ON MIRACLES – AGAIN Massimo Pigliucci

Arguably, one of the most oftrepeated mantras in the skeptic community is “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence,” the modern rendition of David Hume’s idea that “a wise man proportions his belief to the evidence.

” Hume wrote about adjusting belief according to the available evidence in his famous essay ‘Of  Miracles’, published in 1748 as part of his Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding. I discussed this topic in this column back in 2005 . (Skeptical Inquirer March/April issue, 14-15), but because Hume’s dictum is a crucial component of modern skepticism, and also because the 300th Anniversary of the famous philosopher’s birthday has just been celebrated throughout Europe, it is perhaps worth taking another look at what the principle entails and why we still think it is worth our attention today.

Continue reading


Almanac Menace

The believers believe almanac sayings besides believing the almighty (?)! For the Hindus there are two almanacs in Tamil Nadu. One is Vakkia

Panchangam and another one is Thirukkanitha Panchangam. Panchangam means five parts. Vakkia means a sentence and Thirukkanitha means pure mathematics. So, we can guess the suitability of these words. But, it is not the matter for consideration.

Why  are there two panchangams to the people of one and the same religion? One more matter of interest is, there are totally eight different panchangams in this sacred boomi (land) for the Hindus. We have to bear in mind that the Christians of the world  have only one almanac. No Hindutvawadi is able to explain this discrepancy.

Continue reading

System and process of Selection for appointment of Judges to High Court and Supreme Court NEED MORE TRANSPARENCY

Advocating the need to design a robust system of choosing candidates for elevation as judges, Supreme Court judge J.Chelameswar gave both the Bench and the Bar some food for thought. “The system of choosing candidates for elevation to constitutional courts in the country is not foolproof. The main critieria of selection are success at the bar and the personal satisfaction of those involved in the selection process,” he added.

Observing that the practice of using professional income to measure an individual’s success is not a “wholly rational criteria,” the judge said the scales of pay are not uniform in courts across the country.

He was delivering the commemorative lecture series on ‘Judicial Accountability and Reforms’ as part of the Madras High Court’s 150th anniversary celebrations organised by The Law Association on 7th July. Chief Justice of Madras High Court M.Y.Eqbal was also present.

Pointing out that there are numerous considerations, some of which are irrelevant, to reach the satisfaction of those involved in the selection process. Justice  Chelameswar said accountability has to start at the source, at the time of recruitment.

“A candidate’s academic credentials and personality are in noway subject to scientific scrutiy”, he said. Noting that the process of admission into a foreign university itself tested a candidate with a degree of psychoanalysis, the apex court judge asked why there should not be some method of analysis while choosing inviduals to become judges.

Justice Chelameswar said the Bar council  could provide impartial inputs about candidates. Citing the example of Ronald Reagan’s nomination to become a Supreme Court Judge when he was President of the United States, Justice Chelameswar said his bid was thwarted as he was found to be an ultra-conservative. This had come about as a result of a sustained campaign by a professor from Harward University and the then attorney-general.

“All of us are very willing and eager to criticise judges but how many of us are willing to spend time and energy to analyse and criticise judgments. I don’t think, even 1% of our brethern do it. This absence of academic supervision is also a factor which emboldens judges to deviate from the norms required to be follows,” he said.

Commenting on the financial misbehaviour of any member of the judiciary, Justice Chelameswar said that judges essentially come from the Bar. “I believe that without the active cooperation of atleast some members of the Bar and the passive approval or indifference of the majority of the Bar no judge can indulge in this misbehaviour,” he said.

All of us are very willing and eager to criticise judges but how many of us are willing to spend time and energy to analyse and criticise judgments. I don’t think, even 1 per cent of our brethern do it. This absence of academic supervision is also a factor which emboldens judges to deviate from the norms required to be followed   – Justice Chelameswar

Periyar and Bernard Russell about “SOUL” Prof G.V.K.Aasan


As you have seen that while we discussed  the human body and its parts, there was no need to mention anything about soul. Whatever we found in the human body was evident Parts of the body could be seen and felt. Our experience helped us a lot to understond human body thoroughly. It was all acceptable to our rationalism.

But if we take up soul for consideration, we can neither see it nor touch it. So for  our knowledge about soul is concerned, I am not able to collect anything about it.

Souls are simply based on blind belief. Intellect and experience have no role to play regarding soul. Then what is soul? It is created as  irrational as god. God is nothing with definite form or appearance. Soul is also like that. God is unseeable and untouchable. So also is the soul.  God has no fixed and definite limbs or parts of eyes, nose, ears, mouth, hands, etc. So also is the soul. One connot conceive or realise god. You connot have access to its power or see its functions. No one is able to establish the existence of god by convincing methods and reasonable ways. Soul is also like god.

 Here are the views of two intellectual giants, Bertrand  Russell and Thanthai Periyar on the all elusive "Soul". All speak about "Soul" but none knows anything about "Soul". Like 'God' soul is a creation of human imagination. Both Russell and Periyar try to expose the hollowness of the much hallowed term 'Soul'. While Russell is scholarly and sophisticated in his approach to the concept of "Soul", Periyar is pragmatic and  down to earth. As we have to read between the lines to catch at the intent of Russell, Periyar gives it to us on a platter. While Russell convinces the educated with mystified arguments, Periyar convinces the common man calling a spade a spade. Make a comparative reading and enjoy.

Why do we need a soul? What for is it created? Who created it?  Who is benefitted by it? You get no reply from any source for all these. You have to simply believe that there is soul. 'Soul' is something which cannot be questioned or tested.

Non-believers in god and religion are accustomed to rational thitiking. They have nothing to do with what is called  soul. Let us enquire into the philosophy of soul. Body, mouth, ears, nose and eyes are called Pancha Indiriyas (Five senses), if a thing is not established by these senses it connot really exist. There are people who say that god is beyond truth. But to say that, one thing is beyond the test of truth would amount to erasing the word ‘truth’ from the dictionary.

The word 'Athma' (soul) is not a Tamil word. It is clear from this that Tamilians or Dravidians were not aware of the philosophy of soul. You find the word soul described only in the Northern language. The word ‘soul’ in English does not cannote  the meaning and interpretation given by the Northeners.

 You don't find a place given or allotted to soul in the human body. You find that every part of the body is doing a definite work. Soul has no work in the body. All the parts in the body function. Our sense organs enoble us to perceive things.

Everything is found to be there. But what about 'soul'? Where is it? What is it? What is its hmction? Soul is something unperceivable, unwanted and unrelated to the human body

How does a machine work? It is because of the various parts assembled. Look at a clock. It ticks. It wakes up man by raising the alarm. There are many kinds of mechanical devices inside. Accordingly  it performs different functions. Who will believe if we say that there is some miraculous ghost or thing inside the clock, which enables the clock to perform all these different functions. Would anyone believe?

Some fifty years ago, a villager came to our shop. He looked at the big clock in our shop. He saw the pendulam oscillating. He heard the ringing. He was surprised. He enquired us where the man was who moved the pendulom. He wanted to know where the man was ringing the hours. I jokingly remarked that there were men standing on the other side of the wall doing all these. He believed what I told him and began to flatter me.  “You are  lords.  A big Maharaj/  You can afford to have any number of people".

Why do I tell this episode about the villager?  It is to make clear that only those who are as ignorant as the villager would believe in gods, religion and soul. You are able to see a lot of machines do wonderful things which a man cannot. Yet the mochines do not have any 'soul' which is supposed to be the proud possession of man.

 Christianity  and Islam do not speak of any soul. Buddhists deny 'soul'. Original Dravidians too did not have any belief in 'soul'. Then how did come the idea of soul to dominate us? Is there any sensible reason for creating such a fantastic thing? Is the meaning given to soul convincing? The philosophy about soul is applicable only to o particular religion. In other words without this soul there is no Hindu religion.

        To hush up a lie many lies are needed. Similarly to protect a false religion and god, a false 'soul' is created. To establish the baseless Hindu philosophy, many false philosophies are created such as soul, heaven, hell, fate and karma. What do we see of a man? He is born. He grows. He does things according to the abilities of his body and development. After death he is either cremoted or buried. He is no more in the world. This is what we actually see in the day today life of a man. What is the need for an imagination of a soul?

Supposing a watch does not show the correct time, whose mistake is that? It may be because of the man who made it. It may be due to the negligence of the man who took care of the watch.  It may be the fault of the person who noted the time.

Leaving aside all those who have some connection or other with the watch, if one is to throw the blame on the 'soul' of the watch and further refuse to show or point out or explain what the soul is and where the soul is, how could it be right to blame the soul for anything and impose reward or punishments on it? Won't you think it is a big fraud? Similarly, it is bigger fraud to link the soul with the actions of man, and subject the soul for a reward or of punishment.

 How do we term certain actions as good and others as bad? Is there any universal standard or accepted scale to  measure the actions as good or bad? Then how can we say that our souls are awarded rewards for good acts after death? How are we to believe that a soul undergoes punishments for the bad acts after death? How fantastic lies are  these! Please think over. Where is the proof for all these? How to believe in 'soul' and its work? How are we to believe that the soul attains 'moksha' only on account of its good deeds? Is there anyone to prove it in any manner? You can now understand that the philosophy about soul is

false and absurd. In short it is a mere castle built in the air!

What is the Soul?

Bertrand Russell

One of the most painful circumstances of recent advances in science is that each one of  us know less than what we thought we know. when I was young we all knew, or thought we knew, that a man consists of a soul and a body; that the body is in time and space, but the soul is in time only. Whether the soul survives death was a matter as to which opinions might differ, but that there is a soul was thought to be debatable. As for the body,  

its existence is self evident, and so did the man of science, but the philosopher was apt to analyse it a way after one fashion or another, reducing it usually to ideas in the mind of the man who had the body and any else who hoppened to notice him. The philosopher, however, was not taken seriously, and science remained comfortably materialistic, even in.the hands of quite orthodox scientists. Nowadays, these fine old simplicities are lost physicists assure us that there is no such thing as matter, and psychologists assure us that there is no such thing as mind.

Inexorable superstitious belief despite the knowledge of genesis of rain

Dependence on rain for the success of Agriculture:

India is basically agrarian in economic activity.  Hectic activity of Indian agriculture mainly depends on the timely onset of two monsoons viz., South West Monsoon and North East Monsoon.  Majority of arable landholdings is rain fed.   Unless the monsoon sets in time, the proportion of detriments will directly correlate to the period of delay in its onset.  

Usually, the South West Monsoon sets in the first week of June in Kerala and the monsoon ideally covers many parts of the country during the second week.

Oil seeds and pulses are primarily grown in rain-fed areas of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat which remain as the major supplying states of oil seeds and pulses to the rest of the country.

The share of agriculture over the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ranges from 15 to 20 per cent.   Even though the share is not major, the set back in agriculture, if any, would affect the whole nation;  the reason being , for the majority population , agriculture is the only known activity and income generation of any kind could accrue to them only through agriculture.   The successful agriculture in a year has a substantial and significant impact on the overall positive economic performance of the country .

Pinning hope on rain gods without analyzing the inadequacies in indigenous economic planning:

The current state of Indian economy is reflected with slow down in growth, depreciation in rupee value, influential effects resulted out of global crisis with specificity to euro crisis.   The crude oil price rise has its own multi pronged impacts in the every section of the society.  The real economic development would take place only with the great commitment of indigenous planning, harnessing the available resources in reasonable blend to achieve the desired ends.   By paying due attention to the basic planning and execution, the Government prolongs with certain pronouncements in fiscal and monetary policies.   Any amount of pronouncements, irrespective of its elite academic basis would not help unless the hard realities are realised, understood and acted upon in the desired direction.

Without possessing perseverance in the implementation of economic agenda suitable to the indigenous economy, the government is pointing out conditions prevailing in other countries as reasons for the precarious situations in the country. Not only does the policy paralysis prevail on the part of the Government, but also the efficiency to face the challenges is lacking.   After all economic planning cannot be a  tailor-made.   It is subject to variation, depending upon the natural and manmade deviations and distortions.   But today government is at cross road when the chances of fresh fiscal incentives to catalyse economic growth are remote.   Government pins its hopes on rain gods.

Realities in the onset of monsoons:

The onset of timely monsoon is not as per the desire of economics.  Because of the climate change, global warming and the related meteorological aspects during the current year and in earlier occasions also the monsoon did not set in time.   

The Indian Meteorological Department  has said that the South West monsoon had remained close to the Kerala Coast, since June 5, after a delayed entry into the mainland.   By June 10, the South West monsoon should have ideally covered larger parts of Maharashtra, Odisha, West Bengal, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.  However as on June 12, it has barely moved beyond Kerala.

The major part of Tamil Nadu comes under rain shadow area during the South West Monsoon period.  The rainfall receipt is more during the North East Monsoon commencing from September end or the beginning of October.   It does not mean that Tamil Nadu is devoid of rainfall during South West Monsoon.  A few drizzlings may be possible. Without understanding these realities, people are misled by the priest craft by chanting mantras for monsoon and performing poojas for the downpour.   By immersing their bodies half in water, the priests invoke rain god performing a special homam – Varuna Homam conducted on river beds.   The priests are immersed in faith.   This is not the faith in the name of individual preference and freedom of profession.  It is a ditching exercise of scientific temper which is enunciated in Indian Constitution as one of the fundamental duties to be carried out by every citizen.  The coverage in print press media for such prayer to rain god is enormous.  In that way, the press which is considered as the fourth estate of our democratic edifice are acting contrary to the expectations of Indian Constitution.   How could they encourage such superstitious deeds ? The realistic way of approaching the economic problems with due planning without giving room for any superstitions  on the part of rulers above will alone provide sustained comforts to the people.