Thursday, July 25, 2013

Women Under a Cloudy Lens

A few days back, my wife posed a rhetorical question.  She asked why it was necessary for girls to leave their homes after marriage and enter the homes of their in-laws, while the same was not explicitly required of the men they married.  Considering the readership of this site is predominantly in the U.S., this may sound like a bit of an odd question, but it makes sense within the context of the pervading "old-fashioned" culture of India.  It is actually an in-built component of the definition of marriage over their, even if "entering" someone else's home is more of a paper entry.  It's something that even as the younger generation are starting to become more and more Westernized (at least in the urban parts of the country), and 99 out of every 100 Bollywood films espouses idealistic love-conquers-all romance that flies in the face of outdated parochial cultural attitudes about marriage and raising children...  and yet these tinges remain.

It's a bit funny when I hear the anti-gay crowd here in the U.S. talk about preserving "traditional marriage", and I think back to how we define that in India.  Really, the "traditional marriage" in India is closer to that which marriage actually was in ancient times.  It wasn't originally a union between lovers; it was a union between tribes, where young able-bodied humans (where able-bodied for a man meant he could fight well enough to kill your enemies and able-bodied for a woman meant she was hot enough to bed frequently) were the units of trade to cement contracts.  This is still reflected in India today where the culture views "marriage" as "marrying an entire family" rather than something between two people.  The local community including neighbors and distant relatives you've probably never met and friends, family doctors, and lawyers all expressing some vested interest in the success of someone's marriage, regardless of whether it really has anything to do with them or not.  Even to this day, we have a tendency to use the word "alliance" rather than fiance/fiancee.

Monday, July 8, 2013

NOMA and The Right Questions (Part 2)

Link to Part 1

Picking up where I left off, I pointed out my core issue with the NOMA argument is that it fails even on its own terms even if you disregard the utter inability of theists to offer the courtesy of "live and let live" while simultaneously demanding it of others.  It argues that science and religion are separate magisteria, but it simply has no validation on the magisteria of religion.  There is no reason to think that any of the questions that religion purports to hold answers for are even valid questions in the first place.  Being literate on the topic, of course, is exactly how you get into the position of asking the right questions, which is why knowledge is so crucial, and why it is similarly important not to equivocate knowledge with belief and opinion.

But that was the logic portion of my argument in the email thread.  Then comes the science portion, and it was triggered by such responses as these.

NOMA and The Right Questions (Part 1)

I know that compared to a lot of bloggers out there, I'm pretty verbose, and I try as much as I can to be exhaustive in my takedowns of various ideas.  That in its end, has also given me a reputation as someone who writes a hell of a lot and leaves nothing unturned.  It also earns me a lot of flaming emails, but that's often hilarious.  Of course, this blog isn't the only place where I go so wild.  In some mailing lists where I work, I also do much the same because someone is bound to say something ridiculous. For example, when I see someone asking for recommendations about reiki healers and such, I always give the best possible recommendation -- go to an actual doctor. They can do more for any one patient than all reiki "healers" combined can ever do for anyone.  In any case, I get known throughout my office as the "guy with the huge posts on [mailing list which shall go unnamed]."

Well, I felt like actually bringing up an example of an exchange I had with a few people about the NOMA(non-overlapping magisteria) argument for belief.  This is probably one of the least confrontational modalities by which people try to reconcile science and reason with religion.  It's the idea that religion simply deals with different topics and questions than science and mathematics does, so it's still valid within its scope even if not necessarily valid within anything that falls in the purview of science.  This was first advanced by Stephen Jay Gould, and I have a feeling that if he'd still been alive today, he'd probably not think this way at all.  There are simply too many examples which clearly demonstrate that religion brazenly trespasses on the territory of science and the religious extremists demand the supremacy of their irrational beliefs over fact.  But nonetheless, in a particular thread, I tried to address the other problem I have with the NOMA argument because that's what was originally brought up in the thread.

Here's what that looked like.