Archive for February, 2016

Creation and Evolution

Scientists estimate that our Universe came into existence 14 billion years ago, through the ‘Big Bang’. The universe expanded rapidly from an infinitely small, hot and dense size to the one we live in today. The Universe expanded as it also cooled, giving rise to particles of matter and antimatter which typically destroy each other. But some matter survived, and more stable particles called protons and neutrons started to form when the Universe was one second old. Over a long period of time, the slightly denser regions of the nearly uniformly distributed matter gravitationally attracted nearby matter and thus grew even denser, forming gas clouds, stars, galaxies, and the other astronomical structures observable today. Life on earth began first as microbes, then sponges, worms, invertebrates (including insects), fishes, reptiles (with dinosaurs), then mammals, producing hominids (in Africa) from 4 million years ago, the ancestors of humanity today.

As to the historical conflict between science and religion on the beginning of the universe; some of the world’s leading cosmologists and prominent religious leaders agree that creation and evolution need not be incompatible.

”One could still imagine that God created the universe at the instant of the big bang, or even afterwards in just such a way as to make it look as though there had been a big bang, but it would generally be meaningless to suppose that it was created before the big bang. An expanding universe does not preclude a creator, but it does place limits on when [God] might have carried out [the] job.”

”Some people feel that science should be concerned with only the first part; they regard the question of the initial situation as a matter for metaphysics or religion. They would say that God, being omnipotent, could have started the universe off any way he wanted. That may be so, but in that case he also could have made it develop in a completely arbitrary way. Yet it appears that he chose to make it evolve in a very regular way according to certain laws. It therefore seems reasonable to suppose that there are also laws governing the initial state.”

From A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawkings,
Theoretical physicist, cosmologist and former Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge.

“The Big Bang, which today we hold to be the origin of the world, does not contradict the intervention of the divine creator but, rather, requires it. …Evolution in nature is not inconsistent with the notion of creation, because evolution requires the creation of beings that evolve.”

Pope Francis.

The Epic of Gilgamesh is an epic poem from ancient Mesopotamia (circa 2100 BC) regarded as the earliest surviving great work of literature. What is fascinating about this document, which pre-dates the Hebrew Bible (circa 1000-1100 BC) is that a number of themes, plot elements, and characters have counterparts in the Bible, notably the accounts of the Garden of Eden (the Genesis story of Creation), the advice from Ecclesiastes and the Genesis flood narrative.

There are parallels between the stories of Enkidu/Shamhat and Adam/Eve. A man is created from the soil by a god, and lives in a natural setting amongst the animals. He is introduced to a woman who tempts him. In both stories the man accepts food from the woman, covers his nakedness, and must leave his former realm, unable to return. The presence of a snake that steals a plant of immortality from the hero later in the epic is another point of similarity.

‘Mitochondrial Eve’

­In 1987, research by a group of genet­icists found that the lineage of all people alive today falls on one of two branches in humanity’s family tree. One of these branches consists of nothing but African lineage, the other contains all other groups, including some African lineage. The conclusion was that every person on earth right now can trace his or her lineage back to a single common female ancestor.

‘Mitochondrial Eve’ named after mitochondria and the biblical Eve is estimated to have lived between 99,000 and 200,000 years ago, most likely in East Africa. This DNA evidence is consistent with earlier archeological findings tracing the cradle of humanity from (Eastern and Southern) Africa.

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Museveni wins. Again.

This should come as no surprise. Yes, I am aware Yoweri Museveni has been in power in Uganda for 30 years. Now set to make 35 years at the completion of this term. This however does not pre-empt any discussion on the issue.

But Uganda’s opposition is still surprised. The leading pro-opposition media, The Daily Monitor, diligently conducts pre-election surveys for the past national elections including the current one, to find how opposition presidential candidates, chiefly, Besigye, would fare against the incumbent, Museveni. In the beginning, the media house would not publish undesirable findings that it had commissioned. But some internal critics insisted that conducting research and getting results you do not like should not prohibit you from disseminating them. It’s difficult, I suppose. With every new impending election, they have published poll predictions, none of which, have ever shown Besigye, the leading opposition candidate to be in the lead.

For this current election period, at least 3 pre-election surveys were conducted. A Daily Monitor commissioned poll gave 59.9 per cent of the vote to President Museveni if elections had been held between December 5 and December 8, 2015. The same poll gave Dr Besigye 21 per cent. Another survey, also funded by this newspaper, researched by internationally recognised pollsters Ipsos figured Museveni at 57% in the lead. Succeeding surveys closer to the election showed Museveni at 53% lead, and another at 51%. They were not way off the mark, he won at 60.75%.

However, following every election conclusion, the opposition passionately argues that Besigye ‘actually won’ because he is so popular. There is no hard evidence for this. Neither pre-poll scientific research (even that commissioned by opposition media) nor actual election results. They simply believe it to be so.  It is highly suggestive that Kiiza Besigye who received 28% votes in 2001, 37% in 2006, 26% in 2011, and 35.37% this 2016, really could not be any more popular than what the results suggest. [Again, from both objective predictions and actual results].

Also, interestingly, the opposition rejects those results where they do not win, but accept those results, for Parliamentary seats/polling stations/regions, etc, where they maintain support and win. It’s hypocritical. Either you reject all the results, including your wins resulting from a supposedly flawed process conducted by the Electoral Commission, accused of being fraudulent by the chief opposition party, or you accept all, wins and losses together.

This is not to say that the electoral process is not beset by irregularities. It is. But the overwhelming evidence regarding popular support for presidential candidates is consistent and objective.

Then again, there should be reasons for Museveni’s popularity judging by hard evidence and not pure belief. Over the past 25 years, Uganda has had the 11th fastest growing economy in the world, the fourth in Africa. Our country’s export earnings have increased 27 times with diversification of the economy. Coffee, one of our leading exports, initially accounted for 94% of our export earnings but has now gone down to 7.4%. Thus Uganda under Museveni has successfully diversified its exports and cushioned herself against risks of single commodity price volatility. The Uganda Demographic and Household Survey for 2012 shows that the number of people living in poverty has fallen from 56% in 1992 to 19% in 2010. And a lot more insightful assessments comparing Uganda’s excellent growth performance with similar African countries described in Andrew Mwenda’s article here.

 

 

 

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Money, Currency and Life

Yes, they’re different

Currency refers to a medium of exchange meant to ‘store value’ usually in the form of paper or coins. This legal tender represents or is backed by actual goods and services. Credit, on the other hand, refers to ‘virtual’ currency or ‘debt’ created by banking institutions, which is responsible for inflation and therefore unsustainable.

Money [as both currency and credit] has come to be valued as life itself and not just a means to [physically] sustain life. A quote by Mama from Lorraine Hansberry’s play, ‘A Raisin in the Sun’ further illustrates this;

”Oh—So now it’s life. Money is life. Once upon a time freedom used to be life—now it’s money. I guess the world really do change . . .”

A brief chronology of money:

The monetary system was developed as way of placing a value on sought-after goods and services (human labour). Initially, a barter system existed between societies by trading or exchanging goods and services directly. However, some limitations were encountered with the direct exchange system such as; difficulty in storing wealth, no common measure of value, indivisibility of certain goods, etcetera, which led to the emergence of the current money economy.

While this financial system has been useful, it has become increasingly clear that there are several downsides to it. The system has enormously contributed to crime, corruption and poverty with a social stratification marked by economic disparity between individuals, various social groups and communities. This has resulted in individuals, corporations or countries who have higher purchasing power unduly influencing public policy and global governance to the detriment of more economically and socially marginalized people and communities.

Money is neutral and is not necessarily the evil here. The great evil being structures of social domination along various demographic lines such as race, gender, class, geographical location and so on. The inevitable interaction between the financial economic system and underlying structures of domination has led to the dysfunction and inequity being experienced under the socio-economic environment.

On the whole, money simply stands between what one needs and what one is able to get. Essentially, it is not so much money we need, as the access to resources that we require to live healthy, holistic and fulfilled lives as whole human beings.

What is a healthy and holistic life?

The World Health Organisation defines health as; a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.’  And I would like to add spiritual well-being, for those human communities who believe we are also souls and not just physical bodies.

For everyone to experience an equitable state of well-being, be it physical, mental or social, an equal playing field needs to be set right from the start of one’s life. We need to empower and promote the social, economic and political inclusion of all, irrespective of age, sex, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion or economic or other status. This should result in equitable rights, representation and resource sharing that is fair for everyone. It is imperative that the representation and voice of developing nations in international decision-making is enhanced regarding economic and financial institutions for global equity across countries and regions.

What alternatives for an equitable society?

”We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”
~ Albert Einstein

A number of researchers have outlined alternative interventions towards a more peaceful and sustainable global civilization. Jacque Fresco, the visionary for the Venus Project which advocates for a currency free, cooperative, socio-economic model states,

”…All nations and people, regardless of political philosophy, religious beliefs, or social customs, depend upon natural resources; we all need clean air and water, arable land for food, and the necessary technology and personnel to maintain a high standard of living.

….the Earth has abundant resources and our practice of rationing these resources through the use of money is an outdated method which causes much suffering. It is not money that we need but the intelligent management of the earth’s resources for the benefit of everyone. We could best work towards achieving this by using a resource based economy.”

The Transition

A good question that comes up is, ‘…but how are we going to get there?’. It is a great idea – the resource-based economy, but how to do it? In fact, as far back as 1930, the economist John Maynard Keynes had envisaged an increase in productivity (by 2030) with the advancement of machines and technology freeing up human labour and correspondingly allowing for a shorter working day, as low as 3 hours a day. His views have been backed by a number of modern day thinkers who posit that a gradual reduction of the working day will help [a steady state or no growth] economy, protect the environment, and improve the well-being of the population, all with one single measure.

 

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