Monday, July 31, 2006

Faith and Logic

Faith and logic - The two cornerstones of humanity. They both attempt to explain why and how, but they don't always agree with each other. They always come together in conversations, but sometimes they are bundled incorrectly. The following is an account based on my involvement in the WorldWide Malaysian Students Network, a.k.a. ReCom.

www.recom.orgFor as long as I could remember, I have been posting actively in some of the religious threads in ReCom ([1][2][3] etc) Those discussions and arguments spanned over 2 years, and as time goes by my enthusiasm has never faded at all. I have posted more than 100 religion-related replies in ReCom, and I even pasted one of my posts in this blog to share my thoughts with others.

It has been a long long time, but I must say it's a time worth spending. Some people ask me why did I bother joining the discussions at all when I know that people won't just change their mind after an online discussion. Some others ask me why I am so obstinate as to be so assertive in threads about religion, when people can have their way of living without encroaching into others' daily life.

The reason is, I can't stand people bashing others holier-than-thou-ly using logical fallacies. I can't stand people who say "Hey, if not because of my religion (fill in the blank), this world would be in a state of chaos because everyone would kill and rape each other". Or even, "Aren't you ashamed of having this [atheist/non-Abrahamic-god] thought?"

And most of all, a lot of people choose to present their points in a closed, invalid logic. "The [holy scripture] is right because the [holy scripture] says the [holy scripture] is right" is what a lot of people always use when they come to religious discourse. What makes this claim more valid than "He is handsome because he said he is handsome?"

I am not trying to attack any religion here, I have never ever attempted to. Challenge, question, doubt, yes I did all of them; but neither challenge vicious attack nor insult. In fact, it's religious insult that I am always countering here... It's posts like this that I am countering:

... maaf kerana agak kasar. Buddha tak belajar sains, dia tak tahu apa2 dari sains. ia hanya menafikan wujudnya tuhan kerana dia tidak dapat berfikir secara sains dan berpandukan fakta yang tepat.

terus-terang saya katakan buddha adalah atheis jika tidak percaya pada tuhan, sy boleh simpulkan Buddhist dan Atheis adalah sama. (tak percaya tuhan).

tahukah kamu hitler tidak percaya pada tuhan, dia buat jahat
kerana ia tahu jika ia mati pun tak apa.kerana tidak dibalas dengan neraka (sama seperti buddha yang mengatakan tiada tuhan).
See how some people try to invoke Godwin's Law by comparing Buddhist to Atheist to Hitler? That's why I always gatal want to rebut this kind of statement although it is detracting from the meagre time remaining for me with Xuan Ni, Kandel and lecture notes. This kind of vicious attack is unjustified, and by nature I just couldn't let it be and continue studying the neuron's structure.

Eerm, wait, I have strayed too far from what I actually want to write here... The actual reason I am writing here is, too many religious fighting and bashing occur because people just don't get the fundamental difference in thoughts among different population. People just don't get why other people don't get them.

In order to contribute my two cents, I have written my point of view regarding why religious fights always occur with no resolution. It's not a comprehensive description per se, but I tried to outline my basic points. Below is the thought I am sharing today... Hope it contributes a little bit to world peace.
Somehow, I feel that everything [a person's point of view] is up to the axiom of life for every individual. (By axiom I mean self-evident, fundamental "truth" which can't be validated, argued nor challenged without employing the axiom itself)

Many people (including me) have been brought up to believe that cause and effects, rule and regulations, hooks and crooks, right and wrong are all up to the interpretation and explanation using logic. Whenever we come to a dilemma, whenever we are unsure of whether something is right or wrong, we go back to step one in logic. By employing the premises of logic, we set off to deduce, to infer, to hypothesize and to validate our hypothesis; and if our hypothesis is proven wrong, we know that it's illogical and hence it's wrong.

In short, for us, logic is above everything, it's the basis of human reasoning and it underlies every reason and argument. Nothing can be valid without adhering to logical sequence; and to be illogical is to be wrong.

However, for many devout believers (e.g. Muslims, Christians etc), the axiom of life is not logic. Rather, the axiom of the universe is the word of God, as revealed in the Holy Scripture (al Quran for Muslim, the Bible for Christian, Torah for Jewish etc). Whenever faced with a problem, a devout believer will always heed to advice or statements or rules in the Holy Scripture, because he or she believes that God's words are the ultimate truths in this universe. For them, even logic is below God's word because without God, logic wouldn't exist at all.

For devout believers, God's words are above everything, even human common sense and logic. It's the basis of their reasoning and it underlies every reason and argument in daily life. Nothing can be valid without adhering to God's word and permission and restriction, and to disobey God's word is to sin. When God's word contradict other people's common sense, God is on the right side. There's no need to argue, "God is right" is something taken as granted, just as much as every literate take 1 + 1 = 2 as a fact in the realm of Mathematics.

So that's how we ended up having different mindsets, non abrahamic-god-believers on the street and devout believers. Let's not start arguing which set of axiom is true or false, because as soon as you start arguing, you are going to begin step one with your own axiom. The camp of logic is going to start by finding logical fallacies in the religious teaching; and the camp of religion is going to start by quoting the Holy Scripture. And we will never achieve a resolution, as long as we hold steadfast to our respective axioms. And as long as there are people who fail to appreciate the difference of axiom in each individual, they are going to be really pissed by each other in this thread.

Personally, I have no trouble with people having different axiom of life. As long as people do not kill each other just because of different axioms, I am perfectly alright.
The employment of logical fallacy is more frequent than what we think. Whenever faced with questioning, some people tend to resort to their Holy Book, use some "logical deductions" and think that everything is henceforth a fact. In the post above, I was countering a poster who said that "pig is an unclean animal" is a fact because the holy book says so, and also his holy book said God created pig as a filthy animal, so it must be filthy. This kind of argument exists everywhere, be it on the street or on ReCom. And the worst part is, those who use this kind of argument would seldom realize that their logic is fundamentally flawed.

I hope that by posting this, we can all refrain from insulting other's religions, what more insulting via illogical arguments. We will never have a conclusive proof of who's in the right, so for now,

p/s: In case anyone is wondering what my faith is, I would say I am a not-very-convinced agnostic Buddhist. Or a free-thinker if you want to put it that way.


Thursday, July 27, 2006

Optical Illusion

So you think that your eyes are 20/20? Your cone cells are working alright? You are not colour blind?

Try this.


Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Yet another Internet Self-test

Your EQ is 127

50 or less: Thanks for answering honestly. Now get yourself a shrink, quick!
51-70: When it comes to understanding human emotions, you'd have better luck understanding Chinese.
71-90: You've got more emotional intelligence than the average frat boy. Barely.
91-110: You're average. It's easy to predict how you'll react to things. But anyone could have guessed that.
111-130: You usually have it going on emotionally, but roadblocks tend to land you on your butt.
131-150: You are remarkable when it comes to relating with others. Only the biggest losers get under your skin.
150+: Two possibilities - you've either out "Dr. Phil-ed" Dr. Phil... or you're a dirty liar.


Friday, July 21, 2006

The Coldest Days

The past few days were the coldest since I came to Melbourne... The temperature has been hovering around zero degree Celsius for the past few days, and as I am typing this the temperature as shown by my forecastfox is 1 degree Celsius. I am not using any heater for the moment, but I think I may have to start using one very soon. My quilt, windbreaker and the adipose tissue is no longer enough to shield me from the freezing air.

This winter is so~~ cold.


Thursday, July 20, 2006

A Lift Encounter

Lifts in College Square are some of the most high-tech machines you would ever find. They take you up to the eighth floor in well under twenty seconds, and give you near-zero-G-force experience when it reaches its destination. If you take them daily just like me, you would agree with me that they beat the Superman Escape hands down any time.

Actually I should say, lifts in College Square are the most high-tech machines when they are working - that is, when their doors close successfully and when they don't take you to the unknown, dark territory of lower ground. There are zillions of times when the lift doors just refuse to close for eternity, or when they take you down to the not-supposed-to-be-reachable lower ground level when you actually pressed ground floor. And you won't tell me you are thinking of complaining the situation to the reception - they take three weeks to repair the smallest thing, and the walls of our apartments are made of plywood.

Of course one would naturally think that the second type of malfunction (the dark lower ground) is the more annoying or terrorizing experience of the two cases. Before today, I thought so too. I remember Boon Phiaw once claimed that College Square residents who have never visited the infamous dungeon were to be disqualified as a CS resident, or at the very least, be looked at with utmost disbelief. I was qualified about one week ago, but it was neither very interesting or what I wanted to talk about today. I want to talk about the lift doors which won't budge for eternity.

Earlier today, I was coming back from a table tennis session, together with Boon Phiaw and Yong Chin. We stay in the same block in College Square, and we have to take a lift up to where we live (Yong Chin and I on the ninth floor, Boon Phiaw on the first). When we entered the lift, there was already a young lady in the lift who was kind enough to wait for us instead of going up by herself. So we entered the lift, and we pressed one and eight respectively. I caught a glimpse of the floor buttons, and there was already 1, 2 and 8. Apparently the girl was heading towards the second floor, and with that thought I leaned myself against the lift wall for some well-deserved relaxation.

And the lift doors wouldn't close. As usual. It's been like that since three days ago, so we knew very well that we only have to wait for a while for it to close eventually.

But the lady wasn't as patient as us. Guess what she did?

She pressed the "close door" button ten million times, like what everyone would do in the same situation. Butu the lift doors still wouldn't close.

She pressed "3".

What?! Does she think pressing 3 will help the lift close? The lift did close 5 seconds after that, but I was sure it has got nothing to do with the button 3. And now you are going to let us wait for one extra lift opening-closing sequence!

Alright, Yong Chin and I are forgiving people, we put it aside and continued to stand there saying nothing. After all, I heard her snicker to herself sheepishly, which I presumed to be a non-verbal apologetic manner. I wasn't expecting her to say sorry after all. 不知者无罪 marr...

Now the lift zoomed to Boon Phiaw's first floor, and Boon Phiaw left for his apartment gleefully. And the lift wouldn't close again. But by now, everyone should have known that all you have to do is to wait for a while and the doors will close in a moment. But guess what the lady did?

She pressed "4"!!!

If your eyes are bulging now, just imagine Yong Chin's and my eyes when we were there. Yes, among all the alternatives in the world, she chose to press 4! ARRGhhhhh!! After the previous episode as recent as 10 seconds ago, the decision made by her 100 billion neurons was to press 4 and let us suffer another waiting!!



We weren't cursing with our mouths, but the previous two paragraphs were definitely the dialogue in our mind when we witnessed the world's funniest lift video. We moved on and we did suffer some waiting after the lady fleed on the second floor.

At the end of the day, I could only think of the most apt quote from Albert Einstein:

Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the universe.

Albert Einstein
End of story.


Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The Vein of a Shrimp

I was sitting in front of my computer, browsing one page after another with regard to the neural system, when a sudden thought dawned upon my collection of neurons... (Eerm, not exactly a thought, but a recollection of a previously unanswered question)

What actually is the black line down the back of a shrimp?
For years I have always thought that it's a vein or some kind of circulatory system, so I savoured all the prawns / shrimps with no qualms. Prawns are definitely one of my all-time favourite, and here in Melbourne there are times I miss prawns so much because of its exorbitant price. But whenever I have them, it's always a rewarding experience.

One day when Xuan Ni and I were in the Queen Victoria Market, we came across this label called "De-veined prawns - 16 per kg". Then there was I asking her why in the world people cared to remove the vein in prawns, when we normally cook all the bloody gory chicken or beef without caring the least about the bloods. She replied, to my surprise, that the veins are actually their, eerrr, shits.

** shock **

** disbelief **

It was a rather disconcerting piece of information, but I soon got over it (as with most things that I ever came across). But today, somehow this question popped out in my brain again when I was reading this page. I decided to take a well-deserved break and look it up using Google. And that's how I had the moment of truth.
They say the truth is ugly, but they forgot to mention that sometimes it's also disgusting. I mean, I've heard of a crab log, but a shrimp log is something entirely different. The absolute straight dope is that the black line found in most shrimp is its intestine. And yes, sometimes that puppy is so full as to threaten to practically burst, taking out the shrimp and anything within several inches of it. Not a pretty sight, but welcome to the shadowy trenches that lie between science and journalism.

To be accurate (and this is the Straight Dope, after all), the black stuff is the contents of the intestine and not the intestine itself. If you've ever spent any time preparing shrimp, you would know that after tearing off their heads, ripping off their shells, and then eviscerating their little corpses, every so often you come across one without the dreaded black tract. That's because the actual colon is a transparent tube of cells and that particular shrimp's colon was empty. More demonstrable evidence can be found in those shrimp whose intestinal contents are incomplete; sometimes that little black line looks more like a sequence of dots and dashes instead of one long continuous line. Yet, when you remove one, it all comes out, held together by a nearly-invisible strand.
And here I am, 20 years of shrimp intestines.

I guess next time I will spend the extra 2 dollars for some "deveined" prawns. :P

ps: I stumbled upon another enlightening page about the differences of prawns and shrimps. I never knew that they are actually not the same.


How is cuteness defined?

Ever wondered how Disney come out with one cute cartoon after another? How is cuteness defined? What makes something cuter than another?

This is a guideline I found on another website. Very interesting :)


Sunday, July 16, 2006

Back from Brisbane!

I was back from Brisbane on 14th! The journey was fantastic overall, thanks to our great tour guide Zhi Wei who brought us to the most interesting places she could find in Brisbane and Gold Coast. The beaches, zoo, Movie World etc were simply breathtaking. I don't have time to put up the journey here yet, but I promise I will in the coming weeks, and keep your finger crossed for the sunny pictures from me! :)

The new semester is going to begin in two more days and I have yet to recompose myself for the new challenges. I have just checked the group allocations for our tutorials, and it's kinda relieving that I am in the same group with some of the nice people out there, e.g. Chong Chyn, Jing Yi etc. Also lucky is the fact that I am not together with well-known troublemakers. :P

Before I end, just thought I would share a football joke leeched shamelessly from Voon Seng's blog over here. Let's brave our new days with a smile!

A Korean football supporter asks God: When will Korea lift the World Cup?
God: 100 years.
The Korean broke into tears, because he couldn't live to witness it.

Then, a Japanese football supporter asks God: When will Japan lift the World Cup?
God: 200 years.
The Japanese broke into tears, for the same reason of not being able to live to witness

Then, a Malaysian football supporter asks God: When will Malaysia lift the World Cup?
God: *Broke into tears*

(Disclaimer: the God mentioned is not religion-specific)


Monday, July 10, 2006

World Cup Madness

Zidane's last footballing act - a headbutt!!
Yesterday night I stayed up late to watch the World Cup final, and for the first time I am not regretting it. The final was simply spectacular and entertaining. Although it didn't produce many goals (of course I am not counting the penalties), the skills and the dramas actually quite summed up this World Cup - shocking, unbelievable, and lots of penalties.

As you have seen above, this is the end of Zinedine Zidane, one of the footballing legends ever alive. I couldn't even let the sight sink in me when I saw the replay! Sigh.. What a way to end his career in disgrace due to a moment of madness!

I read that it was a nip in Zidane's left nipple and then a racial slur that provoked him. But what? After having played football for 15 years, why can't he just laugh away whatever Materazzi was saying or poking? Sigh, he chose to bring ignominy to himself at the end of a scintillating career. I guess billions of TV spectators learnt yesterday that skills are only as good as your emotion when human atrocity comes into the picture. No matter what, it's unprofessional.

And to put it in a nutshell, I quote from Domenech, the coach of the French team:
"When one has to put up with what Zidane had to and the referee doesn't do anything, one understands. You can't excuse it, but you can understand it."

Raymond Domenech

Note: Brisbane is fun, but hot. :)


Thursday, July 06, 2006

Full Glass of Milk

It's a story that Eric has just sent me, it's so old but nonetheless powerful. There might not be such a coincidence in this world, but I always believe that altruism is the noblest human virtue, and that kindness without asking for reward will actually do you good.

Full Glass Of Milk

One day, a poor boy who was selling goods from door to door to pay for
his hungry stomach, decided he would ask for a meal at the next house.

On the way through school, he found he had only one thin dime left and
he was very hungry.

However, he lost his nerve when a lovely young woman opened the door.
Instead of a meal he asked for a drink of water.

The woman thought he looked hungry, so brought him a large glass of milk.

He drank it slowly, and then asked, "How much do I owe you?"

"You don't owe me anything," she replied.

"Mother has taught us, never to accept pay for a kindness."

He said... "Then I thank you from my heart."

Year's later that young woman became critically ill. The local doctors
were baffled. They finally sent her to the big city, where they called
in specialists to study her rare disease.

Dr. Howard Kelly was called in for the consultation. When he heard the
name of the town she came from, a strange light filled his eyes.

Immediately he rose and went down the hall of the hospital to her room.
Dressed in his doctor's gown he went in to see her. He recognized her
at once.

He went back to the consultation room determined to do his best to save
her life, from that day he gave special attention to the case.

After a long struggle, the battle was won. Dr. Kelly requested the
business office to pass the final bill to him for approval.

He looked at it, then wrote something on the edge and the bill was sent
to her room.

The woman feared opening it, for she was sure it would take the rest of
her life to pay for it all.

Finally she looked, and something caught her attention on the side of
the bill. She read these words... "Paid in full with one glass of milk."

Signed, Dr. Howard Kelly.

Small talk: I will be off for a trip to Brisbane from tonight until 15th of July.


Wednesday, July 05, 2006

I am a .txt!

Italy has just won in a spectacular fashion, and I am going to sleep now... It's funny how I always have a correct guess when I am not gambling (well, only once I did bet on this World Cup).

By the way, it's interesting how they can come up with a test like this: Which file extension are you?

You are .txt The one everybody knows and relies on, but avoids in social settings because you're very boring and non-descript.
Which File Extension are You?


Sunday, July 02, 2006


In football, nothing is certain except uncertainty.

Note: That is how I feel after watching yesterday night's World Cup matches. England was beaten by Portugal in penalty shoot-out (again!) 3-1, and against all odds, France beat the defending champion Brazil 1-0 after a scintillating Zidane display. Fantastic and heart-breaking.