GOD IS NOT DEAD

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.blog

The Great Ideas of Philosophy

Written by: The Great Courses

Narrated by: Professor Daniel N. RobinsonTHE GREAT IDEAS OF PHILOSOPHY

DANIEL N. ROBINSON (DISTINGUISHED PROFESSOR EMERITUS OF PHILOSOPHY AT GEORGETWON UNIVERSITY)
DANIEL N. ROBINSON (DISTINGUISHED PROFESSOR EMERITUS OF PHILOSOPHY AT GEORGETWON UNIVERSITY)

God is not dead in Professor Daniel N. Robinson’s erudite and entertaining survey of “The Great Ideas of Philosophy”.  Robinson’s choice and interpretation of philosophical ideas infers there is no contradiction of science in religion except in ignorant interpretation of one or the other.

In Robinson’s “Great Courses”, science and religion represent a marriage of necessity.  Atheists, religious scholars, skeptics, and scientists may be appalled but Robinson implies nothing in religion or science contradicts creation, evolution, free will, or an omniscient and omnipresent God.  Robinson concludes that it is beyond the ken of the human mind to approach an experimentally provable explanation of a prime mover; i.e. a source from which something came from nothing.

Robinson reviews the course of philosophy from the ancient Greeks to selected present-day philosophical ideas.  He argues that science and religion explicate and complement knowledge of existence. Early heroes of philosophy range from Homer to Hippocrates to Aristotle.  With storytelling and explanations of Stoic and Epicurean ideological movements, Robinson lays the foundation for philosophy’s growth.

PLATO'S REPUBLIC

Robinson recounts Homer’s tragic and triumphant stories of ancient wars, the medical philosophy of Hippocrates, and the testaments of Plato’s politics and Aristotle’s science.  He credibly and creatively builds the foundation of philosophy.  These great intellects pursue explanations for the unknown origin and nature of things and beings.  Each pillar rising from the foundation reveals more questions than answers but inevitably point toward life’s purpose and understanding.  Robinson argues that Aristotle is the first to develop a concept of scientific investigation through experimentation. ARISTOTLE'S SCIENCE

PLATO'S POLISAristotle owes some of the idea of science to Plato’s conceptualization of human nature in an idealization of a perfect city-state, or polis.  One of “The Great Ideas of Philosophy” begins with Plato’s “Republic”.  The scientific principle of Plato’s “Republic” is in investigating something bigger (the polis in this instance) to understand the nature of individual beings. It is a method of science for understanding the details of nature’s order by investigating a singular life within a social framework of something bigger.  A city-state, the polis, is defined and idealized in Plato’s book.

Plato explains some citizens are born as warriors, as builders, as merchants, as slaves, and a few as philosopher Kings; each contributes to the well-being of a city-state.  The whole is greater than its parts but each part is benefited by the whole.  Every individual in a city-state, like every organ in the body, has a purpose based on what he/she does best.  Plato’s “Republic” categorizes members of the Polis into functional groups based on virtue.  Virtue is defined as being the best at what one does in their category of birth.

RULE OF LAWRobinson notes that the Socratic method of investigation comes from stories written by Plato.  These stories are a precursor to Stoic philosophical development.  Plato’s story of Socrates’ choice of death and his idealization of government in “The Republic” remove passion from decision-making.  Virtue comes from dispassionately assessing the human condition and responding with a wisdom based on belief in justice, rule-of-law, and temperance.  Aristotle expands on these ideas in the “Nicomachean Ethics”.

PRINCIPLES OF THE NICOMACHEAN ETHICS
PRINCIPLES OF THE NICOMACHEAN ETHICS

PLATO'S CAVEPlato’s parable of the cave in which humankind is chained; facing a wall and seeing only shadows of reality, exemplifies the difficulty of clearly knowing the truth of nature.  Only in removing those chains can one begin to see and understand reality.  As Plato’s story goes, those who see the truth are unable to convince those who remain in the cave.  It is a story that is repeated in history as science progresses with fits and starts because of resistance from those who remain chained.  Science progresses as experimental proof removes the doubts of the cave dwellers.  However, Robinson notes that even when the truth is experimentally proven, doubt remains.  He notes Karl Popper’s observation that infinite experimentation is impossible; therefore truth, at best, is a probability; not a certainty.

THE RISE OF CHRISTIANITY IN THE ROMAN EMPIRERobinson explains that the Stoic movement provides a bridge for religion to enter the secular life of the Roman Empire.  The principles of Christianity provide a foundation for law within the Roman Empire.  In offering a philosophical basis for dispassionate adjudication, Christianity becomes an essential part of Roman hegemonic influence.

OLDEST UNIVERSITYThe discipline of religion and law leads to the creation of the university, a citadel of teaching.  The great religions of the world gravitate to this form of political and educational influence.  Inquiring minds are stimulated in this environment.  The principles of scientific investigation reappear with a stoic influence that moves humanity to a more secular view of life and its purpose.  Soon, the so-called Renaissance displaces the so-called Dark Ages.  Robinson takes issue with these categories of history because he finds growth of human understanding in both eras.  He also finds violation of human rights in both eras.

CHARLEMAGNE IMAGE (REIGN 12.15.800 TO 1.28.814, BORN 768, DIED 814)
CHARLEMAGNE IMAGE (REIGN 12.15.800 TO 1.28.814, BORN 768, DIED 814)

The Frankish Emperor Charlemagne is noted as a prominent leader during the “Dark Ages”.  He sets the stage for a modern Europe.  The Magna Carta is created to reduce the monopolistic power of European monarchs.  Robinson suggests the seeds for Enlightenment are sewn during the “Dark Ages”.  Influential monks like Benedict of Nursia became a model for most Western monasteries that dictated the lives of congregations.  Giant strides in science and math were made in the Islamic world during the “Dark Ages”.  Art and literature flourish during the rule of Charlemagne.  The Agricultural Age and the development of community settlements is born in the “Dark Ages”.

The brutality of the “Dark Ages” does not disappear in the Renaissance.  Though the Renaissance is characterized by great leaps in knowledge from men like Francis Bacon, Machiavelli, Galileo, Bruno, Montaigne, Hobbes, and others; witches were burned at the stake for being agents of the devil.

WITCH BURNED AT THE STAKE
WITCH BURNED AT THE STAKE

Witch hunting and condemnation aside, these early Renaissance men set the stage for Descartes, Newton, Locke, Hume, Voltaire, Thomas Reid and others.  Many of these Renaissance men are deeply religious; however, they explain the world and human nature in scientific terms.  The mysteries of life explained by religious fiat are systematically replaced by “I Think; Therefor I Am”, “We build too many walls and not enough bridges”, “The end of law is not to abolish or restrain, but to preserve and enlarge freedom”, or “There is no greater impediment to the advancement of knowledge than the ambiguity of words.”

AMERICAN CONSTITUTIONRobinson suggests that the American Constitution is a document created from the progress of Philosophy that began with the Greeks, and evolved through social experimentation; founded on religion and science.  He particularly refers to the Federalist Papers and the participation of Madison, Hamilton, and to a lesser extent, Jay in writing the Papers to convince the American public of the need for democratic government.  Washington’s and Jefferson’s contribution to the establishment of an American government is founded on the tenants of religion and science.  Religion inculcated morality and ethics for equality and justice for all.  Science inculcated past social experiments to create a government of checks and balances.

Robinson offers more contemporary philosophical change wrought by Kant, Hegel, William James, Wittgenstein, and Turing but all revolve around two essential philosophical ideas.  One, know thyself, and two, recognize we are chained to a cave wall; with little hope of finding truth accepted by all.

These lectures are biased toward western civilization but they offer insightful commentary on where western progress came from; what it is, who shaped it, and where it may go.

The Heart of Luck and Circumstance

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough


Website: chetyarbrough.blog

The Drug Hunters

Written by: Donald R. Kirsch, Phd, Ogi Ogas, Phd

Narrated by: James Foster

the drug hunters

 

OGI OGAS (AUTHOR, COMPUTATIONAL NEUROSCIENTIST)
OGI OGAS (AUTHOR, COMPUTATIONAL NEUROSCIENTIST)
DONALD R. KIRSCH (AUTHOR, CHIEF SCIENCE OFFICER AT WYETH, CYANAMID,SQUIBB, AND CAMBRIA PHARMACEUTICALS)
DONALD KIRSCH (AUTHOR, CHIEF SCIENCE OFFICER AT WYETH, CYANAMID, SQUIBB, & CAMBRIA PHRAMACEUTICALS.)
SCIENCE OF PHARMACOLOGY
As a science, pharmacology survives in the heart of luck and circumstance.

As a science, pharmacology survives in the heart of luck and circumstance.  Donald Kirsch and Ogi Ogas recount the origin and history of drug discovery in THE DRUG HUNTERS.  Kirsch and Ogas explain how drugs evolved from shamanistic ritual and magic to plant extraction and modern synthetic drug creation.  They argue that the complexity of myth, elemental plant extraction, and animal metabolism make the search for effective drugs a casino exercise.

LUCK AND FATE
Like gamblers, drug hunters lie to themselves about continuing research on busted bets with bigger financial and emotional investments.  Sometimes they win but usually they lose–no breakthrough is made.

Kirsch and Ogas reveal how scientists, entrepreneurs, and corporations make big bets; garnering wins and losses wrapped in luck and circumstance.  Like gamblers, drug hunters lie to themselves about continuing research on busted bets with bigger financial and emotional investments.  Sometimes they win but usually they lose–no breakthrough is made.  The drug does not work as expected.

The reasons for failure range from false expectation of drug hunters to impure abstraction (or creation) of ingredients.  They add to the list of potential failures with mistaken methods of administration (topical, pill-form, or injection), chemical bonding miscalculations, and human versus animal metabolism. The paths to error outnumber the highways to success

MONEYSo why do scientists, entrepreneurs, and corporations gamble on research?  Because a win can make billions of dollars.  Kirsrch and Ogas imply corporations are reducing their research departments and changing their mode of drug discovery by purchasing companies that have found new and effective drugs.

BIG PHARMA SYMBOLS
A troubling implication is that new drug discoveries will not come from corporations.

A troubling implication is that new drug discoveries will not come from corporations.  That leaves new drug discovery to driven independent scientists, entrepreneurs, and government agencies (funded by tax revenue).

Kirsch and Ogas offer fascinating stories of how therapeutic drugs were discovered.  From aspirin to penicillin to birth control; to psychiatric treatment and cancer remediation, they explain how difficult, expensive, and serendipitous the search for effective drugs have been.

Specters of Revisionist History

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.wordpress.blog

American Ulysses, A Life of Ulysses S. Grant

Written by: Ronald C. White

Narrated by: Arthur Morey

RONALD C. WHITE (AUTHOR)

RONALD C. WHITE (AUTHOR, HISTORIAN)

Revisionist history always raises the specter of truth or fiction. Some histories report Ulysses Grant as a drunk, a failed farmer, a mediocre student of West Point, an uncaring General of soldier’s slaughter, and an inept President of the United States.

Ronald White tells a different story. He implies Grant is one of the three greatest leaders in American history. White ranks Grant with George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.

As may not be widely known, Grant chose to resign from the army in 1854 because of a threat of court martial from a commanding officer.  The commanding officer alleges Grant is too drunk to carry out his duty as a ranking officer at his post.  White explains Grant’s choice to resign as a defense against the stigma of trial. 

Based on research, White suggests Grant fears embarrassment for his wife and family with a public trial.  After leaving the Army, Grant tries his hand at farming and finds he cannot make it profitable. 

He sells his farm interest and carries its debt until paid in full.  Grant asks his father to allow him to work for him in his tanning business as a salesman.  When civil war is declared, Grant requests return to the Army as a Union officer.  As a graduate of West Point, his request is granted; partly for military necessity, but certainly with knowledge of a mark against his character.

BATTLE OF VICKSBURG (COUNCIL OF WAR WITH ULYSSES GRANT 2ND FROM LEFT ON BENCH AT CENTER LEFT)

Grant is shown to make his mark in history at the Battle of Vicksburg.  Beginning as a frontal assault that changes into a siege, Grant confirms his reputation as a master strategist and winning union general.  To many, Vicksburg is the turning point in America’s civil war.

It is unquestioned by White that many Union soldiers die under Grant’s command, but Grant is the first Union officer to fight and win battles.  Grant is soon promoted to Brigadier General. Grant is shown to be a quick study who makes strategic mistakes but learns to assess and manage fellow officers who battle and beat Confederate armies. 

ULYSSES GRANT

Grant at Cold Harbor

White reports that Grant is deeply affected by loss of close friends and soldiers.  However, Grant retains a fierce determination to win reunification of the States.

ABRAHAM LINCOLN (1809-1865, 16TH PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES. )

Grant is strongly supported by Abraham Lincoln who reveres and respects Grant’s  hard-won battles against the Confederacy.

Grant abhors slavery and fully endorses freedom for slaves and enlistment of the freed into the Union Army.    White reflects on the character of Grant by noting that he is a self-effacing leader who supports and rewards successful subordinates while serving as a fierce fighter for unionization and the equality of all human beings.

CIVIL WAR RECRUITS (OVER 180,000 BALACK MEN FOUGHT FOR THE UNION ARMY DURING THE CIVIL WAR.)

CIVIL WAR RECRUITS (OVER 180,000 BLACK MEN FOUGHT FOR THE UNION ARMY DURING THE CIVIL WAR.)

ANDREW JOHNSON (17TH PRESIDENT OF THE U.S. 1865-1869)

ANDREW JOHNSON (17TH PRESIDENT OF THE U.S. 1865-1869)
After Lincoln’s assassination, White reveals the contentious time and inept handling of the government by Andrew Johnson.  Johnson is impeached. He is accused in eleven articles of impeachment passed by the House of Representatives.

(Legislation of that time forbade the President from discharging cabinet members without approval of Congress.)  Grant privately, and later publicly, opposed Johnson’s actions as President.  White also notes that Grant argues against Johnson’s attempts to return the South to slavery by allowing state governments to continue discrimination against Blacks. 

Grant argues for military intervention in southern state governments when they discriminate against minorities.  This remains an unresolved issue until Grant becomes President, after Johnson’s completed term.

ULYSSES GRANT POLITICAL CARTOON REGARDING CORRUPTION IN HIS ADMINISTRATION.

ULYSSES GRANT POLITICAL CARTOON REGARDING CORRUPTION IN HIS ADMINISTRATION.

White completes Grant’s biography by noting that the “Gilded Age” (a title coined by Mark Twain) smudges Grant’s reputation because of the greed of a few men who knew Grant and tried to take advantage of their association.  Some were members of Grant’s administration, but White argues that none of them included Grant in their sordid schemes. 

White infers a naivete in Grant because he views others as he views himself.  Once one gathers Grant’s confidence, White implies Grant loses his objectivity.  White illustrates Grant’s credulity in having joined a Ponzi scheme that nearly bankrupts his family.  This credulity is further explained by White in the story of Grant’s personally written biography of the war.  Mark Twain protects Grant from making a huge financial mistake in how his memoirs are to be published.

TRUTH IS TRUTH

Truth is left to historians, and society’s judgement.

Is White’s revisionist history truth or fiction?  One draws their own conclusion, but few human beings are untouched by the seduction of money, power, and prestige.  White’s story of Ulysses Grant suggests he is among the untouched few.  White makes a compelling and interesting case for Grant’s place in American history. 

Truth is left to historians, and society’s judgement. Who knows; e.g. Ulysses Grant had his critics but time has revised his place in history. What awaits today’s American President in histories’ and societies’ judgement?

Africa

Voyager Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.blog

20 Days in Africa

Written by Chet Yarbrough

AFRICA JULY 2017_6965

Twenty days in Africa does not make you an expert.  But, as noted by our insightful Zimbabwe-born team leader, every visit to Africa changes both visitor and native. 

Manue Joao paints a picture of three nation-states that vivify the great beauty and wealth of Africa.  In twenty days, the nations of Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Botswana were traveled by our group of 15 Americans; organized, directed, and helped by local guides and a host of excellent camp managers.

AFRICA JULY 2017_7233

Manue offers a history lesson on Africa as we travel on planes, boats, buses, and Land Rovers, through the African Savannah.  Today, the three major industries in Africa are mining, agriculture, and tourism.  Each of these industries have troubles.

AFRICA JULY 2017_6900

Mining for coal is a big industry in crises with falling prices, and environmental concern.  African laborers are offered decent salaries but Manue notes that one coal mine had not paid their laborers for over four years.  He goes on to explain—the laborers keep working because there is no alternative employment.  They are ecstatic when, earlier this year, the mine owners offer 7% of their back wages to continue working.

AFRICA JULY 2017_6524

Agriculture is constantly faced with the terrors of nature; i.e. poor rainfall, soil depletion, and animal destruction.

Tourism is troubled by ivory poaching, Rhino killing for horn profits, and animal overpopulation.

SOUTH AFRICAN TOURISM

African Tourism–the natural attributes of an animal kingdom surprises and delights world travelers, but even that is at risk.

Putting aside these troubles in the big three African industries, there seems a leadership deficit in a country that has so much untapped potential.  Too many Africans seem trapped in poverty when the wealth of the country is laid waste by an interstate transportation system that strangles economic growth. 

AFRICA JULY 2017_6351

Trucks are lined up for hours, days, weeks, and sometimes months for transport across borders.  Vast tracks of land are only accessible by dirt roads. 

Water, sewer, and infrastructure investment seems utilized un-systematically.  Government leaders are often corrupted by the power they wield over the finances of their countries.

Emmerson Mnangagwa (President of Zimbabwe)

Mugabe’s previous enforcer, Mnangagwa, has only made Zimbabwe’s economy weaker.

The history of Africa sets the table for an economic feast that is consumed by everyone except most native Africans.  Because of the European scramble for wealth and power (between the 15th and early 20th century), the continent of Africa is colonized by foreign rulers.  Great Britain, Portugal, France, and Belgium carve Africa into nation-states in the Berlin Conference of 1884-85.  Without regard to native societies a multi-state continent is formed based on greed and hubris of occupying foreign governments. 

To a degree, something similar has occurred in Africa.  Each African nation-state is comprised of white Europeans, and native tribes who establish societies within each of the nation-states created by early Europeans.  Just as in America, the mixture of cultures often boils over like an over-heated melting pot. 

map_africa

The irony of Africa’s artificial nation-state creations is that these arbitrary borders become a source of conflict in the African’s drive for independence.

Either because of religion, ethnic differences, or different societal norms, one factional group treads on another’s freedom.  Conflict rises; in some cases, with violent and deadly results.  In America, it is evident in the civil rights movement, anti-war rallies, women’s rights marches, the election of incompetent Presidents; etc.  In Africa, it is evident in the taking of private property without compensation, inter-state commerce inefficiency, equal rights for women, and rule by force and corruption in the case of leaders like Idi Amin, and Joseph Kony.

SOUTH AFRICAN APARTHIED

The economic difficulties of Africa remind one of the early days of America.

Every state of the original 13 colonies was a kingdom unto itself until the First Continental Congress in 1774.  Though the 13 colonies are largely populated by white English, Germans, and French, with a growing population of Black slaves, each colony becomes a melting pot for immigrants arriving from different nations of the world.  Native Americans are slaughtered by the advance of “civilization” with the increasing influx of foreign, largely white, Americans.

THE BEAUTY AND MAJESTY OF AFRICA IS EVIDENT IN EVERY CLICK OF THE CAMERA LENSE:

AFRICA JULY 2017_6644_edited-1.jpg
OAT AFRICA-15
OAT AFRICA-12
OAT AFRICA-08
OAT AFRICA-03

Africa is incredibly beautiful.  In sunrises and sunsets; in exposure to the largest and most beautiful animals in the world; in spectacular views of Victoria Falls, and with many Africans’ heart-felt acceptance of tourists.  A traveler sees and feels the radiance of nature and the kindness of all human beings.  But, the economic hardship of the general population in the face of such great potential wealth is disheartening.

OAT AFRICA-05

The heart of the failure of the nation-states is said to lie at the feet of poor leadership and corruption.  Though there is undoubted truth in that observation, it seems an excuse for failure.  Every presentation by indigenous Africans notes how important education is to their and their family’s success.  It may be that the people we met are an exception but every culture has its exceptions.  It is these exceptions that modernize the world.

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AFRICA JULY 2017_6459

Sacrifice for education and family values are obvious characteristics of the people we met.  Stories were told of the sacrifice that a Principal makes to teach children English; a story of a prostitute who sells herself with the intent of saving enough to finish school and start her own business; a story of an un-wed mother who is first in her class in high school and goes on to college—all are native Africans emphasizing the importance of family and education.

One is drawn to the conclusion that corruption and poor leadership are a stage of early development that will be ameliorated (not eliminated) over time.  There is no quick solution but a first step would be to re-value the indigenous culture of each part of Africa.  Changing borders is not the answer.  But, like early America, sections of Africa should consider their own Continental Congresses to provide government services that one state is unable to provide; i.e. services like interstate commerce, military preparedness, and a common currency.  Every power not given to this centralized government would remain in the hands of respective nation-states.

FREE TRADE IDEAL

Today, the economic strength of Africa is being strangled by border crossing regulations that delay interstate commerce.  Undoubtedly, corruption is exacerbated by bribes to get goods across borders.  Respective state leaders are reluctant to give up control of borders because they get a piece of the interstate border crossing fees.

The greed of leaders can be co-opted by making them understand they will make more money with the opening of their borders by using some of their wealth to create paved roads into growth corridors of their states.  When a foreign company sees they can get to their mine, or have water for agricultural development, they will invest.  Government leaders can negotiate deals with foreign businesses that demand training of native populations in the management work of new businesses.  When more Africans are employed, a source for government taxation is created.

AFRICA JULY 2017_6476

The emphasis on education must be reinforced.  In time, that education will remove overtly corrupt leaders.

It will not eliminate corruption but it will improve the condition of the local population.  There is a cost inherent in this push for modernization.  Manue tells of the family structure that exists in the three countries visited.  That close family relationship will be diminished by modernization.

LOCAL HEAD MAN SPEAKING TO VILLAGE PROPERTY OWNER

Every village has a Chief who has a Head man that supervises the village.  These positions are inherited; not earned by performance. 

This familial arrangement will be compromised by modernization because performance will become a more important criterion for Chief or Head man designations.  Money and power, rather than family relationship, will become prevalent.

AFRICA JULY 2017_6821_edited-1

Another cost will be borne by the natural attributes of an animal kingdom that surprises and delights world travelers.  Manue notes that Botswana has an animal refuge that can support 20,000 elephants when 100,000 elephants roam the countryside.  Action is needed to control nature’s environment.  Exercising that control will turn a wilderness into more of a free-form zoo.  The wildness of a Safari will be diminished.

Love for Africa is clearly evident in the people we met.  One suspects our visit is a sanitized view of the real life of most Africans.  However, our view is through the eyes of a rich, modern nation.  A young African boy or girl born into a family of loving parents knows what he/she knows and cares little about what a foreigner thinks.  Twenty days in Africa is a trip of a life time; especially with a guide like Manue Joao.