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Science and Religion

Science & Religion

Human Rights Advocate (Nigeria)

Leo is a skeptic and a Nigerian human rights advocate who has played leading roles in the Nigerian Humanist Movement, Atheist Alliance International and the Center For Inquiry—Nigeria. For many years he represented IHEU at the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights and generally in Western and Southern Africa. He specialized in campaigning against child witchcraft accusations and is now researching the topic at the University of Bayreuth in Germany. His exposure of the violence and child abandonment and death that can result from accusations of witchcraft brought him into conflict with high-profile witchcraft believers, such as Liberty Foundation Gospel Ministries, whose followers broke up a meeting he was addressing, beat him up and robbed him. His campaigns for human rights have led to him several times being arrested in Nigeria.


Talk Title

"Robber Goat", "Bird Woman" and "Cat Woman": How Religion is Hampering Scientific Thinking in Africa

Recently, there have been media reports of various paranormal claims in different parts of Africa. These reports highlight occasions where people supposedly turned into goats, cats or birds. There have been cases where women allegedly gave birth to a horse and a frog, and the police arrested a goat.
Very often a critical analysis of these events is missing. A skeptical viewpoint is lacking. So people take these claims for granted and largely accepted as normal. In fact, these incidents are touted as expressions of ‘African science’ or as potent testimonies of black magic.
This presentation provides a skeptical critique of cases from Nigeria and Zimbabwe. It notes that religious beliefs and magical narratives feature prominently in popular perception and representation of events.
This presentation argues that religious beliefs hamper scientific interpretation of issues because they provide ‘causal’ links and connections, explanatory models, precedents and justifications for making paranormal sense of experiences in Africa.