Thursday, July 10, 2008

Black Hole Wars

I saw this at, and it was too juicy not to comment on.

Professor Susskind says

A black hole is what you get if you compress so much mass into a region of space that it collapses, under its own weight, to an infinitely small, dense, point called the “singularity.” Everything that gets too close to the black hole gets sucked in, and squashed beyond recognition. There is no escape from the singularity, even for a light ray. Someone falling into a black hole might try to send a message, on a beam of light, to the outside world: “Help, I’m being sucked in.” But even the light ray gets pulled back to the singularity.

There is a certain radius—a particular distance from the dangerous singularity—that I like to call “the point-of-no-return.” If you accidentally pass the point-of-no-return there is nothing you can do to escape; you and all your messages will get swept to the singularity and destroyed. The point-of-no-return is also called the horizon of the black hole.

Passing the horizon seems very innocent while it is happening. It’s like being in a rowboat above Niagara Falls. If you accidentally pass the point where the current is moving faster than you can row, you are doomed. But there is no sign—DANGER! POINT OF NO RETURN—to warn you. Maybe on the river there are signs but not at the horizon of a black hole.

When has religion ever produced such magnificent views? That's right, never.

One interesting point raised in the comments were about what was meant the by the scrambling of information. If the information is "scrambled", then does it not mean that the information has been destroyed, as Hawkings had suggested?

But Susskind seems to say otherwise, which seems to mean that the information is, theoretically at least, recoverable. If it's simply a random scrambling, then the original information would not be recoverable, and hence the information can be considered to be destroyed. Or have I utterly failed to understand the concept of information in theoretical physics?

On a different note, I am quite excited by the notion that Quantum Physics and the General Theory of Relativity are on a collision course. It should be entertaining.

Jesus: Devil or Dingbat?

It's quite fascinating the way Christians can come up with convoluted interpretations to justify their views. The usual claim is that the more vile passages in the Bible were meant metaphorically, and that people have misunderstood them and used them to justify their harmful actions. But what does it tell about the person who preached them in the first place?

In an ancient civilization where slavery was common, if you preach them to keep slaves, and expect them to take it as a metaphor and not treat it literally, either you're endorsing slavery, or you're pretty stupid. So which was it? For Jesus, I mean. If he existed, that is.

Speaking of slavery, here's a wonderful passage from Professor Steven Weinberg, Nobel laureate in Physics.

It is certainly true that the campaign against slavery and the slave trade was greatly strengthened by devout Christians, including the Evangelical layman William Wilberforce in England and the Unitarian minister William Ellery Channing in America. But Christianity, like other great world religions, lived comfortably with slavery for many centuries, and slavery was endorsed in the New Testament. So what was different for anti-slavery Christians like Wilberforce and Channing? There had been no discovery of new sacred scriptures, and neither Wilberforce nor Channing claimed to have received any supernatural revelations. Rather, the eighteenth century had seen a widespread increase in rationality and humanitarianism that led others—for instance, Adam Smith, Jeremy Bentham, and Richard Brinsley Sheridan—also to oppose slavery, on grounds having nothing to do with religion. Lord Mansfield, the author of the decision in Somersett's Case, which ended slavery in England (though not its colonies), was no more than conventionally religious, and his decision did not mention religious arguments. Although Wilberforce was the instigator of the campaign against the slave trade in the 1790s, this movement had essential support from many in Parliament like Fox and Pitt, who were not known for their piety. As far as I can tell, the moral tone of religion benefited more from the spirit of the times than the spirit of the times benefited from religion.


Saturday, July 5, 2008

Christopher Hitchens : Religion

Christopher Hitchens says it all.

It's an old one, but it's one of my favorite Hitchens videos.

Better Dead than Gay?

Better to be Dead than Gay?

Good site giving information on suicide among LGBT people.

We know we all love to live. How much pain must one person go through to not want to live?

This suicide letter caught my eye. It is an excellent examples of the kind of suffering caused by "kind and compassionate" believers through their ignorance and stupidity:

Dear Family and Friends,

I'm sorry it had to end this way but it was my fate. I couldn't handle life anymore. You see, the reason I ran away before to commit suicide is the same reason I did again. I'm gay. I never wanted to be and I always wished it would change, but it didn't. I wanted to live a normal life but God created me this way for some reason and there was nothing I could do to change it. I was born this way, believe me I would not choose this way of life for I know how hard and unaccepted it is. I'm painfully sorry you all had to deal with this but I couldn't deal with it. This way I could live a peaceful afterlife instead of a life of fear, agony, and manic depressiveness. Please realize I did not want to hurt anyone I just wanted to end my own pain. I love you all dearly and will someday see you all again hopefully with your understanding hearts and souls. I just hope God will bring me to heaven.

Love always and eternally,

Bruce was 21 when he wrote this, before jumping off a cliff to end his life.

Another revolting thing is when people "pray" when someone commits suicide in such a manner, instead of standing up to religion to make sure it doesn't happen again. Just as people prayed after 9/11.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Don't Blame the Religion, Blame the People Who Misinterpret It

"Don't blame the religion, blame the people who misinterpret it" - this is a tiring argument that I've constantly read and heard. This is a line of argument that you can almost always expect from so-called "moderate" believers.

According to this point of view, people do terrible things in the name of religion not because religion is evil, but because people are terrible by nature.

Of course people do terrible things, but that does not mean that religion is exempt from blame. Religion has incited men and women to do violence and injustice to their fellow humans, and will continue do so as long as it exists.

In the context of homophobia, the Abrahamic faiths provide good examples to show that religion can incite people to cause much pain and suffering.

Christianity has a very rich tradition of murdering and torturing gay people. The reply of many moderate believers is to say that people in ancient times were homophobic, and that they twisted the Bible to justify it. A look at how gay people have been treated elsewhere in the world blasts away this myth. Take countries that have had a Buddhist history, for example. Buddhism has it's share of homophobia, but it's quite mild when compared to what Christianity has to say about it. Why doesn't Buddhism have a history of murdering gay people? Why didn't they murder gay people and use their religion to justify it?

A look at Christian and Buddhist religious texts makes the answer clear: you cannot use Buddhist texts to justify murdering gays because no where do the texts mention such a thing. Christian(and those of other Abrahamic religions) texts, on the other hand calls unwaveringly to kill, kill, kill the gays. Of course, killing doesn't end things - that's just the beginning of the party. When the murdered gay guy goes to hell, the real fun begins - at least from Jesus' point of view. So it's clear that people didn't just "use" the Bible to justify their existing homophobia. The Bible gave them homophobia. Anyone who praises this vile book can only have a truly wicked mentality.

"The Bible is to gays what Mein Kampf is to Jews. It is the theory and practice of Homo Holocaust"
- Peter Tatchell