Monthly Archives: December 2011

Year 2011 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Syndey Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 17,000 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 6 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Goodbye 2011!

Goodbye 2011

What a year this has been! It seemed just like not too long ago we ushered in 2011, and here we are at the end of it. Tomorrow marks the beginning of another year. Before you know it, 2012 will be over as well with a lot of events transpiring in it.

Towards the latter part of this month, I got incredibly busy—infact so busy that I didn’t get the chance to blog as often as I would have hoped.  I am looking forward to continuing next year, although it is pretty clear to me that I may not have much to say for much of the first month of 2012. At any rate, in the time that transpired, a notable atheist Christopher Hitchens finally succumbed to esophageal cancer at 62; and the North Korean leader Kim Jung IL died at the age of 69.

On the Nigerian front, we have been assailed by news of the terrible Christmas day bombing of churches carried out by Boko Haram in some parts of Northern Nigeria as well as the vacuous and insensitive statements coming from the Goodluck administration regarding this growing menace. We have seen the Barcelona football club trounce their eternal rivals 3-1 on their rival’s home pitch and how they went ahead to the World Club Championship in Japan and carried the gold. We have also noticed the less-than-satisfactory performance of the Redskins, the Eagles, the Colts and a number of other teams this year. We have seen Green Bay Packers continue to put up impressive numbers and wins thereby setting themselves up as the team to beat for the Super Bowl.

In the world of politics (as the year winds down), we have witnessed the eventual exit of Herman Cain from the Republican presidential race. We have noticed the nerry-go-round quality of the race whereby different contenders have seemingly had the opportunity to be head of the pack as the race goes on. We have seen how the Mitt Romney Campaign in these latter times have shot ahead of his rivals making him the prime target of vitriolic ads. We have seen how the hitherto neglected Ron Paul has suddenly shot into second place in the soon-to-be-held Iowa caucuses. It is regrettable that Michele Bachman has fallen to the last position despite her initial Tea party-backed support. We have seen a Newt Gingrich that is desperately trying to cling to the top position that he held about a week ago and the ensuing politics of bitterness between him and the Romney camp. We have seen a congress that has largely been incapable of coming together to do even the basic requirements expected of them because of the hyper-partisanship that dominates Washington. As a matter of fact, if I were to continue writing of the events that have seemingly transpired in the last few weeks of this year, this blog may suddenly become very long.  I’ll wait for JibJab to come up with a hilarious cartoon song recounting some of the major events that has happened this year.

But here is something to note. On the last day of every year, such as today, many people usually have some tradition or the other of welcoming in the New Year even as they pray and wish and hope for the coming year to usher in more prosperity and success than the previous year. Some people may even go to their various centers of worship to solemnly usher in the New Year with strong expectations of blessings from on high. In the end however, what we can observe is that the year that eventually comes unfailingly comes with its fair share of joys and sorrows. Indeed, it will be utterly impossible for any given year to note come with some degree of grief, disappointments, sorrow or some form of deprivation. Perhaps, it is time for people to factor these into their considerations even as they bessech the Almighty for continuing protection, health, long life, financial or material prosperity etc. Perhaps, it is time for people to realize that in the end, with or without their prayers, as it has been appointed unto them, they will unfailingly taste the milk of successes or fulfilled dreams as well as the bitter waters of disappointment or sorrow. This realization—that no matter the prayers offered, every one of us must come to grips with the not-so-pleasant vicissitudes of life—should indeed inspire us to soldier on and to learn from whatever lessons life has for us.

It is with this realization that I silently wish you a God-centered, prosperous New Year. May you reap the special blessings that have been ordained for you by your maker, and may you also learn and grow from the thorny experiences that the same maker specially appoints for you.

See you all in 2012!

Reflections On The Nature Of God

1) If I may reflect on this Sun-Sunbeam analogy that has been presented by adherents of the Grail Message to explain the nature of God, I’ll have to say that I am not convinced that the sunbeams or the sunrays are essentially different from the sun. There is no sensible way to talk of the sun (crudely put, a hot burning radiating ball of fire) existing without its sunbeams or rays. I contend that the sun’s rays have always existed together with the sun. In other words, there was never a time a pre-existing sun suddenly decided (as it were) to produce emanations.

When the star called the sun was born, that same instant did it begin to radiate away its beams. The nature of the sun is such that it produces emanations; it is incandescent. The sunbeam essentially flows out of the sun containing the very essence of the sun. To put it differently:  it would be a strange star, indeed a star not worthy of its name, if it could be demonstrated that the Sun did not have its rays or beams co-existing with it at all times. If we then cannot properly speak of the sun without the sunbeams, I think the analogy that portrays God as the Sun and Creation as the Sun’s beams (sun’s radiations or emanations) is altogether faulty.

2) I also have a philosophical disagreement with any view that essentially reduces God to energy. The word energy has a rich physical meaning which can be brought to bear in these discussions as they provide an illustrative framework upon which to anchor concepts. God is not to be conceived of as merely some inanimate, unconscious, driving force or energy or motivating principle. He is not to be thought of as some primordial energy that somehow dissipates into Creation. To be fair, the human language can prove to be inadequate to convey our deeper thoughts on the subject, nonetheless we should really try and simplify our definitions as much as we can, taking care not to conflate ideas. The view of God as “primordial energy”, or “primordial light” or “primordial time” may sound very poetic and numinous but they are altogether mistaken in that these qualifiers essentially depersonalize or de-animate God. The only way to redeem this view or to imbue it with any merit is to say that these descriptors are to be regarded as God’s attribute in some poetic or metaphorical manner of speech. Ontologically speaking, these descriptors fail hopelessly in establishing the nature of the being we are talking about because on that view God is some nebulous inanimate or non-sentient entity.

3) God is first and properly speaking, a mind or a sentient (conscious) being. You can also call him the Primordial Consciousness or Primordial Life. He is personalwhich is to say that he has self-will, free will, rationality, and consciousness.  I must point out rather quickly that when I say that God is personal, you shouldn’t take that to mean that he is a human being or a human person. Personhood is not limited to Homo sapiens or for that matter, any other physically instantiated particulars. Philosophically speaking, personhood involves a self-conscious and rational being, or a unit of self-consciousness; and thus the expression cannot be straitjacketed and appropriated solely to evince some naturalistic presuppositions. Once you have established this, you can then go ahead to speak of other divine attributes that he properly possesses. Some of these attributes are that God is metaphysically or logically necessary, immaterial or incorporeal, eternal, non-spatial, immortal, omniscient, morally perfect, omnipresent or ubiquitous, and maximally powerful. So please let us stop borrowing excessively from the rich language of physics here in analogizing God to some Primordial force, energy, pressure, light, magnetism, singularity, electricity, gravity, momentum, etc. In my opinion these analogies to physical phenomena can be altogether counterproductive and belittling.

4) God’s infinite attributes are qualitative rather than quantitative. I find that often when people talk about divine infinity, they picture a God that has parts or components, and/or is spatially extended. Thus, they imagine that while speaking of God’s infinity, you are talking about some mathematical concept of infinity. For example, the set of all numbers (if you successively count upwards from 1) is infinite. God is not said to be infinite in that quantitative sense. He is not proposed to be made up of an infinite array of discrete or finite particulars; his infinite power is not to be understood as saying that he possesses an infinite amount of quantized energy; his omnipresence is not to be understood as saying that God literally physically occupies every inch of space-time. Infinity as it applies to God is merely qualitative as it seeks to express the total, undifferentiated and maximal nature of God. Indeed, as some have already pointed out, one can readily see vestiges of God’s superlative or infinite divine attributes in human beings and in the created order.

The Greatest Football Rivalry

Real Madrid vs. Barcelona

..of all time is here again. Oh yes, it is El Clasico time once again. Last year, there were 5 different encounters between the Real Madrid and Barcelona which, more than anything helped to worsen the rivalry and bad blood between these two titans of Spanish football. If you can remember, the very first Clasico of last season, and incidentally Mourinho’s first clasico as a new coach of the Galacticos, saw Barca utterly demolish the Galacticos 5-0 in Camp Nou. The methodical and classy way with which Barcelona dismantled Real Madrid in that match was something that Mourinho will never forget in a hurry. As a matter of fact, it completely changed the way and manner with which Mourinho would subsequently approach any and all future encounters with Barcelona. To Mourinho’s credit, he quickly had to adapt to the reality on the ground.

The subsequent matches were no longer a test to see which one of these two teams can play the most entertaining flavor of football—Real Madrid virtually ceded that contest to the Catalan giants. But if Real Madrid ever wanted to record favorable results against the seemingly unstoppable Blaugrana team, something had to give. If you just couldn’t outshine or dominate possession against that Barca team, you had to find a way to make the match a more physical game. The hope is that by so doing, you are able to prevent another merciless rout. This was precisely the strategy that Mourinho adopted. Was it a smart move? Well in 5 matches with Barcelona, Real Madrid won 1, drew 2 and lost 2. It certainly didn’t seem like a very bad record for Mourinho’s first year as coach of Real Madrid: especially given Barca’s formidable form last season. However, Real Madrid remained sharply behind Barca in the chase for the title as they continued to work on their own internal problems. Barca finally won the title and crowned it all with a spectacular win over Manchester United to lift the Champions League trophy.

This seems like ancient history now. At the beginning of this season, I expressed a slight apprehension over what I perceived to be a slight deterioration in the drive, quality, finesse, and the hunger for supremacy by Barcelona. I have noticed that Barca’s defensive line has not been as strong and united as it used to be; Barca’s forwards Pedro and Villa have not had the sort of success at goal scoring that I imagined—and they probably already realize this; Messi is getting overworked and closely marked. He may be a phenom, but he would surely appreciate his fellow strikers picking up the slack whenever he wants to gradually slip into the supporting attack role. Let’s also not forget that for a long time Barca has been plagued by personal injuries. These have translated into Barca narrowly tying matches they should have won convincingly and slumping from their prominent number 1 position.

Now, it may be that I am unfairly expecting matchless excellence from Barcelona every time they step out on the field; someone might even remind me that despite my uneasiness about the current quality of Barcelona’s weekly performance, they are still doing very well in the Champions league fixtures and are currently 2nd on the table immediately behind their eternal rivals. As such the proverbial ship is not sinking and the proverbial sky is clearly not falling in on Barcelona. I don’t know what it is, but something deep in my gut tells me that this season’s Barca has clearly not been as lethal as they were last year. It is a feeling that I have found hard to shake in recent times even though any objective analysis would quickly point out that Barca is playing laudable football.

On the other hand, it is evidently clear that Real Madrid is much improved this season. They are stronger, sharper, more cohesive, and clearly more lethal. As a matter of fact, they have never quite looked better and more capable of wreaking havoc. And this they have proved with their amazing goal-scoring form this season. Whatever faults you may perceive in Mourinho, you must admit that he has managed to transform Real Madrid into a force to reckon with— by ball possession, quality of play and goals scored. There was the danger that he was going to remake the team into a defensively minded bunch of ruffians, but then I suppose that has proven not to be the case so far. But then again, it may be that those aggressive rugby tactics only show up when they meet a team like Barcelona; I suppose that remains to be seen tomorrow.

Tomorrow’s match with Barcelona will be very decisive. With one match to spare, Real Madrid is already leading Barcelona by 3 points. If Real Madrid wins tomorrow’s Clasico on their home pitch, they could quickly open up a 9 point lead over Barcelona after they might have played an equal number of matches—a prospect that leads one to the inevitable conclusion that the title is theirs for the taking. This is why Real Madrid will come out guns blazing tomorrow—to avenge that painful loss against Barca last year, to establish themselves as the undisputed best in La Liga, and to put the title race out of contention.

Furthermore, since 2006, Barcelona has met Real Madrid about 16 times—they tied on 5 occasions, Real Madrid won 4 times, and Barcelona won 7 times. There will be a deep burning desire in Real Madrid to win tomorrow’s match, if for nothing else, to sort of bring up their head-to-head victory tally. Because of these reasons, I can see Real Madrid actually winning tomorrow’s match, but I hope it would certainly not be by a five-goal margin. For Barca to go to the Bernabeu and win, they will have to play the sort of amazing football they are known for last season but which sadly hasn’t quite manifested itself this year. They will need every member of that team to perform at peak capacity and avoid silly mistakes in the back line. It is also very possible that in the end, both teams will go with a draw.

Enough said for now. Let’s see what tomorrow will bring.

Creating “Ex Nihilo”

In which a skeptic queries the concept of “Ex Nihilo” creation:

The idea of God, as the supreme uncaused Cause, helps in escaping the irrationality of springing out of an absolutely unproductive void — nothing. But in an empty world, there would be God and nothing, but now there is us and something. Does that mean your God created from NOTHING? Also in your view, is design necessary for a creation out of nothing, with no rule or character to conform with?

I would agree with the first part of your submission that God as a necessary being is absolutely required if one wishes to avoid the utterly irrational proposition that things which were not in existence suddenly and spontaneously popped into existence from NOTHING. That is a metaphysical impossibility. Being does not, cannot, and never will, emerge from non-being. The problem I notice in discussions of this sort is that far too many skeptics and atheists have a twisted and unrealistic understanding of the word ‘NOTHING’.

Quite frankly, I am amazed that this same misunderstanding has continued to appear in discussions of this sort. When people who claim to be able to demonstrate that being can emerge from non-being (from nothing) attempt to explain this deeply irrational stance, you can immediately see that they treat the ‘NOTHING” as if it were indeed ‘Something’.  This is to say that they playing semantic games and not quite coming to grips with the philosophical meaning of ‘nothing’ (i.e. not anything at all). “Nothing’ or ‘Nothingness’ does not imply vacuum, or void, or empty; has no components or parts, and certainly no attributes; is not governed by any physical laws and certainly cannot be meaningfully thought of as involving any interactions. To be painfully tedious, nothingness (nothing) is simply what it states: the non-existence of anything at all. This is a concept that naturalists or empirical materialists sometimes have a hard time to come to grips with.

Now, what does it mean when people say that God created “ex nihilo”? This simply means that God did not create the universe out of any previously existing matter; he created literally out of nothing. There was no pre-existing material substance which he used (as it were) to create all physical reality. This happens to have been confirmed scientifically as well. It boggles the mind to read people in 2011 say something like “matter is eternal and merely changes form”. To me, it sounds like reading someone saying that the earth is flat. But I suppose I shouldn’t judge harshly because I must admit, sometimes it can be hard for people to imagine that at some point in the past  the universe came into being with all matter, energy, gravity, dark matter, dark energy, and all the initial set of conditions and constants. To suppose there was some pre-existing matter which reorganized or reassembled into this universe is to work with an outdated view. Frankly, no one who is familiar with the state of current cosmology or astrophysics will say this—not with the degree of scientific and evidentiary support the Big Bang model currently enjoys.

To answer your last question as to whether creation out of nothing presupposes design, I’ll answer thus: logically, one is not committed to saying that creation out of nothing must presuppose design. In other words, we can quite imagine that it possible for a God capable of creating all matter and energy to have done so without imbuing said creation with a final cause/purpose/design. That is, there is no logical contradiction inherent in stating that “a maximally powerful God exists” and “God created the universe without any teleological implications.”  

However, as one begins to probe the universe, one will quickly and immediately recognize the exquisite and mind-numbingly precise degree of fine-tuning that is required for this universe to have continued to exist immediately after the Big Bang event and further to have continued to expand as it has to eventually support life. Now before anyone starts muttering “the anthropic principle”, you should realize that I am not personally invested in the appearance of life per se, as I am invested on the idea that the universe, without these initial conditions and constants, without this exquisite fine-tuning, would have collapsed in on itself shortly after the Big Bang creation and thus ceased to exist. This is before we even get to the possibility of other macro-worldly phenomena like stars, galaxies, clusters, super-clusters, black holes, nebulae etc.

Besides, as you continue to investigate, you will see unmistakable and tell-tale signs of design or fine-tuning that permeate the universe. It is also important to note that not everything exhibits a teleological imperative. Nevertheless, if you choose to be unconvinced about the clearly evident signs of design or fine-tuning in the universe, I have no quarrel with you. But, unless you can conclusively demonstrate why anyone should doubt a design inference, anyone is within his/her rational right to hold and affirm what is painstakingly clear.

A Titan Passes On

Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu

Calpurnia:

“When beggars die there are no comets seen;

The heavens themselves blaze forth the death of princes.”

Julius Caesar (II, ii, 30-31)

It was with an admixture of relief and sadness that I received the news that Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu has passed on to glory.  I am relieved because towards the latter end of his life, it was painful to watch this courageous man’s health deteriorate steadily to the point that many happily pronounced him dead week in, week out—even as he was struggling to recover from a stroke. Did he have the best possible medical care at a time he needed it most? Is it possible to imagine a scenario in which the Ikemba Nnewi successfully received treatment and recovered from the stroke? Would he have fared better in another medical facility? At this time, it is impossible to answer any of these questions definitively. Perhaps there is just no way to know these things. The only certain thing is that at long last the Ezeigbo Gburugburu has finally gone to meet his maker.

In life—he was larger than life. He had many haters and detractors. Nevertheless, he was a man that was deeply cherished and admired by his people. Here was a man that commanded the grudging respect or even fear of his adversaries. Love him or hate him, it cannot be denied that Ojukwu was a man of destiny and clear vision, and that his love and devotion to his Igbo people and to Nigeria as a whole has simply been unparalleled. He will most certainly be missed. As a matter of fact, I make bold to say that in time history will remember him kindly. His dogged commitment to the liberation of the black man sets him apart; his prophetic insight into the future fate of the country (as per the Ahiara declaration) has been borne out severally even in his lifetime. I daresay that whenever the history of Nigeria is written in years to come, Ojukwu will play a prominent role.

Now, I do not wish to open afresh the painful wounds of the Nigerian civil war neither have I elected to write any condescending or disparaging commentary against people who have for one reason or the other chosen to denigrate the man or his politics.  Even without my adding anything to the discussion, tomes have already been written on the Nigeria-Biafra civil war, so I realize that a lot of people already have had a number of sources influence or shape their perception of that war and the role Ojukwu played in it.

It should be noted however that a lot of the derogatory perceptions of Ojukwu are founded on deliberate misinformation or willful exaggerations.  This is understandable because in war, there is almost always a propaganda or perceptions war going on as well. Nevertheless, the war ended over 40 years ago and in those 40 years, Ojukwu conducted himself as a model law-abiding Nigerian citizen—even contesting for the presidency of the country. This at once puts a lie to the injurious speculations that Ojukwu was hell-bent on carving out a country of his own. Any fair and knowledgeable person analyzing the war should clearly surmise that the main cause of the war – at least that which motivated the Igbo –  was the general feeling of insecurity prevalent in the then Eastern Region because of the frightening wave of genocidal pogroms against the Igbo that occurred all over the country.

Unsurprisingly the corrosive bile, resentment and antipathy directed against Ojukwu in some areas are of such frightening and sickening proportions that they simply boggle the mind. It is therefore imperative that I remind anyone reading this that my main aim of writing this post is simply to recognize a truly iconic character and further to commiserate with the friends, family and well-wishers. It is not, I am afraid, to rehash the ugly and dark days of the civil war.

As with all larger-than-life personalities, he had his own generous share of human frailties, but the one thing that cannot be said about Ojukwu is that he lacked the courage, will or the strength of character to act upon his convictions. It is this commitment to fairness, decency, the rule of law, and a sense of history that saw his meteoric rise to prominence in the army—a calling to a position of trust and influence; one which would uniquely equip him to stand up for his people during the dark days of Nigeria’s anti-Igbo pogroms.

Now, as you can probably tell, there is a lot to the civil war that a mere blog post cannot do adequate justice to. I’ll leave you with one thought however. All through his life, Ojukwu has kicked against inequality and unfairness whether in his career or his personal life. Evil, it is said, thrives only when good men and women refuse to do anything about it. Ojukwu was content to lose not only his material possessions, nor indeed to sacrifice personal comfort, but was moreover keen on standing up for the defenseless. He stood for transparency, integrity and accountability which is why his military record when compared with most of the consecutive looting generals that lorded over the Nigerian estate is simply unrivalled.

It is left for Nigerians of today (especially Nigeria’s visionless and incompetent leadership) to eschew shortsightedness, blind hatred, corruption, ethnocentrism or nepotism, the craven worship of mammon over mettle, the feckless devotion to pennies over principles, if there is ever to be any hope that Nigeria as currently constituted will be a shining beacon of progress and prosperity on the African continent. If this does not happen, the spirit of Ojukwu—that indefatigable spirit that demands justice, fairness and self-determination—will continue to inspire and enervate the disenchanted, dispossessed and disenfranchised masses until a time comes when the Nigerian center cannot hold: and then indeed, things will fall apart.

Fare thee well Dikedioramma (November 4, 1933 – November 26, 2011)

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