakened sectors of the culture. It occurs in debates and discussions, on the internet and on the street, in elections and houses of worship, in newspaper columns and commentaries, and elsewhere too. Usually, but not always, the so-called political conservatives, fundamentalists, and traditionalists are firmly committed to holding on to the past and fighting the change-bringers, while the so-called liberals, progressives, and leftists  call for drastic and rapid changes.

It often happens that the first group calls the second traitors to their country or culture, while the latter, in their own extremist language, often describes the later as fascists, ignorant fools, and dangerous. Extremists on both sides may be grossly mistaken. In nations and societies where there are no open discussions and periodic changes in power-holders, extremists rather than the moderates  are the ones who will determine in what direction the society and culture  will evolve or degenerate.

 June 9, 2013

On the relevance and irrelevance of binary logic

Binary logic, formulated and inspired by Aristotle, says essentially that

If statement A is true, then the contrary statement B cannot be true, that everything has to be  either A or B, with no other possibility.

It is true that we cannot function normally in this world, let alone construct computers, without binary logic and the associated Boolean algebra.

However, is it important to be aware of the range and context where this is the case.

Many misunderstandings have arisen because of thinking ruled solely by binary logic in situations where it simply doesn’t and cannot work.

In such ordinary  matters as deciding whether a person is good or bad, whether the decision taken by a government is right or wrong, whether a person who committed a certain crime under certain circumstances should be declared guilty or not-guilty, whether a poem is great or trivial, etc. binary logic simply will not work.

Indeed, in many judgments relating to the human condition, and some questions regarding the unknown (why was the universe created?)  and perhaps unknowable  (what is our postmortem state?) there are no simple answers.

It would of course be rash to trivialize or give up logic and rational thinking because of this. It would be wise to recognize the power of binary logic, and unwise to regard it as the only correct and available tool in confronting all situations.

June 9, 2013

Whom to Trust?

Keith Fuglie posted on  30 May 2013 | 17:21 GMT

“Despite the global food crisis of 2007–8, the coming famine hasn’t happened yet. It is a looming planetary emergency…it is arriving even faster than climate change.” That’s the vision of famine that awaits us, says Australian science writer Julian Cribb. And he’s far from alone. “The world is in transition from an era of food abundance to one of scarcity,” says the environmentalist Lester Brown.
They’re wrong, and their virulent strain of technopessimism—which is finding lots of resonance in the media these days—has been wrong for a long time. In his 1968 book The Population Bomb, Paul R. Ehrlich wrote: “The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now. At this late date nothing can prevent a substantial increase in the world death rate.” Ehrlich himself rode the frayed coattails of Thomas Malthus, who two centuries ago warned that the combination of an arithmetic increase in food supply and a geometric increase in population would result in famine, pestilence, and war.

We live in an age where nothing and no source is fully reliable any more:
Neither scientists nor religionists, neither politicians nor news casters, neither economists nor financial advisers, neither Democrats nor Republicans, nether theists nor atheistsn nether Communists nor anti-Communists: But no one is altogether trustworthy.
This is also the sad recognition of Postmodernism: That anything can be twisted and turned and presented (intentionally or naively) as the Absolute Truth, that any statement or thesis or declaration is colored/distorted/molded by perspectives, conscious or otherwise.
This puts the average truth-seeker who reads and listens to all sides in a state of utter confusion, while those who are addicted/converted to just one perspective go around proclaiming they have the Final Truth on any subject, demanding that their version be accepted by everyone.

V. V. Raman