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Are they really?

Back to the matter of humor, sarcasm, and theatricality, anthropologists hold that they all find expression in every culture. They are the products of reflections on life’s paradoxes and absurdities. They are means of grappling with life’s challenges and drudgery, or finding diversions from its tedium. Humor in particular is universally derived from the incongruities of life.9 And subtleties and sarcasm have also been age-old rhetorical devices used by kings’ men and court jesters in various cultures to make a point they dared not state directly.

Similarly, the characterization of science as a Western value contradicts its essence and history. As an objective process of understanding nature, science is a part of every culture over the ages. And some of its discoveries have collided with traditions and theology everywhere.

That includes the West, as Galileo Galilei would testify. His demonstration that the Sun, not the Earth, is at the center of the universe contradicted theology and so affronted the Church. It almost cost him his life. The Inquisition found him guilty of heresy and could have sentenced him to death. His friendship with the pope and renunciation of his discovery spared him that fate. Even then, he spent the rest of his life in house imprisonment.

Much has changed since then—in the West more so than some other places. Even then, in Europe and especially the United States, science continues to collide with theology. In Tennessee in 1927, a science teacher, John T. Scopes, was tried and convicted for teaching the theory of evolution, which was against state law. The state supreme court subsequently overturned the conviction but only on the narrow ground that the jury, not the judge, should have levied the fine. It wasn’t until 1967 that Tennessee repealed the law under which Scopes was convicted. The U.S. Supreme Court followed suit and vacated all such laws the following year.

Even then, resistance to the theory of evolution continues in various school systems. Teachers are no longer prosecuted for teaching the theory, but faith-based groups are suing to have creationism taught in tandem.

In any case, the most compelling evidence against the notion of science as Western is to be found in the behavior of babies. In every culture, they seek to understand the world they are born into with their eyes, fingers, and tongues. Sometimes, it is to the horror of parents. Invariably, it is in the spirit of science.


  • 1 Kwame Anthony Appiah, The Lies That Bind: Rethinking Identity (New York: Liveright, 2019), 201.
  • 2 Francis Fukuyama, Identity: The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment (New York: Picador, 2019), 74.
  • 3 Perry Anderson, The New Old World (London: Verso, 2009), 40.
  • 4 Minabere Ibelema, ‘“Tribal Fixation’ and Africa’s Otherness: Changes and Resilience in News Coverage,” Journalism & Communication Monographs, 16, 3 (2014): 159-217.
  • 5 W. W. Rostow’s The Stages of Economic Growth (London: Cambridge University Press, 1962) is a seminal treatise that would explain the rise of malls in economic terms.
  • 6 Louise M. Bourgault, Mass Media in Suh-Saharan Africa (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995), 181.
  • 7 The Nigerian press is said to have dated to 1859, when the Yoruba-language newspaper Iwe Irohin began publishing.
  • 8 “Americans’ Religious Values,” Pew Research Center, Religion & Public Life, June 7, 2012., Retrieved March 9, 2015.
  • 9 This is illustrated quite well in Arnold Kruger, “The Nature of Humor in Human Nature: Cross-Cultural Commonalities,” Counselling Psychology Quarterly, 9, 3 (1996): 235-241.
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