Wednesday, February 28, 2007

What is a Soul?

Soul, as per most of the religions, is an immortal essence of a human. It survives physical death. According to some believes, it goes to Hell or Heaven with some other body. Some others believe, it takes another body to reborn as a human once more.

The essential property of a soul is 'self-awareness'. It means, a soul knows the identity of the human attached to it. So, it is safe to conclude that soul has memory (at least minimal) since it retains knowledge. This 'self-awareness' property is lost in the case of rebirth, with some exceptions. In case of other beliefs, the new body in hell or heaven must retain the identity of the human - otherwise what's the use of punishing or pampering it?

Now coming to the 'minimal memory', what is the exact domain of memory retained by the soul at physical death? If it is only the name and address of the human being, it cannot simply have a 'self-awareness' property. It should retain most of the memory of the human being it has been attached to. In other words, the memory at the time of death is the best candidate to be retained by soul, as logically deduced from beliefs.

Is the memory physical or non-physical? It has to be physical. It resides within human brain. There are brain disorders(Alzheimer's disease) those kill the memory. There are different types of Amnesia resulting out of head injury. This brings us to the paradox - what memory does the soul retain for an Amnesia patient? After all, the soul is non-physical. So, the memory has to be freed from the physical container (brain). The paradox two states that how this detachment takes place?

There are many other candidates as a soul like mind, thought and emotions. But none of them could logically survive without memory, can they? The modern soul theorists claim that soul is supernatural, it 'temporarily' stays inside the brain and then can easily float out of it. Even, that does not answer the paradox one. After all, a huge percentage of human beings suffer from global amnesia before death. Does the soul depart earlier for them? It cannot - according to the beliefs.

And, if I logically conclude that there is no soul then there should not be any hell or heaven as well. Neither should there be an afterlife. So, what are we living for? Is it to get a place in heaven or to merge our soul with the eternal soul? It increasingly seems that we live for ourselves. The life is a single and beautiful expression of a human being - with his body and mind. Live the life first, there might not be an afterlife at all.

References :
1) Religious views on soul.
2) Amnesia

Atheism, Religion, Soul

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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Remembering 21st February

21st February is a day to remember for each Bengali. Officially, it's known as International Mother Language Day. But, to a Bengali, it signifies the passion for language, it's a love for literature in mother tongue and a lot more. This is the day when Bengalis shed their bloods for their language.

Details history of The Language Movement is available in the Virtual Bangladesh site. I am quoting a few key turning points of the chronicle.

September 15, 1947
Tamuddun Majlis (Cultural Society, an organization by scholars, writers and journalists oriented towards Islamic ideology) in a booklet titled State Language of Pakistan : Bengali or Urdu? demands Bengali as one of the state language of Pakistan.
February 23, 1948
Direndra Nath Dutta, a Bengali opposition member, moves a resolution in the first session of Pakistan's Constituent Assembly for recognizing Bengali as a state language along with Urdu and English.
March 21, 1948
Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan and its first Governor-General, while on a visit to East Bengal, declares in Dhaka University convocation that while the language of the province can be Bengali, the "State language of Pakistan is going to be Urdu and no other language. Any one who tries to mislead you is really an enemy of Pakistan."

January 26, 1952
The Basic Principles Committee of the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan announces its recommendation that Urdu should be the only state language.
In a public meting at Paltan Maidan, Dhaka, Prime Minister Nazimuddin declares that Urdu alone will be the state language of Pakistan.
Both the developments spark off the second wave of language agitation in East Bengal.
February 21, 1952
A general strike is observed.
Noon - A meeting is held in the campus of Dhaka University. Students decide to defy the official ban imposed by Nurul Amin's administration and processions are taken out to stage a demonstration in front of the Provincial Assembly. Police starts lobbing tear gas shells to the students. Students retaliate by batting bricks. The ensuing riot spreads to the nearby campuses of the Medical and Engineering colleges.
4 p.m. -The police opens fire in front of the Medical College hostel. Five persons - Mohammad Salauddin, Abdul Jabbar, Abul Barkat, Rafiquddin Ahmed and Abdus Salam - are killed, the first three are students of Dhaka University.
"The news of the killing spread like wildfire throughout the city and people rushed in thousands towards the Medical College premises." (-- Talukder Maniruzzaman)
Inside the assembly, six opposition members press for the adjournment of the House and demand an inquiry into the incidents. But Chief Minister Nurul Amin urges the House to proceed with the planned agenda for the day. At this point all the opposition members of the Assembly walk out in protest.
February 22, 1952
Thousands of men and women throng the university, Medical College and Engineering College areas to offer prayers for the victims of the police firing.
After prayers when they go for a procession, the police opens fire.
The police also fire on angry mob who burned the offices of a pro-government newspaper. Four persons are killed.
February 24, 1952
The government gives full authority to the police and military to bring the situation in Dhaka back to normal within 48 hours.
February 25, 1952
The Dhaka University is closed sine die.
May 7, 1954
The Pakistan government recognizes Bangla as a state language.
Feb 26, 1956
The Constituent Assembly passes the first Constitution of Pakistan recognizing Bangla as a State Language.
March 23, 1956
The first Constitution of Pakistan comes into effect.
March 26, 1971
Bangladesh become an independent nation.

Actually, the language movement the distance between Bengalis and West Pakistanis grew and eventually resulted in Bangladesh Liberation War and Freedom of Bangladesh as a nation in 1971. They paid 3 million more lives to gain independence and the absolute freedom of language.

My Analysis

I think the apathy of Pakistani policymakers to East Pakistan was solely responsible to create the whole problem. A country, with more than 50% Bengalis, should have a special recognition of that language. Instead of doing that, a common all language was not a good proposition to impose. India has accepted Hindi as a National language, very slowly. India initially recognized all major state languages as "language of the state". Even then, Indians had shed blood for the sake of their language. So, the declaration of Urdu as a National Language by Pakistan in 1947 planted a Time Bomb in Bangladesh which blasted off in 1971.

A better way to unite the geographically separated West and East Pakistan were to grant language autonomy to either sides.

Detail discussion at Language Movement page of wikipedia.
Rezwan's post.

Bangladesh, Bengali.

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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Moving on ...

I have moved on to wordpress. However, I'd continue this blog also for next few days. But the content of both would be the same. Thanks for all visitors in my wordpress blog.

Monday, February 19, 2007

The Myths Against Atheism

The 10 top myths against Atheism are :

1) Atheists believe that life is meaningless.
2) Atheism is responsible for the greatest crimes in human history.
3) Atheism is dogmatic.
4) Atheists think everything in the universe arose by chance.
5) Atheism has no connection to science.
6) Atheists are arrogant.
7) Atheists are closed to spiritual experience.
8) Atheists believe that there is nothing beyond human life and human understanding.
9) Atheists ignore the fact that religion is extremely beneficial to society.
10) Atheism provides no basis for morality.

Sam Harris, the author of "The End of Faith" and "Letter to a Christian Nation", bursts these 10 myths against Atheism. He tried to prove atheists are normal people and only notion they have is to reject anything that is not yet proved. According to his theory, atheism does not mean that one has to grab some other dogma (like Marxism) and behave according to that. Atheism is restricted to rejection of religious dogma. The source of morality for Atheists changes to some modern books, laws and behavioural science rather than ancient holy texts, and by no matter they are immoral.

The most interesting was the myth 9, which says that "Atheists ignore the fact that religion is extremely beneficial to society." It seems from his writing that Atheists are ready to accept the historical importance of religion but not as a source of morality. He says that if human beings are able to "choose" from good and bad texts of the Holy Books and also provide "better" interpretations for those "bad" texts, then why shouldn't we directly bypass those holy texts and use our own choice.

However, the problem that I often see scientists and historians quoting against Atheism is the lack of alternative guideline. Human beings are still too weak to live without any guideline, specifically laid out to them by some supreme being. Rod Liddle suggests that we should leave God as he is since the drastic absence of God could create instable society since human beings will grab some other dogma. Sam Harris is yet to answer this "Moral Vacuum Dilemma" against Atheism.

Reference :
1) The Trouble with Atheism - part 1. (Youtube video - 24mins)
2) The Trouble with Atheism - part 2. (Youtube video - 25mins)

Atheism, Sam Harris, Myth.

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Sunday, February 18, 2007

The Epicurus Riddle

While going through Richard Dawkins' book The God Delusion, the argument that struck me a lot was in fact posted long back(Around 300 BC) by a Greek Philosophist, Epicurus. The argument is said to be the first argument for Atheism.

The argument goes like this (Epicurus, as quoted in 2000 Years of Disbelief):

Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able, and willing? Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither willing, nor able? Then why call him God?

Isn't the argument a little bit different from the popular arguments for Atheism?

The other one came from Russell's Teapot argument, which goes like this :

If I were to suggest that between the Earth and Mars there is a china teapot revolving about the sun in an elliptical orbit, nobody would be able to disprove my assertion provided I were careful to add that the teapot is too small to be revealed even by our most powerful telescopes. But if I were to go on to say that, since my assertion cannot be disproved, it is intolerable presumption on the part of human reason to doubt it, I should rightly be thought to be talking nonsense. If, however, the existence of such a teapot were affirmed in ancient books, taught as the sacred truth every Sunday, and instilled into the minds of children at school, hesitation to believe in its existence would become a mark of eccentricity and entitle the doubter to the attentions of the psychiatrist in an enlightened age or of the Inquisitor in an earlier time.

Bertrand Russell clearly compared God with 'China teapot' that is preached in a way that cannot be disproved. Also, the accusition against the doubter is satirically criticised in his argument.

Is there any good answer to these questions (especially the first one) with anyone? I am yet to take a side.
Epicurus, Atheism

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The Origin of Life : RNA Hypothesis

Of late I have been reading books by great scientists. The best one as I found out, is one from James Watson, named as DNA : The secret of Life. I have gone through first three chapters of the book only. It has given me a lot of knowledge on how the life has been evolved on the earth.

The basic mystery that I had prior to reading the book was on the relation between protein and life. The explanation tha I got is really interesting. It's the DNA that replicates a part of it (transcribes) to messenger RNA. The messenger RNA then comes to Ribosome and gets translated to amino acids with the help of transfer RNAs present there. Amino acids are catalyzed by RNAs to build polypeptide bonds among them to generate Protein. But, DNA, RNA and the Proteins are built on nucleotides.

Here the RNA World hypothesis comes into picture. It's now obvious that RNA has a property to store, transmit and duplicate the genetic information as DNA. It can also produce proteins - the building block of life. According to this hypothesis, RNA was independent initially and later evolved a barrier outside to form later form of life - like bacteria and Amoeba. Carl Zimmer, who's working on this for long, believes that RNA Viruses are the last common ancestors of life. They evolved into DNA based viruses and since then, the superior system of DNA based life exists.

The most interesting part to me was the role of Natural Selection in the process of forming RNAs. Initially nucleotides (purely chemical substance) were free floating. They were often formed bonds to bind together. but certain sequence of bonds had properties to bind and go to more stable state. As each chain grew longer it attracted more matching nucleotides faster. RNA is one of these giant nucleotide chains. In an RNA world, different forms of RNA compete with each other for free nucleotides and are subject to natural selection. The most efficient molecules of RNA, the ones able to efficiently catalyze their own reproduction, survived and evolved, forming modern RNA. The competition grew and resulted in co-operation between separate RNA chains to produce more and more different proteins. DNA came later and so lipids, carbohydrates and other materials since a collaboration of such materials were more 'sustainable' and 'replicable'.

The main problem of this thesis was the instability of RNA while being exposed to UV Rays. Recent experiments also suggest that the original estimates of the size of an RNA molecule capable of self-replication were most probably vast underestimated, the size can be smaller than one have thought of. More-modern forms of the RNA World theory propose that a simpler molecule was capable of self-replication (that other "World" then evolved over time to produce the RNA World). There are many more hypothesis surrounding this RNA and life but the lack of undisturbed sedimentary rock from that early in Earth's history leaves few opportunities to test any of these hypothesis robustly.

The idea of RNA world was first proposed in Carl Woese's The Genetic Code. The term was coined in 1986, by Walter Gilbert.

The origin of life on earth is a mystery that Humankind ought to solve. The proper understanding might give us several advantages over the natural world. We may create our own microbes to fight against the diseases caused by virus and bacteria. We will have much better understanding of each of the building blocks of our own body.

News Reference from BBC :
Creation of Viral life by researchers.

DNA, RNA, Evolution, Origin of Life

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Tuesday, February 06, 2007


I would recommend a few books I am going through right now. I'll come up with my understandings once I finish them.

Book 1 : DNA : The Secret of Life by James Watson, person who discovered the Double Helix.

Book 2 : The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins.

Book 3 : The Inflationary Universe by Alan Guth.

All three are very good books if somebody likes the topics. The first one ranges from Eugenics to modern-day DNA fingerprinting and Genetically Modified Crops. It starts with a critical note against Darwinism, but went onto describe how it has overcome the problems and eventually adding value in the human society.

The second one is self-descriptive, Dawkins refuted all the traditional claims for existence of God and called to organize the atheists. He argued how atheists are suffering despite their stance is the most logical one.

The third one starts from Big-Bang theory and it's proofs. It also comes to the flaws in the theory and eventually gets into the new Inflationary Theory on the creation of Universe. He described the evolution of his theory with references to the key incidents in his life in a lucid manner. The ideas are a little bit difficult to digest (especially the negative pressure of vacuum), but a second thought should solve the problems.

I hope I can finish the books very soon and come up with my analysis. I have to go throough half of Book 1 and 2, and a quarter of the last one. Till then, if anyone else can come up with his views, I'd be greatful to him.

Monday, February 05, 2007

The Business of 'Fake' Encounters

The news of Fake Encounters really shaked my heart. From today onwards, I won't be at the same mood seeing 'routine' killing of militants in Kashmir. As it was in the case of 'Abu Hafiz', the LeT Commander. Army sources told us that he was killed an 'encounter' with SOG (Special Operations Group) on 8th December. And the person who actually killed him, got an award of 120,000Rs (almost US$ 2700).

Almost after one and half months, another prize was offered by an old man, Ghulam Rasool Padroo at Rambagh Police Station near Srinagar. He offered 20,000 Rs to the ASP to find out his missing son Abdul Rehman Padroo, a father of 5 children, a carpenter in profession. The connection between the mentioned incidents is known to us. A DNA examination will be carried out to confirm the the killing of Abdul in a chilling 'fake encounter'.

The key to this was Constable Farooq Rehman Padroo, a relative of Abdul. Abdul used to work at Rural Development department as a daily wage worker. He paid bribe of Rs. 75,000 to Farooq to ensure a permanent job in that operation. But neither the job was ensured, nor the money came back. 8th December, 2006, he called him to the Police Station. Abdul never returned back. It is alleged that Farooq, with his four associates in the Police Station, killed Abdul and distributed the money among themselves.

Sources : Anandabazar Patrika and Hindustan Times(along with two more cases of Nazir Ahmad Deka and Shoukat Ahmad Khan).

The latest update : The SSP Hansraj Parihar and his deputy Bahadur Ram are been arrested in the connection. The tension continues in Kashmir. TOI reports that even ShivSena is protesting these fake encounters.

How can we survive the corruption by lawkeepers? Or perhaps we can if we have some money to engage a few people, a few renouned lawyers, a few NGOs and media. But, what's really a price of a carperner in a terror-prone Kashmir? What can his family do to save his life? Nothing ... practically.