Thoughts in the atmosphere

Things of the world, and out of it.

Archive for July, 2009

Is the world an illusion?

Posted by desicontrarian on July 13, 2009

Francis Crick, An Astonishing Hypothesis.

1. a person’s mental activities are entirely due to the behavior of nerve cellsglial cells, and the atoms,ions, and molecules that make them up and influence them.

2. You, your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behaviour of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules

Descartes, Meditations on first Philosophy

I have formerly accepted as true and certain those things I learn through the senses. Like the fact that I am seated by this fire, in a dressing gown, with this paper in my hands. And how could I deny that this body is mine, unless I was as mad as those whose cerebella are so clouded by black bile that they believe they have an earthenware head or a glass body? Yet, I must remember that I have dreams, which are almost as insane. Often I have dreamt that I was dressed and seated near this fire, whilst I was lying undressed in bed! It seems to me that I am now awake, but I remind myself that I have dreamt that too. Yet even dreams are formed out of things real and true. Just as a painter represents sirens or satyrs from a medley of different animals; even quite novel images are still composed of real colours.

For the same reason, although general things may be imaginary, we are bound to confess that there are simpler objects which are real and true; such as colours, quantity or magnitude and number. That is why Physics, Astronomy, Medicine and those sciences which consider composite things, are dubious; but Arithmetic, Geometry and sciences which treat of things very simple and general contain some certainty. For whether I am awake or asleep, two and three always form five, and a square has four sides. It does not seem possible that truths so clear and apparent can be uncertain.

Meditation two.

I knew that I could eat and walk, but that would be impossible if my body were a deceit. I knew that I had sensations. But one cannot feel without body, and besides, I have dreamt of having sensations. What of thinking? This surely is an attribute that belongs to me; it alone cannot be separated from me. Could it be the case that if I ceased to think, then I would cease to exist?

Putting aside all which is not necessarily true: then I can accurately state that I am no more than a thing which thinks, that is to say a mind or a soul, or an understanding, or a reason.

I am, however, a real thing; but what thing? I have answered: a thing which thinks. I exist, but what am I? I am the I whom I know exists. The very knowledge of my existence does not depend on uncertain things, nor could I feign it; for there would still be the I that feigns things. I am a thinking thing which doubts, understands, affirms, denies, wills, refuses, imagines and feels.

From Slate Magazine

  1. Scientists at a Chinese robotic engineering institute remotely controlled a flying pigeon.First they implanted tiny electrodes in its brain. By activating the electrodes from a computer, they “forced the bird to comply with their commands,” flying right, left, up, or down.
  2. Scientists in Germany used pattern recognition software to predict, from functional magnetic resonance imaging of people’s brains, whether each person had secretly decided to add or subtract two numbers he was looking at. The computer correctly predicted the decision 71 percent of the time.
  3. By implanting electrodes in rats’ brains, scientists have created remote-controlled rodents they can command to turn left or right, climb trees and navigate piles of rubble and maybe someday, with the rats outfitted with tiny video cameras, use to search for disaster survivors.

    “If you have a collapsed building and there are people under the rubble, there’s no robot that exists now that would be capable of going down into such a difficult terrain and finding those people, but a rat would be able to do that,” said John Chapin, a professor of physiology and pharmacology at the State University of New York in Brooklyn.The lab animals aren’t exactly robot rats. They had to be trained to carry out the commands.

    Chapin’s team fitted five rats with electrodes and power-pack backpacks. When signaled by a laptop computer, the electrodes stimulated the rodents’ brains and cued them to scurry in the desired direction, then rewarded them by stimulating a pleasure center in the brain. The rats’ movements could be controlled up to 1,640 feet away, the length of more than five football fields.

The delightful essay by Daniel Dennett, Where Am I ( a must read)

……..

………

……  No way had been found to shield the brain from these deadly rays, which were apparently harmless to other tissues and organs of the body. So it had been decided that the person sent to recover the device shouldleave his brain behind.

………………

………………

The day for surgery arrived at last and of course I was anesthetized and remember nothing of the operation itself. When I came out of anesthesia, I opened my eyes, looked around, and asked the inevitable, the traditional, the lamentably hackneyed postoperative question: “Where am l?”

……………..

……………..

“Yorick,” I said aloud to my brain, “you are my brain. The rest of my body, seated in this chair, I dub ‘Hamlet.’ ” So here we all are: Yorick’s my brain, Hamlet’s my body, and I am Dennett. Avow, where am l? And when I think “where am l?” where’s that thought tokened? Is it tokened in my brain, lounging about in the vat, or right here between my ears where it seems to be tokened? Or nowhere? Its temporal coordinates give me no trouble; must it not have spatial coordinates as well?

…………

………….

Thus, leading scientists, philosophers and lab technicians are confronting the problem of the world experience.  Maaya philosophy of Hinduism, under attack by materialists, gets indirect and tentative nods from such findings and speculations.

Statements like Hindus  have a school-boy philosophy of Maaya –  are questionable. The question is – is Maaya philosophy valid, invalid or partly valid?

We may be like mice in a maze, and unable to look at the maze from the outside. The world that we see is a creation of our brain/mind. If we can “jump ouside the maze”, then we might be able to see the entire landscape of the maze.

What is the maze made up of? Our thoughts, feelings, bodily and mental sensations and perceptions.  Each of them is another sub-maze in itself. We do not know which thought, feeling, sensation or perception will happen to us after 2 minutes, nay, the next instant.

Therefore, we need to closely watch these streams of our mind. They are not static, but dynamic, chaotic and incoherent.  The idea is to watch them like a witness, without interfering with them and perturbing the mind even more. As we watch, we gain the calmness and stillness which allows us to see the mind which creates the experience. If this mind is stilled, the walls of the maze are dissolved and a lofty horizon opens up to us.

This is what the 5 schools of Yoga (Hatha yoga, Jnana yoga, Bhakthi yoga, Raja yoga and Karma yoga) aim to achieve through various practices. The various ways are according to the practitioners’ temperaments. Each human being can chose to follow any of these paths, and understand his true identity and possibilities.

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Erudite but misled – Part III

Posted by desicontrarian on July 12, 2009

  1. In a Michael Danino paper (PDF),  Sanghamitra Sahoo constructs an eloquent table of genetic distances between several populations, based on Y-haplogroups . The caste populations of ‘north’ and ‘south’ India are not particularly more closely related to each other (average Fst value = 0.07) than they are to the tribal groups (average Fst value = 0.06). In particular, Southern castes and tribals are very similar to each other in their Y-chromosomal haplogroup compositions.” As a result, it was not possible to confirm any of the purported differentiations between the caste and tribal pools, a momentous conclusion that directly clashes with the Aryan paradigm, which imagined Indian tribes as adivasis and the caste Hindus as descendants of Indo-Aryans invaders or immigrants. In reality, we have no way, today, to determine who in India is an “adi”-vasi, but enough data to reject this label as misleading and unnecessarily divisive.
  2. B.N. Narahari Achar has dated the Mahabharatha war to 3067 B.C.. It is based on the following facts: there was an equinox near jyeshTHa; a solar eclipse occurred at jyeshTHa in an eclipse season with two lunar eclipses on either side; the final lunar eclipse occurred in less than fourteen days after the solar eclipse. It is demonstrated conclusively by the simulations that the proposed date, which is identical to the one proposed earlier by Raghavan, provides the best agreement with the events described in the epic.
  3. GeneticDistanceTable

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Erudite but misled – Part II

Posted by desicontrarian on July 12, 2009

Prominect Indologist Koenraad Elst. Here,  here and here.

  1. There are, broadly speaking, three political movements which have taken an interest in the Aryan invasion debate. The first consists of European colonialists and racists, very active before 1945, as in the Nazi schoolbooks where the Aryan Invasion Theory (AIT) was used as the perfect illustration of white dynamism and military superiority (whites entered the dark-skinned people’s country, not the reverse), white racism (Aryan invaders devised and imposed the caste system to prevent miscegenation), the perennial threat of racial mixing (the upper castes are visibly non-white, proving that their ancestors succumbed to the seduction of dark-skinned beauties), and the destructive results of such racial mixing (Indians have not contributed to scientific progress for centuries, unlike their whiter ancestors, and they were no match for a small number of white British invaders). Likewise, in 1935 Winston Churchill declared that the British had as much right to be in India as anyone else there, except perhaps “the Depressed Classes, who are the native stock”, meaning that most Indians were the progeny of invaders equally foreign in origin as the British.The second group is the anti-Hindu front in India, including Christian missionaries, so-called Ambedkarites, Dravidian separatists, Marxists and, just now joining the AIT bandwagon, militant Muslims. All of these proclaim to be concerned with — or just to be — the natives of India, dispossessed by the Aryan invaders who brought Hinduism from outside. While the political animus of this group entirely stems from Indian conditions, viz. the anti-Hindu struggle, their intellectual source of inspiration, mainly through Christianity and Marxism, is largely Western.The third group is lined up against the first two, in that it opposes the AIT: the Hindu nationalists. Seeing the disruptive and separatist uses to which the AIT has been and is being put, they feel they need to support the refutation of the AIT.
  2. Shrikant Talageri’s survey of the relative chronology of all Ŗgvedic kings and poets, recently made public in several lectures, has been based exclusively on the internal textual evidence (see Talageri: The Ŗgveda, a Historical Analysis, Delhi, forthcoming), and yields a completely consistent chronology. Its main finding is that the geographical gradient of Vedic Aryan culture in its Ŗgvedic stage is from east to west, with the eastern river Ganga appearing a few times in the older passages (written by the oldest poets mentioning the oldest kings), and the western river Indus appearing in later parts of the book (written by descendents of the oldest poets mentioning descendents of the oldest kings).
  3. the Vedic corpus provides no reference to an immigration of the so-called Vedic Aryans from Central Asia.
  4. B.B. Lal (1998:111) mentions finds of true horse in Surkotada, Rupnagar, Kalibangan, Lothal, Mohenjo-Daro, and terracotta images of the horse from Mohenjo-Daro and Nausharo. Many bones of the related onager or half-ass have also been found, and one should not discount the possibility that in some contexts, the term ashva could refer to either species.
  5. One of the earliest estimates of the date of the Vedas was at once among the most scientific. In 1790, the Scottish mathematician John Playfair demonstrated that the starting-date of the astronomical observations recorded in the tables still in use among Hindu astrologers (of which three copies had reached Europe between 1687 and 1787) had to be 4300 BC.3 His proposal was dismissed as absurd by some, but it was not refuted by any scientist.

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Erudite but misled – Part I

Posted by desicontrarian on July 12, 2009

The rants & raves pages of  Outlook magazine are usually trashy. It is a tribute to the liberal (free for all) editorial policy of the great man, Vinod Mehta. He has been a true liberal ever since he started with Debonair and The Sunday Observer.

Not always worth reading, but some times interesting discussions take place.  A recent set of  readers’  letters talk about Hinduism, Rig Veda and the Indus valley/Vedic civilization connection.

The assertions made are:

  1. Rig Veda(RV) was  completed in about 1500 B.C. Hinduism and its basic tenets introduced to Indian culture in 1500 B.C.
  2. Doctrine of Maya creates fatalism & passivity
  3. Indus valley Yogi seal shows indigenous element being absorbed into Vedic culture
  4. Vedic religion is different from Hindu religion. They are connected, but different.
  5. RV is exclusively religious. Does not care about temporal, geographical, historical, zoological, topographical information.
  6. RV geographically limited to Punjab. Does not yet know of iron but hard metal of copper & bronze. Iron found only in later Vedic texts, since in makes its appearance in Asia only 1200 to 1000 BC. Therefore RV earlier than that.
  7. RV does not know of large cities like the Indus civilization, but only ruins and small forts. So, it must be later than the disintegration of IVC, around 1900 B.C.
  8. Mitanni documents of N.Syria 1400 BC mention RV gods and some other old IE words.
  9. Mantra language whose geography is from  Bactria to Alga (NW Bengal) mention iron for the first time.
  10. Yajur veda geography is Haryana region, UP and Chambal. Conteporaneus with archeologocally attested painted greyware culture (upto 800 BC)
  11. Upanishads pre-date Buddha – 400 BC, cities around 450 BC.
  12. So  the Vedic period is between 1500-500 BC.

This is the Romila Thapar/Irfan Habib version of Ancient Indian history. It is important to know the intellectual tradition of this school, before one accepts their version. Yes, this is the version drilled into India’s collective mind by these historians. They have controlled school texts through their dominance on the ICHR over the last 50 years.

A reader opines thus:

There is some evidence at Harappa/Mohenjadaro with its sophisticated civilization of at most 35,000 people that had “servants’ quarters” outside the protective walls. But the ideology of Varna (and its caste progeny) came with the Vedic immigrants and their sacred literature. Specifically, Rig Veda that was mostly likely completed in its oral form around 1500 B.C.

Let us wind back to this excerpt from Macaulay’s Minute on Education.

We must at present do our best to form a class who may be interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern,  –a class of persons Indian in blood and colour, but English in tastes, in opinions, in morals and in intellect.

I have never found one among them who could deny that a single shelf of a good European library was worth the whole native literature of India and Arabia. The intrinsic superiority of the Western literature is indeed fully admitted by those members of the committee who support the oriental plan of education.

Let us now add the Karl Marx view to complement it.

The Asiatic community supplies the key to the riddle of the unchangeability of Asiatic societies, which is in such striking contrast with the constant dissolution and refounding of Asiatic states, and the never-ceasing changes of dynasty.

There existed some forms of state, which were ruled by tribute-collecting despots based on the system of production-property relations, described as “Asiatic mode of production

Oriental despotism is, thus, the political superstructure that was developed in succession. It was explained to have prevented states from progressing, or,, “Asia fell asleep in history“. Dynasties might have changed, but overall the structure of the state remained the same – until an outside force (i.e. Western powers) artificially enforces “progressive” reforms.

Now stir it with the  witches brew called Aryan Invasion Theory (AIT).

You get a consistent ideological edifice that is remarkable for a nation that reportedly won freedom from colonialism 62 years ago. The ideological sepoys of the erstwhile British Raj tell us what to think about Ancient Indian History.

Yet, all is not lost. There is a large body of research and literature that convincingly demontrates the falsehood called official Indian history.

  1. The Rig Veda  predates Sindhu-Sarawathi civilization. According to Nicolas Kazanas – There are misconceptions about rigvedic purratha and samudra based on the Aryan Invasion/Immigration myth. Then, there are some 10 characteristic features of the Sarasvati-Sindhu Culture which are not found in the Rig Veda. Moreover palaeoastronomical evidence (mainly N. Achar’s work) places some BrAhmaNa texts c 3000 and the oldest layers of the MahAbhArata 3067. All this (and more) suggests that the (bulk of the) Rig Veda should be assigned to well before 3200 BCE – however unpalatable to mainstream thought this may be.
  2. There’s a ton of evidence that Aryan Invasion Theory (AIT) is a false hypothesis.
  3. Romila Thapar, the prominent AIT proponent, has discarded it and moved to an Aryan Migration Hypothesis (AMT).
  4. David Frawley has written extensively about it, here and here.
  1. The situation regarding the primary sources of ancient India may be summarised as follows: no satisfactory explanation has been found to account for the separate existence of Harappan archaeology and the Vedic literature, both of which flourished in the same geographical region. On the one hand, there is Harappan archaeology, the most extensive anywhere in the world, but no Harappan literature. On the other, there is the Vedic literature, which exceeds in volume all other ancient literature in the world combined several times over, but no Vedic archaeological remains. So we have archaeology without literature for the Harappans and literature without archaeology for the Vedic Aryans. This is all the more puzzling considering that the Harappans were a literate people while we are told that the Vedic Aryans knew no writing but used memory for preserving their immense literature. This means only the literature of the illiterates has survived.
  2. As Seidenberg observed: ” … the elements of ancient geometry found in Egypt (before 2100 BC) and Babylonia (c. 1900 — 1750 BC) stem from a ritual system of the kind observed in the in the Sulbasutras.” This means that the mathematics of the Sulbasutras, which are Vedic texts, must have existed long before 2000 BC, i.e., during the Harappan period.
  3. The fall of the Indus or Harappan culture, just as was the case for many in the ancient world, was owing to ecological factors, something that nineteenth and early twentieth century migrationist views of history completely missed. It occurred not because of the destruction wrought by the proposed Aryan invaders but by ecological changes brought about by the drying up of the Sarasvati River around 1900 BCE. This didn’t end civilization in the region but caused its relocation mainly to the more certain waters of the Ganga to the east. Such a movement is reflected in the shift from Vedic literature that is centered on the Sarasvati to the Puranic literature that is centered on the Ganges.
  4. THE RECENT find of a submerged city in the Gulf of Cambay, perhaps as old as 7500 BC, serves to highlight the existence of southern sources for the civilisation of ancient India. The Gulf of Cambay find is only the latest in a series that includes Lothal (S.R. Rao), Dholavira (R.S. Bisht) and others in Gujarat. These discoveries have been pushing the seats of ancient Indian civilisation deeper into the southern peninsula.
  5. The Harappan-Sarasvati urban civilisation of India was by far the largest of its time (3100-1900 BCE) in the ancient world spreading from Punjab to Kachchh. We can no longer separate this great literature and this great civilisation, particularly given that both were based on the Sarasvati River, whose authenticity as a historical river before 1900 BCE has been confirmed by numerous geological studies.
  6. This is largely because of the oceanic character of Vedic symbolism in which all the main Rig Vedic Gods as well as many of the Vedic rishis have close connections with samudra or the sea. In fact, the image of the ocean pervades the whole of the Rig Veda. Unfortunately many scholars who put forth opinions on ancient India seldom bother to study the Vedas in the original Sanskrit and few know the language well enough to do so. The result is that their interpretation of Vedic literature is often erroneous, trusting out of date and inaccurate interpretations from the Nineteenth century like the idea that the Vedic people never knew the sea!

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