#ScienceMustFall: Science is not from Africa and should be decolonised

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Social media and the media at large was stirred up a little when a young South African girl, eloquently said that science was a product of the western world and unproved based on African happenings. In her words, “Science as whole is a product of Western modernity and needs to be scratched off. Especially in Africa” In other words, she believes that science is racist, created in the minds of some white men, and cannot be used to explain “scientific” things that happen in Africa such as black magic or witchcraft.  After watching her video, and the countless white videos on YouTube that basically made a mockery of the girl, the group, the entire issue, South Africa, and Africa; I am still largely divided.

First a little background. There have been a whole lot of movements revolving around Africa – For example, #BlackLivesMatter. One particular group is the set of people known as the “Fallists”. It was started off by UCT (University of Cape Town) students in South Africa, following a series of activism and protests. They then created hashtags #RhodesMustFall and #FeesMustFall, as part of the things they need to …, well, fall. Interestingly, both movements were successful as the statue of Rhodes was removed and fees were reduced to an extent. This video was from one of their “closed space” meetings and has basically added one new hashtag – #ScienceMustFall. Before you join the bandwagon of folks laughing at the ‘absurdity’ in the statement or what not, there is a need to have a relook at some of the latent points she raised and the questions asked.

I have a question for all the science people. There is a place in KwaZulu-Natal called Umhlab’uyalingana. They believe that through the magic‚ you call it black magic‚ they call it witchcraft‚ you are able to send lightning to strike someone. Can you explain that scientifically because it’s something that happens?

She also said:

“Western knowledge is totalizing. It is saying that it was Newton and only Newton who knew and saw an apple falling and out of nowhere decided gravity existed and created an equation and that is it. Whether people knew Newton or not‚ or whatever happens in West Africa‚ Northern Africa‚ the thing is the only way to explain gravity is through Newton who sat under a tree and saw an apple fall. So western modernity is the problem that decolonization directly deals with”

As said earlier, many people have been criticizing it’s as being racist, one sided and simply stupid. Racist because she believes the entirety of science is from the white, by the white, and should be for the white. One sided because while she conveniently discredits the need or basis for science, she enjoys everything that science, as well as the western world, has come with – the light bulb, the clothes she wears, the tab she uses, and all that. Finally, it is seen as stupid to some because, I mean, it is science. Various opinions are over social media.

One person said the entire thing was simply an action by students on a 30% pass rate to pass off something they are not good at. Another said “The #ScienceMustFall is part of this anti-white, anti-colonial Pan-African Nationalism, where people who are not very bright try to tell smarter people that anything western needs to be rejected and after “de-colonization” African ways needs to be the dominant driver”

Without passing off those ideas, let us look at it briefly from her perspective. The reason science is the way it is today, is because the blacks were slaves, in mud houses, or under developed when Newton and the other science ‘gurus’ were discovering science and creating theories. In other words, if time was reversed and the blacks had the upper hand, science would not be what it is today. It would not, because if Africans had set the bar for what science was, then maybe black science would be accounted for with some black theorem or something.

She believes it is totalizing because as these theories were created by these white men who nobody really knew, it was imposed on the rest of the world without much contention. Also, science is based on observation and empirical studies but some of these studies were not entirely carried out in Africa. Not to say they do not apply, but there is a form of science working in Africa that can negate those laws in a heartbeat. She also mentioned that Western knowledge was very pathetic but that is not nearly an issue.

Now the thing that confuses me is the ease with which black magic was associated with Africa. If her only reason for contending with the sense in science was black magic and the fact that the laws were not made by Africans, then the entire argument is flawed. I mean, we know these things happen; things we cannot really explain with science – things like miracles, sorcery, magic, and other mysterious occurrences.

However, black magic is not what it is because it is done by Africans – at least not exclusively. It traditionally refers to the use of supernatural powers or magic for evil. It is done everywhere – including the western world. Too many people pose as mind readers, clairvoyants, voodoo lords, and so on. Even zodiac signs cannot be scientifically proven.

As for the truth that Science was not created by Africans, that is just a result of the circumstances around that time. Besides, the law of gravity is as real as gravity itself. The best that would have happened was that a black man would have given it a totally different name. Asking for a decolonization of science would mean starting from scratch, all over again. It would mean Africans going back to the time of the cave men and creating every single thing that is in use today because we cannot drop one part of the “western science” and retain others. That will totally destroy the basis of science itself, as science is not one thing that can be switched off as we feel like.

While I commend the wittiness of the girl and her group, the idea sounded wonderfully cool for a split second. Inasmuch as I do not support the troll of the white leaches who jumped on it and used it as a basis to insult her or Africa, there is really no weight in her argument. The truth is that whether we like it or not, western modernization is part of the foundation for which the modernization and development of Africa is built on.

If you have a contrary opinion, however, kindly leave a comment.

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