I’ve seen some rather disturbing reports recently that New Zealand is aiming to insert indigenous Mātauranga Māori beliefs into science classes. While there are, no doubt, many important bits of knowledge, there are also many superstitions such as the belief that “Rain happens when the goddess Papatuanuku sheds tears.” This is hardly the first time that unscientific, indigenous knowledge has been pushed in this way nor the first time that science has been, incorrectly, criticised as Western, white or European. In 2016, an infamous video did the rounds, showing a “ScienceMustFall” student at the University of Cape Town claiming that some people could use witchcraft to strike others with lightning. Mythical origin stories which claim that certain groups have always caused problems for those studying human migration in both North America and Australia. Many of these criticisms appear to be rooted in the negative way these communities have historically been treated. What becomes frustrating is that there are many legitimate concerns in those criticisms but the push-back becomes an over-correction which now demands an equal place for unscientific mythology which does not belong in a science classroom.Continue reading
I saw this recently on Twitter.
It links back to an article on Inside Higher Ed by Lynn Talton about better structure in one’s work life. Specifically it brought up three main topics that shouldn’t be neglected; “Getting Involved in Something Outside Your Research,” “Exploring Research Beyond Your Specialty” and “Prioritizing and Planning Your Development as a Professional.” These are all things that I agree are really good to do but which I don’t think are given the attention they deserve. Continue reading
I’m rather fond of Japan. It’s a beautiful country with so many unique features, including its cuisine, architecture, writing, language and culture. Next month, I will even be heading to Japan to interview for a PhD position. However, that doesn’t mean I agree with all aspects of Japanese culture, nor does it excuse them from poorly-argued defences such as have recently been offered to the world in regards to the annual Taiji dolphin hunt.
The controversy was reignited this year by a tweet sent by the US ambassador to Japan. CNN covers the story here and includes some defences offered by the Japanese. There is also an interview with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe where he responds to the outcry. The interview seems to cover other topics as well and a relevant excerpt can be seen here, although I am not sure where the full interview is. The points I address come from both CNN articles and a short News24 piece. Continue reading
Last month, UCT made an announcement about Emeritus Professor Richard Whitaker’s new version of the Illiad which made use of many South African terms. I am not in a position to judge whether this is a good idea or not, although the announcement includes the endorsement, “As for the South African vocabulary and idiom, words like inkosi, indaba, induna and impi actually take us much closer to what Homer was singing about than their English equivalents,” but I want to address this issue of reworking literature or other creative outputs to suit a specific culture. Continue reading
Early this week (correction: last week. I started writing this last week but forgot to update the wording) I attended the Faculty of Health Sciences’ Bioethics Day. I found the talks very interesting and, at times, confusing. I won’t deny that there were some points that I just did not understand but I at least take comfort in that many other people, I think all my academic seniors, seemed just as confused. There were four talks in three sections, namely research ethics, professionalism and circumcision. I want to share, very briefly, what was said.
I was going to share everything in a single post but it’s actually quite a bit of effort writing everything up and I’ve been tired recently so I’ve broken it down a bit. I’ll post two talks now and the next two later. Continue reading
In my recent post on plant ethics I said that animals were of ethical concern because we have good reasons to believe that, like us, they are capable of thinking and feeling and so are able to suffer. In this post I want to share some of those reasons and hopefully convince you, if you aren’t already convinced, that animals are far more than just unthinking, unfeeling machines. Since we are so closely related to other primates I’m going to ignore those examples and rather focus on two other animal groups, dolphins and corvids (ravens and crows). Continue reading