Friday, March 31, 2006

Now Soliciting for Comments

Yes, please feel free to comment on my posts. I need feedback to determine if others agree with my views. Criticisms is also accepted, as it would allow me to eliminate silence understand opposing views.

You can just leave a simple "I agree with your points". But please do not leave comments like "Infidel ! Die" otherwise I may be forced into preemptive action .

Leave your comments now !

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Weird Law : The Road Vehicles (Special Powers) Act

In today's Straits Times, Home section, there's an article titled "Owner innocent? Car used for crime will still be forfeited" . In particular, the article was about Volkswagen Financial Services, who loaned the car to someone who used it to commit crimes. The car was confiscated. Basically, the article talked about how 'if your vehicle is used in a crime, there is no way you can stop the authorities from confiscating it - even if the crime was committed by somebody else' (direct quote from the papers).

In other words, if you loan or lease your car to someone who uses it for a crime, then your car is gone ! The Road Vehicles (Special Powers) Act states that when a vehicle has been used in crimes like robbery and theft, the court 'shall' order it to be forfeited. What this seems to imply, then, that if your car is stolen and used for a crime, then good luck also !

I find this law a bit weird. It's almost as if the vehicle has committed a crime, which obviously makes no sense. What the law actually does is to punish the owners of the vehicle, obstensibly for abetting the criminal.

I'm not sure I like where this line of logic is leading. What this law essentially implies is that people should not lend vehicles to be used in crimes. Nothing wrong yet, but it also implies that people have the absolute ability to gauge whether the person borrowing/loaning the car is going to use it to commit a crime !

I am not a psychic, and although I can conduct some basic background checks on the person, this still does not tell me whether he will use it for illegal purposes. This law assumes that if the criminal has used the car in a crime, I must not have fulfilled my responsibilites, and that I have abetted the criminal. Hogwash. The law is pushing absolute responsibilty for the car onto the car owner.

We must be very careful. The next time we buy anything , we will be held responsible for it. Who knows ? If someone grabs your flowerpot and hurls it down the window, your house may be confiscated. Be afraid, be very afraid.

Monday, March 27, 2006

On the Thai Protests

Before I make my comments I have to admit that I'm in no position to form a totally informed opinion about the Bangkok protests. At the same time though, my opinions are not biased by the fact that I am Singaporean. So, just take me as an arbitary observer making random comments.

From my point of view, the peaceful or otherwise, these protests are irrational and even undermine the democratic process. I would not like it if the protesters get what they want, fundamentally because it would certainly not be democratic. What these protesters are doing, whether they are aware of it or not, is that they are imposing their wills over the entire of Thailand. 100,000 is not a majority, 100,000 people cannot speak for 65+ million people.

I mentioned that these protesters were irrational. Why ? Because they are willing to boycott the elections, and the opposition will not be contesting the elections. One alleged reason is that the election procedure is corrupt, hence voting is useless. But what I am wondering is, won't this create a self-fulfuling prophecy ? "Lets not vote. Opps, Thaksin won ! He must have cheated !!"

The second alleged reason is that they believe that Thaksin would be voted in again by the 'ignorant' lower classes. This reason is, in my opinion, even more repulsive than the previous reason, because it means the protesters undermine even their own people. In essense, the protesters believe that they are more informed, or possibly more enlightened, than the masses. I must say that this type of thinking must have been responsible for various attrocites throughout history.

Before I end, I must state that I don't condone corruption and dirty politics. But these must be combated with reason, and massive public protest seem more emotion than reason.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Analysing the case of the Afgan convert

I've just learnt about the Afgan case regarding the Christian convert (from Islam) . Its quite an apalling case of religious intolerance, no doubt. However, I wish to raise an interesting point of view, using ideas based on Pascal's wager.

Let us assume that the afgans are correct, that their God is true. Hence, the convert will go to hell and recieve infinite punishment. Since the punishment is exacted over an infinite period of time, it does not matter if he dies now or later. Hence they should not need to execute him.

If we assume that the afgans are wrong, that their God is false, then they have no justification to execute the convert.

Based on this analysis, they should not execute the convert ! How interesting !

** Disclaimer : This analysis ignores many other considerations. You should not use this post as a basis to smite me. Or lynch me. You get the drift ?

Thursday, March 23, 2006

On Education

Education is often held to be almost a mythical panacea capable of solving many social problems. But what is Education, and how does it help?

I believe that Education should, above all, not teach us what to think, but rather, aid us in learning how to think. Clearly, the methodology of thinking is more important than the content of what is being taught. More importantly, if we are only taught what to think, then we are simply incapable of distinguishing dogma from truth. How are we to deny what is given to us from authority ?

On the other hand, if we learn how to think, then we are enlightened, and capable of differentiating right and wrong using our own reason. An enlightened mind is the way to solve many problems.

I must admit that I seem a bit fuzzy during this post, but I am reflecting on some of my internal feelings rather than thoughts. I may need to support my feelings with more thought. Maybe more on that later ( although I seem to have a bad habit of not following up within a reasonable amount of time.) .

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

CCTVs in public buses - Nonsense !

I'll try to be as calm as possible, but sometimes circumstances force my hand. I'll state it simply - I am quite enraged by the Government's intent to install CCTVs in public buses. There are two reasons for my response.

i) It is simply an outrage of everyone's privacy.

ii) It is not a cost-effective way to prevent crime or terrorism.

In fact, my two reasons may already be too kind. Regarding the first point, I wonder what safeguards will be put in place to ensure the security footage will not be misused, and how far back will the records be kept. Quite frankly, it reminds me of George Orwell's police state.

About my second point, I am quite certain that CCTVs are not even effective in preventing crime, much less terrorism. A point to note is that there are few crimes that can occur on buses, so this measure is largely to prevent terrorism. I am not sure how this prevention occurs - does it forcefully stop terrorists from boarding buses or bombs from going off (physical prevention) , or does it mentally deter terrorists ( mental deterence) ? It cannot be the former, so is it the latter ? I am sure it does not deter suicide bombers, but it may deter the 'garden variety' terrorists. That said, they would probably look out for easier targets, in which case we have not deterred terrorism, but displaced it.

I do not deny that CCTVs aid the detection of crime and in prosecution. But wasn't the focus on ensuring our security rather than ensuring our vengance ? In anycase, I found channelnewsasia's article on the CCTV news amusing. In the links for related news, one article was Police still searching for clues three months after London bombings. Hmm someone in CNA has a sense of humor I guess.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

A universal ontological argument

I believe I have adapted the original ontological argument and made it universally applicable ! This is simply amazing, for I can use this argument in all cases (and win !) . Consider the following statements :

1) First, let A be the greatest concievable argument in defense of something.
2) Evidently, A must have the property of being able to win the case, otherwise we can concieve of a greater argument, one that can win the case.
3) Similarly, A must have the property of existing, otherwise we can concieve of an argument that is the same of A , but with the additional property of existing.
4) This means that A, which enables us to win the case, actually exists.

Interesting, no ? Note that when I say 'concieve of an argument', you only have to imagine the possibility of such an argument, and not the actual argument.

Anyway, I raised this example merely as an mental exercise. In truth this argument is useless, because both sides of an argument can use it !

Friday, March 17, 2006

A survey to examine your values

I took this from a module I am doing, UHB2201 , aka Human Relations. It will aid you in finding what values you deem most important.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Maid's Day Off Rejected

I consider myself a libertarian, and I place high emphasis on civil freedom and human rights. Hence, it was unsurprising that I was not pleased when I first heard that the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) rejected the proposal to grant maids a mandatory day off each week. To me, not granting foreign domestic workers a day off is unreasonable, and almost reeks of bigotry. If the situation were any worse, it would remind me of slavery.

But recently, I began to detect some hidden inconsistencies in my beliefs. Being a libertarian also means that I value economic freedom. What this usually means is that I am against govermental interference in the market economy, such as restrictive trade regulations and labour laws that foster stagnation. However, if you are astute, you will soon realise that there are some contradictions between the beliefs of civil liberty and economic freedom.

If we impose a law to grant maids a day off, then would this not be a form of govermental interference into the market? But if we do not interfere, ostensibly circumstances would force some maids to accept unreasonable employment conditions. This appears to be an important contradiction, one that had to be reconciled for my beliefs to be consistent.

After some thought, I realised that in order to repair this inconsistency, I had to make one belief slightly more valued than the other.But which should I deem more important? To answer this second question, I constructed a third question, one which could test which idea I held more strongly, civil liberty or economic freedom. The question was :

Would you allow people to sell themselves wholly into the service of others? In other words, can you sell yourself into slavery?

My answer was no- there had to be certain rights which were inalienable, and could not be sold even if the participants privy were willing. Thus, laws should be in place to restrict such policies.

However, I am still unsatisfied with my conclusions. I may need to work this out futher.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Regarding the nature of Sin (part 1)

For a number of times this year, I have pondered about the nature of Sin. At first glance, Sin seems to be a simple concept, in that everyone has some conception of Sin. But like many other 'simple' concepts, a problem lies in the fact that everyone's conception of Sin is different. Recognising this problem, I attempted to construct a universal and consistent model (or theory, whichever word you desire) of Sin. Unfortunately, the task was not as simple as I had hoped.

I first adopted the seven deadly sins as a framework to develop my model. For the benefit of the reader, I list these sins here: Lust, Gluttonty, Avarice, Sloth, Wrath, Envy, Pride. Upon closer analysis, I discovered that these seven sins were incompatible with my own ideas of Sin !!! The reason for this incompatibilty was that I have always considered Sin to be an act committed against some 'moral' law. However, what these seven deadly sins propose is that sin is fundamentally a 'state of being'.

For example, simply thinking lustful thoughts is deemed a sin. You do not need to act to sin. However, as I mentioned eariler, this was contrary to my beliefs. In my view, how can mere thought be considered sin ? Action is a neccessary prerequiste for sin.

An analogy would be the criminal law system. You cannot arrest someone because he has thought about killing you. He can only be charged if he has initiated a process which will kill you, or that he has actually killed you. In other words, it is only a crime if it has been initiated. I do not deny that intent is important, but the prerequiste is that the intent has been acted on.

A related idea is that are two 'planes' of existence, the plane of thoughts, and the plane of existence. It should be clear that these two are separate- thinking that I am rich does not make me any richer in real life. To an observer(which clearly must exist in the plane of existence), sin as a 'state of being' is unreal, in that it cannot be directly observed. How can we tell whether someone has sinned ? The observer can only detect acts, not thoughts. Hence, to have a universal model of Sin which does not depend on the unobservable, we have to reject the idea of Sin being a 'state of being'.

Therefore, after much deliberation, I have obtained a first premise(or statement) of Sin :

Sin is an act, not a 'state of being' .

Of course, there must be other statements, but I do not have the time to present them now. In anycase, I have not completed the full model of Sin (opps... haha).

*** Other Comments***
The above model of Sin is based on an atheist's views. In other words, I explictly exclude the idea that Sin is related to God(indirectly or otherwise). However, I must mention that certain religions, like Judaism or Islam, also regard Sin as an act rather than a 'state of being' .