Note to recruiters

Note to recruiters: We are quite aware that recruiters, interviewers, VCs and other professionals generally perform a Google Search before they interview someone, take a pitch from someone, et cetera. Please keep in mind that not everything put on the Internet must align directly to one's future career and/or one's future product portfolio. Sometimes, people do put things on the Internet just because. Just because. It may be out of their personal interests, which may have nothing to do with their professional interests. Or it may be for some other reason. Recruiters seem to have this wrong-headed notion that if somebody is not signalling their interests in a certain area online, then that means that they are not interested in that area at all. It is worth pointing out that economics pretty much underlies the areas of marketing, strategy, operations and finance. And this blog is about economics. With metta, let us. by all means, be reflective about this whole business of business. Also, see our post on "The Multi-faceted Identity Problem".

Monday, June 24, 2013

Hindu Studies Post 4 - Hinduism and statistics - statistical truths versus certain truths

There seems to be a lot of information on Hinduism floating around on the Internet. The one common factor seems to be the poor quality of analysis. It is, generally speaking, bad enough to make you want to laugh. Or at least smile. The main problem is that to be able to critique material on Hinduism properly, you need to be a bit of a psychologist, a bit of a sociologist, a bit of a historian and so on. Thankfully, this blog covers it all. Between us, we have enough of these competencies to say a fair bit about Hinduism without the analysis getting bogged down into the typical sorts of mistakes that Hindu Studies material often gets into.

And that brings me to the joke of the day. Joke, courtesy Lalin Anik.

-Where are you going?
-To Germany (surprise surprise)
- Where in Germany? 
(long silence) 
- Dumbledorf (...)
- Yes!! It is so hard to pronounce it! I don't speak any German.
- Me neither. I only know 'danke'. 
<stuff deleted>
It means 'please'.

> I hope you two permanently stay in Dumbledorf.

What makes this joke funny is that you know what they are trying to say even though they don't get it right. Dusseldorf. Of course. You also kind of know why they are getting it wrong. It is because of the confusion with Dumbledore of Harry Potter fame. At least some of the Hinduism Studies literature seems to be have the same sort of problem. Funny because it is confused. Funny also because it is possible to see why there is the confusion.

The biggest problem that people often get into when it comes to Hinduism is that they confuse statements with a cetain degree of statistical support (and this level of support is always less than 100%) with statements of absolute certainty (where the level of support is exactly 100%). That is, statistical truths versus certain truths. This is the difference between a statement such as "Hindus don't eat beef" versus a statement such as "Hindus eat". One is a statistical statement; the other is an absolute statement of fact.

Let us take a look at a few of the claims on the Hindu American Foundation website under "Hinduism 101"


Supreme Reality or God that is:
The all pervading and absolute reality;
Beyond description;
Worshiped in various forms, male and/or female, and by many names.


The ultimate goal is:
Freedom from samsara, the cycle of reincarnation (the soul survives death to be reborn in a new body);
Achieved by self-realization and elimination of material desires and attachments.

Ultimately neither of these statements is true in the absolute sense.

As I have argued in the post "The End of History and the Last Hindu", Hinduism (or perhaps, better the "Hinduisms") that came after the Age of Enlightenment and the discovery of the Scientific Method are fundamentally different from the forms of Hinduism that came before. It is therefore neither mandatory nor binding that a Hindu should believe in the idea of reincarnation. It is not a scientific belief and it has very little scientific support. It is perfectly consistent with being a Hindu to reject the idea of Moksha. It is also perfectly acceptable to accept the idea. It is the same with the idea of "Brahman". Again, it is perfectly consistent with being a Hindu to reject the idea of the "Brahman" altogether. It is also perfectly acceptable to accept the idea.

What is going on here seems to be something like this - and I am guessing here : the Hindu American Foundation is run out of a single house, from what I have been told, and they don't realize that they get a lot of things wrong even if such is obvious to a discerning eye. The bigger problem is, of course, that there has been very little organizational support for Hinduism in the academe and the academic organizations that do engage in studying Hinduism are often funded by Catholic and Protestant lobbies which consider Hinduism to be a false religion in the first place.

In the end, there is very little about Hinduism that you read about in both the popular literature as well as the academic literature that is right, a point well made by Richard Sproat [Comments - 1, 2, 3]. This is not to say that the stuff you read in the New York Times is wrong. It is just that very little seems to have been done to view this in a social scientific sense. And I do believe that this blog is possibly one of the few places on the Internet to really get it right.

Update: Updated the post a bit, fixed some typos.