Institute for Scientific Culture, ISC, Los Angeles, California USA
We live in a world where we are faced with a barrage of ideas, each asking for us to embrace it for it sells itself as good for us. Black folks are particularly prone to been misled by competing ideas on culture. African Americans were separated from their African cultures and prevented from learning the culture of their slave masters. They were left hanging in the air. Since human beings are culture making animals, they used scraps of information they learned about their white masters' culture and what they remembered about their original African cultures to stitch together what they now call African American culture. I commend them for their valiant effort. However, I believe that we all can put our heads together and use the scientific method to find out what constitutes a scientific culture and live it and teach it to our children.
SCIENTIFIC CULTURE: ALTERNATIVE TO MULTICULTURALISM
Ozodi Thomas Osuji
There is a war going on out there, a culture war (Carruthers, 1999). The war is between advocates of the various cultures: European cultures, African cultures and Asian cultures (Schlesinger, 1991). Within each of the three broad categories are different strains; there are many strains to European culture, such as the Germanic and the Slavic cultures and within those two are ethnic cultures such as English, French and Russian etc. Within the African culture are the various groups, such as Igbo, Yoruba and Zulu etc. Within the Asian culture are Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean and others. In the United States of America is what broadly can be called Eurocentric culture and Afrocentric culture (some African-Americans call ancient Egypt Kemet and believe that ancient Egypt was Africa and that its culture is African, Ben-Jochannan, 1974).
The advocates of these various cultures are really serious; they mean what they are talking about and if left alone would go to war and shoot it out, for each believes that its world view is the correct one and that others are false (Asante, 1990).
I have read what the proponents of these various cultures wrote and must state that they do not make sense to me; they are mostly living in the past, not in the present.
What makes sense to me is science. Science is a methodological approach to phenomena that tries to accept only ideas that are verifiable, ideas that every person, anywhere on planet earth can verify following certain accepted methods for ascertaining the truth (Popper, 1963).
The scientific method (Popper, 1959) does not belong to any particular ethnic group although in our times it has been mostly associated with Europe and North America but it is not specifically European, it is human. Its attempt to find out what is objective is done in an impersonal, empirical, dispassionate and unsympathetic manner. It does not pay attention to what people want to be the truth but to only what is, in fact, the truth that all of us can verify with our five senses.
So far, the scientific method has been most successfully applied to physical phenomena and to some extent to social phenomena.
I believe that it is now time to apply the scientific method in a wholesale manner to social phenomena. I believe that we all can do what we did in the physical sciences in our social world.
We do not need to argue what is the truth in the social sciences; we have a way of verifying what the truth is. We can find out social truths as we find out physical truths.
What is water? We can find out. We heat water up to find out. If a certain level of heat is applied to a beaker of water it boils and turns into gas (vapor). That gas is a compound (molecule) of two types of atoms (elements).
Water is composed of hydrogen and oxygen. Each unit of water (molecule) has two atoms of hydrogen and one atom of oxygen. We can mix two atoms of hydrogen and one atom of oxygen and water would result.
As particle physics and quantum mechanics has shown us, the atoms of water, as well as the other atoms in the universe, themselves are composed of three particles. An atom has a nucleus and electron moving around the nucleus (Albert, 1994).
The nucleus is composed of protons and neutrons (hydrogen nucleus has only one proton and no neutrons, except in isotopes of hydrogen such as deuterium and tritium... ordinary hydrogen is called protium).
Protons and neutrons are composed of quarks (Wheeler, 1990). Quarks are massified photons (radiation). Electrons are massified photons.
If you break down quarks you find different states of photons (light energy). If you break down electrons you find photons. In effect, all particles are in the final analysis made of photons.
Photons were formed during the Big Bang (Singh, 2004) that occurred 13.7 billion years ago when the universe came into being.
Our current understanding is that prior to 13.7 billion years ago nothing existed (what is nothing?); that out of that nothingness something, what it is we do not yet know, came into being and got inordinately hot and that heat produced light, photons (Guth, 1997).
The photons combined into quarks, which combined into protons and neutrons (and some formed electrons).
We know that within the first three minutes of coming into being the incipient universe produced nuclei; that is, neutrons and protons combined. We know that the early universe during the first 400, 000 years was plasma; that is, was a dense sea of nuclei, electrons and photons (Weinberg, 1993).
We know that after the 400, 000 year mark nuclei captured electrons and formed hydrogen atoms (Wilczek, 2008). A hydrogen atom is composed of one proton in the nucleus circled by one electron.
We know that during the next million years or so the universe was composed of mostly hydrogen gas, with some helium, lithium and nickel in it (Hawkins, 1988). At some point this gas cloud separated into clumps and each clump was compacted by the force of gravity (Gribben, 2010) until in its core ignition took place; that is, hydrogen fused into helium and stars were born.
A star is a cloud of hydrogen that in its core fusion takes place; that is, hydrogen fuses into helium. The fusion of hydrogen into helium produces heat and light. That heat and light travels from inside stars and eventually leaves them and become the light we see and call stars.
Light from our nearest star, Solar, Sun travelling at the speed of light, 186, 000 miles per second (Einstein, 1988), reaches us on planet earth in about nine minutes. Reflected light from the moon (the moon is dead rocks and does not produce light) reaches planet earth in a little over a second; if you shine light from earth towards the moon someone there will see it in a little over a second...the Moon is 250, 000 miles from planet earth; the Sun is 93 million miles from planet earth).
We know that the original stars were very massive in size. We know that they lived only a few million years before they exhausted their hydrogen supply and begun fusing helium to other atoms, such as carbon and the process (called nucleosynthesis) continued to oxygen and when it reached iron apparently the heat inside stars were no longer able to fuse heaver elements. Such stars begin their dying process which includes expanding in size and eventually exploding in what is called supernovae (Randall, 2005).
Early stars lived only millions of years and exploded. In the intense heat of their explosion heavier elements (those beyond iron...see your Chemistry Periodic Table) were formed. The exploding star shatters and spreads the newly formed heavier elements into space.
When massive stars explode in supernovae it is hypothesized that their inner cores may collapse into themselves to form either neutron stars or black holes (Thorne, 1994).
In neutron stars all the particles compact into neutrons and the resulting neutron based star spins millions of times per second (Tyson, 2007).
In black holes (Susskind, 2008) all the elements compact into what we do not know; however, what we know suggest that it is so dense that not even light can escape from it (its event horizon).
We have come to know that there are many types of stars: Protostar, T Tauri star, Main Sequence star, Red Giant, White Dwarf, Red Dwarf, Supergiant star, neutron star, black holes, quasars, pulsars. Our Sun is a medium sized main Sequence star.
The space around exploded stars is filled with heavier elements (also called nebulae). Eventually, some of those elements coalesce into smaller sized stars, such as our star, which was formed 4.5 billion years ago, and planets, such as our earth which was formed around the same time that our sun was formed (Schrodinger 2000).
Thus, it came to pass that we now have a universe of space, time and matter. In space are over 200 billion galaxies and in each galaxy, such as our Milky Way Galaxy are over 200 billion stars (Kaku, 2006).
Around some stars, such as ours, solar, are planets. So far we have discovered biological life on planet earth (which took billions of years to evolve into plants and animals, human beings included).
We do not know if other planets in the universe have biological life forms, although we do know that of the nine planets orbiting solar (Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Saturn, Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune and Pluto) life forms seem to exist only on planet earth?
Efforts are currently being made to discover other planets around other stars, especially the nearest star to ours, Proxima Centauri and also in the closest galaxy to us, Andromeda(also see Magellanic Clouds and Canis Major Dwarf Galaxy), to see if life forms exist on them.
Biological life forms tend to exist in the so-called Goldilocks part of spiral galaxies, such as ours, where it is neither too hot nor too cold (Deutsch, 1997).
It is a daunting task locating planets where life could exist elsewhere in the Milky Way Galaxy (the galaxy is 100, 000 light years across), given the incredible distances separating us from other stars and galaxies (light travelling at 186, 000 million miles per second takes 2.5 years to reach us from Proxima Centauri and over 2.5 million years to reach us from Andromeda; some of the light we see left their stars billions of years ago; indeed, some of the stars are long dead in nova).
The human body, animals' bodies and plants are composed of the various elements (there are about 114 elements in the universe), especially hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen and oxygen and traces of some other elements such calcium, sodium, magnesium, sulfur, phosphor, iron, zinc etc.
The human body is matter. The specific configuration of elements in the human body produced a type of brain that thinks, brain that is able to study and understand itself and the universe it lives in.
Let us recapitulate: science teaches us that the physical universe came into being 13.7 billion years ago. As Alexander Friedmann, George Lemaitre, Edwin Hobble and George Gamow showed, the universe has been expanding since it came into being (Vilenken, 2006).
We are told that all things been equal the early universe should have re-collapsed back to itself hence ended the expansion and ended the universe's existence. So why did the expansion continue? Alan Guth(1997) presents what he calls inflation theory; it says that the speed of expansion was greater than the speed of light hence made it possible for the expansion to escape the force of gravity that would have attracted the incipient matter back to itself hence collapse the universe and abort its existence. This is an after the fact hypothesis and is not predictive hence is not necessarily true. Let us just say that we do not know why the universe came into being and is expanding.
The current hypothesis is that dark energy speeds up the expansion of the universe and dark matter holds the galaxies in place (Byrne, 2010).
As it expands the universe loses heat. It is hypothesized that in trillions of years to come the universe would be so expanded that the galaxies would be too far away from each other. They would exist in a sea of cold space. It is said that eventually all the stars would explode and die (our sun is scheduled to die in explosion in about five billion years...see the process of star death and dying above). All the stars and planets would die and what would thereafter exist are atoms of the various elements. Those atoms, in turn, would break up into particles (electrons, neutrons and protons) and eventually those, too, would decay into pure radiation (photons). Photons, in turn, would decay into what we do not know.
The current assumption is that the universe would die a cold death (Big Chill hypothesis) and not re-collapse into its self (earlier Bill Crunch hypothesis). The universe would become an empty, cold place. This is what contemporary science teaches us about the origin and end scenario of the universe; one has no reason not to accept it. However, as Karl Popper (1963) pointed out, the conclusions of science are tentative and accepted until they are refuted. Thus what we accept as current cosmology could be disproven tomorrow and at which point scientists reject it.
In the meantime what cosmology tells us about the universe appears to be true as opposed to what ancient Egyptians or any other human groups said about the origin of the universe. Therefore, harkening to what Egyptians said about the genesis of the universe is a waste of time. It is indulged in by those afraid of studying the physical sciences and instead amuses themselves with idiot tales about what their ancestors believed as what they should believe. If your ancestors believed in nonsense you believe it? Give me a break, will you revisionist African Egyptologists!
I am not dogmatic in accepting what scientists say about the nature of reality. As noted before, scientific conclusions are tentative; thus, we have not heard the final word on anything. For example, we recently learned that the physical universe we seem to understand is actually only 4% of the universe (Kaku, 2006).
We learned that 23% of the universe is composed of dark matter and 73% of the universe is composed of dark energy.
We do not know anything about dark matter and dark energy (some speculate that they might be made of neutrinos...neutrinos are invisible and millions of them are passing through our bodies and everything in the universe unstopped by any object).
For our present purposes, we do not know what constitutes 96% of the universe. In a situation where we do not understand 96% of something obviously we do not know much about it! Thus, one would not be surprised if earth shattering new understanding comes our way (what is going on at CERN, near Geneva, Switzerland, the colliding of particles at near the speed of light, is revealing what exists inside particles hence helping us to understand the early universe and fully grasp how quantum mechanics and relativity works).
The universe remains a mysterious place; there are just too many things we still have not understood. For example, given what physics knows, during the Big Bang equal number of matter and anti-matter ought to have been produced (quarks and anti-quarks, protons and anti-protons, neutrons and antineutrons, electrons and anti-electrons) and those ought to have attacked each other and destroyed each other and reduced the incipient universe to pure radiation. Thus, only photons (light) ought to exist in the universe.
So, what happened to make sure that for every one billion particles of anti-matter produced a billion and one particles of matter were produced to make sure that when matter and anti-matter attacked each other some matter remained to make our universe of matter possible, to form galaxies, stars, planets and us? We do not know.
These unknowns are called anthropic principle (Barrow and Tipler, 1986); that principle suggests that it seems that the universe appeared teleological, that is, designed with the intention of producing human beings?
The relevant point is that there are too many unknowns in our universe. Consider the recent hypothesis that the big bang may have produced infinite universes (Deutsche, 1997), each existing where our universe exist and that in time we would be able to have the scientific and technological knowhow to tunnel our ways to other universes.
Indeed, some astrophysicists now suggest that each of us have replicas in other universes! That is, there are other Ozodis in other universes, each one doing whatever I can conceptualize (Dewitt and Graham, 1973).
We live in a mysterious universe, so let us not close our minds to knowing more and more, for what is knowable is probably infinite.
(As an aside, it is possible that what our ancestors used to call spiritual world is one of the infinite universes? Could it be that when we die we see ourselves in another universe and thereafter proceed to the other universes until finally we return to whatever existed before the Big Bang, pure light? You never know, so let us have an open mind to the possibility of everything that is conceivable by the human mind existing somewhere in the multiverse.)