Why I Don’t Drink Alcohol

The Delhi gang-rape case of December shocked the entire nation. A lot of debate and protests stormed the nation as we struggled to identify the real culprits that perpetrated such a ghastly act and shook our collective conscience as a civilised society. We blamed the society for dehumanised mindset for women, we blamed police for not having adequate security and prevention mechanisms, we blamed the health infrastructure for not being able to save our sister. One culprit got unnoticed. It is alcohol.

Perhaps because alcohol is so rampant that even the people who highlighted this issue or shared heir grief are not out of its clutches. Bollywood was so emotional about this incident. Media was so aggrieved. They targeted godmen, politicians, social workers but left this criminal scot-free. Few highlighted the fact that all the rapists were drunk. Few highlighted the fact that globally there has been a very strong correlation between sexual-abuse and alcohol. The correlation is obvious – to act like a beast one must first shut down the brain that makes us human. And there is no better alternative to alcohol to bring this artificial dumbness to bring alive the animal inside.

For youth, alcohol is the greatest enemy. Dumbness of mind coupled with lack of responsibility gives rise to the most ideal conditions to breed crime and havoc. For industries that thrive on vulgarity, glamor and false hype – all of which require dumbing of mind below a certain threshold – obviously alcohol is the greatest ally.

That is why media and entertainment industry have been the most ardent promoters of alcohol and alcoholism. But for rest of us, who don’t believe in earning through rapes of innocents, commoditisation of women and crimes inflicted on innocents, please stop drinking alcohol. Please stop supporting an industry that may destroy someone close to you.

In wake of this shocking incident, we urge government to increase the upper age limit for drinking to at least 30. This is a wonderful way to save nation from this dreaded terrorist.

Here is why you should not drink alcohol and encourage youth to stop alcohol:

1. As per available scientific literature and research, the policy of prohibition till age of 30 years is next most scientific policy to adopt for the government. Alcohol is not part of essential mainstream culture of India thanks to our spiritual role models of all faiths – Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Sikh, Jain etc. While other nations are struggling to wiggle out a way for tighter policies on alcohol due to cultural problems, India has a golden opportunity to destroy the problem before it becomes a monster. It is already a serious issue in India as per WHO and other research studies. But since it is not an essential part of culture, it is more easily preventable.

In developed countries, policy intervention through increasing minimum age for drinking has been the most effective method to control alcoholism and related losses to society. Refer following reputed researches:

http://www.collegedrinkingprevention.gov/supportingresearch/journal/wagenaar.aspx
(This is directly under US department of Health and Human Services)

http://www.ama-assn.org/ama/pub/physician-resources/public-health/promoting-healthy-lifestyles/alcohol-other-drug-abuse/facts-about-youth-alcohol/minimum-legal-drinking-age.page

O’Malley, PM, and Wagenaar, AC. (1991). Effects of Minimum Drinking Age Laws on Alcohol Use, Related Behaviors and Traffic Crash Involvement among American Youth: 1976-1987. J Studies Alcohol, 52:5, 478-491.

http://people.ucsc.edu/~cdobkin/Papers/Alcohol%20and%20Crime.pdf

2. Drinking alcohol is not a “fundamental” right guaranteed by the Constitution,

3. Using the drinking age to prevent permanent social loss has a “rational basis” in available scientific evidence.
(refer http://www.collegedrinkingprevention.gov/supportingresearch/journal/wagenaar.aspx Issue 1)

4. The higher drinking age does not cause a permanent disability, but is only a temporary postponement of a specific behavior for the young person’s own protection.

5. The age to vote, to marry, to be an MP, to be a President are all different in India as per law. This is not discrimination but as per maturity levels for different activities.

6. The latest research shows that human brain continues to grow till mid twenties. The growth is not yet complete at 18 or 21. There is sufficient evidence to show that a brain of person less than 30 years cannot be considered to have completed its development.
Refer http://hrweb.mit.edu/worklife/youngadult/brain.html
Giedd, J. N. (1999). “Development of the human corpus callosum during childhood and adolescence: A longitudinal MRI study.” Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology & Biological Psychiatry 23: 571-588.

Giedd, J. N. (2004). “Structural magnetic resonance imaging of the adolescent brain.” Adolescent Brain Development: Vulnerabilities and Opportunities: 77 – 85.
Giedd, J. N., J. Blumenthal, et al. (1999). “Brain development during childhood and adolescence: A longitudinal MRI study.” Nature Neuroscience 2(10): 861-863.

7. There is also research to show that drinking causes permanent damage to human brain. A latest research by University of Cincinnati on drinkers of age 18-25 has shown that consuming four or more drinks in one incident for females and five or more drinks for males – was linked to cortical-thinning of the pre-frontal cortex, the section of the brain related to executive functioning such as paying attention, planning and making decisions, processing emotions and controlling impulses leading to irrational behavior. Alcohol might be neurotoxic to the neuron cells, or, since the brain is developing in one’s 20s, it could be interacting with developmental factors and possibly altering the ways in which the brain is still growing,
http://www.uc.edu/news/NR.aspx?id=13846

8. It also be noted that as per the Fertility Rate Estimates for Indian women, (refer http://censusindia.gov.in/vital_statistics/Vital_Rates/Vital_rates.aspx)
the rates peak at age 20-24 and is slightly less for age 24-29. Thus most children are born to mothers in age group 20-24 and then in age group 25-29. The same has also been corroborated by Department of Health and Family welfare (http://www.wbhealth.gov.in/Statistics_200506/14/14_1/14_19/14_19.html) and UNO (http://data.un.org/Data.aspx?d=GenderStat&f=inID:13)
http://www.indiastat.com/health/16/vitalstatistics/291/fertilityrate/17795/stats.aspx

It be noted that alcohol has a permanent damage on fetus and hence allowing alcohol for fertile woman implies permanently damaging our future generations. Even in developed countries like USA and Australia, the official government stand is that pregnant women should completely stop alcohol. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is a dreaded disease caused solely due to alcohol consumption by nursing mother and makes the coming child permanently disabled intellectually.

Refer http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/DrinkingPregnancy_HTML/pregnancy.htm
http://fasdcenter.samhsa.gov/educationTraining/courses/CapCurriculum/competency1/effects1.cfm
http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/aa50.htm

9. It also be noted that marriage age in India is increasing thanks to education and policy interventions.From 2000 to 2008, marriage age of girls increased from 18.3 to 20.6 in India, as per Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (http://www.dnaindia.com/india/report_indian-women-push-back-marriage-age_1350166). This means that age specific fertility rates will also shift upwards to higher age. So in best interest, it would be obligatory on the government to gradually push the minimum age for drinking to higher and higher and at least above 30 to ensure safety and intelligence of our future generations. To lower drinking age would be nothing more than a conspiracy to destroy future of the nation and destroying dreams of being lighthouse of world permanently.

10. Medical research has also shown a strong correlation between age of initiation of drinking and alcohol related problems later in life. Refer http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/aa68/aa68.htm
As per SAMSA (The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) research wing of Govt of USA
“Among young adults aged 18 to 25, the rate of past month illicit drug use was higher with increasing levels of past month alcohol use. ” Source: SAMHSA 1999 NHSDA.

http://www.adolescent-substance-abuse.com/alcohol-young-adults.html

So only a nation intending to destroy its future would think of NOT increasing minimum age for drinking.

11. Also be noted that research has shown that increasing age of drinking as most effective means to reduce alcoholism related problems.
http://www.collegedrinkingprevention.gov/supportingresearch/journal/wagenaar.aspx Issue 1

12. Alcohol, as per a latest research by Lancet – the most renowned medical research body of UK, is more dangerous than cocaine in terms of social loss
Refer http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(10)61462-6/fulltext
It is much more harmful than cocain and heroine in terms of loss to others and individual as a whole.

13. India follows a 10+2 education system which implies that a citizen completes his or her graduate level education by early twenties and then either builds his career or seeks higher education. At same time, most marry, have children and attempt to stabilize family and career. This is the age when a youth enters new phase in life and if he or she is properly directed, can bring greatest benefits to self, nation, society and family. However if this age- when brain is also still developing and he is stabilizing socially and economically – if he or she gets addicted to alcohol, that is the most damaging thing to happen. Only after age of 30, when brain has fully developed, he or she has learnt to live responsible social life and has stabilized from standpoint of career and profession, can risk of introduction to alcohol – the greatest social evil as per research – be taken.

14. In India, already due to poverty, alcoholism is a big concern that destroys families after families. As per studies, people have spent more than their earnings on alcohol alone and damaged themselves and family. The incidence of alcohol related damage to others – accidents, fights, crimes etc – is highest among age group of twenties as per global and national researches. Thus while we welcome any future efforts to further increase minimum age of drinking, the reverse cannot be accepted in wake of national interest.
http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/aa68/aa68.htm
http://resources.prev.org/documents/OutletsandInjuries.pdf
http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh284/182-190.htm
http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh284/191-194.htm

US govt recommendations also consider 18-25 as most crucial years from perspective of alcoholism. It says” Recent evidence suggests that heavy drinking during adolescence and young adulthood is associated with poorer neurocognitive functioning during the young adult years, and particularly with impairment of attention and visuospatial skills. This is an important area of research because a substantial portion of the young adult population drink at potentially harmful levels. Moreover, young adulthood, especially the college years between the ages of 18 and 25, is an important period in life during which key decisions in educational, occupational, and social realms are made that can have lifelong ramifications. Therefore, solid information on the causes and consequences of alcohol use during this developmental period is needed in order to devise effective strategies to prevent alcohol-related neurocognitive impairments.”
Refer
http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh284/205-212.htm
and http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh284/236-244.htm

15. Alcohol is considered even more risky for developing countries with growing young population as per research. Refer http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(11)60153-0/fulltext?rss=yes

Countries like Australia where alcohol is deeply embedded in culture is grappling with growing concerns over its future generations specially due to effect on 18-25 years old. Refer http://www.alcohol.gov.au/internet/alcohol/publishing.nsf/Content/01212F447EC2AD34CA257261001F1ACB/$File/alcfs09.pdf

So only an enemy of nation would favor reduction of alcohol consumption age.

16. Globally there is concern over rising alcohol usage in India. Refer http://download.thelancet.com/pdfs/journals/lancet/PIIS014067360861939X.pdf?id=4d037fefcb72946c:5e6096b2:132df69fe49:-19c91318010521291

17. WHO has listed alcohol abuse as a major concern and documented a vast amount of research that showcase reasons why all national policies on health and future prosperity should discourage alcohol usage.
Refer http://www.who.int/substance_abuse/publications/alcohol/en/

18. The WHO status report on alcohol 2004 http://www.who.int/substance_abuse/publications/globalstatusreportalcohol2004_healtheffects.pdf
lists age 18-29 to HIGHEST GLOBAL disease burden due to alcohol use disorder (page 49)

29. WHO also notes that particularly worrying trends in alcohol abuse is the growing alcohol consumption in India and China. Refer http://www.who.int/substance_abuse/publications/globalstatusreportalcohol2004_conclusion.pdf

20. Some more alarming facts of alcohol abuse in India http://www.addictionindia.org/images-ttkh/alcohol-related-harm-in-india-a-fact-sheet.pdf

21. A very worrying study in National medical Journal of India
http://www.nmji.in/archives/Volume_19_2_March_April2006/Medicine_and_Society/Alcohol.htm

22. Data show bars and nightclubs are not safe, controlled locations. Studies have repeatedly shown a majority of alcohol outlets regularly break the law, for example, by selling alcohol to minors (Forster et al., 1994, 1995; Preusser and Williams, 1992) or selling to intoxicated patrons (Toomey et al., 1999). When the legal age is lower than 21, teens purchase the majority of their alcohol at liquor stores because it is cheaper than getting it at bars. They then consume this alcohol in homes, cars or parks. These areas are very difficult to control (Fell, 1985).

23. There is also some “trickle-down” effect in that when youth get alcohol they often give it to even younger teens (Jones-Webb et al., 1997a). When the legal age is 21, 19- and 20-year olds can often obtain alcohol from their friends. When the drinking age was 18 and 19, 17- and even 16-year olds were often able to get alcohol from their friends. If the drinking age is lower, more alcohol will be available to younger high school students and perhaps even middle school students. There will always be some people who violate laws, but this does not mean we should condone the illegal behavior by modifying the law. The age-21 policy has resulted in a reduction in the amount of alcohol consumed and a substantial decrease in the number of car crashes involving underage drinkers. These results have occurred despite the fact that the law is often not strictly enforced (Wagenaar and Wolfson, 1994, 1995).
Refer http://www.collegedrinkingprevention.gov/supportingresearch/journal/wagenaar.aspx

If someone’s choice impacts anyone else’s rights, those choices have to be restricted. That is why narcotics is prohibited as well. Alcohol is scientifically proven to provide greatest damage to others (apart from individual) and hence this dangerous choice must be restricted for sake of national safety.

Refer http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(10)61462-6/fulltext

Science, Bayes Theorem, and Kashmir

I always had a natural inclination towards science and maths. Perhaps the only domains of civilization today, where one seeks truth without fear of hurting sentiments, blasphemy, challenging earlier icons. Where truth is incremental, often contradictory. Where there is no probe on why I reversed my earlier approach. Where I build upon what has already been achieved. Where there is no glory in repeating the already established.

And yet all this happens in a rational manner. Not like some random epiphany of JNU scholars demanding Azad Kashmir one morning. Or a guru explaining how he can be at two places at same time taking recourse to some weird interpretation of Schroedinger Wave Equation. Whatever is there is thorough and analytical.

Even in academia, I find other fields that emulate this scientific approach through peer review, research process to still be very subjective and opinion based. Hence history is left or right. Sociology assumes certain foundations of human nature. I don’t blame them, because we have been unable to find a scientific basis for these.

But science and maths start with very basic axioms and laws. Those that don’t assume anything. Then they build a rigorous system of notations and definitions. Energy and force can be interchangeable in your political speeches but not in physics. Commutative law is commutative. Not about pardoning some prisoner. And then we preserve it all through peer review, documentation etc. Hence knowledge evolves. The scientific transformation is result of this discipline.

Of course there are gaps in this approach. Yes, epiphanies and serendipity find little place. But, with methods of simulations and smart design of experiments, even that is taken care of to large extent. Science evolves into technology and more fun begins.

I agree mystics who come with a completely out of world proposal like god-men have no place in this scientific world. But that is a blessing. We cannot leave our fate in hope of some god-men’s vision that none can either see or probe.

Science also needs a direction, they say. I disagree. Humans need a direction. Science is a framework, a tool. One who uses it needs to have purpose and goal, not the tool. If we try to put direction in tool, we will convert it into another epiphany of some mystic.

What science needs, especially in this analytics driven world, is full freedom from non-scientific pressures. Because a prime minister feels that solar energy needs to be promoted, you allocate funds from conventional energy research to solar energy and boost Chinese imports with little results. That is stupid and like putting a complex equation in a bracket and multiplying by zero. Instead let those scientists who have expertise decide these matters. Similarly, if my statistical analysis shows clear trends of demographics or faith being dominant variables with significantly low P-values, don’t ask me to kill my model. Don’t punish me for that. Don’t ask maths to lie. Accept what it says the way you accept what maths of image recognition gives you when you tag people on FB.

I have tried applying basics of this scientific approach in emotive fields like religion, culture, society, terror. The scientific framework never lied. Of course someone could come up and offer improvements. Even fights like Einstein vs Bohr, or Hawking vs Penrose, or Bayesian vs Frequentist would have been fun, meaningful fun. But here, rants of conspiracy follow. There are threats and challenges, allegations of being Pakistani spy or Hindu terrorist. One side is always angry. And the science student in me say, “What the hell is this. Back in IIT, they never slapped me if my project model was not accurate. At max, share your findings and publish your own research.”

To me, this hijacking of science by unscientific influences – politics, social activism, journalism, media etc etc is why we face terror, poverty and all nonsense we have. We end up applying science to less controversial and often trivial domains like porn, selfies, fashion, drama, etc, and fuel further unscientific attitudes. And a vicious cycle of unscientific control emerges.

An unbiased science will automatically evolve human as per the core inner drive that is inherently pure. In spiritual terminology, divine.
When I read Vedas, I find this spirit of evolution and am compelled to say, “Wow”. Sometimes I feel, let me throw away all the intermediary trash. And spend my life having fun with just Vedas and Science.

But then news comes – “Supreme Court refuses to probe into who killed a 1000 Kashmiri Pandits because it is an old matter.” And I wonder, “Why are we being punished because terrorists were prohibited from study of science in madrassas. And LLB course does not have a chapter on Bayes Theorem of Conditional Probability.”

Now I will dig out some evidence that will be ignored because Home Minister has to love “Kashmiriyat” – another unscientific jargon that influences what digital signal processing maths should be used to flash his smiling pic with Kashmiris. And my tryst with Vedas and Science and Maths will be interrupted.

Wild Guess Syndrome

No one can prove ‘what happens after death’. No one came back with video recordings of ‘what happens after death’.

And yet, we ruin the whole world by dividing people on basis of ‘our’ and ‘their’ wild guesses on ‘what happens after death’. We give this ‘Wild Guess Syndrome’ the name ‘RELIGION’.

And then we choose to feel superior, fight, abuse, kill, plant bombs, conduct suicide attacks & hate in name of Religion aka ‘Wild Guess Syndrome’.

This ‘Wild Guess Syndrome’ has become the number 1 nuisance of the world. It has indeed made us ‘wild’.

Direction of Life

Either life has a purpose or life does not have a purpose.
If it has a purpose, then every action of life must be evaluated on benchmark of being relevant in serving the purpose or not.
If it does not have a purpose, then there is no benchmark to judge any action to be better or worse than any other action. Whatever you do – kill, loot, rape, drink, steal – is no way wrong. And sacrifice, kindness, respect, discipline are no way right.
If eventually the life has to end in an eternal blankness, how does it matter – what we do and what we do not?
One may say that one is free to do whatever he wants to do so far he does not hurt someone else. This philosophy sounds good on paper. But it is riddled with major flaws:
A. No one can do anything without impacting others. From a breath of clean air to clothes, travel, food and luxuries – each of us is hopelessly dependent on others. The only way to not hurt someone else is to live in a spaceship in interstellar space. Even then you would be dependent on others to build you a spaceship. Knowingly or unknowingly you would have impacted innumerable lives despite being a freedom loyalists.
The chain of human dependence goes way beyond our imaginations. The world was designed for collaborative living. There is no scope for independence. You cannot even blink if you were to take permission from others.
I got hurt due to carelessness while walking down the stairs. So I sprained my leg. I could not go out. Hence the meeting I was to chair got canceled. Therefore salary of my employees got delayed. He postponed his purchases. Therefore another salesman could not meet his target and got fired. His wife got upset. There his wife’s sister got upset. She fought with her husband. Husband got agitated. He showed carelessness in driving. He hit a boy on road. The boy died. My carelessness killed a boy.
This chain can go even further. Every good or bad action has an impact on everyone else in ways we cannot imagine.
Our freedom is conditional.
B. Eventually everyone will end up in an eternal blankness if there is no purpose of life. Then how does it matter what happens to whom. The end result is decided beforehand. How is human life different from bubbles in water that eventually end into nothing? All I know is that I feel happiness and pain at this moment. So how is the urge to maximize my happiness in present wrong? Why should I bother about others who are bound to end in blankness in any case?
C. Who passed the principle that one must care for others? Was he yet another bubble in water who is no more? Why should I believe in his philosophy? Just because millions other believe so. Then millions other also get angry and tell lies. Then why is telling lie wrong?
It is clear that if one believes that certain acts are good and certain bad, then life must have a purpose. Life that ends in blankness has no relevance of good and bad.
If purpose does not exist, then there is nothing good or bad. Then the only religion of human being must be to maximize the pleasures of life – be it by killing others or fooling others or whatever.
And if purpose exists, other actions of life must also agree with the purpose. Then there is no scope of “My Life My Choice”. It always has to be “My Life Purposeful Choice”.
The question arises though – what is the purpose? Who will tell me the purpose. Well Vedas say – you may never know the purpose till you get to the climax. But you definitely can know what is NOT the purpose.
– Since we live in a hopelessly collaborative world, anything that does not bring greatest good for most is NOT the purpose.
– Anything that deviates anyone from purposeful responsible living is NOT purpose.
– Anything that aims to bring pleasures against laws of nature is NOT purpose.
– Human brain is the most plastic organ. You can mould it anyway simply through thoughts. You can do it in any age. More you practice, more the flexibility in brain. Anything that does not utilize this plasticity to become purposeful is NOT purpose.