Articles

Welcome to our articles section. The articles below either have been written specifically for ButterfliesandWheels or are appearing here having been published elsewhere previously.

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Witchcraft, Magical Spells and Humanism in 21st Century Malta

May 26th, 2016 | By Leo Igwe

After reading Carmel Cassar’s article on Witchcraft Beliefs and Social Control in Seventeenth Century Malta, one could easily conclude that magical beliefs and occult claims are actually a thing of the past in this country. This is because Cassar analyzed witchcraft belief as if it were merely a phenomenon that manifested centuries ago, not a contemporary issue that lurks in some sectors of the society. Some would argue that Cassar’s article which was written over a decade ago focused on a particular period, the 17th century Malta. Now what about this piece in the current (May 2016) edition of the Air Malta magazine. Titled The Inquisitor’s Palace and the Inquisition, this article suggests that witchcraft belief is history, Read the rest



What Missionaries Imported to Africa

May 26th, 2016 | By Kirumira Mpagi

I have lived all my life in Africa, Uganda to be specific, but I must say, on many occasions I travel to other parts of Africa, I travel to Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo and Tanzania. I find that the citizens of these countries are warm, welcoming and friendly in most scenarios, until the moment when they detect your GLBT rights stand and approval. It becomes even worse when you are atheist. Usually atheists are not targeted in the mainstream yet I have been pushed into the wall and doors shut on me, for no particular reason but being atheist. I approve GLBT rights and am willing to walk an extra mile for them. I envision an African … Read the rest



Scapegoating Homosexuals: Is President Buhari Really Committed to Changing Nigeria?

May 15th, 2016 | By Leo Igwe

The recent arrest of six young men in Nigeria for the ‘supposed crime’ of homosexuality has once again demonstrated the misplaced priorities of the Buhari-led government. The arrest casts serious doubt on its supposed commitment to transforming Nigeria.

Going by recent developments, hope is fading very fast and disillusionment is setting in as many people are beginning to realize that the change mantra may end up being a ruse, a strategy that was used to win an election. The proposed change is a farce, at least when it comes to the dignified treatment of gay persons otherwise, how does one explain the current detention of some young men by police in Benin for engaging in homosexuality?

As if the arrest … Read the rest



Bangladesh: Freethinkers vs. Assassins

May 5th, 2016 | By Tasneem Khalil

He reached into his rucksack and said with a smile, “I have something for you.” I extended my hand and took the gift. A small book, 96 pages – a Bengali translation of Am I a Monkey?: Six Big Questions About Evolution by the Spanish-American evolutionary biologist and philosopher Fransico J Ayala. I looked at the illustration on the cover: a sad ape evolving into a human.

One of the translators of the book, Ananta Bijoy Das, was hacked to death by machete-wielding assassins in May 2015, outside his home in Sylhet, north-eastern Bangladesh. The other translator, Siddhartha Dhar, was standing in front of me, somewhere in Stockholm. A few months after the murder of his friend and mentor, Siddhartha … Read the rest



Who is Afraid of Atheism in 21st Century Kenya?

May 4th, 2016 | By Leo Igwe

Recent reports from both local and international media have highlighted strains between a small atheist group, Atheists in Kenya (AIK) and mainly christian religious organisations in the country. These reports have focused mainly on the controversies surrounding the efforts of the group to gain local recognition and be registered under the Kenyan law. This move has elicited opposition from religious organisations and state officials. In this piece, I argue that these controversies, though understandable, are completely unnecessary and unhelpful to the nation of Kenya. The hostile reactions that the registration of AIK has generated are clear indicators of intolerance, fear and fanaticism. This is highly unexpected of a democratic Kenya that claims to uphold the rights and freedoms of its … Read the rest



Witchcraft Revolution? Witch finding Journalism in Africa

Apr 9th, 2016 | By Leo Igwe

If the outcome of the recent investigative journalism project on the topic of witchcraft in Africa is anything to go by, then there is an urgent need to investigate ‘investigative journalism’ in the region. This is because the findings of this team are laughable in one sense and disturbing in another. They are laughable because they have reaffirmed the same old contradictory superstitious fantasies that have made Africans a laughing stock in the global intellectual market. They are disturbing because they are presented as products of investigative journalism! The resolution and manifesto issued at the end of the meeting in Accra are just uncritical rendering of commonplace witchcraft beliefs (I guess of the journalists), not a reflection of the region’s … Read the rest



Why I define myself as a feminist – rather than an ally

Apr 8th, 2016 | By Bruce Gorton

In a lot of liberal parlance there is this idea of being an “ally” which I find just a wee bit less than satisfactory.

The thing about an ally is that they’re not there because they actually believe in your cause, but because they feel they can benefit in some way.

Hence for example during WWII the US and the USSR were allies – even though for most of the rest of the century they were on the brink of ending the world over each other’s continued existence.

Allies are not friends; they’re people who seek mutual benefit in order to achieve strategic goals. That is an important distinction when we talk about social justice.

When we say we’re being … Read the rest



Can Atheism Reduce Maternal Mortality in Nigeria?

Apr 3rd, 2016 | By Leo Igwe
If you are one of those who think that atheism is of no benefit to Africa and Africans, that disbelieving in god has no social value or significance for this people then you may rethink your position after reading this. You may be aware that the government of Cross River State in Southern Nigeria is waging a fierce campaign against the practice of ‘church birth’ and this practice highlights the dangers of theism particularly when it is applied to maternal health issues. You may ask : What is church birth? Church birth is a practice where pregnant women go to  churches or faith clinics, instead of hospitals, to deliver their babies. A BBC report on one such church, The Land Read the rest


Interview with Meera Nanda

Jan 29th, 2016 | By Stefano Bigliardi

Stefano Bigliardi interviewed Meera Nanda, who has just published Science in Saffron, for the Italian rationalist magazine L’Ateo. Meera and Stefano invited me to publish this translation here.

SB: Which points do you prefer to be mentioned in my general presentation of your studies and career? If I describe you as atheist, can we expand a little on the roots and reasons of your atheism?

MN: My intellectual/career trajectory and my “faith” trajectory are completely intertwined, each acting upon the other.

I grew up amid multiple pulls-and-pushes between tradition and new ways of thinking,  between patriarchy and a faint glimmer of my own potential as a person, between an intense nationalism (my father had spent his youth fighting … Read the rest



Why ‘Identity Feminism’ Divides Rather Than Conquers

Jan 9th, 2016 | By Adele Wilde-Blavatsky

Women’s rights and feminism has come a long way in the past 100 years. Many women worldwide now have the right to vote, to travel freely without a male companion, to get an education, to work, to marry and divorce out of choice, to take control of reproduction, sex and family planning and get a decent wage for their work. There is still much work to be done though, with some countries still suffering from unacceptably low levels of gender equality and human rights for females.

For some on the bourgeois ‘Liberal­-Left’, or what feminists like Aayan Hirsi Ali accurately call the Regressive Left, the reason why women of colour still lag behind on human rights and freedom in … Read the rest



Regent University of Science and Technology: A Tertiary Institution or a Front for Christian Indoctrination in Ghana?

Dec 28th, 2015 | By Leo Igwe

Going by its name, one expects Regent University in Ghana to be a institution that is committed to the pursuit of academic excellence in science and technology. But in actual fact it is not, at least going by the experiences of Bede Nkumasi. Nkumasi earned his doctoral degree from one of the top universities in Europe last year. At the end of the program, he returned to his native country, Ghana, where he planned to put his knowledge to use in the development of the country. For now, that dream is on hold because Nkumasi recently resigned from his teaching position at Regent University due to compulsory religious devotion and other ‘unacademic’ policies and practices on the campus. The university’s … Read the rest



A Black South African Woman’s Journey to Atheism

Nov 20th, 2015 | By Leo Igwe

South Africa is one of the least religious countries in Africa. About 15 percent of the population identifies as having no religious affiliation and that includes atheists. While some would argue that the country’s non-theistic demography is mainly white, there is a growing number of black South Africans who are atheists and who do not profess any religion. So, the religious demography in the country is undergoing a rapid change. Recently I conversed with a black South African woman, Nosipho, who narrated how she abandoned her Christian faith and embraced atheism.

I am 39 years and was raised by my grandparents, my mother had me when she was just completing school and when she got married, my grandparents thought it

Read the rest


In Defense of Modern Industrial Agriculture, Agribusiness and Our Food Supply: Appendices

Nov 14th, 2015 | By Thomas R. DeGregori

In the following Appendices, we provide a selection of authors and their data including some used in the text that reinforce the argument being made here.

Appendix  I – Dairy production – Capper http://jas.fass.org/cgi/content/full/87/6/2160 and https://www.academia.edu/195371/The_environmental_impact_of_dairy_production_1944_compared_with_2007

The environmental impact of dairy production: 1944 compared with 2007 by Jude Capper, Journal of Animal Science, Vol. 87, March, 2009, pp.2160-2167.

ABSTRACT:

A common perception is that pasture-based, low-input dairy systems characteristic of the1940s were more conducive to environmental steward-ship than modern milk production systems. The objective of this study was to compare the environmental impact of modern (2007) US dairy production with historical production practices as exemplified by the US dairy system in 1944. A deterministic model based on the metabolism and … Read the rest



In Defense of Modern Industrial Agriculture, Agribusiness and Our Food Supply: A Spirited Response to the Critics part 2

Nov 13th, 2015 | By Thomas R. DeGregori

Part 2

“In 1950, the U.S. had 22 million head of dairy cows producing an average of 2,415 kg of milk per year. In 2,000, the U.S. dairy industry had 9.2 million cows averaging 8,275 kg milk per year. Total U.S. milk production in 1950 was 53 MT, compared to 76.2 MT in 2000. The dairy industry produced 44% more milk in 2000 with 58 percent fewer cows than in 1950” (Blayney, 2002, cited in  Havenstein, 2006). Blayney, D. P., 2002. The changing Landscape of U.S. Milk Production, USDA/ERS, Stat. Bull. 978, June, http://ers.usda.gov/publications/sb978/sb978.pdf

Contrary to the critics of modern agriculture, there is no scientific evidence that “organic” is healthier. There is substantial evidence in peer reviewed scientific literature that Read the rest



In Defense of Modern Industrial Agriculture, Agribusiness and Our Food Supply: A Spirited Response to the Critics

Nov 13th, 2015 | By Thomas R. DeGregori

In some circles, there is now what appears to be an established, unquestioned and largely unchallenged consensus that modern agriculture is an unsustainable failure and responsible for any number of ills in our society. The media and our larger cultural discourse are riddled with well-orchestrated misinformation about our food supply and how it is produced. Every ill is blamed on modern food production. An outbreak of E coli 0157:H7 in spinach was widely blamed on industrial. Months later when the source was identified as being organically grown spinach and that the E coli probably came from free range cattle in a low density ranch across the river, it was old news and largely unreported. In fact, it is difficult to Read the rest



The Challenge of Atheism in Contemporary Zimbabwe

Nov 8th, 2015 | By Leo Igwe

The saying, ‘There are no atheists in foxholes’ is used in arguing against atheism. The line of reasoning is that in situations of fear, danger or stress, people profess some belief in God or in some higher being. So this expression is employed to discredit the atheistic position and to question the authenticity and integrity of the godless life stance. But let’s face it; uncertainty, despair and hopelessness drive people to seek imaginary help and imaginary intervention from imaginary beings.

However this is not always the case. Many godless people maintain their disbelief in god no matter the dire situation which they may find themselves; they stand their ground and refuse to budge even in the face of extreme fear … Read the rest



A Pesticide as Medicine? Medicine as Poison? Or What is in a Name? 3

Nov 3rd, 2015 | By Thomas R. DeGregori

The Type III (or Type IV) ranking of glyphosate was long ignored by the anti-biotech opponents of Ht cotton as was the assessment by WHO and various Cancer societies that it was not likely a carcinogen. Suddenly with the new findings, the same groups are now demanding policy actions based on the findings of a source which they long implicitly discredited by ignoring it. Any credible evidence that does not support their firmly held beliefs does not exist in their universe. Nor did they indicate any awareness of the array of more toxic pesticides that were replaced by glyphosate or the resulting significant improvement in the Environmental Impact Quotient (EIQ – “The EIQ impact assessment is based on the three … Read the rest



A Pesticide as Medicine? Medicine as Poison? Or What is in a Name? 2

Nov 3rd, 2015 | By Thomas R. DeGregori

The concern over the Bt. Is a subset of the obsession, some might legitimately call it hysteria over the safety of transgenic using recombinant DNA (rDNA) to produce agricultural crops, particularly food plants generally called genetically modified or GMOs. It is easier to scare people than educate them. Need a new term for some forms of ignorance that is less pejorative. In the vast array of human knowledge, the best any one of us can do is to master small portion of it. In another words, all of us are uninformed or ignorant or at best minimally informed about all the rest of knowledge.  True ignorance is when an individual or group has an absolutely unshakeable conviction on a subject … Read the rest



A Pesticide as Medicine? Medicine as Poison? Or What is in a Name?

Nov 3rd, 2015 | By Thomas R. DeGregori

What is in a name?  Plenty! The mere hint or even question suggesting that a pesticide might have any medicinal value would strike many as being ludicrous while to many others if not most others, it is beyond belief and therefore there is no need to continue reading. PESTICIDES ARE POISON! They are inherently evil and any attempt to define them in any other way makes one a member of a corporate cabal or a servant of them.  For those brave souls still reading, let us begin with a few definitions or concepts – oversimplified but not incorrect.

Poison – disrupts a vital function or functions in a living organism or organisms that could lead to death but not necessarily … Read the rest



Reverse Missionaries: Are African Churches Exporting Homophobia to the West?

Oct 12th, 2015 | By Leo Igwe

In recent years, the issue of gay rights in Africa has generated intense debate and discussions. Some countries have tried to tighten the laws against homosexuality and prohibit same sex marriage. They claim homosexuality is an evil, corrupt and immoral lifestyle which western societies are trying to impose on African nations.

Concerned individuals, state and non-state actors have been campaigning and lobbying to beat back the tide of homophobia that is threatening to engulf the region. It is frustrating to know that as is often the case when dealing with Africa-related issues, many people have tried to infantilize African agency in the raging homophobia by looking for some western or colonial scapegoats, and they have found one in the activities … Read the rest