Assorted charlatans and religious zealots across the island of Sri Lanka must have heaved a collective sigh of relief when they heard that Dharmapala Senaratne was no more. He had made it his business to make life difficult for those preying on the gullible public.

Rationalist and myth-buster Dharmapala made his final exist a few days before 2012 dawned. At 67, he still had a few more years of the good struggle left in him. He would surely have enjoyed countering the false prophets of doom — and their credulous followers — who predict the end of the world on 21 December 2012.

Although Dharmapala was also a teacher and lawyer with decades of experience, he was best known for his public activism as a rationalist. His was a determined and sceptical voice questioning fanatical peddlers of all kinds of dogmas, faiths and (mutually exclusive) brands of ‘salvation’.

Even more importantly, he fearlessly took on confidence tricksters hoodwinking superstitious people with black magic and cheap conjuring tricks. He was a courageous public intellectual in a land woefully short of their kind.

At its core, rationalism involves nurturing the spirit of enquiry and critical thinking in every aspect of life and living, at both private and public levels. In short, rationalists and sacred cows are mutually exclusive.

Dharmapala was President of the Sri Lanka Rationalist Association (SLRA), a small group of earnestly sceptical enquirers who won’t take anyone’s word about anything. They want to investigate and debate.

The voluntary group was originally set up in 1960 by the late Dr Abraham Thomas Kovoor (1898 – 1978), a Kerala-born science teacher who settled down in newly independent Ceylon and, after his retirement in 1959, took to investigating so-called supernatural phenomena and paranormal practices. He found adequate physical or psychological explanations for almost all of them. In that process, he exposed many so-called ‘god men’ and black magicians who thrive on people’s misery and superstitions.

In 1963, Kovoor issued an open challenge (with the then princely sum of LKR 100,000 tagged to it) for anyone who could demonstrate supernatural or miraculous powers under fool-proof and fraud-proof conditions. He also challenged the high profile Sathya Sai Baba of India, arguing that the latter’s ‘materialising’ of holy ash (vibuthi) out of thin air was nothing more than a sleight of hand. Kovoor’s challenges were consistently dodged by Sai Baba – and all others of his ilk.

Kovoor was fond of saying: “He who does not allow his miracles to be investigated is a crook; he who does not have the courage to investigate a miracle is gullible; and he who is prepared to believe without verification is a fool.”

These words, and the far-reaching influence of other well known rationalists like Bertrand Russell, inspired young Dharmapala Senaratne to promote rationalism in his spare time. Two other young men who joined Kovoor in the heyday of the Ceylon Rationalist Association: Amunugoda Thilakaratne and Ajith Thilakasena, both of who became writers of their own merit. Pooling their talents, the trio popularised Kovoor’s thinking and work among the Sinhala reading public.

Sri Lanka’s rationalist movement lost its lustre after Kovoor’s death in 1978, even though (lawyer and poet) Mervyn Casie Chetty kept it going for some more years. When the sceptical flames were reignited in the new millennium, Dharmapala became its new President by popular choice.

“Dharmapala was the bridge between generations when we set out to revive the rationalist movement of Sri Lanka in 2005,” recalls Tharaka Warapitiya, general secretary of SLRA. “He helped enormously to connect us with activists who had been heavily involved in its work during the Kovoor era.”

Different Times

By this time, however, the island of Lanka had been completely transformed. The Children of 1977 – products of economic liberalisation and Sri Lanka’s first television generation – had come of age.

Partly reflecting this new reality, Dharmapala’s style was different. While Kovoor had been charismatic and flamboyant, Dharmapala was measured and studious — yet no less passionate when it came to separating the wheat from the chaff.

He was astute enough to realise that the public moods and media attitudes had changed drastically from the more conducive 1960s and 1970s.

That was when a recent Indian immigrant (well, aren’t we all that, historically speaking?) could speak truth to power and command a sizeable audience of discerning Lankans as well as attract sufficient attention of the island’s media.

That was also a time when an eager young medical graduate (Dr Carlo Fonseka) could debunk the much-hyped ‘spiritual base’ for the ‘holy’ practice of fire walking. His finding – that ‘it’s the thickness of the sole and not the soul’ that matters in walking over red hot coal – shattered a core myth that propped up sacred cows of Kataragama.

While such acts elicited predictable resistance and threats from those afflicted, societal support at the time was more open and forthcoming. Many intellectuals and newspaper editors accommodated Kovoor, Fonseka and fellow sceptics, with a gleeful Arthur C Clarke cheering from the sidelines (he would later feature them in his global TV series).

It was the song — not the singer — that mattered then. Alas, not now.

Paradoxically, we now have far more communication channels and technologies yet decidedly fewer opportunities and platforms for dispassionate public debate. Today’s Lankan society welcomes and blindly follows an entirely different kind of Malayalis who claim to know more about our personal pasts and futures than we’d ever know ourselves. And when we see how our political and business elite patronise Sai Baba, Sri Chinmoy and other gurus so uncritically, we must wonder if there is intelligent life in Colombo…

Sacred cows, it seems, have multiplied faster than humans in the past half century. Our cacophonous airwaves and multi-colour Sunday newspapers are bustling with an embarrassment of choice for salvation, wealth, matrimony, retribution and various other ‘quick fixes’ for this life and (imagined) next ones.

Embarrassment, indeed!

So Dharmapala had to adopt different strategies to reach the same goals.

He was well versed in scientific thinking and principles, to which he added his own legal perspectives.

His position was unequivocal: “Let anyone believe in anything privately if they choose to — but no one has the right to mislead others or to hoodwink them into parting with money. That’s fraud, which is against the law!”

As he repeatedly pointed out, Sri Lanka has strict laws dealing with fraud. If anyone has been tricked into paying money on false promises, the affected may take civil or criminal legal action.

In reality, however, very few do so – lest it exposes their own gullibility! Apparently, when it comes to the occult and paranormal, many ignore the time-tested caution of “Caveat emptor” (Latin for ‘Let the buyer beware’).

“This is the very weakness that fraudsters exploit,” Dharmapala said. “These are organised rackets to rob people of their hard-earned money.”

Confronting conmen

Dharmapala took on the assorted charlatans by publicly exposing their conjuring tricks and bogus claims. He also used the media (especially television, not available during Kovoor’s time) to counter the mesmerising hype peddled by the other side.

A memorable example was when, in 2010, he pooh-poohed the hilarious practice of a ‘possessed’ wooden stool (kanappuwa) ‘walking’ down the streets in search of thieves.

“Inanimate objects are completely incapable of self-propelled motion,” he argued citing the laws of physics. “These furniture items are being manipulated by the humans involved. Kanappuwas most definitely can’t catch any thieves, or the police would employ them for their own crime investigations!”

On prime time TV, he offered LKR 100,000 for anyone who could prove beyond any doubt that a stool could ‘walk on its own’. He added: “This is a complete rip-off – further victimising persons who have already lost their belongings. It’s cruel to exploit such misery!”

He also cautioned against community divisions and hatred nurtured by dubious practices like walking stools and light-readings (anjanam): those falsely implicated are immediately (and unfairly) maligned by neighbours.

As an antidote, he called for more scientific thinking and attitude at all levels of society. “If we can get our people to think more logically and critically, we can easily dispel many myths and superstitions.”

But that is just not happening enough in Twenty First Century Lanka: a majority among its 20 million believe in a broad range of superstitions, some more harmful than others. Confronting conmen can be hazardous in a post-war society where trigger-happy goons are available for cheap.

Dharmapala reserved his most scathing criticism for (apparently) educated Lankans dabbling in unproven or fraudulent practices. This includes a number of credentialed scientists trained in disciplines such as astrophysics, geology, atmospheric physics or nuclear chemistry.

“Tragically, certain individuals with legitimate Ph Ds in various branches of science also engage in peddling pseudo-science and bogus practices. Some are doing it with commercial motives. Others, for cheap popularity,” Dharmapala said.

As we saw during the 2011 controversy over arsenic in rice, some of these learned men and women won’t allow hard evidence get in the way of a good conspiracy theory! And large sections of our media (especially in Sinhala) hero-worship them uncritically, labelling them as ‘patriots’ and projecting them as ‘defenders of indigenous knowledge’.

Dharmapala entered many contentious debates when a majority of our intellectuals diligently avoided them. He didn’t mince words when taking on scientists indulging in pseudo-science or complete non-science. He wrote in one such debate on hypnotism as ‘proof’ of reincarnation: “When learned people like Dr. J propagate and disseminate misconceptions, ordinary folk tend to be misled and embrace wrong notions thereby rendering their thinking faculties blunt.”

Rational communicator

Frustrated by the limitations of our uncritical mainstream media, he also communicated through books and the new media, so that discerning readers can make up their own minds.

His lasting contribution to rationalist literature was translating two seminal works by Kovoor: Begone Godmen, and Gods, Demons and Spirits. He also penned three original books: Kovoor saha Hethuwadi Darshanaya (Kovoor and Rationalism); Sai Baabage Anduru Paththa (The Dark Side of Sai Baba); and Elowin Aa Jeewakaya saha Wenath Hethuwadi Lipi (The Healer from Outer Space and other Rationalist Essays).

Unlike many others of his generation, Dharmapala kept up with the march of communications technologies. Early on, he recognised the web’s potential for nurturing public debate and promoting the public interest. He joined the Secular Sri Lanka group blog, well aware how its thematic focus evokes the wrath of Sinhala Buddhist nationalists. He was also active in various online discussion forums and social media platforms (such as Facebook, Twitter, All Voices and LinkedIn), and was fond of sharing interesting weblinks.

While engaging the new media, Dharmapala never gave up on the old media. He was a prolific writer of letters to the editors of English newspapers in Sri Lanka. Whatever the topic – from faith healers and vegetarianism to demons and reincarnation – he was an indefatigable practitioner of this quaint craft: he would doggedly pursue an exchange until editors intervened to close a prolonged debate.

Hopefully, these multiple communications woke up a few from their culture-conditioned and society-enforced slumber. But how do we awaken those who only pretend to be asleep?

Why do otherwise moderate people turn emotional and fiercely defensive in any discussion about their religious faith?  Why is it that a majority of Lankans seem so threatened if anyone were to even mildly question the ‘certain certainties’ of a dogma randomly assigned to them at birth? How come any discussion on secularism in Sri Lanka elicit so much vitriolic comment from the virtuous defenders of a religious state?

Could it be because, as Mark Twain once remarked, “Faith is believing what you know ain’t true”?

Sure, it’s a free world: every individual may choose what to believe in, and also change beliefs from time to time. That’s fine — as long as believers confine it all to their own private lives. But when some try to force their beliefs on everyone else, or institutionalise these as state policies, it becomes hegemony.

In a heated newspaper exchange on the ultimately unverifiable existence of an afterlife, Dharmapala said December 2009: “Having been brainwashed from the very first day of birth and then throughout a lifetime, different religionists hold a deep rooted conviction in mind that only the particular dogma, taught by their respective religions, is the absolute truth and what is taught in other religions is false. Thus, while Buddhists and Hindus are absolutely certain of rebirth, Christians and Muslims are equally certain of Almighty God and Creation.”

Associates confirm that Dharmapala had worked on another Sinhala book, a critical look at reincarnation. Its posthumous publication could restore some sanity to the emotionally charged debates on this topic.

Credulous Nation?

Meanwhile, true Buddhists – may their tribe increase! – could finally start following what the Buddha taught. For half a century, Lankan rationalists have been citing, as one of their favourite quotes, the Buddha’s well known advice to the Kalamas, captured in the kalama sutra.

Kovoor used to quote this regularly at public meetings, as do his successors to this date. The Buddha’s rejection of authority, tradition, hearsay and dogma, and his position that one should accept something as true and valid only on the basis of verification by oneself, is probably one of the earliest rationalist principles expressed in history.

But as Colombo University’s historian and public intellectual Dr Nirmal Ranjith Dewasiri told a rationalists’ meeting in Colombo last week, a majority of today’s Lankan Buddhists would rather not follow that sound advice. Doing so risks shattering too many dogmas and contradictions on which their history and current political posturing are based…

It remains to be seen who among our rationalists would take up the daunting task of keeping the sceptical flame alive. Doing so now is even more critical than when Kovoor founded the movement. At stake is much more than debating religious faiths, or safeguarding the public from exploiters of ignorance and misery.

As astronomer and science populariser Carl Sagan put it so well in his last book, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark (1995): “If we can’t think for ourselves, if we’re unwilling to question authority, then we’re just putty in the hands of those in power. But if the citizens are educated and form their own opinions, then those in power work for us. In every country, we should be teaching our children the scientific method and the reasons for a Bill of Rights. With it comes a certain decency, humility and community spirit. In the demon-haunted world that we inhabit by virtue of being human, this may be all that stands between us and the enveloping darkness.”

Early in life, science writer Nalaka Gunawardene was influenced by educator and free thinker Dr E W Adikaram, and later worked with Sir Arthur C Clarke as his research assistant. He thanks Dr Kavan Ratnatunga and Tharaka Warapitiya for some information used in this essay, but the opinions are entirely his own. 

133 thoughts on “Can Rationalists Awaken the Sleep-walking Lankan Nation?

    1. Answer/s
      1. Any path to knowledge is a path to GOD – or REALITY… whichever word one prefers to use ~ Sir Arthur C Clarke

      2. Everyone gets the ‘God’ he/she believes in.

      1. Desert Fox

        Could God mean “darkness”, in the context it is used?

      2. DessertFox,

        God is not some vague and amorphous entity whereby any notion will do and ultimately God = reality.
        http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/god

        Our society is based on the notion that there is one reality, the rules of which are ignored at one’s own peril. For example, leaping off a building thinking one is superman might be a reality for the person who does so, but it does not translate well into the physical reality we share in common.

        The traditional definitions of God make specific metaphysical and scientific claims about his role in this physical reality, such as his role in the creation of the universe, his continuous intervention in its function, and his often morbidly violent desire for abject servitude from the dwellers in a particularly insignificant planet in the Milky way. Therefore, to say anything like God = reality (and Einstein indulged in this same unnecessary use of overloaded definitions, which came back to haunt him later), is plainly and simply – rubbish.

      3. Existence of God cannot be proved or disproved using scientific method alone, on the basis of his intervention in the physical reality.

        However, on the basis of God’s(Creator God’s) existence could be debunk on the basis of Rationality beginning from the Metaphysical attributes assigned to him such as the Creator, his omnipotence,omniscience and omnipresence. (Averroes’ argument, Epicurus’ argument etc. etc.) Further, taking his first intervention in the physical world, that is the Creation as the axiom(premise),anybody can calculate and deductively conclude that the time period passed after the creation does not tally with any other physical realities, that time period is less than 7000 years.

        Why rationalists do not fight against this disprovable myth(with Rationalism)believed all across the globe, but concentrate on an isolated issue like “stool walking”?

        I do not say stool walking should not be questioned, but I don’t think it could be refuted by Rationalism. My question is why so called Rationalists are focused to salvage people from an isolated thing that they have no capacity to decide whether a myth or not on their basis of ideology, but do not take steps to salvage people from a myth that haunts all across the globe that is clearly disprovable with Rationalism? They should take immediate steps to savage people from this Creator God Myth on the basis of their keen interest and enthusiasm shown on isolated local incidents?

        Why don’t they see the beam in their eyes? Just because the God is a belief belongs to the elite class? Just because, it is not a news item propagated in Sinhala media, and did not keep up with the march of communications technologies?

        Taking from their stand immediate and most prominent and priority of theirs should be to salvage the people from the Greatest Myth, according to their own methodology Rationalism. Rationalism has ample ways to refute the existence of Creator God. It is the biggest myth believed by over 75% of the population of the world as per the ideology of Rationalists. Why don’t they take immediate action in this regard keeping aside the minute work they are engaged in?

        Thanks!

      4. Dear DessertFox;

        You should not abuse reality by giving it a corrupted name like “God”.

        Thanks!

    2. “Well, God has arrived. I met him on the 5.15 train.” – JM Keynes in a letter to his wife, Lydia Lopokova. Keynes was referring to receiving Bertrand Russell’s protégé Ludwig Wittgenstein on behalf of the University of Cambridge.

  1. I agree subject to one proviso “It is the arrogance of half-science that leads us to dismiss what we do not understand”. I am therefore in some personal doubt on whether Sai Baba was a mere confidence trickster or magician. His contribution runs much beyond “miracles” some of which defy my understanding. “Nadi Vakiyams” are another mystery in my personal experience. However, the Sinhala Sunday papers are a serious disgrace to our gullible sinhala readers. Take away the abortionists, astrologers, aphrodisiac vendors, massage parlours and pseudo “art critics” and not much is left. A poor intellectual diet indeed. A fine opportunity exists to examine astrology, if it has not been done already. (a) select say 10 “reputed practitioners”. (b) submit (say) 50 birth times of real people (a variety may include gender, alive or deceased, ethnicity, etc) (c) determine from the astrologers, the items they could predict. The issues above are some. Others are – major events, marriage, children, career, health, stature, complexion and any other. (d) formulate a quesionnaire and subject results to statistical analysis. Do this in the fairest manner possible. It is very disturbing to realise that the lives of so many may be irretrievably damaged by being led by horoscopes. Incidentally, I would like to know what the “Houses” mean and how accurate they are. If the space arond us (3-dimensional) is divided into twelve sectors (houses), how can accuracy be claimed? Leave aside “cancelled effects”, “malefics”, periods, remedies (pujas) and “matching” for marriage. If Astrologers refuse to participate, the conclusion would be inescapable.

    1. Dr.U.Pethiyagoda

      In a famous BBC documentary Sai Baba is clearly seen transferring a gold chain hidden under a statue into his hand cleverly and subsequently giving it to one of his gullible desciples. And also he is seen to use “ash tablets” hidden in his palm to crush and “materialize” the Holy Powder!

      When one loses credibility there’s no point in talking about his “other miracles”, is there?

    2. Dear Dr U.Pethiyagoda/All;

      I think I have mentioned in another thread about the incident I am going to explain below, which needs “Rational Explanation” before just rejecting as myth, on popular vote. Just because, something feels like myth or I prefer to take it so is I don’t think as rationalism. I think, rationalism demands reasons for both accepting a thing and also for a rejecting a thing. A rationalist cannot reject anything without good reasons. So, I am asking whether the “rationalists” of this country or the members of SLRA reject the following incident mentioned below as “a myth related to Astrology” and if so can anybody of them to reason out the rejection of particular incident “specifically”. I am prepared to prove the truthfulness of the case with several witnesses who have experienced the same treatment from the same person. I think if somebody wants I think I would be able to arrange him to meet the “main actor” of this story. The story is as follows:

      I had a chance to work with one of my classmates after several decades we left the school. We talked of our past days in the school and later came to the topic of families, kith and kin. After a two or three days of the first meeting he gave me a something written on a piece of paper and asked me to go and see whether it was my horoscope. I came and surprised to see that it was identical with my horoscope at home.

      I went back the following day stunned to meet him and inquired how he was possible to do it. His explanation was that he had grasped two of my prominent attributes while talking to me and he had prepared my horoscope on that basis. I never told him my date of birth or time of birth to him or he had no access any other way to them.

      I think this proves that “one’s attributes have a direct relation ship to his horoscope or one’s horoscope represent some of his attributes”.

      If somebody to say this conclusion wrong he should, either

      i. Rationally disprove the conclusion as it is some thing impossible.

      or

      ii. They can prove I was telling lies or my friend has done some unworthy trick.

      Definitely a I am not lying and my friend had prepared several horoscopes of some other people in the same way, and I personally know a few of them.

      I think this is an acid test for both Astrology and Rationality. One party is definitely to knock out if the case is taken by the both parties. Now the opposition has presented a case for Rationalists, I think if Rationalists are courageous and ready to face real challenges they will take up the case. They should not only level challenges to others offering cash rewards, but they should take up the challenges leveled at them as well and give rational explanation to them or refute them.

      Can any Rationalist take up this challenge?

      Thanks!

  2. Many thanks to Nalaka Gunawardene for posting this. What surprised me is that the Sri Lankan public requires a 15 minute expostulation to convince them that stools cannot “walk”.

    I just wondered if he would have been brave enough to take on other sacred cows like Pirith chanting, Bodhi Poojas, Budda Pujas, Seth Kavi, Was Kavi, Dhathu worship, Bali, Thovil, “Sangika Dhanes” for the benefit of departed loved ones etc.

    I am not sure if relegiosity and superstition is something people are born with or something they resort to when they are unable to rationally interpret the world around them.

    There is much that we dont know or yet to know about. Like how hypnosis works, how we can sometimes mentally overcome certain physioligical problems through faith for example, But this does not mean we can randomply pick any explanation of the infinite number of possible unproven explanations.

    1. Kadphises

      Why don’t you mention about the other “sacred cows” like praying to God, miracles that are said to appear on church walls & statues…milk drinking Ganesh, hanging on hooks, piercing cheeks with metal, and worshipping Siva’s genitalia etc? Is it because you have an affiliation to one of these practices…?

      1. No Sabbe Laban I have no affiliation to the superstitions you mention either. So feel free to add them to my list. It was in no way exhaustive. If you hadnt noticed.. I have placed an etc. at the end of the list which implied they were not the only suprestitions. They were perhaps the ones shared by around 70% of lankans. Worship of idols, deities and gods should also be mentioned. These delusions are held by a smaller number of lankans say around 30%. Though Buddhists although not believing in a creator are given to idol worship. Personally, I dont see much point worshiping a piece of rock in the shape of a dead person (regardless of its artistic merits). I therefore neglected to mention them. But thanks again for completing the list.

        Can I also add another..? and that being the observation “auspicious times for just about everthing.. even stepping out of the house. This is one of my favourites. The Rahu Kalaya and the subha Neketha.

        Also, I have freely cast doubts about my own religion (or the one I was born into) here as it is generally thought of as impolite to point out the lack of logic in others’ religions while not seeing such lapses in ones’ own. So I thought I’ll cast the first stone by questioning my own religion in the hope that others would question theirs’.

      2. Dear kadphises;

        Very well. Shall we first differentiate the practices belong to religions that are rational and that are not rational by their philosophies, not by what just devotees practice. If those practices are approved/recommended/endorsed by those philosophies of the religions only, I think it is justifiable to take them as the practices/rituals of the particular religion. On that basis shall we see the count of rationalism of the religions, however, not the rationalism practiced by the SLRA or the popular sense of it, but on the basis of the real rationalism?

        As a born Hindu you question Buddhist practices(endorsed by Buddhist doctrine) or even the doctrines of Buddhism on the real sense of Rationalism, and I would question the practices or doctrines of any religion you name, to be fair.

        You may question the practices of the ordinary people in the name of Buddhism and refute, but can you refute any practice of Buddhism endorsed by Buddhist doctrine with the use of real rationalism. I don’t think anybody could do it. I am anxiously looking for one to properly do it. Please anybody.

        Thanks!

    2. Interesting article. How would Dharmapala and the Rationalist Association view the belief that a cosmic Jewish zombie who was his own father can make you live forever if you symbolically eat his flesh and telepathically tell him you accept him as your master, so he can remove an evil force from your soul that is present in humanity because a rib-woman was convinced by a talking snake to eat from a magical tree? This is a belief that is not only widespread in Sri Lanka (where there are numerous places of worship and congregations dedicated to it), but around the world as well.

  3. The biggest con men around today are in parliament, and they have managed to hoodwink our sleep-walking zombie majority for the past 63 years? How much longer before they wake up and see what is really happening? Does some rationalist or charlatan or religious zealot have the answer?

    1. How much longer?

      “Until the beleaguered opposition replaces the sleep walking zombie with any other humanoid in the new era after the end of the Mayan calendar in 2012..”-Nostradamus

  4. thank you for this great article . this is what Sri Lankan Tamils need.

  5. There is no doubt about the validity of “Rationalism” as a method of gaining knowledge. It has done an enormous task in this regard in the history of man kind. In Sri Lanka too it has done a great task with the initiation of Sri Lanka Rationalist Association (SLRA) to eliminate some of the “unacceptable beliefs” that hindered Sri Lankan Society. Rationalism and SLRA deserve tribute and respect in this regards. However, I am of the opinion that Rationalism is misunderstood to a certain extent, over emphasized and over respected hyphened to a “mythical height” with the emphasis given and spread by the SLRA and its followers on the basis of its popularity. Even some (many?)of the members of the SLRA had/have no proper understanding of what rationality was/is and its scope and limitations, I should say. Many have cited “Scientific Method”(Empiricism) to prove/disprove cases in their hand in the name of Rationalism, though fundamentally they have many differences and disagreements as methods of gaining knowledge. Most of the time SLRA and its followers have used Empiricism not Rationalism as their methodology of arriving at conclusions, and therefore I should say that “Rationalists” in Sri Lanka are more appropriate to call as “Empiricists” though they emphasized Rationalism as their methodology of finding “truth”. Their emphasis was that “Rationalism” was/is the “only methodology” of verification/gaining of knowledge and if anything do not agree with that methodology was qualified to be refuted and discarded. This idea was one of the main foundations of the activities of the SLRA in “refuting” “myths” in Sri Lankan society, though they were “fortunate enough” to refute many unacceptable beliefs at an acceptable level, though they were refuted using other ideologies in the name of Rationality without the knowledge of the rationalists and the followers of the SLRA. Sometimes it seems they were lucky to be “lucky guessers rather than Rationalists. However, this is not the view point of “Epistemology” or the “Science of knowledge”. It has not so far handed over the “authority of gaining knowledge” or “refuting myths” to any particular ideology or methodology. There are many competing ideologies and methodologies which have contradictions among each other though none of the methods have accepted as sole authority of gaining knowledge or totally rejected as they have disagreements with other methodologies.In this scenario hyphening and trying to root Rationality as the “sole authority of gaining and refuting knowledge” in Sri Lankan society is a fundamental error of the SLRA and its followers and advocates. Though they have done some service to Sri Lankan society as “myth Chasers”, I should their “vision” is not the ideal model to be followed. Their actions were not followed with a proper understanding. It is not a perfect vision as they try to show case. It has no capacity to guide the total intellectuality of people, society or the human kind. It is just another “view point” of “knowledge” and definitely not the perfect one. Therefore citing “Rationalism” as the sole method of gaining/ and refuting knowledge in Sri Lankan society SLRA has done a massive intellectual misguidance and a damage limiting its free thinking capacity to a limited domain through its “self hypnotized” assertiveness of their misunderstood and misinterpreted “rationalism”. I think that is the reason why SLRA did not have a good recognition in the recent past and have to have its natural death. Intuition has not yet been eliminated as a knowledge gaining methodology. That is a lesson to be learnt by the activists of any ideology. However, I think it is an accepted fact that activism is not a proper way of gaining knowledge.

    Thanks!

  6. Welcome to another 100+ comments thread!

    We, Sri Lankans get very itchy(and damned wild) when it comes to our religion, don’t we?

    Well, to start with, has Hon. Dharmapala measured the forces acting on the “Kanappuwa” at the time it was moving due to alleged super-natural powers?

    Is the answer “YES” or “NO”?

    If he has not, we can discard his “scientific observation” just like that of Sathya Sai Baba’s!

    Mr. Dharmapala must be knowing this by now from his “distant realm”!
    Ha ha haaa!

    1. Though Mr. Dhanapala believed as a “rationalist”without “acceptable reasons” that there was no birth after death, I think he did not realized that many of the things in life of a person is not within the total control of himself/herself.

      It is a very pleasurable and proud idea to think that a person can control all the activities relating to him/her by himself/herself, but man is just a humble and feeble creature in universal activities. Assertiveness is a good thing in a man’s life, better than being pessimistic, however, it does not license for him to do impossibilities in his capacity. Even if he didn’t believe in rebirth/reincarnation, he could be dreaming about the present discussion in a distance realm as you said if there is a life after birth, which has not yet been disproved by rationalists or anybody else. Rationalist too are not more than blind believers who believe that there is no afterbirth after death. In this regard too so called rationalists are not rationalists, as they cannot prove/back up that there is no birth after death using their rationalism. They too believe things that are not rational. Please see the video clip above, do you think the speech of Mr. Dhanapala was rational at all? I feel he wants to emphasize his beliefs rather than providing a rational explanation or a refutation to the incident at hand, the walk of stool. I think he has never identified the real issue and bashing a scare crow.

      On what rationale he came to the conclusion that the stool was walking in accordance to the with the will of the persons keeping their hands on the stool? Isn’t this a wild conclusion? Whether a thing can or cannot by itself is not a relevant issue here, as the kattadiyas do not claim I think that the stool goes by itself, but claim it was operated by some invisible force. Is there any law that says all forces should be visible?

      I don’t say the Kattadyas’ version is correct, it most probably may be wrong. But can anybody approve of a “prestigious group of intellectual” to use such unacceptable logic to refute something? Can anybody reasonably say it is rationalism? I doubt. Just because Katadiays logic is not sound some group of intellectuals cannot use loose logic as their methodology. They have to keep their methodology qualitatively high at all levels and all instances.

      You have said Sri Lankans are itchy and damn wild when it comes to religion. Let religions go to hell, but no one can keep their eyes closed when “some people” play somersaults where gods do not set their foot. One should not let anybody to use half baked knowledge and loose logic to oust things. We have no any objection to proper refutation of anything. At least use proper logic, use proper experiments, know about your ideology before being assertive about it and then refute things.

      This is “Appeal to Popularity” and consequently “Appeal to Authority”. This is “superficial western knowledge” against “Deep western knowledge”. This is swimming with the downstream. This is convenient “Anusothagami Methodology”. “Patisothagami” or swimming against the flow is difficult, so many weak minds chose to convenience and popularity and console and advertise themselves, rather than choosing to find the truth against the popular flow.

      There are enough evidence to show that many so called rationalists and solicitors have not understood at least what rationality is rather than seeking refuge/shelter under the popular umbrella of Rationalism. Most of them do not know what they are talking of. They have identified “rat” as “cat” and boasting their Rat caught mice. However, what really has happened was their rat has captured some mice to their luck and they tell the world loudly that their “cat” is so clever at catching mice. Really it was not a cat that caught mice, it is a different kind of a bit bigger rat, these people were confused as a cat.

      Let cats catch mice, not rats. Let all the mice in our house be caught by cats, not by some other rats, to replace the mice.

      Thanks!

  7. PresiDunce Bean, my son, the above answer comes from neither that you mention; it comes from a New Prophet!

  8. The members and followers of the SLRA really are not Rationalist, as per the definition of Rationalism. Rationalism is the methodology of arriving at truth with the use of deductive based on some axioms. It doesn’t rely on sensory experience.

    ” This article’s citation style may be unclear. The references used may be made clearer with a different or consistent style of citation, footnoting, or external linking. (December 2008)

    In epistemology and in its modern sense, rationalism is “any view appealing to reason as a source of knowledge or justification” (Lacey 286). In more technical terms, it is a method or a theory “in which the criterion of the truth is not sensory but intellectual and deductive” (Bourke 263). Different degrees of emphasis on this method or theory lead to a range of rationalist standpoints, from the moderate position “that reason has precedence over other ways of acquiring knowledge” to the more extreme position that reason is “the unique path to knowledge” (Audi 771). Given a pre-modern understanding of reason, “rationalism” is identical to philosophy, the Socratic life of inquiry, or the zetetic (skeptical) clear interpretation of authority (open to the underlying or essential cause of things as they appear to our sense of certainty). In recent decades, Leo Strauss sought to revive Classical Political Rationalism as a discipline that understands the task of reasoning, not as foundational, but as maieutic. Rationalism should not be confused with rationality, nor with rationalization.
    Background

    Since the Enlightenment, rationalism is usually associated with the introduction of mathematical methods into philosophy, as in Descartes, Leibniz, and Spinoza (Bourke 263). This is commonly called continental rationalism, because it was predominant in the continental schools of Europe, whereas in Britain empiricism dominated.

    Rationalism is often contrasted with empiricism. Taken very broadly these views are not mutually exclusive, since a philosopher can be both rationalist and empiricist (Lacey 286–287). Taken to extremes the empiricist view holds that all ideas come to us through experience, either through the external senses or through such inner sensations as pain and gratification, and thus that knowledge is essentially based on or derived from experience. At issue is the fundamental source of human knowledge, and the proper techniques for verifying what we think we know (see Epistemology).

    Proponents of some varieties of rationalism argue that, starting with foundational basic principles, like the axioms of geometry, one could deductively derive the rest of all possible knowledge. The philosophers who held this view most clearly were Baruch Spinoza and Gottfried Leibniz, whose attempts to grapple with the epistemological and metaphysical problems raised by Descartes led to a development of the fundamental approach of rationalism. Both Spinoza and Leibniz asserted that, in principle, all knowledge, including scientific knowledge, could be gained through the use of reason alone, though they both observed that this was not possible in practice for human beings except in specific areas such as mathematics. On the other hand, Leibniz admitted that “we are all mere Empirics in three fourths of our actions” (Monadology § 28, cited in Audi 772). Rationalism is predicting and explaining behavior based on logic.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rationalism

    Do so called Rationalists in Sri Lanka are qualified to be so, as per the the criterion given above? Do their activities go in line with the principles of Rationalism?

    1. They say there is no birth after death. Can any rationalist arrive at this conclusion with the use of Rationalism (ie Starting from an axiom and arrive at this conclusion using logic?)

    2. They say there are no gods, demons and spirits. Can anybody arrive at this conclusion rationally, using rational methodology?

    3. They say Astrology is myth. Can anybody arrive at this conclusion rationally?

    4. They say there are no mysteries, and anything can be explained with reasons, and name which have no explanation for what ever a reason as myths. Can anybody arrive at this conclusion with the principles of Rationality?

    All the above conclusions may be right, but they cannot be arrived at using the principles of Rationality. So these conclusions do not belong to Rationalism, even if they are correct.

    So these cannot be conclusions arrived at by Rationalists. In other words, somebody who arrived at these conclusions cannot be Rationalists.

    This is how we can rationally arrive at that the so called Rationalists of Sri Lanka are not Rationalists.

    Really they have not arrived at the above conclusions rationally, but they believe those conclusions as a part of their belief without any (rational)proof. Really they do not believe existence of anything other than that of material. Those who believe this view that there is nothing other than material as their axiom(self evident truth) are called Materialists. Therefore the so called Rationalists in Sri Lanka really are blind followers of Materialism, they never have been Rationalists.They are trying to impose their belief that there is nothing in the world that are not material, to the brains of the people. Other than this blind belief there is no any rational base for them to back for what they preach. They are preaching what they believe, not what they know. They do not know what they are doing or at least who they are, poor Sri Lankan Rationalists!

    Thanks!

  9. Correction…

    “Rationalism is the methodology of arriving at truth with the use of deductive based on some axioms.”

    Should be

    “Rationalism is the methodology of arriving at truth with the use of “deductive logic” based on some axioms.

    Thanks!

  10. Has anyone noticed how no one responds to Yapa any more? Let him talk with himself in that lonely corner.

    For the others, this is what Dr Prof Nalin de Silva (of Natha Dewa fame) said at a public meeting sometime ago: “There are no Buddhists in Sri Lanka. There are only buddhagam-karayas.”

  11. Just for the sake of clarity and peace – there are two kinds of rationalists

    Lower secularists – those who revile and ridicule religion and enter into a dogfight with narrow religionists. some of them cannot really understand or appreciate religion, religious symbols and their function in human society and run away with a notion of superiority. In truth they are as narrow as the narrow religionists they condemn. the human being is both reason and intuition – head and heart. These two must work in cooperation, not against each other

    Higher secularists of course understand this paradox. they appreciate the function of religion in society and know that any ‘ism’ including rationalism is open to both use and abuse. They rise above narrow religion and can see how religion enriches the human being without taking sides. Pandit Nehru was a higher secularist who helped found the indian secular state.

    I was not fortunate to know the late Mr Senaratne – but i wish him well in his journey through samsara.

    For all of us it is good to remember the words of the Buddha to Siddhartha the young brahmin in the great novel by Herman Hesse

    “You are clever – but be on guard against your cleverness”

    Siddhartha refused to enlist as a follower of the Buddha saying he wanted to find his own way. In his case he succeeded. This book is mandatory reading for buddhists in SL to understand the essence of the teachings on human liberation …..

    1. Dear ordinary lankan;

      I should reassure, SLRA was/is a case of abuse of Rationalism.

      The members and advocates are riding a popular horse. We will have to debunk the “myths” spread by them on the basis of popular “isms” in society today. Today society is suffering from the myths spread by the “pop sciences” and “pop isms” with the mesmerism on their glittering and blinding lights of popularity. However, popularity is not a measure of truth or reality. They are just one blind man who touched just one organ of the elephant and proclaim that elephant is a parapet wall or a trunk of a tree. They do not see the totality but sense only a part of it and overjoyed by their discovery. But scientific method and rationalism is just two efforts to arrive at reality and truth. They arrive only at partial truths.

      Rather than being pity about advocates and solicitors what else we can do? Proud poor things! Oh, God Please be mercy on these ignorant people.

      Thanks!

    2. Dear Saban/Groundviews;

      Can I start to answer the questions raised by Saban in the last discussion we had, but had no a chance to due to sudden stoppage of the it by a decision by Groundviews?

      Thanks!

      1. Yapa

        If you expand your argument further, if implies that the things that are considered “non-material” at present will one day come into the scope of science as science too expands its boundaries. For example some brain-related phenomena have been explained using new the scientific knowledge.

        Finally we can expect science to encompass the now metaphysical phenomena as well one day and that will leave nothing unexplained, including “ancient aliens and astrology”!

        On the other hand, does this mean that we should believe every myth that some group of a people in the world believe thinking that we are yet to explain it scientifically using our present science?

      2. Dear Saban;

        I was proposing to discuss the questions you raised in the previous discussion not because of anything, I felt that they were very pertinent questions and we were at a climax stage of the discussion when it was stopped. Let me have a little bit time until I post a few posts on the present discussion.

        Thanks!

      3. Dear Saban;

        This has reference to your post of January 17, 2012 • 10:18 pm

        As correctly said the first conclusion you mentioned in the post is a post realization of the west about their fundamental mistakes about their “basic settings” of the methodology to arrive at truth through Empiricism(scientific method).

        At the beginning west was assertive that the universe could be explained though matter, they thought even the mental process is mere a phenomenon of matter. Newton thought the all the Laws of universe could be derived considering it composed of with moving particles. Science, set its methodology of exploring the universe on this “over emphasis on matter” and the methodology, empiricism was set up totally on material grounds, limiting its scope leaving everything else as non existence and matter as the universal set. However, I think the subconscious mind of the west did not accept this notion very seriously, I think their intuition told them that the universe is not complete with matter alone. So they never comply to the material limitations published by empiricism, but they felt a fundamental lacuna in their “methodology” in realizing the universe, keeping it limited to material world. So against the constraints of the methodology, circumstances forced western geniuses to jump over the boundary to explore the universe, the forbidden territory of science or empiricism.

        So, Psychology was born against the traditions of science, using scientific method to explore an alien land to Science or empiricism. In Psychology, Scientific methodology too is used explore the mind, that was branded as non material and non existence, by the science.

        Science is progressing correcting its mistakes, broadening its boundaries, but our science enthusiasts are “Rip Van Winkles”, to talk about an olden day village.

        That village is no more and a modern city is set up on that place.

        So as you said science has encompassed the its “traditional homeland” and entered to the alien land of metaphysical Philomena as well. However, there is a better and broader tool to explore this area, knowledge, that is broadly Philosophy, specifically “epistemology”.

        Empiricism and Rationalism are just two components among many in that subject (Epistemology). They are sub sets of Epistemology, not the universal set even taken together.These two subject areas are just the trunk and the tail of the elephant, not the whole elephant.

        However, if everything including “ancient aliens and astrology” is explained as you expect it would most probably by Epistemology and not by Science, unless the boundaries of science are widened to overlap with the boundaries of Epistemology.

        However, it is a reason to be happy that Science has come out of its “material cocoon”.

        This doesn’t mean we should believe every myth, however, it also doesn’t mean that we could mythically believe “unqualified/unsuitable/inappropriate criteria” (also persons)to decide everything in life especially when there are better alternatives.

        We should not let Science to decide everything related to knowledge/reality and truth. The better alternative is Philosophy or very specifically Epistemology. “Scientifically explained” does not always mean “properly explained” in this complex world.

        Let cats catch the mice in your house, not the rats. They will replace the mice, but hover in your roof and do the same or a severe damage.

        When there are cats, is there any sense to set rats to catch mice. We will have to go deep, not to touch and search the surface in dark with the guidance of Rip Van Winkles!

        Thanks!

      4. yapa, your explanation is very confusing.

        You make some reference to how psychology has enabled science to come out of its ‘Material cocoon’. But experimental psychology isn’t a way of studying metaphysics of the mind. It’s simply a way of rigorously studying human behavior, or rather hypothesis about human behavior. There are no metaphysics involved in this.

      5. Dear the way of the dodo;

        I will try to explain.

        I think you agree that mind is not a thing that is felt by five senses. So, mind and its related activities are not belong to the subject area of Empiricism(scientific method), as per its original definition.

        However, mind has become a subject area of Science in way of using Scientific method for investigation of “activities related to mind” and hence mind has become a subject of scientific investigation(may be indirectly)and that branch of science is known as Psychology.

        So, now the science has broadened its boundaries to where it was initially though as impossible, because mind is not felt by five senses.

        I am not sure whether it is correct to call mind belongs to the subject area of Metaphysics, however, it was out of the domain of empiricism(scientific method). So, empiricism has come out of its original position to investigate the subject areas that considered not withing its boundary.

        I think you will accept this as science(empiricism) coming out of its cocoon. Don’t you agree with me?

        Thanks!

      6. Yapa, I think i get what you are saying here.It sounds very trivial very trivial though. Psychology doesn’t really study how the ‘mind’ works, it studies human behavior.

        If the mind cannot be experienced with the 5 senses then it is not physical, therefore meta-physical. What seems to be the case is that the state of the ‘mind’ is dependent on the neuro-chemical state of the human brain

    3. Dear Ordinary Lankan,

      I can’t help but think that you have some unproven assumptions in your argument.

      Is there a reasonable basis for saying that religion has a mandatory functional role in society? Is Sweden, for example, a religious country?

      Also, by your definition, were Bertrand Russell, Carl Sagan etc. “lower” secularists?

      1. Dear Gamarala;

        “Is there a reasonable basis for saying that religion has a mandatory functional role in society? Is Sweden, for example, a religious country?”

        Couldn’t Sweden be an exception (of the Law), I mean in principle, if it is not a religious country?

        BTW, are you sure, all the people of Sweden have no affinity to a religion, they are proof of religious beliefs and such needs?

        Thanks!

    4. Oh Dear! the ordinary sri lankan has confused intuition with indoctrination here. Let’s face it, religion has little to do with intuition. Most of us follow one religion over the other because we were born into and raised under a particular doctrine.

  12. Can anybody dispute the contents of the following article? At the end of it is the famous 3-part History Television documentary, “Ancient Astronauts”.

    Some of the arguments by the proponents of “Ancient Astronaut” theory may look unconvincing and ridiculous(depending on your back ground), but the fact remains that science has so far failed to satisfactorily answer these puzzles in our history!

    http://www.crystalinks.com/?ancientastronauts.html

    Ancient Astronaut Theory, Ancient Alien Theory – Crystalinks
    http://www.crystalinks.com
    Most people believe in aliens – from ancient visitors to modern day extraterrestrials who visit Earth with an agenda. Clearly the creation myths of each ancient civilization discuss alien gods who descended from the sky for any number of reasons, some of who allegedly mated with human woman to crea…..

  13. Empiricism, Rationalism and verification of negative truths

    Though the two above terms to name two of the most popular verification methodologies of finding reality/truth have come from west, these two methods have been in use since the inception of the man kind.

    Empiricism is the methodology of knowing truth through sensory experience. That is truth is verified on the basis of “feeling” obtained through the sensory organs of eye, ear, mouth, nose and the body(skin). The basis (axiom)of this methodology is to take this bodily experience as true and reality and hence by virtue of its definition it has no capacity to investigate that is not within the grasp of five senses. So, clearly the Empiricism limits its domain to “five sensory ‘tangible'” things that is to MATERIAL THINGS.

    SO BY DEFINITION, EMPIRICISM’S CAPACITY ENDS IN MATERIAL WORLD AND IT HAS NO CAPACITY TO INVESTIGATE OR VERIFICATION OF ANYTHING THAT DO NOT FALL INTO THE MATERIAL CATEGORY.

    Empiricism is the methodology popularly known as SCIENTIFIC METHOD and hence Scientific method is incapable of handling anything other than phenomena of the material world. That is why Science is known as an investigative methodology of phenomenal world or material world. Anybody who knows basics of scientific method knows that body of knowledge gained through it, that is Science is only a body of knowledge concerning material world and nothing else. Science when includes its body of knowledge and its methodology together, known as today, by no means can handle any phenomenon of the non material world. Though the popular belief is that Science can be used to test the truthfulness of anything and hold the popular belief that anything “not scientific” is untrue, that is a totally false belief and a myth. It has its capacity limitations withing the boundary of material phenomena. Hence the popular belief that Science is a Panacea, or “Kokatath Thailaya” is a Total myth, which was formed by Science enthusiasts, not by Science itself. Science enthusiasts have attributed many “undue attributes” to Science, and many believe this myth with the blinding glare of popularity of Science.

    The limitation of Empiricism(Scientific method) does not end in the material world. Even withing the its investigative capacity of the material world it is not a perfect tool, in investigating material world too it has many short comings.

    1. Limitations of reaching objects by the sensory organs, the limitations of sensitivity and sensitivity range and faults of the sensory organs.

    2. Interpretation of sensory data to form knowledge.

    are some of them.

    For example you cannot see anything inside a boulder with your sensory organs. Ear and nose of a dog is more sensitive and have a broader range of sensitivity compared to man’s and hence the sensory data obtained by a dog through those two sensory organs are better than that of a man. We also know that our eyes deceive us in a mirage.

    We sense and get sensory data trough a “imperfect system” of organs and hence the knowledge gained though this method are not 100% accurate.We really know this, that is the reason why the scientists who recommended “Aspirin” as a miracle medicine to day decline to say so and warn against some ailments. IN ESSENCE SCIENTIFIC KNOWLEDGE IS NOT A BODY OF KNOWLEDGE EVEN WITHIN THE DOMAIN OF MATERIAL WORLD.It has its intrinsic flaws.

    Therefore those who try to issue authenticity certificates through Science to everything ranging from philosophy, religion, literature to mythology are not more than half baked knowledge bearer, superficial knowledge bearers, those who think ignorance to be a reason to be proud of. What can we do about their ignorance other than being sympathy about their sorry state of knowledge. They try to detect gods, demons and spirits through Scientific methods. They try to detect merits, rebirth, karmaya, and nirvana with scientific tools. Ahoy!

    Next about rationalism…..

    Thanks!

  14. Correction………..

    IN ESSENCE SCIENTIFIC KNOWLEDGE IS NOT A BODY OF KNOWLEDGE EVEN WITHIN THE DOMAIN OF MATERIAL WORLD.

    should be

    IN ESSENCE SCIENTIFIC KNOWLEDGE IS NOT A BODY OF “PERFECT” KNOWLEDGE EVEN WITHIN THE DOMAIN OF MATERIAL WORLD.

    Thanks!

    1. (please post here not above)

      Empiricism, Rationalism and verification of negative truths – Part II

      The methodology of “testing/verification of truth/untruth” in scientific method (empiricism)is to sense the “thing” with sensory organs and to compare the experience with the past sensory experiences(cumulative sensory experiences). If the experience in hand is similar to the one or several of the past experiences, the present thing under investigation is said to be true, otherwise rejected as untrue.

      However, the important thing to keep in mind is that it is true or untrue only relative to this methodology and it has no authority to conclude anything out of its domain(material).

      So, “truth” uncovered by scientific method is not “absolute truth” and it is true only in that given frame of scientific method. It is only “scientifically true, but not absolutely true.

      In other words, “scientific truth” is not necessarily be a truth.

      I have shown in the previous post that Scientific method or Empiricism by its definition is meant to handle problems related to material world, (with some short comings in the methodology). It has no capacity to investigate or explore the non material world an negate “non material phenomena” as science enthusiasts believe possible.

      This belief is not less foolish than trying to measure the atmospheric pressure with a thermometer and concluding that there is no atmospheric pressure at all. This is not a less senseless act though it is a bit complicated and seems belong to English speaking elite class.

      So such hidden senseless ideas become slogans of the “enthusiasts” to become “poras” by preaching them to innocent people as absolute truths, for various self profitable reasons. However, these are more complicated, modern and more elite myths than the ones they were trying to chase from the society. A difference is earlier were myths of random incidents, and the present one is establishing as a whole theory, as a whole ideology as the “sole authority of knowledge”. A complicated,a modern, an elite class and a more grave myth.

      Thanks!

      To be continued…………

  15. Most of the above comments offer further negative evidence to a question the writer has raised in the original article: is there intelligent life in Silly Lanka? A detached reader can easily surmise how these frequently off-point, fanatically defensive comments actually demonstrate the need for more rationalists (and true Buddhists) in Silly Lanka.

    1. Giruwa Pattuwela

      Your comment implies that true Buddhism is rational. So, you must be having a rational explaination of the concepts like nirvana and rebirth. If you do, please enlighten us!

    2. Dear Giruwa Pattuwela;

      Above are not the ideas of “Silly Lanka”, but the fundamentals of western knowledge, “fanatically defensive” ideas of real Rationalism and Empiricism(scientific method).

      Whether you accept those “fanatically defensive” ideas or comfortably sleep in “pop science” is your choice.

      We report you decide.

      Thanks!

  16. Yapa

    It is not so easy to debunk the belief of a creator God as you think!

    The crux of the theists’ argument is that we humans are unable to pass a judgement on God’s mind and it’s beyond our comprehension.

    That’s why there is evil! And that’s why He allows natural dissasters to wipe out populations from time to time!

    The theists say that God created evil as well to “test” the faith of his “children”. Those who withstand the temptation of Satan(another creation of God) will only be treated nicely on the Day of the Judgement!

    Further, God can take the life away at any time He wants from any of His “children” which He gave life to! That’s why some young and innocent children die! His intentions for this can never be known to people like me, Yapa or Averroes!

    Why do we find dinosaur bones which are older than the biblical time of the creation? Because God deliberately placed those fossils in the relevent soil layers so that future scientists would discover them and contradict His creation! The aim: Once again to test the faith of His “children’!

    Or we can’t know His intentions fully as we are mere human!

    Furthermore the lenght of a “day” in the book of Genesis is metaphorical and shouldn’t be taken literally!

    Now, we can apply the same kind of argument to describe Nirvana.
    It is beyond the comprehension of an ordinary human mind. It is beyond description of the words because words have a limited meaning!

    It is realized by a person who has reached that “state” only.

    Then again, Nirvana is actually not a “state of mind” nor does it exists anywhere! It is neither an entity nor a state of existence and also there is no “person” who experiences it!

    Just because an ordinary person can’t perceive it or empirically prove it, can we discard it?

    Isn’t it like the God’s mind which beyond human comprehension?

    Cheers!

    1. Dear Saban;

      Your humour about the God was truly correct,on what you feel you cannot is not disprove, but you believe not true.But your extension it to Nirvana I don’t thin was correct, as the two cases are dissimilar and poles apart.However, contrary to your belief God’s existence is really disprovable and had been properly disproved by both Averroes and Epicurus, without leaving a remnant. The argument that we humans are unable to pass a judgement on God’s mind and it’s beyond our comprehension is a sorry argument, that seems to cover everything, but not so. I will explain.

      Unlike Empiricism, Rationalism is not a too limited to Material world. It is applicable to material world as well as non material world alike, it can be used to abstract concepts as well. Geometry is a abstract subject totally constructed on Rationalism, most subject areas of Mathematics is so.

      Rationalism is based on the premise that things have a logical sequence in in their existence(material, non material or abstract existence). The methodology in verification of truth in Rationalism is done by tallying the the result obtained through intellectual logical exercise beginning from an attribute of the thing with a result already has as a belief something which has to be tested. If the two results do not tally, the result which we tested is called untrue. If this attribute we test is a necessary and sufficient condition of the thing we test, and did not tally with the intellectually arrived result, then the thing itself is totally disputed, even if some other attributes of it had been found true. Just one such contradiction debunks it completely, though on some other attributes it was found true and correct. I will explain this with an example.

      You know about the fox who fell into the “pot of blue”. It claimed it was a divine creature sent by the God to rule the wild beast. Looking at it there was no reason to dispute, as there had been no creature similar to it among them to call it otherwise. So lions, elephants, tigers and even foxes believed it as a divine creature. It had no any attribute that could dispute its divinity. Every attribute proved it was not one among them. However,one day suddenly when the divine creature, heard a howl of a pack of foxes, the divine creature also sent away a similar howl.

      This particular attribute did not tally with the prescribed attribute of the divine creature, despite all the other attributes proven to be tallying. This single non tallying attribute debunked the divinity of the at holy creature.

      Another example is the story of the “Donkey in the lion’s skin”. Al the other attributes except “donkey ears” were the attributes of a lion, however, the single deviated attribute debunked its lion status. If the preferable attribute completely sealed the other attributes, that is the lion skin sealed two donkey ears too inside the skin without any sign, it would have saved its skin. However, when there is at least a single attribute that does not tally, the all the other attributes halt to defend the thing.

      The argument that we humans are unable to pass a judgement on God’s mind and it’s beyond our comprehension was an umbrella attribute,that has been devised by clever advocates of God, that seems to cover up the God and save him from all the arguments. But just like the ears of the donkey the earlier attribute assigned to God, i. Creator ii. His omnipotent iii. His omniscience iv. His omnipresence had been there for long time, before the new umbrella attribute was constructed. With those attributes,assign to God, he can be debunked. Epicurus did it Averroes did it. Serial creator God argument debunked him. So the umbrella attribute has no validity. So is the power of Rationalism, when used properly and in the places where it is applicable, though it is not a panacea as I has said earlier.

      So, no defensive argument of God can save Him. Do you think it is so for Nirvana?

      Nirvana is not only with indisputable defensive arguments, it has consistent and coherent positive and constructive arguments, to back it. None of the attributes assigned to it can be debunked using any rational argument, at least I have not so come across one.

      So, many want Buddhism too to be dead when the other beliefs die their natural death, in the era of knowledge. But I don’t properly know the reason, it stands upright among all others,when all the others fail. No one should generalize, when 99.9% is proved wrong, remaining 0.01% is also wrong, that is against any reasonable standard. You will have to prove properly that remaining 0.01% is also wrong to generalize 100% is wrong.

      Did you too sway away with the popular ideas, dear Saban? You should not come to conclusions without full understanding. Haven’t you heard of the moral tell you in “Culla Hatti Padopama Sutta”?

      Thanks!

  17. Sabbe Laban and Yapa,

    I followed your arguments very closely. I fully agree with Sabbe. Yapa, I can remember you were in the process of proving Karma, Rebirth and Nirvana. You could not complete it due to GV’s finding it too much. I waited eagerly to read your argument as I have not yet met a person who could prove these things to me.

    As Sabbe I do not see a difference between creator God and Nirvana. I can not understand how a person thinks one is the absolute truth and the other is totally false.

    If people like to adhere to a relegion it is not body’s buisness. Religions may have done a service to the man kind. (However, sometimes I suspect this notion when I see how people had fought and killed each other over religion in the human history.)

    what raltionalists tried to acheive, to my knowledge, was not to prevent people from practicising their own relgions. They were instrumental in showing the people that there are scientific or rational explanations for the natural phenomena, which they grasped hitherto as caused by demons, gods an other supernatural beings. For isntance, Chiken pox is not a ‘deiyange lede’ but it is caused by virus. There are many such examples.

    Still even our so called educated people follow black magic in certain instances. How many new duty free cars with hanging lime and green chilies have you seen belong to doctors? Who does not seek advice from the astrologer when getting married, living through a bad patch or having a new baby? But the difference between the educated and uneducated is that the educated knows when to seek the advice from the astrologer and when to go and see the doctor. They never go to ‘kattadiya’ when their child is sick with dengue.

    Therefore, the service of the ‘rationalists’ is important in educating the ignorant of the reality so that they can make use of the fruits of the sicientific development of the human race to their own advantage.

    I think Yapa also would accept, if he is not irrational, that the quality of human life has been improved not by relgions but by scince.

    For example please compare the lives of our generation and the previous. Although most of them were more religious than us we have acheived much more things both spiritually and materialisically than them. What is the secret behind this improvment? Science.

  18. If we are from monkeys, how come there are still monkeys? I’m confuse

    1. Arunasiri

      Monkeys may be asking the same question!

      You are confused because that’s not what evolution says. That’s a loose version,the early 20th century religionists used to ridicule evolution!
      Present day monkeys and we are releted to a common ancestor. Monkeys evolved too into more than hundred different species around the world. Evolution doesn’t work the same way on all individuals at the same time. Sometimes there are leaps and bounds! For example you can ask,”If all life evolved from unicellular organisms(like bacteria), why are bacteria around?”

      1. Dear Saban;

        Scientists today believe that the further evolution of humans (biological advancement)is ceased as present due to development of by Science and Technology!

        Do you believe me?

        They explain it in two two lines of reasoning.

        1. Evolution takes place by adjusting animals to the (harsh) conditions of the environment. With the sophistication of advancement of Science and technology, man adjust the environment according the way he wants not the other way round expected by the nature, evolution to take place. So, there is no cause for evolution to take place and consequently, evolution of man has ceased.

        2. With the development of health facilities, weak people live longer life, and produce kith and kin. But in a natural environment, with the natural law of “survival of the fittest”, only strong people live to produce the next generation, making a stronger generation with the good qualities of the parents. But with so called development of medical sciences, weaker ones replace strong to produce future generation, with their inherited weaknesses. There is no space for “the survival of fittest”, that stops the biological advancement of humans, that positive evolution.

        Thanks!

  19. why you say the world took billions of years to make when it’s so easy God Did it in seven days? I’m so confuse.

    1. Yes, unless all the sedimentary rocks were hidden there inside earth by God to fool us!

  20. I have followed the 50+ comments with interest, and thank everyone for joining – even cacophony is better than silence or indifference!

    Many comments have followed the predictable pattern of denial or digression, but that’s ok. When reader comments get longer than an original submission, it usually means the essay in question has touched a raw nerve. I’m glad to offer such simulation from time to time!

    I can only reiterate what I wrote in the original essay above: “Why do otherwise moderate people turn emotional and fiercely defensive in any discussion about their religious faith? Why is it that a majority of Lankans seem so threatened if anyone were to even mildly question the ‘certain certainties’ of a dogma randomly assigned to them at birth? Could it be because, as Mark Twain once remarked, “Faith is believing what you know ain’t true”?”

    Finally, thank you for not turning personally abusive towards me, as happened on a previous occasion: see
    http://groundviews.org/2010/02/27/living-secular-in-the-%E2%80%98sinhala-buddhist-republic%E2%80%99-of-sri-lanka/

    1. Nalaka,

      Appreciate your efforts. The extent to which these beliefs permeate society is a direct indication of its overall scientific literacy, in our case – not much. Beliefs that should have gone the way of the dodo somewhere in the 18th century, persist to the 21st.

      The problem is that, when even the “educated” believe in astrology, it’s only a baby step more to believe in any other type of nonsense, say the “evil eye”. We are all stuck in a feudal time warp, politically and intellectually, and it appears that it is going to be a painfully time consuming goodbye.

      What makes things disheartening is the state of countries like America, wherein 40-50% of people still believe in young earth creationism. The yawning chasm between intellectuals and the rest of its population is astounding. It is only a testament to the power of childhood brainwashing and magical thinking.

      On the bright side, solace can be found in countries like Sweden, Iceland etc., which prove that it’s indeed possible to elevate a society as a whole to astounding levels of literacy and development, and largely banish magical thinking. Where religiosity/magical thinking is low, human development indices are usually high, a happy correlation.

      1. This has been my personal experience too! I don’t know about Scandinavia, but by and large North America seem to be going back to dark ages, with its half-baked and mistrusting inhabitants!

        Sri Lanka is not as bad as America with regards to intellectual blindness!

      2. Yapa

        Yes, I know that God & Nirvana are different concepts, but what I wanted to highlight was the general appearence of these concepts as perceived by their respective followers, not the intricate details of them!

        As you said in an earlier debate, the modern science is no longer ‘rational’;’rational’ in the sense, the way that our macroscopic everyday objects behave! It will be correct to say that science has lost this traditional rationality after the advent of quantum physics.

        For example if you send an atom from the tip of your nose to the dot appearing at the end of this sentence it would travel in all possible paths between the two points mentioned simultaneosly. It would go to Nugegoda junction and at the same time circle round Jupiter as well! This is called Feinman’s sum over histories! But you don’t see similar behavoir for example when you throw a rotten egg at your favourite pollitician! Just because the behavior of particles in quantum physics is not our day-to-day experience or contrary to our common sense, does it mean it’s a myth? No, quantum theory has passed every single test;every single experiment!

        Furthermore, quantum physics has removed the concept of “cause and effect” which we consider the basis of many things. In fact, when it comes to the small particles their “present” decides their “past”, and not the other way around! For example if you try to “observe” a beam of photones which is coming form a distant star and which has undergone grvitational lensing effect on its way to you, it will change its history! That means although it was emitted billions of years ago it will change its history instantly, the moment you start to observe it!

        And somebody can say that all this happens in the microscopical world and not in our “real world!”. Interestingly enough, now the scientists are finding out, that increasingly larger particles show this kind of bizzare behavior like multiple histories and multiple existences! Can we expect one day that a living organism like a bacteria too to show this type of “wave-particle duality?” It remains to be seen. Then what about turning a bigger creature like Saban into a wave & make him travel all over the universe simultaneously, when he actually wanted to go to the mall to buy a beer can?

        The example in the last paragraph as you know is a result of wishful thinking, which is good material for science fiction! Using philosophy alone you may arrive at similar conclusions regarding concepts like Nirvana!

        But the difference, Yapa, all the quantum phenomena mentioned about have been proven in experiments which were repeated several times over. True,they have changed our perception of reality forever, but the fact remains that each one of these “bizzare phenomena” can be verified mathematically and as you know math can comprehend certain things that are beyond our “five senses”!

        But on the other hand, to prove the existence of a concept like Nirvana you have to use philosophy only as a tool. And according to my understanding I don’t think that it is good enough! “A blissful experience where it is neither an experience nor a state of existence with nobody to experience it”, clearly falls into the territory of philosophy only. Such wishful thinking can be found in the video I posted earlier about the “ancient aliens!”

        But, let’s keep your options open; if somebody can demonstrate that such a state exists(though it looks far remote a possibility!)others too can make a “model of nirvana”(or an alternative reality) and learn about it! But if that “existence” is only a personal “experience” which is beyond any kind of demonstration,(unfortunately) it falls into the territory of mythology.

        Every word I said here is valid for “communication with God” as well!

      3. Dear Saban;

        Thanks for your response.

        I think PitastharaPuthraya and Gamarala want to support the view close to the view they hold, by voting them, by neglecting opposite views, neglecting all the facts arguments and examples given against it. I think the best way to support a view is to give sound arguments. examples and facts in favour of their views and countering the opposite views in an accepted manner. Just support matters in politics, not in an intellectual discussion. The tools used are arguments, counter arguments, evidence, facts and examples not “vote”. Democratic Principle “Franchise” doesn’t work here.

        PP has says that he agrees with Sabbe, doesn’t fail to say with which view of him. Saban has agreed with some of my views as well and therefore do PP agree with my views as well?

        Dear Saban;

        Though you have not mentioned I think you have agreed to my post that God can be clearly debunk and debunked by many, though there cab be some arguments develop along one parameter(attribute) of it that cannot be debunk, however, as I pointed out through examples, if the “thing” is debunked along one parameter it is totally debunked despite that particular parameter along which it cannot be debunked. Building up one “non-debunkable” argument is not a “safe heaven” for God or anybody. Once debunked it is debunked.

        I feel like your ideas of accepting something as true is it to be compatible with Rationalism and Empiricism: that is it should back with sound arguments and worldly experience(sensory experience). True, that is one of the most accepted bench marks, in this regard, in many cases known to us, however, it has not concluded yet to say it is the case fro everything. I think there are many evidence/examples to point that it is does not cover everything. If so science would have already found “Theory of Everything”.

        However, God concept does not comply with none of the above ideologies, not only that one of them clearly debunk the God.

        In contrast to that Nirvana has a “very good” positive rational explanation, and also there is a “kind of” Empirical backing for it as well though it is not exactly the experience referred in Scientific method. However, I think your notion anything beyond “demonstration” falls into the category of Mythology is not correct.

        What you really can say is that “it is incorrect as per the Scientific Method or Empiricism” and nothing more as per the permitted level of Scientific method or Empiricism itself.

        For example as I said earlier, Mathematics does not need the help of “Physical experience” it to be correct. It is totally abstract and does not rely on any physical existence it no to fall into the territory of Mythology. This is a classic example that Rationalism alone can build up/ testimony for existence of realities with physical or material support, in “some territories”, though not in all.

        Einstein’s theory of Relativity was totally based on Rationalism and his experiments were “Thought Experiments” and he built up his total theory without any support of the experience of the material world. Later it was empirically proved that it was again a proof of that “reality/truth” can also be explored without the help of material experience, especially when the subject area does not fall under the “conception” of the humans. The conceptions in Relativity such as elongation of time, space, matter, gravity and their non-independent existence were out of human conception, and if somebody was hoping to invent “Relativity” through human experience, and only on alone it, it would have never happened in the 20th century or will not be taken place in the 2000000000000th century. So, empirical overlap with the realities found by Relativity is not a tribute to it, I would argue that is is the backwardness of it. Relativity was not wrong without the support of empiricists, but they could not understand the reality expressed by Relativity until it was told to Empiricists, until it was told to them in the language known to them. They are in the backward idea that reality is there only if it can be translated into their language. Unfortunately, it is not the reality. This is a problem of “Empiricists” being imprisoned in their ideology for a long time thinking it as the sole methodology of truth and reality. The ideology of the worm in a bitter gourd.

        Human reality/conception is a trivial component of the total reality. So, Empiricism is not the bench mark of reality.

        As you have mentioned that Scientific method/Empiricism rejects personal experience as a mode of gaining knowledge, but isn’t it just a constraint of their ideology/methodology, isn’t it an axiom in their ideology? An axiom is not common to all ideologies, and limited to the area of concern of the ideology. An axiom is self evident to the believers of that ideology only. It cannot be proved by ideology itself or any other means. Is there any reason for other ideologies to believe that axiom of Empiricism, that only demonstrative experiences are “saved” from being Mythology? At least tell me as a methodology of finding truth/reality, does Rationalism believe that axiom, only demonstrable experience is not Mythology and personal experience is Mythology? Contrary to that almost all axioms of Rationalism do not hold on to any of the axioms of Empiricism, and therefore do you argue, Rationalism falls into the territory of Mythology?

        Do you need demonstrable experience to conclude, a bachelor is not married?

        There is no ground for any ideology to reject “personal experience” as Mythology, but it is a convenient belief. There are a lot of “difficult to believe”, personal experiences, but aren’t there wrong demonstrable experiences as well. Do you believe all demonstrable experiences as true? Black magic, mirage, illusions, disillusions?

        Not at all. Same way not all the personal experiences are Mythology, against the “popular belief”, spread by science enthusiasts, not by science.

        There are enough but true personal experiences, even physical experiences that are not demonstrable. Can you demonstrate the pain in one of your teeth to others? It is a personal experience, I think you cannot demonstrate it rather than crying with running tears out of your eyes, but crying and tears are not the pain in your teeth, though a person will understand it occurred due to pain in your tooth. But, the pain in your tooth is a non demonstrable reality that does not fall into the territory of Mythology.

        Most of think on behalf of Science, Empiricism and Rationalism and on many other ideologies that those ideologies themselves do not think, but attribute arbitrarily to them, don’t we Saban?

        Nirvana is a personal experience, however can be rationalized. One can intellectually guess about it, however, as described it is a personal experience, which claims can be tested by anybody, where testing methodology is fully described.

        Just like a thermometer cannot experience atmospheric pressure, it is said that the methodology for full realization of Niravana is not the “popular knowledge” known by many. Isn’t that natural Saban?

        Thanks!

      4. correctio9n………

        “This is a classic example that Rationalism alone can build up/ testimony for existence of realities with physical or material support, in “some territories”, though not in all.”

        should be

        “This is a classic example that Rationalism alone can build up/ testimony for existence of realities [without] physical or material support, in “some territories”, though not in all.

        Thanks!

      5. Dear Saban;

        If demonstrable experience a pre-requisite to know something, almost half of the world must be ignorant of labour pains.

        Ha! Ha!!

        Thanks!

    2. Nalaka Gunawardene seems to be delighted with 50+ comments on his article. However, one can generate a heap of comments by calling an ugly woman pretty or a pretty woman ugly, one’s success in number of comments does not necessarily attribute to the success of the article or the cleverness of the writer. However, Nalaka should be grateful to me, if he measures his or his artcles’ success in terms of number of comments, as most of his articles would have gone without any comments, if I did not initiate them in compassion at him. Ha! Ha!!

      However, why he is choosy, in showing his articles, how he has been personally abused? He could have referred the his “story of Telescopes” or other articles as well.

      One should mind about his cacophony as well if he talks about others’ cacophony, before that. He should be responsible about his arguments being responsive not being abusive, as well.

      It is good trying to upgrade the awareness of the people. But I think one must properly what he is going to teach others before he/she is teaching them. My criticism about Nalaka’s viewpoints expressed in the forum begins with that. One can teach Science or technology he has learnt, but one should not try to form and change philosophies with the assertiveness of the bit one know. Trying to impose outlooks is not like some random knowledge collected from here and there. One might be assertive of himself that he is a white sheep out of the herd, but it does not necessarily is a reason for him to be a white sheep. One may aspire to get Nobel’s prize, but his failure in Advanced Level Examinations disputes his truthfulness of his aspirations. One should have an assessment of himself specially when if he really wants to do some social service what ever a way he is capable of not a way he is incapable of. I think Nalaka knows what I say, though I have not yet seen him personally.

      My criticism on him is not on his personal grounds, but on the grounds of what he is trying to spread on his informal knowledge.

      Thanks!

  21. When I see Carlo Fonseka now trying to impose bans on public displays of affection, skirts and tube-tops and spouting the virtues of Buddhist spirituality on television…

    I don’t want to live on this planet anymore.

    1. Carlo Fonseka, who pioneered SLRA, at a later stage must have understood the folly of being in a such an association guided by a blunt philosophy or he must have become desperate about the the shallow minded people absorbed by the association at the later stage, not to be active in it since a long time.

      It is further evidenced by how the Buddhist doctrine is being praised praised at present by this Catholic born professor of Science.

      People realize many things when they become old.

      Thanks!

  22. Dear Yapa,

    The difference between Religion and Science is on empiricism of the latter.

    A hypothesis developed to explain a natural phenomenon will be proven or disproved experimentally in the future. Einstein’s ‘theory of general relativity’ is proven correct by using it to explain the orbit of Mercury. (Newtonian mechanics failed to describe its orbit. The scientists thought it was due to gravitational pull of another planet). When Einstein proposed the theory it was only a way to understand the gravity witout any experimental proof. Likewise, the CERN scientists at the LHC are trying to prove or disprove the presence of Higgs Boson. Why? the standard model of particle physics need it to prove its correct. If they failed to find Higgs boson they will have to abandon the standard model and find another model. So, nothing remains mystic in science. Very soon they will either be proven correct or wrong. That is all about the scientific method. The marvel of science is that there is no doubt about its usefulness for the humans as we enjoy the fruits of scientific discoveries almost every second.

    Relegious experience is totally different from science. It is purely personal. If we happen to meet a person who claims that he has attained ‘nibbana’. What is there to prove or disprove? How can you explain that to an alien from an exoplanent what Nirvana is? But we would be able to show him how nuclear fusion works.

    This relgious experience, wheather it is God or Nirvana, is definitely beyond normal human understanding. Whether it is there or not can not be proven or disproved using scientific method.

    Those who beleive only on five senses would say that there is nothing beyond our material world. It is also unfair to ask them to prove a presence or absence of something like Nirvana, which does not have any form of observable physical property whatsoever. I do not know how to describe the logic which says if somebody can not prove the non-existance of something it should be present.

    Those who beleive in some other extra-sense can go on beleiving whatever they want.

    For the time being it is wise to consider something non-existance unless its presence is proved by people who advocates it.

    That is what the rationalist has been trying to do.

    1. “This relgious experience, wheather it is God or Nirvana, is definitely beyond normal human understanding.”

      How did you come to know this important general principle? Is it a principle discovered by a genius or God told you in a dream? Ha! Ha!!

      I don’t know how such big principles come to some peoples’ mind so effortlessly. I feel very envy of them>

      Many seem to think making general principles is as easy as eating peanuts. Ha! Ha!!, Do you also think so, dear PitastharaPuthraya?

      For other points raised by you in your post, please read my last and penultimate posts, as some relevance to your points are there in them.

      Thanks, for responding.

  23. Yapa

    Some of the arguments you brought forward are thought provoking, yet I’m not convinced enough to swallow them raw without ruminating them!(another bizarre behavior of our species!)

    First and foremost, what you say about mathematics is not correct, because even though math is beyond the five senses of the human being, that is the very reason to say that science(especially the entity called “modern science”) is not limited to the experience determined by the five senses! You must be knowing better than me that by math, the human mind can grasp certain things that would otherwise be impossible. For example, the curvature of four-dimensional space-time, said to be occurring around a mass(according to Einstein) cannot be perceived through our senses, but it can be mathematically verified. The same thing can be told about the “quantum status” in a Black Hole or in the early universe. In that case just like we enhance the scope of our senses using infra-red vision, spectrometers, ultra-sound equipment and X-ray machines, math has given that objective extra-yard to the human mind to deduce and infer.

    To set the record straight it is not correct to say that Einstein simply “guessed” his thought experiments. He simply suggested a “new model” to the existing frame using math, because at that time Physics has come up against an impasse with the discovery that light travels at the same speed regardless of the frame of reference- or the observer’s speed(Mecklson-Morley experiment).

    Certain human(and animal) emotions like pain as you say looks like a big mystery if you use philosophy as the “only tool” to look at them. This is how certain areas of brain reacts to a potentially harmful nervous impulse. We call it pain and some other being might call it something else. Basically all our emotions can be produced by stimulating certain areas of our brain. The chemicals called neuro-transmitters in the brain are the basis the manifestations we perceive as feelings and emotions. That is why the schizophrenics who have chemical imbalances in the brain have hallucinations and they believe that they are “real”. Their sense of reality is different from ours and how do we know whether a schizophrenic’s world is real or our world is real? Once again we use certain logical parameters based on our past experience. If a schizophrenic says that there is “horned demon” seated on his couch, how do we know it is not so? Don’t we use the deductive ability of our brain based on our past experience? You can ask, “prove that there is no such horned demon on my couch?” The best answer you can give is, “as far as our mental capacity is concerned, there is no such demon on your couch”. Maybe you can support your argument by using an array of scientific equipment to show that there is no evidence of such a demon on the couch. In fact it’s better to ask the person who has such experience to prove it (at least mathematically!!)rather than asking others to disprove it! Yet, the schizophrenic might continue to argue saying that your equipment are not advanced enough to detect his demon or that your mind is not “fine-tuned” enough to see it!

    Now you may see where philosophical guessing can lead us to! This doesn’t rule out that there may be an individual experience that is unique and cannot be detected by our technology, but in such instances such a person should be able to demonstrate it in other ways. For instance if a person is supposed to have attained Arhath-hood he should be able to demonstrate some attribute of it (like appearing in many places at the same time) repeatedly to say there is something like that! Then what about the ancient people like Buddha who is said to have travelled through the universe in an instant, seen past and present of beings, read minds etc. or Jesus who is said to have walked on water and given life to the dead?

    My opinion is we honestly can’t verify the truthfulness of these stories. But, we can do some “philosophical guessing” as you do, by thinking that Buddha’s mind must have behaved like a quantum particle which could travel to a distant galaxy and at the same time eating his alms at Baron Anatha Pindika’s mansion.

    My opinion is still it’s not good enough although “my opinion” may be proven wrong some day.

    I want to add to your argument on “debunking God’ as well!
    Your main weapon in your debunking seems to be the argument about the creation of God; if God was created by another God and so on, “where is the beginning?” The theists say that God was not created! God was there forever as God is not a physical entity! If I ask, what is the beginning of “sansaara” or the cycle of births and rebirths what is the answer you can give. In fact in Jathaka Stories(which is part of Sutra Pitakaya) there is a description of a “first king” called Manu and Manu’s generation is shown to have continued upto Brahmadatta. Leaving that apart, the answer to the question, “what is the starting point of samsara”, is unanswerable because invariably you can ask the question, “who existed before that?” This made Budda (wisely)categorize questions like these as unanswerable or “avvyakatha” and said that such questions don’t serve any purpose in the human being’s quest for liberation(from suffering! ) Most of the time he is said to have observed silence when questions like these were asked(a tribute to his superior intelligence). The same question can be asked about the Big Bang! What existed before the Big Bang becomes a meaningless question as whatever existed before that has no observable effect on the events that took place in the universe after the Big Bang!

    In other words you are trying to debunk God using the “avvyakatha” argument of Shakyamuni Gauthama who taught that it is unanswerable around 600B.C.E.!

    1. Dear Saban;

      You talked sense above, though I have not yet become a the schizophrenic, as per my belief. Ha! Ha!!

      However, I think there are some gray areas areas in our discussion, due to due to lack of clarity in some of the definitions, which is a key to it. That is why I tried to define and clear the definitions of “Empiricism” and “Rationalism” at the beginning of the discussion. I did not finish Rationalism, as I though the required things in that regard was covered in the later posts. However, still I feel there are some more key definitions such as “Science, Scientific Method, Newtonian Science, and Modern science have to get cleared, before going further in the discussion. The post above of PitastharaPuthraya too indicates to that need.

      First of all it seems that many use “Science” and “Scientific Method” as synonymously, which is misconception that leads to confusion.

      When the word Science was found to represent a collection of knowledge, including the tools used for it and the knowledge itself accrued though them, Science meant only “Newtonian Science”. Modern Science was not included then in that definition. So, the term Science is still used by many in that meaning who have no or little understanding about the later development of it. Many talk on the assertiveness of “that Science”, that is Deterministic Newtonian Science as the bench mark of every knowledge. Modern Science does not hold this view and and considering whole body of knowledge accrued as Science up to now as just a moderate tool of finding truth, not disrespecting other modes of finding knowledge. My objection to the views of many is based on this idea of Modern Science to oust everything in the world on the basis of assertive Science they know. I am talking against the “debunked pride” of the outdated Science and the old Science outlook holders, who try to thrash every thing with the big club of Science with their ignorance of the modern developments of the attitudes of Science after 19th century.

      Again to Science and Scientific Method (Empiricism), Science even in its traditional meaning are nor synonymous. Empiricism or Scientific method is only one of the tools to gain knowledge in Science. Really Scientific Method was not a tool in Science until the 13th century until it was first introduced to Science by as an ideology and until taken it by Galileo as a methodology of practice. Before that the methodology in gaining knowledge in Science was Rationalism. Olden day Scientists took empiricism as a rude tool, not suitable to use in subtle body of Science. After Galileo the main tools of Science became Rationalism and Empiricism. Really the body of knowledge in Science is accrued through both Rationalism and Empiricism. Really Empiricism alone cannot gain knowledge without the help of Rationalism. Empirical observations have to be based on rational arguments to translate them into knowledge in Science. So, the belief that Science is Empiricism or the body of knowledge accrued through Empiricism is a half truth and result of lack of knowledge of the philosophy of Science. Really, Rationalism and Empiricism represent “Deductive Logic” and “Inductive Logic” respectively, in the “Formal Logic”, first initiated by Aristotle. It also should be noted that Formal Logic formulated by Aristotle is also known as “Middle Excluded Two Valued Logic” and hence, Science(Classical Science/Newtonian Science) and its both Methodologies of gaining knowledge is limited to “Two Valued Logic” and inherits the intrinsic Shortcomings of Two Valued Logic. I just mentioned this fact for the future use in the discussion. Further, it also should be noted that Logic itself says that unlike the knowledge generated in Deductive Logic, the knowledge generated in Inductive Logic has no guarantee that it is always true. Hence, as per the first principles, no one can say knowledge gained through Empiricism/Scientific Method is perfectly true and use as a bench mark to measure other “knowledge” gain trough any other system, if the have some awareness of the philosophy of Science. Science inherits this short coming of Empiricism, as a method of ascertaining knowledge. Not only that, I will show that Rationalism is also not without faults, as I already have indicated above. So the body of knowledge based on Rationalism and Empiricism that is Classical Science is not without faults as many think. These were the reasons why Classical Science could not solve the Problems arisen in after 19th century in Science.

      In essence,

      1. Classical Science is based on “Middle excluded Two Valued Logic”, which include Deductive and Inductive Logic.

      2. Deductive Logic in knowledge generation is known as Rationalism and Inductive Logic is known as Empiricism.

      3. By virtue of the definition of Inductive Logic the knowledge gained through it has an element(?) of non credibility, and that inherits science. Another limitation is that this tool can be used in knowledge gaining only material phenomena.

      4. Two Value Logic as a whole has its inherited limitations, that affect both Rationalism and Empiricism, consequently affects the credibility of Science(Classical). However, unlike Empiricism, Rationalism is a wider tool that can be used even outside of the material world.

      5. Science is not the the body of knowledge popularly believed by many.

      So, on the basis of rationalism shown as above anybody would understand that Science is not a perfect body to consider as a bench to measure others with regard to the “Universal set of knowledge. This stance was further evidenced by Empiricism, exhibiting its inability to solve the problems cropped up after 19th century in Science.

      So, Rationalism and Empiricism, themselves proves that they are only some average(but good) tools very much far from perfection. Ha! Ha!! What an irony of fate.

      Still Science enthusiasts are trying hard to impose these tools into the heads of our people to Awaken the Sleep-walking Lankan Nation. Ha! Ha!! They are only talking in Sleep.Ha! Ha!!

      They want to awaken a nation who has realized the true nature of universe, with no effort. As I have been telling from the beginning of the discussions, “Buddhist Gamaralas and Gamamahages of remote villages have a much better understanding about the nature of this universe, unlike our sleep talkers.

      I think only indisputable and unquestionable true statement about the universe is “uncertainty” or nature of “Anichcha”. Is there any other such broad statement expressed about the nature of universe, in terms of Science or any other knowledge system available. Our Gamaralas and Gamamahages new this true nature of reality and beyond that they knew Anichcha, Duukka, Anathma as the true nature of the world.

      So, These people wants people with such a world view to be awaken with the weak tool of rationalism, really not by real Rationalism but by something they arbitrarily think as Rationalism. They are Rip Van Winkles, who are armed with outdated knowledge that was accepted 200 years ago. What they have to offer to the nation is regressive stale knowledge. They are trying to teach this stale Science to the nation. What our duty of today and should do to upgrade our nation is to arm them with modern knowledge, with the knowledge gained by Modern Science, its philosophy, attitudes and values emanated from it, not the values and attitudes emanate from a stale Science. But many have no knowledge of them and have no capacity, so they sell what they have calling them as gems and diamonds. They are doing a massive harm to present generation preventing modern attitudes associated with modern knowledge reaching at people by filling up staled nonsense in their heads. Many claiming, they are equipped with modern technology and elite language English Claim that they are handling modern knowledge. But they are eating stale food with folks and spoons. Without forks and spoons, we eat modern Chinese Cuisine with our “five pronged fork”, that is with bare hands.

      Oh! Sorry I couldn’t addressed pertinent issues raised by you, just because these unnecessary garbage. I will address them soon.

      Thanks!

      1. Yapa

        Let me point out an inaccuracy in your above post before you engage in this discussion further!

        When you say,”I think only indisputable and unquestionable true statement about the universe is “uncertainty” or nature of “Anichcha”. Is there any other such broad statement expressed about the nature of universe, in terms of Science or any other knowledge system available. Our Gamaralas and Gamamahages new this true nature of reality and beyond that they knew Anichcha, Duukka, Anathma as the true nature of the world”,it appears that you have used the word “uncertainty” instead of “impermanence” or “decay” to mean the Pali word “Anichcha”.

        The meaning ‘Anichcha’ is quite different to ‘uncertainty’ and it is closer to the meanings of ‘impermanence’ or ‘the nature of decay’.

        The reason for this decay, according to Buddha is that it is the “nature of all aggregates, as all agggregates that have come together are suject to decay” Does Bhudda give a reason as to WHY all aggregates should decay? According to my knowledge the answer is “no”;if I’m wrong please correct me.

        Further, the reason for this decay, according science is the result of the 2nd law of Thermodynamics which states that the quantity call “Entropy” in a system always increases.(Entropy can be taken as a measure of “disorder” in a system)That is why things decay(from an atom to a Black Hole) with the passage of time. If you want to keep your house from decaying, you should continuously make repairs!-or in other words spend energy!

        Yet, science doesn’t say WHY the entropy increases in a system(or why things should decay), apart from saying it is a law! If I’m wrong anybody can correct me!

        What I wanted to point out was that the laws of thermodynamics were formulated in the 19th century and it is not a law of ‘modern physics’, as you say!

        In spite of that(if you replace the word ‘uncertainty’ with ‘decay’) when yousay, ,”I think only indisputable and unquestionable true statement about the universe is “uncertainty” or nature of “Anichcha”.” I too fully agree with you. This idea has crossed my mind too (independently of course, so no violation of patent rights!)on several occasions! But, I’m not sure the same is true for the other two concepts as well.i.e. Dukka & Anatta!

      2. Dear Saban;

        Thank you very much for correcting my mistake. That is the correct term. My excellent English skills (Ha! Ha!!)and two contradicting natures housed together in me contributed to that mistake I think. Those two natures in me are my hastiness and my laziness. I am always in haste to to write but lazy to read it again to edit it. You must have observed the amount of grammatical mistakes I “have been carrying out” in almost in all my comments.

        The correct term for Anichcha is impermanence, as you have pointed out, nor uncertainty. If it is uncertainty, I think the law we were referring will not become a universal law, at least as easy as in the case of impermanence. However, uncertainty is a highly related word in the Buddhist notion of the nature of the universe, that is Anichch, Dukka, and Anaththa.

        As you rightly said the other two except the first of them cannot be indisputably and unquestionably taken as universal truths, but we should see whether they could be considered as universal truths, amidst disputes and question, overcoming them. We will consider about it a bit later. However,it is a pleasure that you also had independently, derived the principle I have derived. You must be Leibniz, If I am Newton, you know they both invented Calculus independently. You know even accidents happen only to those who deserve them, not to others as Oersted said.

        Anyway, Anichcha leads leads to uncertainty in people,and it leads to disappointment. (Because people realize that thing do not happen in line with their aspirations.) This disappointment is disappoint is the “dukka”(suffering) that is talked in Buddhist doctrine.

        Anichcha also leads to realization of some other thing as well. That is that we are not at full control of our activities, at least, keep aside the other activities taking place in the universe. This shows the insignificance of an individual or the insignificance/uselessness of anybody’s ego. We do all sort of jugglery in a process to highlighting our ego, to achieve a prominant place to our ego in society, which brings wars, fights, court cases, disputes…etc. etc..ultimately bring suffering to all of us. Isn’t “Egolessness”(Anaththa)or moderation is good. Buddha asks to oust ones ego to devoid of suffering/dukka/disappointment. I think that is the crux of Buddhism. Is there anything irrational in it?

        Buddist Gamaralas and Gamamahages of remote villages understood these characters of nature inherently through their culture, effortlessly though they didn’t attend Ananda College of Maradana or any higher educational institutes that breed violence and hatred to the nation.
        But our Elites of “Science” who broke down their education in their prestigious educational institutes try to awaken these innocent rustics who bear “thrilakshana” as their world view with a stale philosophy of outdated Science that was refused about 200 years ago.

        The philosophy or the base of of Classical Science, its values and attitudes were refused and discarded without leaving a remnant and replaced by a totally different philosophy, on which the Modern Science was built up. The the philosophy of Modern Science is a total deviation from the philosophy of Classical Science, mainly it is not “Deterministic” and not “assertive” of their findings as Classical Science. It is a total paradigm shift. Still half educated Rip Van winkles are trying to force stale food through the throats of our people to satisfy their valueless egos. Are we to let them carryout this foolish ventures that would destroy every good thing in our society? My opposition is Rip Van Winkles to become the “Philosophy providers”/”visionaries” to the nation. Else what would be matter to us if they keep their foolish activities to themselves or to their home fronts?

        Now dear Saban, don’t you see at least some remote possibility that dukka and anaththa too posses some sort of universality on the basis of my explanation about “Three Characters” of nature, though latter two are not without question and disputes like the former one of them?

        Still Saban, I feel as per the Buddhist doctrine that there are indications that “Anichcha” too is not common to everything in universe. I am not sure whether the stanza “Rupan jeerathi machchanan, namagoththan najeerathi is a Buddhist stanza. According to it only “Rupa” are impermanence, not “Nama”. Out of Five Aggrigates only the first one belongs to Rupa and other four belong to Nama. Further, according to “Anichcawatha Sankhara”, only constructed(conditioned things are impermanent. However, it is proper to investigate and see whether the latter four aggregates are “Sankharas” or not. Many doctrines indicate they are Sankhara and if so “Nama Goththan Najeerathi” get contradicted or there “Nama Goththan” should mean something else than “Nama”.

        On the other hand, eastern philosophy inducing Buddhism attribute “apo, thejo vaya and patavi” as base elements of matter. Buddhist doctrine also seems to indicate all “Rupas”(material things that were constructed) decay and turn back into four elementary matters. So this indicates that even in matter there are permanent basic elements of matter as per Buddhism which does not subject to decay. Even,in derivation of chitta, chetasika etc. etc., it seems that there are basic elements in Nama too according to Buddhism. However, all these things do not break up the fundamental teaching of Buddhism, “Sabbe Sankhara anichchathi”, that is all conditioned thins are impermanent. I think that is the universal theory of Buddhism, which qualifies its scope only to Sankhara or conditioned things. However, even the “Universal Theory of Gravitation” of Newton that belonged to the Classical Science, was not universal and it was disputed by Einstein in his theory of Relativity.

        So the universal theories in Buddhism remains undisputed in the era of Modern Science, while the “universal theories of stale science” many want to sent trough Buddhists were discarded as waste paper.

        To break an “Aeth moona”, you need a “Bath moona”, (Aeth moonak bindinna bath moonak oonae) a Sinhala saying says. No one should try to break the Aeth moona with a “Pilunu bath moona”(stale face of rice). We do not remain blind and deaf to them.

        Thanks!

      3. Correction…….

        “On the other hand, eastern philosophy inducing Buddhism attribute “apo, thejo vaya and patavi” as base elements of matter.”

        here “inducing” should be corrected as “including”

        Thanks!

    2. Correction…….

      “5. Science is not the the body of knowledge popularly believed by many.”

      should be

      5. Science is not the the body of knowledge [gained by empiricism] popularly believed by many.

      Thanks!

  24. Yapa

    Though you have acknowleged your error you seem to continue to use the words “impermanent” & “uncertain” interchangeably. The problem with this is that “uncertainty” means “randomness” of a system and I don’t think “randomness” is one of the favoured tools of explaination by Buddha!

    As I see, at least you have admitted on certain inconsistencies and contradictins of certain doctrines of the teachings of Buddha & I too agree that while you can acclaim him to be a person with above-average-intelligence he cannot be attributed of omniscence!

    I’ll keep reading your posts till you start answering some of the more important questions I have raised previously.

    1. Dear Saban;

      Sorry for the delay of responding.

      I think I did not use “uncertainty” in place of “impermanence” after you pointed out the latter was the proper term for “Anichcha”. What I said was “uncertainty” also was related to Buddhist doctrine and due to the impermanent nature of sankara(constructed or formed things)”uncertainty” occurs in the minds of beings making things “unpredictable” to them. This unpredictability of “themselves and things attached to their belongings” (me and my belongings- the feeling of “self” and attachment to it on the aspiration that it is permanent) make them disappointed and dissatisfied and bring them dukka(suffering). Here the “uncertainty means “unpredictability” and not “randomness” as you suggested.

      Further, you have mentioned that I have admitted that some inconsistencies and and contradictions in Buddhist doctrine. The particular case I have pointed out was not any inconsistency or contradiction, but I mentioned it as a probable contradiction given two conditions are fulfilled.

      It is a contradiction, unless the term “namagoththan” does not mean anything other than what “nama” means in Buddhism and also “namagoththan najeerathi” is a stanza found in Buddhist doctrine. However, there are indications that “namagoththan” means “names” more than what is meant by “nama” in Buddhism. Further, I couldn’t yet find any indication that the stanza is a Buddhist doctrine as well.

      Therefore I am yet to convince that there are inconsistencies and contradictions in Buddhist doctrine. I also want to find out whether the Buddhist doctrine is a perfect one. That is why I have been inviting people to show if there are such lapses in it. If somebody shows it I immediately accept it as a lapse. I have respect to Buddhism, only until it is proven wrong, and not after that. You must note that if I had any unfair affiliation to Buddhism, I could have avoided that “probable contradiction” of Buddhism I pointed out in my last post without mentioning it, but I purposely pointed out it. Yet no one has convinced me of the inconsistencies and contradictions in Buddhism, until that I will respect Buddhism, as a consistent ant coherent knowledge system.

      Further, you have said that my debunking of God was mainly based on “Creation” and hence doubted the my debunking of God. No, I shown three mutually exclusive occasions where God is debunked, based on his creation, omnipotence and omniscience.

      http://groundviews.org/2011/10/15/we-the-sinhalese/#comment-38698

      On the other hand the debunking based on Creation itself too is valid.

      You have indicated God cannot be debunked citing an argument of theist that God was there forever as God is not a physical entity!

      What is the advantage over being non physical over being physical something to be forever? If non physical thing (God)can have “existence forever, what is the big reason that the other things cannot exist for ever. If God existed forever, whole universe also can existed forever on the same argument, being non physical has not been proven the a precondition of forever existence. If that argument is true, do all other none physical things existed for ever alone with the God?

      God cannot save his sole from Rationalism.(though so called rationalists are ignorant or blind about it but trying to poke their nose and trying to highlight trivial things like stool walking and talking in sleep.)

      Dear Saban; in accordance with the theories of Modern knowledge NO ONE CANNOT PROVE WHAT HE BELIEVES TO BE TRUE.

      Before going to theory, as I did so far with the first principles, I will deduce the theory with the first principles.

      If one tries to prove some thing he believes, isn’t it circular logic. You are trying to justify the belief by using the belief itself. “Existence of the God” cannot be proven assuming “God existed for ever”, it is circular logic, appealing to effect itself for the cause.

      It is the same case with regard to Empiricism and Rationalism.

      On the basis of assumptions of Empiricism(or by believing Empiricism) is true you cannot prove empiricism is true. It is same with the case of Rationalism.

      Not only that, they cannot be assured of the absolute truthfulness of anything they say. What they can say is the truthfulness of something relative to their belief only, still they cannot say whether their belief is correct(they cannot verify their belief).

      So, the enthusiasts,believers and advocates of Rationalism Empiricism and Science, or any other knowledge system cannot and do not know the truthfulness of their system, but blindly believing and judging and forcing others to believe their system just as them in faith.

      No worm in the Bitter gourd can say whether the taste of bitter gourd is sweet or sour or bittier, it does not know the differences in taste. What he can say is bitter gourd is tasty. Even if he says it is sweet, it means tasty only, not the sweetness.

      This “theory of Karivilagediye panuva” or “the theory of worm of bitter gourd” in western knowledge system is known as “Gödel’s incompleteness theorems”.

      It says “no logical system can be proved using its axioms”.

      Do you think

      1. Rationalism can say it is true, by virtue of rationalism and advice others “not to sleep walk” but to accept Rationalism?

      2. Empiricism can say it is true and to reject all others that cannot be experienced by five senses?

      3. God’s existence can be proved by the atheists assuming HE existed.
      forever?

      All those are dreams of the fools dreamed during the midst of the noon. They are only talking in sleep.

      Thanks!

      1. Yapa

        I too am trying to find whether there is something called an “absolute truth in the world!”

        I’ll start with your argument of God’ creation. As I said, the theists say that God need not have a creator and He existed forever as He was not a physical entity. As you yourself say in your previous post (Jan.25 at 11.43a.am.), “still Saban, I feel that as per the Buddhist doctrine there are indications that “Anachcha” too is not common to everything in the universe”. If you give the same chance to the theists can’t they argue back saying, “still Saban, I feel that as per Theology there are indications that “Anachcha” too is not common to ONE THING” and if they say that if that one thing is God what do you say?

        You further say in the same post, “Buddhist doctrine also seems to indicate all “Rupas”(material things that were constructed) decay and turn back into four elementary matters. So this indicates that even in matter there are permanent basic elements of matter as per Buddhism which does not subject to decay. Even,in derivation of chitta, chetasika etc. etc., it seems that there are basic elements in Nama too according to Buddhism. However, all these things do not break up the fundamental teaching of Buddhism, “Sabbe Sankhara anichchathi”, that is all conditioned thins are impermanent. I think that is the universal theory of Buddhism, which qualifies its scope only to Sankhara or conditioned things.” But according to your own argument, in your very last post(Jan.28 at 8.54a.m.) you say, “ What is the advantage over being non physical over being physical something to be forever? If non physical thing (God)can have “existence forever, what is the big reason that the other things cannot exist for ever. If God existed forever, whole universe also can existed forever on the same argument, being non physical has not been proven the a precondition of forever existence.”

        But, you yourself has told that some things that are “not constructed” are permanent, didn’t you? So why can’t the theists say that their God is something that was not “constructed”, but something metaphysical or “lokoththara”. Buddhism already has one such famous thing i.e. Nirvana!

        I may be giving oxygen to a primitive human belief, yet what it shows is, that our realism depends on the model we explain the so called realism, isn’t it? I’ll let you answer this first before I go further into my “quest for the truth”!

      2. Yapa, you really shouldn’t talk about things you don’t know. for example, godels incompleteness theorms in no way says “no Logical system can be proven using it’s axioms”. that’s an utter lie. Infact, Godel himself came up with his completeness theorem before his more famous incompleteness theorems. the incompleteness theorems only apply to axiomatic system that are capable of number theory and the axioms themselves must be recursively enumerated(meaning that axioms can be printed out in piece of paper as 1,2,3….)You also seem to think anathma in some way or the other relates to ‘moderation’. This is also wrong, anthma does not relate to moderation. Anthma means that once you examine the self, or the Ego, there is nothing permanent there. The things that constitute our identity are forever changing.

      3. Sabbe, although the term ‘disorder’ is often used to describe entropy it should not be confused with what we call disorder in everyday conversation. Entropy actually gives you information about the number of different states a system can change into. The second law of thermodynamics simply states that the number of states a system can change into heads towards zero. The roots of the second law can be found in the foundations of quantum mechanics. More specifically the condition that the sum of all probabilities of all the possible outcomes of a action or event must add up to 1. This in turn can be used to show that every system has a lowest energy state and that the process of a system transitioning from one state to another is irreversible. This gives you most of what the 2nd law says. I’m sorry if this answer is a little vague but that’s the best i can do without getting technical & mathematical. And there are alot of steps in between that i’ve skipped as well. Of course this doesn’t really answer the question it sort pushes it back into quantum mechanics. For example we don’t know why all probabilities must add up to 1.

        The real point i want make here is none of this. Yapa makes all these arguments about induction. But all his claims about the ‘truths’ of buddhism are assertions that are as naked a newborn. He says, “I think only indisputable and unquestionable true statement about the universe is “uncertainty” or nature of “Anichcha”.” This is all dandy but’s merely something he thinks. Well, I think there a gigantic invisible dragon right outside your door. And it’s doing the ‘Macarena’.

        I’d like to say more about this, but I’m still mildly drunk & getting exceedingly sleepier.

        So good night

      4. One last thing. the second law of thermodynamics says pretty clearly that universe and everything in it will inevitably degenerate into an unchanging, or permanent state.

      5. Dear Saban;

        Suppose as you said God can be something unreconstructed as permanent thing that has not been created but existed for ever. But then what can you say about the properties distinct to that particular thing:omniscience and omnipotence the other elementary things in Buddhism or Science do not posses?

        Through those distinct properties of “the particular elementary thing”:God, “this particular elementary thing” different from other elementary things can be debunked.

        God has no safe heaven for sure.

        Thanks!

      6. Dear the way of the dodo;

        If you don’t like to call what I said as “Gödel’s incompleteness theorems”, please call it yapa’s theorem and show if there is some thing wrong in it, not just making “judicial orders” on them, with authority.

        Please respond to them with counter arguments, I am not unhappy at all about it. But I am unhappy about unworthy treatments to my arguments.

        Thanks!

      7. Dear Dear the way of the dodo;

        I would like to pay your attention to the following part taken from the post of Saban of January 23, 2012 • 12:24 am. in this thread

        “As you said in an earlier debate, the modern science is no longer ‘rational’;’rational’ in the sense, the way that our macroscopic everyday objects behave! It will be correct to say that science has lost this traditional rationality after the advent of quantum physics.”

        It may be the reason that you feel my arguments are bizarre, my arguments too might have lost their “traditional rationality”.

        I am sorry about it, but I can’t help it.

        Thanks!

      8. Dear Saban;

        “I too am trying to find whether there is something called an “absolute truth in the world!””

        I would like to give you the Buddhist version(as I think) about this statement.

        I think you have no objection to the statement that “Truth(knowledge) should be a manifestation of Reality”. So, “absolute truth” should be a manifestation of “absolute reality”.

        But there is every indication that reality(“totality, universe) changes every moment. So reality now is different from the reality after a fraction of a second from this moment. So the reality has no any absoluteness, or there is no absolute reality involving the phenomena of the universe. Therefore, there cannot be an absolute truth with regard to the universal phenomena, that is on its impermanent nature.

        However, in concept if somebody can devoid from this impermanent nature of reality, what he experience would be absoluteness, isn’t it Saban, I mean in concept? By what term do you like to call such a situation?

        Thanks!

      9. Yapa, I didn’t make ‘judicial orders’ about anything. You are wrong because there is something called godel’s completeness theorem, as i mentioned in my post. In fact, it was godel himself who proved the ‘consistency” and ‘completeness’ of predicate calculus.( consistency meaning lack of contradiction, completeness meaning provability of the truth value of statements within a system)

        Your argument about this ‘special’ rationality that you ascribe to is nothing more than special pleading. It is no different qualitatively from the apologist rhetoric “god being beyond human reasoning”.

      10. Dear Way of the Dodo,

        Methinks you “misunderestimate” the nature of your interlocutor. Yapa here has been home-schooled in the finest traditions of woo-woo (graduating summa cum laude, Deepak Chopra would be proud). Yet you wish to defeat him through your weapons of reason and logic, weapons against which your foe is completely impervious?

        Fearless! but alas, vain.

      11. By the way, way of the Dodo,

        Your treatment on entropy was very interesting. Could you also shed some light on why there’s an issue in quantum mechanics with probabilities adding up to 1? (when you said “For example we don’t know why all probabilities must add up to 1.”). I’m no mathematician, but I was under the impression that this was because of how probability is defined, and one outcome or the other must always result. Is there something deeper here?

      12. Dear the way of the dodo;

        I don’t want to sidetrack from the present discussion, however, your contention about “probability” has been refuted by Gamarala without leaving a remainder.

        Mind about small holes, they can sink your sophisticated ship.

        Thanks!

      13. Dear the way of the dodo;

        Do you mean to say “a logical system can be proved using its axioms”, by opposing my writing about “Gödel’s incompleteness theorems”?

        Is that what you want to say?

        (Please be king enough to respond when you are not under the influence of liquor, Ha! Ha!!)

        Thanks!

      14. Gamarala,

        Thanks for the heads up.

        The thing is, in quantum mechanics we need to place certain restrictions on what can happen to a system in order for all the probabilities to add up to one. So the probabilities adding up to 1 is sort of forced in there. What we are saying

        This is called unitarity.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unitarity_(physics)

        and once the restriction is placed you can get the 2nd law of thermodynamics from it, despite laban’s protests. But it’s important to note here that this is not a proof of the 2nd law it’s simply deriving it from quantum mechanical concepts.it’s essentially giving it a different expression or seeing it somewhere else.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_law_of_thermodynamics#General_derivation_from_unitarity_of_quantum_mechanics

      15. Dear Way of the dodo,

        Thanks for the explanation. I don’t understand the subject well enough to grasp what you said well, but I think I have a rough idea. Fascinating!

  25. Dear Saban;

    Now I will try to answer the questions you raised in the previous discussion. To start will take the following.

    http://groundviews.org/2011/10/15/we-the-sinhalese/#comment-39052

    I think this question does not arise. The problem with the question lies with the mistaken assumption you have taken at the beginning to form the question:”there are a limited number of abodes(loka)”

    According to Buddhism there are six realms not abodes. Realm is not a place but a category. A category may have thousands of “abodes”.

    For example living things in Science are divided into two categories as Animals and Plants, however,it does not mean there are two only living things in the universe.

    Buddhism has not talked about number of places where beings live, but it has categorized a vast number of “abodes” into a limited number of categories. As the numbers of animal and plant species according to the two categories of Science can go up to millions, the number of “abodes” belong to six categories of realms may go up to millions as well. It is not wise to count number of plant or animal species, I don’t think Buddha went along that path to count number of “abodes” where beings lived.

    On the other hand if you consider the whole universe, what do you mean by an “abode”? A galaxy? a planetary system? a planet? Do you consider animals living in water as a separate abode from the animals living on earth crust and living below the earth crust?

    What is the demarcation of one abode from another in the universe? A vacuumed space?, a black hole?, a river? a mountain range? forest? latitudes and longitudes? Geographical land masses demarcated by the “human beings living in the UNO, under International Law?

    Just like world is a global village in the modern day, whole universe is a village for one who peeps into the universe. Demarcations are artificial boundaries we make for our convenience. Really there are no boundaries in the universe. It is a single universe. A universal village.

    Buddhism talks of the broad categories of realms, not “undefinable” universal abodes. So, I think now it is clear to you that your question does not arise. Buddha has looked at the whole universe as a single entity in categorizing realms.

    Look forward for your response before going to one more question of yours raised in the previous discussion.

    Thanks!

  26. It seems that Nalaka Gunawardene is fast asleep amidst our noisy arguments. Can somebody awaken him?

    Thanks!

    1. Trust the true-believers to generate comments in excess of 100 each time an essay touches on the subject of religion! As mentioned on previous occasions, I don’t wish to discuss any matters with name-callers or with those who hide behind pseudonyms. If you have the courage of your convictions, surely you can step out of the shadows?

      Anyway, the lengthy comments have already answered a question I posed: Is there intelligent life in Sri Lanka? It has also reminded me, once again, that I can’t expect cheekiness or a sense of humour to be appreciated by those who take everything so literally.

      Happy bickering, fellows! See you all in Hell one day…

      1. Dear Nalaka,

        You wrote “….or with those who hide behind pseudonyms. If you have the courage of your convictions, surely you can step out of the shadows?”

        How would you know that Mahinda Perera is a pseudonym or not?
        Divine knowledge?

        Would such a name be more acceptable than one which conveys the fact that a pseudonym is being used?

        On the web you cannot judge who uses a pseudonym by looking at the name. You would not even know the gender of the writer from the name used by the writer. As a technical writer you should have been aware of that.

        If you have the courage of your convictions you should respond to questions without hiding behind Pseudo morality.

  27. Yapa

    Thank you for answering the long forgotten question on “population explosion in the past century”!

    Your answer sheds a lot of light on the issue, and it’s a tribute to Buddha if He has actually told so. I could come accross Buddha’s discourse in “Maha Seehanaada Sutra” & the division into “lokas” in that was limited. You can quote some more of His discourses on the subject if you don’t mind!

    As it turns out, the phenomena of life in the universe in not a unique one and already there is evidence that there may be thousands of other life-forms(some of them, more developed than us)spread throughout the universe.

    Then again, there is a problem regarding your explaination. Buddha has never said that there are more than one “manussa loka”(or human abodes)-I think here the word “abode” is the most auitable one! Further, Buddha has said that only the humans have the capacity to realize the truth and get out of this samsara(cycle of births and rebirths) This statement can be found in “Maha Seehanaada Sutra” as well. So, essentially the question remains:”how come that the population of the human world exploded in the past century, provided that there is only one human world” In other words how can you explain the loss of good karmic effects of the gods in (say)millions of other realms inversely proportional to the gaining of such good karmic effects by the potential new comers to the human world?

    This problem can be solved if there were many more human worlds(say millions of them!), but Buddha doesn’t say so! He talks about only one human world! Therefore, according to me the question still remains! If at all, Buddha has spoken about “other human worlds”, please enlighten us!

    1. Saban,

      Where is this “Manussa Loka” (Human world)?
      If you take it to mean the Earth, where is the “Sathwa Loka” (Animal world)? Is it the Earth as well?

      We can observe that the Earth contains both these “Loka” (worlds).
      If so, what does the word “Loka” refer to?
      A different Planet or Heavenly body or a different Realm?

      The observable parallel existence of both worlds, in a singular speck in the Universe called Earth, supports Yapa’s contention that the reference is to a Realm instead of a Heavenly body.

      Since the reference is to a Realm, is there any reason to exclude the possibility that this realm is spread within the Universe and not localised to a minute speck within it?

      You wrote “This problem can be solved if there were many more human worlds(say millions of them!), but Buddha doesn’t say so! He talks about only one human world! Therefore, according to me the question still remains! If at all, Buddha has spoken about “other human worlds”, please enlighten us!”

      The problem that you saw does not exist, since the word “Loka”, refers to a Realm and not to a singular heavenly body.

      BTW, I must congratulate you and Yapa on the probing questions and stimulating answers that the two of you place before GV.

      1. off the cuff

        If it is your contention that when you say “manussa loka” it means we, who live on planet Earth plus many other human (like creatures) who may be living on other planets(so far undiscovered)I can’t break your point! But, in that case the question arises, how come that they are similar to us, and can we still call them “human” even if they resemble us, because it is not likely that the conditions under which we evolved are the same for them!

        Are you sure that you are not taking Buddha’s words out of context to support your argument? Because, in that case we would refuse to see the truth due to our pride!

      2. Saban,

        Please see the post at this link

        http://groundviews.org/2012/01/13/can-rationalists-awaken-the-sleep-walking-lankan-nation/#comment-41306

        You wrote “Are you sure that you are not taking Buddha’s words out of context to support your argument? Because, in that case we would refuse to see the truth due to our pride!”

        Saban, as I stated before I have been reading your discourse with Yapa with interest and admiration. There is no pride involved here as I too am seeking answers.

        The point I raised was due to an observation that I made about the coincidence of the Manussa Loka and the Sathwa Loka. Here the word “Loka” cannot mean the literal and common reading of the word as that conflicts with the physically observable. This coincidence of the two “Loka”s has only one rational explanation as I see it. It cannot mean two different worlds (as in this case there is only one world). It hence means a Realm similar in meaning to “Animal Kingdom”

        You wrote “If it is your contention that when you say “manussa loka” it means we, who live on planet Earth plus many other human (like creatures) who may be living on other planets(so far undiscovered) ……….. But, in that case the question arises, how come that they are similar to us, and can we still call them “human” even if they resemble us, because it is not likely that the conditions under which we evolved are the same for them!”

        There could be many roads that lead to the same place. Hence even if there are multiple Human abodes within the Universe and different ways in which each evolved to be Human like (including us on Earth) what is the rationale behind an assumption that only we on Earth can be differentiated from animals?

        The fact is that we don’t know whether there are multiple Human abodes in the Universe. That they have not been discovered is immaterial as what has not been discovered about the Universe is infinite and what we know drowns in that sea of ignorance. Hence your population question is not rational and cannot be maintained as you yourself has observed thus “This problem can be solved if there were many more human worlds(say millions of them!).”

      3. Saban,

        Sorry I have inadvertently italicised the last two paragraphs of the above post. The last two paragraphs are mine.

      4. Dear Off the cuff,

        RE: “…what is the rationale behind an assumption that only we on Earth can be differentiated from animals?
        The fact is that we don’t know whether there are multiple Human abodes in the Universe.

        But more to the point, what is the rationale behind assuming that the Buddha had the magical ability to know what abodes existed in the first place, while overlooking the far more obvious and probable answer that these ideas are simply myths, no different from the millions of other myths prevalent in all cultures?

      5. Dear Saban/Off the Cuff;

        Off the Cuff has already brought forward an argument I was hoping to bring in. Thanks, Off the Cuff.

        Before that I would like to give a glimpse of Buddhist Cosmology as requested by Saban in his post on the explanation given my last post about realm and abodes. Please read.

        http://theuniverse.biz/index.html

        You can Google and find much information on the subject.

        This is again a proof for that 31 “adobes” mentioned by you are not places, but realms as the number of planets according to Buddhist cosmology is not 31 but a vast number.

        However, I would like to show you that even if there is only “manussa loka” or “human habitats” which should be earth if there is only on such place, your question does not arise, which was formed on the basis of one another incorrect assumption of yours.

        In the original question posted at the previous discussion you have said,

        “This is the only possible way the input should be coming, as it is almost impossible for a bacterium or an amoeba to be born as a human!”

        http://groundviews.org/2011/10/15/we-the-sinhalese/#comment-39052

        It is true a bacterium cannot be born as a human as it is not an animal (being). But on what basis you came to the conclusion that Buddhist notion is “an amoeba cannot be born as a human”, (even if a monkey or a lion can be born as humans)?

        You really know according to Buddhist notion a monkey or a lion can be born as humans.

        Dear Saban;

        What difference do you attribute in them, if one to be able to be born as a human and other not to be able to be born as a human?

        BODY SIZE?

        What is the demarcation of the size of an animal that you choose to let it to be born as a human? An elephant, yes, say about 200 times the size(mass) of a human, a lion, yes, say about 3 times the size, a monkey yes, say about 1/10th the size, a vatu kurulla(another previous birth of the Buddha), yes say about 1/1000th of a human, so what is the bottom sealing weight according to your idea? Tell me the lowest ratio, and tell me the reason for your choosing that particular figure?

        Tell me whether a clever bee or an ant is in the list or out of it.

        Do you believe the big sized lion and mono-celled amoeba are living creatures? Each of them is having one life each disregarding their sizes?

        Lion may be consists of millions of DNA molecules, but amoeba may not have 1/millionth of the amount of DNA that the lion has. Nevertheless, both have one life each. This shows that life (of a being) has no bearing on the amount of DNA but on the properties of DNA.

        So life of a being has nothing to do with the body size. (According to Biology).

        On the other hand Buddhism has not given any proscription with regard to size of a being or on any other grounds for beings to be born again and again in the samsara, only qualification it expects is mere to be a being, without any exceptions.

        In view of above there is no any restriction both from the part of Buddhism or from the part of Biology to go though the process of Samsara, changing its form both in Nama and Rupa. So, according to Buddhism, an amoeba can be reborn as a human, just as a lion can.

        So, now considering the number of beings that can be reborn as humans in a cubic foot of your back yard, I hope you will never raise the same question again.

        Dear Saban;

        What does “big” mean? What does “small” mean? Are there any meaning for them in absolute terms?

        So, is there any meaning if you are to say amoeba cannot be reborn as it is small? Don’t you think a small elephant is a big animal? Small and big has no absolute meanings. One centimeter is a small length for us, but it is a big length for a small bug.

        We have adopted a basic measuring unit (in the universe) based on our capacity and size, which has no any significance when compared to the sizes found in the universe. Tell me the distance from one galaxy to another one measured from your span? What is the diameter of a hydrogen atom you get from your span? Size of our measuring units has no significance in universal terms.

        Don’t you think we have been molded to think in terms of our measuring units, which have no any significance in terms of the dimensions of the universe? Isn’t our pattern of thinking about everything is conditioned on our dimensions? Aren’t our thinking human (human size/capacity) centric? Isn’t our thinking is limited to a range of dimensions based on our own dimensions? So, is there any reason for us to think that we can form true pictures about the amoeba to an elephant with our measurements? Why we say a small human measurement is less significant than a bigger measurement? In universal terms what is the significance in the size differences of a lion and an amoeba? How do these size differences then significant to a “transcendental” phenomenon: Rebirth?

        Should there be some material similarity between the two transcendentally connected beings? Has caterpillar any material similarity to the butterfly, though a caterpillar becomes a butterfly?

        These questions may not be belonging to the typical questions we humans usually ask? But aren’t usually asked questions conditioned according to human capacity, our measuring units, and outcomes of such measurements? Aren’t we looking at the universe through a “frame”, we our selves have adopted?

        Isn’t rationalism such a frame? Isn’t Empiricism another different frame? Don’t we form our views based on these frames? Aren’t we conditioned to see? Aren’t our visions conditioned according to the frames frame we are used to look at the world? Aren’t we accustomed to a particular view to look at the world and form different pictures? Can’t we look at the world without these accustomed visions? Can we make an independent vision without being prejudiced to any of such accustomed visions?

        What does it mean by wrong views (Michcha Ditty) in Buddhism? What does it mean by Samma Ditty (right view)?

        Thanks!

      6. Dear Gamarala,

        You wrote “But more to the point, what is the rationale behind assuming that the Buddha had the magical ability to know what abodes existed in the first place, while overlooking the far more obvious and probable answer that these ideas are simply myths, no different from the millions of other myths prevalent in all cultures?”

        The fact is that we don’t know whether there are multiple Human abodes in the Universe or not.

        If we do not know that how can we contest Buddha’s knowledge by pinning our arguments on our own ignorance?

        Was Galileo wrong just because his statements went against what was believed to be the obvious Truth in his day?

        Don’t we have such irrational arguments in history?

        Examples
        The popular belief about the world being flat
        The ignorance of the Day accepted the above as a Fact and that the world was round as a Myth.

        The belief that the universe revolved around the Earth.
        Again the ignorance of the day accepted the above as a fact and the Truth was labelled a Myth.

        Hence basing arguments on “obvious and probable answers” is not Rational and does not hold water because in reality, you are arguing from ignorance.

      7. Correction…. RE:My post of January 30, 2012 • 11:59 pm addressed to Saban and Off the Cuff

        It seems that the first link given in my post does not work properly.Please use this link.

        Thanks!

      8. Dear Saban;

        Further to my comment on your “ill treatment” to mono-celled amoeba due to its “trivial material size” in transforming into a man through the process of rebirth, I have a Biological example that such treatment is unreasonable. A single cell can become a man(or even a woman)!

        As you know better, the beginning of a man is with the single fertilized cell called blastocyst implants itself in the lining of the womb of the mother (called the endometrium).

        This single cell becomes a man in the physically experienced world, what is the reason for your ill treatment for that particular single cell called amoeba, why can’t amoeba become a man in the same light of reasoning?

        On the other hand Buddhism has not ill treated any being on the basis of its material size.

        According to Karaniya Metta Sutta,

        Na ca khuddam?care3 kiñci,
        yena viññ? pare upavadeyyum;
        Sukhino va khemino hontu,
        sabbasatt?4 bhavantu sukhitatt?.

        He should not do the slightest thing for which other wise men might censure him. May all being be happy and secure, may they keep themselves happy!

        Ye keci p?nabh?tatthi,
        tas? v? th?var? vanavases?;5
        D?gh? v? ye mahant?,6
        majjhim? rassak? anukath?l?.

        Whatever living beings there may be: feeble or strong, long or big, medium or short, tiny or huge, without exception;

        Ditth? v? ye va aditth?,
        ye ca d?re vasanti avid?re.
        Bh?t? va sambhaves? va,7
        sabbe satt? bhavantu sukhitatt?.

        Seen or unseen, those dwelling far or near, those who are born or those who are to be born, may all beings be happy!

        Buddhism has not left out a single being in its blessing in the case of their well beings. It treats all equally, without exception of the size of them. If an amoeba cannot transform into a higher being some day, how can it be happy, in the sense of happiness in Buddhism?

        In Meththa Meditation(Meditation of Loving kindness, it says,

        “May all beings be well and safe, may they be at ease.”

        Please note “all beings”, not the beings except “Amoebas”.

        Ha! Ha!!

        Thanks!

      9. Dear Off the cuff,

        Very open minded indeed! I hope you retain this same open-minded approach towards other doctrines too, and do not mysteriously require a higher standard of proof from them. For example, I’m sure you will be open to the possibilities of Valhalla and Ragnarök, open to the possibility that Nirvana is a myth and karma – a folk tale, open to the possibility of Jesus’s second coming and open to the possibility that it’s turtles all the way down.

        Why stop there? One must be open to the possibility that the uncannily timely and merciful intervention by Groundviews Editors is also, proof of bigger and grander things at work!

      10. Dear Gamarala,

        You wrote “Very open minded indeed! I hope you retain this same open-minded approach towards other doctrines too, and do not mysteriously require a higher standard of proof from them. For example, I’m sure you will be open to the possibilities of Valhalla and Ragnarök, open to the possibility that Nirvana is a myth and karma – a folk tale, open to the possibility of Jesus’s second coming and open to the possibility that it’s turtles all the way down”

        I am always open to truthful and rational argument, if you are capable of doing that. But your vituperative outpouring just because I pointed out the erroneous base of your argument does not support that view.

        Hope you will be able to make coherent truthful logical arguments the next time, rather than arguments generated by standing on frivolous assumptions.

  28. Yapa

    This is my response to your earlier post on the question of “God’s creation”

    You have a point there in thinking that whatever the “thing”(God) that created the universe should have the same properties as the product(universe) of his creation!

    This, according to the Chinese monk Xuanzang who studied Buddhism at Nalanda University around 7th century C.E.: “According to one doctrine, there is a great, self-existent deity whose substance is real and who is all-pervading, eternal, and the producer of all phenomena. This doctrine is unreasonable. If something produces something, it is not eternal, the non-eternal is not all-pervading, and what is not all-pervading is not real. If the deity’s substance is all-pervading and eternal, it must contain all powers and be able to produce all phenomena everywhere, at all times, and simultaneously. If he produces phenomena when a desire arises, or according to conditions, this contradicts the doctrine of a single cause. Or else, desires and conditions would arise spontaneously since the cause is eternal. Other doctrines claim that there is a great Brahma, a Time, a Space, a Starting Point, a Nature, an Ether, a Self, etc., that is eternal and really exists, is endowed with all powers, and is able to produce all phenomena. We refute all these in the same way we did the concept of the Great Lord.”

    Apart from the above, Buddha himself is said to have stated that trying to find our origins is a futile exercise, but he has never given an answer to the question of origin!(wise diplomacy, I must say!)

    Then again, the conclusion of the Chinese monk in based on certain assumptions,i.e.that the attributes of what is created should reflect the properties of the creator. On the other hand, should it be really so, always? For example ‘nirvana’ dawns upon a mind that has all the attributes of impermanence. Even though all five masses(skandhas) that constitute a human being are subject to decay, the outcome-nirvana- is devoid of that quality, according to the Buddhist doctrine, isn’t it? Just like the Buddha’s example of the lotus which is devoid of any of the dirt it comes out from! Can’t the theists say that God is the reverse of this? That is, a permanent and a flawless entity creating an impermanent entity? Why is that? Well, they say the “divine plan” is beyond our grasp!

    Taking this into consideration, together with the fact that “His” omnipotence & omnipresence can be explained by the argument that, “He’s beyond our comprehension”, can’t the theists still argue that their God still remains intact?-Creationists, take note!

    1. (Please post this response here, not below.)

      Dear Saban;

      I don’t understand how you came to the conclusion that my point debunking God was based on the assumption that (God) that created the universe should have the same properties as the product(universe) of his creation!

      I don’t think it is a necessary assumption at all to debunk HIM on the argument of Averroes or Epicurus. Even in Chinese monk Xuanzang’s argument, I don’t see a necessity of such an assumption.

      Can you please elaborate a bit more on it specially considering those two arguments brought forward by me?

      However, I don’t think God can pass the two tests, I set for HIM, by any means.

      1. “Gödel’s incompleteness theorems”

      2. “Blue Fox” test I mentioned in a previous post

      Also the alternative test to 2. above, “Donkey in lions skin” test.

      Let HIM pass the above two, you can judge yourself, if HE creeps trough it, I will come back with a more rigorous test for HIM. Until that I would like to put a temporary, “comma” to it to pay more attention to the current issue. However, I would like to listen to your elaboration on your idea expressed in the above post.

      Thanks!

      1. What you say on Jan.29 @10.38a.m. as an answer to my response is not clear to me. You say:

        “Suppose as you said God can be something unreconstructed as permanent thing that has not been created but existed for ever. But then what can you say about the properties distinct to that particular thing:omniscience and omnipotence the other elementary things in Buddhism or Science do not posses?

        Through those distinct properties of “the particular elementary thing”:God, “this particular elementary thing” different from other elementary things can be debunked.”

        Can you please re-phrase your argument so that I can respond to it. The above answer is a result that. Sorry for the inconvenience!

      2. Dear Saban;

        It is very unfortunate that Groundviews have decided to close the thread, when the discussion has not come to its end. I think Groundviews would have considered it as a rare opportunity to have a discussion of the nature, as you don’t find a combination of people to have a such discussion frequently. However, I would like to take the final opportunity of the thread to try to clarify my post that was not clear to you owing to my excellent English skills, I suppose. Here is my post in reference,

        ““Suppose as you said God can be something unreconstructed as permanent thing that has not been created but existed for ever. But then what can you say about the properties distinct to that particular thing:omniscience and omnipotence the other elementary things in Buddhism or Science do not posses?

        Through those distinct properties of “the particular elementary thing”:God, “this particular elementary thing” different from other elementary things can be debunked.””

        I made this comment in response to the following paragraph of your post of,

        http://groundviews.org/2012/01/13/can-rationalists-awaken-the-sleep-walking-lankan-nation/#comment-41274

        “But, you yourself has told that some things that are “not constructed” are permanent, didn’t you? So why can’t the theists say that their God is something that was not “constructed”, but something metaphysical or “lokoththara”. Buddhism already has one such famous thing i.e. Nirvana!”

        Here what you have tried to argue was to establish that God can exist forever as not constructed thing, on the basis of my argument that there could be permanent things that are not constructed, as per Buddhism. I had said according to Buddhism only “Sankara” are in permanent, and your argument was just as “Nirvana” in Buddhism, God also can be existed forever, if he is “not sankara”(not constructed).

        In this argument the answer is “yes”.

        He is forever, according to this argument. His existence cannot be disputed along this attribute.

        However, if this same God has contractible other properties, on which his existence can be debunked what will happen?

        In one attribute HIS existence can not be disputed and in another attribute His existence can be debunked, which alternative out of these two is valid?

        Surely, the second alternative. (Blue Fox example).

        So this “non sankara” God has several assigned attributes which other non sankara things do not posses. They are omnipotence, omnipresence and omniscience, through which God’s existence can be debunked by Averoes and by Epicurus. (Nirvana though non sankara does not claim to have such attributes.)

        So, despite being existence of God cannot be disputed along HIS attribute of “non sankara status”, as HE is fully debunked along the attribute of HIS omnipotence as well as along HIS attribute of omniscience, so His existence is fully debunked.

        That was what I was trying to tell you in my post that was not clear to you.

        I think now I made it clear to you.

        Do you think your subsequent argument is still valid?

        (ie, your conclusion that my point debunking God was based on the assumption that (God) that created the universe should have the same properties as the product(universe) of his creation!)

        I don’t see any necessity of such an assumption in Averroes or Epicurus’ arguments.

        Thanks!

      3. Correction….

        However, if this same God has “contractible” other properties, on which his existence can be debunked what will happen?

        here “contractible” should change as “contradictory”

        Thanks!

  29. The way of the dodo

    Thank you for responding me to my question on entropy!-more so as it has come from an extinct bird!

    I too think what Gamarala says about the law of probability is correct. The probability should always lie between 0 & 1. For example, for a larger object like a pepper seed or a cricket ball, which travels from A to B (when you apply the Newtonian laws of motion) this should appear to be one; but it shouldn’t be so, as in that case it will violate the uncertainty principle! Therefore the pepper seed’s probability of reaching B is nearly 1, but not exactly!

    When it comes to smaller objects like sub-atomic particles-or particles made out of few atoms-, according to Feynman’s two slit experiment, the particle should take all possible paths from A to B simultaneously. If we calculate the Feynman’s sum over histories for the particle, after cancelling out the same phase histories, you’ll come up with a probability for the particle to reach from A to B(the most probable path, the particle would take) and it will be closer to 0 rather than 1.

    Does this mean that the particle doesn’t travel in other probable paths? No, as I said earlier, it means that there could be one probability(or a history) that the particle would have gone to Andromeda galaxy and on its way back traversed Yapa’s brain too, before reaching point B! That’s why I said(as Yapa too has pointed out in an earlier post) that modern science has lost its “rationality” in the sense it applies to our “common sense” and “day-to –day experience”!

    Now, somebody can ask, “but why, doesn’t the probability reach 1?” “What makes the particles(or objects) behave the way they do?”
    After I posed the question about entropy I realized the answer to it! That’s the most basic level that science can take you; beyond that everything is unanswerable apart from saying that it’s law of the nature.

    For example one can ask, “why does a box move in the same direction when push on it in that direction?”(provided there are no other forces acting on it) You can say that it happens according to Newton’s laws of motion. You can go further and say that this is because the electro-magnetic forces on your finger are repulsed by the same forces on the box and therefore the box has no other option, but to move in that direction. Then the question comes, “why do the molecules on the box repulse the molecules on your finger?” The answer could be that there are two kinds of “qualities” called “charges” in the electro-magnetic forces and the same kind of charges repulse. But, why are there two kinds of charges? What is a positive or a negative charge? Can you further break it down? My understanding is that you can’t possibly take it beyond that level apart from saying that there are two “qualities” called charges! If I’m wrong, please feel free to correct me!

    The question on entropy too is a similar one, as I realized later. Entropy should increase as any system should go from a higher energy level to a lower energy level. Why it should be so, I think is not answerable!(another “avvyakatha” to Buddha’s list of such questions!!)
    One possible way to answer this would be to speculate that the laws of physics are determined by what we observe them to be, rather than the other way round. In simple terms, if we observed the laws of physics in a different phase of our universe(or in a different universe) they would be different to what we have here! And to say that there are countless such possible laws of physics, and WE happen to be in one such universe where a “system should be at its lowest energy level”, so as to agree with the second law of thermodynamics!

    Yet, I don’t agree with what you say about entropy and the quantum physics. You say that the 2nd law of thermodynamics is a result of laws of quantum physics. The reason that I disagree with you is, according to quantum physics there is no law which says that a system cannot return from a later stage(which has more entropy) to an earlier stage(which has less entropy). In other words the laws of quantum physics don’t forbid a system from travelling in both directions in time, do they? But, actually this doesn’t seem to happen and things always seem to follow the arrow of time! That’s because, according to my understanding, although the laws of quantum physics allow a broken pot to gather its pieces and become a pot again, the 2nd law of thermodynamics opposes it, doesn’t it? If I’m wrong please correct me.

    Once again, I think the reason for this becomes unanswerable, unless we speculate that in our present universe the laws of physics are written like that, because we happen to live in a place like this!(another point to Buddha’s list!!)

    1. Dear Saban;

      I don’t understand how you came to the conclusion that my point debunking God was based on the assumption that (God) that created the universe should have the same properties as the product(universe) of his creation!

      I don’t think it is a necessary assumption at all to debunk HIM on the argument of Averroes or Epicurus. Even in Chinese monk Xuanzang’s argument, I don’t see a necessity of such an assumption.

      Can you please elaborate a bit more on it specially considering those two arguments brought forward by me?

      However, I don’t think God can pass the two tests, I set for HIM, by any means.

      1. “Gödel’s incompleteness theorems”

      2. “Blue Fox” test I mentioned in a previous post

      Also the alternative test to 2. above, “Donkey in lions skin” test.

      Let HIM pass the above two, you can judge yourself, if HE creeps trough it, I will come back with a more rigorous test for HIM. Until that I would like to put a temporary, “comma” to it to pay more attention to the current issue. However, I would like to listen to your elaboration on your idea expressed in the above post.

      Thanks!

  30. Dear Yapa and Saban,

    I read the debate between the two of you with interest.
    Let me again congratulate both of you on the points and counterpoints made.

    I am addressing this to both of you as the point I have already raised with Saban was triggered by what Yapa wrote and what Saban wrote in reply.

    Yapa stated

    Quote
    I think this question does not arise. The problem with the question lies with the mistaken assumption you have taken at the beginning to form the question:”there are a limited number of abodes(loka)”
    According to Buddhism there are six realms not abodes. Realm is not a place but a category. A category may have thousands of “abodes”.
    Unquote
    http://groundviews.org/2012/01/13/can-rationalists-awaken-the-sleep-walking-lankan-nation/#comment-41278

    Saban stated

    Quote
    Thank you for answering the long forgotten question on “population explosion in the past century”!
    Your answer sheds a lot of light on the issue, and it’s a tribute to Buddha if He has actually told so. I could come accross Buddha’s discourse in “Maha Seehanaada Sutra” & the division into “lokas” in that was limited.

    Buddha has never said that there are more than one “manussa loka”(or human abodes)- I think here the word “abode” is the most auitable one! Further, Buddha has said that only the humans have the capacity to realize the truth and get out of this samsara(cycle of births and rebirths) This statement can be found in “Maha Seehanaada Sutra” as well. So, essentially the question remains:”how come that the population of the human world exploded in the past century, provided that there is only one human world” In other words how can you explain the loss of good karmic effects of the gods in (say)millions of other realms inversely proportional to the gaining of such good karmic effects by the potential new comers to the human world?

    This problem can be solved if there were many more human worlds(say millions of them!), but Buddha doesn’t say so! He talks about only one human world! Therefore, according to me the question still remains! If at all, Buddha has spoken about “other human worlds”, please enlighten us!
    Unquote
    http://groundviews.org/2012/01/13/can-rationalists-awaken-the-sleep-walking-lankan-nation/#comment-41296

    Yapa’s contention is that the word “Loka” (world) does not refer to a heavenly body in the Universe but instead it refers to a Realm or Category.

    Saban’s contention is that “Manussa Loka” (human world) refers to a singular heavenly body within the Universe.

    There are references such as Divya (Deity) Loka, Manussa (Human) Loka, Sathwa (Animal) Loka, Yaksha (Devil) Loka etc.

    All of them have the word “Loka” which could mean either a Heavenly body (an abode) or a Realm (Category).

    It is observed that both Manussa Loka and Sathwa Loka coexist on Earth.

    Here the word “Loka” cannot be interpreted to mean two separate Heavenly entities within the Universe. It has ONLY ONE rational answer that leaves no room for ambiguity. The references to Manussa Loka and Sathwa Loka are undoubtedly Realms (or categories) as Yapa pointed out.

    I believe that Saban is mistaken in his interpretation of the word Loka and Yapa is right.

    “Loka” means a Realm similar to a reference to the Animal Kingdom.

    Does anyone see any other rational explanation?

    1. Off The Cuff

      As I have told earlier, if the word “loka” means several other worlds with human (like) inhabitants, I can’t refute your argument; neither can you prove yours, because unfortunately though, Buddha has not elaborated on the mental processes of any other octopus-like “manussa” or reptile-like “manussa” or bird-like “manussa” or possibly mechanical-looking “manussa” beings in his discourses, except those of humans!

      Further, IF we happen to come across some kind of extra-terrestrial intelligent life-form in the future, the creationists will probably use the same kind of argument and say, “although the Bible doesn’t tell about other human-like beings, it doesn’t say that God didn’t create any other intelligent beings, apart from humans! Or they may say, “Oh ya, the Bible talks about angels, right?”

      At that time, probably I won’t be around to answer it on Ground Views!

      1. Dear Saban,

        You wrote “As I have told earlier, if the word “loka” means several other worlds with human (like) inhabitants, I can’t refute your argument….”

        There is no IF about it.
        “Loka” means a Realm and does not mean World.
        Proof is the existence of TWO Realms within Earth. The Human Realm and the Animal Realm.

        “….neither can you prove yours,”

        I did not set out to prove anything. Please reread my post.
        I just made an observation of your fallacious interpretation of the word “Loka”. It has at least two meanings. It can mean a Realm or a World and the context decides the meaning. You have chosen the inappropriate meaning to build your arguments as I have shown above.

        You wrote “ ….. because unfortunately though, Buddha has not elaborated on the mental processes of any other octopus-like “manussa” or reptile-like “manussa” or bird-like “manussa” or possibly mechanical-looking “manussa” beings in his discourses, except those of humans!”

        I expected you to look at what I wrote rationally but that seems to have been a vain hope.

        Buddhist doctrine is based on mental faculties not on shape and size. To be able to practice it, the basic requirement is the ability to understand it.

        The rest of your post has degenerated towards frivolity which I did not expect from you.

      1. Prophet, another prophecy of yours, (the prophecy of divine intervention) has come true.

        Congratulations again!

  31. the way of the dodo

    You say in a later post:

    “One last thing. the second law of thermodynamics says pretty clearly that universe and everything in it will inevitably degenerate into an unchanging, or permanent state.”

    If I add to my previous post, this is what exactly would happen to the present universe according to the predictions of the 2nd law of thermodynamics. Further, as there is enough evidence that the universe will keep expanding at an increasing rate, a stage would arrive where it has reached the maximum amount of entropy-or disorder. In other words all the stars would burn out and all the atoms would disintegrate into elementary matter and energy particles.

    I don’t think there is enough evidence at present to say that protons and neutrons decay! So, we can assume that, that will be the permanent stage you are talking about. This would mean that the arrow of time would come to a stop as no more “changes” takes place.

    But does it preclude quantum flucuations from taking place in this amorphus final stage? I don’t think so, as it would violate the uncertainty principle!(as it gives a 0 value to the “field” and its “rate of change”) In that case, just like in a normal vacuum, particle pairs should arise and eliminate each other constantly.

    Could this be the “birth place” of countless new universes? A universe should be able to create itself from this condition and no law in physics forbids it! Many many millions of such universes should create itself as mere “quantum fluctuations” and evolve their own laws in the course of their evolution!

    This, I think is very close to the final answer to the question on our origin! A cascading and multiplying series of universes with each one of them springing out of nothing and evolving its own set of laws; No wonder if, at all Buddha knew the answer he would rather ramanin silent, rather than trying to explain this!

  32. Dear all,

    We will be closing this comment thread, so please send in your final comments.

    Thank you.

    GV (aka ‘divine intervention’)

  33. Off the Cuff

    Your argument stands as I said, and I only gave some examples of the humourous consequences that could arise from your argument! Those won’t in anyway diminish the quality of your argument or your interpretation of the word “loka”!

  34. Yapa

    Thank you for your response to the question on an amoeba being able to be born as a human!

    The problem with your explanation is that you seem to consider a bacteria as a non-living thing. In that case, a is a plant non-living thing? We may think so because a tree doesn’t run away when we cut it;but the same thing can’t be said about bacteria! They do run away(at least some species) when the white blood cells attack them! Further,some spirochetes enter the human body by swimming in the water and entering the body through a breach in the skin. We don’t see the difference we see between a human and a tree when it comes to uni-cellular organisms.

    If an amoeba or a bacteria can think, they should engage in some “wholesome deeds” in order to be born as a human, according to Buddhism! You think it is an easy task for them? That’s why I told, it is almost impossible!

    When some simple animals who are made up of few cells divide into many new animals do their “karmic force” too multiply?

    1. Dear Sban;

      Yes, Buddhist classification “beings”(sathva) seems to be more or less equivalent to the English term “Animal”, I suppose. Buddhism defines “sathva” as the life form having a “consciousness” or the capacity to think. If anything belong to that category, all the common properties attributed to “sathva” by Buddhism should be equally attributed to it, if that principle is to be consistent. I really do not know bacterium is a animal or not , but according to Scientific classification, it is neither a animal nor a plant. If the life forms you mentioned above are with a consciousness,whether they are belong to scientific classification of animals or not, they should exhibits the properties of “sathva” ascribed by Buddhism.

      Really in the case of amoeba, it exhibits all the properties attributed to a “sathva” by Buddhism and I don’t know any abnormal behaviour of amoeba that deviated from the ascribed behaviour of “sathvas” by the Buddhist doctrine.

      Multiplying by the division of cells by one of the categories by beings is in accordance with the Buddhist doctrine, which is one of the four modes of taking place of births of “sathvas”, as we discussed in an earlier discussion of this blog. The “behaviour” of amoeba is fully consistent with the way it was described in the Buddhist doctrine, its form of birth can be classified under “Sansedaja” without any inconsistency with its definition.

      May be it is difficult for us to believe what is mentioned in the Buddhist doctrine on what we know about the nature on what we have gathered through “common human endaevour”, but think about the triviality of the knowledge so gathered in comparison to the set of activities of the whole universe, which is unthinkable. So, in any case if Buddhism represents universal knowledge, it is no surprise that we cannot easily believe or established that knowledge with what based on our trivial human knowledge and through our conditioned (dittigatha)mind.

      However, it does not affect the consistency and coherency of Buddhism as a system of knowledge in line with the definition of a modern day theory.

      Buddhist Doctrine still remains consistent and coherent, broader than any other knowledge system, engaged in material, non material, moral, psychological and transcendental planes.

      I think we tried to test validity of the Buddhist knowledge system using the axioms and knowledge obtained from other knowledge systems, which should be the proper way of testing the validity of a knowledge system. We opened the Buddhist knowledge system to all others, such as Empiricism, Science and Rationalism(non material component) as well and
      found firm on its foundation.

      But some people test their systems on their own axioms and are assertive of their systems and trying to tech others to believe them. That is their small box without having any windows, they are trapped themselves with self satisfaction.

      But I think We must open all our windows to the winds blowing from all directions, to clean the odors in our rooms and also to test the strength of our abodes.

      Thanks!

  35. Yapa

    This could be the swan song of “Prophet Saban” as far as this thread is concerned! As Gamarala pointed out there must be a “higher purpose for all this”!

    Thank you, for the clarification of your argument on God! After carefully reading it I found that it’s truly excellent!(no sarcasm meant!) It’s a shame that I won’t be able to counter-argue it on the present thread. Maybe next time Yapa! (..yes the truth is out there..! somewhere..!)

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