From Science Matters
Rex Murphy writes at National Post Science does not need to be ‘decolonized’. Excerpts in italics with my bolds and added images.
Does Concordia University wish to be an instrument of learning, or a funnel for wokeness?
Scholars at Montreal’s Concordia University are planning to trace and counter what they say is colonialism in physics, which they describe as a “social field” rather than one of “pure knowledge.” — True North, Campus Watch
How would a person decolonize penicillin? Or anesthesia? Or open-heart surgery? Or the miracle advances the past century gave the world through the understandings — still not complete — of quantum physics?
First of all, you would have to ask the question: what could “decolonize” even mean in these miracle domains?
(I use miracle here only as metaphor, or in its now weaker and more normal usage as an advance scarcely dreamed of but brought on by science, science which is the application of mind, of intellect — not politics — to the understanding of nature.)
Scientific truth is the truth of bare fact. The only reverence science knows is the genuflection before hard, physical reality. Science wears no ribbons of fealty to causes, colours or the predispositions of any mentality or ideology, other than the asking of questions and the submission to the answers provided by absolutely neutral inquiry — answers always tentative, always open to revision or correction; science is never final.
Short form: Science does not wear badges.
There have been instances where science has been forced to wear a political coat. A certain regime in Germany during the 1930s, under the tenure of a racist madman, declared that there was no such a thing as “Jewish” science. And, therefore, it was innately false, to be banned, alas along with the great Jewish scientists.
That Einstein was Jewish, therefore he was wrong,
has to have been the most warped equation ever.
There was in Hitler’s imperium, room for only “Aryan” science. And there was the deadly flaw. Science allows no qualifying epithets, no qualificatory precedent adjectives.
(I dare say Whoopi Goldberg doesn’t know this, but then, there is much that Whoopi Goldberg doesn’t know. That’s why she’s on The View.)
Communism in the hard days of ruthless Stalin also had a Marxist “line” on what science had to be. In both cases, radical and totalitarian regimes tried to subdue thought itself, the functioning of intellect, to their grim, idiotic and malign ideologies.
Science is science, and it is only science, or it is not science: with any limiting descriptive it is just a rigged machine for producing approved results. Politics acts on science as an acid to truth: it distorts inquiry and banishes rigour and dispassion — the core qualities of science.
So let me curl back to the otiose question of “decolonizing” science. What can Concordia possibly mean by such a project?
Is the university, directly or indirectly, saying that the manifold revelations brought about by adherence to scientific methodology, since the days of Isaac Newton — the premier figure in the advance of empirical thought — are wrong? Is Concordia saying Western science is bent by racial considerations and thereby should be dismissed? Side-stepped? Layered over?
Does the university agree with the judgment that since science is “colonized,” it must be “corrected?” That E = mc², perhaps the most basic equation of the whole universe, proceeds from a “colonialist” mentality?
Is it saying that because much, but by no means all, of the science came from people with a certain colour of skin — that would be white — it is therefore not only fallible but an imposition of “colonial” understanding on young minds, whatever that ridiculous phrase may be taken to mean?
Concordia has a fairly well known project called Decolonizing light. And what could that mean? Does it challenge the speed limit of the universe, that light travels at 186,000 miles per second? What alternative measurement is it offering from its decolonized science?
And most pertinently how can it be that a university — an institution for the transmission of knowledge and truth — would bend to the woke notions of our over-politicized times and offer that the progress of scientific truth is but one more unfolding of “imperialist,” “colonizing” white thought?
Speak up Concordia. Or trim your fees.
There are few things that offer more despair in these fad-ridden times than the easy, cowardly concessions to racial and ethic politicization by (once) prestigious institutions.
Penicillin works. Anesthesias have saved millions from pain. The second law of thermodynamics has no reference to race or creed. The scientific method is the very closest attempt in all of history to remove all prejudice, of any kind, from the attempt to answer any question. Its kernel, its very ultimate idea, is submission to what is really seen, what is really there, what is really to be understood.
Most important of all, the colour of the skin of a discoverer has no bearing on the discovery.
You cannot “decolonize” science, because science has no colonies, it wishes none, and would lose all verity if it owed any allegiance except to cold observation, relentless questioning, and the utter exclusion of secondary impulses, most particularly those of race and activism.
Concordia has a choice to make, a choice many other universities must also face. Does it wish to be an instrument of learning, or a funnel for the trite obsessions of a very particular moment?