The black goat and the black plague

Our national carrier brought a goat to the airport and slaughtered it next to the ATR due to fly to Multan to ward off evil spirits. The sacrificial black goat’s blood drained on the tarmac, behind it, the wheel of the carrier. This is not an Onion piece. PIA did in reality bring a “foreign object debris” (FOD) in the active areas of aircraft. This is clearly prohibited by Federal Aviation Administration rules. An FOD is “any object, live or not, located in an inappropriate location in the airport environment.” Some smart Alec at PIA decided to call in the press to document the colossal shame as well. Splendid.

Frightening — not the evil sprits that down our ATRs like the recent PK661, but the fact that we choose to use this method to carry out safety procedures. It is not as frightening as the negation of Science that we indulge in as a nation. This single act has made a mockery out of Pakistan in the aviation world. Furthermore, it has identified how utterly pseudo-scientific our notions are. It is the cusp of 2017.

In the 1900s, Karl Popper observed keenly how Sigmund Freud and Albert Einstein conducted Science and came up with a keen and profound differentiation between what made Science Science, and what made it child’s play. In his observations Einstein used data to predict the future, whereas Freud sought current scenarios and hypothesized about the past.

He identified that real Science was all about walking into the thought lab with your mind open — open to your notions, your hunches and your theories being disproved. Being certain closes your mind. Therefore it was clear that irrefutable theories are not Scientific. Blind faith comes in this category. Three things make Scientifict heories scientific: that they are testable, refutable and falsifiable.

Let us talk about the last factor. It takes one plane in the history of aviation to have crashed after the slaughter of a black goat, to disprove that the slaughter prevents a crash. If our aviation industry is so sure about the Science behind the slaughter, they must be because flying a machine is science, then it must first seek contradictory evidence of its ritualistic sacrifice.

It does not. Why? Perhaps because we are a country stuck-choked between the future and the past; between Science and Pseudoscience and we think we can have the best of both worlds. The reality is that you end up having the worst of both worlds.

Animal sacrifice has roots in charity, in giving and in community which encouraged tribes to thrive and prosper. This was way back when the Aztecs used to put food at the altar. Today people are walking about with bionic arms and legs. Charity, thanks to Science is on turbo.

We have corrupted both our ancient traditions and soiled our understanding of Science and progress. There is a place for both, in separate realms — the deeply spiritual and then the real — but no place for it combined — unless you want the PIA-Goat meme. The tastelessness, the vulgarity, the cheap display of piety and the utter disregard of international rules — it is an abomination. International airlines already cancelled their tours to Pakistan because of security concerns and now we are giving them insanity as an additional reason to keep away. Who suffers ultimately? Our people, our industry, our economy and the bottom 50 per cent.

How many of us are willing to give up our notions after they are disproved? Not many. This is the generation we are bringing up — fed on folklore and wishful thinking. No surprise then that the particle physicists are being produced in the countries whose belief systems didn’t come in the way of Science — India; Israel; the Nordic countries and US among others.

We are being left behind. We are seeking ways to confirm our mere hunches. Until we stop doing that and adopt the scientific method to our knowledge body we will continue to be left behind. It may be too late for us. Save our children. Don’t let them grow up thinking a plane flew fault-free because of animal sacrifice. This is more dangerous for the country than the black plague.

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