Monday, March 26, 2007

Evidence about God or a religion

Listed below is the type of evidence that would convert Ebon Musings' author to the theist's point of view or to a particular religion.

Thus, in the spirit of proving that atheists' minds are not closed, I've assembled below a list of everything I can think of that I would accept as proof that a given religion is true.

Source: Ebon Musings: The Theist's Guide to Converting Atheists


BUT ...

  1. Verified, specific prophecies that couldn't have been contrived

    "If the Bible, for example, said, ' On the first day of the first month in the year two thousand and ten, the pillars of the earth will shake and a great part of the New World will be lost to the sea,' and then January 1, 2010 comes and a tremendous earthquake sends California to the bottom of the Pacific Ocean."

    Do the Bible or other religious texts actually make such specific prophecies? If not, how can one be invented now and ascribed to these texts? Therefore, the possibility of finding such a prophecy or its confirmation is nil.

    For any new religion (aren't they being invented currently?) I'd accept an ability to predict something simpler: the exact sequence of heads and tails in a few hundred tosses of a coin.

    That would be prophecy enough for me. And if someone could do a sequence that I provide, why I would concede that prayer works.

    Only caveat: the results must be reproducible in controlled experiments and no one should be able to explain it any other way.
  2. Scientific knowledge in holy books that wasn't available at the time.

    "Verily, verily, I say unto thee that thine energy is as thine mass times the speed of light multiplied unto itself."

    This isn't a good test.

    If any holy book had predicted Newton's laws of motion, would we agree that it was holy? Not me.

    Newton's laws of motion are understood to be approximate today. While it would be fantastic if they were found in a holy book, their existence would actually make the book only approximately true.

    Scientific laws are given by intelligent men. Their unexpected appearance in a holy text would first point to the existence of a very intelligent man, or if that is clearly impossible, to contact with an extra-terrestrial, whose science wasn't sufficiently well-developed.
  3. Miraculous occurrences, especially if brought about through prayer

    Yes, if the outcomes of a controlled experiment demonstrated the efficacy of prayers, it would be compelling evidence to include some form of God in the explanation.

    But we'd have to give scientists time to rework their theories first and to suggest the form of God that is implied.
  4. Any direct manifestation of the divine

    "I'll be happy to believe in God if he tells me to in person, as long as he does it in such a way that I could be sure that it was not a hallucination (for example, in the presence of multiple reliable witnesses, none of which are in a highly emotional or otherwise altered state)."

    If God tells you in person, how would that be evidence for me? If I have to believe you, I might as well believe Moses or hundreds of others with whom he has communicated before.

    What if hundreds of thousands of witnesses are present? If they witness a miracle they would be in a "highly emotional or otherwise altered state". Thus they wouldn't be reliable witnesses. 

    Read about The Hindu Milk Miracle!
  5. Aliens who believed in the exact same religion

    Exact same religion?

    I'd be very suspicious of what these aliens are telling us. Such an occurrence would be more indicative of a ploy to win support of a large number of earth individuals to serve another purpose that the aliens have in mind!

Oh well, now what?


Thursday, March 22, 2007

Economics, not Engineering, shows the way

Would you expect a reputed College of Engineering to adopt technology based solutions to efficiently perform its own functions?

Perhaps not, if you understand what the economics professors taught you.

Since college seats are scarce and the college is not able to charge a market determined price for its limited seats, it must find other means to reduce demand.

You would, therefore, understand how the Delhi College of Engineering solved its admission problem:

  1. They notified the Combined Entrance Examination for 2007 on March 21, 2007 during the CBSE Board examination when the attention of students is mainly fixed on their textbooks. Thus only such candidates who have supportive and involved family members would get notified.
  2. The advertisement seems to have appeared only in Hindustan Times. That is a good move too because it increases the odds in favour of families that subscribe to (and carefully scan) several newspapers--surely a good target population.
  3. The form can only be obtained from two or three places by making a personal visit on working days between 10 am and 4 pm, excluding lunch time. This is a little confusing. It may be designed to target families that have at least one literate, unemployed member or those that employ drivers for their family car.
  4. The brochure would be available only between 23 March 07 and 16 April 07. Since the period starts on Friday and ends on Monday, it is includes the maximum number of weekends possible. And should you want the bulletin by post, this period is further reduced to 13 days, which includes three weekends.
  5. The official homepage of DCE at did not mention the notification on the day it appeared, but rather referred to their admission process for year 2006. That was a clever way to throw off the lazy Internet dependent wasters. Even as this post is made, the two main admissions hyperlinks refer to last year.
  6. Yes, a relevant link has also been quietly added now. But that is to discover the really determined crowed: it points to the virtually unreadable picture of the ad in the newspaper. How clever! It is not machine readable, so wouldn't be indexed on search engines. (The information must be protected from any easy or automatic retrieval mechanism.)

And these barriers are for just obtaining the information brochure. Surely the rest of the mechanism is equally carefully designed keeping the end objectives in mind.


Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Pay Attention to the Anchor Text in your Links

Alex Bamo writes about doing an Instant SEO With Anchor Text.

Even if it didn't do anything for Google rankings, paying attention to the anchor text is important because it greatly improves the experience for human readers.

So much easier to decide if you wish to follow the links above than to know what to do with this!


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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Starting all over again

Last week I joined a new office.

Yes, it means learning to work a new telephone system, rearranging furniture, discovering better parking slots, and getting acquainted with the proclivities of your new colleagues and staff.

Mercifully, arranging the virtual world is easier. (Thanks, !) And armed with a copy of my downloads folder on CD, all essential software is installed and running, like the Windows Live Writer.

This is my first IT job. Therefore, there's the delicious anticipation of a sharp learning curve ahead.

There is also a disquiet, and it's this disquiet that I want to keep in mind for as long as it would stay.

It seems my biggest challenge would be to keep business, rather than technology focus. Why? And why would it be a challenge? Don't know and that is, perhaps, part of the disquiet.

Wish my luck and do give me advise.


Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Interesting, relevant and useful!

Dr Nicola Pratt, at the School of Political, Social and International Studies, the University of East Anglia, has a very interesting experiment going on:

Students are being encouraged to improve their research and writing skills by editing Wikipedia entries.

Source: If you don’t like it, do something about it… at Greg Laden

School children too can benefit from such an exercise, even if all they did was to edit the material and make it easier to read.

A wonderful idea to motivate the students by engaging them in something useful that would persist after their assignment is graded. And somebody is sure to come along and improve their entry. Which is more learning for the student!

I made some "original" contributions to wikipedia years ago, and it is amazing how those articles have grown to their present authoritative and better finished forms.


Friday, March 09, 2007

Hindi transliteration facility in Blogger

Amit Agarwal (Digital Inspiration) points out a new feature in Blogger:

An exciting development for bloggers in India who like to blog in mother tongue Hindi but are more comfortable typing English. The new English-Hindi transliteration feature inside Blogger will let you type blog posts in Hindi using English Keyboards.

For sometime now I've been looking for such a transliteration tool. Not for blogging, but as a convenient way to create small texts in Hindi.

Difficulty in using (learning) the Hindi keyboard, has so far deterred me from using Hindi anywhere at all. This handicap has been particularly galling because Hindi is my mother tongue. Yes, quillpad and Hindi Kalam have been around, but they didn't work too well for me.

I tried the new option and it worked exactly as Amit said it would, but here are some lessons:

  1. Won't work in Firefox, unless you switch on support for complex scripts (Windows XP). Not too difficult to do, but you may need to locate the original CD's.
  2. Works like a breeze in Explorer (without the need to switch on support for complex scripts).
  3. You can create text in Blogger and paste into MS Word for further use. I'd had problems doing this with other tools.

यह टूल तो वकायी में आसान है! स्वयम प्रयोग कर के देखें!!

Seems to correctly guess the words, so it is probably dictionary assisted. That's wonderful for those who gave up writing Hindi but use the language competently as native speakers.

And what's more, you can create your Hindi text online, save it as draft and import into Window Live Writer! (Warning: You may have to neaten up the HTML a bit.)

Till we get good speech-to-text tools for Hindi, this would fill in the gap nicely.


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Thursday, March 08, 2007

What are you doing for women?

Yes, what are you going to do for the women of the world this March 8?

I asked the same question of myself and was at a loss to come up with any worthwhile response. All the women and girls in my large circle of family and friends seem to be doing nicely.

Ending Impunity for Violence against Women and GirlsSo I headed over to the UN web site on the International Women's Day 2007, hoping to find some help.

They have dedicated this day to a very worthwhile cause: Ending Impunity for Violence against Women and Girls!

Yes, I want this impunity to end. But it would happen only when we:

  1. Remove impunity for all violence
    Let me explain the logic with an example. Patients (especially) need a clean and germ free environment. To achieve that the hospital needs to be clean for everybody.
  2. Remove any bias against women
    Which would be to best achieved and sustained if we are alert to all forms of prejudice. Bias is subtle and pernicious. Indeed, "bias against women" may infect women's minds just as easily as those of men.

Therefore, at least in this case, the UN can archive its objectives more easily by broadening the scope. And it wouldn't even cost them so much more, would it?

Speaking of the cost of UN programmes, they could raise money by allowing people to donate a small sum using PayPal or a credit card and be relieved that they have done their duty for the day.

There are millions like us, so there must be lots of money in it.