Religion, Skepticism

Karma

Personally, I really want Karma to be true. I really wish that the concept of karma and re-incarnation were of actual reality. I’d be the first one to rejoice if it were to be so. Because there are some people who actually deserve some real karmic punishment and also I’d be really happy to see them reborn as a snail or a dung beetle over and over again to be eaten alive by a predator, perpetually throughout many cycles. For the things these people have done, you really want them to be punished. Vengeful feelings aside, I’d also want the best for all the loved ones we all have lost. I’d really want my dog to be a re-incarnated form of a close relative or a grandparent I was close to when they were alive.

But reality is not human-centric for Karma to be real. It isn’t even life-centric for re-incarnation to be real, let alone Karma. How do we know in the first place that there is such a comfortable concept to lay claim so confidently? It’s written in a certain scripture, and has been re-iterated by well known wise sages or gurus in some corner of India. Not a very compelling argument. No one has ever demonstrated to validate the concept. So how do we know it’s real unless we are lying to ourselves or others who trust us?

So we just have to bet on the odds for the people who do us wrong to suffer, and have to force us to feel fulfilled if anything bad happens to them. And we call this guilty pleasure, Karma, along with an add-on concept of re-incarnation. A “Tit-for-Tat” mentality, justified by an elaborate metaphysical backstory. All in all, to consciously or subconsciously trick ourselves into believing some sort of escapist alternate reality, away from the harsh, indifferent, uncaring, nihilistic, esoteric and complex truth of the reality we actually exist in. Why can’t we be intellectually honest enough to face the reality we exist in rather than to try and escape from it? Honest in a sense to not confabulate concepts about reality when you don’t understand or know about it, but to admit ignorance and pursue reason and evidence instead?

Personal Opinion, Philosophy

On ends and their means…

“If two people arrive at the same conclusion from two different sources of knowledge, would it be necessary to differentiate or discern the validity of these sources?”

For example, one person becomes a vegetarian after reading Buddhist scriptures and another becomes a vegetarian after thinking through utilitarian ethics and the rationality and morality behind suffering of animals for dietary gains, would it still warrant skeptics to be skeptical of Buddhist values or vice versa? Would ends justify the means?

To those who say we shouldn’t and that all schools of thoughts should be given equal importance in terms of values and outcomes, what if in the next few lines of some Buddhist scriptures it is mentioned that only men can attain enlightenment and not women because they are not higher up the spiritual hierarchy? (This is just an example I made up, but many, not all, traditional Buddhist scriptures do limit women’s enlightenment status and proclaim that women can never truly become the enlightened Chakravartin or the Buddha).

I would assume that defendants would come to the rescue of Buddhism by saying those are “not true words of the Buddha but later interpretations by his numerous disciples through the ages”. A perfect “no true Scotsman fallacy”. And others may add that “we ought to accept the good values and reject the old and redundant ones”. I would perfectly agree with the latter statement of defense, but a question would definitely come to my mind: If we were indeed to cherry-pick what we deem ‘good’ and filter out what we deem ‘bad’ from established documents of an idea, what is the point of accepting or adopting the identity of the whole doctrine itself? Haven’t you clearly contradicted from the original doctrine yourself? Are you being unaware of your double-thinking? Are you not uncomfortable having to live with the evident cognitive dissonance that you’re displaying?

This was an effort to highlight one fundamental problem with eclecticism or syncretism  that are prevalent in the current globalized world, thanks to John Lennon’s Imagine and the 60’s hippy-movement. In short, these are schools of thought that equate every human idea or philosophy to be of similar value and importance. But the fact of the matter is that, this cannot be consistently true. In that sense, can we rightly equate the core tenets of Nazism to those of the Quakers? Can we equate the fundamental principles of Islam to those of Buddhism? Can we equate Advait Vedanta to Hindutva? Can we equate superstition to science? Can we equate the values of Democracy to Maoism or Freedom of speech to Fascism? No we cannot!

For a careful thinker, there are flawed ideas and there are sound and valid ones. The conclusions derived by the latter of the sort follow through cogent and valid premises themselves. All ideas cannot be given equal weight, even if we do consider going through them to broaden our perspectives. (You cannot logically try to match the core ideas of Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf to those of John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty). This much should be well evident and well thought, and not to be confused upon.

It is important to give every idea a chance, but more importantly, there is a dire necessity (and perhaps also a great responsibility) these days for us to be able to distinguish between good ideas and bad ones. We definitely need to ‘train’ ourselves to do so because we aren’t born good thinkers. All in all, we definitely need to learn to not confine ourselves, as much as possible, within boxes of unchecked biases.

Philosophy, Science

Science doesn’t know everything

“Science hasn’t discovered everything, it doesn’t know everything, so you just can’t be sure!”

I often get this answer when confronting theists in an argument.

They tend to attack the various gaps in scientific knowledge and highlight them out of the context in order to justify that the atheistic world-views are invalid simply because of these gaps not being fulfilled. They automatically assume, then try and validate theology on such grounds.

But… These gaps do not necessarily prove that the world view is invalid.

It is true that science can never test nor prove a negative or something unfalsifiable like the concept of a creator. Much like it cannot prove whether or not goblins or tooth fairies exist in real life. Since we know with reason that goblins and tooth fairies are imaginary, we deduce that their existence is highly unlikely. Similarly, we can apply the same logic to the concept of the supernatural. Then, just like we are all atheists when it comes to believing in goblins, some of us are the same for god as well. Simple as that.

Yes… It is also true that science still has lot of gaps in knowledge, can’t deny that. But in just a couple of decades if not in centuries, humans, with the help of the scientific method, have come to learn a LOT MORE about nature and reality than ever with metaphysics, religion and faith combined; all of which were there for thousands of years before enlightenment.

So one simple question can be asked. Why, while observing or explaining nature, should we even consider those system that have had their chance already and have failed (i.e faith system); when we have already devised a more self-correcting one which happens to work with great efficiency (i.e science)?