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霍金

霍金都離開了香港一個月多才提霍金,有點遲頓。不過那段時間的霍金熱實在令我有點發悶,反而不想把自己變成霍金熱的一份仔。另一方面自然是懶得動筆的關係。

那段時間聽著別人談霍金,總有點哭笑不得的感覺。有一次在西鐵途中,車箱電視在報導霍金訪港新聞 ,對面一對老夫婦望著電視機似乎正談及霍金。言談之間,聽見老翁提到某某數學問題多年都沒有科學家(!?)算出來,只有他(指霍金嗎!?)一解就解了出來(!?)。我滿腦子出現許多問號,究竟老翁是說費馬最後定理還是他指著的霍金則只有他自己才知。聯想起多年前曾聽見過一位太太教導自己的兒力努力讀書,大了可以像愛因斯坦般精通計數(!?),我也不禁一笑。

不過看著當全香港人都投入世界盃熱時,霍金來講仍做成這麼大的回嚮,聽到電視台有人拿霍金的病開玩笑,亦有異議。倒覺得頗開心。偶然看到西鐵鄰坐的少年拿著本書讀著我放下了十多年的哥本哈根學派 ,心想仲使大多數人聽不懂霍金演講的內容,但他的來訪也有一定作用。

不過早前看見某某宗教雜誌以霍金對有沒有神的問題回答 May be 為封面,甚感納悶。那雜誌內容如何都不得而知,不過想表達的意思倒猜得到。霍金有沒有信仰和他有沒有行房的問題一樣,我一直都沒有興趣研究。但以我一向對宗教的偏見,不免感雜誌有斷章之嫌。不過怎都好,就算霍金真的認有神有如何。大概人類就習慣鼓動人去盲信權威

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布朗玩世人: 世人都是盲信權威的!?

今天明珠有個頗有趣的節目《布朗玩世人》(Derren Brown: Messiah) 。這個一個小時的節目原在本年一月七日於英國的 Channel 4 播放。內容是紀錄一位近年頗具爭議的英國魔術師 Derren Brown 走到美國玩轉五個神秘力量團體的權威。他分別化名向幾位超能力訓練學校專家、基督教牧師、曾被外星人綁帶者、New Age 學者及靈媒表示他有該界別的某種力能,並運用其熟練的魔術及心理學技巧 (Brown出名善長讀心術及思想誤導) 展示及冒認為該界別的異能者。結果五個界別的權威都被他蒙騙,並表想在其界別雜誌或電視節目訪問及推薦他。

這節目最具爭議自然是 Brown 在一位基督教牧師面前展示其「超能力」(搖距把人推/拉倒) 令十多名無神論者當場承認神的存在,令那位牧師亦為之佩服。片尾有一字幕表示那表演後有向各出席的神論者揭露真相,令他們回復無神論的立場。Brown 曾表示其在廿多歲時仍為熱烈的基督教傳教者,但後來開始慢慢意識到一切信仰包括基督教、超能力、New Age 及通媒等其實都無兩樣,其個人信仰其實亦不比古怪的 New Age 理論強多少。片末更有一篇訪問,有一個人認為宗教是最賺錢的生意。

我提這出這節目並不是想籍此否定宗教。事實上我並沒有看到節目的開頭,我中途插入時 Brown 正向一名無神論者展示「異能」令其相信神存在。在未搞清節目的來龍去脈前,我亦正思考當我是該名無神論者時會否作出同樣決定。但當時我疑惑的是其實有否「異能」和「異能」人所說的是否事實根本是兩回事。有「異能」從不證明神的存在,沒有「異能」亦不能否神的存在。這也是我大專時代將對宗教的懷疑由科學萬能主義跳出成為這純不是科學命題的邏輯所在。或者 Brown 要展示的是我們慣性對權威的盲信。

We’re very suggestible around authority figures and if an authority figure tells us things then we tend to believe them and a month later we’re coming out with those same opinions as if they were our own. It’s absolutely part of what makes us human but equally part of what makes us human is the ability to recognize that as a pattern and question it; and that’s what I hope underpins the programme.

Derren Brown

大意是:

我們在權威人物面前往往會很容易收到影響。當一位權威人士告訴我們一些事時,我們會傾向想信為事實。並在個多月後得出同一樣的意見和以為這就是自己原先的意見。這絕對是人類的本性,但很少人會留意到這個現像並質疑它。這就是我希望加強這節目。

如前及Brown在節目所述,其「實驗」並非亦不能否定以上異能的存在。實質上這是他的一個個人表演節目罷了,亦不是嚴謹的實驗或紀錄片。不過 Brown 以 Messiah 作為節目的題目,有意顯示如有人利用其相同或類似技巧可以成為別一個假先知,製造另一個新宗教。

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政治鬧劇 - Terri Schiavo

近來 Terri Schiavo 安樂死案在美國鬧得很熱。我沒有宗教信仰,對安樂死的看法沒信仰束縛。當然,這也不代表我贊成任何安樂死。我想聲明,我一向對 Bush 政府有頗深的成見。我一向不喜歡其過份保守的作風,尤其在幹細胞及複製人問題上的政治。

作為一個旁觀者,確實沒有資格去批評這件事的對錯。不過,看著 Terri 近七年來三次被人拔插餵食喉,不禁為這位真正受害人難過,亦同情照顧 Terri 的醫護人員在這多年來所承受的壓力。無法控制個人生死並因政治原因,餵食喉被多次拔拔插插。 2001年4月拔了兩天後被插回,2003年10月更被拔了六天後又要插回 (Bush弟弟佛羅里達州州長幹的好事) ,連實驗室的白老鼠也不如,其身體早已變成政治家的玩物。我想,這才是對生命尊嚴最大的侮辱。

有些人 (請留意我並是指所有教徒) 藉神之名所幹的事往往比任何人都殘忍萬倍。猶記起中六、七時因當時英文教師 (我頗尊敬的一位) 要求,我每週都看《六十分鐘時事雜誌』(60 Minutes Plus) 並揀選其中一篇新聞寫報告。有一次提到美國保守派教徒的一些反墮胎行為,令我為之咋舌。當中,有人不斷騷擾為病人做墮胎手術的醫生的子女,亦有人炸死有關醫生。

在此祝願 Terri 可以被真正地『尊重™』及得到真正安寧!

P.S. 寫這 Blog 的中途,突然想到香港人和香港法治現時的情況倒和 Terri 有幾分相似。但美國佛州還有個獨立的最高法院。


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談談復活節

剛好《冷知識衝動》好像將會談談復活節(Easter)日子的計算方法,一向好勝的我也搶先談談這個問題 (其實去年和國內的同事閒談也想過寫寫這個題目)。事實上我發覺身邊很多朋友竟二、三十年來從沒有留意復活節在西曆上是浮動的,不像聖誕節般固定在西曆上一個日期。當然,原因是復活節對大部份香港人來說只是一個長一點的公眾假期罷了。曾經多次告訴朋友復活節的計算方法,結果大部份人都奇怪為何復活節會和農曆有關,對我所說的半信半疑。(除了教徒外,最少可以肯定只有一兩個曾經回去小心求証。)

好了,復活節的日子是在春分(Vernal Equinox)或春分以後第一個滿月 (即初十五) 後第一個星期日。所以復活節必定是星期日,而耶穌受難日必定是星期五。(好像應該是眾所周知,但我確實發現很多人都沒有察覺過) 不過要留意,基督教把春分定為西曆每年的三月廿一日,所以如果你以跟有農曆日子的月曆去計算,其實會有點誤差。可以說,復活節必定是西曆每年的三月廿二日和四月廿五日之間。

復活節的日子據說源自猶太人每年猶太曆 (Hebrew Calendar, 基於陰曆的曆法) 尼散(Nisan)月十四日的逾越節 (Passover) 。逾越節是猶太人紀念耶和華( Jehovah)在出埃及記時殺死埃及人們的首生子女和猶太人祖先逃出埃及的節日。而將逾越節和耶穌復活連在一起,有說和「犧牲」與「贖罪」的關係有關。因為每年逾越節每家猶太人家庭都屠宰一頭公羊,將血塗在門上,這行為被說和更早的祭羊儀式有關。傳說耶穌在逾越節前夕和十二門徒行聖餐,然後被補及釘死在十字架。後世基督徒就視逾越節為耶穌犧牲自己為世人贖罪的前奏,所以早期將慶祝耶穌基督復活的日子定在逾越節同一日舉行。到公元 324 年,西方羅馬教會在尼西亞會議上為脫離猶太傳統,而將復活節定為春分或後第一個滿月後的星期日。 (即當時尼散月十四日後的週日)

而英文 Easter 的名字有說來自北歐英格魯撒遜(Anglo Saxon)的春之女神 Eostre (英格魯撒遜語的串法為 Eástre)。而 Easter 一般都在春天 Eostre 之月 (約西曆的四月),象徵和一切新生命有關。

我小學時是就讀天主教小學 (家母怕我拒絕學英文,所以花了不少錢供我入讀一間英文小學) ,有聖經這科目。不過事隔廿多年,我也不記得科堂上是否有提過逾越節和復活節的問題。以上資料,倒是我到中學時因經常和基督徒舌戰,和開始對電腦編程產生興趣,自己翻書找回來的。


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聯合國通過禁複製人宣言

早幾日聽到聯合國通過禁複製人宣言 ,甚感失望。這項宣言主要是呼籲各國禁止任何形式的複製人,但無約束力。加上宣言亦禁止包括醫療複製 (therapeutic cloning) 的研究,範圍太大,有幾多國家會徹實執行實在令人懷疑。而包括英國及南韓 (應亦包括中國)等多個國家已表示會繼續在醫療上的複製人研究。

我個人一向都認為這類利用法例去禁止任何科學研究是極其愚笨的做法,一方面忽視科學家對其研究題目的執著,亦等同為知識世界定下禁區,另一方面立例只會令有關研究轉向地下化,令監管非常困難。而如有關研究發展過度,社會將更難面對有關衝擊,對人類社會及大自然為禍更大。聯合國這次做法,顯然是螳臂擋車,或者更正確的說法只是 George W. Bush 的一場政治show。

然而,我對近年不少非醫療的複製行為甚有意見。早陣子,就有人因思念去逝的愛貓而花五萬美元訂下複製貓兒。我雖愛貓但從未養貓,難評那人的行為。但我確實懷疑那人對複製的認知有多大。令我更為震恕的是早幾年曾在 CNN 聽見有些人因思念將去逝的母親,而資助複製人的研究,期望能有日令其母親『死而復生』。我當時不禁為接受有關資助的『科學家』的人格及誠信而咋舌。 他明顯對有關有人作出了很嚴重的誤導,絕對是一種極其卑劣的欺詐行為。更令我慨嘆的是我身邊亦有人以為複製代表延續生命。

事實上現時複製只能做到製造出相同 DNA 的生命,但不包括構成個體的相同環境、經歷和意識 (如果是複製人的話,連指紋都會不同)。充其量只是相隔多年出生的雙胞胎(Twin)罷了。對相信靈魂的人來說,那根本是兩個折然不同的靈魂。以我所知,現時技術仍未能如一些科幻小說般在短期內把複製體催生至原體的年齡,意識複製的複雜程度更加是本世紀內難而完成的事。其實我也實在很懷疑要令複製體和原體可以有 99% 相同的可能性有多大。微少的環境及經歷差異就可以令雙胞胎無論在生理及心理上有不少分別,何況是在兩個不同時代加上明顯尋找故人代替品的心態,對複製生命可能做成的後果可想而知。『延續生命』和『死而復生』只是欺騙科學盲謊話。

一年前我又曾看過一個電視節目談及複製技術的其中一個主要理想是期望將一些病人的 DNA 和豬等動物結合,生產出沒有排斥的代替器官,可以救助千萬病人。不過,亦有人擔心這方面研究有機會把豬或其動物的病毒引入人體,產生異變成為全新的可感染人類的病毒,會對全人類做成毀滅性的傷害。近年 SARS 及禽流感肆虐,這問題很值得我們深思。

複製技術本身會引起不少醫學、社會、倫理及法律問題,而這些問題又終歸會出現。(時代巨輪不可擋,除非人類在這技術發展成熟前已滅亡) 立例禁止根本是逃避及拒絕解決問題的作法。如前所述,假如有關研究轉向地下化,或者成為某國國家當權者的秘密研究,大眾會更難監管,亦難預備面對有關的衝擊。到問題爆發時,就只會是人類末日的來臨。

知識和權力本無善惡,問題只是我們如何去運用。期望有人明白我們應該立例禁止的是無良的商業行為而非研究本身。

P.S. 國內喜將「複製」(Cloning) 譯作「克隆」,不過我一向不喜歡這類音譯方式。

P.S.S. 有段時間我聽過有人以複製人沒有「靈魂」為理由反對發展複製技術,搞得我笑得死活來。


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“Contact” again

I would like to write here again that “Contact” is my most most favorite movies even after several years. Coz the main character Ellie Arroway, acted by Jodie Foster, had display a prefect person that I want to be in my life. Totally stubborn but very tough, And got a great passion on what she dream of. She is really my idol and what a real scientist should be in my mind.

Here is some quote from the movie and to every people who have ever dreaming for searching truth.


Drumlin: What’s wrong with science being practical, even profitable?

Palmer: Nothing, as long as your motive is the search for truth, which is exactly what the pursuit of science is.


Drumlin: I know you can’t see it now, but I’m doing you a favor.

Ellie: That’s great.

Drumlin: You’re far too promising a scientist to be wasting your gifts on this nonsense.

Ellie: Look, I don’t consider what could potentially be the most important discovery of the human race nonsense, ok? There’s 400 billion stars…

Drumlin: …And only two probabilities. One, there is intelligent life out there but it’s so far away you’ll never contact it in your lifetime, and two…

Ellie: You’re making a decision…

Drumlin: …Two, there’s nothing out there but noble gases and carbon compounds, and you’re wasting your time. In the meantime, you won’t be published, you won’t be taken seriously, and your career will be over before it’s begun.

Ellie: So what? It’s my life!


David Drumlin: I know you must think this is all very unfair. Maybe that’s an understatement. What you don’t know is I agree. I wish the world was a place where fair was the bottom line, where the kind of idealism you showed at the hearing was rewarded, not taken advantage of. Unfortunately, we don’t live in that world.

Ellie Arroway: Funny, I’ve always believed that the world is what we make of it.


Executive: We must confess that your proposal seems less like science and more like science fiction.

Ellie Arroway: Science fiction. You’re right, it’s crazy. In fact, it’s even worse than that, it’s nuts. You wanna hear something really nutty? I heard of a couple guys who wanna build something called an airplane, you know you get people to go in, and fly around like birds, it’s ridiculous, right? And what about breaking the sound barrier, or rockets to the moon? Atomic energy, or a mission to Mars? Science fiction, right? Look, all I’m asking is for you to just have the tiniest bit of vision. You know, to just sit back for one minute and look at the big picture. To take a chance on something that just might end up being the most profoundly impactful moment for humanity, for the history… of history.


Michael Kitz: Your having sent this announcement all over the world may well constitute a breach of national security.

Ellie Arroway: This isn’t a person-to-person call. You can’t possibly think that a civilization sending this kind of message would intend it just for Americans.

Michael Kitz: I’m saying you might have consulted us; obviously, the contents of this message could be extremely sensitive.

Ellie Arroway: You want to classify prime numbers?


Palmer Joss: What are you studying up there?

Ellie Arroway: Oh, the usual. Nebulae, quasars, pulsars, stuff like that. What are you writing?

Palmer Joss: The usual. Nouns, adverbs, adjective here and there.


[Ellie challenges Palmer to prove the existence of God]

Palmer Joss: Did you love your father?

Ellie Arroway: What?

Palmer Joss: Your dad. Did you love him?

Ellie Arroway: Yes, very much.

Palmer Joss: Prove it.


Ellie Arroway: Dad, do you think there’s people on other planets?

Ted Arroway: I don’t know, Sparks. But I guess I’d say if it is just us… seems like an awful waste of space.


Palmer Joss: By doing this, you’re willing to give your life, you’re willing to die for it. Why?

Ellie Arroway: For as long as I can remember, I’ve been searching for something, some reason why we’re here. What are we doing here? Who are we? If this is a chance to find out even just a little part of that answer… I don’t know, I think it’s worth a human life. Don’t you?


Alien: You’re an interesting species, an interesting mix. You’re capable of such beautiful dreams and such horrible nightmares. You feel so lost, so cut off, so alone, only you’re not. See, in all our searching, the only thing we’ve found that makes the emptiness bearable is each other.


Ellie Arroway: I had an experience, I can’t proof and can’t explain, but everything that I know as a human being, tells me that it was real. I was giving something wonderful, that changed me forever. A vision of the universe, that tells us undeniably, that we belong to something that is greater then ourselves, and that none of us are alone.


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Contact

I have bought Carl Sagan’s Contact today. Indeed, I never finish a serious english fiction (Except those in book list of sec. school) although I have bought some in past. Hey, it is really painful if you need to ask help from your dict several for just a paragraph. Once I was really interesting on cyberpunk culture (Umm.. about 94-95) I have bought a electronic dict in order to minimize the pain and try to read Wiliam Gibson’s Neuromancer. But, of course, I have finually withdraw it before the end of the first chapter.

You can say that Contact is one of my favourite movies. I really love the main charactor - Ellie Arroway, acted by Jodie Foster. Coz it really reflect something about me. Especially when her professor Drumlin scolded her that her stubborn on SETI would only kill her career, She responsed, “So what? It’s my life!”.


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Based on Fluidity© 1998-2007 Roy Hiu-yeung Chan