The Myth of “African Science” – by Professor Uchenna Nwosu
When I googled African “Science” on the net it yielded no result. Not one. The closest definition/explanation I could find was when I googled black magic. Lest you misunderstand, black magic does not mean the magic of black people, nor does white magic mean that of white people. Black magic is magic with evil intent while white magic is magic with benevolent intent. The practice of black magic, hexing or voodoo is no longer in vogue in the developed world. However, it is still rampant in Africa and some Caribbean islands, especially Haiti. In Igboland, it is known as ịda ọgwụ when it is deemed protective or ịkọ ọgwụ when the aim is hostile.
African Science is mostly based on charms which may be worn as rings, bracelets, waist bands or even effected by inoculation into the skin. What makes them African, and therefore different from General Science is that they apparently do not obey the physical laws of the external world, such as the laws of motion. This is exemplified by the concept of Ọdụ Ụna, where a lorry driver fortified with it in the form of a ring or a waist band is said to be magically removed harmless at the moment of impact, from the site of his own motor vehicle crash. Nor does African Science obey the requirement that something moving, such as a bullet, cannot be stopped without discharging its energy on the object (momentum), hence we hear of concoctions or charms that make the body bullet-proof.
Even the law of gravity does not stand a chance in African Science, hence a native doctor can fly home without wings from a distant town (ikwu ikiri). Note that this phenomenon is said to happen only at night, thereby limiting the opportunity for documentation. African science even defies biological laws; hence some practitioners are alleged to be able to change at night into animal forms like the leopard (ihi agụ), only to return to his/her normal human body at dawn after ravaging domestic animals.
Unlike General Science, African Science is always cloaked in secrecy. It is not readily verifiable by normal scientific methodology, and has failed in rare cases of such attempts. Take the case of one Mr. Umaa Ukor reported on the BBC on December 17, 2013, and I quote:
“In December of 2003, a traditional “healer” was killed in Benue State of Nigeria while testing an anti-bullet charm he prepared for his client. The charm which was designed in the form of an amulet, to be worn around the neck, was prepared for one Mr. Umaa Ukor. To demonstrate its efficacy, the “healer” whose name was given as Ashi Tarfa placed the charm around his own neck, and asked Umaa to shoot at him. Obliging Tarfa’s request, Umaa pointed the gun at his head and squeezed the trigger. On impact, the bullet shattered the man’s head…”
Anti-Bullet Charms and Armed Robbery, http://Valentineodika.blgspot.com.ng
Similar incident was reported on Linda Ikeji’s blog when Yisa Aniwose, an Odua People’s Congress leader in Lagos State, was shot and killed by his friend, John Taju, while testing the efficacy of his newly acquired bullet-proof charm.
Bullet-proof Charm Fails OPC Leader: Dies after being shot by friend. (http://www.lindaikejisblog.com)
African Scientist and his Charms (http://Valentineodika.blgspot.com.ng)
A final word about charms, fetish, idols and shrines: Physical laws do, in fact, govern the external world!
Any charm or fetish consists of its individual components parts. A piece of leather smeared with chicken blood becomes leather + chicken blood. Dip it in vegetable juice and it becomes leather + chicken blood + vegetable juice. Use it to wrap a cowry and it becomes a cowry wrapped with leather, which was smeared with chicken blood and dipped in vegetable juice. At no point does it become anything else. It remains the sum of its component parts. Only your mind is capable of making it “something else”. It is regrettable that Nollywood now uses the technologies of General Science to lend credence to the phenomena of witchcraft in the so-called African Science. Through digital video manipulation Nollywood can now create “spirits” electronically in their movies, thereby hoodwinking the gullible into believing in their real existence.
Hexing and Un-hexing
African Science now features increasingly in medical practice. Think of ịgha ntụtụ and ịta ntụtụ, where nails and other metal objects are supposedly sent with evil intent into a victim’s body by practitioners of the craft. They are just as mysteriously extracted by other (or same) practitioners, leaving no entry or exit wounds on the skin! Think of Enyi Ule/Ure, said to be inflicted on victims through remote means.
Curiously, “African Science” seems to advance in tandem with modern science and technology. For instance, the phenomenon of “sending” became common place only with the introduction of the Television (TV) Remote Control gadget into our culture. Apparently, it is reasoned that if one can send a signal to the TV by pushing a button from a distance, surely one can also send a hex to a victim from a distance – even if the intended victim was in another continent. With a little more imagination this concept has been extrapolated to “stealing other people’s testicles” and appropriating a person’s favorable destiny to one’s self!
African Science and Medical Quackery
African Science has blended seamlessly with medical quackery. These days, there is no hour that two or three vendor trucks equipped with loud speakers are not peddling “drugs” which supposedly can cure every illness on earth through the magic of African science. In the true scientific medicine, we do not give credit to any drug until we have compared the result of treatment using the drug with that of a “control”, which is a dummy or pretend drug that looks exactly like the real drug. The control “drug” is known as placebo. It is usually a harmless substance like starch or sugar tablet. But using a control is not even enough. The drug in question has to be also subjected to a randomized, double blind study. Let me explain this procedure:
- A single controlled study means that two groups of patients who meet the following requirements will be assigned for the study:
- Patients in both groups should be matched, or have similar profile such as age, gender, similarity of condition, etc.
- The number of patients in each group should be sufficient to avoid statistical errors, which means getting a false result by a lucky chance. Here is what is meant by lucky chance: if one tosses a coin only three times one may get a head or a tail all three times by lucky chance. But if one continues to toss the same coin 100 times or more one would get a head or tail half of the time. Therefore, the initial result was gotten by chance alone.
- Randomized means that there is no selection bias in deciding who goes to the test or control group. Therefore, assignment could be on the basis of a blind draw from a bag or other similar method.
- Double blind means that neither the patients nor the testers know who is receiving the test drug or who is receiving the placebo. Only a third party who is not directly involved in the drug test will have the key.
It is only after such trial that we know what drug works and what drugs do not work as claimed.
Why do we have such stringent rules for testing drugs scientifically? Because unlike a machine, our body has its own in-built medical team in each organ system. This team is called the immune system. It fights germs and disease, and can repair many damages in the organs. That is why any person who calls himself/herself a doctor can take credit for “curing” some patients, even with quackery. But he/she can also retard the process of the immune system by doing the wrong thing, or giving an untested medicine. The key to good medical practice is to “first do no harm” to the body (primum non nocere). This in fact is the motto of scientific medicine.
- There is nothing like African Science, Asian Science, American Science or British Science. There is only one science – General Science
General Science obeys the physical laws of time, space, motion, gravity, etc.
Haiti is the most backward island in the Caribbean while Africa is the most backward of all the continents in the world. With their respective penchants for the so-called African Science, one would have expected Haiti and Africa to be the world leaders in science and technology.
The human body has in-built “health team” in every organ in the form of the Immune System. Therefore, unlike a machine, the body can repair itself to a limited extent provided that the medication or treatment delivered to it does not become an obstacle.
We should be careful to see that the non-orthodox doctor truly understands the illness he/she treats and the medication or treatment given for the illness has been well-tested so it does not harm the patient instead.