16 June 2015

Ramadan in places where the sun does not set

Ramadan is a period, around this time of the year, when Muslims are supposed to fast during daylight and eat when the sun sets. (And fasting means eating nothing and drinking nothing, not even water or beer.) That's supposed to be a religious duty commanded by god. The issue is this however: In Uppsala, the sun hardly sets these days and further north it does not set at all.

So there is a problem. Clearly,  if they eat nothing at all they'll get sick or die. So they came up with new rules. See here and here:
Mohammed Kharaki, a spokesman for Sweden's Islamic Association, said the organisation had this week issued guidelines that said Muslims should fast between the times that the sun was last clearly seen to rise and fall - despite this concession, this could well amount to a 19-hour fast.
Sure, one would argue, they had to come up with something. But could they not come up with the obvious fact that there is a contradiction?

Clearly, the author of the "holy" books that tell people to fast during daylight and eat when it's dark did not know that there were places on the planet where the sun does not set. (For all I know, he could very well be under the impression that the Earth was flat.) The claim is that the author of these books is supposed to be god, who, by the way, is omniscient. So we have a contradiction.

So, instead of realizing that this contradiction leads to the obvious conclusion that the author of the books is not omniscient, they decided to change the rules.

But this is the nature of religion: regardless of the amount of evidence against its tenets, religion will not accept any contradictions. In fact, the larger the amount of contradictions religious folk are faced with, the stronger their belief. This, in my opinion, is the most fundamental aspect (perhaps the defining aspect) of religion.

The Uppsala mosque, picture taken from the Independent

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What measure theory is about

It's about counting, but when things get too large.
Put otherwise, it's about addition of positive numbers, but when these numbers are far too many.

The principle of dynamic programming

max_{x,y} [f(x) + g(x,y)] = max_x [f(x) + max_y g(x,y)]

The bottom line

Nuestras horas son minutos cuando esperamos saber y siglos cuando sabemos lo que se puede aprender.
(Our hours are minutes when we wait to learn and centuries when we know what is to be learnt.) --António Machado

Αγεωμέτρητος μηδείς εισίτω.
(Those who do not know geometry may not enter.) --Plato

Sapere Aude! Habe Muth, dich deines eigenen Verstandes zu bedienen!
(Dare to know! Have courage to use your own reason!) --Kant