Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Neglect safety and perish

"IF wishes were horses, then beggars would ride". This old saying, in our age, the age of innovationism, modernism, progressivism, changism, globalism, newism, secularism, and materialism refers, not to beggars, but to bio-scientists, bio-engineers, bio-technologist, molecular bio-logists, and stem cell bio-cloners. Of interest is the relation between innovation and diseases. Nigerian's traditionally, are not people who carry out actions based on or because of the use of language, except, where language is used to command a person to act in a particular or specific way or manner. If no command is given, Nigerians, traditionally, are moved to act by what they see.

We are, traditionally, empiricists and inductionists; not rationalists and deductionists. The British are also, traditionally, empiricists and inductionists, not rationalists and deductionists, as their philosophical origin shows. That is where Nigerians and British people share a common intellectual and epistemological root and culture. When it is said that a nation or an ethnic group has empiricism and inductionism as its philosophical and epistemological methodology, that does not mean that the nation or ethic group did not think or depend on thought for their way of life. What is intended is that the beginning of their epistemological process was keen observation (empiricism). Then they subjected what they observed to reason or thought (rationalism). The next stage is to see or identify a relation or connecting factor or principle between one observation and another observation and more than one other observation. Finally, to generalise based on the identification and establishment of the truth of the connection between two things and among more than two things observed.

Let me illustrate this using Nigeria. In Nigeria, Igbo people, Ndi Igbo, say: Afunaanya ekwe. This means, literally, when it is seen, it is consented to or agreed with. It expresses empiricism-based epistemology. We are familiar with the saying: "Seeing is believing". This, although the same as the Igbo expression, it is believed, comes from British traditional epistemology and represents the British tradition of empiricism-inductionism-based epistemological methodology. The Igbo expression warns against dependence on a second source for knowledge concerning anything. It advises, promotes and encourages independence in achieving knowledge about anything and everything. "Independence" used here, does not mean that one should block his ears and turn off his mind against information from anyone; or that one should not read any book, attend any school, or take lectures at a university. What it means, is that one must see, if it is possible to see, experiment, if it is possible to experiment, or intellectualise if neither the former nor the later is possible, before one accepts anything or makes conclusion about anything.

Yoruba people say: Iroyin ko ni to afi oju ba, eni ti o ba de ibe ni ole so. This means, story, told by a person, is less than seeing by a person, the person who is present at an event or scene (alone) can speak about it. The "alone" is implicit. The saying posits that truth rests on the one who is present at an event or scene alone and not on the one who later informs another person about it or writes about it. The reason for this is clear: The person who tells another person may add his version and therefore distort the truth. He may pervert it or change it altogether. Whatever the one who later tells the story says or writes, it would be impossible for him to say or write about what is, that is, reality as reality - aliquid est - objectively. Just as in the analysis of the starting point of Igbo epistemology, the Yoruba eni ti o ba de ibe, the one who gets there - seemingly through physical presence alone - does not only mean being physically present at an invent alone.

It means that and it means, in addition to that, carrying out a personal experiment or intellectualisation of the object of pursuit or interest as a thing that is worth knowing and desired as an object of knowledge, carrying out a personal experiment or intellectualisation of a thing that is another person's, nation's or organisation's idea, theory, model, practice, standard, ethics or value; or in respect of a physical object that is obtrusive, challenging, threatening, or attractive, before making a judgment and decision about it. When one experiments or intellectualises a thing, one gets into the thing and, therefore, is able to understand it. Such understanding is authentic and whatever the person does with the understanding would be authentic.

Our fundamental problem as Nigerians is that we do not put ourselves at or in a thing. That is to say that we are not intellectually independent, authentic, progressing, progressive, civilised, civilising, developed or developing. Nothing about Nigeria is authentic now; nothing, not even one thing can be seen to be authentic because of our intellectual, epistemological, and axiological dependence. Take the case of the application of genetic engineering and biotechnology to the production of foods, drugs, vaccines and fuels. How many of us have seen - physically now - genetically modified foods? How many of us have seen the consequences of consuming genetically modified foods by a rat or a person? And, how many of us are promoting, supporting, and encouraging the production and consumption of genetically modified foods?. How many of us are demanding that we should be left to have our knowledge, gained independently, before we make our decision about genetically modified foods? How many of us have said that genetically modified foods should not be given to people until they have been established to be safe universally?. What we find is that most Nigerians are opposing this author although I have intellectualised the production of genetically modified foods independently and I defend whatever I say on the basis of my independent intellectualisation of it aided by or to support what researchers have found out about the foods.

Nigerians demand that I show them my personal experiment but they have not demanded that the people who tell them that genetically modified foods are safe must produce evidence that they are safe. What is clear from this is that Nigerians of our time, contrary to the practice of Nigerians of our ancestral past, are driven by the apertainment or emotiveness or symbolism of the use of language. Nothing can speak educational backwardness, intellectual mindlessness, docility, and gullibility more than this situation? We may use any of the other words that are used to drive action - that is besides innovation - to illustrate this truth. They include rights, freedom, democracy, globalisation, global village, change, and, pariah state. Genetic engineering and biotechnology are being drive by innovation and not by what the innovation produces.

The world-renowned and respected Nigerian who is called "the father of computer", Professor Philips Emeagwali, has written and spoken on the basis of the current drive for innovation, as a means of promoting the practice of genetic engineering and biotechnology, at several and different forums known to me, including when he addressed Nigerians of Igbo ethnic origin, and Nigerians in two universalities, one in the USA and the other in Canada. He spoke under the titles Africa must produce or perish and Intellectual Capital, not Money, Alleviates Poverty. This author objects to the contents of both of them; but only the former is argued against here, very briefly.

Concerning the former, it is argued that it is not the lack of innovation that would cause Africans to perish; that it should be observing that we have been innovating and getting worse; and that what would cause Africans to parish is mindlessness, docility, gullibility, and subservience - an always readiness and willingness to ape or copy Americans, or defer to Americans and the United Nations organisations. A particular aspect of the mindlessness, docility, gullibility and subservience that would cause Africans to perish is the adoption of genetic engineering, biotechnology, molecular biology and stem cell cloning practices concerning the production of foods, drugs, vaccine and fuels without intellectualising the implications and consequences of that, which are terminal diseases, polluted and carcinogenic environments, and deaths. The lack of innovation does not cause a person or nation to parish; it is the lack of attention to what is produced through innovation - that is, whether it is safe or not safe - that would cause Africans to perish. It is the neglect of safety in the application of innovation - bio-science, genetic engineering, biotechnology, molecular biology and stem cell cloning of our foods, drugs, and vaccines - that would cause not only Nigeria , but the whole world to perish.

This is why Yoruba adage, presented as a dialogue, says: Won ni omo go. Oni, "Ki iku saa ma pa". Kilo fe paa bi ko se ago. As we celebrate an insult that has persisted as independence, let us do something about our intellectual dependence and strive deliberately and seriously to be independent intellectually and to act independent of America and United Nations ideas, concepts, models, practices, standards, ends, ethics and values. Genetically Modified Foods are really Genetically Poisoned Foods. The innovation that produces the foods is why there are many new diseases, increase of old ones, deformities, disabilities, infertility, and deaths. But changing our attitudes to the use of language must also include changing our attitudes to the emotive or psychological intention or symbolism of the use of those words that have cause our domestic, social, and institutional values to be upside down and meaningless. I mean rights, freedom, democracy, globalisation, moving Nigeria forward, global village, gender, gender sensitivity, and culture.

Neglect safety and perish achieves the same purpose and has the same effect as neglect morality or spirituality and perish.