Strength for Today and Bright Hope for Tomorrow

Volume 3 : 10 October 2003

Editor: M. S. Thirumalai, Ph.D.
Associate Editors: B. Mallikarjun, Ph.D.
         Sam Mohanlal, Ph.D.
         B. A. Sharada, Ph.D.




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Copyright © 2001
M. S. Thirumalai

Girish Nath Jha, Ph.D.

This paper, in a play format, spoofs at the popular debate between the two competing schools in linguistic theory.

Locale: April 1997, Aflatoon, a suburb near Chicago

Characters and plot

Mr. Moam Momsky, 85, is the founder of the old Universal Ghostbuster Company. He has busted many infamous ghosts in his area, and destroyed their families and followers. He lives with his grandson Mr. Jacken Momsky, 22, who is also a ghostbuster and now runs his grandfather's company with more success. The mantle of ghostbusting business is put on by Jacken Momsky, who always follows the principles and parameters laid down by the aging master. The old worn-out palace near the graveyard once housed the famous ghost called Jason and his followers, who virtually controlled the entire population of the suburb.

Jason used to capture people and do conditioned behavioristic experiments on them, gradually turning them into behavioral machines. The people had stopped using their creativity and simply obeyed the commands of ghosts. Jason used his tricks on the people to make them work according to his instructions. He had a large troop of followers who helped him in enslaving the entire area, with plans to spread in other areas.

Mr. Moam Momsky graduated with a degree in ghostbusting from a famous institute in early 1950s and was invited by the Chicago mayor to try his luck in Aflatoon suburb. With his innovative techniques and ideas, Momsky was able to rid the suburb of the evil Jason and his followers. Jason's body was burned on Friday, April 16th 1989 and his remains were buried in the graveyard.

The suburb became trouble-free for several years. But, during the last decade, there were stray incidents of people disappearing and returning empty-headed. Jacken Momsky, now in-charge of the Universal Ghostbuster Company destroyed some of them, but every now and then mysterious incidents kept on taking place.


Scene 1

800 hrs, April 12, 1997, Office of the Universal Ghostbuster Company

The morning newspaper Aflatoon Gazette reports that ten kids ranging 1 to 5 year old were missing, and police had no clue where they went. Some people had expressed their concerns at increasing cases of mysterious happenings and sought to link these recent incidents with earlier activities of the ghosts. Within a few hours the Universal Ghostbusting Company received calls from desperate parents. Mr. Jacken Momsky made a raid in the graveyard palace premises, but could not find anything. At last, he calls his grand father who is out in a conference.

Hello ... Is it grandpa (Jacken sometimes calls him 'grandpa' but mostly 'Pop')?

Hello ... (Moam's voice is heard through telephone) yeah. .... It's me son .... (Moam fondly calls him 'son' as Jacken resembles his father a lot in appearance and temperament.) How is everything there? .... Any new ghost in town?

Pop, rush back! It's mess here. Did you see the ZBS report on TV today? Ten infants are missing here. They think its Jason's followers once again.

Jason. .... Well, I hope not. It was very tough destroying him and his school!

Pop... (sighs) he may not have been completely destroyed. Though, I raided his graveyard palace, yet nothing could be found.

Son, there is a definite flaw in your technique. You start using primitives and conceptual semantics, and Jason is not interested in them at all! I know the mantra to excite and irritate him so that he shows himself out of wherever he is!

JACKEN: (visibly agitated)
Pop, my technique is not at all flawed. It only follows your paradigm in a deeper way. Jason is just different than other ghosts.

Well, kid, if Jason is still not finished, he could be a potential threat to our Company's credibility. Your father and I tried to eliminate him physically, but, as you can see, he is not completely destroyed. I think the best way would be to finish him intellectually and make him believe that there can be no ghost who is beyond our techniques of capture. I know how to handle this evil, Jason.... (pauses) We will convert him from being a non-believer into a believer of our ideas and doctrines!

JACKEN: (sounds excited)
Great idea, Pop! When are you coming?

I am there by evening. Tomorrow morning we will be in Jason's hideout. I know the trick to force him out if he is still there... See you then, kid. (Hangs the phone.)

Scene 2

700 hrs, the next morning, at the Momsky house.

Mr. Moam Momsky arrived late evening. Both the grandfather and grandson could not sleep for the night as parents of the missing kids kept on calling. There were some calls from the Aflatoon Police Department too. They were carrying separate searches and wanted to know what the Universal Ghostbuster Company was doing, and had suggested a joint exercise. Moam Momsky had asked them to wait for next instructions.

Hey, Jacken... get up. Its seven (mumbles to self: These younger kids love comfort a lot. This is all because of semantics. It makes them less rigorous and even lazy.)

(These oldies perhaps never sleep at all) I am up, Pop.

(They both get ready and start for the Jason's hideout. Jacken is fully equipped with all his ghostbusting instruments and weapons. But Moam has a bag which looks like containing books, papers and journals.)

Hey, Pop! Are you going to a conference again? I see you carrying books.

Son... Did you forget that this Jason cannot be destroyed with conventional techniques. I have to convert him to finish him.

But, wont you be risking your life, Pop, if you go to him unarmed?

Well, all I have at risk is our school, not your and my lives. It is all in the defence of the world's generativity, creativity. See, there are bigger issues involved. If these evil behaviorists are not defeated the world will be only stimuli and responses. Man will be reduced to the level of other organisms. There will be chaos everywhere. So don't worry about me, save the school.

(moved by Moam's emotions) OK, Pop. Let's go now.

Both go to the Company's car. Jacken drives. They approach the graveyard.

Scene 3

800 hrs, Graveyard and the old palace near it. Complete silence, only occasional chirping of bats is heard.

See Pop, there is nothing out here. I told you my raid here yesterday resulted nothing.

I know, this Jason. I know he works secretly. He performs experiments on his subjects in different situations. He gives them stimuli and expects conditioned behavior from them, the same as any other organism will do. I know the trick to call him. See what I do now!

(Moam shouts)

MOAM: Jason, it's me, your old destroyer. Come out! Let's fight once again!

No response from anywhere.

Pop! I told you he is not in there.

The guy seems to have become wiser. Let me try this. (Shouts louder) Every kid is born with an innate facul.....

(At this there is thunder and lightening in the graveyard, trees start shaking, and a grave flings open. They realized it was Jason's grave. There appears a dark distorted airy figure hovering on the grave and slowly moving towards the Momskys. Jacken has never seen such a ghost who looked like belonging to another age. He tries to target the ghost with his laser machine. Moam stops him immediately. He recognizes... it was Jason. He had a thick book-like thing in his hand with Verbal Behavior II on it. The ghost draws near.)

JASON: (in thundering voice)
Ha ha ha... INNATE... that's what you said. This nonsense can stir up any peaceful grave here. I was not sleeping in my grave all these years since you tried to destroy me! I was doing experiments to disprove you! I have done experiments on every inhabitant of this suburb except your family. I have those infants with me and my men are doing experiments on them in controlled situations to find out if they really have any what you call LAD. Nonsense! There is no such thing existing in them. They are just like automatons. They learn what you and your environment want them to. I have collected enormous data. Do you see my new book printed from the MIT Press. I have some followers there too! I can give you my copy. Read it. You have stopped reading and saying really new things since your generativity, creativity and universal stuffs.

MOAM: (chuckles)
So you are back, stronger. It was just a trick to get to you so that we can finish you forever! Intellectually this time!!

JASON: (smiles)
Are you kidding old man? You can never really finish me intellectually! You will die soon, and with you will die your school. Nobody will believe in you after you are dead. Your opponents have already started preparing for a peaceful burial of your ideas.

MOAM: (unperturbed by the remark)
Well, as of now I am undead, standing before you. And I know that the entire Aflatoon believes in me and my techniques. Whichever way ghostbusting goes, it will always go in my name. And you, Jason, were completely forgotten by them, until, of course, now-a-days when you and your followers are trying to stage a comeback. You don't know how powerful my organization is!

JASON: (howls and changes body color to frighten Momsky and Jacken)
Grrr, you are blissfully ignorant, Moam! My people have already spread in other areas and they are successfully contesting your claims. All you have done in past four decades is fooling people with romantic ideas on the role of human mind. You talk nice things and so they like you. You are not a scientist, Moam, your ideas cannot be tested empirically! You simply appeal to the logic of people. This is a competitive scientific world in which things are settled by testable experiments.

MOAM: (whispers to Jacken)
(The fool seems to have been practising oratory in his grave!) Jason, your experiments on rats cannot have a direct bearing on the humans. You cannot explain things which go inside our minds. We are not your finite state machines, Jason!

You are not talking science! A true natural science is not interested in things, which can not be proven. We can only observe things, which are observable, for example, behavior of organisms in controlled situations. It is the same for all organisms. They react to the environmental stimuli and those responses if re-inforced become habits.

How will then your experiments done on organisms in static controlled situations be reflective of the learning in general, where environmental inputs may not be controlled?! For example, a response from a subject may have been influenced by various factors external or internal!

JASON: (gets mad, starts pulling his hairs)
O, supreme evil force! When will ghostbusters learn what a scientific experiment is and how it is done! You should visit some laboratory, Moam! All laboratory experiments are done in controlled situations and yet have bearing on the world at large. Don't you know that?!

But, Jason, human beings are inherently complex. What's going on inside their brains can be only partially explained by observing their behavior. Human minds are uniquely pre-patterned to learn new things. I don't say that the environmental stimuli don't play any role. The LAD in the human infant develops into mini-grammar. This mini-grammar gradually develops into full-blown grammar. It is the rules and patterns, Jason, which can explain innovative creativity of humans, and also the ease with which a child learns his/her language which adults have a hard time to learn!

It is not that I have disregarded mind's existence or things, which we think may be happening therein. My argument is that these things are beyond the scope of true scientific inquiry. The only way organisms can be understood is by analyzing their behavior in terms of stimulus and response. And I have a true scientific temper unlike you!

I don't think this can help in any way. Laboratory experiments on the behavior of such complex organisms like human beings are doomed to be extremely limited in their prediction. After all, all your experiments haven't explained anything substantial so far about human learning. Your analysis is unscientific, inadequate and speculative.

(At this, Jason starts fuming, there are more thunders and lightning, strange noises come from all around. Jacken gets frightened and intends to use his laser gun, but Moam calms him. He whispers into Jacken's ears that now the opponent is running out of arguments.)

You haven't changed a bit, Moam! As abrasive as ever! You cannot dump my years of scientific experimenting as 'unscientific, inadequate and speculative'! A rationalist, as you are, does not have the authority to say that.

It's not just me, Jason, none of the so-called adherents of your school stood in your defense! Most of them have successfully converted and now are with me! Those who did not, are woefully languishing in academic anonymity. Try to see reason. How can your stimuli-response-re-inforcement experiments explain even the linguistic behavior of humans, not to talk of other complex behaviors?! How can you guarantee that a response elicited from a subject does not have any other inputs than what offered to him?! Forget this madness in the name of science, and be my follower! I know you have made some very good points, which only I can explain as useful.

(There is a brief break at this point as some ghosts come running to Jason. They are not as ferocious as Jason but look sufficiently scary. They are gasping. One of them says --)

O, master of the evil forces! Our laboratory is in a mess. The kids are very naughty. They have suddenly become very violent. They are doing all sorts of things. None of your instructions could control them. They have torn down valuable sheets of data. They are not even scared by our looks. The oldest of them says that we look more handsome than their dads. We don't know what to do. Things are totally out of control master!

(At this Jason gets completely mad, starts beating them. They run away.)

JASON: (chasing them and shouting)
You worthless scoundrels! It is because of you that my school is dying! (Returns to the scene looking pale and weak.)

Moam, this is the second time. Remember, I will come again! I am not yet finished. Go, get your nasty kids! They are in the basement of the palace. They have destroyed my valuable data and laboratory. Now I will have to make some changes in my book before it gets to the publisher. I will return, Moam. Be in peace for now.

(There is a big blast in Jason's body and his remains are strewn around his grave. Moam sends Jacken to get the kids and collects Jason's garbage and puts it back in the grave and seals it. Sirens of the police cars are heard. The police arrive with the parents of the kids. Everybody is happy but Moam is anxious.)

MOAM: (while way home with Jacken)
Jacken, we must henceforth modify our theories and practices to accommodate as much of Jason's experiments as we know. After all he was not totally nonsense. This will protect us from future attacks from Jason's followers.

Definitely, Pop! After seeing Jason, I was also thinking the same. These older ghosts are more dangerous than those we have today.

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Girish Nath Jha, Ph.D.
Special Centre for Sanskrit Studies
Jawaharlal Nehru University
New Delhi-110067, India