Can science and religion coincide when so many parts of Scripture oppose what science tells us?


We human beings are very complex. We have many dimensions: physical, physiological, psychological, psychological, intellectual, and more.
We have feelings and experiences. We also think and analyze.
It is important to recognize the roles of science and religion in these contexts.
Religions serve us well in our feelings and experiences. They build community, they (are meant to) teach us caring and compassion, love and service. They provide us with hope and solace, joy and celebrations. They have inspired great art and music, poetry and architecture. They also provide us with a framework for reflecting on the deep mysteries about life and death, the cosmos and its majesty, its origins and ends.
Science becomes important, essential, and powerful in our efforts to understand and interpret natural phenomena, and use that knowledge for the betterment of the human condition on the material and practical plane. It provides us with a rational, logical, and coherent explanations of the natural world.
If science tries to give us hope, stipulate what is right and what is wrong, or console a family in bereavement, it may not succeed very well.
If religions try to explain the world of phenomena, they will not succeed, and they will cut awkward figures.
You can relish chocolate and also study the molecular structures of its ingredients. You can enjoy music and also study the physics of sound and music.
It is wise to value and respect both religion and science in their respective contexts.
Science and religion cannot coincide in their goals, but they can complement each other to make our lives richer.

December 28, 2014

. <What can one say about whether humans have free will or not?


This is a very difficult question. It is related to the idea of determinism about which we may talk another time.
Religions, philosophers, psychologists, neuroscientists, and other people all have (had) different opinions on the matter.
First let us talk about the concept of freewill. The question is simple: When we decide to do something – especially when it is a choice between two alternatives – do we do it on our own, or are we forced (knowingly or unknowingly) to take that decision?
Though most of us think we take decisions on our own, many have argued (and some scientists think they have proved) that there are hidden factors of which we have no idea and over which we have no control. Others disagree.
Whatever we think or do is governed by (a) factors over which we have very little knowledge or control; (b) factors over which we feel we have at least some control.
We can do very little about (a). We can do a lot about (b). Most often it is a combination of the two. Many of you send me questions because you were asked to send a question. But the particular question you send is your own choice.
What often matters is NOT so much what we believe in, but on what we do and how we behave with our belief.
A person may think he/she has no control over his/her actions and commit a crime. The belief may be right, but the action is wrong because it was hurtful. Another person may think he/she has freewill and help a fellow human being. The belief may be wrong but the action was good because it had a positive impact on another human being.
Once a bank robber who was caught told the judge in the court: “Sir I had no control over my action. I don’t believe humans have free-will.” The judge said: “I am putting you in prison for ten years. I am not giving you this punishment out of by freewill, but because I have no control over this punishment that I am giving you.
For my part I choose to believe I have freewill because I am forced into that belief by so many factors 🙂

December 27, 2014

Speed of the Sleigh


<Since it’s almost Christmas, could you calculate how fast Santa would have to go through each individual house to deposit presents and his sleigh mechanics> (Lewis Adkins, Akron, OH)>

A. Suppose there there are A million Christians in the world.

Suppose there are n persons  per family.

Then there are A/n million Christian families.

Suppose that one in x of then has a Christmas tree.

That  means Santa has to visit A(nx) homes.

If he takes one minute per home, he will need A/(nx) minutes for this.

This is A/3600nx hours = A/(24x3600nx) days,

This will be a more than 24 hours, because A is of the order of several million.

B. Or again, distance to be covered is about 10A/nx feet (assuming a ten feet distance between two homes). Therefore his speed must be about 10A/(5280nx) miles/24 hours. 

 C. It is estimated that there are more than two billion Christians.

Suppose there are four persons  per family.

Then there are 500 million Christian families.

Suppose that one in five of then has a Christmas tree.

That gives means Santa has to visit 100 million homes.

If he takes one minute par home, he will need 100 million minutes for this.

This is 100,000,000/3600 = 27,777.8 hours = 1,157 days = 3.17 years.

So this can’t be done in 24 hours.

Or again, distance to be covered is about 240,000 miles very roughly (assuming a ten feet distance between two homes). Therefore his speed must be about 240,000 miles/24 hours = 10,000 mph.  

[You can change the numbers and come to a different result in the end.]

C. But no matter what, from all this, one will conclude on the basis of scientific and mathematical analysis that there can be no Santa Claus bringing gifts on a sleigh to even 20% of all the Christian homes during a twenty-four hour period.

That is why Santa Claus and the his sleigh carrying gifts  seem real only up to the pre-calculation stage, say age three to five.

D. This should remind us that if and when adults subject religious, cultural, traditional frameworks to scientific and mathematical analysis, they will most likely come to conclusions that would make those frameworks simply impossible in reality.

But then, traditional, religious, cultural frameworks have a great deal of  charm and beauty.

They give us joy and emotional thrill.

What this mans is that if we wish to have a fulfilling life we must learn not to mix up the two: the scientific and the culturally meaningful and enjoyable dimensions of life.

Many people fail to do this for various reasons. So they lose 50% of the joy of being fully human.

25 December 2014

Do you think everything in the universe is mathematically solvable?


We should be careful in saying anything that applies to everything.
But this question is very important because what it means is whether everything in the universe can be explained (solved) in mathematical terms.
If we refer only to the physical universe of matter and energy, then certainly the mathematical description of the world is extremely useful and powerful. We not only get a deeper understanding of the physical world but can also predict many things through the mathematical language.
However, there is a small part of the universe in which we human beings are involved. If we take things that arise in the human mind, like thoughts and emotions, feelings of beauty and ugliness, of qualities of goodness and badness, of values of truth and justice, it is difficult, perhaps impossible, to reduce these to mathematical formulas.
Thus, not every quality can be quantified. If we have two tables, one bigger than another, we can quantify them: measurable length, breadth, height, etc. But we we listen to two pieces of music, and find one to be more enjoyable than another, we can’t quantify their melodies. The quality of musical enjoyment can’t be quantified (solves mathematically).

1. GKC: What is the composition of the Universe?


The physical universe consists of:

A. Matter and B. Energy.
A. Matter is of two kinds:
(a) Ordinary matter we are familiar with, such as water, sand, iron, air, etc. This matter is ultimately made up of molecules which consist of atoms. More on these when another question is asked about atoms and molecules.
(b) Dark matter. This is a kind of matter about which we know as yet very little. Scientists assume that there is some kind of matter which we have not yet been able to detect, but which is exerting some (gravitational) force on the galaxies (large collections of billions and billions of stars). Astronomers say that almost 85% of the total matter in the universe is dark matter.
B. Energy is of two kinds:
(a) Ordinary energy. This is in various forms: heat, light, sound, x-rays, etc. (radiation) and motion of bodies.
(b) Dark energy: Like dark matter, we know very little about dark energy. We assume there is such a thing in order to explain why galaxies are all moving away from one another at every increasing speeds.
According to astronomers the universe consists of: 

26.8% dark matter, 68.3% dark energy, and 4.9% ordinary matter-energy.
An ancient Tamil poetess called Auvaiyaar said:
What we known is like a handful of mud; what we don’t know is as vast as the universe.
Modern astronomers say: The matter and energy that can be observed is like a handful of mud; what can’t be observed is as vast as the whole universe.

The GKCC


The General Knowledge Cyber Club (GKCC) is for young people from ages 15 to 25, but it is also open to others who may be interested. The goal is to expand the General Knowledge and enrich the perspectives of its members.
Some of the questions raised by its members are:
What is the composition of the Universe?
Do you think everything in the universe is mathematically solvable
What can one say about whether humans have free will or not?
Can science and religion coincide when so many parts of Scripture opposes what science tells us? (For example, the creation of man)?
Membership is free. All you have to do is to send an e-mail to vvrsps@rit.edu, preferably with a question or two. The questions can be on Science, Philosophy, Religion, Music, History, Culture, Languages, and more. The only topic that will not be considered is Politics.

December 11, 2014