Charles Darwin Celebrations At Nairobi National Museum
April 18, 2011
The participants, who were mostly students from different on-campus groups, were very keen to follow the arguments that were made by the different speakers.
On February 12th 2010, the Center for Inquiry–Kenya organized Charles Darwin Celebrations at the Nairobi National Museum. The Nairobi National Museum hosts the remains of Homo Habilis and Homo Erectus that were discovered by Richard and Louise Leakey in 1972 and 1975 respectively. The need to see such evidence of the evolution of man has indeed made the place an attraction to most notable scholars around the world.
Undeniably, CFI–Kenya chose to hold the celebrations at such a location in view of the fact that it could refresh the memories of the participants about the evolution of man, and see some evidence that supports it. At the event’s first session, the invited speakers presented papers on the topic of evolution. This was followed by a storming session in which the audience interacted with speakers and asked questions surrounding the cases against and for evolution. The participants, who were mostly students from different on-campus groups, were very keen to follow the arguments that were made by the different speakers.
The most thrilling engagement was a debate on creationism. Most speakers held the point that creationism has put forth claims that can not be tested and are therefore beyond the realm of science, and that all the peripheral claims that have been put forth by most creationists have been proven false by testing—hence they are simply mere beliefs. Nevertheless, most speakers noted that despite the fact that the creationists’ beliefs have been proven wrong, most religious fundamentalists in Sub-Saharan Africa have refused to accept the evidence and have continued to lobby for the forceful teaching of creationism in schools.
In addition, the disappointment put forth was that public understanding of science is still very poor in sub-Saharan Africa. Of course, in many republics of Africa, science has continued to be thwarted by practices which are influenced by local customs and values. These behaviors and practices are deeply rooted in traditional beliefs and superstition not easily displaced by science or by modern approaches based on new knowledge.
At the end of the celebrations, it was observed that most African countries have not sufficiently addressed the acquisition of scientific knowledge. This is the major reason that witchcraft accusations are widespread on the continent. Many people are at a risk of being lynched simply because of a population that lacks rational approaches to various phenomena. In some parts of rural Africa, HIV/AIDS is still being linked to witchcraft. A child born with the symptoms is seen as a curse to the parents and is either abandoned, fed poison or hacked to death. Epilepsy, too, is a disease that the same societies believe to be a result of witchcraft. People do not appreciate having children with certain disabilities, simply because of scientific ignorance; most live in fear most of the time in such a society.
This indicated that African countries should redouble their efforts with a strategy that begins with popularization of science. This requires a kind of empowerment that must be pumped into the brains of the coming generation, mostly those who are currently studying at the higher learning institutions. For this commitment, CFI–Kenya assured the audience that it would continue to organize events that promoted good science, reason and freedom of inquiry.
The event proved useful and CFI–Kenya will continue to organize the event every year, for this is one of the best ways to promote public understanding of science.