Friday, August 17, 2007

The News in China

Today I was watching a Chinese news channel broadcasting news in English. It’s like news broadcast by Doordarshan 20 years ago. There are no specialists present in the studio to discuss things. There is on boring woman taking pain of going through the entire news. There are no graphs, no analysis, nothing. The Chinese news is also similar to this one only. The media in China are at least 20 years behind of Indian counterpart. Everywhere in the news, the signature of socialism is bright and visible.

Let’s dig deep into the news contents. It was showing the Chinese premiere visiting Afghan and Iranian counterpart to talk to them. The reader summarized their comments without any analysis. Next, the domestic issues were presented. The price of pork (main source of meat in China) has been gone down this week by 1.2%. However, the other meats (Chicken and Lamb) have jumped once again. At the end of the scoop, she reminds us that price of pork has been doubled this year due to the shortage of sources. It’s really pathetic. I think if the price of Chicken doubles in any state of India within a year then that could be a good enough cause to vote that particular govt. out of the power. Poor Chinese people seem to forget protests and they have to live in a harsh capitalist society. It seems even USA is less capitalist than ‘Communist’ China.

Next the news about pollution came on screen. China is banning half of the cars from the roads of big cities to reduce the pollution. This is a reaction to the reports that most of Chinese cities are over-polluted. The reader added that the aim is to offer the Olympian guests a better China. The way to achieve half-ban is very simple – ban odd numbered cars on a day and the even ones on the next (between 8am to 8pm possibly). So, if you are a patient and need to use the car, I don’t know what you’d do. Should you wait for a day? Or take permission from some authority to drive (nothing similar was mentioned though)? Only China knows.

The trade news consists of the statements made in a single press conference. Some minister had warned a few countries not to carry out anti-dumping investigations on various Chinese products. He threatened them that China will deal the issue through WTO, in case any negative steps are taken. It seems like single news but the news composer has managed to disintegrate the news into two parts – one against some ‘friendlier’ nations (like Russia and Mongolia) using friendlier tones and the other against some rich competitor nations (like US and Canada) using harsh words. The selection of words was really praiseworthy, who says Chinese are weak in English?

Only in a few lines the reader completed the ‘irritating’ issue of China blocking the entry of Taiwan in the UN. China does not recognize it as a sovereign state, since it considers Taiwan a part of China (no reference to people of Taiwan at all, it seems that Taiwan is a barren no-man’s-land). So, that’s what Taiwan is.

The last one was on Chinese children in a ‘summer camp’ organized by the Govt. (once again!!!). The children are taught some self-dependency and creativity. They do learn organizing rooms, washing own clothes and dishes. And the afternoon is open for all to play. That’s the nicest piece of news I watched. The focus on quality of children is something totally missing in Indian Govt activities. I can China in multiple ways, but the foresight to create ‘quality’ children is really nice and should be replicated in India as well.

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Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Einstein on Religion and Science

Any Scientific minded person who considers himself as a religious or an atheist, should read thses wonderful articles of Albert Einstein. These are, in a sense, an eye-opener to me, that how beautifully one could express how religion and science can be reconciled. There are four master-pieces, all of them are worth reading at a stretch. I know there will be many religious people claiming that Einstein was a ‘deeply religious’, but what I found here, that he defined the religion in totally a different way to build himself as ‘deeply religious’. Let’s go through a few excellent quotes.

On how the religion has come :

“With primitive man it is above all fear that evokes religious notions - fear of hunger, wild beasts, sickness, death. Since at this stage of existence understanding of causal connections is usually poorly developed, the human mind creates illusory beings more or less analogous to itself on whose wills and actions these fearful happenings depend. Thus one tries to secure the favor of these beings by carrying out actions and offering sacrifices which, according to the tradition handed down from generation to generation … This, though not created, is in an important degree stabilized by the formation of a special priestly caste which sets itself up as a mediator between the people and the beings they fear …”

Problems in the above definition of religion and his own view :

“Common to all these types is the anthropomorphic character of their conception of God. … I shall call it cosmic religious feeling. It is very difficult to elucidate this feeling to anyone who is entirely without it, especially as there is no anthropomorphic conception of God corresponding to it. … The individual feels the futility of human desires and aims and the sublimity and marvelous order which reveal themselves both in nature and in the world of thought. Individual existence impresses him as a sort of prison and he wants to experience the universe as a single significant whole. Buddhism, as we have learned especially from the wonderful writings of Schopenhauer, contains a much stronger element of this. “

On morality :

“A man’s ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties and needs; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hopes of reward after death.”

In praise of religion (article 1 and 2):

“The highest principles for our aspirations and judgments are given to us in the Jewish-Christian religious tradition. If one were to take that goal out of its religious form and look merely at its purely human side, one might state it perhaps thus: free and responsible development of the individual, so that he may place his powers freely and gladly in the service of all mankind.”

Defining a religious person and religion (Article 3) :

“a person who is religiously enlightened appears to me to be one who has, to the best of his ability, liberated himself from the fetters of his selfish desires and is preoccupied with thoughts, feelings, and aspirations to which he clings because of their superpersonalvalue. … Religion, on the other hand, deals only with evaluations of human thought and action: it cannot justifiably speak of facts and relationships between facts.”

In support of Science :

“For example, a conflict arises when a religious community insists on the absolute truthfulness of all statements recorded in the Bible. This means an intervention on the part of religion into the sphere of science; this is where the struggle of the Church against the doctrines of Galileo and Darwin belongs.”

This is exactly where he sounds like an absolute Atheist :

“Nobody, certainly, will deny that the idea of the existence of an omnipotent, just, and omnibeneficent personal God is able to accord man solace, help, and guidance; also, by virtue of its simplicity it is accessible to the most undeveloped mind. But, on the other hand, there are decisive weaknesses attached to this idea in itself, which have been painfully felt since the beginning of history. That is, if this being is omnipotent, then every occurrence, including every human action, every human thought, and every human feeling and aspiration is also His work; how is it possible to think of holding men responsible for their deeds and thoughts before such an almighty Being? In giving out punishment and rewards He would to a certain extent be passing judgment on Himself. How can this be combined with the goodness and righteousness ascribed to Him? … The main source of the present-day conflicts between the spheres of religion and of science lies in this concept of a personal God. “

How religions with ‘personal God’ will play around Science :

“To be sure, the doctrine of a personal God interfering with natural events could never be refuted, in the real sense, by science, for this doctrine can always take refuge in those domains in which scientific knowledge has not yet been able to set foot. “

A request to religious leaders to modify their approach to religion :

“In their struggle for the ethical good, teachers of religion must have the stature to give up the doctrine of a personal God, that is, give up that source of fear and hope which in the past placed such vast power in the hands of priests.”

Again restricting religion in the domain of idealism and attitude :

“As regards religion, on the other hand, one is generally agreed that it deals with goals and evaluations and, in general, with the emotional foundation of human thinking and acting, as far as these are not predetermined by the inalterable hereditary disposition of the human species. Religion is concerned with man’s attitude toward nature at large, with the establishing of ideals for the individual and communal life, and with mutual human relationship.”

On in-community brotherly love :

“For while religion prescribes brotherly love in the relations among the individuals and groups, the actual spectacle more resembles a battlefield than an orchestra. “

Overall, I feel the articles are really great. The gist is - Science and Religion are friends is they stay in their own ground. Science should not try to guide what is worthy and what is worthless, what we should do and what we should not. At the same time, Religion should not try to describe how the nature works, neither should it insist anything to be ‘created’ by God as a person. He condemned the idea of ‘religion of fear’, that is, the idea to tell people to be good only because some Omnipotent God will punish them otherwise after death. Overall, these come under one of the best read articles of my life time - they sound very strong.

Links once more.

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