Thursday, August 1, 2013


At the close of my professorial Inaugural Lecture which broadly addressed the issue of public health and environmental concerns, I was able, by God’s grace, to smuggle in a few paragraphs on what I called “even more weightier issues”  The extract:

The original name for Physics was Natural Philosophy, and often, physicists draw inspiration from the physical world into other aspects of living. Indeed, one of the basic axioms of the scientific method (attributed to Francis Bacon) is that nature is unified, implying that paradigms can be transferred across different areas of nature.   I crave the indulgence of this august audience to share one major insight I have gained from my studies in Biological Trace Elements Research.
This is the two-sided composite worldview that trace indeed does matter, and that we must nevertheless be holistic in our outlook.  As the saying goes, not straining out gnats while swallowing camels!
Everyday illustrations of this concept abound.  Explaining why he was not going to invite some notable stars with character flaws into his team for the 2013 African Cup of Nations, Stephen Okechukwu Keshi, coach of the Super Eagles, the eventual winners of the Cup explained, and I paraphrase, “you don’t need all the best individual players to get the best team”.  That’s vintage holistic reasoning!  Similarly, the Lord Jesus Christ in the Bible says:  “I have come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10b). Life more abundantly speaks of life in all its ramifications.  A holistically well-balanced life, rather than some narrow-minded pursuit of one-sided “success”.
In human health, environment, and all of life, we must learn to keep an eye on the whole; while noting the tremendous influence (positive or negative) of some minor/trace issues.  For instance, as has been clearly expounded….., cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and several such very weighty issues, might as well be outrightly preventable by such relatively light efforts as regular exercise and consumption of diets free of excessive fats but enriched with anti-oxidants.  However there is little value in going to extremes in one area (say diet) while we remain sloppy with another (say, unnecessary exposure to microwave radiation through continued abuse of the GSM phone).  These are very weighty issues, but we can extrapolate this worldview to even weightier matters in the society.
Inductively applied to the weightier socio-political issues currently topical in our Society, my twin-postulate will look like this: The majority must recognize and respect minority rights, yet it must be done in a holistic manner. Take for instance the hot issue of homosexuality.  In my opinion the big issue with homosexuality is not so much the act itself, but the vociferous advocacy for it.  The miniscule minority of gay advocates insist that homosexuality is no longer a private matter between individuals, but the public (particularly our children and vulnerable youths) must be taught about it; and recruited, even coerced into it.  However they, at the same time, insist on denying this same basic right of advocacy to the other minority in the gay issue - that is ex-homosexuals!  The response of the gay advocacy group to anybody who would claim to have found the homosexual lifestyle horrific and has decided to come out of it is predictable. In Europe and North America ex-gays are endlessly and crudely pilloried, harassed and gagged.  Any support for them is labeled homophobic and could attract stiff jail terms!  One lesson from this lecture is that while we should embrace minorities, it must be done holistically!
 The same analysis can of course be applied to other pressing issues in our country today including Boko Haram and Niger Delta insurgencies.
Ladies and gentlemen, let me conclude this lecture with a prayer that we all experience and enjoy life more abundantly, even as we pay holistic attention to the trace matters of life.
Joshua Ojo.  Extract from professorial Inaugural Lecture titled “Trace Matters: Stable and Radioactive Elements in  Human Health and Environment.  Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria. 9th April, 2013.

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