Monday, September 5, 2016

Of Falls, Medicine, and Technology

Yesterday I had a great fall, and there’s nothing as great as a knock on the head to drive a few points home. Jesus completely freaked out and the mother of Jesus was in quite a state. One thing that came out is that I really have to take another look at home safety. The effect of my fall on Jesus and his mother is not something I’d want either of them to feel again. However I am still well, not any more insane, and, outside a splitting headache, not really much the worse for wear.

As a result of this great fall I found myself at the Nairobi West Hospital. This hospital has what is called “state of the art” equipment which includes a computerised tomography scanner, and on Sundays they charge twice the amount to diagnose you, however they give you half the service since you do have to collect the report the next day instead on immediately as, I was told, usually happens on “normal” days. What stuck me as most odd is the methods used to distribute the scans and reports. The scans are put on film which is then carried over to the doctor so that he can put it on a light table (those of us in graphics remember that ancient technology) to examine them. He gets an eye glass to look at small sections clearly and, finally, there is a written report on paper (a medium only us ancient folks appreciate) that he will get a copy of.

To summarise the salient points, boys and girls, we have a state of the art computerised scanner that can, apparently, only output to film that a doctor has to use an eye piece in order to see the small details and a report that, apparently, can only be put on paper to be read by the same interested parties.

This situation took me back three years ago when we were having a peek at Jesus while he was still swimming in amniotic fluid with nary a care. Again we went to a scanner (this time it was several hospitals), and one of them was considered as the latest in technology as it could even selectively apply colour to the scan. However, on asking, I was told that it still has to be put on film as there is no way the computer generated image can be email, or even saved to flash disk, and it has something to do with Philips, copyrights, and the reluctance of doctors to be sued for distributing these images on a non approved format.

First, it struck me as rather inefficient. A set of films have to be carried across from the labs to the consulting rooms, examined with eye glasses a report, similarly carried across, read, and finally a doctor writes his recommendation. In Nairobi West Hospital it was even more ironic as the doctor sent his prescription via email to the pharmacist. What I wondered is why couldn’t this computer generated image be sent to the doctor via email, or even cloud upload, the doctor examines it on his computer which would allow him to blow it up easily, search for cracks and fissures, and even make annotations.

So my question really is, why is medical equipment hampered in this manner? Why is it that state of the art medical equipment still has to rely on old technology to get it’s results out? What is it about the Medical profession that prevents them for embracing new modern methods of data collection, analysis and storage?

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Seven things atheists do not get wrong

A member one of my online Facebook groups, Freethinkers Initiative Kenya (FIKA), posted an article titled “Seven Things Atheists Get Wrong”. The idea, I imagine, was to get atheists evaluate their opinions on what religion truly is as it is assumed their opinions do not reflect true religion.

Before we tackle the seven things let’s look at the author’s premises. First he makes an assumption that all religions are Christianity and the Christian principles are what atheists have a problem with. Atheists do not believe in any god, be it Yahweh, Allah, Amon Ra or any of the myriads of gods that have been postulated over the ages. It is hubris to imagine that there is only one religion, and to be an atheist that is the religion you must disbelieve in. I am pretty sure adherents of Islam or Buddhism would disagree on that. However even if we looked at Christianity we have an estimate of approximately 41,000 different Christian denominations which do not always agree on the same things or even use the same translation of the Bible. I doubt that they, or even skeptics, can agree on exactly how much different, or how far apart in belief, these denominations are. What is certain is that they fall in a wide range of beliefs and practices. The significance of these depend on the particular denomination that we are looking at.

Let’s look at the points presented.

1. Religion Is About Morality, Not Creation Myths

While I will agree that certain sects do not depend on Creation myths, most of the Christian sects depend on the creation myth to validate their morality. The creation narrative in the Bible sets the stage for the salvation story. It sets the stage for the advent of the “chosen people” as well as the advent, ministry and significance of Jesus the Christ. Without Eve’s acceptance of the serpents offer, and Adam’s subsequent acceptance of Eve’s offer there would be no necessity for most of what is documented in the Bible. The Bible is about obedience and submission to God’s will. It’s about the inability of man to do so unaided. Remove the creation myth and it invalidates most of what follows. The definition of morality in the Bible is conforming to God’s will and God’s will is demonstrated during creation and the subsequent activities.

2. Religion Is the Foundation of All Morality, Not Merely an Expression of It

The author suggests that atheists are incapable of determining right and wrong. He imagines that atheists only determine this by showing how evil religion is. This is a rather strange claim because in order to determine the relative evilness of religion atheists would have to have a moral code that they use to contrast with the religious moral code. He also makes the, rather regrettable, error of assuming that once you do not believe in a god you’d, of necessity, have the same moral code as all others who do not believe in a god. Given that not all who believe in some god(s), or even the same god, have the same moral code this inference is rather disingenuous, and he uses this assumption to fortify his claim that all morality comes from religion.

There have been societies without religion (as distinct from not believing in a god) and all these societies have had a moral code. True religion seeks to constrain human actions, but then so does society. The very existence of society implies a code that binds these people together. The morality may be different, or have different roots, from religious morality but it is still a moral system. All of us practice a morality, however it is not necessarily a morality based upon a religion.

3. Religion Was the Foundation of Society, Not an Addition to It

As I pointed out, there are societies that didn’t have religion, however even if this was true that does not make religion necessary, now, or even desirable. Cannibalism, slavery, torture, repression and war are part of humanity's past, and also played a role in the formation of society. Whether this society is ideal is another issue however there are quite a number of reprehensible acts in the formation of this society and that they are part of our history is no reason to include them in either the present or the future society.

4. Atheists Do Believe

This is a rather strange statement. There is nothing in the meaning of atheism, or atheist, that precludes believing in general. Atheism is about a specific belief, not all beliefs.

Atheists who complain about the presence of the Ten Commandments in public spaces are not making a statement of belief, or unbelief, they are making a statement on the impartiality of the state. The statement is about the promoting of one ideology over another in a multi ideology state, and the implications that the state will use a specific ideology to provide services to it’s citizens. Many atheists, and quite a number of Christians as well, believe that a free state has no business promoting any particular ideology, or using a particular ideology in the provision of services to citizens. It’s not an issue of belief, but of the impartiality of the state.

5. Science Can’t Teach Us Right from Wrong

This is probably the only “true” statement in the article. Science certainly cannot teach us right or wrong. Science is a tool, not an ideology, not a way of life. Science can examine why we say x is wrong, z is right and y is not. It has no judgement on whether we should do x, y, or z. Right and wrong are subjective values. They change with society and are constantly being adjusted to suit our changing circumstances. Ultimately right or wrong is a question of survival, and, ultimately, neither earth, nor the universe, cares whether we survive or not. It’s only man, that we know of, who truly cares abut the survival of man.

Our actions are, and that is not a frightening thing. We assign value and moral consequence, to them. In themselves, and of themselves, are actions do not have moral value or consequence. Yes we have to decide to act, however I see no tragedy in acting for the good of humanity, and the individual human.

6. Religion Complements Science, It Doesn’t Oppose It

History has shown that religion only uses science to the extent that it supports it’s (religion’s) aims. Where science doubts, or causes religious claims to be rendered invalid, religion will attempt to suppress, oppose, or, failing all else, ignore science. Religion has hardly been interested in factual data, but rather in how data can be used to further it’s aims. The tool that we call science will always be wielded in the interests of the person wielding it. Very few people are interested in knowledge for knowledge’s sake, but rather in how this knowledge can be used in aiding, or furthering, one’s aims.

Religion rarely, if ever, complements science. It opposes, hides, suppresses and ignores science unless science is proving, or furthering, religion.

7. Ignorance of Religion Is Ignorance of History, For Atheists and Everyone

Religion is part of our history, yes, however knowing about, and of, religion does not mean believing the claims religion makes. Ideas, and cultures, do not deserve automatic respect, they have to earn it against other ideas and cultures in the market place.

Religion demands, or tries to shame us, into respect for their claims, yet religion does not respect other claims. If it truly respected other viewpoints then it would respect that others are incapable of respecting their viewpoint as well. We do not respect religions that support human sacrifice, we do not respect ideologies that suppress women, we do not respect ideologies that propose that some humans must be inferior to others, and we do not, also, respect ideologies that result in oppression of any group of humans. These ideologies have not earned our respect, much as they may demand it, and our current religions, too, must earn any respect due to them.

Monday, November 10, 2014

AG cannot honestly legislate spirituality.

In a typical knee jerk reaction the Kenya Government, through the AG, is proposing new rules to control churches and various religious organisations. According to the Nation Newspaper the AG claims that only religious organisations that meet certain conditions, pegged on their “transparency, accountability and spirituality” will be registered. Currently religious institutions are registered as Charities under the Societies Act.

The government is claiming that this will, somehow, protect Kenyans against the antics of “seed” pastors who are accused of “fleecing” Kenyans of cash in exchange for “fake” miracles. Bishop Mark Kariuki comes out accusing the government of interfering with the freedom of worship, Sheikh Ngao warns the government on attempting to keep people from places of worship, and, in an ironic twist, condemns religious leaders using the Bible to impoverish their flock.

One wonders under what auspices and criteria the AG will determine the spirituality of a church, or even what empirical procedures can be used to determine this without creating state favouritism of a particular group of creeds. Our constitution in Chapter Two 8 states clearly “There shall be no State religion.” By declaring certain levels of spirituality as religion and others as not valid isn’t the state declaring it’s favoured religion, or group of religions?

First, there is no empirical method of determining what spirituality is or how to measure this spirituality. In order to set up laws on this the government would have to define spirituality, and given the various methods that religious organisations use to determine this, it would force the government either to prefer one interpretation over another, which would not be constitutional, or to accept all interpretations of spirituality as valid. In the latter case there would thus be no way of determining which church, if any, is not spiritual.

Secondly, the Kanyari saga that is creating this knee jerk reaction by our beloved government is no scam if we go by the tenets of religion. By defining something as religion you immediately remove any standards of proof, proper behaviour, or even what constitutes as false. Yes, Kanyari asked his “flock” to contribute money in exchange for miracles. Mainstream churches have been asking their flock to contribute money in exchange for miracles since they were formed. About the only difference is that Kanyari coached people to show miracles while mainstream churches fail to demonstrate that those miracles have happened, or coach their terms in such a vague manner that all manner of phenomena can be considered miracles. Kanyari is well within his religious rights to create props that enable his flock to have faith, and he is well within his religious rights to ask for money for this. If we accuse him of obtaining money by false pretences then we might as well accuse all religions of doing the same. After all we are yet to have verifiable evidence that any religion is helping people to the afterlife (as they claim), and given that they all claim their paths are the only paths to an afterlife then certainly most, if not all, of the religious organisations are obtaining money by false pretences.

In my opinion the government has very few choices. Either it let’s the religious organisation have free rein to “fleece” the public by promising them things we cannot verify the public has actually received, or it can treat these organisations in exactly the same way it treats other organisations that make money off the public. Given that they provide an intangible product these organisations should declare their earnings and expenditures and pay taxes on these earnings. Accountability and transparency in fiscal matter is about the only thing the government can have authority on. Inasmuch as it protects religious claims from evidential enquiry it should not, now, suddenly subject the claims of one of these organisations to scrutiny without requiring other organisations to, thus, verify their claims. If the public are happy with being sold a product they can only feel, and the government is required to protect this product, then the government cannot turn around and claim it has to investigate this protected product simply because it is packaged in a different manner.

I do not imagine, for the moment, that the government would be willing to make any claims of the validity of these religions, and I doubt it would be in it’s interests to do so, however the public still has a choice as to whether to support the “false” false prophets, “true” false prophets, or any prophet in general, or, alternative, to use critical thought in verifying the claims of these prophets before committing their resources to them. Alas, critical thought has been shown to be greatly lacking in this country.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Of love and celebrations.

Valentine's Day is here and chances are there will be a plethora of red, a mass of flowers and a drying up of wallets in the name of impressing that current special one today. Hearts will be broken, ladies will cry, men will curse and prostitutes will do roaring business. Bars, restaurants, and other entertainment spots will be attempting to cash in on the madness while others will stare forlornly at their phones hoping somebody will ring or, at the very least, send a message. There will be temporary affairs, grandiose proposals and mega breakups. All this in the name of finding love.

St. Valentine's Day began as a liturgical celebration of a certain Valentinus, it not even clear whether it was one, or more, saints by that name. The most popular martyrology associated with Saint Valentine was that he was imprisoned for performing weddings for soldiers who were forbidden to marry and for ministering to Christians, who were persecuted under the Roman Empire. He is reputed to have written a letter to daughter of his jailer, just before his execution, which he ended with the line "From your Valentine" a line which has come into popular use today. Today, Saint Valentine's Day is an official feast day in the Anglican Communion, as well as in the Lutheran Church. The Eastern Orthodox Church also celebrates Saint Valentine's Day, albeit on July 6th and July 30th, the former date in honor of the Roman presbyter Saint Valentine, and the latter date in honor of Hieromartyr Valentine, the Bishop of Interamna (modern Terni). The day was associated with romantic love in the middle ages, and it evolved into an occasion where lovers expressed their feelings by exchanging flowers and confectionary as well as sending cards which are referred to as "valentines". Somewhere along the line the pagan god Cupid got involved in the celebrations and seems to have taken the place of honour therein.

This years St. Valentine's Day took me a bit by surprise. For a rather strange reason I still thought it was Wednesday 13th February and Valentine's Day was still to come, and I was preparing to write a rather different article on it. A few messages to wish me a happy Valentine's as well as a call yesterday did not quite convince me the day had finally dawned. It took the intervention of Social Media to bring home that face. Suddenly most posts were talking of love, affairs, flowers, hope and despair. There is even a group of people who have armed themselves to hunt down this Cupid fellow and give him a taste of the "misery" that he inflicts upon others. The side shows are certainly quite amusing and the story of love, hope and despair would rival any Mexican soap.

The hullabaloo of St. Valentine's Day mirrors our new "I want it now" society. We have set up a day where everyone is supposed to move around in something akin to post-coital bliss, propose for no other reason than it is the lovers day, wear colours that might, or might not, suit one's skin tone and carry around assorted vegetables in the name of being the perfect romantic gentleman or lady. Sadly by this time tomorrow, when all the furore has died out, we go back to our crass, misogynistic ways and ignore the same person we were putting on a show with to cheer our favourite football teams, or imbibe in our favourite drink at our locals. We give our significant others one day then ignore them for the rest of the year as if that grand declaration of love is supposed to last a year and is only renewable once a year on the fourteenth of February. We forget to communicate, we avoid being seen out with her, and we even forget that she is a lot more than that person who we remember when we have certain feelings after imbibing one too many and failing to find a suitable receptacle for our advances.

I do not think we should have set out a day for love, or even need to be reminded that we are in love. Being in love, showing your love or even appreciating your significant other is something that we should be doing continuously. It is something that we should renew each and every minute that we are alive, something that should be as natural as breathing, as pleasurable as a nice meal, and would need as much reminder as we need to take that next breath of air. I am not saying we should take love for granted, but that we should savour each and every moment of the love while it lasts, we should enjoy and indulge when we can, and we should not need one day to remember that it exists. We should not be needing this day to buy gifts for our loved ones, we should not be needing a day to show appreciation, and we shouldn't be needing one day that we set aside to be ourselves with our loved ones. If we do need this one day then it's not love we are celebrating, but a crass show off and a materialistic and ego massaging orgy. All we are doing is looking for that fifteen minutes of fame, and failing to build the lifetime of love that we should be having.

Remember, live and love for this, too, shall pass. It is better to have loved, and loved well, than it is to tell the world you have love only to have it pulled out from under you by your reality. For those who do have significant others this is just another day to celebrate your love and tomorrow will still be another day to celebrate your love. For those of you who do not have significant others then this, too, is a day to celebrate your love, unrequited it may be, for tomorrow will still be another day. As for me and mine we will celebrate each and every day in our own unique ways for every day, to us, is lover's day.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Kenya and the Abortion debate

Yesterday in one of our Dailies there was an "exposé" on abortion. The writer appeared amazed that this operation takes only a few minutes and it was "shocking" that in one case a woman had had six abortions and in one case she actually had it done over lunchtime and was back to class in the afternoon with nary a problem. There was also a claim that there are 29 abortions for every 100 live births. Abortion in Kenya is illegal, and many organizations are opting to educate Kenyan women, and men, on various family planning methods. Our religious organizations are pushing for the ineffective abstinence method, many corporations and NGOs are pushing for condom use while a small number (mainly religious) are pushing for faithfulness to a single partner. All of them are trying to put emphasis on prevention while, as usual in this country, they are ignoring the elephant in the room. The problem, I think, is not abortion but what leads one to abortion.

It is said that the replacement rate for a stable population is about 2.3 children per woman while in Kenya the rate is 4.38 children per woman (estimates as per 2011). This would imply that the population is growing at almost twice the replacement rate. As per 2011 estimate, Kenya is having 31.93 births per 1,000 persons and a 7.26 deaths per 1,000 persons an average increase of 24.67 per 1,000 persons. Our infant mortality rate is 43.61 per 1,000 live births, the maternal mortality rate of 5.3 per 1,000 and our HIV prevalence rate is about 6.3% with estimated deaths of about 80,000 per year.

Kenya also has a high religiosity index with over 98% of Kenyans professing some kind of deity. The three major religions (Christian Protestants, Roman Catholic and Islam) are estimated to be about 88% (though the figures for the Muslim population are disputed) while indigenous religions are about 10%. Some of these indigenous religions are an offshoot of Christianity. As of 2012 it is estimated that about 50% of Kenyans live below the poverty line. This figure has risen from 42% in 1992. The poverty rate is defined as living below 107 Kes (USD 1.25) per day. This is a country that has a health expenditure of 12% of GDP, 0.14 physicians per 1,000 persons and 1.4 hospital beds per 1,000 persons. The government spends about 20% of its budget on recurrent expenditure and only about 10% on development (2010. Sources KIPPRA).

Sex is a basic need, and all attempts to regulate and/or limit sexual activity only drives these activities underground. Kenya's highly religious and hypocritical society frowns upon sex outside of the "sacred" institution of marriage. Men are frequently frogmarched to police stations for "soiling" the marriage bed, women are stripped and beaten for straying, prostitution, casual sex and same sex liaisons are frowned upon, nay, forbidden. Women who give birth outside of marriage are frequently ostracised and considered loose. Society will shun the unmarried mother and women bear the brunt, and responsibilities, of single motherhood. For a strange reason the men who impregnated these women will frequently get off scot free or get an equivalent of a slap on the wrists. There are no social networks in place for taking care of extra children and there is a cultural folk tale that claims God provides for all children which absolves the general society the responsibility to taken care of them. Given the poverty levels it is also understandable that extra children might become an unbearable burden on the parents and society at large.

Given that the girl child will most likely drop out of school if she gets pregnant, with rapidly vanishing chances of continuing education after delivery, as well as the high chances of being thrown out of her parents home, it is actually more surprising that we do not have more abortion cases than are reported. In most cases the cost of maintenance and upkeep of the child will be borne by the woman, and even where the partner helps the income levels may severely limit the options available to the couple. With no safety net a couple facing the prospects of a child has to work out if they can realistically afford this child, not only in monetary terms, but also the social and health costs of maintaining this child.

Since women bear the brunt of this, and women also are the ones who carry this child I think it really should be in their interests to be given a choice whether, or not, to carry the child to term. A woman's choice should not be curtailed for religious and/or social reasons and since these same religious and social enforcers do not bear any of the costs of maintaining this child after delivery they should not be part of the decision whether, or not, a woman should carry a child to term. The choice ultimately is the woman's. She is the one who carries the child, she is the one who delivers the child and she is the one who will be required to take care of many aspects of that child. She thus should also be the one who decides whether, or not, the child is to be carried to term.

This, however, does not absolve the men of any responsibility towards the child. Inasmuch as a man has contributed to the conception he should also contribute to the discussion, advice, upkeep and maintenance of this child. Whereas the woman should, and must, have the ultimate choice whether to carry the child to term or not, the man, too, can state his preferences on the issue. He is an interested party, and while he may not, and should not be, the ultimate decision maker his opinion does count. He has, as our learned friends put it, locus standi.

Leaving abortion as illegal only drives the practice underground. Women, and men, will opt for an abortion for many reasons and they will procure one regardless as to its illegality. The only purpose making it illegal serves is to condemn many poor and uninformed women to premature deaths from botched or incompetently done abortions, or condemn many children, and mothers, to a lifetime of poverty and suffering with not much chance of escaping the poverty trap.

At this stage in my life I probably would not advise any woman who may have been impregnated by me to abort however if I had over my regulation 2.3 children the scenario would probably change. It is easy for one who is living in relative comfort with most of the basic necessities assured to say women should, and must, not abort, however one should have a level of empathy for other people. What do you expect a woman in school who knows her parents will disown her to do? What do you expect that woman in the slums who is already feeding 12 children to do? What do you expect that woman whose career and further prospects would be shattered by a pregnancy to do?

Religious groups cite the absolute sanctity of life in their opposition to abortion. This argument however falls flat when you consider the number of goats, cows, bacteria, chicken, viruses or even humans that are killed through human action, and inaction. It is hypocritical to claim sanctity of life when thousands of children are dying every say from preventable deceases, when thousands more are starving to death and when thousands of mothers are dying from childbirth and childbirth related complications. We seem to be more bothered about the rights of the unborn than we are about the rights of those living. We are moved more by the plight of an aborted foetus than we are by the face of a hungry child.

Perhaps let us first ban poverty, let us declare poverty a crime against the state and punish those who keep people in poverty with the same terms we punish those who procure an abortion. Let us ban social hypocrisy, let us ban hunger, let us ban ignorance and those practices that prevent us from enjoying our sex without guilt or shame. Let us make it easier and cheaper for us to control conception, let us educate our children on sex, let us ban our prejudiced views and make it easier for everyone to access information, services and satisfaction from our sexual activities. Then we can go on to ban abortion. I can assure you, though, you'll be banning an obsolete practice.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Rape and Sex in the Kenyan context

Of late there have been various stories in the media of rape committed on children and persons who are not only known, but are relatives of the victim. Rape is one subject that fascinates me. Firstly because it one of the few subjects that I am incapable of being fully rational about, and secondly it’s also one of the few crimes that I intimately know quite a number of victims.

In Kenyan law rape is dealt under Cap 3 of 2006 and is defined as:
3. (1) A person commits the offence termed rape if -
(a) he or she intentionally and unlawfully commits an act which causes penetration with his or her genital organs;
(b) the other person does not consent to the penetration; or
(c) the consent is obtained by force or by means of threats or intimidation of any kind.

Section 3 puts the minimum penalty as ten years and the maximum as life. Personally I’d prefer the maximum being death (but as I said earlier I am not exactly rational about this)

Section 4 on the other hand puts an interesting twist to the tale:
4. Any person who attempts to unlawfully and intentionally commit an act which causes penetration with his or her genital organs is guilty of the offence of attempted rape and is liable upon conviction for imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than five years but which may be enhanced to imprisonment for life.

Thus by law while attempted rape starts off with a lower sentence it can escalate into the maximum that is allowable as the case is when charged of rape.

Rape is such an unnecessary crime. Our society has glorified and mystified sex to an extent that some people get the impression that not only is sex a mysterious act but it confers mysterious powers on the person who carried out that act (usually male). There have been cases where people think that having sex with a virgin is a cure of sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV and gonorrhoea, or even that it will grant you success in certain ventures, and even that if you proceed on a journey, or engage in a sport, sex might bring bad luck on your endeavour. There are people who will not have sex on religious days, who will only have sex on religious day and even those who will only have sex when the star signs are potent. Some people even believe that having sex will impair your thinking and sap your strength. There is also the feeling that sex gives you power over others and many rapists consider that having forceful sex will enhance their power over their victims. Unfortunately many victims also have the same belief. On the other hand society restricts, in the name of morality, other ways of reliving sexual pressure and will frown upon a person who either goes to prostitutes or masturbates oneself. Society puts unrealistic limits on what is allowable in sex, and expects that all will adhere to this even where there is no victim.

Given the stigma associated with sex, many rape cases in this country go unreported, or if reported are only reported to councils of elders or family patriarchs and the “shame” is cleansed with arcane and superstitious rituals to prevent further curse on families. Rape, especially when it’s a man raping a female, is considered more of a stain on the family than a crime. This is especially so when the perpetrator is a member of the same family as the victim. Many African societies do not even recognise rape in the context of marriage, and they even claim that the victim has a role to play in exciting the assault and in some cases instead of giving justice to the victim they require the victim to make some sort of amends, for a consideration to the family, to appease her “sin”. The various claims of short skirts or exposed skin being a justification for heated passions are a case in point.

Prevention is haphazard and usually involves asking the potential victims to dress in a “non provocative” manner, avoid going near men or even live in seclusion so that male passions are not inflamed by the sight of a woman. For some rather strange reason men are considered unable to control themselves when faces with a sight of a woman, regardless as to the state of dress. A lot of cultures treat this as an excusable misdemeanour as they believe that the victim must have done something to excite the man and the man is understandably unable to control his reactions. This just goes to further victimise women as responsible for the crimes that are perpetuated on them.

In my rather limited personal circle I know of five women who have been raped. One was raped in the process of a robbery while the other four have been raped by close relatives. In one sad case she was repeatedly raped by her male cousins and uncles over a period of several years from the relatively young age of nine. The only action that was carried out when this was discovered was to call pastors and village elders to cleanse the bad spirits that she brought to the family. Because she developed at a rather young age it was taken that she tempted these relatives to rape her and only God, and the elders, can suitably solve this situation. Much as she seems to have recovered from the ordeal you still see glimmers of this experience from her actions and relationships with persons of the male persuasion.

The strange thing is that the law is rather strict with persons of this sort and it provides for a maximum sentence of life for these acts,
Cap 3 of 2006 of the laws of Kenya in Section 20:
20. (1) Any male person who commits an indecent act or an act which causes penetration with a female person who is to his knowledge his daughter, granddaughter, sister, mother, niece, aunt or grandmother is guilty of an offence termed incest and is liable to imprisonment for a term of not less than ten years:
Provided that, if it is alleged in the information or charge and proved that the female person is under the age of eighteen years, the accused person shall be liable to imprisonment for life and it shall be immaterial that the act which causes penetration or the indecent act was obtained with the consent of the female person.

Notice that whether consent is given or not one is liable to life imprisonment if the girl is under the statutory age of eighteen. Thus a father having sex with his daughter, or an uncle having sex with his niece, or a grandfather having sex with his granddaughter would serve a lifetime sentence as long as the girl is below eighteen years and it will not matter that the girl consented to the said act. Thus the various cases we have been seeing in the news are pretty simple. All one needs to prove is that an act of penetration occurred and the perpetrator is liable to life imprisonment. What surprises me is that this does not seem to be done. Give the severity of the punishment it is even more surprising that chiefs, elders and the police let the perpetrators to get off with the legal equivalent of a slap on the hand.

The law, on the other hand, is lenient when it comes to “committing an indecent act” with a child and only provides for a maximum sentence of ten years if that child does not pass the test of relationship.
Cap 3 of 2006 Section 11. (1) Any person who commits an indecent act with a child is guilty of the offence of committing an indecent act with a child and is liable upon conviction to imprisonment for a term of not less than ten years.

This seems to imply that if you rape a child of four years, as happened recently in Kenya, and the child is not related to you then you will be able to get out when that child is fourteen and continue molesting her. This punishment, I think, is inadequate. In a strange twist under the penal code Cap 63 section 162. Any person who:
(a) has carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature; or
(b) has carnal knowledge of an animal; or
(c) permits a male person to have carnal knowledge of him or her against the order of nature,
is guilty of a felony and is liable to imprisonment for fourteen years:

So thus while you will get ten years for defiling a child of four years who is not related to you, you can get fourteen years for having anal consensual sex with an adult woman who does not pass the test of relationship, and you only get twenty one years if you coerced or lied to that person into having “unnatural” sex with you.

I rest my case.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Christianity and Freethought

Freethought is a philosophical viewpoint that holds opinions should be formed on the basis of logic, reason and empiricism and not authority, tradition, or other dogmas. The cognitive application of freethought is known as "freethinking", and practitioners of freethought are known as "freethinkers".

Now there are quite a number of people who believe that if one is a Christian then one cannot be a freethinker. First let’s get a few things said right at the beginning. If one forms an opinion that God exists on the basis of logic, reason and empiricism without basing it on authority, tradition or dogma then one can be said to have used the process of freethought in order to arrive at the conclusion that there is a god. Freethought does not imply that the opinions you get will be truthful, or even that they will stand all the tests of future evidence. However a freethinker should be able to change their opinions and conclusions when new evidence does appear.

Christianity is usually taken as a dogmatic religion that relies on tradition and authority to come to conclusions and opinions. However this is a narrow definition of Christianity. In my opinion anybody who follow the teachings of Jesus Christ is a Christian. A Christian is a person who adheres to Christianity, an Abrahamic, monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as recorded in the Canonical gospels and the letters of the New Testament. "Christian" derives from the Koine Greek word Christ, a translation of the Biblical Hebrew term Messiah. On the other hand Christian atheism is an ideology in which the belief in the God of Christianity is rejected or absent but the moral teachings of Jesus are followed. People who adhere to any of these ideologies are Christian, even though the latter will certainly not be called Christian by many sects of this religion. However one must admit that these self-same sects consider all other similar sects as not Christian either.

Regardless as to which definition of Christianity you use being a freethinker would not necessarily mean that one cannot be a Christian. Traditional Christianity demanded that one relied entirely on dogma and tradition to have an opinion. People who follow this ideology were required to wait for interpretation of every even and portent from authority. Thus everything, including observable fact, had to be interpreted in light of dogma. This kind of Christian can certainly never be a freethinker. However it was this oppressive ideology that gave rise to freethought as we know it. Modern Christianity is not that oppressive and there are variants that do not take logic and reason as an anathema to faith.

For most of us our first glimmer to understanding the world came from persons who had experienced it before us. They gave us their observations and opinions and we grasped them as essentials to life. We get an education in a similar manner and since the world is too large for us to experiment on everything we get most of our “facts” in a similar manner. This is a practical way to gain knowledge. A freethinker, however, is willing to question each and every “fact” of learned experience and using logic reason and empiricism should be able to validate these “facts”. If the premises are faulty, or the methods of perception are inaccurate, the results may not be factual however they would be results that are reached using the process of freethought and the person, regardless as to the accuracy of his opinions, would be a freethinker.

This process of query does not necessarily lead to abandonment, or rejection, of all previously held opinions, neither does it guarantee that previous information will be proven invalid. Thus it is entirely possible that a freethinker will end up with the conclusion that not only does God exist, but that the Christian thought is the way to approach that god. Logic is based on certain “certainties” and empirical observation is limited by perception. There are axioms that are the basis of any logic train and there is perception that underlays any empirical observation. If these axioms are changed or perception changes the same “facts” would lead to different opinions. And these changes are the reasons you have schisms of thought and religion.

As the keen of eye would have noticed, not all Christians are theists. Isn’t that, in itself, a paradigm shift, isn't it?