TCNJ students, Trenton Black Panthers, and members of Trenton and the surrounding communities protest a neo-Nazi rally at the Trenton Statehouse and the encompassing massive police force.
TCNJ students, Trenton Black Panthers, and members of Trenton and the surrounding communities protest a neo-Nazi rally at the Trenton Statehouse and the encompassing massive police force.
THE END OF AN ERA
“The rebirth of a great nation,” says an Al Jazeera reporter.
What happens next?
By ALEXANDRIA BACHERT
Whether or not you’re a fan, off-campus frat parties are an unmistakable part of the college experience. Indeed, many of us have taken that well-known trek to a sweaty, cluttered basement in search of some combination of jungle juice and promiscuity. But while the thumping beats and diluted alcohol may temporarily drown out any safety-related concerns, several people associated with Greek life, some of whom asked not to be named, have said that the massive parties they routinely host are major fire hazards.
BY PAUL SOON, TCNJ PROTESTANT BIBLE FELLOWSHIP OUTREACH COORDINATOR
Before the average reader reads the title and brands this article as some fairy tale written by some hick from the woods, please consider the appropriate background. Contrary to popular belief, all Creationists are not logically-impaired, reason-deprived, brainwashed zombies. We’re academics. So before you brand me as someone not familiar with the scientific method or empirical studies, keep in mind that I am actually a biology major. Or if you prefer to preclude Creationism as an antiquated philosophical system, please keep in mind that I am also a philosophy major. The point is not to flaunt credentials, but to illustrate the most important point about Creationism or naturalism (the idea that life arose out of only natural causes without divine intervention), that people in both camps are intelligent, analytical, but far too often perilously closed-minded. The most important thing is to approach both sides with an open-minded, scientific mindset, forsaking the burning urge to label our opponents. I write this piece partially as a student of biology, partially as a student of philosophy, partially as a theologian, but most importantly as a fellow TCNJ student.
So first of all, as an unashamed Creationist I do not pretend that evolution has no evidence, nor do I think that all who believe in evolution are close-minded God-haters. As a student of biology I am well acquainted with many of the arguments for evolution and admit they can be convincing. However, in my opinion they are not enough. Two broad camps exist in this debate: Evolution vs. Creationism. However, more broadly, the camps of Naturalism vs. God-believing are created. Above all my intellectual might, I believe in Creationism because I believe that the Word of God is true. This is where your adrenaline pumps up and the temptation to brand this article as the work of a Bible-thumper shoots up precipitously. So don’t worry – I’m a science student too. Above any science, above any philosophy, above any popular fad of mankind I believe that God holds the truth. Even before any scientific or philosophical argument, I confidently reject naturalism on the simple self-evident assumption that humanity is more than just chemicals. It is something sacred. Some might take exception to that statement, and I will accept arguments on one condition: That you are a strict vegan. Anyone who is not a strict vegan willingly accepts the assumption that our lives are worth more than any other quantitative life. If you believe in evolution you must reconcile the idea that humans are different than other life with the idea that, well, we’re no different from other life. If you believe in evolution you must accept that humans are nothing more than very advanced animals, nothing more than the most finely-tuned genetically regulated product of nature. You must accept that humanity has no intrinsic rights or value above that which is granted by evolution.
That proposition leads to some serious problems. One is the problem of the normativity of ethics. Normative ethics supposes that ethics has the power to deem whether acts are wrong or right. If ethics are not normative then it can be said that murder results in death, but it cannot be said that murder is wrong. I don’t know about you, but I believe that murder is intrinsically wrong. If you believe that humans are the products of evolution you must find a convincing entity that has the authority to administer right and wrong. We can do this with various philosophical theories but these can run into problems. Utilitarianism has no need for God. Yet philosophical theories of ethics that do not rely on God run into problems, such as “Why should we listen to your system of right and wrong?” Utilitarianism itself creates certain ethical dilemmas such as, it is okay to cheat on your boyfriend or girlfriend as long as they don’t find out, it doesn’t hurt your relationship, and total happiness is increased. Now I believe that most of you would believe cheating is inherently bad (what I mean is that if you found out that your significant other was cheating on you would feel deeply hurt and feel wronged.) Now as someone who would prefer not getting cheated on (as I am sure you are as well) I believe in a normative, objective system of ethics. Evolution has no rules save one. Survival of the fittest. Sounds altruistic to you, no? Actually I can think of few things less altruistic than survival of the fittest. It appears rather intuitive that evolution by survival of the fittest would preclude the existence of morality as we know it, a morality where sacrificing for others is praised and being selfish is denounced. So how then could a normative objective ethical theory evolve through evolution? I believe that an ethical theory that is the product of evolving from survival of the fittest to be a system most bereft of any morals at all. But some scientists have proposed a system where altruism may have been introduced through evolution. This is where I will finally turn to science.
Evolution is the selection of traits that give a population reproductive advantage. So if a new trait is introduced into a population of organisms it can be ether beneficial, neutral, or deleterious to the reproduction of the population. So if some organism exhibits a trait that gives them an advantage they survive, reproduce and pass on their traits. Evolutionists surmise that because altruism is beneficial to a population it was selected for and not against. Possible, perhaps. But how does this work? If one has a trait which causes them to be self-sacrificial (altruistic) it may be good for the population if they sacrifice their life for the good of the population, but how does that sacrificial individual pass on their traits if they are well, dead. Doesn’t work too good. The only way that altruistic traits could be selected for if evolution somehow knew that those traits were good and thoughtfully selected them. Any science teacher worth their salt will say that evolution doesn’t know anything, it has no mind! But I have several times sat through class hearing the teacher proclaim, “It’s remarkable, it’s as if evolution knew this would be beneficial!” This is one of my major gripes about evolution. There is considerable circumstantial evidence that organisms may have evolved from each other. However, scientists have no clue how it happened, just that it appears to have happened.
Take for example, sexual reproduction. Asexual reproduction is easy, clean, and pretty safe. You live so why not make more of you. Most bacteria utilize asexual reproduction. Sexual reproduction is a totally different beast. Sexual reproduction is risky (might not have mates!), costly (more energy used than asexual), and dangerous (deadly if you’re eaten!). Now we know that sexual reproduction is an essential component of evolution, in that it increases genetic variation. But how did sexual reproduction arise? As aforementioned, the world of sexual reproduction can be a scary thing! (I’m talking about microscopic organisms and the origin of sexual reproduction, not humans, although I’m sure it might also ring true to us geeks who are awkward with the opposite sex). In early organisms sexually reproduction should have been selected against. Yes, it’s useful for future explanations but who would know that? The only explanation is that somehow evolution knew that sexual reproduction would be useful in the future and made the sacrifices to create it. But evolution doesn’t know anything!
One more example, and this one isn’t just one I created. Creationists call it irreducible complexity. The basic premise is this: all organisms, even to the simplest cellular level, are extraordinarily complex. Without getting into the specifics (that’s the pain of biology majors), the idea is that things are so amazingly complex that if just one thing went wrong the entire organism might die. There is only one right way for biological complexes to work, but billions of wrong ways. Irreducible complexity states that in light of the aforementioned statements, it seems exceedingly unlikely and probably impossible for evolution to create such complex structures. Take for example the origin of life. “Simple” life is really, really, complex. For basic life, DNA, RNA, proteins, nucleotides, and thousands of enzymes are needed. Each protein is coded for by thousands of “letters” of DNA. If only four or five of those letters are incorrect, the protein would almost certainly be doomed. So how in the world could primordial soup somehow create such stunning complexity? Most likely it can’t. Evolution must have somehow known what complexity to make.
Evolution works best (or in my opinion at all) if it is directed by some all knowing being. If you believe in evolution you must exhibit remarkable faith in the possible explanations of how certain things evolve. Evolution must be a powerful force indeed if it can know how to direct organisms’ evolution and has the power and creativity to craft complex structures out of nothing. So if you believe that evolution is so powerful and so wise, then I think that it makes perfect sense for evolution to be your God. You must have faith that evolution is so knowledgeable as to create us.
By NICHOLAS A. PELULLO
“My name is Tucker Max, and I am an asshole.”
Tucker Max is an asshole. He is a self-proclaimed asshole, and seems to be proud of it. No one denies this. Currently, the merits of hosting a self-proclaimed asshole at an academic institution are under heavy debate. One side seems to think the asshole’s right to free speech gives the college justification to present him, the other claims that it is morally culpable to willingly endorse and financially support such an asshole. I, however, am not interested in a debate over how many assholes we can bring to TCNJ. Rather, I feel that an element of Tucker Max’s persona remains unaddressed, and is representative of a key dilemma in American culture: The Success of the Asshole in Western Society.
What is an asshole? If we accept Tucker Max’s definition, in his own words, from his own website:
“I get excessively drunk at inappropriate times, disregard social norms, indulge every whim, ignore the consequences of my actions, mock idiots and posers, sleep with more women than is safe or reasonable, and just generally act like a raging dickhead.”
An asshole, it would appear, is someone who has cast the foundations of Western virtue to the wind. Such a person, according to this definition, has lost all control over his or her physical desires, to the point that these desires are no longer checked by any higher mental capacity. This person has acquired a complete disregard for the effects of his or her actions on his or her fellow human beings. Truly an asshole, indeed.
However, regardless of whatever criticisms we may make of this particular asshole, there is one undeniable affirmation: he is ridiculously successful. Despite, or perhaps because of, his being “a raging dickhead,” Mr. Max has made himself a much-lauded figure in society. Why, one might ask, does someone who indulges to admittedly unhealthy excess and has no concern for other people garner such success?
The answer, I believe, lies in one key issue: pride.
Self-worth, or pride, is inherently attractive, both in terms of social and interpersonal relationships. It shows that the person who knows you best – you – recognizes and acknowledges that you are “worthy.”
Our society, however, has arbitrarily aligned “pride” with what is considered to be morally bad, and the opposite of pride – humility – with what is considered to be morally good. As a result of all this, people who want to be virtuous tend to strive toward the ideal of humility over pride, artificially devaluing themselves. People who do not wish to see themselves aligned to virtue (such as Mr. Max), on the other hand, are free to indulge in pride, and, as a result, possess a degree of self worth, albeit excessive.
Therein lies the success of all assholes. For all their faults, social forces have left them as one of the only groups possessing at least an appropriate amount of self worth, leaving the majority of non-assholes with an undue dearth of self-value.
The solution to the proliferation of assholes in Western culture, therefore, is for good people to reclaim “pride” as a moral virtue. When you get right down to it, it’s a matter of honesty. If you’re a good person, you should recognize that, if only to be truthful to yourself and the world. In fact, you should thrive on it. That’s right – thrive. Too long have I seen good people not value themselves appropriately, with sorry consequences for themselves and the good of the world around them. The success of this one asshole, which our college so willingly endorses, is not a random anomaly; instead, it represents a systematic failure of our society to properly value its members.
The onset of a new year is always bittersweet. We frantically search for meaning in the successes and failures of the last twelve months, grouping them together as somehow indicative of what it meant to live in 2009. We assume with a rather arbitrary degree of optimism that a fresh change in the Roman calendar will accompany a comparably fresh revelation of insight.
This issue, then, deals with the paradox of renewal: our profound strides forward and the implications thereof, combined with the ever-present forces of antiquity that still linger as society waits impatiently for more earnest modernization. From politics, to religion, to technology, to culture, we grapple with a grating conflux of yesterday and today. It is a tug-of-war — and at times, an all-out brawl. Within these pages, we try to make sense of it.
In the November 3 edition of The Signal, Newark native Delisa O’Brien praised the Honorable Mayor Cory A. Booker for his dazzling address to TCNJ students in the Mildred & Ernest E. Mayo Concert Hall: “I’m proud that he takes the time,” she remarked. Many were indeed proud that Booker took the time. But were they aware that he also took the money?
According to Corey Dwyer, Sophomore Class Vice President and leading organizer of the mayor’s October 27 talk, the Student Government Association (SGA) received $11,000 from the Student Finance Board (SFB) to fund the event. Dwyer explained, “Some of this was used to cover administrative costs… and the cost of booking the Concert Hall.” The rest went into the mayor’s pocket. “We did not inquire as to what Mayor Booker intended to do with his portion of the money,” Dwyer said. “It’s not really our place to do so.”
But it is our place to do so, really.
After all, is it customary for sitting elected officials to accept such large payments for speaking engagements at colleges? Not for Cory Booker, at least. Just one day prior to his TCNJ appearance, the Newark mayor delivered a strikingly similar lecture at neighboring Rider University. That engagement fee? $0.00.
It should be noted that Rider is a private institution. And considering his rhetoric, which emphasized the importance of universal education, it seems a bit contradictory that the mayor would require taxpayer-funded TCNJ to hand over thousands of its scarce, tuition-garnered dollars for a ninety-minute presentation – especially in the midst of an ongoing recession that has forced the College to furlough professors and cut services.
Tim Asher, Director of Student Activities and Leadership Development, is the college administrator most responsible for coordinating the logistics of Booker’s appearance. Asher described his role as “basically a negotiator.” Having haggled the original price-tag from $20,000 down to $11,000, it would seem Asher has some skill in the craft. Booker was able to do “better” for the College because of its “proximity [to Newark], and other things of this nature.” But Asher said he was unaware of any attempt to secure an engagement gratis, as Rider apparently had received. “I didn’t know anything about that until I read your email,” he said. “I believe that avenue had been exhausted by the time Olaniyi came to me.”
Booker’s pricey visit was the brain-child of SGA Vice President of Legal and Government Affairs Olaniyi Solebo, who was most closely associated with the process of procuring the mayor’s talents. Solebo said he received a rough estimate of “around ten thousand dollars” from someone in Booker’s office over the summer – a figure that was then submitted for SFB approval. According to Solebo, Booker appeared at Rider without charge for two reasons: 1) Booker considered the Rider visit a campaign event on behalf of Gov. Jon Corzine; and 2) Rider is home to the Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics. “The Institute does a lot of work for New Jersey politics,” Solebo said. “Among other activities, it gathers polling data. This gives them a bit more leverage in booking New Jersey politicians as speakers.”
But should Rebovich’s “leverage” affect the monetary terms of speaking engagements by public officials? Could this be considered an attempt on the part of Booker to appease a New Jersey political enterprise? Would TCNJ have received a freebee if it was home to a comparable entity? Before tossing around thousands of dollars, should we not expect the SGA to explore whether less expensive alternatives are available? These are questions that deserve answers.
Furthermore, an unattributed article found on Rider’s official Web site casts some doubt as to whether Booker’s appearance there was merely a campaign stop. According to the article, the mayor spent his Rider lecture discussing the history of Newark’s Brick Towers, his relationship with the wise Mrs. Jones, and the city’s coming renaissance.
Sound familiar? It certainly should if you attended Booker’s TCNJ event, as the topics appear identical. The Rider article also makes but a single passing reference to Gov. Corzine, suggesting that the mayor spent about as much time discussing the gubernatorial election there as he did at TCNJ (not very much at all). Assuming the talks were the same, is there any logical reason that a private university should have free access to a speaker who charges TCNJ thousands?
This is not to say that anyone expects Mayor Booker – whose commendable activities in Newark are undoubtedly time-consuming – to travel the land as an altruistic troubadour of inspiration. But as any campaign strategist could attest, Booker’s New Jersey engagements pay non-financial dividends in themselves. Upon being reminded that he could potentially win the Democratic nomination for governor in 2013, Booker never discounts the idea. He has consistently responded by maintaining that he is focused on the affairs of Newark. Coy deflections aside, the political reality is that Booker could very likely seek the governorship at some time in the near future. If this proves to be the case, surely the mayor’s university touring is a sound investment in his electoral fortunes.
Was anyone in attendance not impressed by his style and story? Won’t everyone who listened feel a little less fidgety about visiting Newark in the future – perhaps to peruse the booming downtown area Mayor Booker was so keen on promoting?
Booker could not be reached for comment on the ultimate destination of the thousands he reaped from the event.
We would hope, though, that TCNJ tuition dollars did not directly or indirectly go to funding the mayor’s 2010 reelection bid. Giving him the benefit of the doubt, one could speculate that Booker instead steered the revenue to his Newark Now! nonprofit – an ostensibly laudable endeavor. But according to State Sen. Ron Rice (D-Newark), even a contribution to that outwardly neutral organization could be considered a campaign contribution; the nonprofit serves to bolster Booker’s image around the city as a steward of good works. And in Newark, where gritty, machine-style identity politics still dominate – publicity is everything.
No one will refute that the mayor proved himself to be an adept orator – one who preaches with passion about his commitment to public service. But after all is said and done, did he really practice what he preached? If Mayor Booker is genuinely invested in the public good, his investment should not be bound by the beltway of Newark.
Cory, thanks for coming. But next time, cut us a break – don’t make us cut you a check.
By GARY EDWARDS BETHEA
On Thursday, November 5, Ewing Township Police executed a search warrant at the house occupied by Sigma Pi — a TCNJ fraternity.
According to Lieutenant Gerald Jacobs, police seized electronic equipment related to a potential computer-related crime. Jacobs did not describe the nature of the confiscated equipment, but a source familiar with the situation told The Perspective that several laptops were taken from the house, located at 1694 Pennington Road.
Upon request for comment, Sigma Pi President Carlos Rosano, who spoke on behalf of the organization said, “The issue that you are referring to is one of a personal nature related specifically to an individual that this organization has disassociated from. We cannot comment further out of respect for that individual as this is an ongoing investigation.”
No arrests have been made as of press time.
After being dormant for nearly two years, TCNJ’s chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union is being restored. Perspective executive editor Glenn Eisenberg, with the assistance of the ACLU-NJ, has begun organizing meetings for ACLU-TCNJ. The club has had several meetings and has established the long-term goal of getting an overbearing TCNJ policy or New Jersey law changed. The club meets Fridays at 3:30 on the second floor of the Student Center above the Rathskeller.
From its outset, The Perspective never sought to engage in an arbitrary tit-for-tat with The Signal. The two publications have different aims, different journalistic standards, and different target audiences. Our relationship can be one of coexistence and supplementation, not incessant quarreling. That being said, we will not hesitate to criticize The Signal if, in our opinion, it has failed to provide the wider campus community with quality content and reporting. In last month’s inaugural issue, The Perspective called attention to the flaws that we found to be pervasive at the publication.