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Decolonise your mind!

David Thompson has up a most interesting post:

Don’t Oppress My People With Your White Devil Science

In the video below, filmed at the University of Cape Town, members of the science faculty meet with student protestors who wish to “decolonise” the university and not pay their bills. During the meeting, one of the staff, one of the “science people,” points out that, contrary to claims being made by a student protestor, witchcraft doesn’t in fact allow Africans to throw lightning at their enemies. He is promptly scolded for “disrespecting the sacredness of the space,” which is a “progressive space,” and is told either to apologise or leave. The offended speaker, the one claiming that Africans can in fact throw lightning at each other – and who disdains “Western knowledge” as “very pathetic” – then uses the apparently scandalous reference to reality as the sole explanation for why she is “not in the science faculty.”

There follow some related links. I’m afraid I can’t remember which I read first to give proper credit. I think my brain has been frazzled by all the witchcraft flying about.

A quick science lesson for the #ScienceMustFall idiots. I sincerely hope that the unnamed staff writer who wrote this reply for what seems to be a Zimbabwean online publication is more representative of the state of scientific thought in Africa than the Social Justice Witches.

Tim Blair reports that science is a product of the (very pathetic) West.

What did Newton know? Rioting students determined to defy gravity, reports the Times. It’s behind a paywall but sufficiently decolonised people can overcome that with a spell.

Science Must Fall: it’s time to decolonise science – The Spectator‘s Coffee House blog.

Fallism: Into the intellectual abyss – Michael Cardo, a South African MP for the opposition Democratic Alliance, wrote a good post lambasting the cowardly response of the UCT authorities.

This might be the ur-video, posted by someone called “UCTScientist”.

Oooh, here’s a good one, from the University of Cape Town Left Students Forum: “As the UCT LSF we will like to clarify our position on a recent statement by a member of the movement, captured in a viral youtube video #ScienceMustFall”. I bet you would.

By the way, “#ScienceMustFall” is not a parody name imposed upon these students by imperialist Western witchcraft-deniers. It is what they call themselves.

It seems these people do not want to pay fees for university, and also do not want to be taught Western science. Thinking about it, that might not be so difficult to achieve. Could they not go to learn at the feet of a shaman, who obviously would not take money to pass on his wisdom, and let the silly people willing to pay to learn Western science do that?

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37 comments to Decolonise your mind!

  • bobby b

    Let’s not single out the Afro-centric students.

    A woman doctoral candidate in the US, in her thesis, posits that science is unfairly based on masculine thinking patterns, relying too much on established facts and empirical reasoning, and is thus unfair to women.

    Not some specific program of science. Science.

  • Natalie Solent

    bobby b, or the much-lauded Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Education and Gender Studies at UCLA, Sandra Harding, who described Newton’s Principia Mathematica as a “rape manual”.

    Africa will have to work quite hard to catch up with Euro-American levels of feminist idiocy.

  • lucklucky

    Again i am dumbfounded that people do not understand what is this…

    I didn’t saw anywhere the key words : Marxism and Power Tactics.

  • Alisa

    It goes without saying, Lucklucky – but it probably should not.

  • I had that argument, some twenty years ago, at an SF convention. I was to be one of two discussing the differences between science and engineering. The other person (a womyn of womynness) was about five minutes late, so I started without her. She walked in, looked scornfully at me, and said “MALE science”. And it went downhill from there.

    She pointed out that she, too was a scientist — a library scientist. I might have been able to give that to her (it is a branch of taxonomy, after all) but hardly had a chance to get a continuous sentence out.

    Even the feminists in the room were appalled.

  • RAB

    I am very looking forward to the massive success of the South African decolonized space programme. 😉

  • Cristina

    I agree. Science must fall, on their heads. That’d be a noisy event indeed. 😀

  • bobby b

    In a recent poll, 32% of US millennials surveyed believe that George Bush killed more people than Stalin.

    Cthulhu was supposed to come and lay waste to the earth, but at last report he was circling in space and muttering “why bother?”

  • Paul Marks

    The demented relativism that these students have embraced was invented by WHITE and MALE “intellectuals”.

    Why are these students following the errors of relativism – I repeat a philosophy invented by WHITE MALES.

  • It’s just a devil science
    With evil on its mind
    Beware the devil science
    It’s gonna get you

  • Nicholas (Unlicensed Joker!) Gray

    Why are they even going to University? Plenty of villages need an idiot or two. Governments could allocate them on some fairness principle.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Of course, without White-Male science, there is no reason to believe in global warming. Well, there is little reason even with it, anyway.

  • TomJ

    Also sprach the sage of Cape Town:

    …the only way to explain gravity is through Newton…

    Get with the times, grandma; while Newton’s equation is a useful approximation for most circumstances, all the cool kids know the way to explain gravity is through Einstein’s equations of curved spacetime.

  • Stonyground

    Do these people ever give a second’s thought to how all their hi-tech toys work? Will there be a witchcraft based smartphone coming on the market any time soon?

  • TDK

    Despite the link to the Times above, today’s Times has a Comment piece by Oliver Moody. Although it starts with the promising headline “Superstition has no place in the modern world”, it bends over backwards to indulge the students. [I only have a print copy so no link.]

    It is unwise to read too much into this outburst. There is no serious initiative to tear up Newton’s Principia and put it’s ragged fragments on a par with local superstition … but for all the absurdity of here rhetoric, the student had the beginnings of a point. Science does have a serious and under acknowledged problem with ethnicity…

    He goes on to discuss two problems. One being the fact that in studies, the subjects tend to be ‘WIERD’ – western educated industrialised rich and democratic. I’d not heard that acronym before but it’s little surprise that in medical trials you use the people who are around you.

    The second

    …is a a profound inequality in the world’s laboratories. No black African has won a Nobel prize for science. Only three academics from Islamic countries have achieved this honour… only 2.4%of the papers in scientific journals come from Africa.

    This is staggering example of self flagellation. Why on earth do we jump to “racism” being the logic cause of inequality of output. I’m told that the entire Arab World prints less new books than Finland does alone. If so, is it any wonder that their academic record is so poor.

    Does he not ask himself why Asians from over the border in India do so well in the racist West?

  • IMO, part of the problem is that science is typically taught as a collection of results to be memorized, rather than as epistemology; that is, the outputs are prioritized over the methods.

    This is true even in Western cultures. Children are taught to memorize Newton’s laws and the periodic table, rather than being taught what observed natural phenomena they (successfully) predict. Children are taught certain Truths about the world – things that Are and that may not be questioned by the rational and intelligent – rather than being taught about the nature of scientific inquiry itself.

    And in upper levels of academia, credentialism is everywhere. There won’t be any more patent clerks having their ideas considered on their own merits.

    That is too bad; empiricism is important enough to be taught even in the absence of whatever theories happen to be the current state of scientific belief. The reverse is certainly not true.

  • Greg

    My guess is that most people sympathetic to the call for “science to fall” have not been exposed to real science. Their science classes, if any, probably have the word “studies” or “enviro…” in them. They’ve no clue what science is, else they would recognize that Newton discovered a Truth, discoverable by all, including by African witch doctors.

    And BTW, the “science” they know SHOULD fall, and soon, so that we can begin the long process of re-building confidence in true scientific methods and their applications.

  • Richard Thomas

    I wouldn’t be surprised if the witch doctors were pretty sciencey themselves. Observe that clouds over the mountains mean the streams will rise a few days later so when you see the clouds over the mountains, sacrifice a chicken and bingo, you’re the man of the hour when the water comes in.

    Crumble some ground-up scab from the chap who died with bleeding eyes last week into someone else’s food and shazam, you have a spell going on.

  • Fred the Fourth

    Ferox:
    I studied physics and math and engineering throughout my school career.
    You are wrong about how science was taught then (not SO long ago) and I suspect you are wrong about how it is taught today, based on my own children’s experiences.

  • Alisa

    How long ago, Ferox? As to today’s children, things vary widely geographically.

  • Alisa

    …by which I mean, schools vary.

  • Alisa

    Correction: my comments were meant to be addressed to Fred The Fourth, who was addressing Ferox – apologies…

  • Johnathan Pearce (London)

    This story in its sad way is further evidence of how much damage post-modernism, and the assault on the notions of objectivity, evidence and testing against facts, has done. It also suggests that such places of “higher learning”, if they are subverted by such mysticism and madness, should be shut down on grounds of mental health, just as toxic and dirty restaurants, for example, are closed as dangers to physical health.

  • I doubt I am so very wrong about it. What percentage of millenials do you suppose could explain the concept of falsifiability?

    How many of them do you suppose could articulate that empirical science doesn’t deal in Truth (that’s philosophy), nor even in Proof (that’s math), but rather in an iterative process of observation, hypothesis, experiment, and revision? That, like a great game of King of the Hill, scientific theories are never proven, never declared True, but are always required to defend themselves against any new test that is devised for them?

    How many of them understand that process to be the strength, the very value, of empirical science? Practically every single thing that has made life measurably easier for the great mass of people over the last few hundred years has been developed by that process … observe, theorize, test, revise.

    I am not claiming that no children learn this … but I am skeptical that even a respectable percentage of them do. Not anymore.

  • Alisa

    Ferox, to be fair, neither I nor anyone I know were told about any of these ideas and principles while at school, at least not explicitly. However, I think that they were implicit in the very form and manner of instruction in science and math to which I was subjected, and which used to be prevalent in the West (and beyond) – and which is not any longer, in my experience. Not entirely absent that is, but no longer prevalent.

    So while I think I get your point and agree with it, I would put it rather differently, by asking: how many know the difference between an axiom and a theorem?

  • Paul Marks

    Objective reality exists – and there are universal rules of reason valid in all places and “historical periods”.

    Thomas Reid (natural scientist as well as philosopher) was correct.

    And the relativist philosophers (also “white males” by the way) were and are wrong.

  • I’d agree with Alisa above that while I certainly learned all the points of Ferox (October 19, 2016 at 2:29 pm), they were more at university than at school, more because I thought and read around my subjects than because they were part of the formal curriculum, etc.. I certainly never had to address them in an exam.

    By contrast (answering the point of Alisa, October 19, 2016 at 2:47 pm), knowing e.g. that the axiom of choice was an axiom, and then looking at theorems that depended on it, was part of my university curriculum. Axiom and theorem were not wholly absent from my school but I think a pupil could have missed them or forgotten them very easily.

    That said, a great many people today will get the difference between an axiom and a theorem after a trivial introduction – including I think some with uncolonised minds though probably not those with decolonized minds.

  • bobby b

    From what I’ve seen, those in STEM fields are still getting a good grounding in what science really is.

    The problem is that the non-STEM fields – the sociologies, the poli-sci’s, the diversity fields – have all decided to cloak themselves in the mantle of “science”, too, because their imperfect understanding of what “science” means gives them leave to label their half-formed thoughts and desires as axioms, requiring no proof because they are simply true.

    And if they can label their own fields as “science”, we should not be surprised that science holds no value for them.

  • Alisa

    Niall:

    knowing e.g. that the axiom of choice was an axiom, and then looking at theorems that depended on it, was part of my university curriculum.

    I was using ‘school’ as a general term – i.e. to include university, or any other schooling, for that matter. FWIW though, axioms, theorems, and the requirement to prove the latter based on the former was very much part of my high-school curriculum – but that (rather ironically) was behind the Iron Curtain.

    That said, a great many people today will get the difference between an axiom and a theorem after a trivial introduction

    Of course – problem is, it rarely happens any more.

    I agree Bobby, but another problem is that fewer and fewer young people turn (or are turned) to STEM education to begin with.

  • Rich Rostrom

    Could they not go to learn at the feet of a shaman, who obviously would not take money to pass on his wisdom…

    Insinuating that African shamans are fools who give away their knowledge (or their services) – that’s racist! They are professionals who charge substantial fees.

  • The discussion here seems to be moving away from the utter stupidity of ‘Science Must Fall’. However, it is interesting to discuss whether primary and secondary teaching of STEM subjects is missing the fundamentals and only concentrating on rote learning of ‘scientific facts’ (a dubious term, except in common parlance). [Aside: I certainly learned, in my early teens in the 1960s at a state grammar school, Newtons Laws of Motion using the evidence of balls rolling down slopes and the like. We learned many scientific things by conducting experiments in class – so were ‘taught’ to experiment.]

    In what follows, I need to tread very carefully. This because I am not a mathematician, let alone a theoretical mathematician. Nor am I a philosopher.

    I like Alisa’s challenge at October 19, 2016 at 2:47 pm:

    how many know the difference between an axiom and a theorem?

    This is a valid doubt about the thought processes of many people.

    But things, IMHO, get worse.

    Most theorems require a mathematical basis, for example arithmetic, logic, algebra. This to go from axiom to deduction; also from a mix of deductions (possibly including axioms) to further deductions.

    But it is (again IMHO) an axiom that (for example and most importantly) arithmetic works – everywhere it looks as if it should work (which is pretty much everywhere). Likewise for all other parts of mathematics.

    These axioms, like many other axioms, are actually supported by real-world evidence: they have been subject to the test of falsifiability – and they have passed that test posed by every piece of available evidence. So we believe they are basic (so axioms).

    We might find it wise to avoid such complexities, for the vast majority of students at the primary and secondary schooling levels. Thus keeping to the simpler explanation of differentiation of axioms and theorems – and only expecting the better fraction of pupils to grasp that concept beyond its simplest explanation.

    We then get to the issue of rote learning of ‘scientific facts’ versus ‘understanding’ of the underlying science – perhaps going back to first principles.

    I have always been very keen on checking things back to first principles – it shows the lie in a great many seemingly sophisticated arguments. But even so, life is too short to know the path from first principles to everything we do know (that is ‘true’). And a major reason we have evolved beyond the higher apes is because we have (much greater) ability to learn from generation to generation – by relying on the diligence of our (societal) ancestors rather than doing everything ourselves from scratch.

    We need (and will need forever) some people for every scientific fact: that know thoroughly the route from first principles – but we each individually do not need that ‘first principle’ information ourselves to use the conclusions (deductions from axioms and evidence).

    Best regards

  • Ferox: What percentage of millenials do you suppose could explain the concept of falsifiability? (…) not anymore.

    But was it ever any different? In the past most folk went into a productive stage of life rather than attending something calling itself a ‘university’. So Generation Snowflake have less excuse not to grasp falsification, for it is the very key to understanding reality in my view (but that is just a theory for which I have formed a critical preference 😛 ), but I suspect if you asked a random sampling of people on the streets of New York or London or Paris, in 1880 or 1920 or 1950, you would get an equal number of dubious replies.

  • Alisa

    But was it ever any different?

    Of course not. But people of the same age who went through even the most basic schooling in 1880 or 1920 or 1950 would understand the concept implicitly, or “intuitively”, because back then they were taught how to think – not how to feel. And, it is not about reality and empirical evidence either – it is about how one is supposed to interpret it.

  • bobby b

    I remember in seventh or eighth grade learning about acceleration by rolling balls down ramps.

    Twenty-some years later, my kids, taking the same Intro To Science-type courses, also covered such topics, but never down to the level of detail of rolling the balls down the ramps with a stopwatch themselves.

    They had to fit in important concepts such as, how do women and minorities feel about acceleration, and there are only so many days in a school year.

  • Bruce

    “…Einstein’s equations of curved spacetime.”

    And, as Einstein almost said; “The universe is not just curved; it’s BENT”.