Science Must Fall?

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Justin
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Science Must Fall?

Post by Justin » Wed Oct 19, 2016 12:16 pm

Skip to 3:45 for key statement.

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RyanCT
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Re: Science Must Fall

Post by RyanCT » Wed Oct 19, 2016 3:43 pm

Sorry, I know that this is meant to be a light hearted thread, but as a science student (and someone who uses this forum a lot), I feel very uncomfortable with this video as “joke of the day”, and I want to make some comments and provide some context.

Firstly, while the statements of the woman talking are clearly aggressive, rash and misguided, this video was taken out of its original context, which was a week long series of widely attended discussions and open forums at UCT, aimed at understanding what decolonisation might mean in the context of science. It is certainly true that there are currently serious issues in both our science faculties, in which minorities, woman, black people and the previously disadvantaged are severely under-represented in both the student body and faculty, and the way that we currently teach science, which completely neglects both the history of science and the role of science in our society, while simultaneously presenting significant obstacles to those without a certain very specific educational background. While the comments in this video don’t contribute to this discussion in a constructive manner at all, my feeling is that presenting this video as “joke of the day” trivialises the broader discussion, and serves to “other” those who are trying hard to implement constructive change through deliberation, discussion and engagement around difficult, important and nuanced issues.

For those who are interested, here are some constructive and deliberative thoughts around these issues:

https://omny.fm/shows/the-best-of-redi- ... -look-like

https://theconversation.com/yes-mathema ... egin-65963

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Justin
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Re: Science Must Fall

Post by Justin » Wed Oct 19, 2016 3:45 pm

I'll bite :pirat:
I'll also split the topic from JOTD (done).

Yeah, I'm a little uncomfortable about the manner in which things are going too...

I have not gone to the two links that you have posted yet, but off the bat here is my 2 cents:
- Someone in the video could do with a course in 'communications'.
- UCT academics (professors) are seeking work outside of South Africa (I have this first hand).
- When the rest of world see's this, they go (invest) elsewhere (lest it be burned down).

I realise that there is a problem, it's just not being handled well and the whole thing is getting bad PR (ZA is getting bad PR).
Our protestors are getting on par with the French union riot's (and they know how to throw a good riot :P
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Re: Science Must Fall?

Post by Old Smelly » Thu Oct 20, 2016 8:44 am

I believe Justin has a point, but let's put this another way;

Someone in industry sees this discussion about "de-colonising science". At the same time they see people demanding free university education. So they see people grappling with the whole fabric as to what this education is about, BUT more to the point - they see people that will not function within their industry and whom they will not employ - not because they will question things but because in a business sense you cannot have people who ascribe no value to things and who reject the basic processes that make up their way of making money.

I hope for their sakes that this is all powermongering or that these people are angling for some sort of academic idealogical debate because arguing that Science is not applicable because it appears western not only puts that person in a bad light, but throws big question marks as to the value of these very Universities. What are they teaching them if not proof through empirical data? It all looks like a bad case of politics washing over into the practical world.
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Nic Le Maitre
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Re: Science Must Fall?

Post by Nic Le Maitre » Thu Oct 20, 2016 10:11 am

I'll throw my hat into the ring here too:

Science is source agnostic, it is merely the process of creating models that accurately represent the natural world and observations that we make. If someone builds a better model, we will grasp it firmly and use it to build the next, better one. Every scientific advance has come off the back of the previous advances and knowledge from a previous generation. Newton himself said: "If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants."

We do not care where the model we currently use came from, all we care about is its accuracy. We place Newton on a pedestal because his model of large scale objects and how they move is highly accurate. The same with Einstein.

Therefore when we teach people physics, we teach them Newton's Laws, because they current explain our observations most accurately and that is what they need to know. Likewise with chemistry, we teach the space occupying model of electrons and the wave-particle model and not the history leading up to that, because you don't need the history to understand how it works and to use the model. Source agnostic.

What she is complaining about, is the history of science and not science itself. You want to rewrite the history of science, go for it, scientists as a whole probably won't care, because it is not what they are interested in. If she'd bothered to make the slightest effort she'd find that the history of science does acknowledge the inputs of non-Westerners. One of the first records of someone describing the effects of gravity comes from ancient Egypt and that is clearly non-Western. In the same way, we'd not have rockets and a space program without the Chinese research into gunpowder, no paper without the Chinese, no writing or calendars without the Babylonians, no mathematics without Arab numbers etc etc.

Certainly, in the past 600 odd years since the Renaissance and the rise of capitalism and democracy, most research and development in technology has come from the Western world but this is an accident of history. Go read "Guns, Germs and Steel" and "Homo sapiens" for a very comprehensive overview of the factors required for those technological advances and why they occurred in Europe. You'll find that it has nothing to do with anything inherent to "whiteness" and everything to do with having the right combination of a whole set of factors that coincidentally happened to occur in Europe. It could have occurred elsewhere but typically at the time, one or more of the factors was missing in the other place.

What she is in fact exposing is her own ignorance and the failing of the primary and secondary schooling system.

Lastly, many people are saying that her remarks are taken out of context. She had a 3-4 minute rant. How long does it take to articulate a position and provide context?
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Re: Science Must Fall?

Post by mattb595 » Thu Oct 20, 2016 11:50 am

Justin you have opened a can of worms here old colonial former British generals vs hacky sack I want everything for free liberals :bom:




PS ryan you a idiot!

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Re: Science Must Fall

Post by Justin » Thu Oct 20, 2016 12:29 pm

Justin wrote:When the rest of world see's this...
So it has begun... Some Black Guy (from overseas) has commented (maybe this should go back to JOTD :wink:
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Re: Science Must Fall?

Post by RyanCT » Thu Oct 20, 2016 4:15 pm

Here are some thoughts.

Firstly, Nic, what I meant by the video being “taken out of context”, is that her speech was just one contribution in a widely attended week long series of open discussions. She gave her opinion, many people instantly disagreed with it, there was debate, discussion and engagement - a lot of people learned a lot of things, and progress was made towards gaining a better understanding of a positive direction for the future of our institutions. I find it extremely unfortunate that the video of her speaking is all that remains in the public discourse, and that’s why I made the comments I did, and tried to point to some more deliberative writings which have emerged more recently, and with which I hoped people might be willing to engage.

Then, while I agree with you fully about the nature of science and scientific enquiry - I think that it is important that we interrogate the nature of our scientific institutions, and I think that this is perhaps the crux of what it means to “decolonize science”. Through the course of my studies, I have been lectured almost exclusively by white male lecturers and my classes have been filled predominantly with white men from the same privileged background as me. Now, when I attend conferences, I am often shocked to realise that there are either very very few or no woman and black people. As a result of this, it has been very easy for me to become a scientist - I always had role models to look up to, the idea of having a scientific career was very natural, I could easily and fluidly engage with my lecturers in my first language, my classmates all felt very comfortable around each other, and we could easily drive to each others houses late at night to work on assignments and obtain help. Moreover, when I had to start applying for grants, I knew exactly what was expected of me, how to structure an impressive research proposal, and how to approach senior academics for good references. The whole structure/culture of our institutions is such that it is extremely easy for someone in my position to breeze through a scientific education. Unfortunately, the reality is that for many black people, who often do not speak first language english, or do not come from expensive private schools, this structure makes it much more difficult to make it through a scientific education - and knowing this comes from having the patience to listen to such people talk about their lived experiences within our universities. In particular, to give some examples, the lack of black scientific faculty means that there are fewer role models with which one might be able to identify, there is no opportunity to have difficult concepts explained to you in your first language, and the wealth and culture gap between you and your classmates makes it potentially harder to join and engage in study groups. The meetings at UCT, from which the video was taken, were an opportunity for students and faculty to engage each other and try figure out how issues such as these might be addressed.

In light of what I have said above, I think that the question of what it means to decolonize science is both meaningful, important and urgent. Students who want a scientific education, and who want a diverse scientific environment, filled with scientists who are sensitive to their role, responsibilities and position in society, are spending time and effort engaging with each other and trying to figure out how to make this happen.

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Re: Science Must Fall?

Post by ComebackKid » Thu Oct 20, 2016 7:24 pm

"Unfortunately, the reality is that for many black people, who often do not speak first language english, or do not come from expensive private schools, this structure makes it much more difficult to make it through a scientific education".

So what do we do then? Do we "decolonize science" and make tertiary education free? Or do we look a the cause of this difficulty and focus our efforts on what needs to be done to make obtaining a degree in the sciences more achievable. Will changing the structure of scientific institutions change this, or should we focus on improving primary and secondary education, so that students from all backgrounds and cultures arrive at university with the required tool to succeed?

It feels like we are blaming the institutions for the failings of the primary and secondary schooling systems.

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Re: Science Must Fall?

Post by Nic Le Maitre » Thu Oct 20, 2016 8:27 pm

Ah so now we are no longer talking about science, the scientific method, or even the science curriculum. We are now essentially talking about a human resources issue. If I look at my department, the tenured faculty are predominantly old white men, there are a few women (their number is increasing encouragingly, especially at post-graduate level) and one or two coloured and black lecturers.

Unfortunately there is no way to overnight replace these old white men with formerly disadvantaged people as there are so few with sufficient qualifications to do so. You cannot give tenure to a post-doc with very little experience of supervising students. Certainly this is the true legacy of apartheid. Black people have been so excluded that there are currently very few black academics, with sufficient experience, who are able to take over from the old white people. There simply has not been enough time to develop them yet in the 22 years since the end of apartheid.

We are also looking at this problem from the wrong side. In order to become a good academic you need good schooling and the primary and secondary schooling system in this country is effectively useless, with a 50% dropout rate. Only 12% of the kids who enter Grade R even make it to varsity and even fewer complete an under-graduate degree and fewer still continue with an academic career. If we want more black academics, we need to have more black graduates and that means more black matriculants etc etc etc.

Does this mean we should do nothing? No, of course not. We clearly need a plan to make the necessary changes, but we also need an understanding that we will likely only see many tenured black professors and deans in 10-20 years as it will take that long to develop them from the current post graduate students.
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Re: Science Must Fall?

Post by Ghaznavid » Fri Oct 21, 2016 11:58 am

Sorry - excuse Mr I-barely-ever-climb-and-never-post-on-this-site sticking his nose into this one, but why on earth is this being discussed on a rock climbing site? Surely there are other platforms where this would be more appropriate to discuss.
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Justin
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Re: Science Must Fall?

Post by Justin » Fri Oct 21, 2016 12:12 pm

You're welcome... well it started off as a JOTD.

Also there are a quite a few students on the site, many site visitors are university educated and there are also a couple of academics in the mix (and at least one scientist :thumleft:

Other platforms? You mean like a 'safe space' :?: :twisted:
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Re: Science Must Fall?

Post by Ghaznavid » Fri Oct 21, 2016 12:20 pm

I believe there are online SA forums where politics and the like are discussed. I usually stick to mountain related forums mostly because I strongly dislike politics.

As the old saying goes: politics:
Poly: many
Tic: blood sucking arachnid

I was confused why I got an email notification saying I had subscribed to this thread, but the JOTD origin makes sense.
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