Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Wider, wider, open wider

Wider, wider, open wider. Let's pretend to sink the spider.
Wider, wider, open wider. Let's forget to plug the scanner.
Closer, closer, hold them closer. Tonight has forfeited its right to be older.
Silent, silent, walk very silent. One shoe from above one sock in the stove.
Slowly, slowly, think more slowly, the deeper the thought, the fancier the shape, the truer the oath of that little ape.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Notes from "Letters to a Young Contrarian", Letter XIII and XIV

Letter XIII

From Noam Chomsky: "speaking truth to power" is overrated.

Power [...] quite probably knows the truth already, and is mainly interested in suppressing or limiting or distorting it. We would therefore do better to try to instruct the powerless. I am not sure that there is a real difference in this distinction. Ruthless and arrogant though power can appear, it is only ever held by mere mammals who excrete and yearn, and who suffer from insomnia and insecurity. These mammals are also necessarily vain in the extreme, and often wish to be liked almost as much as they desire to be feared.

Letter XIV

Those who need or want to think for themselves will always be a minority; the human race may be inherently individualistic and even narcissistic but in the mass it is quite easy to control. People have a need for reassurance and belonging.

Distrust any speaker who talks confidently about "we," or speaks in the name of "us". Distrust yourself if you hear these tones creeping into your own style.

Thus in order to be a "radical" one must be open to the possibility that one's own core assumptions are misconceived.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Expresión y producto de la debilidad humana

En una subasta realizada la semana pasada, salió a la luz una carta que Albert Einstein escribió al filósofo Eric Gutkind en donde queda claro cuál era la idea que Einstein tenía sobre la religión. En la carta escribe:

The word god is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honourable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this.

Traducido libremente: "La palabra dios no es para mí otra cosa más que la expresión y el producto de la debilidad humana, la Biblia una colección de leyendas honorables pero sin embargo primitivas, que son de cualquier forma bastante infantiles. Ninguna interpretación, sin importar que tan sutil puede (para mí) cambiar esto."

No se podía esperar menos del maestro. No queda duda ahora que Einstein no creía en el dios judeocristiano :-)

Monday, March 14, 2011

Hitch, Harris and two rabbis

A few days ago I saw the debate between Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris and the rabbis David Wolpe and Bradley Shavit Artson, available online here (via Why Evolution is True). The discussion topic was: "Is there an afterlife". It was very enjoyable in general, leaving aside the fact that the rabbis had to make several moves to get away with their faith :-)

What I always like is Hitchen's wit and humor to pose an old and known idea in a new and fresh way. Here's an example with the notion of death and the eternal. This is the best metaphor I've seen about death:

Someone tap you in the shoulder and tells you that the party is not over, but you have to leave, and it will continue without you.

Imagine that, you are having fun at a party and you wish it would never end and you don't think for a second about the idea of having to leave! And that's what is upsetting and unsettling about having to die. All this wonderful party will be going on without us and we won't come back to it again and won't even know how it ended up. As far as we know, that's what the facts tell us. So we better come to terms with them.

Then comes the idea of eternity offered by religion, humorously stated by Hitchens:

This party is going on forever and you can't leave. You've got to stay, the boss says so, and he also insists that you have a good time.

That is the point that Hitchens raises about the totalitarian character of the religious point of view. One simply has no choice in the matter. I don't think you can have an honest good time under such conditions. I certainly could not. Could you?

In this regard, I just can't do something simply because someone claims to have to authority to tell me what to do. Either give me a good reason or forget about it!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Gamma function time...

I saw this picture a couple of months ago, but I didn't remember where. So I googled it. The very first hit was the twitter account of my friend who posted it! Needless to say, that was pretty cool.

I was trying to remember the scene in Pulp Fiction where Samuel L. Jackson could have supposedly said what is in the picture. It would make an awesome scene. You couldn't say that to your students... so the old classmates will have to do!

By the way, this is subject of our present topic: the gamma function.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Día de carnaval + 1

Miércoles de ceniza... recuerdo las misas en el colegio y la crucita grisasea. Ya en aquel entonces sentía raro que me pusieran una marca en la frente. Ahora lo veo como una dramatización inverosímil de un culto antiguo por gente moderna; como una exhibición de museo pero en vivo. En cierta forma es un privilegio el poder presenciar una dramatización de esta escala. Lo lamentable es que hay muchas otras tradiciones muertas que también valdría la pena recrear. Es igual que ir a la iglesia. La iglesia es como un museo viviente. Allí la gente todavía actúa como si creyeran los mitos de una religión antigua. Pero lo triste es que en verdad lo creen...

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Saliendo de la oscuridad

Cada vez que veo este tipo de propaganda no dejo de pensar que a pesar de todo, ha habido un gran progreso desde la Edad Media hasta ahora. En aquellos tiempos la gente era quemada en la hoguera por pensar libremente y retar la autoridad de la iglesia. Hoy, todavía existe esa influencia dogmática, pero mientras más personas tengan acceso a la educación y no tengan miedo de pensar por sí mismas, la influencia religiosa irá en declive.

La oscuridad en la que vive la humanidad no puede durar por siempre.