Page 1

Martin F. Asiegbu

15 Martin F. Asiegbu Anyiam Osigwe on Science, Technology and Africa’s Economic Development: Attitudes, Illusions and Presumptions Introduction For Anyiam-Osigwe, economy “refers to the wealth and resources of a community or a country with special focus on the production and use of goods and services” (Anyiam-Osigwe 2002: 5). If we accept the view that economic growth and economic (sustainable) development differ, then it is appropriate to maintain that while economic growth, which comprehends the volume of goods produced, is quantitative, economic development has to do with the qualitative aspect of the process. In the end, one discovers that the result of economic development enhances the quality of life of the people, who are the objects of economic growth. Economic development is, actually, not limited to one’s possessions; or as a Filipino philosopher joked about it, it does not just mean “having more, doing more, knowing more, but it, above all, includes being more” (Africa’s Science and Technology Consolidated Plan of Action, August 2005) Whenever the contributions of science and technology to economic development become issues of discussion in Africa, the question arises: why do African countries still lag behind Western nations, decades after independence. The urgency of the question results, on the one hand, from the fact that if science and technology aid economic growth, then the ineptitude of African nations to ‘acquire’ (develop) science and technology explains their poor economies. Another factor, which highlights the urgency of the question, results from the fact that poor economies of African nations and the unsatisfactory conditions in which their citizens live are now a concern of every African. Incidentally, any African, who asks the question, seems to have the answer all too readily made. While some people put it down to 235


Anyiam Osigwe on Science, Technology and ....

poor leadership (Achebe 2000), others emphasize poor following (Kalu 2006). Yet, some others point to the intrusion of the West into Africa. Against the backdrop of the philosophy of development of Anyiam Osigwe, the paper defends two major views: First, it maintains that “scientific advances and technological growth are significant drivers of any economic development” (Policy Brief, September, 2000). The reason is all too simple: If man is a creature of needs, as he truly is, his ability “to create knowledge, to order this knowledge, to distribute and exploit it,” (Policy Brief) not only aids him in the satisfaction of his needs, it also leads to wealth creation and further improves the quality of his life. Second, the paper maintains that despite the empirical conditions within which science and technology thrive, and so, provoke economic growth, a certain humanistic environment still remains indispensable for economic development. Without such an environment, the paper maintains, a well-rounded economic development, which has man at its centre, remains grossly vitiated. The idea of “humanistic environment” appears ambiguous. This idea includes commitment to human values and ethical principles (e.g., avoidance of corruption; abhorrence of internal contradictions within a system). Since the critical rationalist tradition enabled the rise of science in Europe, it seems the case that the norms of such a tradition are indispensable to any acquisition of science and technology. Yet, this fact does not warrant any opinionated claim about European culture being the only possible environment for the rise and growth of science and technology. Else, other non-European cultures would have been bereft of science and technology. But this is not the case. Other cultures, in their own ways, constitute veritable grounds for the development of science and technology. What is important is the critical tradition – that alone is indispensable to the development of science and technology.

Africa and the Quest for Economic Development In the 1970s through the 1980s, African leaders pursued science and technology for two major reasons:

236


Martin F. Asiegbu

a. to enable Africa to harness and apply science, technology and related innovations to eradicate poverty and achieve sustainable development; and b. to ensure that Africa contributes to the global pool of scientific knowledge and technological innovations (Africa’s Science and Technology Consolidated Plan of Action, August 2005:9) Despite the comprehensive insight of the Lagos Plan of Action (LPA) for the Economic Development of Africa 1980-2000, Africa still grapples with its initial bid to make headway in science and technology. Conscious of the fact that science and technology constitute “a source of economic change and sustainable development,” Africa has sought to maintain a link between industry on the one hand and science and technology on the other. Its failure is indexed by her inability to make any significant breakthrough in this area in the Third Millennium. If research institutes, dealing with science and technology in Africa, jumped from a negligible number of a few hundreds in 1963/64 to 2000 in 1969/70, with the average work force of 5.5% per institute in 19 out 34 African countries, science and technology recorded the lowest investment in Africa between 1980 and 1990 (Africa’s Science and Technology Consolidated Plan of Action, August 2005). Regardless of the enormous gains, which the South-East Asian economies raked in between 1980 and 1990, African leaders turned a blind eye to investments in science and technology. Africa’s insignificant investments in science and technology have an effect directly on the quality of life of her citizens. This explains, in part, why the continent loses some of its best experts to the West in the onset of brain drain. (Nzegwu 2002) related Pala’s report about a peasant woman in rural Kenya whose interlocutors asked what the villagers understood by “development.” She simply replied thus: During the anti-colonial struggles, our leaders goaded us on with the view that independence stood for development, which would usher in better quality of life, better living standard, security, e.t.c. After decades of independence, all we have seen “is nothing except people coming from the capital to write about us. For me, the woman continued, “the hoe and the water pot, which served my grandmother, still 237


Anyiam Osigwe on Science, Technology and ....

remain my source of livelihood. When I work on the land and fetch water from the river, I know that I can eat. But the development, which you talk about, is yet to be seen in this village.” Africa’s record on poverty alleviation and human development is attributable to her poor economic development. If one takes a broad understanding of poverty as does the United Nations in its Millennium Development Goals, poverty comprehends access to unavailable social services: lack of basic amenities, healthcare, education, acquisition of knowledge and insight to this end. Of the 48 heavily indebted poor countries (HIPC) in the world, at least 33 are African states. The grim implications of a poverty-stricken population are all too well known: high rate of child/ maternal mortality, widespread of HIV/AIDS disease, limited life expectancy, overpopulation disaster. Africans number among the 300 million HIPC population that live on less than a dollar (US $0.65) per day (Pogge 2002:9799; Stiglitz 2002:25; Wolf 2004:157-163). Consequently, it seems the case that “[a]lmost nothing positive happened … in [Africa] in the past three decades” (World Bank 1998: 103). In Sub-Saharan Africa, out of 580 million – the conservative population estimate of Africa in 1995, it is the case that:

• • • • • • •

291 million people had average income of below one dollar [US $0.65] per day in 1998. 124 million of those up to age 39 years were at risk of dying before 40. 43 million children were stunted as a result of malnutrition in 1995. 205 million were estimated to be without access to health services in 1990-1995. 249 million were without safe drinking water in 1990-1995. More than 2 million infants die annually before reaching their first birthday. 139 million youths and adults were illiterate in 1995. (White et al 1002: xiii)

Ever since the contributions of science and technology succeeded in turning around non-performing economies and positively influenced people’s standard of living, hardly does any discussion of modernization exclude the 238


Martin F. Asiegbu

role that science and technology play in economic development. For this reason, it appears the case that without science and technology, the issue of modernization becomes nearly impossible. Where science and technology prove distinctive of present global economic development, they have come to be considered as indispensable to the enhancement of people’s quality of life. Although it may be an exaggeration, thinkers defend the view, still, that by means of science and technology, an effective and rational exploitation of natural resources has become less energy consuming and affords leisure. However, science and technology did not just arise, all of a sudden. Some environment cushioned its growth. Let us consider the milieu that made their rise possible.

The Critical Tradition: Environment for the Rise of Modern Science If modern science arose in the 17th Century, the critical tradition, which dates back to Greek philosophical thought, provided the much needed environment for it. Actually, Popper (1994: 185-209), Heidegger (1956:3133) and Schall (1988:205-223) insist on the “critical outlook” as founding modern science. The emphasis is on the critical rationalist attitude being a tradition. And so, they do not opinionatedly claim that critical thinkers existed only in Europe in the 17th Century. Obviously, there were critical thinkers in other cultures: in India, in China, in Africa. To deny this would portray a shriveling narrow-mindedness. Popper (1994:190) is aware of this, which is why he writes, Of course, critical thinkers have existed outside Europe. But nowhere else, to my knowledge, has there existed a critical or rationalist tradition. And from the critical or rationalist tradition in Europe there grew, eventually, European science [modern science].

The critical attitude goes as far back as the Greek philosophers, “Thales and Anaximander of Miletus” (Popper 1994:190). Note well, also, that despite the dramatic turn, which Christian thinkers gave to Greek philosophical thought, pursuing the same philosophical questions in their own way, Heidegger maintains the uniqueness of the Greek rationalist critical tradition (1956:31-33). Philosophy could not be otherwise in its origins than Greek, 239


Anyiam Osigwe on Science, Technology and ....

he claims. The rationalist tradition, therefore, remains a great legacy of Greek philosophical thought. Thinkers (like Heidegger) hold the view that modern [European] science could not have arisen from Christian tradition but only within a rationalist critical environment. For them, it is the sole environment conducive for modern science. For this reason, Heidegger extols Europe and the West as cultures that are sole philosophic cultures in their origins (!), thanks to the Greek critical tradition. On account of this tradition, science presupposes philosophy since philosophy preceded it. Heidegger (1956:31-33) puts it this way: Because only Europe and the West are philosophic in their history and origins “they are able today to put a specific imprint on the history of mankind upon the whole earth…. Indeed, there never would have been any sciences if philosophy had not preceded them and proceeded.” The consequence of this view is not lost on us at all. Heidegger’s view claims that modern science per se is, as Popper expresses it, purely “European science” (Popper 1994:190). Over the centuries, this science has made significant progress. Progogine and Stengers (1988:79) recall a little part of this progress, especially those discoveries of the 18th and 19th Centuries. They write, Let us recall the remarkable discoveries achieved at the end of eighteenth century and the beginning of the nineteenth century: the theories of heat, electricity, magnetism and optics. It is not surprising that the idea of scientific progress, already clearly formulated in the eighteenth century, dominated the nineteenth….

The features, to which Anyiam-Osigwe appeals to establish his idea of science, betrays his reference to modern science. The pitfalls of this science make the object of Anyiam-Osigwe’s incessant objections. Yet, one will fail to grasp the role of modern science and its technology in Anyiam-Osigwe’s development philosophy if one fails to understand Osigwe’s anthropology and cosmology. It is only in this context that one perceives fully the role Osigwe attributes to science and technology vis-à-vis economic development in Africa. And so, let us broadly characterize the basic outline of his anthropology and cosmology. 240


Martin F. Asiegbu

Anyiam-Osigwe’s Anthropology and Cosmology (a) Anyiam-Osigwe’s Anthropology Anyiam-Osigwe’s anthropology is axed on two major claims: (i) Man is a creature of God, fashioned in God’s image and likeness (Osigwe Anyiam-Osigwe Foundation 2008: 35). (ii) Man is an exemplar of dine intelligence (Osigwe AnyiamOsigwe Foundation 2008: 6, 19ff) Anyiam-Osigwe expresses these claims thus, “Man, as a manifestation of Divine Intelligence, is made in the image and likeness of God in whose identity he partakes” (35). By this, he means to portray the two-dimensional aspects of man – the material and the “the esoteric.” Accordingly, man is endowed with two identities, the empirical, material body on the one hand and the spiritual, “pristine essence” on the other. Although Anyiam-Osigwe does not discuss the mode of their interaction, he leaves no doubt as to the supervenience of the material on the spiritual, such that without the spiritual, the material is mere matter. Thus, Anyiam-Osigwe affirms the overriding priority of the spiritual over the material. Although he does not consider the case where the spiritual dimension takes complete control of man, directing his affairs, forcing the material aspect to a secondary importance, often he takes a critical stance of man whose existence is solely “earth-bound,” and “essentially material.” He is one who revels in the goodies of life. A person, who so lives, Anyiam-Osigwe maintains, conducts his affairs in oblivion of the spiritual dimension of his being. Such a human being exists solely in the material mode alone. He merely “lives and dies”, as Anyiam-Osigwe characterizes him. He attributes this lopsided stance of existence to the dangers of scientific materialist interpretation. A complete man, fully grown, standing erect, is, according to Anyiam-Osigwe, that human being in whom both dimensions of his being relate in an appropriate and integral manner. (b) Anyiam-Osigwe’s Cosmology It is no accident that the dual modes of composition making up a human being equally constitute the cosmos. The material and the esoteric are the two components of the cosmos. These two constituents interact in an integral 241


Anyiam Osigwe on Science, Technology and ....

way to sustain a balanced, “harmonious existence” of the world (28). A harmonious, non-polarized cosmos illustrates a universe in which the “regulating patterns” (27) or natural laws hold sway. Such a universe, Anyiam-Osigwe maintains, is “perfect,” functioning with “mathematical precision.” By comporting himself in accordance with the natural laws, man refrains from distorting the “precarious balance” (Kalu 1978) holding between the two major components. When Anyiam-Osigwe refers to “indepth integral interaction” between the two components of the cosmos – the material and the esoteric – he implies that “energy and vibrations” emanating from (emitted because of) the interaction interpenetrate to maintain a balanced cosmos. At a certain time, he appears to mean that energy and vibration are the resultant effects of the interaction itself (Osigwe AnyiamOsigwe Foundation 2008: 28). Energy and vibration are pointers, actually, to other fundamental components of the universe at large. Thus, AnyiamOsigwe denominates air, fire, water, earth – all reminiscent of the early Greek pre-Socratics who determined to explain the problem of change by appealing to the four elements as the unchangeable Urstoff of reality (Copleston 1993: 20). In addition to the primary elements, Anyiam-Osigwe mentions energy, particles, matter, radiation, fields e.t.c. as secondary to the elements. Science operates in this natural environment.

Science in Anyiam-Osigwe’s Thought The natural order is the realm of science. It is the material order of the cosmos, where natural laws – those “immutable laws” (Osigwe AnyiamOsigwe Foundation 2008: 27) making up this realm, reign supreme. By means of these laws of nature – “the organic laws of the cosmos” (26) – man’s “limitless enhancement as an integral aspect of the universal scheme” (26) is guaranteed. Science makes use of these laws in its study of nature. Science is, according to Anyiam-Osigwe, empirical in its scope. It proceeds by proposing a working hypothesis, conducts experiments, and draws conclusions that with time become laws. For Anyiam-Osigwe, the purpose of science is “to situate the laws of nature, the whole of phenomena within an empirical world in which all that is’ is apprehensible by sense data” (30). 242


Martin F. Asiegbu

In itself and as technology’s driving force, science has undeniably had a tremendous success. It has not merely revolutionized human life but equally liberated man from drudgery, affording him time and energy for leisure (Okere 2005: 153). Indeed, the achievements of science have turned man’s dream of a better life into a reality, demonstrating that science is the most effective way of improving his material conditions. If Bacon’s vision of an industrial age was no other than a glowing tribute to science and technology, for Anyiam-Osigwe, the era of science faces a daunting challenge: “to apprehend existence at both realms [of the cosmos – the material and the esoteric] … to explain how these realms interpenetrate” each other (Osigwe Anyiam-Osigwe Foundation 2008: 33). Anyiam-Osigwe believes that the rosy image, which science paints of itself and its discoveries, will be a true representation of science if and only if science faces down this uphill task. Only then would science be able to recognize man and his dignity, assign him and other spheres of the universe their appropriate places and purposes in the cosmos. Science will recognize that there is more to the universe than matter and the material. In this way, science would learn to apply its laws in a nondestructive and noncounterproductive manner (38). But in its huge success lies its failure. Its apparently limitless success has made it out into an icon of power of the West, promoting, thereby, a “merger of knowledge and power” (Okere: 154). Vis-à-vis other knowledge systems, Western science is overly dominant, parading itself as exemplary form of knowledge, and the West as the sole claimant to a form of knowledge that is valid for all peoples and cultures. Yet, in its bid to transcend itself, it has provoked ethical problems that humanity may grapple with without end – for instance, the effects of the atomic bomb at Hiroshima and various environmental hazards. These “evils” of science certainly forced AnyiamOsigwe’s critical stance about science and technology. For Anyiam-Osigwe, the worst threat of science and technology is their materialistic interpretation of man. Given the central significance of his anthropology, scientific construction of ‘the material man’ is the undoing of science, Anyiam-Osigwe maintains. Science creates the material man by means of the products of technology. 243


Anyiam Osigwe on Science, Technology and ....

Anyiam-Osigwe’s ‘the Material Man’: A Creation of Science Anyiam-Osigwe takes a hard, critical view of science and its materialist interpretation of the universe, man and society. For him, scientific interpretation typifies the failure of science. Assuming the universe as the “ultimate reality” (Osigwe Anyiam-Osigwe Foundation 2008: 35), science proceeds to create the “material man”, who defines himself only in relation to the material dimension of the world. For this man, life is meaningless if it goes beyond the material world. He is the “sentient man” whose desires, joys, goals, interests, purposes in life remain mainly limited to the material aspect of his being and the world. He pursues selfish ends, only pleasures and happiness. In this respect, the material man is also a hedonist who is, indeed, no man but an animal – a creation of science. This hedonist makes possible any imaginable ill of the society and wallows in it: corruption, disorder, retrogression, underdevelopment, e.t.c. The hedonist – this material man – has no identity and his psyche is materialized through and through. Technology: Applied Scientific Knowledge Of technology, Anyiam-Osigwe writes, [Science-driven] technology will not function with contradicting effects upon the natural order. Its technology will not eat up the ozone layer and threaten the later days of man by death from wild and consuming fire (Osigwe Anyiam-Osigwe Foundation 2008: 38).

The quest for meaning and survival, often times, furnishes a people with some basic knowledge to protect themselves, maintain their community in existence, and assure its survival. Thus considered, there is hardly a group of people or a culture that is completely bereft of science and technology. Each group possesses some elementary principles of basic (science and) technology, even if it means a ‘technology’ for setting traps to catch rats! Africa, as much as any other culture, possesses its own locally developed hydrotherapy, local anesthesia, pottery making e.t.c. All these follow some basic scientific principles. And so, they possess the capacity to

244


Martin F. Asiegbu

transform their situation and quality of life, if all there is to economic development is scientific and technological advancement. Technology is, in Anyiam-Osigwe’s view, applied “scientific knowledge” (38). Technology denotes “knowledge of use of tools” (Bodunrin 1985:36), knowledge-how. “Tools” here is used in a wider sense to comprehend “manipulation of computer languages,” “machines,” “computer wares,” e.t.c. It is “the organization of knowledge for the achievement of practical ends.” Although science and technology differ immensely, the two fields of inquiry relate together. “While modern industrial development has become unthinkable without modern science, the opposite is not the case: science is largely autonomous” (Popper 1994: 200-201). Both avail themselves of a common pool of knowledge. Or, as Bodunrin (1985: 36) expresses it, both “operate meaningfully within a coherent system of knowledge.” Popper (1994) gives a better view of the two. He puts it this way: “It is a fact that ever since the renaissance, the development of industry and the development of science have been closely linked and have closely interacted. Each is indebted to the other.” Given the fact that science denotes knowledge (episteme), technique – knowledge how (knowledge of making or doing something), and technology – knowledge as to why an end is achieved, then the trio – science, technique and technology – are interwoven in a labyrinth of relationships. Let us explore more their relationship. No nation may develop any modern technology without cultivating the rationality that goes with science and technology, since science provides a “firm base for technology” (Gyekye 1997: 36). Both are so closely related that the possession of one implies the acquisition of the other. In any case, it is the same rationality that is operational for one as for the other. Actually, science and technology, though closely linked in modern times, were, until the Middle Ages, independent of each other. Science, here, is understood as a “systematic knowledge of nature,” a “rational systematic pursuit of knowledge and understanding of the natural world, of processes of nature, based on observation and experiment” (Gyeyke 1997: 32). Thus understood, science-based technology arose about the middle of 19th Century. Thinkers (Sodipo 1985:179-188) believe that technology as an “enterprise” antedates science since technology, as knowledge-how 245


Anyiam Osigwe on Science, Technology and ....

(knowledge of making or doing things) was born with man’s quest for survival. In this regard, no culture is completely bereft of technology Really, the story of the development of technology (Sodipo 1985) dates back to the Paleolithic (Old Stone) Age. Beginning ca. 5000 B. C. with the development of metal, civilization came with human settlements around the Rivers Tigris and Euphrates. In his quest for meaning, man developed agriculture with advanced tools – wheeled carts, irrigation systems, blacksmithing, pottery making, e.t.c. Human settlements of the Egyptians, the Sumerians and the Babylonians arose in 3000 B.C. The Iron Age (1400) saw the rise of Greek settlements. The Greeks contributed immensely to the evolution of science although they have been criticized for not exploiting science to the full. This story, myopic as it is, privileges some parts of the world and presumes that other parts of the world did not exist at the different periods in question. Recent theories, like Jared Diamond’s (1997) privilege another perspective. Technology, in its simplest form, was born with man’s quest for survival.

Attitudes and Illusions about Science, Technology and Africa’s Economic Development If it is true, as Okunu (2002) suggests, that “[t]o a large extent, the success of Africa’s economic renewal and development, both in the medium and long term, will hinge on two factors: namely utilization and integration of science and technology in the economic growth process,” questions arise as to the degree to which both science and technology are indispensable for economic development of African states. If science and technology are inherently tied to a people’s culture, then they implicate a whole range of mental outlook, beliefs, modes of life and attitudes peculiar to a people. In respect of Africa, let us examine these attitudes and illusions. We begin with the issue of rationality in considering the prerequisites and possible obstacles to the growth of science, technology and economic development in Africa. (i) Rationality as Logic of Worldviews: Religio-Mythical and Sciento-Technical Framework There is always some rationality (some logic) to worldviews. In respect of such rationality, worldviews function significantly to facilitate people’s 246


Martin F. Asiegbu

understanding of the world, giving meaning to people’s activities within their environment. In the widespread religio-mythical worldview of the African, a metaphysic, which recognizes agentive causation, is prevalent. Oft, it is reported that this worldview privileges vital force as its basic grasp of reality (Tempels 1957). Ever since Tempels’s work, Bantu Philosophy (1957), the idea of vital force as the core of African philosophical thought has gained wide acceptance. The idea presents the view that reality is infused with life since it is organized around a singularly primary value – vital force. This is an allpervasive principle underlying reality as a whole, visible and invisible. Impacting on one another, forces influence one another, increase, decrease, and even reinforce one another. For Tempels, “ all things in universe possess their own vital force.” Vital force theory recognizes the agentive and empirical causations in reality. Agentive causation contrasts sharply with empirical causation. Empirical causation appeals solely to physical phenomena to explain the reason for events and actions. If “what-and-how” questions ask for empirical causes, “who-and-why” questions appeal to agentive causation (Gyekye 1997: 2829). Although people appeal to both kinds of causation in the African milieu to explain events and actions, appeals to agentive causation prevail over the empirical causation. The religio-mythical worldview entertains beliefs that aid the prevalence of the one over the other. A car accident, which wipes away a whole family, is attributed to the ill-disposition of the ancestors, or to some malevolent marauding spirit. And so, must be appeased through sacrifice. Within this purview, all explanations hang together in terms of claims about events which causes are determinedly agentive. Oftentimes manipulative and celebrative of nature, Africans keep the spiritual realm at bay to maintain the precarious balance in their world. Agentive causation attributes mystical powers to nature. It makes the people celebrate nature, regarding it as the abode of “strange” mystic entities. Africans imbue nature with mystery, creating the impression that they are bound to nature. In contrast to the religio-mythical worldview, the rationality operational in advanced, modernized society is attuned to empirical causation. This latter banishes mystery from nature by explaining it away. Such a rationality is 247


Anyiam Osigwe on Science, Technology and ....

reductionist and mechanistic of nature. On its part, science demands, according to Gyeke, explanations that are generalizable; its theories are verifiable and testable; its data remain sources of experimentations and its knowledge is impersonal and empirical. Appeal to modern Reason is, indeed, indispensable for advancement in science and technology. It stands in direct opposition to the religio-mythical outlook of many African peoples. By its medium, science pursues its goals empirically and naturally. It establishes laws and draws conclusions that relate solely to the physical world, it enjoys pure naturalism. There is, in this case, some charm to naturalism (Stroud 2004: 21-35). Thus understood, naturalism implies an acknowledgement of the powers of reason, the empirical and the natural over against the supernatural. A characteristic feature of science is the falsifiability of its theories. Any scientific theory, which is unfalsifiable, is false (Pooper 1994). A basic consequence of this is that science, however ‘eternal’ its theories may appear to last, is fallible. Fallibilism is a significant dimension of science. Its authority is fallible. As such, scientific outlook exhibits a completely different type of outlook than does the traditional African mentality. Fallibilism expresses the tentativeness of scientific knowledge. A scientific model or “paradigm” hold sway temporarily until a better one challenges it (Kuhn 1970). Open-ended and limited to the natural world, science balks at dogmatism and authoritarianism. A modernized society, where a similar rationality operates, functions in a similar way. It easily checks its information against other prevailing views. Compare this view with the society, whose outlook on reality is guided by the norms of religiomythical rationality, for instance. The dogmatism with which this society’s customs and traditions are defended, the authoritarian ring to its traditions, the eternally true claims of its custodians – all betray an outlook that is congenitally anti-scientific. There is no other way of cross-checking information, by comparing it with a competing model. Once the oracle, the custodians (the elders) of the tradition and the traditional ruler make a pronouncement, it admits of no challenge but remains eternally true. However, one would argue, there are a number of scientifically developed non-African countries in which their worldviews are as much 248


Martin F. Asiegbu

religious as Africa’s. Yet, those countries have crossed the barrier to progress in science and technology. China, India, Japan and the Asian tigers did not have to give up their religious worldviews to embrace science and technology. Japanese religion, according to Sodipo (1985), is an eclecticism of Shintoism and the Chinese version of Indian Buddhism. And its ethics is purely Confucian – what a rainbow! Despite the religious atmosphere, it is one of the leading countries in economic development. Nonetheless, one would miss the point of the discussion if one thinks that we berate a religious outlook as the bane of scientific advancement. Really, there is more to science and technology than merely a religiomythical outlook. It is not sufficient to emphasize the differences of outlook between the African religio-mythical framework and the critical rationalism of the West to explain the poverty of scientific and technological progress in Africa. The fact that the religio-mythical outlook is a tradition is, in our view, what impedes, to a large degree, advances in science and technology. The Europe of the Middle Ages is an eloquent illustration of this claim. Despite the halting groping of the West in the Middle Ages, an age that was repulsively religious in nearly all its activities, thought pattern, and undertakings, breakthrough in science had to wait until the 17th Century. These different rationalities exercise various tremendous influences in human life and society where they are operational, since different norms guide their translation into reality. One may not presume to buy into the rationality underpinning modernized or advanced society if one is not determined to submit to the demands that its rationality necessitates. An absence of an accurate population census for an urban city, for instance, in an advanced society, is impossible. Again, for the society, whose activities are guided by the rationality prone to a religio-mythical outlook, it may look insensible for a city bus to depart on schedule without passengers than that it reaches its destination very late but full of passengers! If one kind of rationality is mechanistic, the other privileges communal human touch. Although both societies are committed to different rationalities operational in the different systems, their degrees of efficiency and effectiveness vary.

249


Anyiam Osigwe on Science, Technology and ....

(ii)

African Identity Crisis and the Presumption of Economic Development Closely related to the religio-mythical outlook is yet another attitude of mind. Africa’s worst misery, determining her wretched condition and struggles, dates back to the intrusion of the West that turned Africans into subject peoples. About the most stultifying of all is the nefarious imprint of colonialism on African mind. Really, no other area was as overly subjugated as the African mind. Over time, the African came to believe that his/her liberation consisted in imitating the colonizers (Owomoyela 1996: 37). Nyasanyi (1994:183) describes this pernicious belief as the “hollow of superiority in inferiority.” In contemporary African society, evident effects of such a belief have led to the “creation of islands of wealth in a sea of misery maintained through corruption and predatory business dealings” (Odumegwu and Oguejiofor 2008: 125-137). Although the contest was indeed uneven, not being between equals, the colonial masters subjugated Africans because of the superiority of the colonial masters’ firing power. That was the result of European industrial revolution. Acknowledging this superiority, Africans went on erroneously to ape their colonial masters in the belief that they would achieve liberation and independence. The resultant effect of this undue imitation is African’s identity crisis. The crisis originated the bid to maintain African traditional values, while competing in the sciento-technical (Bodunrin 1985: 37). It typifies Africa predicament between adopting the values of the Western advanced technological society and maintaining African traditional values. This has been the scourge of the African personality ever since the intrusion of the West. Its effect is seen not only in individual lives but also in government policies. Rather than encourage local resource persons and experts, African governments prefer importing foreign ideas and experts to solve problems that Africans could all too readily resolve. The fortune, which this attitude of mind has cost Africa, is best captured in Obasanjo’s view, expressed as follows,

250


Martin F. Asiegbu

We in Africa use borrowed ideas, borrowed experience and funds, and we engage borrowed hands. In short, in our development strategies and progress, not much, if anything, is ours.

Bodunrin (1980) sees the ignorance of African leaders as one of the major hindrances to the development of science and technology on the continent. These leaders are wont to incline towards any wind of change that blows without giving much thought to the ideologies that propels it. These leaders readily embrace policies that are detrimental to the cultural values of their people. Government policies for sustainable development betray a poverty of implementable ideas. There is a constant failure to adopt policies that favour “primary commodity exports,� for instance. Civilian governments in Nigeria, since 1999, have judged it more expedient to import petroleum products than put together dilapidating oil refineries. In the wake of the rise of new paradigms in information technology, government policies de-emphasize knowledge-intensive industries in preference for materialsintensive ones. We do not, of course, imply that nations must ignore materialsintensive industries. Rather, aware of the shift in development paradigms in information technology, government policies need to be inclined toward technologies that maximize productivity of goods and services and encourage local value-added components (Okunu: 2007: 166). (iii)

The Illusion of Transferred Technology

If, at independence, pioneer African leaders espoused Western ideologies, like Marxism and Socialism, it was in an attempt to chart a model of governance for Africa so as to move her out of her wretched condition of misery, inter-tribal struggles, famine and poverty. Despite numerous Western ideologies adapted to African situation, none achieved the desired purpose. Ignorant of the cultural environment from which such ideologies erupted, African leaders bought them in the hope of moving Africa forward. It is all the same with the idea of technology transfer. Technology transfer presumes a technologically advanced donor nation taking its techniques and practices to a needy beneficiary country (Gyekye 251


Anyiam Osigwe on Science, Technology and ....

1997: 39). It presupposes a technologically conducive environment in the beneficiary country. This amounts to the availability of local expertise to grasp the norms and principles of operation on the one hand, and the capacity to replicate locally the technological design on the other. It is expected that the local beneficiary not only demonstrates the capability to reproduce specific technological design but also to build on the acquired experience for future local needs. If technology is a product of culture, if it is culture-bound in some respects, then technology transfer would necessitate essentially transferring the indispensable part of a culture of the donor country to the beneficiary nation. Where the beneficiary nation lacks the basic prerequisites for such a transfer, then a breakdown occurs. At the end of World War II, Britain carted away the huge military machines that Germany developed in the wake of the war. Britain was able to improve on German technology since she already possessed the prerequisites for technology. In Africa, the case is different. It may amount to either a reversion to European culture or an attempt to combine modern Reason with the religio-mythical rationality. This is the burden of Bodunrin’s (1985:37) question, “can sciento-technical progress be accomplished within the context of traditional values without radical changes in outlook?” Our response is simply this: Where one understands “radical changes” to imply an adoption of modern rationality without really doing away with the most cherished values of African culture, then it is the case that radical changes are indispensable for technology transfer or acquisition.

Conclusion Even in its home in Europe, science and technology remain a novum. Although Africa is yet to register scientific discoveries of the weight of European science of the 18th and 19th Centuries, no culture is completely denuded of some elementary science and technology. The critical tradition, which generated modern science, began with Thales and Anaximander of Miletus. Their critical reflections about the Urstoff or origins of reality provided the enriching environment that grew eventually to found modern science. Aristotle conducted quite a good number of experimentations, which experiments were commensurate to the level of ‘science’ at the time. Much 252


Martin F. Asiegbu

as Aristotle’s work and those of other thinkers, like Francis Bacon – all remained preparatory to the rise of modern science, with the rise of modern science, thinkers criticized the Greeks for failing to exploit the resources of the science of their days. Given the central place, which Anyiam-Osigwe’s anthropology occupies in his philosophy of development, one may assert that, for Anyiam Osigwe, scientific and technological advances are particularly meaningful if and only if directed to meet man’s good, development, values and goals. Concern for human welfare is, for him, the measure of any progress and the sole principle that need guide economic development in Africa. This explains his objections to the material man that science created. Human values are basically intrinsic to African culture. Kaunda (1966: 28 in Gyeke 1997:42) highlights this fundamental value of African culture. He writes, I am deeply concerned that this valuation of Man and respect for human dignity which is a legacy of our [African] tradition should not be lost in the new Africa. However “modern” and “advanced” in a Western sense the new nations of Africa may become, we are fiercely determined that this humanism will not be obscured. African society has always been Mancentred. We intend that it will remain so.

However far-reaching and indispensable the contributions of science and technology to economic (sustainable) development may be, they cannot resolve all the problems of human inequalities, poverty, depletion of the ozone layer, injustice, e.t.c. that confront the human race. Even for those areas where they remain indispensable, scientific and technological advances need to operate within a circumscribed milieu of moral values. If science and technology are left on their own, they will end up threatening man, the object of economic development. Hence, there is always the need to check scientific and technological advances by basic human values. In this way, we “work to the glory of God and so better our lives in peace and harmony by enhancing the blessings that God has showered on us” (Emmanuel Onyechere Osigwe Anyiam-Osigwe 1921-1998, Personal Diary). Within the ambience of these values, science and technology remain a touchstone for human development. 253


Anyiam Osigwe on Science, Technology and ....

Works Cited Achebe, C., (2000) The Trouble with Nigeria. Enugu: Fourth Dimension Publishing Company. Africa’s Science and Technology Consolidated Plan of Action, August 2005. Available Online. Agazzi, E., (1998) “From Technique to Technology: The Role of Modern Science,” Phil & Tech 4:2 Winter, pp. 1-8. Anyiam Osigwe Anyiam-Osigwe Foundation, (2007) To Live in the Way that Honours: Incorruptibility; A Spiritual Premise for Material Well Being. Brief on the Central theme of 11th Session of the Emmanuel Onyechere Osigwe Anyiam-Osigwe. Lagos: Osigwe Anyiam-Osigwe Foundation. Osigwe Anyiam-Osigwe 1921-1998, Personal Diary. Anyiam Osigwe Anyiam-Osigwe Foundation(2002) Book of Reference on concepts and Definitions. Sinovile: Groep 7 Drukkers en Uitgewers. Bodunrin, P. O., (1985) Sciento-Technical Rationality and African Reality,” in A. Diemer and J. P. Hountondji (eds), African and Its Problem of Identity. New York: Peter Lang, pp. 34-42. Copleton, F., (1993) A History of Philosophy I:Greece and Rome.From the PreSocratics to Plotinus. London: Image Books. Diamond, j., (1997) Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies. London: W. W. Norton & Company. Gyeke, K., (1997) “Philosophy, Culture, and Technology in the Postcolonial,” in E. Eze (ed), Postcolonial African Philosophy. A Critical Reader. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, pp. 25-44. Heidegger, M., (1956) What Is Philosophy? Trans. With Introduction by W. Kluback and J. T. Wilde, New Haven, CT,: College and University Press. Kalu, O. U., (1978) “The Precarious Vision: The African’s Perception of His World,” in O. U. Kalu (ed), African Cultural Development: Readings in African Humanities. Enugu: Fourth Dimension Publishers, pp. 37-44. Kalu O., (2006) Power, Poverty and Prayer: The Challenges of Poverty and Pluralism in African Christianity, 1960-1996. New Jersey: African World Press. Kaunda, K., (1966) A Humanist in Africa. London: Longman cited in K. Gyeke Op. Cit.

254


Martin F. Asiegbu Kuhn, T., (1970) The Structure of Scientific Revolution. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Nyasanyi J., (1994) “Antithetical Sequel in the African Pesonlaity,” in H. O. Oruka (ed), Philosophy, Humanity and Ecology. Nairobi: African Academy of Sciences. Nzegwu, N., (2002) “Questions of Agency: Development, Donors, and Women of the South,” Jenda: A Journal of Culture and African Women Studies . Odimegwu H., and Oguejiofor, J., (2008) “Toward a more Human society:The Role of Igbo Traditional Anthropology,” Concordia: Reihe Monographien Band 48. Aachen: Wisenschaftsverlag, pp. 125-140. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) (2000) Policy Brief, September, pp. 1-11. Okunu, W. A. J., (2000) The African Renaissance. History, Significance and Strategy. Trenton, NJ.: Africa World Press. Okere, T. I., (2005) Philosophy, Culture and Society in Africa. Essays.Nsukka: Afro-Orbis, Owomoyela, O., (1996) The African Difference: Discourse on Africanity and Relativity of Culture. Frankfurt a.M.: Peter Lang. Pogge, T (2002) World Poverty and Human Rights. Cambridge: Polity Press, pp. 97-99. Popper. K., (1994) “Epistemology and Industrialization,” in The Myth of the Framework: In Defence of Science and Rationality. M. A. Notturno (ed), pp; 185-209. Progogine, I., and Stengers, I., (1988) Order Out of Chaos. New York: Bantam Books Schall, J. V., (1988) “On the Relation Between Political Philosophy and Science,” Gregorianum 69 (2) pp. 203-223. Sodipo, P. O., (1985) “Philosophy, Technology, Science and Traditional Thought in Arica: Some Notes,” in Diemer and J. P. Hountondji (eds), African and Its Problem of Identity. New York: Peter Lang, pp. 79-188. Stiglitz, J., (2002), Globalization and Its Discontents. London.

255

Osigwe Development Philosophy Volume 3 Chapter 15  

Osigwe Development Philosophy Volume 3 Chapter 15

Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you