Vanity thought #1535. Frontiers of science – it’s WWW out there

Not the internet, the Wild Wild West. Yesterday I just managed to introduce the subject and I’m not sure it merits such a build-up. Atheists on the warpath speak of science as if it offers solid, indisputable truths, and they see their mission in bringing these truths to us, the obtuse ones.

It works great with simple things like flat Earth or evolution, I mean who can deny, by looking at historical evidence, that various species appeared at different times, gradually becoming more and more complex.

We will deny it but that’s because we don’t value historical evidence very much, but even among us there’s a considerable doubt whether there was no evolution at all. Śrīla Prabhupāda once emphatically said that Lord Brahmā created all species at once, there’s no evolution. Others propose that Viṣṇu’s incarnations as fish, tortoise, boar, dwarf etc are examples of evolution, that He introduced life forms into the universe no one had known before.

I don’t know how to reconcile these ideas. Lord Brahmā might have created all the species at once – if we look at it from our point in history. The beginning of Lord Brahmā’s life is so far away and we had an untold number of creation/destruction cycles since then. Next time the Earth gets destroyed or flooded it will have to be repopulated and to scientists it will look like evolution, but not to Lord Brahmā himself because he doesn’t have to create all these species again. In our small time frame these species are always there, in a sense that design is always there, they are just waiting to be rebuilt.

Anyway, evolution as a gradual appearance/manifestation of species is accepted, even by us when we engage in debates with non-devotees on their own turf. It’s just too big of a challenge to take up in most of the cases and we’d rather focus on something smaller and more interesting at that particular moment.

The problem for atheist we can pick on, however, is when they talk about something far less certain, something discussed by those who want to push science forward, and it’s a jungle out there.

Atheists talk about emergence of life from dead matter as a sure thing, for example, but actual science on this is very controversial.

At this point wikipedia lists about a dozen theories of abiogenesis, as it’s called. Most of them contradict the others and there’s no agreement between scientists there. New theories are being added all the time and I’m not sure they all make it wikipedia.

Stanley Miller, the scientist who first zapped electricity through “primordial soup” and discovered that the process can produce complex molecules needed for life, is dismissive of all the alternatives. He did his experiment more than sixty years ago and he thought that in twenty five years scientists would surely know how life began. We are thirty five years past that, Miller himself is dead, and his theory is almost hopeless – or there wouldn’t be so many alternatives to it.

Atheists are also absolutely sure of evolutionary biology and they relentlessly promote what is known as neo-Darwinism (“neo” to add genes to original Darwin’s theory). This neo-Darwinism, however, emerged more than half a century ago and has been challenged many times since. Science moved past that already, or rather individual scientists who gradually gather more and more following. Their theories might not be accepted by neo-Darwinist orthodoxy but they are exciting enough to attract more and more people to trying them out.

One such theory is Gaia. Actually, it’s not a single theory but a unifying concept. There are many theories with many names under this umbrella, sometimes a small or capital “t” in Gaia theory can make all the difference – these people are very sensitive to being mislabeled.

Gaia is a Greek goddess of the Earth, which is not a good name if you want to convince atheists, and the idea is that life on earth lives in constant interaction with physical environment, which is bloody obvious but is an anathema to Darwinists who insist only on natural selection as a driver for evolution. They don’t want to talk about living beings affecting the environment which, in turn, should direct evolutionary process, which would become conscious rather than natural.

Another theory in this vein is neo-Lamarckism. Lamarck was a French scientist who preceded Darwin and who argued that giraffes got long necks because they were stretching them for a long time to reach the topmost leaves on the trees. Lamarckism was solidly rejected but now it’s making a comeback, ever since scientists discovered a mechanism for living beings to manipulate their genes. Not genetic makeup per se but which genes get activated, which leads to higher probability of mutations (as a tribute to Darwin).

This mechanism is a no-brainer now, it exists, they are only filling in the details, as Richard Dawkins love to say about Darwinism itself. It forms the basis for Chopra’s claim of consciousness driven evolution in the debate with Dawkins I wrote about nearly a month ago.

Not all of the new theories are anti-Darwinian, though. In fact, all of them must pay tribute to Darwin or else they’ll get bundled with creationism and their authors will never be able to publish or get a job again. Stephen Gould, for example, proposed a theory of punctuated equilibrium back in the seventies where he argued against Darwinian gradual process of speciation. Originally, he declared that his theory was an alternative to Darwin’s but then he got dragged into testifying in court by creationists who wanted to prove that Darwinism is just one of the many theories and there are accepted alternatives. Gould couldn’t possibly grant them victory and so he changed his label from “alternative” to “complementary” to Darwin’s.

The fact of the matter is, however, that Darwinism does not answer lots of questions to everyone’s satisfaction and science is ready to move past it, complement it, improve it – whatever they want to call it. That’s where frontiers of science nowadays are, and while they are all post-Darwin in some sense, they can’t agree with each other on anything.

Gaia is still viewed by many as pseudoscience but adherents of some saner versions of it are adamant that it’s an unfair characterization. A lot of what they say makes total sense, much of it is bloody obvious, as I said, and Gaia is very strong politically in environmental drive against global warming.

One argument against Gaia’s theory that the Earth is a living organism itself is that living organisms reproduce while the Earth doesn’t. Fine, but then there’s panspermia theory of origin of life which postulate that life could have been brought to Earth from outer space, which means that the Earth IS somebody’s offspring, and it will probably eject some micro-organisms capable of starting life elsewhere in the universe itself.

And it so happens that one proponent of this panspermia theory is Neil deGrasse Tyson, Richard Dawkins fellow popularizer of science. Isn’t it ironic how one of them can completely undermine the other? Dawkins insist that Darwinism is universal, that it works on all other planets just the same, but Gaia theory convincingly argues that natural selection is an incomplete explanation of how evolution happens even down here, and panspermia tells us that we have to look for original evolution and its mechanisms elsewhere in the universe, so Dawkins is left with no leg to stand on.

Perhaps biggest enemies of atheists are not us but their fellow scientists who constantly push frontiers of science farther and farther away. Atheists hope that scientific advancement would validate their mechanistic view of the world but it just doesn’t happen, it rather goes in the opposite direction, at least for now. Instead of physics controlling biology it’s biology that controls physics nowadays. Consciousness shapes matter and works in symbiosis with it – Gaia, and it increasingly doesn’t look like consciousness is a property of matter as atheists hoped to prove. And there’s no scientific consensus on anything new.

Perhaps we should go jujitsu on atheism and let them invest their energy into their own ruin – make them argue science until science proves that they are wrong, and leave us alone.

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Vanity thought #1514. Dawkins schooled

There was something new to learn about science in that Dawkins-Chopra debate and, as a bonus, Chopra put Dawkins down in his place. Ironically, it was in reply to Dawkins’ own challenge – he was given a chance to ask his own question by the moderator and Dawkins looked up a quote on his phone he wanted Chopra to explain.

There was a customary “Still learning my way around this” excuse which made Dawkins look slightly senile, especially in contrast with Chopra who showed multiple sensors on his wrists that feed his biological data to his iPhone and then onto a server that monitors these things for research purposes. It was 2013, there was no Apple watch then and so Chopra probably had the very first wearables around. Thumbs up for “spirituality”, and “science” appeared quite archaic by comparison, and it didn’t stop there.

I’m not going to type up the quote that interested Dawkins, it’s quite, long, but he asked for an explanation of quantum leaps in evolution, I assume he thought it was a heresy. Chopra actually loved this, he gave a couple of examples of what he had in mind – emergence of language and emergence of new species with nothing in between, but it’s his bio sensors that prompted him to add a new dimension to the discourse.

He used these sensors to monitor his physiological reactions to what happens in his mind, to explore mind-body connection. He said Dawkins’ blood pressure was visibly rising simply by hearing these things and then described how the body reacts to hearing in general, how it automatically produces certain chemicals depending on whether the news is good or bad. Same words, “I love you”, can produce pleasure giving dopamine and oxytocin if the words are welcome, but if one contemplates a divorce instead then his body would start pumping up adrenaline instead. Chopra said we don’t know how mind processes these things, to him it was a reaction lead by consciousness, not by chemicals, and it was a “quantum shift” in one’s biology. He was really exalted about this and Dawkins didn’t dispute this part of the answer.

Chopra then again mentioned evolutionary gaps between species and referred to the then current article in New Scientist, he gave a title wrong and New Scientist keeps it behind a paywall but someone put it on his blog and it can be read in full here.

It appears animals CAN guide their own evolution, even if the original Lamarck’s theory about it has long been disproved. Turns out animal behavior, which is purpose driven, can affect the genetic expression of the offspring via a process elsewhere called transgenerational epigenetics. It’s not that they can alter their genes but they can turn on the useful but dormant ones and these will stay turned on in the offspring, too. It’s a complex process and there’s neo-Lamarckism and epigenetic inheritance and possibly some other theories already build around it.

The author of that article contacted Dawkins for comments but Dawkins was dismissive. Now it came back to bite him. Not sensing the danger Dawkins insisted on trying to correct Chopra’s use of the phrase “quantum leap”, possibly because he wanted Chopra to pay for his earlier word salad, but it backfired spectacularly.

Chopra not only defended his metaphorical use but also rattled out names of journals and scientists who co-authored or published his articles on those same quantum leaps in biology Dawkins was trying to nail him on, proving that he is not as loose with his language and Dawkins alleged.

Btw, Chopra cited New England Journal of Medicine for giving his book Quantum Healing a favorable review, but he probably didn’t look past the first Google search result (which was Amazon), otherwise he’d discover that NEJM considered Ig Nobel award to this very same book quite appropriate, too.

To be fair, things have probably changed since then and at least some of Chopra’s ideas are finding legitimate place in science – like that behavior driven evolution. Dawkins has apparently completely missed that train, which has now gone mainstream.

Another case where Dawkins appeared outdated was his insistence that while we don’t have the intermediate stages between species we are certain that they were all there. He has no proof but he believes things happened his way. And he said the same thing about emergence of language – he doesn’t know how it happened but he is certain it happened according to his theory. “There’s no such thing as not passing through intermediate stages. There were intermediate stages, which just don’t know what they were.” At this point Chopra made a telling hand gesture regarding these endless promises and “don’t knows”. I mean, if you don’t know then don’t say anything with certainty. Why be so stubborn about other possibilities while professing ignorance? Is it rational?

There are other people out there who are not waiting for creation of life in a lab or for finding missing links, and they are pushing science without being hung up on Darwinian evolution, even though they are not challenging it openly. They simply discover other means by which evolution happens, random mutation and natural selection being only a part of it. That New Scientist article said that in some research about half the evolutionary changes were behavior, not gene driven. It’s the new reality in science and, as Chopra said, Dawkins need to catch up.

There was another point that Chopra made there but it went largely unnoticed. He was talking about quantum physics and, as an example of quantum leap, he used non-empirical state of subatomic particles that suddenly changes to empirical and then back to non-empirical again. I never thought of it this way. To me, non-empirical means transcendental, related to divinity and spiritual energy of the Lord. Chopra, however, used it to describe ordinary particles when they are not being observed.

In quantum physics observation is a very important process and, perhaps, in some cases we really have no idea what non-observed particles are doing, and whether they even stay as particles at all. Earlier on Chopra said that some 95% of all matter is non-empiric, iirc. It’s probably not important where he got this number and what it means exactly but he offers an entirely new perspective on the non-empiric world. I don’t think it agrees with ours, though, it needs further investigation.

When Dawkins mentioned quantum mechanics and quantum leaps he gave an example of information being passed to satellites. That’s just radio, it has very little to do with quantum mechanics and nothing to do with quantum leaps at all. Who’s using words that don’t mean what one wants them to mean now? Granted, it was just a bad example, but still, and it questions whether Dawkins simply erred or had absolutely no idea what he was talking about at all.

So, purpose driven evolution is science now, not just my wishful thinking, and non-empiric might mean something else entirely – two big topics to wrap my mind around today, and Dawkins has been shown as senile, stubborn, and outdated. Not bad, not bad.

Vanity thought #1508. Word salad

Continuing with the debate I started looking into yesterday. I’m getting to the point where Chopra “dazzled” Dawkins with his “eloquence”, which prompted Dawkins classify Chopra’s speech as incomprehensible word salad of scientific jargon. That was harsh, but what is justified? TBH, Chopra does love to throw around words and ideas he thinks support his view but which could also easily be challenged. This time, however, Dawkins was unfair, I think, and he didn’t fully grasp Chopra’s main thrust even when explained in easy to understand language either.

To recap, at this point Chopra argued that while individual atoms and particles don’t seem to have any purpose behind changes in their states, when taken as a whole it looks as if the universe works towards creating conditions for emergence of biological organisms which are clearly purpose driven. This, in Chopra’s view, means the universe works towards a visible and purposeful goal.

Why Dawkins didn’t get it is a mystery. “Brains have purpose”, he said, “To push purpose back into the universe itself is to make a complete confusion.” It’s as if saying that when you are building a computer this activity has no purpose because purpose manifests only when computer is finished and is connected to the internet.

Dawkins would probably argue that computer has a designer but the universe doesn’t. To which we could reply that this is the whole point of the argument – it seems as if the universe is being assembled by a designer so that biological organisms, and particularly us, humans, can finally come online and express ourselves. The fact that this final purpose stays invisible while all the parts are being collected is irrelevant – we already agree that the designer is invisible, we are trying to judge his presence but what we can observe, and it looks like the universe works with a purpose in mind.

This is a matter of interpretation, if Dawkins interprets it differently he should say so, simply stating that designer doesn’t exist and there’s no visible purpose in the early stages is not enough. Unfortunately, there’s even bigger, more fundamental difference at play here and Chopra is starting to get into it.

As the argument for universe having a purpose he mentioned the idea of fine tuning. To get the universe just right so that life eventually emerges all the physical constants need to be exactly as they are, a little deviation here or there and the Earth wouldn’t even exist or at least wouldn’t be able to support carbon based life, the only one we know. Dawkins, however, have surely heard this argument many times before and gave a standard response – some physicists support fine tuning, some don’t, others say we don’t understand enough about these fundamental constants to speculate about their origin, or, indeed, “fine tuning”, and yet there are others who propose multiverse theory where we just happen to live in a universe where life is possible while there’s an untold number of completely dead universes in that “multiverse” place. I don’t think it’s a satisfactory answer in a sense that it doesn’t explain the perception of fine tuning and instead proposes existence of yet unknown and speculative theories that could answer this question in the future, all because he doesn’t like the theory that answers it right now.

Even if Dawkins had a prepared response to fine tuning question he still went all wrong about it. In Chopra’s thinking fine tuning leads to creation of life and therefore purpose, that’s what universe is tuned for. Dawkins again can’t see this connection, can’t see life as a consequence of this fine tuning. This inability to get this simple point is incomprehensible. And then he completely screws up Darwinism.

Normally, atheists wouldn’t accept us lecturing them on understanding natural selection but look at what Dawkins said: “Darwin explained how starting with no purpose at all … laws of physics working through this remarkable process called evolution by natural selection gave rise to cells, to nervous systems, to brains, to the illusion of purpose. Indeed very genuine purpose because for living things purpose is a very genuine phenomenon.”

First of all, Darwin didn’t explain how laws of physics created life. I’ve also already said that natural selection is driven by the need for survival. Atheists would reply that “natural” here means it’s not driven by anything, it just happens and better fit individuals last longer. This argument, however, goes against everything we experience and observe in the living world around us. No living being is indifferent to death. Survival is a purpose, we all feel it. See how Dawkins himself stumbled there between “illusion of purpose” and “genuine purpose”. Natural selection would give us only illusion of it, because it’s “natural”, not purpose driven, not an expression of each living being’s will, and yet even Dawkins himself accepts that for us the purpose is genuine, not illusory.

This sudden jump from illusion of purpose to a real one would later give an echo in a sudden jump from non-conscious living beings, in Dawkins’ classification, to conscious ones.

He also missed a simple Chopra’s point – we are part of the universe, we are not special, not separate, not fundamentally different. We are an “activity” of the universe. We can’t say that there’s universe and there’s us. How can Dawkins ignore this while harping on about universal laws giving birth to our consciousness is beyond me.

And then came the “word salad”. It was prefaced by establishing Chopra’s credentials in a scientific world, and here’s what followed, with minor omissions:

“There’s a school of scientists who believe that if you look across the universe it shows the following properties – sentience at all levels.., complimentarity at all levels, which means that the universe is empirical but most of it is actually non-empirical, non-observable. It is wavelike when you don’t know where these waves are, that have no units of mass and energy, and it is particlelike which have units of mass and energy, so it gets weird at this level. But it also seems to be self-organizing, it seems to be self-regulating, it seems to be self-evolving…

I think yes, evolution has a purpose, it’s evolution itself! Evolution is guided by awareness, by consciousness, and the purpose of evolution is maximum diversity.

What we experience as perceptual phenomena are not fundamental reality at all because every species has its own perceptual experience of the universe. These scientists that I work with say that awareness is a singularity, perceptual experiences are many, and evolution of species is actually the evolution of consciousness to express itself as multiple observers, multiple modes of observation and multiple objects of observation. We are the eyes of the universe looking at itself. This brain is the observation deck for the universe to experience itself.”

Granted it covers a lot of ground. “Units of mass and energy” should be replaced with “measurements of mass and energy” and “awareness is singularity” probably needs an explanation, but otherwise it’s a rather coherent presentation. “We are the eyes of the universe” might be a bold and far out statement but it does make a lot of sense if you think about it. I mean it is possible to see our human consciousness as a product of the universe, a product that is meant to understand the universe itself. In Chopra’s view, as I said, we are a part of the universe, and we are a part of the universe that is capable not only of self-awareness but of the awareness of the rest of the universe, too.

Ironically, it is Chopra who is being atheistic here, insisting that consciousness is a natural, mechanic phenomenon (save for treating awareness as singularity where all laws break down), while Dawkins can’t accept it and demands a special status for himself and for the science. Has Dawkins ever listened to Neil deGrasse Tyson going on about how we are made of space dust from billions of years ago? How can he not get that his dear “natural selection without purpose” must lead to us becoming the self-aware brains of the universe? I mean our noses are not self aware and neither are planets, so what? Without a nose and other organs devoid of awareness our brains wouldn’t work. Likewise we, the humans, need existence of stars and planets and all the lower species, too.

If it reminds of you puruṣa sūkta then great, I think Chopra loves this connection, too, even if he didn’t mention it here.

Did Dawkins really not get it? If he didn’t he shouldn’t have called it an incomprehensible word salad, and if he did he… Wait, let’s talk about his reaction tomorrow.

Vanity thought #1493. Double whammy

I’ve just read a couple of rebuttals to creationists’ claims that evolution contradicts the second law of thermodynamics. Evolutionists seem to be sure creationists have been soundly defeated but I remain unconvinced. They would say that it’s just me being stubborn and stupid, and they have a point, but I honestly tried to find a solid argument to consider in their presentations. Unfortunately, they are big on form but awfully short on substance.

Their “form” includes generously sticking denigrating labels on everything creationists say. They do not simply report the opposing arguments but they decorate them with words such as ignorant and dishonest. To me it seems this is the most convincing part of their argument because it sets the mind into a rejection mode. No matter what creationists say, it will be rejected because no one wants to associate with ignorance and dishonesty. The space for honest inquiry shrinks and hardly anything ever gets through. Sometimes these labels might be justified because no one is perfect but evolutionists exaggerate the problem to comical levels.

Next level in their arguments is calling creationists on misquoting. One interesting thing about creationism as a science is that they always find some quotes from established scientists to support their views. Most of the time these scientists do not and will not associate themselves with creationism in any public setting so to evolutionists all the quotes look out of context and sometime outright distorting. Isaac Asimov, for example, is quoted in support of evolution breaking the laws of thermodynamics but evolutionists bring up his other quotes where he says this argument against evolution is based on ignorance. Who’s got time to trace this “he said she said” back and forth?

The quotes used by creationists stand very solid on their own but it might be true that the overall direction of authors’ thought is the opposite. I see it as taking a different look at the same facts. One makes a statement but others interpret it differently, happens all the time, especially in politics. The statement in itself might be factually true and so evolutionists, rather than screaming “he didn’t mean that”, should deal with facts and try to disprove clear cut statements, otherwise creationists have all the right to build their own theory from these known facts. To say that “you don’t understand, there’s also this and that addendum that must be considered” is simply saying that creationists didn’t do their homework, but they did.

Evolutionists can’t state a law but when it’s called into application start spouting millions of conditions no one has ever heard of before. Everything becomes a special case for them and for every statement they invent an infinite number of qualifiers. “Catch me if you can,” they are like busted kids spinning lies one after another and nothing is ever said for certain. “Can you understand everything I just said,” they challenge creationists, to which creationists reply “You don’t understand what you just said yourself, you are spamming, and you are far out of the agreed framework. Maybe what you say is true, maybe it’s not, but as far as this debate goes, it’s inadmissible.”

Oh, btw, creationism is a theory, not knowledge. At its heart there’s the Bible but beyond that it’s mere speculation, albeit a benign one.

At this point I’m not even sure there’s any more to evolutionists’ presentation on this subject. There’s some wishful thinking and bold proclamations but nothing to consider seriously. I’m not going to indulge in pondering possible validity to their insistence that evolution here on Earth is just some localized case of naturally rising complexity and is driven by thermodynamics, that evolution is our peculiar way to dissipate Sun’s energy pouring down on Earth.

They must as some point realize that to us it doesn’t look like we as humans are driven by heat dissipation demands at all. This is simply ridiculous (from materialistic POV), but they don’t even touch on it. They could say that first life was a product of heat dissipation but then it started organizing itself. That would fit with their generally accepted theory – first life was created according to strict natural laws but then it learned to organize and reproduce itself, developed consciousness etc. In this case it still breaks the second law of thermodynamics because we clearly have an insatiable urge to order things according to our will, not let them decay into chaos. We can’t stand chaos, and according to thermodynamics it’s unnatural.

Kṛṣṇa consciousness can be of big help here because it explains where the active principle in the universe comes from. First there was mahā tattva, the aggregate, non-differentiated material energy, and then, by the glance of the Lord, it got agitated and started ordering itself. The Lord shook it and various things fell out. First it shook up the space, then the force appeared, then the energy, and so on.

In some of our books a great importance is given to the details of this process and I never understood why until this point, until I started considering this law of thermodynamics. After all, we do have occasional increases of order in some places but eventually all order decays, so where does this initial push come from? What made the universe to release so much energy that the ripples are still all around us?

We live here, on Earth, because the Sun has enough materials to produce energy for many billions of years. There are many intricate ways how this energy eventually trickles down into our stomachs but the Sun is still our only source. As this energy dissipates it transforms many times and takes many forms but it still doesn’t explain life, more on that in a moment. What is important here is that we should look for the source of energy beyond the Sun – where did it all come from? And, ultimately, what caused the Big Bang?

Even from scientific POV something must have cased the universe to appear, to unravel that infinitely small ball of time and space which released all the energy. They don’t have an answer but we do – Kṛṣṇa. He is the active principle that starts the universe, an outside force that causes everything to move, develop, and grow.

The second active principle is life, the spirit souls. As parts and parcels of the Lord and as constitutionally similar to Him we also bring the impetus to order and control the matter. Scientists can’t explain life and they can’t explain, or rather dance around the issue of the Big Bang.

To better understand their predicament we should look at the big picture – it’s not just us, living entities, who break the second law of thermodynamics, but God, too. He was the original “troublemaker” who brought order to chaos (well, it wasn’t chaos exactly, but rather absence of order and differentiation). Faced with the problem of life scientists can try to attribute it to dull matter or to the consequence of God’s initial creation, ie Big Bang. None of these explanations are satisfactory, of course, because living entities are agents of desire and order in themselves. We are similar to God in our wish to create and control but science denies our existence. At best they attribute us to consequences of the Big Bang, without giving us any independence or independent origins.

So, the second law of thermodynamics was actually broken twice, or, in other words, every time the dull matter comes with contact spiritual energy, be it God or jīva tattva, doesn’t really matter.

Science aside, the relationships between us as spirit souls and material energy is complicated because we can’t move it ourselves but that is the subject of free will and how it’s conducted in the material world. Bottom line is that we are an active principle and we do bring order to chaos, and break the laws of thermodynamics all the time. And so does God, to a far greater degree.

Lastly, I titled this post “double whammy” and it was a tribute to the language normally used in this kind of conversations. It doesn’t mean what people think it does. Evolutionists can’t care less about my blog and so talking about inflicting some double whammy damage on them is silly. I believe it’s more appropriate to apply this double whammy to my own doubts, whether I admit to having them or not. I’m not preaching to scientists here, I’m preaching to myself, and at this stage me convincing myself is relatively more important than trying to convert some evolutionists.

Vanity thought #1492. Entropy

Yesterday I mentioned thermodynamics and how saṅkīrtana might fit with that. Afaik, it doesn’t, but there are two diametrically opposite views on this subject and in their struggle they revolve around the concept of entropy.

Mathematically, entropy is very simple, there are clear formulas, one can memorize them and continue using them for the rest of his scientific or engineering life without ever giving it a second thought. The problem lies in understanding what entropy actually means. I don’t think I have an easy answer to that but that won’t stop me from proceeding. It never stops anyone from talking about entropy and I’m not an exception.

“If you would please turn to the page 5 of your textbook,” one can imagine the reassuring voice of his professor. These days, however, one turns to the page on Wikipedia instead and there everything seems to be known, understood, and comforting, just as it was in school. Right from the top, for example, one would read that entropy is a measure of disorder. But then others campaign for purging this definition and they have managed to erase it from college textbooks by 2005, probably from high school books by now, too. They deem it misleading and unscientific. Craps, just as I was getting the hang of it.

This is an example of how a concept so common and basic in science gets redefined over and over again, each time with the air of sacrosanct permanency. How often do you think of the meaning of entropy? Chances are, next time you decide to ponder this concept they’d have it redefined already. If you buy their “we know we had problems but now it’s all fixed” assurances it’s up to you.

It’s not actually a problem with entropy itself but with trying to explain what it means to others. Even discarded definitions are still correct to a large degree but they’ve decided that students might get the wrong ideas and it would be better to approach entropy from a different angle.

The problem is that entropy as it was “discovered” in science is counter-intuitive and we are forced to deal with double negatives right from the start. “Entropy of an isolated system can never decrease.” Try to wrap your mind around “can never decrease”. It’s “can”, but then “never”, and also “decrease” instead of “increase”. As soon as you start manipulating systems it becomes impossible to keep all your negatives in order and once I’ve noticed two obvious errors in internet articles claiming to clarify the issue I gave up.

What happens if you start heating up a pot of water? Temperature increases but entropy moves in the opposite direction and so now you are talking about decrease in disorder. Should it mean increase in order then? If you look at the water in the pot with bubbles forming at the bottom you wouldn’t call it “increase in order”. That’s how it becomes very confusing very fast.

At some point one will be forced to give and just hope that real scientists have figured tit all our and definition changes are only cosmetic so that it would look prettier and easier to understand. It hasn’t become easier for me but maybe others are luckier.

Alternatively, one can give up and hope that creationists have figured it out, too, because they continue to argue this particular point about entropy and the second law of thermodynamics, and they aren’t fools either.

In a nutshell their challenge is very simple – according to thermodynamics a system should descend into chaos, not evolve into humans hell bent on organizing the nature. Evolution is the opposite of creating chaos, that’s obvious. Scientists reply that the Earth is not an isolated system, we have Sun rays warming it up all the time, and so thermodynamics shouldn’t be applied the way creationists do here. This doesn’t stop creationists, of course, and then the ugly side of entropy raises its head and everyone gets lost in the formulas and their meanings.

Scientists say that influx of energy into the system can produce order and give an example of electricity turning water into ice crystals in the fridge. Creationists reply that you can’t just put electrodes in the water and expect it would work. Ice crystals in one part of the machine are possible only because there’s heat generated in another and so their orderliness is offset by disorderly hot air elsewhere, and so this whole apparatus requires input of more than just electricity but clever engineering, too. They say that you can’t exclude engineers from your “isolated” system.

Scientists then reply that localized increases of entropy (or is its decreases? I can never tell) are observable in nature and there’s been even a Nobel prize awarded for research in this subject. The gist of that discovery is that when a system faces a large energy influx some “dissipative structures” can be formed to help disperse this energy. Structure means order, and so creationist argument is defeated.

Not so fast, creationists say, there’s a huge gap between turbulent gases flowing in a pattern and creation of life. Dissipative structures as an explanation for evolution is a rather new idea and most evolutionists haven’t heard of it yet, much less explain how it could actually work. The latest is that if you shine light on some atoms they will eventually orderly turn in such a way as to facilitate dispersal of incoming energy. This driver behind the evolution also disperses with Darwin’s natural selection but I’m sure they’ll be able to somehow reconcile the two just as I’m sure it won’t convince the creationists.

In a bigger picture, it’s obvious that Sun can heat up glaciers, ice would melt and flow down as a river, and a river would gradually arrange sand and rocks so that they would not obstruct its flow, but if you start from this obvious observation and declare that this is how the life has emerged you won’t impress anybody, so they talk about “dissipative structures” instead. The way I see it, at the very best this theory can explain creation of the “primordial soup”, existence of which creationists do not deny. It says nothing about emergence of life, however, and they’ve been zapping electricity through their soup in the lab for half a century now with no success.

There’s also something about creation of amino-acids that contradicts the second law but I have no brains left and I’d rather bring the subject back to saṅkīrtana, but let’s see how it goes, brains are unpredictable.

Vanity thought #1190. Times are a-changin

Yesterday I talked about gluttony and sure they have given a couple of extreme examples in that documentary. It would not be fair to the world not to mention relatively positive developments in this area, not just for the balance but because the society really is changing. Maybe not everywhere and not in every aspect but we should give credit where it’s due anyway.

Earlier this week Jon Stewart, a comedian masquerading as a news presenter, talked about a “pig problem”. It was related to possibly the fattest politician alive so there were puns to be had at his expense but it was, literally, a pig problem.

New Jersey legislature passed a bill against pig farmers using “gestational crates” to keep pregnant pigs in. These crates are very small cages where pigs can’t turn around, can’t move, can’t even lie down to sleep. They are forced to stand up their entire pregnancy, which, for breeding pigs, takes 80% of their lives. It’s horrible, it’s torture, it drives animals insane.

What’s remarkable about this is that 93% of NJ population supports legislation against using these crates. People DO care even if they are not going to stop eating pork.

Stewart dealt with this very same dilemma, too – on one hand there are these poor pigs, tortured for life, and for what? Bacon. It’s impossible for him to say no to bacon, too, but at least he knows the price now.

Next he invited two guys for a mock up “debate” on this issue and the anti-crate guy started with some strong worded rhetoric about our responsibility to provide at least dignified life for animals we eventually kill for our pleasure. It’s a comedy show so they couldn’t say these things with a straight face but the strength of the argument was undeniable. These days everybody gets it, which is progress, considering that not a long time ago no one cared how pigs were raised and slaughtered at all.

Stewart’s next guest, an actress promoting a new movie, turned out to be vegan, perfect for the occasion. She was wise enough not to rub everyone’s face in hypocrisy of eating animals and that made her look even better. She avoided trivial question about taste of vegetarian food and instead talked about our moral fibers, appealing to a side of our heart that overrules petty demands of our tongues. All in all in it was brilliant.

Unfortunately, the decision to give up bacon was left to the audience but if there are any sincere individuals out there, they have been given all necessary information on the subject. It’s like that proverbial horse – you can take it to the water but you can’t make it drink.

Oh, and the politician promised to veto the bill anyway, but that’s politics, not our concern.

In the end, gluttony still wins, but barely.

Another good news this week was Washington Post’s review of the book called The Meaning of Human Existence by Edward O. Wilson. It’s a decidedly atheistic book about evolution and it extends the usual attack even further – Wilson argues that religions are product of evolution, too, following the same Darwinian laws as fruit flies and dung beetles.

He says, according to the review – I’m not going to read the book itself, that natural selection works not only on physical level but on societal level as well. That it’s not just about mechanical advantages given to certain individuals but survival between competing groups, too. Those who are better organized win, eventually establishing dominant cultures which then take over the rest of the world.

Surprisingly, the ability to communicate, collaborate, and divide labor is a trait that has been observed only on twenty occasions in the history of life, mostly among insects. Wilson is apparently world’s leading authority on ants so I’m not going to argue against that.

Religions, according to him, helped societies a lot in this battle for survival of the fittest. They provided binding and unifying force, ethics, trust etc. They also had side effects like sectarianism and religious wars but these are not the points I want to argue about today, I’m just giving a quick summary.

What this all means is that Wilson reduced our social life is to simple genetics and natural laws, stripping away our “free will”, and that’s what I liked this review for – they caught him on that.

Ultimately, there really is no free will in the material world, it moves according to the modes of material nature and under the influence of time, and karma rules the rest. For the purpose of this discussion, however – about a book on evolution, we need to talk about extraneous force – living entities who are beyond the modes of nature and who have their undeniable spiritual desires that can’t be explained through genetics.

On this level we need to assign values to good and bad karma, otherwise it would look all the same, like positive and negative ends of a battery. If it’s all just genetics then what’s so special about Martin Luther King or Mother Theresa, as someone said in the comments. Life then loses it’s meaning, and that’s what review caught the book on, too – it doesn’t live up to its title.

I’m glad that there are people out there who see this kind literature through and realize its limitations, and that these people are given voice in such prominent publications as Washington Post.

There was another good point there, too – Wilson predicts that neuroscience will soon identify the physical basis of consciousness. Good luck with that, will happen just after pigs fly, and after they learn to grow them from ground sand mixed with water. The review didn’t press Wilson on that, they probably didn’t even notice it, but we’ve been raised by Śrīla Prabhupāda and we smell this kind of promises from miles away. They stink.

One more thing about free will – on one hand it’s great that the reviewers exposed such a major shortcoming of this atheistic book, on the other hand denial of free will is a very mature realization. Even we, as devotees, still don’t get it and run around like ordinary karmīs trying to improve our lives. I’m not saying Wilson knows better but here he is like a broken clock caught in a moment when it happens to show the correct time.

To sum it up, the world suddenly doesn’t look like such a hopeless place. There are plenty of level headed individuals there who look open minded enough to accept the message of Lord Caitanya, if only we could go and reach out to them. The world looks Kṛṣṇa’s for the taking, ready to serve Him even for their own selfish reasons.

Vanity thought #976. Cosmos E6

Being carried away by other things I almost forgot to catch up on my “favorite” science show. We are almost midway through the season and my mind is cast, nothing will change my opinion, and so here’s just more predictable criticism.

Even before watching this latest episode I knew what I would see – top notch presentation by starry eyed Neil DeGrasse Tyson backed up by awesome CGI imagery trying to cover up wrong scientific facts, stretched out interpretations, and shameless propaganda. I wasn’t disappointed.

On the other hand, there’s nothing really new to say so there was disappointment all around in the end.

Let’s go point by point – top notch presentation? Check. NDGT was again clearly in his own element, making human connections, speaking form his heart, and generally being very believable.

Was it inspiring? Yes, again some people on the web admitted to shedding tears while others, obviously teachers, couldn’t wait to show this episode in their classrooms. Apparently there are lesson plans being developed to go with each episode of the show, to me they appear rather boring but then I’m not a student. Here’s this episode’s pdf.

Was NDGT starry eyed? Sure he was. He always exudes exuberance and this episode was no different. Best moment was probably “trust the science” trick with a swinging ball.

cosmosBall

Of course it didn’t look like that in the show but somebody couldn’t contain himself and made a joke out of it.

Was there awesome CGI? Yes, there was. Personally I liked the tardigrades and I can see how people want to make plush pillows in their shape:

Tardigrade-Dont-Give-A-S-t

Japanese underground lake catching neutrinos also looked cool and very real but there were complaints about rendering of chlorophyll and the photosynthesis process but in this case it’s the content that should be criticized first, not presentation.

Photosynthesis, production of oxygen and storing energy in the form of sugars, is one of the most basic, absolutely necessary first steps to building life. It lies at the very beginning of the evolution, yet what NDGT had shown us was a very complex process with factory like precision, slicing and dicing atoms and storing them away.

It might not look anything like that in real life but still there are over a hundred proteins involved in photosynthesis and we still cannot replicate it in our laboratories. It is one of the best arguments AGAINST evolution through natural selection because that kind of complexity simply couldn’t appear on its own just through random combination of molecules.

This is one of the generic questions that evolutionists avoid at all costs – how come the deeper we go into how various life forms work on molecular level the more complex they become and yet there’s less and less time for these mechanisms to develop through evolution? Not to mention that we can’t even imagine how natural selection would have helped there at all.

There was another segment in this episode that NDGT glossed over, completely ignoring some serious questions about how evolution worked – the mechanics of smell.

He simply said that certain molecules trigger certain receptors in our noses which send signals to the brain where they pass very close to regions responsible for emotions and memories.

The latest I heard about smell, though, was that we, the humans, are much much better at it than previously believed. Turns out we have a lot of potential receptors that we can utilize to distinguish an astonishing number of extra smells.

Evolutionists’ answer to this is that these receptors are “pseudogenes”, leftovers from the time we needed to smell better than now.

The way pseudogenes work, however, is nothing like that. They are not simply leftovers, some of them are copied as if a backup, true, but many are also sliced and diced and planted in completely unrelated areas of our DNA and as such often serve as yet undetermined purposes.

This doesn’t disprove evolution per se but it certainly throws a wrench into an orderly, progressive picture of gradual changes presented in popular shows like Cosmos or third grade schoolbooks. But let’s not let facts interfere with a beautiful story, it’s not really about science, after all, it’s about propaganda.

Example from this show was introduction of two personalities from Ancient Greece era who were ahead of their time and invented democracy, partying, and drinking. This was just another cheap shot to give universal value to some current issues and thus justify our present preferences.

There’s a problem with this worldview, however – it has absolutely no justification on universal scale. Intelligent life is nothing special, it’s not a pinnacle of anything, it’s just one of the many many evolutionary steps. Dinosaurs thought they were bees knees once, too, and tardigrades had seen it all.

NDGT is just a latest kid on the block who thinks he is something special, let’s see how long this western civilization can survive before destroying itself. It has been around for only a couple of hundred years, nothing in cosmic terms, nothing at all.

As for factual errors in presentation – comet orchid of Madagascar has a very long spur but the pollen is not located at the bottom of it, as NDGT said, at the bottom is nectar and pollen is near the base, it’s on wikipedia but these “scientists” apparently don’t do any fact checking.

This little error in itself is nothing, I’m more appalled that NDGT called discovery of a moth that pollinates this orchid an evidence of evolution – it’s nothing of the sort. It’s just an observation – if this flower has this long spur, there must be an insect that can reach to the bottom of it or the flower couldn’t procreate. NGDT is reading something that is simply not there and he didn’t even try to demonstrate a connection.

Maybe they assume that their audience is not sophisticated enough to notice. Well, as I said, it’s not a science, it’s propaganda show.

Speaking of flowers – NGDT talked about their first historical appearance and got the date wrong. Latest discoveries of fossilized pollen move first flowering plants FOUR times earlier in the past than NGDT still thinks, and this show was supposed to catch up on latest scientific progress since Carl Sagan’s original thirty years ago.

Appearance of flowering plants so much earlier than previously thought should force evolutionists to reconsider all their models but that’s not actually so difficult – imagination plays a far more important part in evolutionary theory than anything else. Just like in this show, with power of imagination we can explain away anything and need not bother ourselves at all.

There was an example in this episode to illustrate importance of imagination over science. Towards the end of the show NDGT talked about thermonuclear reactions in the core of the Sun and he said that while the light from the Sun reaches Earth in only eight minutes, the photons from Sun’s core take ten million years to reach Sun’s surface (because their path is not straightforward). So he made a special point to say that light we see today comes to us from a very very long time ago, almost like a time machine.

The fact is, latest scientific estimates for this photon diffusion is only 170,000 years, not 10,000,000. This is again on wikipedia but no one bothered to check. Where did they get this ten million number? Probably their imagination, there’s no scientific basis behind it at all.

Well, I think I covered all I had to say about this episode. There were no new revelations and I had no new insights from Kṛṣṇa conscious point of view but I hope this post will slowly chip away at evolutionists’ attempts to pull wool over our eyes, that’s all I can hope for at the moment.

Vanity thought #957. Cosmos E2

Yesterday I said that Cosmos is currently the hottest story in the religion vs atheism battle but that is not correct, it has been overtaken by release of Biblical flood movie Noah and creationists’ reaction to it. Apparently it doesn’t correctly reflect the flood as Young Earth Creationists imagine it. I don’t think I’m going to watch it or go into the details of the feud, so I’ll continue with Cosmos instead.

Second episode of the show was about evolution. It’s a big and important topic, of course, but it is also very predictable. Scientists would invariably explain evolutionary tree and mutations that lead to improvements and eventually to creation of new species. Creationists and proponents of Intelligent Design would, in turn, point out holes in the evolution theory and insist that natural selection can’t possibly explain certain developments. As observers we will never know the truth because facts are very complicated, we have a convergence of genetics, biology, chemistry, physics and paleontology here. DNA analysis is not for feeble minded either, so we are left to judge who presents the most compelling story from the layman’s POV, which is not the same as being closest to the truth.

As devotees we accept the evolution in a sense that not all species were created simultaneously, we are closer to Intelligent Design here, yet we also know that there’s no intelligence behind the evolution, it’s just dead matter being agitated by the modes of nature and time. There are living entities who enjoy watching this particular show of creation, notably Lord Brahmā, but he doesn’t have intelligence of his own, he just follows the sound of Kṛṣṇa’s flute that penetrates universe’ coverings and makes the matter in his brain resonate in response to this vibration.

So, even before I sat down to watch this episode of Cosmos I knew I was going to be bored and I wasn’t disappointed. I’m not going to strictly follow the familiar format even if it’s unavoidable, I’d rather try to address it from a different direction.

The episode started with demonstration of how wolves were domesticated into dogs, men’s loyal friends. The way it was presented it made perfect sense and looked very reasonable. Wild wolves approached men’s camps being attracted by the tasty smell of their unwashed bodies and also their barbecue. Men at first scared wolves away with their torches but then they realized that all they really want is some bones, not an actual confrontation. Gradually the relationship developed, some wolves got to even live with humans. Humans had their own preferences in wolves and so they bred some of them to be cute, some of them to be ferocious guard dogs, some to help with hunting and so on. In the space of ten thousand years they have bred hundreds and hundreds of different kinds of dogs – this is evolution through artificial selection.

What can we say about it? As I said, it makes perfect sense, if there actually were hunter gatherers men evolving into modern day humans. Maybe they were like apes of Rāmāyana, like Vali and Hunumān. Maybe they were like indigenous tribes of Vrindāvana. We might very well be their descendants, too, but spiritually we’ve been enlisted to follow āryans who don’t breed dogs or eat that much meat.

Creationists would challenge the evolutionary interpretation of it and their argument is just as strong – yes, we’ve been breeding dogs and we got hundreds of different breeds, but all we got is more dogs. We never got a cat or chicken or any other animal through this breeding. What we see with dogs is not evolution of new species but variation within one species. No new genetic information has been added in the process and creationists also argue that there’s no mechanism for adding new genetic information at all, mutations only tweak existing data, not create any new genes.

This sounds reasonable to me but what do I know about genetics? To be honest, I don’t know much about interspecies breeding, maybe it’s possible, they do cross donkeys with horses, for example. I’d need to investigate this closer to form an informed opinion but I’m not sure I want to go into the details at all.

What we can do instead is point out errors and fallacies in Cosmos presentation itself rather than rely on outside opinions. At the end of the dog segment Neil DeGrasse Tyson, the presenter, asked rhetorically – if we can create so many kinds of dogs in ten thousand years through artificial selection, imagine what the nature could do in millions of years of natural selection? Umm, okay, I’m trying to imagine and I am not coming up with anything.

Natural selection must work much much slower, like hundreds and thousands time slower. Our breeding conditions are unnatural, we provide all kinds of care and protection that is not available in the wild, we provide medicine, we provide food, we can make animals survive through all kinds of harmful mutations that would have killed them instantly if left on their own. When we breed domesticated animals there’s no question of survival of the fittest, it’s not a consideration for our goals at all. Think of chicken farms or force feeding geese for their liver – we can completely defy nature and get whatever we want. Why would natural selection be any more efficient?

What kind of question is that? It begs us to agree with the presenter without actually thinking of an answer, which might very well be opposite to what NDT had hoped.

And then there’s the question of creating new species – we still breed only dogs, remember, they still can’t fly or breath under water. Just because we can make them predictably big or small and in certain colors doesn’t mean nature can make them into something else. It could, theoretically, but we’ve never seen it or tested it and so this proposal in unscientific and is more like wishful thinking that result of rational analysis.

Another interesting part of the show was presentation on the evolution of the eye. Once again, attacking shows’ own deficiencies is more interesting than actual science. NDT specifically mentioned eye as an argument against evolution, this segment was specifically meant as an answer to the creationists, yet it’s in this specific aspect that it failed miserably.

When creationists say that there’s not plausible evolutionary explanation to the eye they don’t mean there’s no explanation at all, which is what NDT apparently assumed. He naively thought that all he needed to do to answer creationists’ questions is to build a simple chain of changes that could gradually make light sensitive cells evolve into eyes and so he did just that.

What creationists say is that there’s no PLAUSIBLE explanation, NDT’s simplistic chain is precisely what they object to, so instead of answering their questions he simply repeated the questionable argument. It’s such a cheap trick but it’s also very effective for people who are not familiar with the issue. They would come away thinking that NDT finally answered the eye problem while people who actually asked the questions would be incensed by such blatant manipulation.

The eye problem is much bigger than creating a possible chain of mutations. There’s a huge variety of eyes in the world, eleven different kinds of photo-censors, for example, and there’s no progression from simple life forms to more complex ones as we can observe with other organs such as brains or hearts. Some of the most primitive, oldest animals have/had more sophisticated eyes than animals that evolved millions and millions years later. There’s simply no observable progression in eye evolution and what is observable does not fit into evolution through natural selection.

In this regard someone mentioned that Cosmos’s presentation of genetics is outdated. Epigenetics, the branch of biology that deals with gene inheritance, has seriously modified earlier, simplistic understanding of how genes work. Mutations are not the driving force and survival of the fittest is not exactly what is happening in the nature. Genes and their mutations are not there to create new traits but are rather like memory banks, they can be recalled and switched on in response to external situation and then switched off if there’s no need for them anymore.

This doesn’t mean that epigenetics prove that there’s no evolution but it rather shows that text book view like the one presented on the Cosmos is NOT how it works in real life, so NDT is cheating us of real knowledge again.

I don’t know, the Bruno story I discussed yesterday pretty much discredited the show and its presenter for me already. If they can twist historical facts with such ease, why talk about science and scientific method at all? They are just charlatans. Today’s rhetorical question about dogs and shameless avoidance of answering questions about eye evolution further sealed my opinion. I don’t know if I want to watch the latest, third episode at all, I probably will but I don’t expect it to be any better.

Well, all it shows is that there’s no plausible alternative to our Vedic knowledge. Science and scientists simply don’t cut it.

Vanity thought #663. Another shot at evolution

I had an interesting idea about how evolution might have happened in real life. So far we know of Darwin’s theory of natural selection and the fact that living entities progress from one form of life to another according to evolution of their consciousness.

Lord Brahma has created all 8,400,000 species of life for them to progress and that leaves no space for Darwinian evolution. Vedic evolution is better described by the intelligent design theory. That means there is evolution but it by no means random. Unfortunately we don’t know much about how Lord Brahma actually created those species of life.

On one hand it doesn’t matter because that happened many many years of Brahma ago, and life on Earth is destroyed every time he goes to sleep, which happens every 4 billion Earth years. Does he personally recreate all forms of life from scratch every time he wakes up? He’s quite possibly figured out the way it happens automatically, we usually hear about his involvement with creation only when the universe was completely dark and empty.

On the other hand he definitely did not create all species at the same time. That’s just not how material world works. We have plenty of examples of evolution material elements from one another and there’s no reason to believe life forms didn’t follow a similar process, too.

The new idea that I had is what helped Lord Brahma in his creative process.

What if he got the clues what to create next by observing Lord Vishnu’s incarnations? What if he had no idea what to do or where to start, then Vishnu manifested itself in a completely new and unexpected form, then Lord Brahma tried to re-create and develop it.

First such incarnation was Matsya avatara, a fish, and that’s how Brahma got the idea of aquatic forms of life. Nowadays Vedas consider fish one of the lowest forms of life but back then it was probably a huge step forward.

Then the Lord appears as Kurma avatara – a tortoise, and so Brahma gets new class of animals to experiment with – reptiles.

Next incarnation is Varahadev, a boar, and this marks introduction of mammals.

Then there’s Lord Nrisimha, half lion and half new species – half man.

Then there’s Vamandadev, a dwarf, and that could be Darwinists’s missing link or one of those underdeveloped humans.

Then there’s Parashurama, a wilding, a savage who goes on a killing spree just to enjoy his power.

Then there’s Lord Ramachandra, finally a civilized king.

Of course there are many holes in this “theory” because Lord Ramachandra wasn’t the first civilized king, He was the best of them all but the idea was already there so it wasn’t an innovation. Or the fact that Matsya avatar helped Manu save all species of life from the flood, or that there already were demigods and demons at the time of Lord Kurma’s appearance.

On the other hand we do not know how it all happened the first time around – now these avatars appear in every yuga cycle, or maybe during life of every Manu, or maybe every day in Brahma’s life. It’s not a surprise anymore and beings like demigods probably get to see them many times over the course of their lives.

This is just a philosophical speculation that is somehow related to Krishna, that’s all its practical value.

Or we could use to suggest various alternatives to Darwinism, or maybe understand it better.

If Lord Brahma does not get involved with recreation after his every night and all species reappear automatically then maybe there IS a place for Darwinism after all. Maybe Lord Brahma figured out how to preserve all the necessary information overnight for species to grow up on their own the next morning, maybe that’s what DNA actually is. Now this recreation does not need God’s involvement anymore, precisely what scientists observe and try to prove. It just needs sun and water and DNA will push out everything else.

Hmm, perhaps there IS a way to see absolutely everything as related to Krishna and as separated from Him at the same time, ie both Darwnists and religionists are right in their own way. Thus it would be pointless to try to establish “the truth” but we should rather concentrate on connection to Krishna as any “truth” in this world can also be seen as separated from Him.

So it’s not the facts that matter but whether we manage to see them through the prism of Krishna consciousness or not. We tend to presume that once all the facts are known we will make our minds accordingly. Perhaps it isn’t so and direction of our minds has no connection to “reality”, only to the purity of our hearts.

That is a long reaching conclusion that could lead to a change in attitude when trying to resolve our contemporary issues that sometimes seems to be very important and could make or break our faith and our future as organization. Now it appears that they won’t and any outcome could be turned pro- or anti- Krishna consciousness as you desire.

The good news is that in this case ISKCON will never die.

Vanity thought #599. Science. It works, bitches

No post about Richard Dawkins should be complete without reference to this now famous line. It’s from XKCD (a webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language) where it appeared six-seven years ago. I believe it was repeated again late last year, Dawkins picked up on it and included it into one of his latest public appearances.

It created an instant tsunami of quotes, retweets and links and is now inserted into every evolution vs creationism topic.

It was Dawkins reply to a very long winged question he couldn’t quite follow. He answered to how he understood it himself – “Why can we put faith in science?” Because it works. You use science to build airplanes and they fly, you make medicine and it cures people and so on.

What can you say to this argument? It really works. Why would any sane person put his faith in creationism instead, how can he not believe in sceince? From evolutionists’ point of view it puts discussion to rest.

I haven’t seen any nice comebacks to this yet so I’m just trying to figure it out on my own.

First of all, science works, except when it doesn’t, or where it doesn’t. Science doesn’t cover any transcendental matters – soul, life, God etc.

Second of all, this argument implies that people either believe in science (which works) or they believe in God, which they have no direct experience of whatsoever. There’s no such dichotomy at all. We use sensual perceptions just like everybody else. We use reason and logic and we try things to see if they work, too, ie we conduct experiments.

This is how we make our living, do our jobs, put food into our mouths etc. Everything we do in this world is based on scientific principles – think, test, apply, observe, improve and so on. In our sadhana we might have different criteria for success but once we know what we want to achieve we behave like very reasonable people.

We do not have to choose between reason and faith, they both coexist at the same time, we just don’t give much attention to the empirical world around us.

The beef we have with evolutionists is that they practice bad science. We say that their interpretation of their evidence is unreasonable. Unlike them we know how this world was created and we know that Brahma is its chief designer and we see how everything we observe here complies with that truth.

Evolution is a fact – Brahma created the universe from the sound of Krishna’s flute, there are detailed descriptions in Srimad Bhagavatam how that sound gradually gave rise to material elements, how sense objects, mind and senses themselves gradually evolved and in what sequence, and how they fold into themselves at the time of destruction, too.

It’s not nearly as detailed as historical evolution studied by scientists but from our point of view it’s not something we need to be concerned with. We know that if this knowledge was necessary for our spiritual advancement it would have been revealed, or will be revealed.

Personally I find there’s already enough information out there to hold evolutionists back and to confirm our position. I see it as a living proof of “I’ll give you intelligence” promise given in Bhagavad Gita.

So, to sum it up – science works, but evolutionists are just not good scientists, they blind themselves to alternative explanations and they got stuck in politics of science.

This is actually an important point – science has long stopped being rational. They still pride themselves on having “peer review” but the reality is that young, budding scientists are held hostage by those scientific journals. Many actually have to pay for the privilege of getting published and break into the community. There’s no question of them of going against the grain, modern science enforces conformity, not search for truth.

Modern science is also very expensive. It might take up to half a million dollars to jump through all the hoops and get a PhD, this needs to be repaid and no one pays people for being rebellious. By the time they are ready to do their own research the idea of doing whatever you want is simply not present anymore.

These are our objections to “scientific” interpretation of fossil finds or molecular biology.

We don’t agree with creationists either but thanks to them there’s a growing body of research that casts serious doubts on evolution, far bigger than whatever our ISKCON scientists can come up with. We are not greedy, if Darwinism will be defeated by Christians so be it, even better for our enormous egos. We’ll be happy to engage those newly liberated people in devotional service all the same.