Posts Tagged ‘ Science ’

Nathan Lean does it again: Being an Apologist for a Bad Ideology

At soLean Dawkinsme point in history, the liberals in the West decided that Christianity, particularly Catholicism, was no longer beyond reproach. Since then, the religion has endured (not unreasonably so) a constant barrage of verbal and literary assaults.

And they succeeded. They dethroned Christianity and brought in, to our collective elation, the secular values that they now hold dear.

But the same must not happen in the Islamic world. When people like Richard Dawkins attempt to catalyze the rationalist uprising in the Muslim-majority countries, people like Nathan Lean insist that it’s racist. It was okay for them to pound on Christianity and rid themselves of its yoke, but we just have to find a way to get along with our Islamic oppressors.

Living as a minority in what is a quintessentially Islamic country (about 97% of the population of Pakistan is Muslim, and all laws are subject to approval by Islamic experts), I must impress on how little Nathan Lean knows what he’s talking about. The idea proposed by modernized Muslims and Western liberals is that Islam is a diverse religion, and not all Muslims believe in the same set of principles…which is absolutely true!

Here’s the thing though: if Islam is not represented by those who circumcise girls, kill unbelievers, murder my fellow “apostates”, stone and lash people to death, and allow wife-beating….

…then Islam is also not represented by the peace-loving, modernized Muslims. For them to claim that their benign version of the religion is more authentic than the Islam of the Taliban, Al-Qaeeda and garden-variety kufar-haters, would mean for them to deny the religion’s diverse nature which they always talk about.

What we do instead is look at the bigger picture; of what it has contributed to the world, and what it has stolen from it. Compared to a control group, we consider its propensity to generate intolerance, bigotry and chaos. Compared to any other literature, we consider the scripture’s susceptibility to violent interpretations. Not all its followers, not even a majority, are malevolent. But we do note the tendency of this belief system to inspire hate and malice at a rate higher than what could normally be expected.

Old Testament too has more than its fair share of abominably violent dicta, and Christianity has dealt a massive blow to science and humanity. However, it is ludicrous for liberals in the Western countries to excuse Islam’s present influence by alluding to what the Catholics did hundreds of years ago: the crusades, inquisition, witch-burning and so on. To do so, is like me telling an adult, “It’s okay if you can’t count to 20. I couldn’t do that either 23 years ago (when I was an infant).”

Many years ago, Pakistani professor, Pervez Hoodhboy, wrote an outstanding book called, “Islam and Science: Religious Orthodoxy and the Battle for Rationality”. In it, he put forth the same “racist” and “bigoted” ideas that Lean attacks Dawkins for.  It’s tragic when facts do not coincide with Mr. Leans’ sense of political correctness, but that’s really how the cookie crumbles.

In the book, he acknowledged Muslims’ (some of them were actually atheists/agnostics under Muslim rule) contribution to science back in the middle-ages….as did Dawkins in the second part of his controversial tweet, but that is largely ignored by pot-stirrers whose livelihood depends on mining quotes and presenting them in an inflammatory fashion. But more importantly, Hoodbhoy discussed in detail the crisis of scientific thinking in the Muslim world and pointed to Islam, as gently as he possibly could as a citizen of a country where blasphemy laws exist, as a hindrance to our progress.

Obviously, there are more factors at play here than just religion. Socioeconomic instability, illiteracy and political uncertainty all hinder progress, scientific or otherwise. But is Islam at least a major contributor to this problem?

Consider this: Not too long ago in Pakistani Parliament, a domestic violence bill was blocked mainly because parties like Jamat-e-Ulema-i-Islami (JUI-F) claimed that it violated Quranic law. The Quran , in one of its surahs, allows a husband to beat a wife. Moderate Muslims interpret it differently (I have no idea how, because the verse 4:34 is extremely clear about it), but the truth remains that religion was a major reason why Pakistani husbands were allowed to continue legally thrashing their wives that day.

I wonder what Lean would’ve said had something similar happened in Washington DC; if a domestic violence bill had been stalemated because of bible-thumpers? Knowing that Mr. Lean is no hypocrite, I reckon he would’ve published a tirade against the angry liberals questioning Christianity’s role in this injustice, and called them all “bigoted”.

Nathan Lean, we request you to stop.

We, the minorities/liberals/free-thinking who are hiding/suffering/dying under Islamic rule, are fed up of liberals in the West being apologists for an ideology that is inspiring so much intolerance and hate towards us.

So here’s a simple solution to help you deal with what I, as a doctor, have provisionally diagnosed as munchausen-by-proxy syndrome – the compulsion to fake symptoms of poor health in a patient, in order to get attention for yourself as the patient’s guardian.

I don’t think Islam is the greatest evil in the world, as Mr.Dawkins’s somewhat hyperbolic tweet claimed (I think it was an intentional exaggeration).  But as a Pakistani liberal and freethinker, I can say with certitude that I would’ve personally been using a much smaller dosage of anti-depressants had religion not been in my picture.

If you feel Muslims are being victimized because of someone tweeting facts (and that too, as a response to Muslims who boast how much science owes to them, because someone in the Islamic empire invented sulphuric acid a thousand years ago), you really haven’t been paying to what goes on in the name of Islam around the world. I implore you that you do.


Am I Feministy Enough for You?

Turns out, I’m not just 102 85 kilograms of feminsm. I’m many things.

I’m a man. So even though I recognize that women are far more commonly mistreated than men, I am not dismissive about the existence of misandry either. I despise the term “reverse-sexism”, because it implies that discrimination against women is different from that against men. It’s all “sexism”, plain and simple. If you rant about how not all women love the color pink, and end your speech with “Urgh, men and their stupid obsession with sports!”, you’re being sexist.

Furthermore, I’m a man of science, thus not a fan of the idea that any study whose conclusion does not fall perfectly in line with what’s considered politically correct, must be false (and the scientist behind the study must be a rape-apologist).

Feminism (fem-uh-niz-um) is a movement advocating social, political, and all other rights and opportunities for women equal to those of men. Up till here, I’m feminist to the bone. It is not a prudish rampage. It is not a movement of man-haters, porn-haters, science deniers or of those who pity or judge all sex workers for their line of work.

Unfortunately, the movement seems to have been overrun by the Jezebel crowd and when I call myself a feminist, I’m often stereotyped as being an angry, man-hating, sex-phobic person. I’m many things, but not that.

As theists have traditionally used the term “God did it” to explain everything without having to prove anything, many feminists have latched on the term “patriarchal society” as an explanation to all their woes. The feminist theory asserts that there are no real psychological and behavioral differences between men and women, and all observed differences in the way males and females behave is the result of society teaching us to do so.

Science asks why the society became patriarchal in the first place. The common feminist explanation, I can only imagine, is that Bam-Bam I, the High King of the Cave People, ordered all men to go out and hunt, and leave women to cook and clean inside the caves. And this law has been followed ever since. The scientific idea, is that the way society has become structured today in a patriarchal form, is the result of genuine biological differences between men and women.

Now if you read the above sentence and went, “Oh? So you’re saying that men should be allowed to rape women because its in their nature?! That gender-based discrimination is natural and shouldn’t be fought against?” then you’re among the stupider variety of feminists who thinks that a natural explanation of behavioral differences among men and women, is necessarily a validation of harmful discriminatory attitudes and stereotyping.

It isn’t justification. It isn’t apologia. It’s merely scientific inquiry.

Like it or not, men ARE hornier than women and they DO have greater sexual needs. Study after study has proven this fact, and it explains why you’re more likely to find female prostitutes than males.

Does this mean that men must be exempted from controlling their sexual urges? No. Does it mean that we may need to restructure our system that could more easily accommodate people with greater sexual needs (which may include women too) instead of forcing them to battle their instincts out of an artificial sense of propriety? Probably so. Note that sexual assault is not a matter of “propriety” but an actual crime that needs to be prevented no matter what, to maintain social order and ensure prosperity of human race as a whole.

Women ARE more socially aggressive than men, and that’s a proven fact too. Does this mean that all women, in everyday life, must be treated as back-biters? No. Because the study only shows how an average female can be expected to act. It doesn’t show that every woman is more socially aggressive than every man. But is it justified for Jezebel or any other feminist banshee group to deny this research on political grounds? No to that too.

Feminism cannot go very far if it continues to be at war with science, particularly evolutionary psychology, seeing it as a threat to their awkward doctrine that men and women are behaviorally, psychologically the same, and any observed differences are the result of the patriarchal society alone.

Feminism needn’t be that convoluted, and the aim should be simple: Ensure equal rights and opportunities for men and women, regardless of any behavioral/psychological differences that there may be. Because not every man is an “average male” or every woman an “average female”.

Eighth Deadly Sin: Denying Science

Science is a cold-hearted bitch, isn’t she? She doesn’t care about our sense of political correctness or our convenience. She doesn’t care about our religions or our cultures. The electron dances around the nucleus irrespective of what the mullah says, the bible commands, or the culture demands.

Tell a mutating DNA that you don’t believe in evolution, and see if it gives a fraction of a fuck. Nature is so selfish, so inconsiderate of our desires, necessities and beliefs. And that’s why science, a quest to find out how nature works, is every bit as ruthless.

We have deluded ourselves with an idea that science is simply an opinion, that can be embraced or rejected based on our own convenience. Evolution not compatible with your faith? Deny evolution. It would be too costly or inconvenient to slow down human-induced climate change? Deny climate-change.

Here are a few questions and concerns I regularly get to hear from our cardinal sinners: Continue reading

Why I don’t believe in the Quran

Note: This blog post isn’t intended to offend Muslims. It’s an attempt to highlight various flaws in the arguments commonly made by Muslims in favour of the Quranic scripture.

Living in an Islamic country, the only thing you get to hear publicly about Quran is praise. One’s usually not even made aware that there’s another side of the debate. There’s a reason why many people don’t believe in Islam, and perhaps some effort should be made to understand their point as well.

When I tell a Muslim that I don’t believe in the Quran, his first assumption is that I haven’t read the book. That’s rather condescending. It doesn’t occur to many that a person may have chosen not to believe it despite adequate knowledge of what he’s rejecting. How many Muslims have read Bhagvad Gita or studied the Old Testament in detail before rejecting them both?

Based on this assumption, I’m always presented a series of arguments about why I should believe in the Quran. I shall now address them separately. Continue reading

Spiritual Science

It is truly unfortunate that a vast majority of the public views science as a soulless institution. It considers logic as a robotic trait, and finds it a virtue to be swept away by a tsunami of uncontrolled emotions. Doing ridiculous, and often perilous, deeds out of love, hate, vengeance or envy is thought of as a sign of “being alive”.

Scientists (especially non-religious scientists) are widely perceived as dull, lifeless, and sin-of-sins, non-spiritual beings losing touch with their human roots. They’re sometimes looked upon with pity – as creatures so lost in studying the physical universe that they can’t see and enjoy the pleasures of the metaphysical.

But truth is far from that. Scientists are the Picasso’s and Van Gogh’s of the 21st century. When Craig Venter and his team constructed artificial life, there was more art in it than science.

In their search for spirituality, people often find themselves tapping into the vast reserves of human stupidity and coming up with the most ludicrous ideas: tattooing Chinese ideograms upon their arms, wearing gaudy jewelry, “cleansing” their “auras”, sitting in a certain uncomfortable position for a long period of time with eyes closed – in a pitiful attempt to “clear one’s mind”.

Those who like to believe in life as a mystical force of its own kind might to be disappointed to hear a scientist telling them that it’s actually just a series of nucleic acids studded onto a chain of deoxyribose-sugar. They may be let down on finding out that the only “gods” we know are the fundamental physical forces: gravity, electromagnetism, weak and strong nuclear forces. Too dull? Yeah, let’s just get back to our auras and spirits and jinns and angels.

Not many of us realize that the same spirituality we seek in superstitious nonsense can be found right here in science. There’s nirvana in biochemistry and poetry in physics. The deliriousness of a scientist studying a bacterium under a microscope, is comparable to that of a pir meditating in a distant, mountain-top shrine. For those who’ve truly learned to appreciate the physics of our universe and spend a good amount of time studying how nature works, discover a unique kind of high that only they can delineate.

And should a scientist stumble upon an answer to one of his queries or discover something previously unknown to man, the bliss is indescribable.

It is only through psychology that a person can fully appreciate the beauty of a human mind, and through a detailed study of anatomy can one recognize the true brilliance of nature. The feeling that one’s pushing the boundaries of human knowledge outwards, slowly but consistently, is pleasantly intoxicating.

Since I became an Atheist, I’ve found this whole new appreciation for nature. Before my deconversion, I used to take everything for granted by associating false purpose with it – flowers are there to appease our sense of smell, sun’s there to give us light, and stars are there to look pretty. I respected science only for the occasional bounty that fell out of the laboratories and research facilities – like a new camera phone, an iPod, a better graphics card. But there’s so much more to science than that.

So the next time you decide to spend half an hour humming, “Ommmmm…”, try something new: go to a library or an online scientific source and study the constellations. Read a little about the replication of DNA, or evolutionary biology. Odds are that you’ll find the same illumination that you find in prayer and yoga.

Muslims and their contribution to science

If you ask a Muslim about how his brethren have contributed to the scientific progress of man, he’d blithely mention scientists like Jabir Bin Hayan, Ibn-e-Sina and Omar Al-Khayyam. Such Muslims have, without doubt, contributed generously to science.

But that was centuries ago, all the way back in the middle ages. When it comes to modern science, Muslims have little to be proud of. A few names are worth mentioning – Dr.Abdus Salam being one of them – but beyond that, there isn’t much.

For a religious group that constantly talks about how “scientific” Islam is, and persistently attempts to prove the authenticity of Quran as divine writ by pointing out the “scientific miracles” mentioned in it, the reality doesn’t quite concur with their beliefs. Continue reading

The Cradle of Irrationality

I could very well stomp upon the countless examples of the destructive power of faith. I could talk about the sheer ignorance, bigotry, homophobia, violence and even fascism that religions bring to the modern world. And on doing so, I’d easily annoy all those who call themselves “moderately religious”.

But that would be too easy. No, I’d rather talk about the very foundation of religion, blind faith in an omnipotent power, which makes it a dangerous magisterium indeed.

Religion may be seemingly harmless, even beneficial! But what most people fail to realize is that  it’s an excuse to discard all logic and reason. Religion sets a precedent that it’s okay to believe in something without reason or evidence. All it takes is a religious man uttering two magical words, “I believe” and all logic can very well fly out of the window.

A religious fanatic can show up at my house with a gun and say, “I believe that you need to die because you’re an Atheist” and all I can do is stand by silently and wait for the bullet to pierce my skull. “I believe” is the best argument of all time. You cannot engage the speaker of those words in a rational debate or try to negotiate with him. You just have to step back and shut up.

If my gunman example is too dramatic for your taste, allow me to bring to your attention a much more common way through which religion is impeding the progress of man: the interference of religion in matters of science. It’s funny how the creationists love to act like geniuses and try to poke holes in an established scientific fact that is evolution. Would you expect the same kind of fierce questioning if the scientists one day discover that Jesus had only maternal DNA and his conception was, in fact, immaculate? Would you expect a Christian to rise up and say, “Nah, that theory has too many holes in it!” Certainly not! Such opposition is reserved only for the aspect of science which threatens their religious agenda.

I say enough! I’m all in for freedom of belief, which is why I cannot really force people to think the way I do. But it’s imperative that they realize on their own that religion is not a benign force.