A Pale Blue Dot

A pale blue dot. That is how the Earth stands in comparison to the whole Universe. A tiny fraction of the pale blue dot. That is how we “the most advanced species on the planet” stand in comparison to the Universe. Is this realisation a humbling experience? Or should it be acknowledged with the same degree of indifference and callousness that has become such an integral part of our everyday lives? Should we be awed by our insignificance or should it be dismissed without a second thought?

A pale blue dot. It is amazing how the term is understood differently by different people. Some say it teaches us to be humble. To not take ourselves too seriously. It is a reminder of, some say, the need to respect the complexities of the Universe. Another set of argument is that when we are so small, so insignificant and our actions do not really matter, why should we so concerned about the Universe? Others believe that no matter how small, how tiny the Earth is, it is important to remember that each drop makes an ocean. That each miniscule particle of the Universe in its own way is responsible for the stability of the Universe.

A pale blue dot. So what the Earth is a pale blue dot. As long as we are on the planet, it in a way is our world, our Universe. This is all there is. This is where all are actions should be implemented. Where all the rewards are reaped. Yes, we should respect the complexities of the Universe, but in our awe we must not forget that inaction has and never will do anyone any good. The Universe is immense but it is the little things in the world that we can ever have any control over.

-Shruti Slaria

The Dot and the Dots

We human beings consider ourselves the centre of this universe. A species, physically so powerful and mentally so advanced that it’s reaching beyond it’s boundaries to explore this cosmos and defining new boundaries. After having changed this piece of rock, planet Earth, to a bustling world of scientific wonders, we are now searching for other planets that inhabit life like ours. All of this is very pleasing to the human mind, which always likes to hear praise, and shows the wondrous achievements of the human race. But amidst all this, we very conveniently forget the significance we actually hold in this spacio-temporal cross-section called universe.

Planet Earth, as seen from the outer space by the Voyager, appears as nothing but a tiny, pale blue dot suspended in the sunlight, no different from the dust particles we see scattered in the sunlight coming from the filter of trees. It is nothing more than a tiny pale blue dot, suspended like a piece of glass in this kaleidoscope called universe. And we are the even microscopic dots, in millions, on this pale blue dot. Then, why do we consider ourselves as the most important beings of the cosmos? What is it that makes us think that we are the point to which the entire universe converges? What would we call this thinking of ours? Ignorance? Irrationality? Or simple stupidity?

This point of view can create a ripple of depression in us, making us realize our extreme insignificance. But it can also be seen as something which makes us realize that this planet of ours is actually billions of tiny dots, which hold it together. And no matter how small we may be, we always have the capability to create a wave of change. It also makes us understand the strength of unity. And also that we are not the only important beings breathing here, but there are billions of similar microscopic dots, and that all we need is to live harmoniously. Instead of running after material pleasures, we should cherish what we have on this planet of ours, and celebrate our existence. We should cherish, nurture and preserve our planet, and all the other dots. We are not the centre of this universe. Exploring new horizons is always good, but we should not get so carried away that we stop cherishing our planet. After all, this tiny, pale blue dot is all we have got!

-Khushi Vijayvergiya

They are Children, not Younger Adults

Childhood is a wonderful time of life. Human mind is never more curious, imaginative and bold with its ideas than in childhood. Children never fear to experiment. Be it colours, taste, clothes, anything, they are always excited to welcome change. But what happens to this carefree, free attitude once we grow up? Why do we put chains around our minds? Why do we limit our ideas? Why do we not want change anymore? Isn’t change the very definition, the essence of our existence? The cells in our body change and that is why we continue to live. The air we breathe changes, the water we drink flows, even the food we eat changes for it grows from a seed to a tree. When our existence depends upon change, then why do we hesitate to welcome it?

But the best thing about being a child is the originality. The originality of ideas and of thoughts. Because once the child grows up, she becomes a sponsored product, the sponsors being the parents, teachers, relatives, friends, and so on. A child is the most moral person around. It is the social conditioning given to her which adulterates the pure innocence and morality of the child.

A child is naturally moral. She doesn’t know how to lie, pretend or hide. What brings about the change then? I think it’s the conventional social norms created by us ourselves that force the child to give up her natural morality and colour herself in the hues of the “conventionally moral society”. What causes this now? The most plausible answer to this question is the fact that we see children as smaller adults, and not as children. We expect them to fit into our conventional code of conduct and follow our thoughts. This fact is so true that it is evident in the very basic elements of childhood, say toys. French writer Ronald Barthes has raised this point very effectively in his article, “Toys”. He says that the toys children play with these days are nothing but a miniature version of the adult world, prescribing the exact social roles they are to fit in, and diminishing their ability to think, imagine and create. And most importantly, their inherent curious nature, for they accept these toys and the social roles they connote without any question. For example, the unreasonable convention, that girls play with dolls and kitchen sets while boys play with monster trucks, moulds the children into the orthodox gender roles since the very beginning. This is where all the manipulation and adulteration begins.

Childhood is the most blissful period of one’s life. I find myself missing my childhood very often and I know everyone does. It is the time when we don’t have to worry about deadlines, assignments, ECA’s, competitions, the paramount question, “log kya kahenge?”, and most importantly, as of now, Semester examinations! So, why not let it be like that? Let’s not focus on moulding the children into a particular shape. They are not clay pots, for crying out loud. I am not advocating relentless freedom, but we must give them the freedom to be themselves, at the same time inculcating in them a sense of responsibility. I agree that a designer garden looks nice with all the organization and symmetry, but isn’t it the wilderness that naturally attracts us?

-Khushi Vijayvergiya


The Question

I won’t say I had a childhood philosophy, or even an idea, it was a question more of. A question which seemed ridiculous even to my own 8 year mind but at the same time the nagging doubt it arouse in my mind was difficult to bury. It was a stupid question I knew. A question which probably entered only my mind. What if everything that had happened to me till date was a dream? What if I woke up one fine day to discover I was still a 5 year old? That nothing I believed to be true had ever happened to me. Imagine the horror of not being a grown up. (I did consider myself to be pretty grown up when I was 8). I could still be in pre-school.

Time passed and the question was forgotten. Though the question still entered my mind it was easier for me to dismiss it. Little did I know the question would haunt me once again. And this time burying it would be far more difficult.

When I decided to do my under graduation in Philosophy the question returned. The first thing one of my teachers ever asked us was “how do you know what we experience is real? What if everything is a construct of our mind? What if my mind operates everything like in a video game?” The question was bizarre yes, but it once again reminded me of what I had always wondered. Is it all a dream?

And this time it was not easy to dismiss the question trivially. Now I had a teacher in front of me asking me to defend the ‘real’ and I couldn’t, no one could. This time however the need to bury the question wasn’t felt. The fact that other people also thought about the same thing was strangely comforting. So what it was all a dream? As long as I was in it, I might as well enjoy it.

-Shruti Slaria

Demarcating the Philosophy of Science

Here we sit, scratching our heads, texting each other, having been asked to write an article on Philosophy of Science this time. Time ticks away, the deadline approaches and we have no clue how to go about this momentous task (it is momentous, trust me). Eureka! We suddenly realise we don’t even know what falls under the ambit of philosophy of science. And lo and behold we have accidently stumbled upon the famous ‘demarcation problem’ which is one of the central problems that philosophers of this field are looking to answer. This central problem of philosophy of science is defined as “the philosophical problem of determining what types of hypotheses should be considered scientific and what types should be considered pseudoscientific or non-scientific.”

And ironically the only answer that experts agree on is that there is no single, simple way to solve this problem. There are however certain criterion which have been introduced by philosophers time and again to distinguish science from the non-science. Larry Laudan in ‘The Demise of the Demarcation Problem’ says “Aristotle described at length what was involved in having scientific knowledge of something. To be scientific, he said, one must deal with causes, one must use logical demonstration, and one must identify the universals which ‘inhere’ in the particulars of sense. But above all, to have science one must have apodictic certainty. It is the last feature which, for Aristotle, most clearly distinguished the scientific way of knowing.”

Logical positivism held that only those statements which concern matters of fact can be called scientific. Introducing the notion of verificationism, the logical positivists believed that only statements about the world that are empirically verifiable or logically necessary are cognitively meaningful. As opposed to this, Karl Popper introduced the demarcation criterion of falsifiability. According to this criterion “statements or systems of statements, in order to be ranked as scientific, must be capable of conflicting with possible or conceivable observations”. Apart from these views, there have been many other criteria which have been introduced by philosophers and scientists. William Cecil Dampier Whetham, for example, defined science as “ordered knowledge of natural phenomena and of the relations between them.”

And after reading all these views, we were none-the-wiser about what constitutes science. We just realised that science has as many unanswered questions as does philosophy and that the two are so closely interconnected that it is impossible to distinguish the two. As Will Durrant writes “every science begins in philosophy and ends in art”.

-Shruti Slaria and Namrata Kumar