Science and human sacrifice (6)

The elimination of individuals, whose reproduction is deemed to be inimical to group survival, leads, logically, to eugenics—the modern science of population improvement. In contrast to the pre-industrial priests though, eugenicists tend to focus more on selective parenting.

But there are notable exceptions. Germany, under Nazi rule, employed modern technology and equipment—poison gas, trains, plumbing, machine guns etc.–to implement what was, essentially, the genetic strategy of pre-industrial Africa, Asia and Europe.

The German extermination of some eleven million people, in the name of “Aryan purity,” has given eugenics a bad press. Yet much of the moralizing amounts to diversionary hypocrisy. Eugenics—or at least eugenic reasoning—survives, both symbolically and in substance.

The notion of Aryans, as the ideal type, is propagated pervasively through modern Western film, fiction, advertising and drama. It is edified in the nomenclature of the European Space Agency, which calls its main rocket series, “Ariane”—the French variant of a Persian word, meaning “land of the Aryans”.

Partly to escape the legacy of human sacrifice, large numbers of Nigerians have retreated into religious fanaticism and/or adopted foreign culture.

Yet many of these same individuals would pay an abortionist to “terminate” a pregnancy: Oblivious to the fact that they are sacrificing a human being, for their own selfish convenience.

Except when it is induced artificially—e.g., by trauma or the ingestion of chemicals—the mortally dreaded “miscarriage,” is actually nature’s take on human sacrifice. It is (usually) a form of natural abortion, to protect parents from the burden of caring for a mentally or a physically abnormal child.

Nor is it only among humans that individuals are sacrificed for the well-being of the group. Locusts, which are voracious migratory insects, have reportedly been known to form themselves into a floating pontoon during night flights over water—with the insects on the bottom presumably drowning.

Another example would be the heard. Some mammals in the wild move clumped together, not simply because they are social; but this formation also has survival value. It is a way, biologists have found, of confusing predators and, at the same time, sacrificing weak and infirm stragglers.

Beneath the religious rituals of our ancestors, therefore, evolutionary forces, common to Earth’s biology, were at work. I’m not saying religious motives were insignificant: But rather, they operated only on the conscious level, whereas individuals are not always conscious of their behavior.

In fact, Freudian psychiatry contends that subconscious mental processes, over which the individual has no direct control, govern most human behavior. Many vital evolutionary decisions are, undoubtedly, made, either at this level or as a result of group interaction—without our conscious awareness.

Thus where the group is concerned, survival strategies are acquired and passed on in many ways and at different levels—through chemical and cultural, as well as electromagnetic communication. Studies have shown, for example, that women living compactly tend to influence each other’s menstrual cycle.

This implies some form of unspoken communication between them. Similarly, voice changes in young males, at puberty, arouses the sexual interest of females—and, in doing so, promotes reproductive activity.

Human sacrifice is an evolved behavior trait that is now devoid of any survival value. Human societies have devised other means of achieving the same genetic ends.

Risky exploits, such as skydiving, high-wire walking and mountain-climbing are potent social metaphors–cultural vehicles, through which the ethic of sacrifice and struggle is instilled in younger generations.

So also is film like “Independence Day,” the space movie I was watching at Shandee’s. Hence the competitive ethic it conveys to Americans, ought equally to be propagated through Nigerian film.


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