Small note on science

So-called “Jathika Chinthana” advocates do not understand the fact that “western” science’s (actually,the term “western science” is misleading since science has depended a lot on Indian and Arabian inventions such as mathematics) openness to change is it’s strong-point and not the weak point.

Take Newtonian theories as an example. Although Newtonian theories fail to approximate the behavior of sub-atomic entities such as electrons, they work for macroscopic objects very well. Newtonian theories give us an approximate picture of reality. Newtonian approximations are there because they are useful for tasks in our life. It should be noted that humankind has developed things such as steam engines and rockets which works on Newtonian approximations.

Newtonian approximations deviate more and more when it comes to the sub-atomic level. Thats why we need quantum physics. It is the nature of science. Day by day, science gets better in its job of approximating the reality. So-called “jathika chinthana” advocates do not seem to understand that.

A knowledge system does not need to be considered “a failure” just because it fails to solve the extremities. It is a success as long as it held true within it’s framework (in the case of newtonian physics, for objects larger than atoms). Even if we apply equations of quantum mechanics to macroscopic objects or special therory of relativity to objects travelling at everyday speeds (that is, when V is very very very less than C), the answer is pretty close to what we get by Newtonian equations.

So, the point is that the mere fact that Newtonian theories fail at some extremities does not mean whole “western” science is bullshit. The very progressive nature of science indicates that science is becoming better at making more reliable approximations of reality.

If we apply the logic of “jathika chinthana” advocates (that is, the argument that a knowledge system is false if it currently cannot account for everything) to our so-called “eastern” knowledge systems such as ayurveda or astrology, then they do fail misrably than “western” science.

For example, Ayurveda can not explain the occurance of a cancer and inner workings of the brain. However, even I am not a “jathika chinthana” promoter, I acknowledge that ayurvedic knowledge must exist as it is practically applicable to cure many illnesses (as in the case of Newtonian physics) although it fails to explain many.

“Western” science has progressed leaps and bounds than its eastern counterparts and it is still progressing. This does not mean that science has explained each and everything in the universe and will do so before the end of the earth. Also, this does not mean that other knowledge systems must vanish from earth.

What happens in the present world is western science combines itself with other knowledge systems, as it is the case when scientists finds a chemical compound responsible for a cure in an ayurvedic plant, extracts it and creates a tablet.

“Jathika chinthana” promoters’ attempts to defame science, and promote what they think as “sinhalabuddhist knowledge” is just a pipe dream. If one wants to promote Sri Lankan knowledge, they must combine those knowledge with popular science and move progressively.

Article by – Nipuna Wanninayake

Edited by – Kumara Sankalpa

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19 Responses to Small note on science

  1. shirantha chamara says:

    if nipuna vanninayake can read sinhala i invite you to participate in the discussion in the thread ‘newtoniaya nyaayan igenaganeeme vadagathkama’ going on with ritigala. it is ok if you reply in english – i’ll reply you in english or sinhala. you can write your arguments in a definite manner there. if i feel you are honestly arguing to prove me wrong or get yourself correct as the circumstences suggest i will answer you wholeheartedly. and plese be patient when i have to take time. those are the only conditions (upto now). let me know your response. the above letter is not that much definite to me. so if you are accepting my invitation please give me some exact statements or arguments to discuss by editing/ extracting from the above or somehow.

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  2. There is no such thing as “western science”.It’s just a myth.Science is a branch of epistemology based on materialism.Even if you segregate the ones who made contributions to this knowledge system demographically you’ll definitely find a massive lot of easterners as well.Even some Sinhalese Buddhists have made contributions for the improvement of this system.So if a person identifies science as something “western” it’s his or her lack of knowledge about it.Some nationalists point out that science is a branch of epistemology belonging to “Judeo-Christian” Cultures.They interpret it as just another cultural mythology.This idea is also incorrect as Science has not specifically evolved from any culture or country.Even those so called Judeo-Christian cultures have their own shares of myths,superstitious beliefs,pseudo-scientific doctrines .Science is not limited to a culture or country neither does it aid or contain any unsubstantial belief of any kind be it cultural,religious or whatever.

    What nationalists such as Dr.Nalin De Silva usually do to imply that “western” science is a failed knowledge system with limits is evaluating it philosophically.Dr.Nalin De Silva and his advocates evaluate science using an existential perspective along with a certain degree of scientific anti realism.Science and Philosophy are two distinct subjects.Neither of them are wrong.only their scopes and concentrations differ.Science is a mode of study,It’s a mode of evaluation of the material world around us while philosophy spans to a variety of subjects beyond materialism (Eg-Metaphysics,nature of being and existence etc.)While there are few philosophies such as positivism which use certain mathematical and logical interpretations related to science to evaluate evidence and determine the nature of the conceptual subject of “Truth”.Well in that case we could use science to prove some philosophical positions invalid.Nalin’s argument is not invalid but it isn’t effective either.It leads you to nowhere except to some conceptual interpretations.

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  3. shirantha chamara says:

    //Science is a branch of epistemology based on materialism//

    dear vihan…….looking at the above statement you seem to lack knowledge in science……very pardonable since i looked at your age and i well remeber that i too used to think like that at that age. for a slightest example-(no way the strongest) what you see according to science -according to the thery of light you know from childhood are images on your eye not the real objects. whole world you see is at your eye retina – you are seeing at your retina only. so when you say ‘a car is moving at 5ms-1’ in science you are talking about an outside abstract object which you have not ever seen and only images of which only you have seen. have you thought about it ? my world fell down when i thoroughly realised it – which any philosophy could not do to me. since the date i’m expecting an alternative theory of light and seeing.

    (i’m not interested in a debate with you – thats why i wrote something like this in spite of answering questions on mr. nalin de silva which i can do with grown ones)

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    • shirantha chamara says:

      i should emphasise that you are talking about abstract objects whose images only you see. you cannot ever say they are actually how their images seem. they are abstract. when you are talking about the chair just in front of you in science (not in day to day discussions) you are talking about an abstract object with which you havent had any direct experience. so i never want to believe it is true. not because i am a materialist but because of some other reasons. and these are not mere philosophical considerations. alternative theories suggest different modes of thinking about questions and different tests of checking them and adjusting parameters and constants of theories which will take us onto grounds which are not investigated in previous theories. let me paste something for you i wrote somewhere else. you can think about it.

      වැරදිලා හරි අයින්ස්ටයින්ගේ කාලේදී tensors හරි riemaanian geometry හරි තිබුනේ නැත්නම් – මින්කොව්ස්කි කියන මනුස්සය අවකාශ කාලය කියන එක හැදුවේ නැත්නම් මට හොඳටම විශ්වාසයි අයින්ස්ටයින් ඕක වෙන විදිහකට ලියනවා. මම කියන්නේ එකම සමීකරණේ වෙන භාෂාවකින් ලියනවා කියල එහෙම නෙමේ. සම්පුර්ණයෙන් වෙනස් සමීකරණ ලියනවා. එහෙම උනානම් ඒවායින් වෙනස් භෞතික සිද්දි අපෝහනය වෙනවා. ඒවා ඇත්තද කියල බලන්න වෙනවා. එහෙම උනානම් පරීක්ෂණ කෙරෙන්නේ ඒවා ගැනයි. ඊට පස්සේ ඒ වෙනස් පරීක්ෂණ වලට ගැලපෙන විදිහට සමීකරණ වල නියත පරාමිති වෙනස් කරන්න වෙනවා. ඊට පස්සේ තව පරීක්ෂ්ජන කෙරෙනවා . පරීක්ෂණ කෙරෙන්නේ අද පරීක්ජ්ෂණ කෙරෙන දේවල් ගැන නෙමෙයි සම්පුර්ණයෙන්ම වෙනස් දේවල් ගැනයි. ඊට පස්සේ අපිට සමහර විට වෙනස් තාක්ෂණ ලැබෙනවා. ලෝකේ වෙනස් වෙනවා. අපි සමහර විට එහෙම උනානම් අදටත් ආලෝකය ලොකු දුරවල් වලදී නැමෙනවද නැද්ද කියන එක ගැන හොයල නොබලන්න තිබ්බ මොකද එහෙම හොයල බලන්න උත්තේජන සපයන්නේ ප්‍රවාද වලින් . ඒ වෙනුවට සමහර විට ඊට වඩා වැඩදායක දේවල් දැනන් ඉන්න ඉඩ තිබ්බ.

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    • //what you see according to science -according to the thery of light you know from childhood are images on your eye not the real objects. //

      Of course the scope of our eyesight is limited.That’s why we enhance our senses using external instruments which we use to ease our discernment about our surroundings.What we see is not the “real” state of the object.The very “object” or ‘car’ as you’ve said are conceptual.Like I said science is a knowledge system.A system of gaining knowledge about the world around us.Nothing is true and nothing is absolute.The theory of light,Newtonian mechanics etc. are just links of the chain.Our knowledge about the immaterial energies (Light,sound etc.) is very limited.We have a vast variety of optics used to see our surroundings from a different viewpoint.None of them,including our own eyes can point out the absolute nature or shape of the object.

      //in science you are talking about an outside abstract object which you have not ever seen and only images of which only you have seen. have you thought about it ?//

      Yes I’ve thought of it a plenty of times.Abstract objects are put forward for the sake of easing your particular task,in my case for the ease of my studies.What we’ve “discerned” so far about the objects around us are mere assumptions,only more accurate than the ones we made in the past.

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      • shirantha chamara says:

        no. no. i’m not talking about famous abstract objects as light , sound, force etc. of course they are instruments to me- some choices. (please dont argue- i’m not arguing here with you- just a request. to see the river you should first jump into it and dive. at your age i confined myself to just read various opinions including mr. nalin de silva. i discussed things but i never debated for any side (and i never completely believed any side) until i gained suffiecient knowledge in science and also on what mr. nalin de silva says. however it is good to think independently at any age. but when debating with someone we should be carefull)

        here i am talking about the actual objects we see. what we touch is not what we see acording to the theory of light and seeing. this is not about seeing the car as made of atoms. that is ok. ‘atoms’ are instruments of explaining what we see. the thing is that when you say your girlfriend is walking- according to science you are talking about an abstract object which you have not ever sen. what you see as your girlfriend is the image at your retina. i know that many people have heard it. but it is deeper than what usually think at first sight. you look at something in front of you. you are not seeing it. that IS the image at your retina. i dont believe it. do i want to believe that my wife is not what i actualy see but i’m looking at retina image of her? i say we are seeing the actual object. no one can disprove me. just start things at there and construct theories. (i know when i say this i might be considered as a psycho – but thats i too want. we should see so how so called open minds work no? so let me take the risk)

        on newtons theory etc – we r doing a discussion elsewhere.

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        • Well I think you’ve misunderstood my position.I’m not here to argue,I’m just here to express my opinions and exchange them with others through discussions.I’m in no position to argue about subjects such as this since what I know about them is very less.My opinions change with time,with education and with evidence.

          Well yes what we see is not the real form of the object.It’s just an image of it formed on the retina.There lies a deep philosophy behind your theory which science cannot explain or elaborate absolutely.Although your theory might look like utter nonsense,there lies some profound truth in it.Although humans are able to perceive ‘colours’ more than any other animal group in the world that doesn’t mean humans are able to perceive the ‘true’ or absolute nature of an object merely by their senses(In this case-Eyes).

          If I argue that the image which I see is the actual nature of the object itself my argument is irrefutable.Neither can I substantiate my argument with any empirical evidence.But the “actual” nature of an object which we define is purely conceptual.Therefore the scope of empirical evidence,logic,theories we need to substantiate that argument or refute it varies and has no definite limits.We can create a countless pseudo scientific theories which cannot be deemed true or false.

          This is the beauty of having an open mind.It makes you curious eventually hording questions as well as solutions.I’d rather be a psycho than being a ‘normal’ person having a limited intellect.

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          • shirantha chamara says:

            i dont think you got what i said. thats ok. you can think it later again and if you see something different than what you see now in what i wrote just inform me. do you mean what i say is pseudo scientific and the theory of light and seeing is scientific?

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            • shirantha chamara says:

              ///Although humans are able to perceive ‘colours’ more than any other animal group in the world that doesn’t mean humans are able to perceive the ‘true’ or absolute nature of an object merely by their senses////

              i’m afraid whether i will push you to an abstract reality. i dont accept that there is something real behind what we see and what animals see. for me there is no point about talking such a thing. i see what i see and animals see what they see. thats all. im just saying that we see the objects directly we are not seeing the retina image. thats just interpreting what we see. not an interpretation on an actual object lying behind what we see and animals see. and i well know that there is a probability that my stance can lead into different investigations giving different practical knowledge.

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              • // do you mean what i say is pseudo scientific and the theory of light and seeing is scientific?//

                No,but to deduce the “true nature” is pseudo scientific as “truth” cannot be elaborated scientifically.We can’t define ‘truth’ neither can we elaborate it’s parameters in terms of science.We can’t express it scientifically.Truth is conceptual.What I’m talking about is the nature of the object not about the theory of light.Just because a claim or theory is pseudo scientific that does not imply that it is untrue.It does imply that it could be something beyond the scope of science.Science is just one knowledge system and it is limited.There are a plenty more knowledge systems and philosophies which we can use to clarify our theories.

                //im just saying that we see the objects directly we are not seeing the retina image. thats just interpreting what we see. not an interpretation on an actual object lying behind what we see and animals see.//
                My opinion is also very much similar to yours.I don’t actually care about how a human or any other animal perceive.But I still fail to understand your point.You say that there is some profound theory behind the objects we come across.According to you they’re mere abstractions.So what do you actually mean ‘true’?

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                • shirantha chamara says:

                  dear vihan i’m really sorry that i cannot engage in a rigorous discussion here. i mean if i am going to elaborate things i will have to take lot of time and space as there is a a gap between what you and i have gone through simply due to our age difference. i’m just giving hints to think and i dont necessarily want you to agree with me. if you want we can have short discussions as time permits in private. simply saying truth is relative. what we logically want is only consistency between all what we believe . so in such a sense i’m just saying we CAN interpret what we see as we are seeing them directly if experiments cannot falsify them. that is a different way of interpreting what we see. and by such an interpretation we will have to explain phenomena we observe. if we get stuck somewhere badly then we will have to abandon what i say. thats all. now what is the practical importance of doing such a thing? at final analysis all the theories are just interpretations. we have to check them by experiments. so why theories? as one of my friends shouted at a lecture in university without all quantum physics theories we know what is happening because of our experimental knowledge. and even to verify theory we got to experiment again. so what is the point of making theories? the point is when we construct a mathematical theory to explain experiments the theory suggest that many other phenomena should also happen which we had no idea previously. and then we check by experiments whether they actually happen. after the experiments we try to somewhat adjust the theory so that the theory is consistent with experiments. now it seems at first sight hypocrisy (which is what my friend pointed out) . so what we gained? if not for the theory we will never do the experiment as we had no ideas of such things before the theory. so although we went through a circle we now, as a result of constructing a theory, have some additional practical knowledge. thats the one and only importance of theories. and now you should get that a different interpretation (a theory) will suggest us different experiments. even if they justify or falsify the theory at last we will do an experiment which we had no idea whatsoever of doing and gained some important practical knowledge. that is the link between technology and scientific theory i was searching for since years. i went to this conclusion just before two three months after thinking about 10 years. and which lead me to this was mr. nalin de silvaas ideas and that friend and a great physicist called Feynman. this is simple. but simple ideas takes so much time to come to mind. now you know it at the age of 17. so if you can read the above patiently (very patiently ) you will get that there is no so called ‘absolute truthness’ or ‘approximating nature’ in theories but they are just powerfull ways of expanding our minds to think about different experiments. (please read what i wrote about relativity in an above comment again)

                  and i hopefully think you will someday get that there is no point in labeling my way as ‘pseudo scientific’ and the existing theory as ‘scientific’. this labeling is useless and pointless . we all can do experiments , create theories, test them (not necessarily in the particular order). and on how we have practiced ourselves to look at problems mainly by culture (and due to our individual characteristics) will decide few ways how we touch the problem. as an example f=ma is just a tautology in most of the cases in practise. you can never falsify it experimently as you can always define a new type of force if you get a wrong result by experiment. that is just a guidance for looking at a problem which no one ever thought of abandoning since 400 years. (in 20th century this has lead to many problems on how protons are attached together – how an electron is distributed etc. there is an inconcistency in electromagnetic theory still unresolved due to f=ma). so if newton took a different path then the experiments done and the theories constructed would have been very different and the technical things we are using would have been different. and we (with prof. nalin de silva)suggest that due to different attitudes in different cultures if they r set free and independent in thinking they are capable of doing such things. just stop labeling things as scientific and not. free people. thanks for your consideration on my ideas.

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  4. dayal bathee says:

    Very interesting discussion to be a part of.
    I am not a scientist or a philosopher., or a supporter of Nalin and his school of thinking, but
    I believe science has a philosophic base too., breaking material into fragments and analysis, going deeper and deeper, now the science has reached to a level of breaking the atom and further, and done wonderful things, achieved unimaginable heights have concurred space too., has given a hope for tomorrow for millions and billions, similar to a religion,

    But Nuclear disasters suggest it is anti-civilization, and this endless fragmentation has to be stopped at some point. for eg; for argument sake if the material does not behave normally or according to Newtonian rules then that’s the point we must stop fragmentation. We must stop the these endless fragmentation where the totality or normal functionality breaks down.
    in other words do not abuse material that occur naturally..etc

    The totality and wholeness is the base of ‘eastern thinking’, I believe Nalin wants to make a point, that the Western powers used the science and it’s achievements as a weapon to concur, undermine and destroy Eastern cultures , thinking and knowledge. I respect their duty as academics and thinkers to challenge existing concepts, knowledge, but knowing consequences.

    But the end result of Nalin’s school of thought lead to a war and a disaster, than find a way to live in peace and also promoting mythical practices like Naatha Vandhanaa etc . as they ended up at the extreme idea that Sri Lanka belongs only to one race and rest must be crushed which is against the thinking of totality and wholeness ; which is the base of eastern thinking.

    But Nalin and Gunadasa the promoters of the trade mark “Jaathika Chinthana” (haa Srii laankika Ananyathaava) have a reason to be happy that presently these words have penetrated into UNP vocabulary too.

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    • shirantha chamara says:

      //But the end result of Nalin’s school of thought lead to a war and a disaster, than find a way to live in peace and also promoting mythical practices like Naatha Vandhanaa etc . as they ended up at the extreme idea that Sri Lanka belongs only to one race and rest must be crushed which is against the thinking of totality and wholeness ;//

      can you please explain a bit. and can you please prove that ‘naatha’ is a myth. can you please explain that if not for mr. nalin de silva that sri lanka would have not had this war and disater. and can you please extract from somewehere of mr. nalin de silvaas writingd an occassion where he has said that sri lanka belongs to one race.

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  5. shirantha chamara says:

    //But the end result of Nalin’s school of thought lead to a war and a disaster, than find a way to live in peace and also promoting mythical practices like Naatha Vandhanaa etc . as they ended up at the extreme idea that Sri Lanka belongs only to one race and rest must be crushed which is against the thinking of totality and wholeness ;//

    can you please explain a bit. and can you please prove that ‘naatha’ is a myth. can you please explain that if not for mr. nalin de silva that sri lanka would have not had this war and disater. and can you please extract from somewehere of mr. nalin de silvaas writingd an occassion where he has said that sri lanka belongs to one race.

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    • dayal bathee says:

      Thanks for the reply and your question put me in a position that my contribution to the discussion is abstract like ‘some god has told me these things sort’
      But thank you again and I am researching on this and also can I ask you whether you can prove ‘Naatha is real ‘

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      • shirantha chamara says:

        of course i cannot prove. nothing in physics or maths or any other subject cannot be proved in an objective sense. i believe it for reasons i have experienced. i dont tell others to believe it. one of us should be correct but no one can prove or disprove ‘naatha’. same is true even for abrahamic god. i dont believe him but i’m not sure whether i am correct or wrong. and i would never know it until i experience him. if you call naatha a myth in a different context then i would stay calm as it is what you believe. the context here is critisising mr. nalin de silva. so you r criticising HIS concept of naatha. so if you call it a myth in such a context then either it is your assumption or you got to prove it. if it is an assumption then we are not bound to accept it. so it is the logical part.

        and i am not here arguing merely for logical validity. i honestly believe the existence of naatha. and i am somewhat unhappy with some of his work.

        //your question put me in a position that my contribution to the discussion is abstract like ‘some god has told me these things sort’//

        i didnt get it .

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        • dayal bathee says:

          //// /your question put me in a position that my contribution to the discussion is abstract like ‘some god has told me these things sort’//

          i didnt get it .///

          what I meant was that you have in your first reply you meant

          what I have said about Nalin is not based on facts and I had assumed those or some one from another world has come in my dreams and told me. these things,
          ——————————
          Back to the discussion,

          I was listening to his speeches in wikipedia last few days and they suggests
          from 2003 he pushed the government for crushing the militancy, his argument was Tamils in the North, never had a problem to fight a war, against the government.
          Also I have been following Nalin from my student days in the Science faculty of in Uni of Colombo. back in 80s.

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          • shirantha chamara says:

            you are correct. for the lives dead in 2006 -2009 he is responsible. even i am responsible as i voted for mr. rajapaksha for war on 2005 (my first election vote ever) . mr. fonseka, soldiers and all those who supported are responsible just as much as mr. bush and many americans are responsible for lives lost at iraque and mr. churchill is responsible for lives lost at 2nd world war. i’m just asking can you say that there will not be any war and disaster if mr. mahinda raajapaksha didnt end it? as an example peace prince chandrika had to give lives to open a/9 road and nothing happened and the only result was lost of lives and the danger of losing lives at future. (this discussion is not good. at last i will have to justify supporting war. i will do but there should not be abstract theories for justifying war. so if you are satisfied that mr. nalin is reponsible then let us finish it. )

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