Have you heard about this chemical called dihydrogen monoxide? It is found in acid rain, rusts metals and  has been scientifically proven to cause severe damaging effects including harsh burns whilst it is in gaseous form. The most terrifying part : it has been proven to cause millions of death yearly. 

Oops, I forgot my main audience are medical Students: a set of smart, intelligent folks. Right? I believe anyone reading this should have caught on that dihydrogen monoxide is an unconventional name for water. This will lead me to hit the nail straight on the head as regards the concept of Zohnerism.

James K Glassman was a journalist who conceived the term “zohnerism” to mean ‘the use of a fact to lead a scientifically and mathematically ignorant public to a false conclusion’. He conceived this concept from a science fair project performed by 14-year-old Nathan Zohner in the year 1997. In the project, Zohner proved to his audience using a plethora of scientific jargon, the reasons why the so-called dihydrogen monoxide needed to be banned.  Some of these included: excessive urination and sweating which were commonly found in tumours among several other scientific reasons.

Nathan Zohner’s main intention wasn’t to ban incite a ban on water legally. It was rather to get a sampling unit of how gullible people can be. Hence, the science project was titled “How gullible are we?” Alas, it wasn’t too surprising to read that 43 out of the 50 people present for his presentation voted to ban this apparently “toxic” chemical.

Yeah, I know most of us would chuckle in amazement while reading this discovery, but the bitter truth remains that people are really ignorant and susceptible to misinformation . Consequently, this concept of zohnerism still plays out very well in our present times.

It is not necessarily with a scientific fact. A distorted truth can also be used to lead on an ignorant public. This concept is played out perfectly and most especially by political leaders, lawyers, journalists and even religious leaders too. For example, I could remember reading an article quite a while ago of some political giant in Nigeria talking about the agitations of the indigenous people of Biafra (IPOB) crying out for secession from Nigeria. He insinuated in the article that these set of people were fighting for their selfish interests and probably when they divide, the next tension that might sprout up among the Biafrans themselves would be the main ownership and controller of the Niger Delta oil frontier basin.

 I am not a political guru but my common sense considers that remark more than trifle and I smell a form of zohnerism in that Statement. History is being documented, the story of Biafra is being passed on from generation to generation ,the killings of hundreds of thousands of the Igbos in the Biafran war.  This implies indirectly, that the tension among these people crying out for redemption is not a scenario which began all in a day. Tensions have been piling up and passed through generations. It has only further escalated due to the incompetency of the ruling government.

Also, it’s a common-sense that a political lobbyist  would never support the idealogy of a tribe seceding from a country. Nigeria has a population of more than 200 million people and the Igbos make about 24% of this population. Should the Igbos secede, that would drastically reduce the population of Nigeria to about 150 million+ citizens. The population of a country most apparently contributes to it’s GDP, at least from taxes. Moreso, the higher a country’s population, the higher the country attracts foreign businesses and investors which also contribute to the country’s GDP. These are some infamous reasons  why politicians, Rich businessmen and lobbyists would never love the idea of a tribe seceding from a country.

Another stance where Zohnerism applies is in the sphere of religion . Some religious leaders and fanatics could create and impose petty standards on their religious mates and followers. They could raise any buffers in respect to petty reasons their standards must be followed without even consulting religious books. Some go as far as marginalizing anyone who doesn’t follow their self-induced doctrines. The innocent sheep who usually consider their shepherds “Gods” sadly accept these doctrines wholeheartedly without questioning or reasoning. 

In as much as I admire religious charisma, I get disgusted sometimes by extremely conservative folks that are so attached to their opinions and biases. In fact, some of them are highly intentional about their ignorance. Life is all about learning, unlearning and relearning. How can one learn and unlearn by being extremely conservative? Maybe some people are intentional about their ignorance because ignorance is bliss or they fear for how they might be perceived by their societal cult or group when they choose not to be ignorant. These instances of Zohnerism continue to play out around us as we continue to receive and internalise information. So the million dollar question, here again, is how gullible are we?

Shalom Okanume.