Proof that God does not exist

Although I myself don’t believe in existence of God, or other supernatural entities, I find what I call proof game – both  parties, religious and atheists, demanding proofs from each other, or providing proofs for fellow members in order to tackle the enemy – quite amusing.

A typical scenario is this. A religious man, extremist or not, talks about existence of God and an atheist, extremist or not, demands proof. After some trying, the religious man resorts to saying “Alright, can YOU prove God doesn’t exist?” to which the atheist says “You don’t understand the concept of burden of proof. I am not obliged to prove his non existence, rather you are”, often in a very condescending tone. The condescension increases as his amateur knowledge of science increases. Such people I call Dawkinians.

The atheist is right in this regard. The accepted intellectual convention is that those who make extraordinary claims are obliged to provide proofs for their claims. However, what is not right is the idea held by the atheists that they have successfully proven non existence of God because the religious couldn’t prove the existence of God.

A cursory survey of such encounters reveals that almost all atheist proofs are a sort of initial condition problem, and like any initial condition problem, starting from a different point will yield vastly different result. Typically, the religious make the claim so hold the burden of proof, which they cannot handle optimally. A nice variation would be instead of the religious claiming existence of God, they simply pose it as a question to the atheists. When the atheists say “no”, emphatically, the religious come out on top – now the burden of proof is with the atheists.

Many atheists are quick to argue that proving a negative is against the principles and conventions of philosophy, thus making it absurd. However, the better informed among the atheists, the Dawkinians, recognize that it is not really absurd to do that and they set out to prove the non existence. They use a familiar method used in mathematics – assume something is true, show that it leads to absurdity, and conclude that it cannot therefore be true. A canonical example of this in mathematics is to prove that square root of two is irrational.

The  Dawkinians treat the claims made by religious people and their scriptures as true and show that there is an abundance of things that happen contrary to the ‘facts’ espoused by the religions, or that plenty of things happen despite the claims in the religions. For the first kind the preferred topic is evolution, and for the second kind the preferred topic is prevalence of crime and suffering. Therefore, the Dawkinians say, there does not and cannot exist anything like God.

However, if you look closely at the proof, you will see that the Dawkinians have only managed to prove that a particular religious doctrine is false. They haven’t proven anything about God. It is akin to disproving a theory that tried to explain an experimental result. Just because rules of logic concluded the theory to be absurd doesn’t make the result an illusion. A cursory look at history of science shows how many theories came and went trying to explain things like light and atoms. Did the disproving of the theories have any bearing on the ‘reality’ of light or atoms? Did it disprove existence of light or atoms?

Religion is also a theory to explain the universe and everything humans perceive, such as thunder, earthquakes, dreams and death. But this theory is based on perception and emotion instead of experiments and analyses using modern scientific rules and ideas.

There are plenty of things that science can’t explain. The standard response to that by Dawkinians is ‘we don’t know yet but we will find out eventually via science’. A religious person can never say something on those lines because religions are set in stone. This makes the atheists believe that they win, albeit in some future date. What the atheists don’t know is that the religious have a trump card of their own – “only god knows best’. Every god based religion can use this trump card and there is nothing Dawkinians can do about it, and it infuriates them to the maximum. The Dawkinains know they can’t counter this trump card because it is exactly same as what they say, albeit based on different theory. Some desperate Dawkinians claim such statements by religious is an informal conceding of defeat because we can’t possibly know what God knows, and God might know nothing. Of course, they don’t see the absurdity of their arguments. It isn’t surprising then that frustrated Dawkinians mock, insult and bitch about religion and religious people  at every available half chance, often unprovoked.

The proof game is indeed very amusing.

PS:

As for my belief, I don’t believe in any superhuman entity that has created everything, but if you ask me “then how did every thing come into existence”, and keep prodding deeper and deeper, we will reach a point where I would say “I don’t know, we don’t know, but we are going to figure it out as much as possible, and it certainly isn’t due to any God”. I guess that makes me some kind of an agnostic. You might wonder how can I be “certain” about non existence of God. The answer is two fold. First, the argument that life & universe is too complex and needs a creator means the creator itself is at least as complex and thus need a creator, which is paradoxical, as God is said to have no creator etc. Second, it is a gut feeling exactly similar to those who believe God exists. If you can accept the latter, why not the former?

 

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Thank god for Pakistan

Most Indians’ sentiment is captured in the title when they see the violence that emanates from Pakistan, and not just terrorism. People say had Pakistan not been created, such sickos [sic] would have been part of India, so we must be really thankful.

Really? Lets analyze.

In 1947 British  divided India into two countries – India and Pakistan. Many people migrated from one side to the other, from both sides. That means the sickos could have come over to India as well (although their deeds aren’t as well publicized). Then how do Indians consider themselves lucky?

That is a tough question to answer without being politically incorrect. You see, Pakistan was created on the basis of religion. It was supposed to be a safe home for the allegedly and potentially persecuted Muslims of colonial India. Therefore, many Muslims moved into Pakistan, and due to ensuing religious riots, most non Muslims from the newly formed Pakistan who were already living there  for generations – mainly Hindus and Sikhs – moved out of Pakistan into to India. So, the implicit idea in the statement is that Indians are thankful that such Muslims are not in India anymore, and the finer point is due to the nature of the migrations India was saved.

Lets ignore the sociopolitical aspects of this. The point of interest for us is that the sickos are in Pakistan now.

However, that is assuming all the emigrants (or their ancestors) were bad apples. That’s a bit unfair. The sickos, or their ancestors,  could have always been on the side that is Pakistan, meaning they didn’t migrate.

Thus, there was a 50-50 or one in two chance of sickos being either in India or in Pakistan. That means India got lucky.

But there’s more.

Although Pakistan was a single country, it was originally two geographically separate regions – east and west. Bangladesh was the erstwhile East Pakistan. It separated from Pakistan in 1971 and since then West Pakistan is called Pakistan.

So, similar to India, probably with lesser migration, Bangladesh too had the same 50-50 chance as India’s and got lucky like India. That shows both India and Bangladesh are equally lucky and must be equally thankful.

But  I claim that it is wrong calculation and Bangladesh is luckier than India, and must be more thankful. Here’s how.

You see, although British India was divided into two countries, the division resulted in three geographic regions – West Pakistan, India and East Pakistan. So each had one in three chance of having the sickos within its boundaries.

That means India had 1/3 chance where as Pakistan had 2/3 chance.

Because the sickos are now in Pakistan, and Bangladesh originally had 2/3 chance of hosting the sickos, it is Bangladesh, not India, that must be really thankful.

India can be thankful, but their chance always remained the same since 1947. Had British divided India into three countries as they stand now, each would have had equal chance of hosting the sickos and both India and Bangladesh would be equally lucky and thankful for the partition.

On society, its people, and its problem

Based on their opinions on any issue in a society, people can be arranged in a table as shown.

Agree

Disagree

Neutral

Indifferent

Unconditional

Conditional

Lets begin with the first row.

Agreeing and disagreeing is indicative of their intelligence  and liberalness. It also indicates their bias, like hate and love. No doubt most people are concentrated here.

The indifferent ones are  normal people. Although it is the most prudent of the stances, it is not good to have this stance for every issue as there is a chance it will degenerate into neutral stance.

Neutral people are the worst. They are either too timid to take a stand or hopelessly uninformed. They pretend to have arrived at their stance after careful weighing of both sides of a story and being rational, no less. It shouldn’t be surprising if these people are sly, with ulterior motives.

Now lets look at the second row.

Here, only two valid stance are valid: agree and disagree. The stance may not be “correct”, but it is a committed one. Note that people can switch between agreeing and disagreeing, and it is perfectly alright in the light of new information.

Using the table, excluding the indifferent ones, people can be divided into two groups based on which row they appear in. The second row people are thinkers and rationalists while the first ones are sycophants, haters, fakes etc.  Not everyone occupies same cell for every issue. How rational one is is a measure of how often they appear in the second row.

The problem in society, probably root cause of every problem, is that most issues have more people occupying the first row most times.

Software Engineers in Civil Service

Many software engineers take up civil services exam and hope to become IAS officers. As we know, software engineers are typically from engineering (meaning science) background while a typical civil service aspirant is from arts (humanities) background. This makes a typical software engineer ignorant of sociological topics, history, administrative philosophy, law etc. Of course, in the course of studying for the exam one could pick up these subjects, but it will be simply by rote and nothing like a formal degree in BA or MA. So, how well would software engineers suit civil service domain?

Lets analyze.

Modern software engineering is mostly built on and revolves around two key concepts : abstraction and information hiding. Abstraction is the concept of assuming an entity with certain general behavioral guidelines and simply using it, without caring how exactly it does its job. Information hiding is, err, hiding information: if one gets a result as promised from an entity it doesn’t matter how exactly the result was arrived at.

Based from these two, there is this thing software engineers do in order to solve a problem. They add one more layer of abstraction, a layer with which all the interaction happens and it basically delegates the problem to lower layers. How does this solve the problem is a bit technical, but just believe me when I say it does. This is pretty standard, so much that there’s an insiders joke, a running gag : “any problem can be solved with one more layer of abstraction”.  Really, software engineers are quite adept at that. That’s the mantra they live by.

A thing that comes up again and again in software engineering is something called scalability. It is a measure of how easily the software or hardware adapts to increase in data size without nosediving performance wise. Most software engineers fail to recognize that in non trivial cases, a solution for a problem of small size doesn’t apply directly to the same problem with much larger size because they don’t at all understand growth of functions, the maths behind scalability.

One must understand that any software is bound to have bugs aka “issues”. Most bugs will be sleeping while some will be playing around. They are sly little creatures these bugs. When one is about to be killed, it broadcasts a signal that is picked up by few dormant ones that wakes them up, and waking up, they all start being themselves. To top it, these cretins reproduce in truck loads. Its almost like some eternal curse from some B movie. That’s the software engineers’ side of the story anyway. Any case, bugs never really get fixed and there will be endless patches.

Further, deadline is always relative. Actually, this is the mantra they live by. I lied earlier. And last but certainly not the least, most software engineers lie like hell on their CV.

I may have been talking about software engineering all this time but all those descriptions sounded pretty familiar, didn’t they?

Abstraction and information hiding are what citizens face. Another layer of abstraction is what the authorities do. The lawmakers, advised by civil service officers, fail at scalability. Public projects never seem to complete, not without never ending list of problems. And lying, lets not go there now!

Ergo, I declare software engineers are tailor made for civil service. They can really make it big there, maybe even move on to politics someday and become ministers.. Perhaps this is the logical career change for a software engineer after he gets arthritis in his fingers, or gets tired with juniors calling him by first name. Or wants more salary.

 

On Society and Moral Policing

For better or for worse, women have always generated a lot of angst and debate in society. Wars have been fought. Cities have been burnt. Philosophies have emerged. Policies have been abolished . Policies have been framed.

Recently, the news has been ridden with stuff like:

MLA blames women for eve-teasing
Women should dress carefully…
Women should dress ‘carefully’: NCW chief
Misogyny in popular culture: Indian cinema is equally culpable
Rajasthan: MLA calls for ban on skirts, gets one

Of course, where there are ‘regressives and conservatives’ there are bound to be ‘progressives and liberals’. I will paraphrase some of the clichés and platitudes most favored by liberals.

Wearing revealing clothes isn’t a license to rape a woman
It is my body and I’ll wear whatever I like
The problem in the society is due to the misogyny in movies
Movies featuring rapes and item songs are ruining the society

The SlutWalk thing, which is invariably supported tacitly by liberals, had plenty of posters like Stop Staring: This Is Not an Invitation to Rape Me

The point is, the liberals say moral policing of women’s way of dressing is wrong, and even misogynist in this rabidly patriarchal society, while censoring entertainment media for the moral good is necessary and recommended. I find this stance inherently contradictory. The statements boil down to these two questions:

  1. Does a woman who dresses in a certain way invite sexual harassment, or even assaults?
  2. Does a form of entertainment featuring women in a perceived negative light instill and propagate such morals in the society that lead to the negative consequences embodied in the first question?

There are, in general, two categories of people: those who generalize their answer with a “yes”, and those with a “no”. I find both stance stupid. So now I have to show two things – why is the liberal stance contradictory and why is the generalization stupid. Let’s analyze.

The two questions are specific instances of the general structure – Looking at provocative things leads to bad action. Actually, the question can be reduced further, by leaving out such subjective and loaded words like “provocative” and “bad”, but this is the form that interests us (also, we would eventually arrive at this specific case from the general case, so let us start from here directly).

When we apply this structure as a rule to the above questions, how can one produce a TRUE and another FALSE? This is why I find the liberal stance contradictory. Does it mean there are different kinds of provocations, kind of weighted by their evil?  No. How provocative is a provocation depends on a particular person.  It is a conditional thing and cannot be generalized. Causality in society is conditional. I’ll show how. To answer “why?” one would have to go into a proper social psychology study. But instead, let us do a simple thought experiment.

Imagine an open roofed room separated by a wall making two rooms. Let’s call the left side the “wrong side” and the right side, well, the “right side”. Let the whole population be divided into three groups, not necessarily equally. The first one belongs to left and the second one to right. People are free to jump across the wall. The third group stands on the wall. Walking up to the wall and climbing it is a necessary step to stand on it. The actions moving up to the wall, climbing it and jumping across are caused by a provocative thing. Jumping shows committing to the action. Thus the left side has people who have finished the action as provoked completely.

Let there be a series of provocative things exposed to the right side population emanating from the left side. It shouldn’t difficult to see that not everyone not already on the other side would jump across. Neither do everyone who walks up to the wall climbs it, and nor do all wall standers. Some jump across and remain there. Some stand on the wall forever. Some wall standers almost jump. Some wall standers fall. Some never budge from their position, wherever they might be. Some keep jumping across. Some stand close to the wall. There are endless scenarios.

Let’s see how this room metaphor works with the provocations cited in the two questions. If the left side room is filled by rapists and the right side room is exposed to a woman wearing ‘sexually provocative’ clothing, what would happen? The truly pure might avert their eyes (I we stop and think, we can see that probably these are the most vulnerable and unsure of themselves, so have to resort to forceful aversion by closing their eyes). Many might ogle. Many of the oglers might fantasize. Some might molest. Some might attempt to rape. Some might succeed in raping. Similar thing will be observed in case of the left room being filled by murderers and rapists and the right room exposed to sleazy and violent movies. Because it is a conditional thing, generalization is stupid (In fact, all generalization is stupid :p). Not only stupid but lies, misleading and dangerous.

QED.

PS: I have said “jump across”, which implies people from “wrong side” could come over to “right side”. Does it mean people reform? Well, that’s another story for another time.

Shawshank Redemption – the tunnel length

SPOILERS ALERT!

(Note: Despite my best efforts, the maths formulas tend to show up awkwardly every now and then. Please let me know if you see that happening; I’ll revert to regular text based formatting.)

I watched Shawshank Redemption  again a couple of nights ago, and every time I watch it I wonder about the length of the tunnel that Andy carved out. I couldn’t hold it any more and I attempted to unravel the mystery. I did all the maths in my head while lying in bed staring at the dark, so did a lot of generous rounding offs to get nice numbers, and have reproduced the same numbers here. This is what I came up with

Andy joins the prison in 1947 and manages to escape in 1965. Let us assume that he started carving the wall from 1950 onwards, everyday. That is 365 x 15 number of days or 5475 days in all. Let us round it off to 5500.

It is shown, when Red recounts, that Andy disposes the dust in the yard. The dust doesn’t seem to be much in quantity. Let us assume it was 200 grams per day. That makes it 200 x 5500, that is 1100000 grams in all. Or 1100 Kgs.

The tunnel appears to be cylindrical (I am still amazed at the pains he took to carve a near perfect circle. May be that is what took him that long to finish). And by the glimpse that we get of it from the inside when the warden punctures it, and also by the way Andy crouches while crawling through, it appears to be about 2 feet in diameter. In metric that is 0.6 m. Using a couple of simple formulas that we learnt in school geometry and physics, we can estimate the length of the tunnel.

Density is mass divided by volume.

\rho={m\over v}\dots(1)

Volume of a cylinder is

v = {{\pi\times d^2\times h}\over 4}

where d is the diameter and h is the height. But in our case since it is length that we are after, let us use ‘L’ in place of ‘h’. That gives us.

v={{\pi\times d^2\times L}\over 4}\dots(2)

Using (1) and (2) we get

{\rho = {{m\times 4}\over{\pi\times d^2\times L}}\dots(3)}

Taking pi to be 3.143 and using the other values that we have, putting them in (3) we get

\rho = {{1100 \times 4}\over{3.143 \times 0.6 ^2 \times L}}

or

\rho = {4400\over{1.1315\times L}}

that is

\rho = {3888.71\over L}

and after transposing L and p we get

L = {3888.71\over\rho}\dots(4)

If we can get the value of p for the material of the wall, finding the length is trivial. Remember, the got length will be in meters. Could the length be in hundreds of meters? Was the “wall” just an extra thick wall (since it appears that Andy was in a corner cell) or did it include a series of stacked walls? Was the exit right on the other side of Andy’s cell? Did the tunnel go in a straightish line or was it akin to mining? Did the tunnel continue into the ground?

We have no clue. At least I, who have only seen the movie and haven’t read the novel, don’t find a clue. However, some analysis of (4) is going to help us.

The density of the wall material is the most important variable. If the tunnel length is to be in hundreds or even tens of meters, the material of the wall must be not very dense. Check out this link that lists densities of over 300 materials. http://www.simetric.co.uk/si_materials.htm. We realize that any material that is fit to be made a prison wall out of has to have a density that ranges from 2000 kg/cu-m to 2500 kg/cu-m. Let us assume 2250 kg/cu-m.

With this density, from (4), we get 1.72 m, or 5.6 feet. An average man is 5 ft 10 inches tall. Andy seems a taller bloke than that and could be about 6 ft 2 inches tall. That would be 1.86 m. Huh, but we see Andy crawl out a fair distance, don’t we! Something seems amiss in our assumptions. If we look at the contributing variables, we find that in order for the length to be more, more wall material must be carved out for a longer period and/or the tunnel must be narrower. The latter is inconceivable albeit Andy’s narrow frame.

So let us update our assumption to 500 grams of dust being disposed everyday. With this we get

L = {9721.61\over\rho}

Plugging in the density, we end up at 4.32m or 14 feet. This implies that Andy, with his height of 1.86m, crawled 2.32 times his own length. Meaning, once he entered the tunnel and lied down such that his feet were placed flat on the imaginary door at the opening, he had to crawl one and a third more of his own length when his head would touch the imaginary door at the other end of the tunnel. (What this also implies is that with his arms outstretched, he had to crawl only just about his own body length but the crawling mechanics won’t agree with this. Just a thought anyway)

Somehow, 14 feet feels too small for our romantic idea, doesn’t it ? The only remaining factor that could fulfill our craving for a longer tunnel is time. Red tells us that Andy asked for Rita Hayworth’s poster in 1949 but we have no clue how far into ’49 did he ask. Let us assume he asked for it half way through and started his attempt immediately. With this updated time period, we have 180 days more to the already assumed 5500 days giving us 5680 days.

If we rework our equations with 500 gms of dust, carved out of the wall having density of 2250 kg/cu-m, disposed off for 5680 days, we arrive at 4.46 m for the length, or 14.6 feet, which is 2.4 times Andy’s tall frame.

You may feel this is still not good enough but there is nothing else we can do to improve this to fit our romantic idea of a long tunnel. Further, we have already been very generous in our assumptions and rounding offs, so we just have to accept it.

PS: From the in universe perspective, we have to give credit to Andy for carving out that 14.6 feet long a tunnel, tenaciously. Considering the conditions he was in, it would be as much a feat as carving a 50 feet tunnel.