Nous

Random thoughts and views of Tim Young

Archive for February 2009

Black Anomalies 2 – Joseph C. Philips

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We all know that cookies and milk, and peanut butter and jelly are fine examples of things that were made for each other, but there is also that curious phenomenon in which two things just don’t work together. Hot cooking oil and water simply do not mix. Superman and kryptonite is a match made in Hell. Going to Universal Studios Hollywood and having fun is an example of two things that never occur simultaneously.

Now presumably “African American” and “Conservative” are contradictory concepts, but our next Black Anomaly has somehow managed to unite the two concepts in his one person, making him fully African American and fully Conservative.

His name is Joseph C. Philips. You may know him as Lt. Martin Kendall from The Cosby Show, Attorney Justus Ward from the popular soap General Hospital, or as JT Morse on the Fox series Vanish. Or you may know him for his roles in the movies Strictly Business, Let’s Talk About Sex, or Midnight Blue. He’s also made appearances on C.S.I., Las Vegas, The King of Queens, Popular, V.I.P., and Living Single among others. But most recently, in addition to writing essays, he’s managed to write a book in which he boldly speaks his mind regarding important issue like politics, family, and religion.

Now, not only does Philips hold “white” conservative views, but apparently he talks like a white boy too. In fact, He talk like a White Boy is the name of his book! Years ago while Philips was still in junior high school one of his peers commented on his speech: “He talk like a white boy!” the little girl exclaimed to their class after Philips had finished answering their teacher’s question. This ailment of his, so eloquently pointed out by his 7th grade classmate, has stayed with him since. Only now, not only does he talk like a white boy, but he holds conservative views which are often taken as antithetical to the Black community. If ever there was a glitch in the matrix Joseph C. Philips is it and this makes him my second Black Anomaly!

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February 19, 2009 at 3:30 pm

Postmodernism: Nothing New Under the Sun

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An insightful quote from Frederick Copleston:

The earlier Greek Philosophers had been chiefly interested in the Object, trying to determine the ultimate principle of all things. Their success, however, did not equal their philosophic sincerity, and the successive hypotheses that they advanced easily led to a certain scepticism as to the possibility of attaining any certain knowledge concerning the ultimate nature of the world. [1]

The early Greek philosophers proposed many theories about the nature of reality. Some of them were monists and thought the world was made of one substance. Problem was, they couldn’t agree on what that one substance was. Thales, for example, thought it was water and Anaximines thought it was air. Anaximander, on the other hand, was sure that it was some indeterminate substance he called the aperion. Then you had guys like Heraclitus who thought everything was in a constant state of change and flux, while guys like Parmenides and Zeno argued for the absurdity of there being any type of change whatsoever. In a nutshell, there was a hodgepodge of contradictory theories for the masses to digest.

Copleston mentions that this diversity of opinion, lack of general agreement, and the overall “bankruptcy of older Greek philosophy” [2] lead to a distrust of metaphysical speculation, and skepticism of the possibility of true knowledge. The embodiment of this skeptical attitude was the Sophist; folk who didn’t regard “truth” as knowable. They were moral and epistemic relativists. “Postmodernism” was prevalent even in those days some 2,500 years ago.

So there were relativist then, and there are “postmodern” folk now. The interesting thing is if you ask a postmodernist why she believes there is no truth, her answer will probably reveal that she is fed up with all the religious folk with their differing views claiming THEIR religion is the one true religion, and all the scientific folk with their competing theories claiming THEY have a monopoly on truth. Rather then sorting through the truth-claims, it’s easier for her to throw her hands in the air and say, “Nobody really knows anything!” BUT, not only is her relativistic claim a pretentious and arrogant one, (what right does she have to throw the towel in on a fight she really knows nothing about?), her claim is itself a truth-claim. Namely, she knows it’s true that nobody knows any truth. And that, my friends, is what we call a self-defeating statement.

Well in anycase, if there is a lesson to be learned from history, it’s that there really is nothing new under the Sun!

—-

Notes

[1] Copleston, F. (1946). History of Philosophy: Greece and Rome. Paulist Press.

[2] ibid

Intelligent Design — What’s the Problem?

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I’ve been thinking about intelligent design (ID) lately and I am wondering what all the beef with the argument is about. For those of you who don’t know, ID in a nutshell argues that certain features of the universe, life, etc., are unlikely to have arisen by chance or natural selection alone. These features, it is argued, are best explained by an intelligent designer.  So just what sorts of features are better explained by an intelligent designer? Well firstly there are those features that are so complex that it seems unlikely that evolution can account for them. When one marvels at the workings of a cell, for example, it is hard not to think the cell at least LOOKS designed by some intelligence.

Then there are those features of the universe that appear to be so precisely tuned to the correct parameters, that to even suggest random chance as an explanation seems almost to border on lunacy. Here’s one example given by Robin Collin:

There are other cases of the fine-tuning of the constants of physics besides the strength of the forces, however. Probably the most widely discussed among physicists and cosmologists – and esoteric– is the fine-tuning of what is known as the cosmological constant. The cosmological constant was a term that Einstein included in his central equation of his theory of gravity – that is, general relativity — which today is thought to correspond to the energy density of empty space. A positive cosmological constant acts as a sort of anti-gravity, a repulsive force causing space itself to expand. If the cosmological constant had a significant positive value, space would expand so rapidly that all matter would quickly disperse, and thus galaxies, stars, and even small aggregates of matter could never form. The conclusion is that it must fall exceedingly close to zero, relative to its natural range of values, for complex life to be possible in our universe.

Now, the fundamental theories of particle physics set a natural range of values for the cosmological constant. This natural range of values, however, is at least 1053 – that is, one followed by fifty three zeros – times the range of life-permitting values. That is, if 0 to L represent the range of life-permitting values, the theoretically possible range of values is at least 0 to 1053L. To intuitively see what this means, consider a dartboard analogy: suppose that we had a dart board that extended across the entire visible galazy, with a target on the dart board of less than an inch in diameter. The amount of fine-tuning of the cosmological constant could be compared to randomly throwing a dart at the board and landing exactly in the target![1]

Wow amazing! How could that be anything but God? …Ok ok, so perhaps I’m a bit too partial to the ID argument 🙂 In all actuality, though, I don’t really consider myself knowledgeable enough on the subject to make an informed judgment; it’s all kind of new to me and I’m still looking into it. Still, I have a hard time seeing what the arguments against it could be?

Notes

[1] Collins, R. (n.d.). God, Design, and Fine-Tuning. Retrieved Feburary 2009, from http://home.messiah.edu/~rcollins/FINETUNE/China%20fine-tuning%20paper%20revised%20for%20web.doc

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February 14, 2009 at 12:36 am

Abortion Series on Hold (Sorry)

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I’m placing the abortion series on hold while I collect my thoughts regarding abortion in relation to slavery, particularly in relation to the status of Indians and Africans in the early Americans.  A class I’m taking on African American history has been very insightful in this regard.

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February 11, 2009 at 1:25 pm

Black Anomalies 1 – Cullen Jones

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I can remember doing swim qualification in boot camp for the Marine Corps. The qualification levels ranked from class 4 to class 1 (and a rarely obtained class that was above class 1).  Our task was to achieve the highest qualification we could.  Well, I made it to class 3…barely.  Since I felt confident in my achievement I thought I could make class 2 as well.  Boy was I wrong. The first part of class 2 required that a recruit swim nearly the entire length of the pool on their back, in full gear while carrying a rubber rifle. I tried, but it wasn’t happening.  I swam for all of three meters before giving up.  It wasn’t that I didn’t want to do it; I did–every part of me wanted to make it–it was just that my body didn’t seem to work correctly.  My legs sank, my arms worked overtime, and I moved with all the style and grace of a monkey trying to peel a frozen banana. I tried desperately to move somewhere, but despite my best efforts I got nowhere.  This brings us naturally enough to that dreaded stereotype: Blacks can’t swim.  Much like the notions that white men can’t Jump, and Asians are phenomenal at math, this stereotype is as persistent as they come.

Well, apparently our first black anomaly didn’t know about this.

Cullen Jones

Cullen Jones is the first African American to share in a world record setting swim relay, and is just one of three African Americans to make the Olympic swim team. His official site list him as the “first African-American Male to win a Gold Medal at the World University Games,” the “first African American to break a world record in swimming in an Olympic contested event” and “the second African-American in history to win an Olympic Gold medal in swimming.”  One thing’s for sure, Cullen Jones apparently didn’t know that African Americans can’t swim, and this makes Cullen Jones my first Black Anomaly.  Bravo Cullen Jones!

Written by Tim

February 10, 2009 at 4:32 pm

Black History Month

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bhm

It’s Black History Month and I thought I’d make my own contribution Tim Style!  Since I can be considered somewhat of an anomaly within the black community (i.e. some say I don’t act in the typical “black” fashion…whatever that means) I figured I’d pay homage to the lesser known black “anomalies” within the black community.  So for the month of February I will highlight the lives of important black folks who are, nevertheless, glitches in the system. I hope you enjoy the series!

 

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February 10, 2009 at 3:34 pm