National Gullibility: Superstition threatens scientific growth in Africa

Superstition threatens scientific growth in Africa: "April 21, 2008: Rampant and increasing belief in pseudoscience is endangering progress in curtailing scientific ignorance in developing countries.

Scientists should stop looking the other way when politicians and religious and spiritual leaders make outrageous claims that threaten vaccination and other public health programmes.

These beliefs take many forms — in the ability of herbal and natural potions to cure a myriad of illnesses, in claims by sangomas (traditional healers) and witch-doctors that only their medicines can cure disease, and in superstition about the spirits of forefathers. All oppose scientific enlightenment.

A recent Human Rights Watch report calls for officials to come out strongly against false AIDS treatments, which are promoted in India, Mexico, Thailand, Zambia and Zimbabwe, for example."
This is a fascinating story about the widespread prevalence of pseudoscience in South Africa and those that capitalize on the superstitious. It's like looking back in time when charlatans and snake-oil salesman thrived. Religion especially plays a major role in keeping the people illiterate.
Science is but one form of rationality, while religion is the most common form of superstition… If the history of science shows us anything, it is that we get nowhere by calling our ignorance ‘God’.
And Matthias Rath, a German vitamin salesman, is particularly evil
In rural South African communities where illiteracy and superstition are rife, charlatans sell herbal concoctions to people with the disease, scorning clinics distributing antiretroviral drugs.

Many townspeople have been attracted to claims made by the German supporter of pseudoscientific remedies, Matthias Rath, who has parachuted into Cape Town and Johannesburg, among other places, to proclaim and sell his vitamin concoction as a cure.

Rath has been derided in Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States and accused of thriving on the ignorance of vulnerable South Africans who are encouraged by support from Tshabalala-Msimang.
In particular, see the Treatment Action Campaign's website, especially this gem:
Rath is the definitive charlatan. With the support of South Africa's Minister of Health, Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, he has sown confusion in South Africa about the treatment and prevention of HIV. The Rath saga demonstrates how damaging politically-supported AIDS denialism is. Rath is one of many charlatans taking advantage of vulnerable people with HIV in the country, but he has been one of the most destructive and almost certainly the richest. This case challenges the impunity with which charlatans have been able to act due to the failure of government to enforce the Medicines Act.
Sounds like Rath is South Africa's answer to Kevin Trudeau. This proves that life will evolve to fill any niche, even despicable life.

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