It seems that many of my friends do not know what a cargo cult is.
The term cargo cult does not describe the phenomenon adequately. When a group of people focus on exterior surface qualities and attribute the structure to those surface qualities that is what is called a cargo cult.
The term is applied to so-called primitive people who encountered the Japanese military and the American military in the Melanesian islands in World War II. After the war these islanders built imitations of the control towers, landing strips and airplanes made out of bamboo. It appears they hoped that the cargo of food and fascinating products that came with the airplanes and control towers would re-appear if the superficial objects were built.
That phenomenon of building the superficial to get the original structure is called cargo cult behavior. There should be a better term for mistaking surfaces for structures. Maybe ‘superficial causal fallacy’ would be better.
This is a two-part blog. In this blog I want to point out that we all are part of a cargo cult and some of our representatives carry this notion too far. In the next blog I want to point out that we have built into our society a deep cargo cult mentality that permeates our educational ideas.
A leading promoter of our own cargo cult was Albert Schweitzer. A German doctor who opened clinics in West Africa in 1913 and began treating Africans with European medicines. Because he believed that the advanced nature of European medicine came from the European foundation of Christianity, he required that his patients accept Christianity along with his medical treatment. Not surprisingly he received a Nobel Peace Prize in 1952.
He was part of a dominant Euro-American cargo cult that is still operating and that believes Christianity is a foundation for modernity and medicine. Christianity existed even in its Protestant form for 400 years before the development of sulfathiazole or penicillin. Commerce and technology exist without Christianity in most parts of the world today and they both are the real structure on which medicine is built.
Schweitzer was always a great hero during his life but he was promoting cargo cult ideas.