Response to a Comment

<God wishes to be known and loved. This is the motive behind creation and reconciliation. Being invisible and unapproachable. He has made an Image of Himself, and a Complement through Whom He can come into contact with His creation.>

I think this is a meaningful way of looking upon the creation of humans by God.From the scientific cosmological perspective it may seem strange that, if this were so, God waited for more than 13 billion years after He created the world he decided to create humans. However, it is inspiring to look upon the creation of humans as a means through which the Creator gains recognition and honor.

It could well be that God is also in contact with the many the non-human elements in Creation, from atoms to mountains, from planets to stars and galaxies, in ways that we do not know.

Truth to say, I have no idea  when or why, whether or how God made the world and Humans, but I am touched by our deep yearning for the Mystery and enriched by the many ways in which human minds have tried to resolve i

January 15, 2017

Reply to Question from Mr. Ulakanathan of South Africa

​​Please can you give us the meaning of Humanism in Tamil. And then translate into English.

Usually the dictionary would give the word 

manida néyam (மனித நேயம்)  as the Tamil equivalent of Humanism.

     There are two ways of interpreting the human experience. The first is to regard it as a unique gift from the Almighty Creator of the universe. Because of this gift, we are able to appreciate, understand, and enjoy every aspect of the world. For this we must be grateful, thankful, and reverential to God. Much of religion consists in recognizing this and paying homage to the Divine through hymns, worships, and offerings of different kinds.  The religious approach is/has been enormously meaningful and fulfilling to millions of people in all cultures for many long centuries. Indeed it is necessary for most human beings

     Unfortunately, it has been subject to the eudys principle by which  all good things in human societies eventually develop some ill-effects. Thus religions (basically good in intent) have led to sectarianism. To give only a few examples, Vaishnavism and Shaivism in the Hindu world, Mahayana and Hinayana in Buddhism, Orthodox and Reformist in Judaism, Catholicism and Protestantism in Christianity, Sunni and Shia in Islam, etc. These, in turn have led to mutual hatred, persecution, wars, conversions, killing in the name of God, etc.

     The Humanist movement suggests that ultimately we must look upon the world in terms of human dignity, respect for all human beings, rejection of caste and race to assert superiority and inferiority among people, respect for woman and the handicapped, cultivation of  the ethics of caring, kindness, compassion, non-hurting fellow human beings, rejection of superstitions, and blind veneration of ancient texts, respect for knowledge acquired through science and reason, and quest for the Truth. None of this requires adherence to any traditional religion.

     I consider myself a humanist in all these ways. I also respect people affiliated to traditional religions in so far as their faith  brings spiritual fulfillment to them through their chosen ways (This is a basic Hindu perspective). I do not consider any race or religion, sect or sub-sect, language or people to be superior to any other, or a pet-child of God.

March 24, 2016

Being Optimistic

A reader: “I tend to be a little optimistic and hold on to the belief that a little goodness exists in the hearts of the average, ordinary person in spite of all the prejudiced and pernicious propaganda and brainwashing they are subjected to.”

 Thank you for re-affirming what I used to feel very strongly in my earlier years.I am holding on to it even now, as something more than a straw whenever I experience a drowning sensation in my thoughts about the human condition today. Even as the divisive and parochial forces are fanning the fires of mutual anger and hate, there are, as we know, many men and women of goodwill who think in human rather than in parochial terms and strive to do in their different ways many little things beyond hoping and praying to instill a sense of humanity and mutual respect in all of us.

I am well aware that such people are branded as naive idealists at best and as unwitting agents of destruction of their own groups at worst.

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On the Concept of Self

Do you think the concept of “self” is an emergent phenomenon of our neural complexity and if so is it continuously emerging throughout our lifetime?

I am inclined to consider the self as an emergent property of the neural complexity through the following analogy:
Paper is the end product (through several complex processes) of wood (which has a molecular structure). On this paper could be written countless words and phrases and pictures. [How these come to be written and what, are surely infinitely more complex than the mere manufacture of paper.
Likewise, as the human entity takes form and shape and completion, and begins to grow, the paper becomes fully formed. To begin with, aside from texture and color, all blank papers are equivalent. Then gradually, through the different scripts that are imposed on the different sheets, each sheet becomes very different from every other. So too, our various selves are each very different, but they have the same substrate.
As I see it, (in this analogy) neuroscience can unravel how the substrate is manufactured, what its electro-chemical properties are, how it can be straightened out when it gets crumpled, how its longevity can be prolonged, etc. All this is no mean achievement. But I fear the generation of the particular kinds of scripts on the paper is a very much more complicated process, and may not be amenable to the standard modes of current scientific methodology. As a devotee of science, I hope I am proved wrong.

On West and Non-West

1. Do you envisage or foresee a fight in this century not between West and non-West but between Enlightenment and “archaic” traditionalism within various societies?

I suspect the conflict between the West and non-West will arise on two fronts:
(a) Economic disparities and disproportionate consumption of materials and energy by the West.
(b) Conviction (right or wrong) on the part of the leaders and intellectuals in the Non-West that the West is out to destroy their culture. In my view, this arises largely because of a confused identification of modernism with the West.

2. What kind of conflicts do you expect within the Non-West?

The internal conflicts within the non-West are likely to be largely ideological between the two following perspectives:
(i) We should embrace science and Enlightenment which is recognized by those who know history as of Western vintage in their modern versions, but of immense practical value; and by those who manipulate history as claiming to be already there implicitly in their own ancient wisdom, books, etc. This latter approach is adopted by thinkers in some Non-Western countries, and can be helpful in ushering in science and enlightened values there.
(ii) We should reject the scientific worldview and Enlightenment values. This is recommended by some post-modernist Western scholars in the West, as well as by rabid fundamentalist reactionaries elsewhere. But even they adopt all the technological offshoots of modern (Western) science. But bereft of the Enlightenment framework, this can be terribly dangerous for the whole world.

3. Do we have, from your point of view, any chance to prevent this fight turning into violence?

Simplistic answer: Yes. Mass education in the basics of physics, astronomy, biology, and history of ideas, while being extremely sensitive to the religious, cultural, traditional roots of the people in non-Western societies. The fact is that very few non-Western societies have a well-documented SOCIAL HISTORY, with the result that very few (even educated) people in those countries are even aware of the dark and unconscionable sides in their own societies in times past, though they are well acquainted with the postive and enormously rich cultural, philosophical and intellectual history. On the other hand, they are well acquainted with the exploitation and oppressive behavior of the imperialist West, they have little conscious understanding of the West’s contibutions to science, medicine, and the re-discovery of the rich and ancient history of the Non-West.

On Population Growth

Would it not be really dysfunctional for cultures to compete by producing more babies than their opponents?

I am not so sure.
For one thing it depends on whether the culture is living in a closed system, independently of others, or is a minority in a larger culture. There are regions in the world where some minority groups are intentionally breeding at a faster rate to achieve greater power vis-a-vis the majority. They have already succeeded in this in many contexts.
Population increase is for some groups (religious, racial, or linguistic) what the bottom-line is for capitalist investors. They give a damn for what happens to the world at large, or for the majority of the nation of which they are a part. Their goal is to fatten their purse because this gives them more power with respect to others.

The Why is Existence

Here’s a question, why does the Spiritual side of reality exist? Why does the Physical side of reality exist? There must be a reason, agreed?

Dear friend, you started by saying: Here’s a question, and gave three questions. The answer to the last is: NOT agreed to by everybody.
Indeed, the fundamental difference between the so-called SCIENTIFIC view of Reality and the RELIGIOUS lies precisely in this: The former does not think there MUST be a reason for the existence of anything. The latter does.
The former is based on empirical evidence, the latter on specilative vision.
If one accepts the latter (as religiously inclined people do), one does exerience an inner satisfaction: it is certainly an endopotent thesis. But it also presents us with a conceptual quandary: Various religious traditions offer different views on spiritual reality. Then the question arises: Which of these is the right one, and on what basis?
I don’t know the answer to this question I have raised. But many others seem to do. I am happy for them, but I don’t feel sorry for myself. I enjoy the mystery more than the certainty on ultimate answers that seems to satisfy people who are unable to recognize the culturally conditiond parochial origins of their knowledge on these matters