Monday, January 30, 2012

Life as a set of Phd comics.

This is about my life as graduate student,and I will not mince words when I say this - Graduate student life is very,very hard. I have been more cheery so far than some of my peers , but there are indeed some moments when I feel like I'm at the end of an alley,with no discernible place to turn to. One thing I would like to clarify at this point is this - I'm not advocating against graduate life or the possibilities and opportunities that come with it. I clearly have learnt a lot more in an year and a half of Graduate school so far than I did in four years of getting a bachelor's degree in Engineering,but to quote up a cliche, the path to a successful graduate degree is not strewn with roses,and has more than a fair share of thorns.

These are some points that one always needs to remember while in Graduate school :
1. You are not alone - This is an especially interesting point - One only needs to look at any of the various rants/posts/message-board support about life in graduate school,and academia to understand that there are a lot of other people in various stages of graduate life,experiencing the same problem that one is.
2. This too,shall pass - One needs to remember that grad school eventually does end,and with the passage of time,all will be left are bittersweet memories (Maybe just slightly more bitter than sweet,for some folks =) ).
3. Do not be afraid to seek help - Depression is not uncommon among graduate students, thanks to the sheer work that it demands,coupled with other things in life,and one should not be afraid to seek professional help about it. Most universities tend to have a free counseling center,and they can help with combating depression,anxiety and general stress. And besides,they're free!
4. Staying motivated is important - It doesn't take a great leap of analysis to understand that one's interest and focus towards a certain task/set of tasks are not necessarily the same at all times,especially with the stress involved,and it important that one does not lose a considerable amount of motivation that may hinder his/her progress in the research being done. Having said that, if the loss of motivation is due to realizing that the research is not something that doesn't stimulate one,or pique's one's interest anymore, it may be a good idea to attempt moving away to seek inspiration elsewhere.
5. There is life outside the lab - It is especially easy to forget this,but one's life need not should not be limited to one's research or work in the lab etc, and it is important to not let go off the little things that define oneself as a person. It also might be a good idea to find other such avocations. Of course,the key to it all ,like in any other situation, is moderation.

My experience as a graduate student so far has been nothing short of a saga - It has had it's share of happy moments, emotional upheavals , fast-paced moments, ridiculously slow-paced ones , and a lot of waiting. And when I graduate , I will be a better version of what I was when I came in,for like they say, "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger".

Saturday, January 7, 2012

No true Scotsman.

The most common type of argument that I tend to encounter when talking about the inherent fallacies of religious systems is the 'No true Scotsman' argument. Firstly,let me define what this is : Wikipedia describes it as such -

'No true Scotsman is an informal logical fallacy, an ad hoc attempt to retain an unreasoned assertion. When faced with a counterexample to a universal claim, rather than denying the counterexample or rejecting the original universal claim, this fallacy modifies the subject of the assertion to exclude the specific case or others like it by rhetoric, without reference to any specific objective rule.'.

Let me transcribe a conversation that I sometimes am a part of, that also serves to make clear what fallacy that I'm talking about -

Me: I do not self-identify as a Hindu,but rather as a non-religious person. Other Person: Why? Me: Hinduism ,as a religion,has certain things that I don't agree with,including the caste system Other Person: But,the caste system is not part of True Hinduism.

Essentially,what is happening here is that the other person agrees that the subject (In this case,Hinduism)'s negative trait (In this case,the caste system) being pointed out is indeed negative,but argues for the subject by indicating that 'True Hinduism' does not include the caste system.

As an ex-Hindu,most of my attempts at demystifying religion tend to involve Hindus , and so,I described a conversation referencing Hinduism, but indeed,this logical fallacy is quite common by people of any other religion ,as well.

An important thing about the scientific method is that it does not support the 'No true Scotsman' logical fallacy - a counterexample to an existing notion simply results in the rejection of the existing notion,to make way for a new notion.Thus,in my opinion,the scientific method is the more reliable way to contemplate the cosmos.