17 September, 2019

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A Lifetime Of Scientific Thinking

By Shyamon Jayasinghe

Shyamon Jayasinghe

Shyamon Jayasinghe

Book Review: ‘Essays Of A Lifetime‘ By Professor Carlo Fonseka – Publisher: S. Godage & Brothers (Private) Ltd (2016)

At St Joseph’s College Colombo I had a vivid image-memory of the young Carlo Fonseka as an artist who drew together an informal kind of singing club at Bonjean Memorial Hall.The radio was the mass media device during those days and I remember him and his soulmates flock around it to join the singing during “Listeners’ Request.” As a junior who held seniors in awe, I gravitated toward the flock with some trepidation in order to add my humble input into the vocal outpour. Sunil Shantha was the star then. The handsome singer with the sitar in hand. As we now know only too well, the artist in Carlo never left him even though he was soon to turn into a celebrity exponent of scientific thinking.

The last-mentioned phase commenced after Carlo Fonseka left school to join the prestigious Medical College in Colombo. He performed brilliantly and joined the academic staff. However, he was not destined to hide within the cloistered walls of esoteric academia. We saw him virtually catapult as a celebrity figure invoking people to use their brains and think for themselves about the evidence of their beliefs. A kind of modern Lankan Socrates who had proclaimed that the unexamined life isn’t worth living.

essays-of-a-lifetime-by-professor-carlo-fonsekaCarlo made an impassioned rebuttal of the claims that the phenomenon of fire walking was evidence of divine intervention. I attended one of his famous fire walking talks and demonstrations. He impressed. Here was an academic messiah come to defend scientific thinking against a widespread flood of superstition. At that stage in his life, Carlo was simply heroic and he represented the intrepid anti-establishment. By his 18th year he had left behind at school his inherited Catholic baggage and he now opened up his fertile mind to the world -at -large encouraging fellow humans to follow suit. From the point of view of traditional superstition one singular attack of this kind can be infectious in the sense that thinking people may begin to wonder if other such claims to divine intervention are also that hollow.

Since the days of fire-walking and now, Professor Carlo Fonseka tumbled through life in various extra capacities and roles. Without doubt, Carlo often became a subject of controversy; maybe in different kinds of controversy that thinking men like him do get embroiled in. However, his new release, “Essays of a Lifetime,” redefines himself in his earned role as a scientific thinker. The book is a record of some of the many speeches he had delivered as well as some of his writing. The range covered is wide, including as it does medicine, education, politics, economics, Marxism-Leninism, society, philosophy, religion and Buddhist philosophy. This is a writer who can move flexibly from one topic to another. The image that surfaces throughout the pages is that of sharply reflective mind trying to look at events from the lens of an empiricist who believes in naturalistic explanation of all phenomena.

Professor Carlo was reputedly loved at Medical College and during his numerous public lectures as a charismatic teacher. He was very much a ‘public man,’ and he spoke on different subjects at different places. At schools he spoke science and scientific thinking and students would love to listen to him. How well he was able to strike the neural chords of his students. He was invited everywhere because many liked to listen to a man who could put accross a complex subject in simple ways.

One can, therefore, hail Professor Carlo Fonseka as being a pioneer in the diffusion of scientific thinking in Sri Lanka along with his erstwhile friend Professor Abraham Kovoor. In this sense, he has played a historic role.

Carlo had the knack to explain and to demonstrate in interesting ways and he seemed best positioned to take the batten from Dr E.W Adikaram. In today’s context, to be a kind of Richard Dawkins. In fact the book does carry a eulogy for Richard Dawkins. Says the writer, “No more lucid explainer of the riddles of existence than Dawkins ever breathed.” Being a Dawkins fan myself I loved that. Richard Dawkins is today’s global intellectual star who is on a mission to encourage scientific thinking. Fortune Magazine rates him as one of the world’s top three intellectuals (alongside Umberto Eco and Noam Chomsky).

With apologies for generalising I would say that despite decades of free education Sri Lankans are still lazy thinkers; a most gullible lot. Astrologers abound over the TV waves and it is easy to spread a false story. Divine intervention is still widely believed and sought after and clever Kattadiyas make good money. Political leaders are not embarrassed to dash coconuts in order to heap divine curses on enemies. Faith healing missionaries keep audiences spellbound. Schools do teach science but students are not encouraged to think scientifically. Subject content is studied for exams and the scientific thinking habit ends after uploading the textual content at exams. Science is divorced from lives.

“Essays of a Lifetime,” may be seen as embodying Carlo Fonseka’s long journey in exploring some some contemporary issues of interest with a scientific mind and method. The writing approach, far from being pedantic, is positioned to attract a very broad spectrum of readers.

In the chapter on fire walking the author points out how he set out with the scientific method of observing the significant facts of a phenomenon (fire-walking), formulating a hypothesis to explain it, deducing expected consequences from that hypothesis and testing such expectations by way of observation once again. The hypothesis in this case is described tersely thus: “If the duration of application of a stimulus (heat on the feet) is shortened beyond a critical limit, the expected response of being burnt will not occur, no matter how strong the stimulus may be.”

As is clear from the above illustration, observation of occurrences through sense perception lies at the beginning and end of the process of scientific investigation. By observing through our senses (or senses aided by devices) one decides to accept or reject any claims to truth. It is all empirical observation that beckons one in scientific investigation. Our five senses along with reasoning applying on them give us the facts.

The book offers a zesty defence of empiricism as the path to knowledge: “Self-evidently the knowledge on which the whole apparatus of modern civilisation, consisting of computers, the internet television, radio, telephone, the printing press, motor vehicles, ships, airplanes, microwave ovens, fertilizer, antibiotics, kidney machines, cardiac pacemakers, weapons of mass destruction-the list is endless-is built has been acquired by the empirical method or the scientific method.” (page 185) “Given the power to change the world that scientific knowledge has conferred on humankind empiricism has emerged as the reigning theory of knowledge.”

This is a good answer to the perennially propagated view of religionists that science hasn’t all the answers and that one must look to supernatural sources. Acceptance of such sources on the basis of faith and blind faith is, in fact, a suspension of reason. To be sure, scientific judgments are derived out of inductive reasoning from evidence available and since there is always a possibility that fresh evidence can theoretically upset such judgments no scientific conclusion carries certainty. We assume that the sun will rise every morning; what if it doesn’t one fine day? If contrary evidence emerges then scientists revise their theories. This is the track on which scientists move. That’s how it is.Be that as it may.

The writer points out how medicine itself is based on empirical evidence. “Modern medicine works on the basis that the human body is a material system that obeys the laws of physics and chemistry to the letter and that supernatural forces are not relevant to its practice or efficacy.” Medicine can explain illnesses as caused through naturalistic processes. Then why posit an intervening deity or devil? We are reminded of the brilliant Franciscan friar and philosopher called William of Ockham( 1287-1347) when he admonished investigators to avoid introducing unnecessary entities in explaining phenomena. Isaak Newton repeated Ockham when he stated,”We are to admit no more causes of natural things than such as are both true and sufficient to explain their appearances.” Stephen Hawkins developed the principle further when he asserted in his “A Brief History of Time”: “We could still imagine that there is a set of laws that determines events completely for some supernatural being, who could observe the present state of the universe without disturbing it.  However, such models of the universe are not of much interest to us mortals.  It seems better to employ the principle known as Occam’s razor and cut out all the features of the theory that cannot be observed.

The attempt in the book to work out a theory of ethics based on the empirical approach, however, is overworked. The effort is to “explore the possibility of deriving universally valid principles of human morality from scientific rationality.” In effect, the author proposes that we base a morality upon an observable fact of nature. To him the observable fact is that, “what humans endeavour to do is to avoid suffering and pursue happiness and maximise happiness on earth.” From this he concludes that “a rational morality would be one calculated to minimise suffering and maximise happiness on earth.” This is functional behaviour and not ethical behaviour. If one believes that one saves money by not having meals and thus avoids taking meals one is behaving functionally ( at least theoretically). The goal of happiness itself has been dominating ethical theory for ages since Aristotle (384-322 BC) but every thinker specified that this happiness is a mere state of mind that is the outcome of a different end, which thus constitutes the ‘moral end’ we look for. To Aristotle it was the pursuit of virtue and thus the real goal of ethical behaviour was virtue-in the way he defined it. Religious people might say that happiness is the union with God or Brahma. One can also be happy by murdering one’s enemies. Is this moral? The important thing, therefore, is to enunciate the kind of moral action through which one might pursue happiness.

The long and involved narrative of Socialism,Marxism and Leninism is presented with brevity, intelligibility and simplicity. Once again, the question as to whether Marxism is a science is raised; but here left unanswered- the writer himself wondering whether it matters. Carlo was a card- carrying member of the LSSP and his theoretical Marxist leanings have not left him. He believes in the idealism of the socialist state and thinks that the massive collapse of the first experiment in trying out such a state (The Soviet Union) was just one instance of experimental failure that isn’t enough to dislodge it. The example of the Scottish scientific researchers who cloned the sheep Dolly is cited. It took researchers 277 experiments before that succeeded. Unfortunately, socio-political “experiments” with men and women cannot be done and redone in laboratory style and one has to spend time in serious analysis before a decision is made. It may still be argued that Marxism was flawed to begin with. For instance, it has been widely criticised that a socialist community runs counter to a human nature, which is essentially selfish. Remember Dawkins’ ‘selfish gene?’ That the Soviet state took over private property on “behalf of the community’ was partly because of the impracticality of a social community collectively taking it over and running it. The Soviet system ended up in a behemoth of a hopelessly non-incentive and inefficient fascist bureaucracy. On the other hand, the strength of the capitalist system is that it is incentive -driven leading to economic growth. Marx saw the exploitive nature of a capitalism of the old crude kind. Capitalism has, since the days of Marx and Lenin, proved its resilience in meeting challenges to minimise exploitation and extend welfare.

The born Catholic that he was, Carlo has obviously been attracted by the empiricism and modernity in Buddhism. “Of all great religions,” says the writer,”Buddhism has been the least vulnerable to the intellectual onslaught of science.” The question taken up for discussion is whether Buddhism is empiricist. However, in the relevant chapter the writer is content to state the different points of scholars. It is a good summary of the debate that leaves the field open for interpretation. Professor KN Jayatilleka did an exhaustive study of the issue and came to the conclusion that Early Buddhism was definitely empiricist but with two exceptions. First, ‘sense perception’ in his case included extrasensory perception like telepathy and clairvoyance. Second, there is the ‘nirvanic’ experience, which is definitely trans-empirical. KN Jayatilleka’s view was that, ‘the other doctrines ,including karma and rebirth, are inductive inferences based on perception. On the other hand, the evidence for perception-based beliefs about rebirth are hard to come by Jayatilleka relies on hypnotism but there are issues with regard to realising objectivity in hypnotic experiments. For instance, to what extent has the hypnotiser influenced the judgments of the subject?

The discussion of the Kalama Sutta is invigorating. Sakyamuni Buddha’s scientific disposition is very clearly and almost drastically reflected in this Sutta where he warns us about being cautious of the sources of our beliefs.

Essays of A Lifetime,” is a good volume of discussion on important contemporary issues expressed in a very readable and interesting manner by Professor Carlo Fonseka. There are a few brief chapters thrown in at the end that really need not have been inserted. However, that does not diminish the value of this enlightening work by a scholar dedicated to instructing others in scientific thinking.

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    Thank you, Shyamon Jayasinghe. Rather coincidentally, my own review of the same book came out on 10 Nov. in Current Science, the ISI-Indexed journal of the Indian Academy of Sciences. Interested readers may have recourse to it at

    http://www.currentscience.ac.in/Volumes/111/09/1548.pdf

    I will speak to the Editor of Colombo Telegraph to see if there is interest in publishing this so soon after Syamon’s excellent review of an equally excellent book.

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    “what humans endeavour to do is to avoid suffering and pursue happiness and maximise happiness on earth.”

    This is very vague and totally inadequate. Definition of happiness, suffering will vary extremely from one person to the other. If you are talking in-terms of science then there has to clearly defined parameters and not vague statements. There is no magic scientific formula that solves issues of morality, ethics, consciousness, etc. These are highly variable topics.

    Not directly connected to the article but, I must say, trying to mix Morality and rationality is extremely dangerous. One could rationalize the killing of millions or perhaps billions of people on earth to save the rest of the planet and its spices from extinction. One could rationalize the termination of disable people because they can’t perform any productive duties but keep consuming limited resource on earth. In scenario where the population has diminished but the women refuse to procreate, is it right rape the women to ensure the survival of the species? There are countless thought experiments when it comes to serious ethical dilemmas (One of simplest is – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trolley_problem). I would not want to mix science and morality anytime soon.

    Regarding rebirth in Buddhism; one main reason for this is the idea of “Change”, “Uncertainty” etc. If there is only a single cycle, one birth and one death, then that is certainty. The only certainty in Buddhism is “Change”. This is one reason why Buddhism has a cyclic model of death & rebirth. The so called “I”, “me”, “my existence” is just a bunch ‘things’ stuck in a loop. Whether that is scientific or not is not my concern. Buddhism is there for anyone and everyone to openly accept or criticize/debunk.

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      Rebirth in Buddhism is not consistent with the concept of “Anathma”.

      “Anatma:
      The third feature of all forms of existence is Anatma, or the absence of anything, enduring, or an Ego. This is the most difficult of the Buddha’s teaching. All, other religious systems including the six systems of Hindu philosophy, teach that there is something enduring permanently in man, and that they call the “soul”. The Buddha was the only teacher who was able to overcome this universal illusion.”
      (source: http://www.maithri.com/links/articles/tri_lakshana3.htm)

      There was subsequent confusion of the Buddhist notion of the continuity of kammma (karma) with cntinuity of ‘soul’ by some, perhaps as compromise with the dominant Brahminic religions.

      Buddhism, a most rational religion, rejects a creator-moderator God and soul, and thus rebirth.
      Also it left it to the individual to find the truth through his/her own search– rather than believe anything merely because it was said by the enlightened one.

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    Thanks for telling us about this book. I am a fan of Carlo. Would love to read it.

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    Brilliant review.Thanks Shyamon. I read the book. Your review is a useful complement to what is said there.

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    Shyamon Jayasinghe

    RE: A Lifetime Of Scientific Thinking

    Thanks for the review of Carlo Fonsekas’s essays of a lifetime. It is good to know that despite the average IQ of the land being 79, there are many outliers, within the distribution.

    “Carlo made an impassioned rebuttal of the claims that the phenomenon of fire walking was evidence of divine intervention.”

    “One can, therefore, hail Professor Carlo Fonseka as being a pioneer in the diffusion of scientific thinking in Sri Lanka along with his erstwhile friend Professor Abraham Kovoor. In this sense, he has played a historic role.”

    Divine intervention is big business, and it is hard to break the brainwashings of expected good results from Divine Intervention.

    “It seems better to employ the principle known as Occam’s razor and cut out all the features of the theory that cannot be observed.’

    “The discussion of the Kalama Sutta is invigorating. Sakyamuni Buddha’s scientific disposition is very clearly and almost drastically reflected in this Sutta where he warns us about being cautious of the sources of our beliefs.”

    Buddhists turned Buddha into a God. The Greeks did not turn Socrates or Aristotle into Gods.

    In the former we now have a Religion, and in the latter we have Philosophies.

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      Amarasiri, you say “Buddhists turned Buddha into a God.” and then you sing your favorite song about the IQ of 79 that Sinhala Buddhists possess.

      please do not generalize like that. The Buddhists are smarter than you think. Even ‘Magi Nona’ who has been our faithful ‘Kussi Amme’ for the past 30 years, who went to school up to 6th standard only, would laugh at your statement.

      She knows the distinction between a Deva, deity and a God as believed by the followers of Abrahamic religions. according to them God is omnipotent, omniscient and created everything. Magi Nona revers Buddha as the greatest teacher ever. But she laughs at the idea of a God creating everything. She says, that Buddha wants to teach us how to escape from Samsara. If as the Mahattaya (you) says we believe that Buddha is a God, then is he telling us to escape from his very creation?

      I can see Magi Nona laughing uncontrollably. She is asking me ‘who is this Amarasiri Mahattaya? Is he a comedian like Eddie Jayamnne’? tell that Mahattaya to come here one day, I will cook him a nice meal in a kehel kolay, fit for a President, the like of which he has never tasted before, and after he eats, I will teach him Buddhism.

      She has no idea what IQ means. But obviously she has a very low opinion about you intelligence. Strangely, though, she seems to like you. I can hear the Metta Karuna sloshing in her when she speaks about you.

      And one more thing. If you accept her invitation for the kehel kola bath mula and a primer on Buddhism, don’t mention the word ‘para’. She may be full of Satara Brahma Viharana but she also knows how to use the Moll Gaha. believe me, I know.

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        EDWIN RODRIGO

        “Amarasiri, you say “Buddhists turned Buddha into a God.” and then you sing your favorite song about the IQ of 79 that Sinhala Buddhists possess.”

        You are mixing up two comments.

        1. “It is good to know that despite the average IQ of the land being 79, there are many outliers, within the distribution.”

        This refers to the average IQ of 79 in Land of Native Vedddh Aethho, but the good news is that thanks to the IQ distribution still may who still posses sufficient intelligence for Scientific Thinking. No distinction is made between the various ethnic groups and beliefs, called Religions.

        2.” Buddhists turned Buddha into a God. The Greeks did not turn Socrates or Aristotle into Gods.”
        “In the former we now have a Religion, and in the latter we have Philosophies.”

        People need help when they are in distress. For that they need a Divine being, not a Philosopher.So, over a few hundred years, they turned the Philosopher Buddha into a Divine Being, some even to God, to meet their Divinely help needs. so, they made sautes, stupas, and planted trees, and worshiped them, Some claimed that Buddha went up to a 100 Million Old mountain, and called it Sri Pada, the footprint of Buddha. Other myth believers thought that it was the foot print of Adam or Shiva. If you ring the bell on top of the mountain then your wishes come true.

        This did not happen with Socrates or Aristotle. They did have statues of Zeus and other Goddesses.

        Mahavamsa- An Insult To The Buddha!

        https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/mahavamsa-an-insult-to-the-buddha/

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          Amarasiri,

          Hindus consider the Buddha as an ‘avatar’ of God Vishnu.
          Vishnu is thought to be the ‘protector’ of Buddhism.
          This is why, there are Vishnu Shrines in the premises of many Buddhist Temples.

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            justice

            “Hindus consider the Buddha as an ‘avatar’ of God Vishnu.”

            Thanks for the clarification. It is very good to consider such beliefs. It is rather sad it did not extend to the Sinhala Buddhists and Tamil Hindus, even though we know the Sinhala are Sinhala speaking Demalas, and the the Demalas are Tamil speaking Sinhalas.

            It is all belief, and helps in seeking Divinely Blessings. The faithful is happy because they made a donation, an offering, to the deity and his problem will be “solved”, and the priest or monk is happy, as they got the donation, and the traders and merchants near the temples are happy because they spent money to buy goods, and faithful are happy because they made the Pilgrimage.

            It is the Pilgrims who ultimately pays for everything.

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            Amarasiri & Justice:
            There is no common Hindu belief for a start.
            The ten avatars of God (really Vishnu) is a Vaishnavite idea.
            (Fish, Turtle, Boar, Lion-man, Dwarf, Parasurama, Rama, Balarama, Krishna and Kalki).
            There is full agreement on eight. There is ambiguity in certain quarters on Balarama and Kalki.
            Buddha has been smuggled in by some using it.

            Vishnu is among other deities claimed to be protectors of Buddhism. This I guess came with ‘Hindu’ influence and the evolution of various Mahayana Buddhist faiths.

            My belief is that Buddhism is strong enough to survive without divine protection of any sort.

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              “My belief is that Buddhism is strong enough to survive without divine protection of any sort”.

              Exactly, just as Newton’s Laws of Motion will survive without any divine Protection.

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          Hey Amrasiri,

          I don’t know why you keep uttering this average IQ rubbish. There is no reliable data available regarding average IQ of Sri Lanka. What you refer is projected IQ based on 1950 s data. So anyone with an ounce of scientific background would do not cite such data to construct an argument. Stop publishing bullshit

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            lipwe

            “There is no reliable data available regarding average IQ of Sri Lanka. What you refer is projected IQ based on 1950 s data. “

            “So anyone with an ounce of scientific background would do not cite such data to construct an argument.”

            You need to look at yourself in the mirror.

            These numbers came from a work carried out from 2002 to 2006 by Richard Lynn, a British Professor of Psychology, and Tatu Vanhanen, a Finnish Professor of Political Science, who conducted IQ studies in more than 80 countries.

            If you have more recent data regarding the IQ of nations, will appreciate very much, if you can cite it. In the absence of recent data need to go with the available recent data. The Average IQ of Sri Lanka is 79.

            https://iq-research.info/en/page/average-iq-by-country

            http://www.photius.com/rankings/national_iq_scores_country_ranks.html

            http://www.ttu.ee/public/m/mart-murdvee/EconPsy/2/Lynn_Meisenberg_2010_National_IQs_calculated_and_validated_for_108_nations.pdf

            Just because some data is old, it does not necessarily mean that it is not valid. The data has to be taken on its own merits.

            Example 1: The Ancients and the Greeks thought that the Sun goes around a Stationary Earth, and gave support from Joshua in the Bible Joshua 10:13 (So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, till the nation avenged itself on its enemies, as it is written in the Book of Jashar. The sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down about a full day.).

            Yes, it was incorrect, as shown below in example 2.

            Example 2: Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, Newton and Foucault came up with new data and hypotheses to show that Example 1 above, is incorrect, and it is the Earth that rotates on its own axis and goes around the Sun.

            THE SMART FRACTION THEORY OF IQ AND THE WEALTH OF NATIONS

            Prodigy and Mentor propose a theory to explain newly published data relating national IQ to economic development. The theory predicts sigmoidal dependence of per capita GDP on national mean IQ. In time, IQ gains will put all nations of the world on the same economic
            footing.

            http://www.jrbooksonline.com/pdf_books_added2009-3/smartfractiontheory.pdf

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            I think he is talking about the IQ of Para Veddahs, sorry, Kalaveddahs of the land of Native Veddah Aththos, which remained static since the 1950 study. Let us try to humor him because he is having this inferiority complex.

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          Amarasiri, this is again in response to your comments on your favorite subject: “IQ in the Land of Native Vedddh Aethho”

          The 1995 Report on Intelligence” Knowns and Unknowns” of the of Board of Scientific Affairs of the American Psychological Association (APA) states as follows:

          Group differences: No overall generalization about them was appropriate. Average IQ in East Asian nations is equal to or substantially above the American average. ….”These .. serve as sharp reminders of the limitations of IQ-based prediction.” What all this shows is that only someone who is more stupid than even a kalaveddah would totally depend on IQ tests to decide how smart someone is.

          Amarasiri, when I opened the site you mentioned, lo and behold, what do I see? It is none other than the Para deshi face of Sharmini. If she is your Guru, then you will have to invent God even if there happens to be none, because only God can help you in that case.

          You say: “Buddhists turned Buddha into a God”. The Oxford Dictionary definition of the noun ‘God’ is ‘the creator and ruler of the universe and source of all moral authority’. Not even Alpina Hamine, the most stupid upaskamma in our village thinks of Buddha in such terms as the following story illustrates.

          After saving enough money by months of cajan weaving she went on pilgrimage to Dambadiva and when she visited Kusinara, where the death of Buddha took place, she broke down uncontrollably in to tears and her fellow pilgrims had a difficult time in consoling her. She knew that Buddha was a teacher not a God and subjected to the laws of nature, Jati, Jara, Marana, that he preached about. Was he a God in the eyes of Alpina Hamy? Only a kalaveddah would say ‘Yes’.

          Next you say, “So, they made statues, stupas, and planted trees, and worshiped them”: Perhaps, people like Amarasiri worship only grass because they eat nothing else. He should consider worshipping other plants too because at the rate we are polluting, something or someone is required to clean up the CO2.

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    “what humans endeavour to do is to avoid suffering and pursue happiness and maximise happiness on earth.”

    ‘avoid suffering and pursue happiness’

    In one fell sweep the SL scientific thinkers have left out masochists.

    Tsk tsk ….. And you want us plebeians out here to look up to you, eh?

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    You write ” “No more lucid explainer of the riddles of existence than Dawkins ever breathed.” Being a Dawkins fan myself I loved that. Richard Dawkins is today’s global intellectual star who is on a mission to encourage scientific thinking. Fortune Magazine rates him as one of the world’s top three intellectuals (alongside Umberto Eco and Noam Chomsky).”

    Have you noticed Richard Dawkins’ silence these days? Apparently he is going through his own conversion in his old age. The man, to put it plainly, is a racist (born and grew up in Kenya as a coloniser) who has been trying to back the 18th century racial claim that the “white man” has evolved to be the ruler of world with the so-called SCIENCE. He carried Darwin’s speculation far beyond Darwin intended. Some of our idiots buy this rubbish without critical thinking.

    Finally, putting him in the same bracket as Noam Chomsky is the wors tinsult you can do the great Chomsky.

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    I have always regarded Carlo Fonseka to be a racist hypocrite and hence, despite my great respect for your considered views, in this instance, unfortunately I cannot agree with a lot of things you have said. Bensen

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    Carlo made the mistake od supporting Rajapakse. He should have kept out of politics

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    “Modern medicine works on the basis that the human body is a material system that obeys the laws of physics and chemistry to the letter and that supernatural forces are not relevant to its practice or efficacy.” Medicine can explain illnesses as caused through naturalistic processes.”

    Take your point Mr jayasinghe. Then could you or Prof Fonseka please explain exactly how people become mentally sick, from low level stress to advanced psychoses?

    Having studies medicine and worked in the field for over two decades, I am still clueless. May be you people can help!

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      Not to mention the “Placebo effect” as well as “spontaneous remission”.

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    I have read many of Jayasinghe’s essays in this forum with total agreement but in this case I must register a demurral. Fonseca is in fact a one eyed scientism preaching to the scientifically blind.
    Dawkins:
    His passionate enthusiasm and ardent propaganda for Dawkins and sociobiology in fact violates the standards of scientific discourse. Fonseca has been presenting Dawkin’s theses as unquestionable and unquestioned truth. Rather, it been questioned and challenged my many reputed scientists. I will recommend here at a minimum the works of:
    a)R.C Lewontin,Steven Rose and Leon Kamin:Not in Our Genes:Biology,Ideology and Human Nature((New York:Pantheon Books)The References in this work alone should make devotees of Dawkinism rethink their positions.
    b) Can Neuroscience Change Our Minds? (London:New Human Frontiers)

    by Hilary Rose and Steven Rose
    c)Genes,Cells and Minds:The Promethenian Promise of the New Biology.
    d)The many works by Stephen Jay Gould

    The issue here is not whether Dawkins is right or wrong but that a responsible propagandist for his views in daily newspapers should at least acknowledge its controversial nature and not present them as settled findings. In fact there are no settled findings in science and every finding is waiting further scrutiny and research.
    Religion:
    Dawkins’s work on God is too banal to be taken seriously. The issue for any serious intellectual debate is not whether there is a God but why do so many millions, in every known culture and civilization — including those members from of Dawkins’ ancestral culture and Fonseca’s — want to believe in God. Read the sociologists and anthropologists on this topic.
    Fonseca’s Politics:
    He has been engaging of late in a defense of the LSSP’s betrayal of its Marxist-Trotskyite heritage. The LSSP abandoned its doctrines of progressive internationalism and joined the Sinhala Chauvinist bandwagon with gusto. Colvin R De Silva was in fact the founder(perhaps its only member!) of The Bolshevik Leninist Party of India,Maldives and Everywhere Else and ended up asking “What have the Tamils done for us and whould we stand by them?” and becoming a committed tribalist, along with his fellow Trots! Fonseca however has argued that this was a temporary aberration;yet it was an aberration with dire consequences for the nation. Here Fonseca is, once again, letting his loyalty and uncritical enthusiasm hold sway to disavow well known facts.
    I write these words about Colvin et all in deep sorrow. I grew up in a household which cultivated a great respect for the LSSP and its leaders. Most of them were friends and associates of my late father and were often visitors to our house and he was often corralled to preside at the public meetings in Jaffna in which NM or Colvin sported their magnificent oratory.
    So Carlo Fonseca: you cannot understand the depth of our feelings of betrayal — at lest among the Tamil, lefties–when the LSSP became the appendage of the SLFP and your sophistic defense of their latter day politics leaves a bitter taste.
    In his scientific writings about Dawkins and his political positions Fonseca displays, shall I say, to put it mildly, a capacity for uncritical enthusiasm for not fully examined positions.
    Re his claim that LTTE burned the Jaffna Library, the less said the better!

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      R S Perinbanayagam

      “The issue for any serious intellectual debate is not whether there is a God but why do so many millions, in every known culture and civilization — including those members from of Dawkins’ ancestral culture and Fonseca’s — want to believe in God.”

      There are over 4,000 religions offering various degrees of salvation.

      Religion and the brain – TechKnow

      Published on Oct 16, 2016

      Religion was long seen as spiritual nourishment of the soul, but now, groundbreaking research looks at how it impacts the brain. Can ‘feeling the spirit’ be measured scientifically?

      Of the seven billion of people on the planet it’s estimated that 84 percent are members of one of hundreds of religions. Despite the different gods, philosophies and rituals, most religions share a promise for a physical sense of spirituality.

      “In our faith, we do believe that you have the spirit constantly with you,” Auriel Peterson, a Mormon believer, says. “It’s a very much peaceful feeling, I have clarity and I have a burning sensation throughout my chest.”

      Her devotion to God and science made her a perfect subject for a University of Utah’s Religious Brain Project.

      Researchers Dr Julie Korenberg and Dr Jeffrey Anderson conducted a study that combined brain scans (MRI) and blood tests on 20 devout Mormons to track their neurological reactions to biologically explained spiritual sensations.

      “When a young boy goes off to join ISIL, or a Mormon in Salt Lake has some sense of connectedness with the divine in their view, we don’t know if that’s the same thing. What do people experience in their brains, when they feel religious and spiritual experience?” Anderson says.

      By analysing the scans and self-reported feeling of spirituality, along with blood work (taken before and after to track hormones connected to positive feelings) the researchers believe that they’ve found the areas in the brain that are connected to the religious feelings of euphoria.

      Their goal is to prove that the experience of faithful bliss could be tracked – and they want to widen their study to a variety of religions.

      The researchers suggest that the brain’s reaction to religious stimuli in Mother Teresa might very well be the same as a ‘terrorist’s’ reaction.

      “Perhaps it’s possible to recognise that our brains work the same way. Our feelings are the same, regardless of what doctrines they are associated with, and I think that’s provable,” Anderson explains.

      TechKnow also goes to Los Angeles, and visits an unique community project. The BioScan project uses 30 volunteers with large malaise traps to find new species of insects.

      This year’s BioScan project focused on flies. And at each of the sites, a new fly was discovered. This means a total of 30 new species were found, and it only took the first three months of the project to obtain these results.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8hkR223DrOc

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      R S Perinbanayagam

      “Dawkins’s work on God is too banal to be taken seriously. The issue for any serious intellectual debate is not whether there is a God but why do so many millions, in every known culture and civilization — including those members from of Dawkins’ ancestral culture and Fonseca’s — want to believe in God. Read the sociologists and anthropologists on this topic.”

      Different Opinions.

      Religion – Neurological Disorder

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wyj5K3Xz_rQ

      Published on Jun 21, 2015
      Science vs Religion – An in-depth look at how the modern debate between science and religion gets it totally wrong and how to make it right.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wh5hAUP68d8

      Deception & Lies Built Christianity in 325 CE (1/10)

      Uploaded on Apr 29, 2008
      An attempt to educate Christians on the origin of their belief system, exposing the 1750 year old deception which has made them retarded stagnating their intellect inducing deluded intolerance.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bDbPi_X2yUY

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      Controversy is the life blood of politicians and thinkers. When we were kids in primary school in Maris Stella College, Negombo Carlo and I were class mates throughout. He was a very personable young fellow and well as able to deal victorious blows in physical battle, as well as come first in class. Later on we were fellow hostellers at St Joseph’s College, Colombo (with people like Jayaraj Canageratne)and he remained a controversial and interesting person.
      I admire him because I see him as a antithesis of what I maybe. Suffice it to say that he is always in the middle of something which will give him publicity. I admire his vigour and success in whatever publicity he choses. He is also quite in the forefront of the antimanioc campaign as a cancer cure, gaining much publicity. Since to my personal knowledge manioc or Vitamin B17 is a gift given to humanity in curing cancer I see his anti manioc interventions as a boon bringing B17 to the cancer patients who desperately look for a cure, by paradoxically giving it a place in the available options.

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    TO CARLOS & RS PERINBANAYAGAM>
    Carlos wonders why Dawkins is silent the days. If you go to his website, you will get the news that he has been sick after a stroke. RD is now recovering fast and we hope to see him up and writing again.
    RSP, thank you for your considered comments. I suggest that controversy is characteristic of scientific enquiry. Scientific enquiry is derived from observation and inductive reasoning. For this pertinent son there isn’t any certainty in its findings. Scientists move amidst probabilities and are ever willing to change their conclusions if contrary evidence comes up. As an empiricist myself, I am happy with this state of affairs as this is the only way of of our knowing. So long as it works, like Charles Darwin’s evolution via nature selection or antibiotics, that’s what matters. I don’t seek certainty where certainty isn’t possible.
    I agree with prof Carlo F’s assessment of RD. I have read his books and they are simply utterly lucid and brilliant.RD’s contribution to scientific thinking is great. He has pulverised religious thinking. That is my view.
    I will try to find the books you recommend and read them, too.
    Not aware that CF made that comment about the Jaffna Library. I know CF leaned a bit too much toward partisan politics but his book shows abundantly that he is anti-racist. CF is a deeply human man.

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      Shyamon,

      I have to agree with Prof.RSP on Prof.CF, concerning the latter’s behavior in recent years. He promoted the Rajapaksa mafia, pathetically arguing with his friends that Mahinda Rajapaksa was a good man and they should vote for him. Perhaps he was receiving some benefits from the mafia and was unwilling to criticize them.

      And when the SP for Jaffna during the time the library was burned down wrote a revisionist history book, saying that the military and police were not responsible and it was the LTTE that did it, CF inexplicably rushed to praise the book and propagated the view that the LTTE was the culprit, and in the process he made a fool of himself.

      That has given rise to suspicion among many whether he is another leftist who turned racist as he got older, in the glorious tradition of Philip Gunawardene, Nalin de Silva, Vasudeva Nanayakkara and Dayan Jayatilleka.

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        Agnos

        “That has given rise to suspicion among many whether he is another leftist who turned racist as he got older, in the glorious tradition of Philip Gunawardene, Nalin de Silva, Vasudeva Nanayakkara and Dayan Jayatilleka.”

        A Para-Sinhala characteristic.

        What about D S Senanayaka and Ponnabalam and Chelvanayagam, who voted to disenfranchise the Estate Tamil Citizens, while oblt the Sinhala leftist at that time voted against it?

        What made the LSSP and CP Leftist become Turncoats and Racists? Need to get power and ministerial portfolios?

        So, everybody ios for sales at a price.

        Just look how the Turncoat, Traitor Gona Sirisena is being bought by the Rajapaksas stolen billions.

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          Amarasiri,

          While your larger point is valid, SJV Chelvanayakam didn’t vote to disenfranchise the upcountry Tamil people. G.G. Ponnambalam did some opportunistic things as part of the DS cabinet and didn’t actively prevent it; though the claim he directly voted to disenfranchise them has been called into question.

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            Agnos
            Even GGP voted against the Act that disenfranchised the Hill Country Tamils.
            His joining the government soon after and his role in the subsequent Act supposedly designed to rectify the injustice was the one on which his conduct was questioned.
            The FP, however, for obvious reasons spread the myth that GGP voted to disenfranchise. Many Tamils still believe their tale.

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      You could watch the “Lennox Vs. Dawkins” debates on YouTube. The only book that I found impressive was “Selfish Gene”. I don’t have to agree with its contents but that book was a master piece. But ever since his book “God Delusion” I was like “What the hell is this ***t!”. Quite a downhill trip since “Selfish gene”. Even one of his former students told me, when it comes to RD ignore his anti-religious rhetoric but he is brilliant, master-craftsmen as biology teacher/lecturer.

      You said “RD’s contribution to scientific thinking is great”? Seriously? “Ibn al-Haytham”, “Francis Bacon” and even “Carl Popper” made great contribution to scientific thinking. But RD? I don’t think so. In fact his style has the opposite effect of pushing the religious crowd further into defensive shell. His rhetoric probably did more harm than good. Neil Degrasse Tyson had this to say – youtube.com/watch?v=_2Aw9UGYNsA

      And in recent times RD has not made things any better by siding with Lawrence Krausss in “Something from nothing” which I personally find stupid due to the assumption that aspects in Quantum Mechanics (Virtual particles/Casimir effect) existed prior to the “Big-Bang” while laws of physics completely collapse at the time of the big-bang. And RD’s own delusions were clear when he tried to defend this that view on at least on one TV discussion and made a total mess of it.

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      SJ:
      The issue is not whether Dawkins is a scientist — that is, uses proper scientific methods. If you start with the certain assumption and use certain methods you can come to certain conclusions. The problem is with assumptions. If you begin with the assumption that human being are just biological organisms and NOT cultural and social beings you certainly come to a Dawkins conclusion
      I am sure you are right: Dawkins uses the correct scientific protocol and writes well but Lysenko and Mengele, the 19th century phrenologists, the many who claim that black people are genetically programed to have low IQ’s claim to be scientists too.
      In any case, my original point was that it is irresponsible and a want of scientific ethics and decorum to blithely pass of a controversial and refuted theory as settled truth to the simple folk who read the daily newspapers.
      In fact, Dawkins’s genetic hypothesis provides the best ideological weapon for any number reactionary causes. I don’t want to go into that in detail now. Indeed it is the very antitheses of historical materialism and is truly mind-boggling that professed Marxists should be propagating it. But then I suppose members of the LSSP like Fonseca ceased to be Marxists a long time ago!
      On religion: please read Gananath Obeyesekera’s brief comment in the Colombo Telegraph itself some months back.

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    This is very interesting.

    Can not agree because his views are racist.

    How these tqo are related ?

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    Karl Popper proposed that a scientific theory can never be proved. According to him a theory to be called scientific should have the property of falsifiability, i.e. the conclusions derived from such a theory should be verifiable through experiment. If one cannot devise experiments to test the conclusions of a theory, then such a theory could not be claimed to be scientific. Even a single experiment that contradicts a theory is enough to disprove a scientific theory. However no matter how many experiments agree with the conclusions of a scientific theory it would not be a proof of its correctness. I think he also claimed that Hume’s problem of induction where for example having seen the Sun rise a thousand times, the inability to prove it will rise again, was not the basis for scientific truths.
    Also, the departure point of science is with the assumption of the existence of an independent observer of a “world out there”. This assumption itself becomes problematic in quantum physics. (ref. Heisenberg Principle, quantum entanglement.) I think, the Buddha’s teaching takes a radical approach by claiming that the world is within the fathom long body with the five senses and consciousness. Furthermore, consciousness is claimed to be dependently arisen from moment to moment. And these truths are to be understood and verified by each individual, not as a collective endeavor.

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    Perinbanayagam, as far as I am concerned, you hit the nail on the head when you said “The issue for any serious intellectual debate is not whether there is a God but why do so many millions, in every known culture and civilization — including those members from of Dawkins’ ancestral culture and Fonseca’s — want to believe in God”.

    Right now I am reading a book by Charles Boyer, called, RELIGION Explained where this is being dealt with. You can get the free pdf version at this site.
    https://monoskop.org/images/9/91/Boyer_Pascal_Religion_Explained_The_Evolutionary_Origins_of_Religious_Thought_2001.pdf

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    According to the well-established scientific theory of quantum uncertainty, the Universe came into being in a particular, visible form only because there was someone with awareness (consciousness) to observe it. If so, will anyone tell me who was observing the universe during its birth — and its subsequent evolution — before humans,who seem to have a bit of such consciousness, came into being.

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      Quantum mechanics, general relativity, all the laws break-down at the time of the “Big-Bang” (BB). Cosmic inflation (CI) started at around 10^(-36) seconds after the initial “Big-Bang”. Even CI does not have the empirical smoking gun. Group of scientist thought they discovered primordial-gravitational-waves but that turned out to be a false-positive. Anything prior to the BB is pure speculation as far as physics is concern. There is nothing in physics that explains that.

      Another clarification; Quantum Mechanics has the “Observer” principal but this “Observer” does not have to be a “Conscious Observer”. For example, in Quantum Computing, reading a quantum-state of a Qbit (similar to reading ‘bit’ in harddrive) equates to an “Observation”.

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    That force is called GOD, Mahalingam.

    God is another dimension and can’t perceived by fallible human sense organs. This is the reason why fools who can’t SEE God, and are unable to SEE God’s power all around us – people like John Dawkins – can’t grasp the existence of God.

    We should pity his ‘faithful’ followers and admirers like the writer of this article and hope they will be blessed at a future time to SEE God’s power.

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      P. Sudralingam:-

      GOD is what Humans call something they cannot understand, without any attempt to go back any Further!

      So, GOD created Humans, to Invent ‘Weapons of Mass Destruction’; start WARS; and destroy the PLANET; which HE also CREATED.

      For What Purpose?
      Just so that “they will be blessed at a future time to SEE God’s power”?

      Your Words, not mine.

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      Hey Sudralingam,

      Have you seen so called God to prove others who haven’t, Fools.
      Hope you can grasp the logic.

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      All what people have no ideas are being thrown to god – that is the nature of human being.
      What is known and revealed by any scientists or natural observers are much much less than the unknown – latter is what I believe regarding all these.
      Why cant all these be consequences of a reaction ? No advanced scientists have beena ble to prove anything regarding the first formation of humanbeing on the planet either. Hybrid or other theories remain as they are so long a new theory would be replaced by the older. Anyways, for many like me make no difference between human being and otherbeings. God has created the human beings is equally a myth – that sinhaalya has been coming from a lion. They are also various kind of myths in English literiture that they have still been busy with.

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    Hi Carlo,

    I decided to get down a copy of your book and read it.

    Half a century ago, for three years we lived under the same
    roof !!

    ” Ayubowan “

    =Amare=

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    Just to digress: Carlo on the burning of Jaffna library and his nostalgia / prompt exoneration of Gamini from any wrong doings and expressing the gratitude to Edward Gunawardena who tried to distort history to please the majority Sinhala racist mindset. Carlo do you want a tissue box to wipe your scalding tears?

    extract below: access the full article by link:

    https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/who-burnt-the-jaffna-library/

    extract of Carlo’s apology! “I do not believe for a moment that this “curse” I uttered against Mr. Gamini Dissanayake about 30 times in different places in the country had anything to do with his tragic end. But as I remember well, on the 23rd of October 1994, we started the campaign at Beruwala at about 2.00 p.m. and then I repeated the same speech at several places including Payagala, Wadduwa, Panadura, Moratuwa and Kirulapone. I went to bed tired and exhausted and I was aroused from my sleep in the early hours of the 24th of October to be told that Mr. Gamini Dissanayake had been killed in a bomb blast at Peliyagoda. Ever since that time I have felt a deep sense of remorse because I knew Mr. Gamini Dissanayake well. He was a perfect gentleman. He had never wronged me by word or deed. He was always very courteous to me although we differed politically. Having read Edward Gunawardena’s Memoirs I realize what a crime I had perpetrated against Mr. GD. All I can now do to make amends for the gross injustice I inflicted upon him is to ask Mrs. Srima Dissanayake, Mr. Navin Dissanayake and Dr. Lanka Dissanayake to forgive me because I did not know what I was doing. Indeed, in regard to me, Mr. Navin Dissanayake can act in the compassionate way that Jesus Christ reacted to those who crucified him: “Father, forgive him for he did not know what he was doing”. Let me conclude by thanking my friend Edward Gunawardena for providing me with this opportunity for apologizing abjectly and unconditionally to the Dissanayake family”
    JA

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      Prof Carlo Fonseka was my teacher in Medical school whom I respected. But after his speech exonerating Government, their goondas and Police headed by Edward Gunawardena for burning Jaffna library and distorting the truth to place the blame on LTTE, I lost all my respects to him. There is still time for Prof Carlo Fonseka to apologize for that blunder as there are several Tamil doctors who were his students who are witnesses to that dastardly government sponsored act. There was a meeting in Jaffna fort on the previous night where it was planned to create trouble in Jaffna the next day, to which meeting only Sinhala policemen were invited. Jaffna public library was deliberately targeted to destroy ancient ola leaves which gave the true history of Tamil presence in Jaffna for centuries.

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    Thanos,
    I agree a measuring instrument can be the observer, but it must be used purposefully — not aimlessly — for which, due consciousness is required of the user.
    But the key question is this. If humans can hasten the evolution of the universe by causing the collapse of the quantum probability wave function — whenever and wherever it occurs — simply by observing the universe, don’t you think it is highly probable that Nature has a permanent observer to assist in the evolution of its universe regardless of human presence?

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      If you are talking in-terms of pure possibilities or as a philosophical argument then off-course! The universe may very well be an artificial creation. Just like there is Natural-Selection, there is also Artificial-Selection like we humans do to Dogs, Horses, etc. I don’t deny that possibility. Or maybe it is not any of those. It could be something that is totally incomprehensible to our present stage of evolution. Or, maybe we are never supposed to know the answer.

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      Mahalingam, if as you say, “there is a highly probable that Nature has a permanent observer to assist in the evolution of its universe regardless of human presence”? you admit that there is also a small yet finite probability that nature does not have such an observer. There is also the probability that more than one such observer exists, perhaps an infinite number! If that is possible why not a super observer to observe what the hell the observers are doing? It sounds more and more like the ministers of the Yahapalana government!

      I hate infinite regressions in either direction. So did Buddha, who classified such matters as Acintya (Imponderable, ref Acintya Sutta). They are a waste of time and energy.

      I prefer to stick with Gaban Atha, whom I have seen, heard and smelt (not a very good smell though, I admit). For me there is no doubt that he is what he claims to be.

      Pl go to http://www.gabanatha.com

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    HAIL GABAN!

    When I was a child there lived in our village, in a big house an old man with a flowing white beard. We called him Gaban Atha (Grandpa Gaban) and all the children loved him. He used to entertain us with stories about his life and give pieces of fine Kitul Hakuru at the end of the story.

    He told us that he was the omnipotent, omniscient creator of the universe, the earth, sun and the moon – or in short, everything, anywhere, everywhere and somewhere. He told us to be good and that he knows everything everyone was doing all the time. We will be rewarded for good things and punished for the bad (Para Veda).

    He threatened us with the most horrible punishments if we do not believe what he says especially about his powers. Presently, he is visiting a planet called Para Nirmitha Vasavarthiya in the Andromeda galaxy, where some stupid Parayas are doing Para Veda.

    He will return after 1000 years (Note: 1 week in Para Nirmitha Vasavarthiya is equivalent to 1000 earth years).

    You may go to http://www.gabanatha.com for more details.

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    This is for those who tried to access the Gaban Atha site http://www.gabanatha.com and failed. Try the following in the given order.

    1) Bow down and say “Gaban Atha you are the greatest, the wisest and the only Gaban. You slosh with loving kindness”.

    2) Try proxy site http://www.hailgabanatha.com.andromeda.vasa

    3) No point trying any more. You are too stupid and your IQ is probably below the Amarasiri limit of 75. That is why you reached Step 3.

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