Afrocentric Culture Versus Scientific Culture
Date: March 18, 2013
To: Professor Molefe Asante
From: Ozodi Osuji, PhD
Subject: Afrocentric culture versus Scientific Culture
With the below synopsis of what I mean by scientific culture I conclude my initiated communication with you. I deliberately decided to communicate with you because I identified you as one of the chief proponents of the Afrocentric movement. That movement, I believe was useful in the 1960s and 1970s when black folks were trying to define themselves on their own terms and extricate their identity from how white men defined them. However, the world has moved on. Now, what pays dividends in the real world is training people in physics, chemistry, biology, astronomy, geology and their applied forms in technology. I believe that it is only a people who are at the forefront of science and technology that will dominate the world of the future. Talking about our people’s glorious past when if you go to any American first rate university, departments of science you seldom see black students are not going to help us. Boning up on African and African American culture is not going to improve our lives one bit. What we need are the Bill Gates and Steve Jobs of this world and, of course, the pure scientists such as Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, Huygens, Tyco Brahe, Kepler, Thomas Young, Dalton, Boyle, Lavoisier, Laplace, Michael Faraday, James Clerk Maxwell, Ludwig Boltzmann, J.J. Thomson, Becquerel, Roentgen, Mendel, Pasteur, Maria and Pierre Curie, Max Planck, Albert Einstein, Ernest Rutherford, Neils Bohr, Broglie, Max Born, Eddington, Schrodinger, Heisenberg, Dirac, Pauli, Alexander Friedman, Lemaitre, Hubble, James Chadwick, Strassman, Otto Hahn, Lise Meitner, Enrico Fermi, Robert Oppenheimer, George Gamow, Fred Hoyle, Alexander Fleming, James Watson, Francis Crick, Hugh Everett, John Bell, Alan Aspect, Alan Gutt, Murray Gell-Mann, John Wheeler, Witten, De Witt and the other lords of the physical sciences (I have written short biographies of those and what they accomplished…please notice the absence of African names among these geniuses). The black race no longer need mere talkers and militants, such as Nat Turner, Frederick Douglas, Harriet Tubman, Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. Dubois, James Weldon Johnson, Richard Wright, James Baldwin, Malcolm X, Huey Newton, Eldridge Cleaver, Martin Luther King, Steve Biko, Nelson Mandela (somewhere I reviewed books on them); it is about time that we joined the world of science and technology. We have what it takes to make it in science and technology and should stop wasting our young people’s time by filling their impressionable minds with unproductive ideas on race and culture. With this feedback I end my feedback to you. I leave it to you to make of the feedback what you want to, to feel like I did not validate your 75 books and feel angry at me or to see a breath of fresh air in the black firmament and encourage it or discourage it( what else is new, black folks are known for being destructive of their creative souls; for what it is worth, I have written 45 books and continuing). One must deal with facts and not live in the past; nostalgia is not realism. Cheers, Ozodi Osuji, PhD (UCLA)
The thesis of this paper is that the philosophy of multiculturalism foisted on society by liberal anthropologists is misguided. That philosophy presupposes that all cultures are at the same level and, as such, should be propagated. The paper disagrees with that view. The society that discovered much of modern science is more advanced than the society that still sees the sun as a god and worships it. It is humiliating for one group’s culture to be presented as better than other groups’ cultures. The author is not saying that one culture is better than others. He is talking about what he calls the scientific culture. The scientific culture does not belong to any specific group although Western Europeans approximate it more than other groups of human beings. In his view, all human beings ought to be encouraged to embrace the scientific methodological approach to living and jettison their group’s ways of approaching phenomena if those are not in sync with the parameters of science. Moreover, identification with particularistic cultures makes for separation of people into ethnic enclaves and foster social divisions and conflicts; a universal scientific culture makes for the union of all people hence peace in the world.
REPLACEMENT OF MULTICULTURALISM WITH SCIENTIFIC CULTURE
Teaching one specific culture as ideal insults those whose cultures are not taught; for example, teaching Eurocentric culture in America makes black folks feel like their cultures are ignored; they feel that their world view is not affirmed and they feel angry.
The USA was originally founded by Englishmen. Those Englishmen forced all the other Europeans (Germans, Frenchmen, etc.) and, of course, African slaves who came to the USA to learn English and essentially embrace the Americanized English culture that is the lay of the land.
Whereas this behavior seems cruel it is actually what made for the cultural cohesion of the USA, such as it is. If each ethnic group that came to the USA had been allowed to live in accord with its culture the USA would not be a country but congeries of ethnic enclaves, perhaps as in the Balkans, each fighting others and there would be no peace in the land. The enforced modified English culture on the people of the USA is thus a good thing for it unified the disparate persons and their cultures!
If we teach a universal culture based on scientific parameters no one group’s values are foisted on others and no group would feel denigrated and angry. All children and people would be gradually socialized to this universal scientific culture.
At present the movement to teach Americans from different ethnic backgrounds to identify with their ethnic cultures gives them particularistic mode of looking at the world, which leads to separatism and eventual ethnic conflicts in America, as in the Balkans.
In the past English men propagated their culture at the expense of other group’s cultures hence made them angry but that is not what we are talking about here; we are not talking about English or European or African or Asian culture but a universal culture based on science, on what is known to be self-evidently true.
That been said, it is still necessary to make English the universal language of all Americans; the current trend of allowing Spanish speakers and speakers of other languages to retain their language while calling themselves Americans is not only misguided but dangerous; it would, sooner or later, lead to ethnic wars in the USA.
If you do not want to speak English then do not come to the USA, stay in the country where your language is spoken; it is as simple as that!
It is really an aggressive behavior to come to the USA and retain ones language and ask Americans to learn one’s language and speak to one in that language, as we now have to do to Spanish speakers in California and elsewhere where the Latin population is increasing. The Aggressive Latinos want to convert us to their culture, a culture not known for its contribution to modern science and technology! Take a look at any textbook on physics, chemistry, biology, astronomy, geology, the core sciences and you would not encounter Spanish contributors to them! These people want to return us to their culture, a culture that essentially is at a more primitive stage of scientific evolution!
One should not talk about how one’s culture did something good in the past (the Spaniards, for example, were at the forefront of European civilization when America was discovered in the late 1400s but now are at its bottom); instead, one should talk about how to do something rationally and scientifically.
One should talk about the empirically demonstrable best way of doing something instead of harp on how ones culture did something in the past. There is no evidence that people in the past knew how to do anything better than people in the present do!
There is a loving way to raise children so that they turn out well adapted and well-functioning adults and there is a toxic way to raise children so that they turn out poorly adjusted to coping with the exigencies of living.
We must have evidence based way of how best to do anything and not merely indulge in nostalgic yearnings for the past or talk about how beautiful the past supposedly was.
In pre-British India, for example, Hindus burned life widows to death with their dead husbands in their funeral pyres; surely, no one wants to go back to that type of behavior.
As we speak, in Muslim countries female children are prevented from going to school and working; surely, no one thinks that is the right way to live.
We cannot celebrate primitive behavior just because they are part of our inherited cultures.
In science you observe phenomena and verify what you observe and set up a method following which any person who so chooses can verify your observations. Science deals with empirical facts.
Science is predicated on the notion that the world came into being by accident and proceeds on accidental events.
Philosophy and religion, on the other hand, do not deal with facts; they deal with how people find meaning in life. Religion assumes that there is a higher power, God, in the universe. We cannot verify the existence of God.
Science is a methodological approach to phenomena; science is not an end but a method; it is a way of looking at the universe so that what is seen is there (as confirmed by other observers). In science the individual does not just spout his opinion on phenomena; instead, he observes it, sees it as he thinks that it is, and tries to make sure that his perception is correct. He posits a method for verifying what he saw so that whoever else wants to verify his conclusion can do so.
Generally, observation and experimentation are the most reliable means of verifying a proposition. Ideas must be verifiable and falsifiable (Karl Popper says) for them to be scientific.
A scientific idea is not permanent truth; it is truth that has not been falsified by other observers yet. As long as most observers can verify an idea it is accepted as a workable truth subject to when it is falsified, in which case it is discarded.
Ideas that cannot be falsified, such as the existence of God are not scientific ideas; such ideas fall into the realm of belief and authority; you believe that there is God based on authority, on what some religious authorities on the religion that you accept say about him but not because you have by yourself verified that there is God.
In our age the scientific method is the accepted epistemology, the accepted way of ascertaining what is true and what is false.
REPLACEMENT OF FOOLISHNESS WITH OTHER FOOLISHNESS
Sooner or later, African Americans and Africans discover that the Christianity that was shoved down their throats is not their people’s religion. Christianity was formed by Jews as a sect of Judaism. Jesus Christ and Paul, the two founders of Christianity were Jews.
Jesus, indeed, made it crystal clear that his religion is for his fellow Jews; he had nothing to do with non-Jews, gentiles. It was the idealistic hence universalizing Paul that reinterpreted Christianity to say that it is for all people, Jews and non-Jews.
Judaism is for Jews. Christianity is a Jewish cult. Islam is for Arabs. The philosophy carried by those three religions is Semitic and there is no two ways of going about it.
Europeans appear to have reinterpreted the teachings of Christianity to serve their society’s needs hence made it no longer the religion of Jews loving Jews that Jesus taught but a religion of war and punishment for those who disobey the rulers of Europe (the rulers of Europe claimed to rule by divine right; they saw themselves as the temporal Stewarts of God and as such their will represented God’s will and must be obeyed as people believed that they must obey God’s will).
When African persons discover that these three religions represent the world view of those who oppressed Africans (Arabs enslaved Africans, Europeans who call themselves Christians enslaved Africans) their immediate urge is to throw all three religions away. Foreign religions, they believe are not for nationalist Africans.
Unfortunately, many Africans and African Americans having discarded the religion of their oppressors believe that the solution is to replace those religions with what they call African religions.
In their confusion as to who is African they look to ancient Egypt as African. Thus, some of these confused souls talk about what they call Kemet religion, the supposed religion of ancient Egypt and embrace it.
Were ancient Egyptians Africans? How did they see themselves? They did not call themselves black, nor did they call themselves white. They portrayed themselves in pictures as brown people. Therefore, they are Semitic people, of the same group as Arabs and Jews (at any rate ancient Egyptians are still found in extant Egypt; they are not black; they are brown in color, pretty close to the Arab, Jewish color). Kemet religion is a Semitic religion.
Aside from the fact that ancient Egyptians and their religion were Semitic there is the problem of religion in general. If Africans and African Americans were to go to West Africa where African Americans came from and embraced West African religions yet that would not be doing the rational thing.
All religion is mythopoeic approach to phenomena. All religions, African, Jewish, Arabs, Asians, Hindu, and European were formed when mankind was not scientific in its approach to phenomena hence are irrational world views. Therefore, instead of returning to African or Egyptian religions, Africans should seek rational explanation of phenomena.
Africans should seek science based metaphysics and in general embrace what I call scientific culture, a culture that is neither European, nor African or any other peoples, a culture based on what Thomas Kuhn called the scientific paradigm, not as foreigners tell them that science is.
Science does not belong to Europeans, it is a universal methodology and one does not have to wait for a European to tell one what science is; one can ascertain what science is and what it is not.
I am not asking Africans to wait for Europeans to define what makes sense to them; they do not have to fit their views into European constructed reality or anyone else’s constructed reality (reality is unknown to us and whatever we believe that it is, is a social and or individual construct).
Reality is not any one particular individual or group’s construction of it. Reality is what it is and it is for each of us to work to figure out what it is through the scientific method.
The individual should fit his self into the impersonal constructs of science but not to any one’s image of science. The individual should accept what is self-evidently true without trying to do what mad men do: try to fit reality into their preconception of what it should be.
FROM CULTURAL RELATIVISM TO SCIENTIFIC CULTURE
A patronizing behavior of white liberals towards Africans is to tell Africans that all cultures are equal. I am talking about the nonsense of cultural relativism propagated by white culture anthropologists, a nonsense swallowed by Africans hence you find Africans misbehaving and telling us that what they do is rooted in their culture and that their culture is as good as other cultures thus justifying their criminal behaviors with their so-called culture.
African men philander, have numerous concubines and convert their political and bureaucratic offices to personal use; they give jobs to their people, not on the basis of merit but corruption. They tell us that in their culture they are required to help their people. The problem is that giving your people who are unqualified jobs means that they cannot do those jobs well hence retards the progress of Africa.
The liberal teaching that all cultures are the same is so much load of rubbish. Some cultures are more advanced than others. There is such a thing as unscientific (primitive) culture and a scientific culture. Africa was unscientific (primitive) in many aspects of its cultural ways.
In scientific culture behavior is based on the findings of science. Scientific culture is universal culture, not the particularistic cultures associated with given ethnic groups.
The egos of third people have been stroked long enough when they are told that their cultures are as good as the culture of physical scientists; it is now time we told them that only those who look at the world from a scientific frame of reference are civilized; at any rate, it is such people that produce advanced technologies and the products that modern technologies give to the world, such as Internet, computers, wireless telephones, television, microwave oven, cars, planes, trains, refrigerators, air conditioners and so on.
African cultures contributed zilch to science and technology and if so how are they as good as the culture that gave us Special and General Relativity and Quantum Physics and the electronic revolution?
It is true that Africans were told by white men that they are primitive and that their cultures are no good. Naturally, no one wants to be told that he is primitive and that his people’s ways of living is no good. Therefore, Africans try to present their people’s cultures in a positive light.
Thus, many African nationalists celebrate Africa and its cultures. Such Africans embrace everything African. If challenged they quickly tell one what is wrong with European and North American cultures.
Obviously, Europeans and Americans have a lot of issues and no one is saying that they are ideal. Consider marriage. African societies allowed polygamy. The Christian West permits only monogamy. But they permit people to divorce and remarry. Thus, what ends up happening is that men have serial marriages, sometimes up to seven marriages. That is to say that they have done what the African did, have many wives.
Thus, the African asks: why not be honest over sex: the typical man wants to have sexual activity with more than one woman so why not go ahead and allow men to have, say, seven wives, why decry African men for having polygamy if white folks are essentially doing the same thing? The African nationalist believes that his people are more realistic on this score and does not want hypocritical Westerners preaching to him how to live a life he himself does not live.
The point is that the African nationalist does not see anything wrong with past Africa and resents those who talk about what is wrong with Africa.
I understand the stance of the African nationalist. Be that as it may, there are real problematic issues in Africa.
I am not seeking to replace African culture with European culture. I am interested in what I call scientific culture. I believe that following the scientific method we can figure out the right ways to live and live so and do so all over the world. For example, we all agree that it is wrong to kill and to steal; we can pass laws that state that and we all live accordingly.
One is not saying that we should not study ethnic groups; we must by all means study all human groups and understand their cultures. Understanding their diverse cultures helps us to understand our own culture; cross cultural studies helps us put our culture in broad perspective and understand it relative to other cultures.
We can learn a lot from the way other folks do things. This does not, however, mean that we should have the delusion that all cultures are equal and the same.
Some cultures are more advanced than others. A culture that figured out quantum mechanics is more advanced than a culture that has no idea what is meant by atoms; a culture that figured out that diseases are caused by germs is more advanced than a culture that thinks that diseases are caused by nonexistent gods (hence its people die from treatable diseases).
Nor is one making the assumption that Western cultures are better than African cultures. Whereas there are many useful aspects of Western cultures obviously there are awful aspects of those cultures. Parts of American culture, for example, is as primitive as it gets and no one would consider them more civilized than many aspects of Africa’s culture.
Nevertheless, America has pockets of scientific cultural civilization, such as at Boston, Berkeley and Westwood (California) etc.
One is not equating the entirety of the West with scientific culture; in fact, most of the West is as unscientific as Africa is; scientific culture obtains only in small enclaves in the West, the Enclaves that give the West its science and technology.
Multi ethnic countries like Nigeria will always live in conflict and political instability as each ethnic group strives to gain at the expense of others. What needs to be done is to impose one language on all the constituting ethnic groups to unify them (English will do) and impose one scientific culture on all the groups to give them a rational manner of relating to their world.
All these, of course, would not give multiethnic societies perfect unity, for the world is a place of individuation, separation, specialness and mutual attack; that conflict can be reduced but not eliminated.
One is not a naïve political idealist who thinks that perfect peace is possible on earth; as long as people live in bodies and have egos they would seek different interests and will perceive reality differently and thus have conflicts; it is not possible to attain perfection as long as people live in flesh. Perfection, whatever it is, can only be attained in a non-physical state, in the world of spirits where folks are not limited by the exigencies of matter, energy, space and time (those limit what we living in bodies can do).
Political realism accepts imperfect human beings and their imperfect political behavior and accepts the inevitability of social conflict and prepares to deal with it with draconian governments that posited laws and used those to protect law abiding persons and punish lawbreakers.
Ethnic groups, like individuals see differences between them; some groups have the delusion that they are better than others (hence gratify their egos neurotic wish for superiority); these behaviors generate conflict and thus human beings are condemned to living in social conflict.
Finding a common scientific culture that gives most people a path to living their lives rationally reduces inherent social conflicts but does not eliminate them. The earth is not going to be heaven but it can approximate it.
Science enables us to approximate perfection more than any other instrument that I know of.
March 18, 2013
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