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“The simple reality that we can trace back the elements that are found in us and everything else around us to processes in the cosmos is nothing short of awe-inspiring. That “We are all stardust” has to be highest form of exaltation we could give ourselves. That as much as we are in the cosmos, the cosmos is in us. If there is anything close to what I find spiritual, then that is it.” – Me.

Though the thoughts aren’t new, the realization is: Of my personal relation to the cosmos. It brings me to tears, almost, when I understand the scale of things, of what is out there, that unlike stories & religion’s bullah, this is a real relation. Sure, it is just my highly developed, reasoning brain, which seeks to find meaning in everything I see, that brings about this realization. Oh, the universe doesn’t care, but I care to find out more.

Late Dr. Carl Sagan was right when he said that astronomy is a “humbling and character building experience”. Damn right.

Three links:
Pale Blue Dot

Dr.Richard Dawkins – Open Your Eyes

Dr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson at Beyond Belief (Start from 01:02:00, ~20 minutes) 

I finally went for a movie. No, it wasn’t Avatar or Hurt Locker. (Though I wish I could’ve seen those as well). This was sort of like a cult movie. Depending on how you define ‘cult’. I watched the movie ‘Creation’ – the story of Charles Darwin – his life (After the Beagle voyage to the point where he publishes the book).

I am sure some of you would’ve read the reviews. Some may have kept it aside for later viewing. Some may have not heard about it. And still some – would never ‘dare’ to watch it. But I fancy the possibility that you haven’t watched it yet for some reason and attempt to review it. If you have seen it and digress from what I would have to say, leave it as a comment. :)

The movie isn’t so much about the fact of evolution as much as it is the story about the relation between Charles Darwin (Paul Bettany) and his wife – Emma Darwin (Jennifer Connelly), and the relation between him and his daughter Annie (who passes away due to a mysterious illness, but appears to him as alive) – of course, culminating in the publication of what is probably the most important idea/theory/fact of our time.  I went with 3 friends, but once the movie started, I was more than absorbed by the life of 19th century genius and naturalist. The depiction moved me to tears. I should, now, point out that I went there with a certain mind set split and set by 2 preconceptions – 1.) I was watching a movie that is sort of like ‘Passion of Christ’ for naturalists (I will get to this a little later). And 2.) The reviews were rather average – and I wasn’t very impressed then. (On further thought, it is almost like the story of John Nash. Of course, in a very different way)

Now, from the books about Darwin, I come to understand that the movie is almost entirely accurate in its story. I was particularly moved by the depiction of the dilemma caused because of his wife’s faith and his love for her on one hand and his indisputable findings of the nature of life and Nature itself on the other hand. And his daughter’s “ghost” – rather “vision”, almost, haunting him – coupled with the just mentioned dilemma pushing him to the verge of losing his mind.

I mentioned twice now that this was sort of a cult movie and that it is something like the “passion of christ” for naturalists/rationalists/atheists like me; here’s why: I saw P.o.C when I was in the 3rd of under-grads. I watched the movie with rapt attention. I wasn’t moved to tears watching it. I couldn’t explain why I didn’t feel any sort of emotion to what any christian would consider amongst their most important if not fav movies. I am coming to realize my inner, unconscious reasoning now: I just couldn’t believe it was real. (I wasn’t really an atheist then, mind you). I found it to be a little to grating on my intellect that someone would put themselves through all this to save us of our sins which we would committed eitherway because the same fellow getting tortured had already set it all up to happen, in the first place. Stupid circular logic. This topic is for my next blog entry.

You are perfectly right to ask me why I would compare “Creation” with “Passion of Christ”. The latter (attempts to) reinforces the old myths of creation whereas the former is the story of a man (for one, really existed) who put across a completely natural explanation for the origin of species from the point life was first conceived. (The beginning of life remains a mystery still). We have come nearly 150 years since the publication of this book. All, and I mean *all* of what we have learnt about biology, chemistry, physics, and every related branch of science that advanced past the publication of “Origin of Species”  points and reinforces what Darwin explained from his work that spanned nearly 2 decades – meticulous collection of evidence. So much for the digression from the movie.

Back to the topic at hand: This movie took sometime to be released in the US of A. Any guesses why? I add this insanity and inanity to my ever growing list of religious madness, and an addition to Hitchens’ line: ‘religion poisons everything’.

Anyway, this movie isn’t about destroying or blasphemy of god. This movie is the story of an highly respectable man and his family, ever so clearly, succinctly and intelligently demonstrating the extraordinary simplicity and elegance of the fact of evolution and the natural world.

The movie closes with Darwin’s unusually poetic last paragraph of the ‘Origin of Species’:

“Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows. There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.”

I highly recommend this movie to you. Unless you amongst those who are vehemently against Darwin, you would definitely enjoy the movie.

“Go Green”. “The Earth Hour”. “Global Warming”. We hear these terms at least once in a day. At least once. What exactly do we do about it? What do we know? What can we do? Some scientists have given us a deadline of few years, I think 2012, prior to which if we don’t reduce our carbon emissions, the effects of global warming would be irreversible. There are skeptics who say we are so small and compared to the planet, we are incapable of causing such damage. Probably they are talking about their brains.

Global Warming and its effects are, simply put, an outcome of the excessive carbon, methane (and a few other gases) in the upper atmosphere causing heating and hence a temperature rise. This leads to higher temperatures, ice cap melting, increase in water levels, drastic climate shifts and considering the vicious cycle – to survive – we consume more natural resources, more energy hence aggravating the situation. I knew Agent Smith was right. He (or It) called us a ‘virus’ … a ‘parasite’.

“I’d like to share a revelation I’ve had during my time here. It came to me when I tried to classify your species. I realized that you’re not actually mammals. Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with their surrounding environment, but you humans do not. You move to another area, and you multiply, and you multiply, until every natural resource is consumed. The only way you can survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. Do you know what it is? A virus. Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet. You are a plague, and we are the cure.”

Yes, I guess it would be for the better and the best if the machines ruled us. (Or don’t they already? Mobiles.. computers… internet… iPod…). Most of the human race are suckers for a control mechanism anyways. The rest are called the rationalists.  (I like taking a stab at those believers whenever I can. :D).

So where are we now, we have a decaying planet – at least its environment and atmosphere. I am writing this based on the knowledge of 2 cities I know off. Cochin and B’lore. The former is where I’m from and the latter is where I’m now. Over the last 2 years… yes, just 2 years – the climate has gone from almost always-heard-of cool-all-over-the-year to erratic and dry, almost unbearable. Cochin has become hotter than ever. And more humid. (Oh yeah, by the way, it was the best day [24 Mar’09] of the year, in b’lore, with respect to the weather!)

So are these changes not because of our interference? Consider this – if we were not there, ever. The planet would have gone revolving around the sun like other planets like Venus… Mars… :-??. I guess human beings are evolution/Natural Selection’s 1st mistake :P.

<This post restarts nearly a week after the ‘Earth Hour’..>

So I didn’t participate in the earth hour. I was adamant to be a loud voice against the Earth Hour initiative. Just to get the message across – I asked everyone if they were taking part, and when they, happily expecting the same answer from me, say ‘oh yeah!’… I give them that well-practiced sarcastic smile and say -“no.”. Oh I loved the look on their face. I am be leaving you with a puzzled face. Yes! You are one of those supporters of the ‘Awareness on Global Warming’ lobby, who usually does nothing. Ha!. Sir/Ma’am, earth hour is and was and always will be just one of those over-hyped, useless, waste of energy programs which are forgotten once the moment is past. Do you see people conserving energy? Taking a walk to their office? or Using the bike instead of the car? If you have, good, but chances are – you have not seen a single such case.

Now, again, I may leave some confused that I am skeptic or inconsiderate or even unpatriotic (Political parties have a way of connecting the wrong dots these day… watch TV, don’t you?). To clear the air – I am a skeptic, but not off Global Warming or the need to act NOW. I am skeptic, only, of the mass dementia causing disease- religion. (I am bit inflamed at the world, today. So no apologies.).

So, yes, we need to act. and act now. Our planet is on a perilous path now, accelerated by our actions. I, to be honest, find the idea behind the Earth Hour good. Yes, the WWF people are really concerned people and this is one task (not the earth hour, per se) requires co-operation from the entire populace. But I find their concern directed in a really wrong way and not at all far reaching. What the situation calls for is really long term efforts. We can’t cut out global warming in a day, a month or perhaps even a year. Nor can we, once we control the warming trend, get back to the way things are now. We no longer enjoy such a luxury. We are so many in number that we can make an impact. and it shows.

What can we really do? I hope you have cared to watch ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ – the documentary by Al Gore. If not, please watch it. I insist. Yes, getting back to what we can do – there are so many simple ways. We waste energy like a leaking tap. I shall make note of a few energy saving ideas and post them as a separate page.

I had an interesting conversation with a friend today. It came up as I was telling her about this post and the earth hour and that I do not side with initiative. But her response got me thinking. That it effects at least a few people. And everything starts with simple steps. Can it be really that effective? I hope the earth hour has changed a few. Have you changed? Also, I was watching Bill Maher’s ‘Real Time’ today on YouTube. I heard a few shocking facts – I heard this for the 1st time  – the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Seriously, 3.5 million tonnes of waste?!?! Also, pollution is space?! Seems like Agent Smith is right.

So, where are we now? I guess we are left with no choice but to act, and act wisely. If we wish to have a continuing human race and other species and the plant kingdom and the technological advancements, we have to act now. We as common citizens of this world, with moral and ethical responsibilities for our actions, should start cleaning up our mess, rather than crying out for government reforms, more technology, better waste disposal techniques… please, act mature, clean up and help clean up our world.

We should start using energy efficient lightings, a habit of switching off unwanted power hogging appliances, keeping our cars/bikes well maintained, use good fuel, start car pooling, dispose off waste in proper, defined ways, turn off computers, or at least on stand-by, while leaving for the day, waste less food… simple things, but oft overlooked. These are very simple things we can do, and we should do!

To quote Al Gore, from his documentary:

“You see that pale, blue dot? That’s us. Everything that has ever happened in all of human history, has happened on that pixel. All the triumphs and all the tragedies, all the wars all the famines, all the major advances… it’s our only home. And that is what is at stake, our ability to live on planet Earth, to have a future as a civilization.”

How better can anyone ever put it?

I end with a line, I heard in the movie ‘V for Vendetta’:

“We are oft to blame in this. ‘Tis too much proved that with devotion’s visage and pious action we do sugar o’er the devil himself.”

That’s from Hamlet 3.1.46-49 (From wiki.)

That summarizes our approach to (not) solving problems at hand and trying to push the blame from us…

Hope I have raised your conscience, hope you change & I hope this world changes.

Inflamed & Sad,

neo.

Who Am I?

Hume's philosophy says I am just a figment of imagination.

Physics demonstrates that I am, like everyone else, made of star dust.

Biology explains that I am, like everyone else, a product of evolution by natural selection.

Neuroscience clarifies that I, like everyone else, have no free will.

Reality, almost, threatens that I, like everyone else, occupies an almost negligible portion of time & space.

Whatever may be the case, where ever it may lead me to, I am on a journey, as should you, to find out more about the world and universe(s?) I live in and love so dearly for all I have. After all, we have this one life.

The World Through My Eyes

Rabble in a Box

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