(First draft, to be redrafted)
By Ozodi Thomas Osuji – When I was in college a favorite topic of discussion among us students was why the westerners were able to conquer and subdue the rest of the world. When we gathered someone would suddenly ask: how did they do it, I mean how come these people were able to conquer the rest of the world. Looking at them as individuals they certainly do not seem strong. The individual black man will probably beat up the individual white man at any time. We have heard so much about white’s forks alleged superior intelligence but that certainly was not exhibited among our fellow white students who were not doing better than we were. Therefore, there got to be some unknown reasons why white men were able to take over Africa, Asia and the Americas. Why were they able to accomplish this feat whereas the rest of us did not? What is it about these people that made them accomplish this admirable feat (for like it or not we admired what they did and wished that our people did it)? A lively debate would ensure but in the end all that we would have accomplished was speculate on the reasons why these people did what they did but obviously were no more enlightened than when the question was asked.
Lately, this question has reentered my mind. So, why were the men of Europe, men who are physical weaklings Vis a Vis black men able to conquer black men and the rest of the world? In this paper I will posit the thoughts that came to my mind as I pondered this question. If they make sense to you, fine if not throw them away.
Until about 1400 AD no one would say that the European was ahead of the rest of the people of the world. In fact, East Indians, Chinese and Arabs (and perhaps some West African empires such as Ghana, Mali and Songhai) were on par with Europeans). Something happened in the 1400s to make Europeans surpass the rest of the world.
Let us see what they did beginning in the 1400s. In the 1400s the Portuguese sailed along the coast of West Africa and by 1488 reached what is now South Africa (Cape of Good Hope), and eventually rounded Africa and reached India. The Spanish, under the Italian Christopher Columbus, reached the new world, the Americas in 1492. Notice that it was not Africans or Indians, Chinese, Arabs etc. that made these astonishing voyages of discoveries, it was the men of Europe, and, so, why were they able to do what others could only dream about?
My first thesis is that the discovery of the scientific method is at the root of what White men were able to do. My second thesis is that until Africans accept the scientific method as a methodological approach to phenomena that they would not be able to accomplish what white men did.
White men, the leading parts of them, not all of them, accepted a different approach to thinking about phenomena and that included a change in how they saw themselves and human beings in general. Instead of seeing people as religion (in their own case, Christianity) taught them they rethought what is man and saw him in a different light and treated him accordingly.
This paper will not give a detailed representation of the scientific method. If you have not taken any course on the subject please do. Perhaps, you can read Karl Popper’s Conjectures and refutations, the Logic of scientific inquiry.
Briefly, the scientific method is any attempt to discard seeing the world and people from preconceived ideas and instead observe them as they are. Science observes phenomena as it is and writes down what it sees without any presuppositions as to what they should be.
For example, in scientific terms I see light. I describe light in as objective a manner as is humanly possible at the point in time; I do not drag any ideas that someone may have told me is the nature of light to what I see; I just describe what I see. Light is an electromagnetic energy. It is in two forms, wave and particles (photons). It really cannot be said to be either waves or particles for it is simultaneously both and acts as whichever one wants it to act (as the split holes experiment demonstrates). Light is used by us to see. Our eyes are configured in such a manner that they see through the auspices of light. Light has several qualities including reflection, refraction and travels at a definite speed (186, 000 miles per second) in vacuum.
These descriptions of light can be observed by anyone who wants to observe light. The statements can be verified in laboratory settings via experimentation. They are not any individual’s perception of light; they are the conclusions of numerous persons who over time have observed light, so they must be independently what light are (until disproved).
Let me summarize. The scientific method observes phenomenon as objectively as it can; based on observations it reaches tentative conclusions as to the nature of what is observed. It tries to verify its conclusions through many means including experimentation. It writes up what it observed and calls on all to replicate its conclusions and either verify them or discard them. No effort is made to accept any unverified ideas.
A scientific idea is an idea that most people, following the scientific method, can verify. And as Karl Popper added, scientific ideas can be refuted. There are ideas that can neither be proved nor refuted. One such idea is God. How do you prove that there is God or that there is no God? You appeal to belief and faith. Well, faith is an emotional property, something one believes in which may not be what we all can agree on. So to say that God exists or does not exist is not a scientific statement. But to say that light exists is a scientific idea for all of us, following the scientific method, can verify the existence of light.
In the late middle ages, white men via the auspices Arabs rediscovered the writings of ancient Greeks. These stimulated their interest in approaching the world through a rational perspective rather than mere belief. This rediscovery of Greek learning is called renaissance. The renaissance led to Europeans approaching phenomena through the auspices of reason.
However, not all rational thinking is amenable to things as they are. You can read Plato, Aristotle and the other Greek philosophers (and philosophers in general, such as Descartes, Spinoza, Pascal, Voltaire, Rousseau, Hobbes, Hume, Locke, Berkeley, Kant, Hegel, Schopenhauer, Karl Marx, Nietzsche, James, Bergson …at one time philosophy and psychology was the love of my life; that love has shifted to physics) but all you have read are their rational conjectures about phenomena and you have not learned a thing about phenomena themselves. Nevertheless, rational thinking, that is, philosophy is a prelude to scientific thinking.
The West discovered rational, philosophical thinking. The shortcoming of mere philosophical thinking soon became apparent. Folks like Francis Bacon began stressing the need for describing what we see rather than making wild conjectures about their nature. That is, he suggested that we do science rather than merely engage in rational thinking. Folks like David Hume contributed to this task of understanding the difference between science and philosophy, induction and deduction and other epistemological concepts. But for our present interest what is salient is that the men of the West began trying to understand their world as it is rather than as it seems to be to mere rational thinking.
In 1543 Nicholas Copernicus, a Pole, wrote that the Sun is the center of our solar system (heliocentricism) and that the earth is not the center of the solar system (geocentricism). His thesis was a mere rational conjecture. Tyco Brahe, Kepler and Galileo tried to verify the hypothesis of Copernicus via observation (with their telescopes). With their telescopes they were able to verify that the Sun is indeed the center of our local solar system (astronomers learned about the nine planets circling the sun: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto).
In 1687 Isaac Newton published his Principia Mathematica which, among other points, posited his three laws of motion and the idea of gravity. Later, he added his thoughts on optics. Modern physics was born. The scientific method was accepted as the methodological approach to studying physical phenomena. Other scientists continued the work initiated by Galileo and Newton; we can think of such men as Harvey, Boyle, Dalton, Young, Michael Faraday, James Clark Maxwell, J. J. Thompson, Max Plank, Rutherford, Einstein, Bohr, Curies, Heisenberg, Schrodinger, Pauli, Dirac, Chadwick, Fermi, Meitner, Otto Hahn, Lemaitre, Friedmann, Hubble, Gamow, Hoyle, Watson and Crick, Wheeler, Gell-Mann, Alan Gutt and others.
For our present purposes these men wrote about phenomena as they saw them to be not as received religion or other supposed authorities said that they are. In effect, they rejected religious explanation of phenomena in favor of objective explanation of phenomena. They rejected metaphysics, religion and mere rational speculative philosophy and accepted empiricism.
In 1859 Charles Darwin (Origin of Species) rejected the religious idea that God created human beings and through observation showed that human beings are just animals who evolved along with other animals. Evolution apparently began with the Big Bang 13.7 billion years ago; that initial explosion produced heat and light energy; apparently, light photons transmuted themselves into quarks (which combined to form protons and neutrons) and electrons. Neutrons and protons formed the nucleus of atoms and electrons circled the nucleus. Hydrogen and helium was formed. Later, the cloud of hydrogen formed stars, and galaxies. Inside stars other elements were cooked. When stars burn out their hydrogen and can no longer fuse elements beyond Iron they expand and explode in supernovae. In the explosion heavier elements are formed.
From the elements, gas and dust from exploded stars planets are formed. On planets the various elements combined into molecules that formed the basis of biological life forms (plants and animals).
Evolutional biologists have shown us a lot about how we evolved to where we currently are. But more importantly, evolution biology makes the argument that we are mere animals and there is nothing more to us. We are animals thrown up by the physical universe. Our so-called minds are probably epiphenomenal; they are the throw up of the permutations of particles (electrons, neutrons, protons) and atoms in our brains. Man is an animal, therefore, to understand him study him as you would study any other animal.
Man’s body is a rearrangement of the atoms in other animals and plants bodies. Both plants and animals, man included is made of hydrogen, oxygen, carbon, calcium, potassium, sodium, magnesium, and traces of other elements. When man or animals or trees die those elements are liberated and in time break down into neutrons, protons and electrons. Those particles in turn decay to their constituent quarks (in the case of protons and neutrons) and photons. Ultimately, photons breakdown to what we do not know.
Photons, light, came from heat during the big bang; where that pure energy ultimately came from cosmology suggests is nowhere and nothing! So, we came from nothing? If so we are nothing? (Religious folk say that we came from God, that the light of God produced the light that turned into photons during the Big Bang and that we return to that light when we die.)
This changed perception of the nature of human beings led Europeans to treat human beings differently from the manner religious people treated them. Because they are animals you treated them as you would treat any other animals.
There is nothing special about people. Man is not the so-called spiritual being that religion talks about. The idea of spirit and God, Richard Dworkins (The God Delusion) said is a delusion. God does not exist. What exist are animals. As animals, Herbert Spencer pointed out, we are in competition and the strong out-compete the weak and survive and the weak die out.
In the long run even the strong animal will die for we know that planet earth will eventually die. In about five billion years the Sun would run out of hydrogen to fuse into helium hence produce light and heat. Before it dies it would have become very hot and dried up all liquid on planet earth, and all animals and plants would die out. In about two billion years the surface of the earth would be as hot as Mercury, Venus and Mars (rocky, terrestrial planets) are and there would be no life on planet earth.
Human beings are nothing but animals. We do use animals, such as horses, to help us do work; we also do use weak human beings to do work. White folks used black folks as if they are horses’ to-do work. Before that Arabs used black folks to do their work.
Indeed, because they are animals you can, if you choose to, kill them whenever you want to and no god would stop you. Adolf Hitler decided that he liked to kill people and embarked on doing exactly that. Before he was stopped by those human beings who did not want to be killed he had killed over fifty million persons. No God stopped him.
Only those who want to live can prevent those who want to kill them; no external god can stop killers from doing so, for God does not exist.
What I have said so far is that the white men re-conceptualized the nature of phenomena, human beings included. This new conception of human beings guided their behavior. Given their realistic view of phenomena they easily defeated those who had unsubstantiated hence unrealistic ideas about phenomena.
Africans minds are filled with unsubstantiated notions about phenomena. Africans have a religious view of man and God. This is a false view of reality; it disposed them to be killed off or used by those with objective views of man and phenomena.
Religious views of phenomena tend to make those with them poor. Consider East Indians. Until recently they provided the world with excellent religious philosophies none of which could be verified. The result was that they remained poor. But recently they have embraced the scientific method and are actually overtaking the white man at his scientific game.
Religious people pursue false dignity but the fact is that human beings have no self-evident dignity. If you like you can go to the street and randomly select any person and pump bullets into his head and you would kill him; reduce his body to a pile of rotting and smelling protoplasm. No God will stop you from doing so. There is no God hence man has no inherent worth (his worth is socially constructed and conferred, not existentially given). In fact, if you have nuclear weapons and choose to destroy all human beings, animals and plants you pretty much can do so and no god would stop you. This means that human beings have no preexisting worth and value, they are mere animals.
(Of course you should not do any of these things; one is just pointing out existential realism but not advocating the killing of human beings. Our laws and the justice system in general were designed to protect the individual from the depredation of other individuals and to give him a sense of false social dignity even though existentially he does not have that dignity. Human dignity and worth is a social construct not a natural phenomenon. If you go about killing people those who want to live will naturally defend themselves and defense includes killing you or incarcerating you in jails and prisons.)
Human beings are like dogs and cats and other animals; all that they do on earth is protecting their bodies and lives made possible by bodies. Think about it, all that we do on earth is defense of our bodies. Food, medications, clothes, shelter, transportation, everything is done to serve our bodily needs. Civilization is those activities meant to protect the human body.
Life in body has no intrinsic worth, meaning and purpose that one can see. Nevertheless, it seems heroic to struggle to preserve that which has no worth and ultimately would die and rot.
Religion tells us that there is another self, a spiritual self that is not made of body. It says that that self does not need to be defended for it to exist because it is not made of matter and is eternal. How do we know that there is another self, a spiritual self? Certainly, we do not see it. We can only accept it on belief (or through the testimony of those who claim to have experienced it, many such persons are psychotic).
Religions view that there is spirit, eternity, love etc. can be seem as mere extrapolation of the opposite of our real world. In our world we live in body and die. So religion posits an opposite self that does not live in body and does not die. This is not particularly a difficult thing to do. Any child can think in terms of opposites. That does not mean that the opposites do in fact exist. Until we see spirits and know that they exist eternally we are merely speculating. What is self-evident is what science tells us; we are bodies and we do die.
The Western man, beginning in the 1400s, changed his view of man and the world he lives in; he gradually adopted the scientific view of reality and tried living accordingly. Because he adopted the scientific view he was able to conquer his physical world and also conquer those human beings with unscientific views of phenomena.
The white man was able to conquer Africans not because he is superior to Africans or more intelligent than them but because he changed his view of reality.
As long as Africans have unscientific views of reality they would be controlled by those with scientific views of reality, white men (and soon Asians).
As soon as Africans discard their religious views of reality and accept the scientific method they would do what the white man has done in the last six hundred years since he changed his views of reality.
There is no doubt in my mind that if Africans accept the scientific method in one hundred years they would be where Europe is. But if Africans choose to continue living in the world of religious superstitions they would always be controlled by the white man.
In sum, It is the white man’s acceptance of scientific realism that made him conquer the world; he did not conquer the world because he is a superior animal, as deluded white folk believe, but because he accepted a more realistic view of reality; when other people accept this more realistic view of reality they would catch up with white civilization.
Regarding the fear of many white men that if they treated black folks as equals, intermarried with them that their progeny would become inferior persons (they see Africans as inferior persons, as living in inferior civilization) that fear is baseless; however, it is possible for civilization to degenerate to Africa’s current inferior civilization if the progeny revert to religious views of phenomena. If all human beings are trained in the sciences (Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Earth Science), say, up to university level civilization would not degenerate when whites, Africans and Asians intermix. We need to give all human beings scientific culture and dismiss religious ideologies from our schools.
ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS: THE EGOS WORLD IS EXTERNAL; CHRIST WORLD IS INTERNAL
The ego and its world is external and if you seek them you must see reality as external to you, as science does and study it and manipulate it. You must see other people as not part of you, as different from you and compete with them and sell to them what they want that you can produce and sell and make a living from, and doing so without the delusion that you are helping or loving them. The ego and its dream are like an external dream to you and you must take that dream seriously and do what it takes to survive in it. If you do not do what the world requires for survival in it you die.
The reason why Africans are largely failures is that they are trying to combine the requirements of the egos world and spirit’s world. Spirit, if it exists, is internal and if you seek it you die to this world‘s reality and die of poverty. To look inwards is to ignore the realities of the external world, to ignore biology, sociology and economics and talk metaphysics which means not doing what the world requires for survival in it hence death of one’s body.
If you see his world as external to you then other people are external to you and what they did to you is done by other persons. White folk enslaved black folk and discriminated against black folk and you fight with them to bring about a just world (you don’t just pray for an equitable world you work to remove the obstacles to it).
If, on the other hand, you see what other people did to you as what you made them do in your dream of separation then you would not fight them and they would continue screwing you up.
A scientist looks at the world as external to him and studies it and does what he has to do to adapt to it. Metaphysics sees the world as his projection hence tries to change his mind but ignores doing something to adapt to the external world hence dies of poverty. The ego goes to external schools to learn; Christ has no schools to go to and no work to go to hence must not adapt to the realities of this world.
Pursuing ego ideal is pursuit of fantasy, is neurosis. Ideals cannot come into being in this world. Fantasy is maladaptive to the egos world and to the world of spirit, either; it is simply unreal.
DOES GOD EXIST?
Does God exist? I wish that I could give an affirmative answer but the fact is that a part of me suspects that there is a nonmaterial power operating in the universe but what it is I do not know. I describe me as agnostic, not theist or atheist. In other writings I explicated my metaphysics. If I was a religious man I would say that I have had mystical experiences that the world’s supposed God realized persons, such as Buddha, Ramakrishna and Christian mystics claimed to have had; Hindus would see me as an avatar, but I choose to see my so-called religious experiences as what I cannot scientifically explain. My preferred methodological approach to phenomena is science.