Posted on March 10, 2023

Science on Stolen Land

Nate Hochman, National Review, February 27, 2023

The White House’s latest executive order “on Further Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through The Federal Government” opened with a healthy dose of self-congratulation: “My administration,” the order beamed, “has embedded a focus on equity into the fabric of Federal policymaking.” {snip}

Take one little-noticed reform at the National Science Foundation (NSF): Pursuant to Biden’s first-ever executive order, “Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government,” the NSF dutifully published an “Equity Action Plan Summary,” detailing its eagerness “to encourage the full participation of all Americans and to remove barriers to their success.” What that meant, among other things, was mandating “Indigenous community acknowledgments” — also known as “land acknowledgments” — “as part of its programmatic agreements (PA) for some of its astronomical facilities,” requiring scientists who use specific sites to include said acknowledgments in their published research. {snip}


Unsurprisingly, given the painfully obvious purpose of the whole affair, land acknowledgments often include radical challenges to the basic legitimacy of the American nation itself — it’s typical to hear compliant proceedings begin with reference to the fact that “we are standing on stolen land,” with appropriately conciliatory noises about “genocide,” “white supremacy,” “settler-colonialism,” and so on. One of NSF’s graduate research fellows even compiled a handy list of “telescopes on stolen land,” informing readers that “it is abundantly clear that modern astronomy is the product of settler colonialism.”


{snip} The same equity agenda that produced the land acknowledgments has also sought to replace science — true science, as expressed best by traditional Western institutions — with a hodgepodge of vaguely New Age, vaguely premodern “Indigenous ways of knowing.”

Take the new White House Indigenous Knowledge guidance sheet, which writes: “At times, Western science has been used as a tool to oppress Tribal Nations and Indigenous Peoples.” But “Indigenous Knowledge,” on the other hand, has “been historically marginalized in scientific communities and excluded from research and academic resources, funding, and other opportunities. . . . This marginalization has resulted from a lack of awareness, unfamiliarity and methodological dogma, and, too often, racism and imperialism.” To correct this grievous historic wrong, White House agencies apparently “engaged more than 100 Federally recognized Tribal Nations and more than a thousand individuals and organizations in a White House-led effort to elevate Indigenous Knowledge in Federal decision making,” addressing their concerns about past “experiences where Indigenous Knowledge was avoided, undervalued, or ignored in Federal policy decisions.”

Indigenous “knowledge” or “ways of knowing” are just references to the “body of observations, oral and written knowledge, innovations, practices, and beliefs developed by Tribes and Indigenous Peoples,” based in the “in ethical foundations” espoused by those tribes, as the White House’s guidance sheet details. And that, of course, is what all this land acknowledgment business is about, too: An antipathy toward the ethical, moral, theological, and scientific foundations of our civilization — i.e., the West, and America as its specific instantiation — and a search for an alternative to replace it with. {snip}