Indian science curriculum axes not only evolution, but the periodic table, energy sources, and pollution

May 31, 2023 • 9:15 am

As I wrote in April, India’s National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT), decided to remove evolution—a great unifying theory of biology—from all science classes below “class 11”, , which means that only students who have decided to major in biology will learn about evolution. (Indian students begin specializing younger than do American students.)

. . . . evolution used to be part of science class in “Classes 9 and 10,” which in India are kids 13-15 years old.  After that they take exams and have to decide what subjects to specialize in: science (with or without biology), commerce, economics, the arts, and so on. Specialization begins early, before the age at which kids go to college in America.

In India now, only the students who decide to go the Biology route in Classes 11 and 12 will get any exposure to evolution at all! It’s been wiped out of the biology material taught to any kids who don’t choose to major in biology.

The deep-sixing of evolution was originally part of the whittling-down of the Indian school curriculum during the pandemic, but now it appears to be a permanent change, and not just in public schools, but also in many private ones, who follow the same standards set by the ICSE (Indian Certificate of Secondary Education).

But it’s gotten worse. NCERT has eliminated not only evolution from most secondary school science classes, but have also deep-sixed the periodic table (!), as well as sources of energy and material about air and water pollution. (One would think those topics would be relevant in a country as crowded as India.)

This is all reported in a new article from Nature (click on screenshot for a free read):

An excerpt:

In India, children under-16 returning to school at the start of the new school year this month, will no longer be taught about evolution, the periodic table of elements, or sources of energy.

The news that evolution would be cut from the curriculum for students aged 15–16 was widely reported last month, when thousands of people signed a petition in protest. But official guidance has revealed that a chapter on the periodic table will be cut, too, along with other foundational topics such as sources of energy and environmental sustainability. Younger learners will no longer be taught certain pollution- and climate-related topics, and there are cuts to biology, chemistry, geography, mathematics and physics subjects for older school students.

Overall, the changes affect some 134 million 11–18-year-olds in India’s schools. The extent of what has changed became clearer last month when the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) — the public body that develops the Indian school curriculum and textbooks — released textbooks for the new academic year starting in May.

Researchers, including those who study science education, are shocked.

Not only that, but NCERT didn’t get input from parents or teachers, or even respond to Nature‘s request for comment. Here’s what’s gone besides evolution:

Mythili Ramchand, a science-teacher trainer at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Mumbai, India, says that “everything related to water, air pollution, resource management has been removed. “I don’t see how conservation of water, and air [pollution], is not relevant for us. It’s all the more so currently,” she adds. A chapter on different sources of energy — from fossil fuels to renewables — has also been removed. “That’s a bit strange, quite honestly, given the relevance in today’s world,” says Osborne.

A chapter on the periodic table of elements has been removed from the syllabus for class-10 students, who are typically 15–16 years old. Whole chapters on sources of energy and the sustainable management of natural resources have also been removed.

They’ve also bowdlerized stuff on politics:

A small section on Michael Faraday’s contributions to the understanding of electricity and magnetism in the nineteenth century has also been stripped from the class-10 syllabus. In non-science content, chapters on democracy and diversity; political parties; and challenges to democracy have been scrapped. And a chapter on the industrial revolution has been removed for older students.

And here’s NCERT’s explanation, which doesn’t make sense at all.

In explaining its changes, NCERT states on its website that it considered whether content overlapped with similar content covered elsewhere, the difficulty of the content, and whether the content was irrelevant. It also aims to provide opportunities for experiential learning and creativity.

First, evolution is NOT covered elsewhere, nor is it that difficult in principle. You don’t even have to teach natural selection; you can just give people the evidence for evolution, which is hardly rocket science. And the periodic table? That’s hard? How else will students learn about the elements?  As I said, only students age 16 and above will even hear about evolution or the elements, and most students in India will not go on to college where they can also learn these things. Remember, only high-school-age (in the U.S.) students who decide to specialize in science will learn about evolution, the periodic table, and energy.

And these cuts may well be permanent:

NCERT announced the cuts last year, saying that they would ease pressures on students studying online during the COVID-19 pandemic. Amitabh Joshi, an evolutionary biologist at Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research in Bengaluru, India, says that science teachers and researchers expected that the content would be reinstated once students returned to classrooms. Instead, the NCERT shocked everyone by printing textbooks for the new academic year with a statement that the changes will remain for the next two academic years, in line with India’s revised education policy approved by government in July 2020.

At first I thought the dropping of evolution reflected the Hindu-centric policies of Modi, somewhat of a theocrat, but an Indian biologist (see earlier post) told me this was unlikely, as Hindus aren’t particularly offended by evolution. The reasons must lie elsewhere, but they’re a mystery to all of us. However, Joshi does that the dumping of evolution reflect in part some religious beliefs:

Science educators are particularly concerned about the removal of evolution. A chapter on diversity in living organisms and one called ‘Why do we fall ill’ has been removed from the syllabus for class-9 students, who are typically 14–15 years old. Darwin’s contributions to evolution, how fossils form and human evolution have all been removed from the chapter on heredity and evolution for class-10 pupils. That chapter is now called just ‘Heredity’. Evolution, says Joshi, is essential to understanding human diversity and “our place in the world”.

In India, class 10 is the last year in which science is taught to every student. Only students who elect to study biology in the final two years of education (before university) will learn about the topic.

Joshi says that the curriculum revision process has lacked transparency. But in the case of evolution, “more religious groups in India are beginning to take anti-evolution stances”, he says. Some members of the public also think that evolution lacks relevance outside academic institutions.

And here’s one more suggestion: that some of these ideas are “Western”—truly the dumbest reason ever not to teach them. So what if Darwin was British?

“There is a movement away from rational thinking, against the enlightenment and Western ideas” in India, adds Sucheta Mahajan, a historian at Jawaharlal Nehru University who collaborates with Mukherjee on studies of RSS influence on school texts. Evolution conflicts with creation stories, adds Mukherjee. History is the main target, but “science is one of the victims”, she adds.

So here we have the world’s largest democracy dumbing down its curriculum, making some of the greatest ideas in science unavailable to its citizens.  This is unconscionable, but there’s little those outside of India can do about this.  The only thing I can think of is to is tell Richard Dawkins, who can at least embarrass the government by tweeting about this.  Otherwise, there are no petitions to sign, nobody to protest to.  And millions of Indian kids will be deprived of the greatest idea in biology.

From the Indian Express:

h/t: Matthew


Our big paper on the importance of placing merit over ideology in science, and an op-ed in the WSJ

April 28, 2023 • 8:14 am

Here is the story of (and links to) our Big Paper on Merit, Ideology and Science. (One colleague and I have a paper in press on the intrusion of ideology into our own specific research areas; that will be out in late June.)  As for this behemoth of a paper, which, we think, says things that need to be aired, we managed (after a long haul) to get it published in a respectable, peer-reviewed journal: The Journal of Controversial Ideas, founded by Peter Singer and two other moral philosophers. If you click the screenshot of the title below, you’ll go to the Journal’s website where you can download the pdf. (If you can’t get a pdf, they’re free, so ask me.)

The point of “In Defense of Merit in Science” is simple: merit is now being downgraded by ideologues in favor of conformity of science to predetermined—usually “progressive”—political goals.  This is a disaster for science and the public understanding of science. (One example is the ideologically-based denial that there are only two sexes in animals.) The paper is in effect a defense of merit as the best and only way to judge science and scientists, and a warning that if prioritizing merit in science erodes (as is happening), we’re in for a bumpy ride, as Russia was in the time of Lysenko. (Russian biology still hasn’t recovered from the ideologically based and totally bogus science of the charlatan agronomist Trofim Lysenko. Stalin had Lysenko’s faulty ideas of agronomy made into official agricultural policy, and the result was that millions of people starved to death in the U.S.S.R. and China. Opponents of Lysenkoism were fired or sent to the gulag.) We’re not—and hopefully will never be—at that disastrous point in this century, but the inimical effects of downgrading merit in science and using ideological criteria instead are already pervasive and evident. I’ve written about them at length. (One is the valorization of “indigenous ways of knowing”, which is poised to destroy science in New Zealand.)

But I digress: here’s the paper’s abstract.


Merit is a central pillar of liberal epistemology, humanism, and democracy. The scientific enterprise, built on merit, has proven effective in generating scientific and technological advances, reducing suffering, narrowing social gaps, and improving the quality of life globally. This perspective documents the ongoing attempts to undermine the core principles of liberal epistemology and to replace merit with non-scientific, politically motivated criteria. We explain the philosophical origins of this conflict, document the intrusion of ideology into our scientific institutions, discuss the perils of abandoning merit, and offer an alternative, human-centered approach to address existing social inequalities.

There are 29 authors, men and women of diverse nationalities and ethnicities, ranging from junior researchers to Nobel Laureates (two of the latter). You will recognize some of the authors, like Loury and McWhorter, whose work I write about a lot.  All the authors are in alphabetical order, but I have to note that by far the largest share of the work on this paper was done by Anna Krylov, as well as her partner Jay Tanzman. Anna was generous enough to not take the first authorship, to which she was fully entitled. But the alphabetization does bespeak a certain unanimity among authors in the way we feel about this issue.

Click the screenshot to read the paper (or rather, to get to a place where you can download the pdf).

There’s also a lot of Supplemental Information, juicy stuff, crazy quotations from scientists, ancillary data, and, of course, the authors’ biographies, at this site

The paper is a long one—26 pages—but I’d urge you to have a look. We’re hoping that this represents the beginning of pushback by scientists against the ideological degradation of our field, and that by speaking out, we’ll inspire others to join us.

Now, a bit about our troubles in publishing it.  We sent the paper to several scientific journals, which will remain unnamed, and they all found reasons why they couldn’t publish it. One likely reason was  that merit in science (and everywhere else) is being displaced in favor of, well, “political correctness”, and defending merit is seen as an “antiprogressive” view.  In other words, any journal publishing this would be inundated with protest. (But I’m sure Peter Singer doesn’t care: he’s been the victim of opprobrium all his life, and I’m a huge fan.) We were at a loss of where to put this laborious piece of analysis, but then I remembered the new Journal of Controversial Ideas, and suggested sending it there.

They finally accepted it, but I tell you that it was a VERY stringent review process, requiring two complete revisions of the paper. That’s good, because the paper was vetted by several critical reviewers and I think it’s a lot better for having been criticized and rewritten. And nobody can argue that it wasn’t reviewed!

But it’s always struck me as VERY ODD that a paper defending merit should be so controversial that we had to place it in a journal devoted to heterodox thought. So I decided to write an op-ed about this irony, joined by Anna.  The op-ed, too, was rejected by a certain famous newspaper, but the Wall Street Journal snapped it up immediately. Yes, the WSJ’s commentary section (this piece is classified as a commentary) is largely conservative, but, as I always say, who else would publish a piece that’s offensive to The Elect?

You can read our Commentary by clicking on the screenshot below, but it’s paywalled and by agreement we can reproduce only a short part of the piece. Perhaps you know someone who subscribes and can fill you in on the rest. By the way, it was the editors, not us, who wrote the title and subtitle. I love the title, but the subtitle may strike some as a bit hyperbolic.

Here are the first three paragraphs of our Commentary (what they asked us to limit social-media publication to), but I hope the paper won’t mind if I add the last short paragraph, just because I like it.

Until a few months ago, we’d never heard of the Journal of Controversial Ideas, a peer-reviewed publication whose aim is to promote “free inquiry on controversial topics.” Our research typically didn’t fit that description. We finally learned of the journal’s existence, however, when we tried to publish a commentary about how modern science is being compromised by a de-emphasis on merit. Apparently, what was once anodyne and unobjectionable is now contentious and outré, even in the hard sciences.=

. . . . Yet as we shopped our work to various scientific publications, we found no takers—except one. Evidently our ideas were politically unpalatable. It turns out the only place you can publish once-standard conclusions these days is in a journal committed to heterodoxy. . .

. . . But [our paper] was too much, even “downright hurtful,” as one editor wrote to us. Another informed us that “the concept of merit . . . has been widely and legitimately attacked as hollow.” Legitimately?

In the end, we’re grateful that our paper will be published. But how sad it is that the simple and fundamental principle undergirding all of science—that the best ideas and technologies should be the ones we adopt—is seen these days as “controversial.”

Well known German and French newspapers have also agreed to publish pieces on the JCI paper; these will be coming out in a week or so and I’ll link to them as they appear. I notice that Bari Weiss has also mentioned the paper in the TGIF column in The Free Press today. (Nellie Bowles, the regular TGIF author, is on a reporting trip to Texas.)

Finally, there’s a press release that you can see by clicking on the link below. It describes what the paper is about, what our goals were, why it was published in The Journal of Controversial Ideas, and a few quotes about the paper from authors. If you can’t read such a long paper (shame on you if you don’t!), at least read this:

A juicy comment by an author:

Commenting on publishing in the Journal of Controversial Ideas, co-author and professor of mathematics, Svetlana Jitomirskaya, says: “To me it feels quite absurd that we even had to write this paper, not to mention that it had to be published in the Journal of Controversial Ideas. Isn’t it self-evident that science should be based on merit? I thought that no scientist took arguments to the contrary seriously. I was shocked by the reasons PNAS rejected our paper. The reviewers, all presumably distinguished scientists, were clearly in favor of the opposing arguments.”

Canada resembling New Zealand in equating science with indigenous “ways of knowing”

March 29, 2023 • 10:15 am

New Zealand is a lost cause insofar as science education is concerned, for the government and educational establishment is doing all it can to make local indigenous “ways of knowing” (mātauranga Māori, or MM) coequal with modern science, and taught as coequal. This will, in the end, severely damage science education in New Zealand, and drive local science teachers (and graduate students) to other countries. It won’t help the indigenous Māori people, either, as it will not only give them misconceptions about what is empirically “true” versus what is fable, legend, or religion, but also make them less competitive in world science—both in jobs and publishing.

Now, I would be the first to admit that indigenous knowledge is not completely devoid of empirical knowledge.  Indigenous people have a stock of knowledge acquired by observation as well as trial and error. This includes, of course, a knowledge of the indigenous plants and their medical and nutritional uses, when the best time is to catch fish or pick berries, and, in perhaps its most sophisticated version, the ability the Polynesians to navigate huge expanses of water. (That, of course, was also done by trial and error, and must have involved the demise of those who didn’t do it right—something that’s never mentioned.)

Is observational knowledge like this “science”?  In one sense, yes, for you can construe “science” as simply “verified empirical knowledge”.  But modern science is more than that: it’s also its own “way of knowing”—a toolkit of methods, itself assembled by trial and error, for obtaining provisional truth. This toolkit, as I explain in Faith Versus Fact, includes the practices of modern science, including hypothesis-making and -testing, experiments, replication, pervasive doubt and criticality, construction models, concepts of falsifiability, and so on.

Because modern science comprises not just facts but a method codified via experience, indigenous knowledge generally fails the second part, for it lacks a method for advancing knowledge beyond experience and verification. Indeed, I know of no indigenous science that has a standard methodology for ascertaining truth. Yes, various plants can be tested for their efficacy in relieving ailments, but this is done by trial and error—in contrast to the double-blind tests used to assess the effects of new drugs and medicines.

Still, indigenous knowledge can contribute to modern science. This can involve bringing attention to phenomena that, when tested scientifically, can be folded into the domain of empirical fact.  Quinine and aspirin were developed in this way. And, of course, local ecological knowledge of indigenous people can be valuable in helping guide modern science and calling attention to phenomena that might have otherwise been overlooked. Nevertheless, what we have is experiential knowledge on one hand—a species of knowledge that rarely leads to testable hypotheses—and modern science on the other, which is designed to lead to progress by raising new testable hypotheses.

The concept of “indigenous science”, then, baffles me, especially if, as in New Zealand, it’s seen as coequal to science. It’s not, though, for it lacks a methodology beyond trial and error for determining what’s true. But because of what philosopher Molly McGrath called “the authority of the sacred victim.”, indigenous “ways of knowing” are given special authority because they’re held by people regarded as oppressed. This leads their “ways of knowing” to be overrated as competitors to modern science. Indeed, MM is a pastiche of real empirical knowledge, but also of religion, theology, ideology, morality, rules for living, authority, and tradition. This kind of mixture characterizes many indigenous “ways of knowing”, making it necessary, when teaching them as science, to not only distinguish “fact” from “method,” but to winnow the empirical wheat from the ideological and spiritual chaff.

As I said, it’s too late for those in New Zealand, with real science being diluted by MM, but only now am I realizing that Canada, which of course harbors indigenous people with substantial power, is starting a movement to teach “indigenous science”, too. And the way it’s going it doesn’t bode well. For example, here’s a job ad for a high-paying “Director of Indigenous Science” on a Canadian government website (click screenshot to see the whole thing):

The position is, first, to “bridge” Indigenous and Western science (of course although modern science started flowering in sixteenth-century Europe, it is no longer “Western” and should not be called as such, which insults all the working scientists not in the West):

The Indigenous Science Division is seeking a Director who will bridge the gap between Indigenous and Western sciences! Do you want to participate in establishing partnerships with Indigenous knowledge holders? Do you possess strong communication skills and have a desire to engage with this community?

But the implicit assumption is that there is indeed indigenous science comparable to modern science. How can they be bridged? By supplementing modern science with things like medicinal plants that haven’t been tested using a proper method? Or by bringing the methods of modern science into indigenous science, which I don’t think is the goal here/ Indeed, the position assumes there already is an indigenous “science” that seems to go beyond experiential knowledge. Here are some of the criteria you must meet to be considered for the job:

– Experience working with Indigenous knowledge systems or science.

– Experience developing and implementing policies and programs related to Indigenous science, Indigenous knowledge, or science programs.

– Experience in building and maintaining relationships with Indigenous communities, organizations, or multiple stakeholders, including different levels of government.

– Experience providing leadership and guidance to staff in incorporating Indigenous science, Indigenous knowledge or science into their work.

And what you must know:

– Knowledge of Indigenous Science, including traditional ecological knowledge, Indigenous research methods and methodologies, and perspectives on environment and natural sciences.

– Knowledge of Indigenous Science frameworks, such as Two-Eyed Seeing, which integrate Indigenous and Western knowledge systems.

Yes, of course traditional ecological knowledge, if it’s established as true, would count, but I’m curious about what constitutes “indigenous research methods and methodologies.” If they do exist, I’d be pleased to learn about them.

But the stuff about “Two-Eyed Seeing” is misleading, for, if you read the article in the British Columbia Medical Journal below, you find that seeing nature through a modern science lens (one eye) as well as an indigenous science lens (the other eye), you are basically valorizing the oppressed rather than invigorating science. Click to read:

The definition of “Two-eyed seeing” from the paper’s background material:

Two-Eyed Seeing developed from the teachings of Chief Charles Labrador of Acadia First Nation, but Mi’kmaw Elder Albert Marshall of the Eskasoni First Nation was the first to apply the concept of Two-Eyed Seeing in a Western setting. Specifically, Two-Eyed Seeing “refers to learning to see from one eye with the strengths of Indigenous knowledges and ways of knowing, and from the other eye with the strengths of Western knowledges and ways of knowing, and to use both of these eyes together for the benefit of all.”

Unfortunately, the article doesn’t show what the “indigenous eye” can contribute to vision, for the piece is mostly about gaining the trust of indigenous communities if they are to be involved in your research. And that’s necessary, of course: you just don’t go barging into an indigenous community to use them as research subjects or helpers without their complete cooperation, including discussion of how they’d benefit from the research and exactly what is being studied. But the article is NOT about empirical truths gained from indigenous “ways of knowing.”

Finally, if you were thinking that you can’t “decolonize” mathematics, you’re wrong. Here’s a link to a “professional learning session” sent me by a Canadian teacher who saw it and was upset by it. (By the way, I get quite a few emails from Canadian educators who are upset by the “decolonization” of scientific/medical knowledge via “indigenous knowledge”, but, like people in New Zealand, they dare not object for fear of professional damage.)

The session is on April 29, and you can register to see it online by clicking on the article—at least I think you can. You might have to be a Canadian teacher.

Click to read:

What’s on tap in this session (my bolding):

In this session Dr. [Lisa] Borden will share stories from her research and teaching life that have been influenced by the knowledge learned from time spent alongside Elders and knowledge keepers within the Mi’kmaw community in Mi’kma’ki or what we now call Nova Scotia. Through a series of moments, she will share how her philosophy for decolonizing mathematics education has been shaped and how this in turn shapes her mathematics teaching. Key ideas that will be shared include ideas about ethnomathematics, the role of community-based inquiry and social justice, the importance of a culturally enabling pedagogy informed by language, and the importance of a holistic approach to advancing students’ mathematical understandings.

Lisa Lunney Borden is a Professor in the faculty of education who holds the John Jerome Paul Chair for Equity in Mathematics Education striving to improve outcomes in mathematics for Mi’kmaw and African Nova Scotian youth. Prior to coming to StFX, she had a teaching career in We’koqma’q First Nation where she spent ten years as a secondary mathematics teacher, a vice-principal and principal, as well as the provincial mathematics leader for all Mi’kmaw Kina’matnewey schools in Nova Scotia. Lisa credits her students and the Mi’kmaw community for inspiring her to think differently about mathematics education which continues to shape her work today. She is committed to research and outreach that focuses on decolonizing mathematics education through culturally based practices and experiences that are rooted in Indigenous languages and knowledge systems. She is a sought-after speaker nationally and internationally and has a passion for working with teachers and their students. Lisa has helped to create the Show Me Your Math program that inspired thousands of Mi’kmaw youth to share the mathematical reasoning inherent in their own community contexts, and an outreach program called Connecting Math to Our Lives and Communities that brings similar ideas to Mi’kmaw and African Nova Scotian youth as an afterschool program. She currently serves as the President of the Canadian Mathematics Education Study Group, and sits on the Canadian Mathematical Society’s reconciliation committee.

Now I’m not sure what’s included in “ethnomathematics”. If it’s just approaching teaching math but using examples familiar to indigenous folk, then it’s not an alternative form of mathematics but a method of teaching. If it really adds stuff to the knowledge of mathematics, I’d like to know what. (Be always wary when you see the term “holistic approach” applied to education. And the notion that ethnomathematics has something to do with “social justice” scares the bejeezus out of me.) Perhaps ethnomathematics is mathematics + ideology, in which case it’s not an eye that sees, but a hand that propagandizes.

h/t: Luana

Ideology stomps all over chemistry in a new paper

January 15, 2023 • 12:45 pm

There are two ways I can criticize the uber-woke paper below that was published in from The Journal of Chemical Education (an organ of the American Chemical Society). I could go through it in detail and point out the fallacies and undocumented claims, and note where “progressive” ideology simply overwhelms the science. I could highlight why it’s a bit of hyper-Left propaganda, designed to force students in a Chemistry, Feminism and STEM course to think in a certain way.

Or I could simply mock it as an example of politicized science that is so over the top that it could appear without change in The Onion.

Way #1 would waste a lot of my time, and I’ve gone through this kind of exegesis many times before. Way #2 would bring out the splenetic readers who say that I shouldn’t make fun of dumb papers like this but instead take them apart line by line—that mockery is not an effective weapon.  But it is. Why else would Stanford have remove its list if disapproved words and phrases had not the Wall Street Journal mocked the list? “Mockery makes you look bad,” these jokers would say, “and it’s unintellectual.”

I’m rejecting both ways today in favor of The Third Way: let the paper reveal its own ideology, postmodern craziness, and authoritarianism by just giving quotes. In other words, I’ll let it mock itself.

You can access the paper for free by clicking on the screenshot below, or see the pdf here.

The abstract gives an idea of the purpose of the course: to indoctrinate students in the authors’ brand of feminism, CRT, and other aspects of woke ideology.  It wants to rid chemistry of White Supremacy, for the unquestioned assumption is that chemistry education is riddled with white supremacy. If you read the authors seriously, you’d think that all chemistry teachers put on white robes and burned crosses after school:

ABSTRACT: This article presents an argument on the importance of teaching science with a feminist framework and defines it by acknowledging that all knowledge is historically situated and is influenced by social power and politics. This article presents a pedagogical model for implementing a special topic class on science and feminism for chemistry students at East Carolina University, a rural serving university in North Carolina. We provide the context of developing this class, a curricular model that is presently used (including reading lists, assignments, and student learning outcomes), and qualitative data analysis from online student surveys. The student survey data analysis shows curiosity about the applicability of feminism in science and the development of critical race and gender consciousness and their interaction with science. We present this work as an example of a transformative pedagogical model to dismantle White supremacy in Chemistry.

At the outset they get off on the wrong foot: by asserting that sex is not binary (all bolding is mine):

When scientifically established facts, such as the nonbinary nature of both sex and gender are seen by students of science as a belief, one might ask: Are we being true to scientific knowledge? We use this student comment as a reflection of the subjectivity of how the pedagogical decisions are made in teaching “true science” vs what existing scientific knowledge tells us. This has resulted in the propagation of scientific miseducation for generations.

Sadly, it’s the authors who are miseducated here. Whatever they think, biological sex in vertebrates is binary, and to teach otherwise is the real distortion of education.

They have a new term, too, though I don’t see how it differs from either systemic racism, unconscious bias, or deliberate racism. (The “King’ mentioned, by the way, is not Martin Luther King, Jr.):

King introduced a new term, dysconscious racism, defined as an acceptance of dominant White norms and privileges arising from the uncritical habit of the mind leading to the maintenance of the status quo. In contrast to unconscious bias which has been quoted as involuntary and used in the academy often, King’s idea of dysconcious racism demands a critical analysis of the history of systemic discrimination in the institutions and coming up with effective interventions.

Below is the authoritarianism, breathless in its arrogance. I used to think that it was an exaggeration to compare the radicalization of science with the Lysenko movement in Stalin’s Russia. Now I’m not so sure! We’ve put our feet on that path.  Is there any ideological buzzworda missing in the following paragraph?:

In this article we describe the development, implementation, and student experience from a special topic course in chemistry, Science and Feminism, as a disruptive tool to challenge the status quo in Chemistry. Using Critical Race Theory and intersectional feminism as the framework, this course aimed at creating an intellectual as well as physical space for STEM students at East Carolina University (ECU) where they could explore their identities and how these intersect with the knowledge base and the pedagogy of science by looking at these from historical, political, and feminist lens. The other aim was to shine light, through this process, how scientific epistemology and culture have strong links with capitalism, enslavement, colonization, and exploitation of female-bodied folks. We provide the historical context of teaching this class in our institution, development of the course syllabus, assignments, and evaluations adopted for this course over the past two years as a template for future course development. In the Discussion and Conclusion section, we also provide a short description from qualitative analysis of online student surveys to understand what students thought about the importance of such a STEM course. Finally, this course is intended to produce an affirming space that will allow minoritized students to enter a chemistry class without having to leave their identities at the metaphorical and physical door of STEM classes.

But you’re supposed to leave your identities at the door. Science is science and the pursuit of the truth, and what truths are apprehended, should be independent of the characteristics of the person who does science.

Below is the “all must have prizes” bit.  Sadly, given that there are more candidates for academic jobs than there are jobs, some people aren’t going to make it. Here’s a statement that East Carolina University, where most of the authors come from, put on their website after George Floyd was murdered:

That same year, the Chemistry Department posted an antiracism statement on its Web site, which stated: “…That means we, as a department, must continually self-reflect and ask hard questions of ourselves. Do our pedagogy, assignments, exams, and grading practices help everyone to succeed?”

This means, of course, that if some students don’t succeed, it’s the fault of the teachers. Ergo a new course in which everyone succeeds, and, I suppose, in which there is no ranking of merit.

Here are the four parts of the course, each accompanied by readings from the appropriate propaganda (note: there is NO dissent in the readings, which you can see in the article):

Unit 1 readings (Table 2) focused on introducing students to the history of American feminism and its contribution/effect as felt in STEM epistemology. This unit also comprised of readings that critically looked at the DEI work in the Academy and its connection complicatedness dysconcious racism. As experiential learning, this unit also invited students to think and talk about their individual relationship with the word feminism, STEM culture, and their own identities. The end of the unit assignments was writing a reflection from all the readings and participation in a debate with the topic: Science done by a feminist and feminist practice in science are the same thing.

Unit 2 included readings (Table 2) that exposed students to the historical context of pathologizing the pregnant womb and the construction of gynecology as a White male discipline while utilizing Black and Indigenous bodies as experimental subjects. We further explored the development of (Black, Indigenous, and Brown) races as inferior and pathological throughout the development of modern science. As experiential learning, students participated in discussions on their interaction with the medical system as immigrants, women, women of color, and LGBTQIA2S+ individuals. The end of the unit assignments was writing a reflection from all the readings and participation in a debate with the topic: Health care providers (doctors, dentists, nurses, PA, PT, and administrators) should be required to learn the history of medical racism, sexism, and homo/transphobia and their legacy as part of their licensing process, and it should be an ongoing training than a onetime one. Students were also suggested to watch the 2017 movie, The Immortal life of Henrietta Lacks.

Unit 3 explored the development and interrelationship between quantum mechanics, Marxist materialism, Afro-futurism/pessimism, and postcolonial nationalism. To problematize time as a linear social construct, the Copenhagen interpretation of the collapse of wave-particle duality was utilized. The end of the unit assignments was writing a reflection from all the readings and participation in a debate with the topic: past is never dead, it is not even past. The students also had the option of watching the 2020 movie, Antebellum. However, the instructor was flexible on this assignment as some of the African American students did not want to watch it and be triggered. They wrote a reflection on a book on race and gender that they had read.

Unit 4 consisted of reading articles in STEM that used identity (racial/gender/sexuality) as empirical parameters and how that can further propagate the absoluteness of these categories rather than dismantling these constructed realities. The end of the unit assignments was writing a reflection from all the readings and participation. There was no debate for this unit as this was close to the semester end.

Besides the reading assignments, there are essays in which students are expected to parrot back the woke pabulum they’ve been fed:

The final assignment was a full paper with an intervention plan that might be implemented in their own institution/department which will enable students to create a STEM identity which acknowledges and respects their personal identity. For 2021 and 2022 classes, the intervention topics that students wrote about were as follows: the importance of all-gender bathrooms in STEM buildings, the importance of teaching how race, gender, sexuality, etc. are created and pathologized by STEM as a medical college course, how to increase accessibility of STEM as a discipline without erasing the lived experiences of URM students, and how the American STEM identity can incorporate the immigrant student/scholar experience.

At this point I wondered if this course had anything to do with science beyond using the “field” (excuse me) as an example of racism and white supremacy. I don’t think so. It’s ideological propaganda, pure and simple, and even worse than the forms dished out in “studies” courses. ‘

There’s a section on “Social Location of the Authors and Their Relation to This Course.” Here’s just a bit:

M.A.R. participated in the special topic chemistry class in Spring 2021 as a biology graduate student. She is a young adult Filipino cis woman who was raised in a middle-class rural town in North Carolina for most of her childhood by immigrant parents.D.M. consulted on the design and delivery of the course as well as the preparation of this manuscript. He is a middle-aged White cis-gendered man who was raised in a suburban Philadelphia family with a diverse set of adopted and foster siblings. He approaches this work largely trained in a Jesuit social ethics tradition and currently serves as a student affairs educator responsible for community engagement, leadership, and DEI experiential programming.

S.B. designed and taught this class as a special topic in chemistry class in Spring 2021 and then in Spring 2022. They are a middle-aged Indian immigrant working in the US higher education. They identify as gender nonconfirming and a brown-immigrant-queer. They were raised in an upper caste and middle-class, college educated family in an urban environment in India and experiences and understands this world from these complex vantage points. These social locations of S.B. also influenced the texts and topics discussed in this course which centered around the historical relationship of Black and Brown and colonized people with modern STEM discipline.

I’m not sure whether this is relevant for teaching propaganda, though it tells us why it’s being taught. It also help establish the authors’ “identity credibility”.

Finally, there’s the obligatory land acknowledgment at the end. It’s a long one!

The authors acknowledge that this article was conceived, researched, and written on Indigenous land and “We acknowledge the Tuscarora people, who are the traditional custodians of the land on which we work and live, and recognize their continuing connection to the land, water, and air that Greenville consumes. We pay respect to the eight state-recognized tribes of North Carolina; Coharie, Eastern Band of Cherokee, Haliwa-Saponi, Lumbee, Meherrin, Occaneechi Band of Saponi, Sappony, and Waccamaw-Siouan, all Nations, and their elders past, present, and emerging”.

Does this help the indigenous Americans? I don’t see how. I’m sure the Native Americans would prefer getting the land back than this faux form of “respect.”

To end, I point out what I think is an error. You can correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think there was a “Tuskegee airmen” case that falls under the “history of medical racism”. I believe the authors are referring here to the four-decade “Tuskegee syphilis study” ending in 1972. It truly was a dark episode in the history of medical ethics: an experiment in which black men infected with syphilis were left untreated so that the US Public Health Service could observe the effects of untreated disease. These men could have been treated, but weren’t; they weren’t told what they had; and they were promised medical treatment but lied to.  This could not happen today, but it was a horrible, horrible thing to do to these people, and was certainly motivated in part by racism. Below is the conflation of this study with another group associated with Tuskegee:

The syphilis study had nothing to do, as far as I know, with the Tuskegee airmen, a group of black pilots who fought gallantly during WWII, despite the military having been segregated. They were the first black military aviators, and received many plaudits and decorations for their bravery and work. But the group had, as far as I know, nothing to do with the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, except that both groups of men were associated in some way with the historically black Tuskegee Institute, which later became Tuskegee University. So much for checking the facts!

The Upshot: This is without doubt the most annoying, misguided, and misplaced paper on science education I’ve read in the last five years. The American Chemical Society should be ashamed of itself.

h/t: Anna

More Kiwi missteps: New Zealand tries to infuse spirituality into chemistry (and electrical engineering)

December 7, 2022 • 11:30 am

Here are a few items about the impending invasion of New Zealand’s “indigenous knowledge” into the chemistry curriculum (the government has decided to give the indigenous way of knowing, Mātauranga Māori (MM), status coequal to that of modern science in the classroom, and also bring about equity in funding of projects incorporating MM.

First, we have a very sensible article by Michael Matthews in last March’s issue in the HPS &ST Newsletter (“HPS” stands, I think, for the history and philosophy of science, but I’m not sure where the “ST” comes from.) Anyway, the piece is worth reading, for Matthews isn’t a huge critic of MM, but seems fair. (I’ve provided a link to the postmodern concept of “constructivism”.)

There are educational, cultural, ethical, and political reasons for the teaching and learning of local ethnosciences. But these reasons are all independent of the scientificity, or otherwise, of Māori or any other ethnoscience. The placement of ethnosciences in the school or university science programme depends upon confusing the first sets of reasons with scientificity. Indigenous knowledge systems or, more loosely, ways of knowing can be respected, championed, and learnt from without them needing to be called ‘science’. Much less deemed the equivalent of science. This should be a simple matter to understand, but the influence of constructivism in NZ education and philosophy, and the extension of post modernism in so many academic and cultural areas, has meant that this simple point has not been widely understood.

Click to read: Matthews’ piece begins on page 7:

Because the MM concept of “Mauri” (life spark or essence, said to be present in all matter) is increasingly vetted as something to put into science, I wanted to give an excerpt from Matthews’ piece about how it’s being used not just in education, but in public policy, and at taxpayers’ expense (bolding is mine):

The correct, clear-headed appraisal of Mātauranga Māori has not just cultural and educational consequences, but economic ones. Consider the once-routine monitoring of river, lake and drinking water quality. Local governments would periodically test for bacteria, acidity, nutrient levels, biochemical oxygen demand (BoD), oxygen levels and sundry other, up to 22, agreed upon and measurable factors. The Taranaki Regional Council, which includes Mt Egmont and the city of New Plymouth, has for decades done this monitoring at 13 sites. But as of last year, the Mātauranga Māori notion of Mauri has been added to the determinants of water quality and will be so monitored. With national government assistance, NZD4.95M has been set aside for the 5-year task.

Initially this might sound nice, and culturally sensitive, bringing Western science and Māori spirituality together. But what is mauri? The Te Aka Māori Dictionary provides this definition:

1. Mauri (noun) life principle, life force, vital essence, spe18 march 2022 hps&st newsletter cial nature, a material symbol of a life principle, source of emotions – the essential quality and vitality of a being or entity. Also used for a physical object, individual, ecosystem or social group in which this essence is located.

Gisborne Council defines mauri in their Tairawhiti Resource Management Plan as ‘essential life force or principle, a metaphysical quality inherent in all things, both animate and inanimate’. The NZ Peak Body for Youth Development (AraTaiohi) elaborates:

Mauri is the life spark or essence inherent in all living things that has been passed down from ancestors through whakapapa. Mauri affects and is affected by the surrounding environment. It is a motivating force and also encapsulates a process of change from Mauri moe, a state where potential is as yet unrealised; through Mauri oho, sparks of interest and the realisation that change is possible; to Mauri ora, an action-oriented stage of striving towards full potential

Unlike the 22 generally accepted ‘scientific’ indices of water quality, all of which have appropriate measuring techniques and instruments, there are precisely zero techniques, much less instruments, available for measuring mauri in water or even in water environs. So, at the end of five years and with the expenditure of nearly five million NZD, how does anyone know whether mauri has gone up, down, or remained constant? And, of course, once Taranaki has succeeded in getting grant money, it would be expected that the other ten councils in the country will do the same thing. Why not test mauri levels in the waters of Otago, Southland, Auckland, and so on? There is nothing in MM to dissuade councils from seeking such funds, and indeed MM supporters, or lobby, can be expected to push for such research funds.

Matthews says this about a “mauri compass”, supposedly a way to measure mauri, but really just a written “set of conversation starters:

. . . The developers say: We are not trying to define mauri. But it [the compass] is a tool to help people articulate it, a good conversation starter with trigger questions for conversations with people around their waterways.

Matthews goes on, showing the weakness of trying to use mauri as any kind of quantity to estimate:

Such conversations do no harm and can do some good, but the process is a long way from scientific measurement. Feng Shui consultants charge money for ascertaining that a dwelling near water, in the sun, protected from wind, not overlooking a cemetery has good chi (Matthews 2019, chap.4). Manifestly, the chi appellation does not add anything to what is already known. Such a dwelling will be pleasant to live in. Indicators are that mauri is in the same situation.

It is a relatively easy task to show that mauri is in the same non-scientific league as Eastern, and increasingly Western, chi beliefs (Matthews 2019). And as with chi, the ever-present danger is that mauri commitment becomes pseudoscientific; an accessory for hucksters and rent seekers. ‘Life sparks’, ‘life forces’, and ‘living essences’ have all the hallmarks of well known, and discredited, Vitalism in the history of science.

As well as direct costs involved in monitoring mauri, there are oft-ignored ‘lost opportunity costs’. What else in the Taranaki Council area could NZD4.95M be spent on: Women’s shelters? Public housing? Community transport? Infant health clinics? Expanded library service? These are unfunded while a fantasy is pursued.

So much for the life force—a “fantasy”. But the fantasy of mauri is invading all of the sciences, and presumably will be taught in science classes, even though it’s pretty much the same thing as “chi”. Take a look at the set of chemistry and biology standards below put out by a NZ government organization, the National Certificate of Educational Achievement. You can look at the “Big Ideas” yourself, or just see the one I’ve highlighted below (click on either screenshot):

Look! They bring up mauri again. But look at the other “Big Ideas” on that page: more numinous junk MM stuff.  All particles have life force! This is perilously close to panpsychism:

Yes, folks, that’s a proposed bit of the science curriculum in New Zealand.

Below is more invasion of mauri into chemistry in New Zealand. Fortunately, I needn’t go over this, as Nick Matzke has already covered this very article (click to read), as well as a talk by Kilmartin, over at The Panda’s Thumb website. Nick also adduces more intrusions of the numious mauri into other places, even electrical engineering. I’m glad that Nick is on this distortion of real science in NZ, as I’d hate to be the only American banging on about this.

But wait—there’s more! Here’s mauri in electricity (the figure comes from Nick’s piece; the arrow is mine).  This is bizarre—an unnecessary intrusion of spirituality into wiring!

Finally, below you can read a new article from the New Zealand Herald. The “makeover” of science, of course, involves embedding more MM and more indigenous “science” into the whole science sector, not just the curriculum:

There’s also cautious optimism the three-year makeover will tackle long-standing diversity gaps across our universities and institutes – particularly among under-represented Māori and Pasifika researchers.

The proposed revamp, outlined in a white paper launched by Research, Science and Innovation (RSI) Minister Dr Ayesha Verrall this evening, would come in three major phases.

The first would be an overhaul of the workforce itself, including an expansion of research fellowships and applied training schemes, along with another programme aimed at attracting more international talent to New Zealand.

“There will be a stronger focus on people, with an emphasis on building sustainable and fulfilling career paths in science, improving diversity and addressing precarious employment,” she said.

Alongside that, the Government will set out how Te Tiriti o Waitangi [The Treaty of Waitangi, often used as a reason to give MM status coequal to science] should be better embedded in the system, with a statement to be released later.

The second phase, beginning in 2024, would set yet-to-be determined research priorities that tackled the most important issues facing New Zealand.

Well, I can tell you, if the government still insists on equating MM with modern science, or on trying to blend spiritual concepts of the Māori “way of knowing” into science and technology education, it is not going to “attract more international talent” to New Zealand. In fact it’s the opposite: the infusion of MM, which includes religion and spirituality—stuff like mauri—into science teaching, will in the end drive good researchers out of New Zealand.

A New Zealand teacher writes the government protesting a proposed curriculum asserting the equality of indigenous “ways of knowing” with science

December 1, 2022 • 9:00 am

I’ve often written about how New Zealand’s government and school authorities are determined to teach the indigenous way of knowing,”Mātauranga Māori (“MM”), which I’ve often discussed, as coequal to modern science in science classes.  While many (like me) maintain that MM should be taught in sociology or anthropology classes as an important part of national culture, I vehemently object to it being taught as coequal to modern science.

That’s because MM, though some of the entire system contains “practical knowledge” taken from observation and trial and error, also contains many things that aren’t science-y at all: ideology, morality, religion, legend and superstition. Teaching the two systems as coequal would not only confuse students about what science is, but also confer coequality where it isn’t warranted. Even if you just teach the parts of MM that encompass practical knowledge, it’s important to show how this differs from the systematic methods and tools used by modern science to find truth. The efforts of the NZ government and schools will, in the end, doom science in New Zealand. I’m not exaggerating when I say that this is my worry

(I’ll add that MM advocates, when they claim empirical knowledge, often do so unscientifically. Their remedies are often untested, and, regarding history they have claimed, falsely, that the Polynesians, ancestors of the Māori were the discoverers of Antarctica in the 7th century AD. [see also here]. This is untrue, and based on both legend and a mistranslation; Antarctica was first seen by the Russians in 1820.)

Because equating MM with other “ways of knowing” like modern science is a way of valorizing the indigenous people, and because there’s no government more “progressive” (in the pejorative sense) than New Zealand’s, efforts by me and others to stop the impending dilution of science with MM are almost surely doomed. It’s even worse, for criticizing what the government is doing is seen as anti-Māori racism. It’s not: it’s just distinguishing between a real way of knowing and a dubious “way of knowing”. As preacher Mike Aus said after he publicly renounced his faith at an FFRF meeting,

“There are not different ways of knowing. There is knowing and not knowing, and those are the only two options in this world.”

Thus, critics of teaching indigenous ways of knowing in science class critics are forced to shut up, for raising one’s voice not only leads to pile-ons and petitions, but has actually cost teachers their jobs. Today I’m posting a letter written by a critical teacher who dares not give their name for fear of being fired, but who’s sufficiently courageous to let their views be known, including a letter they wrote about the MM/science controversy to various government ministers (all anonymously, of course, as this person wants to keep their job!). The teacher was disturbed at a government lesson plan to equate modern science with Māori empirical knowledge, and I also show a bit of that lesson plane.

So. . . .

A friend of mine in New Zealand got a letter from a secondary school teacher who went to a meeting in they were given proposed government curriculum for integrating modern science (which they call “Western science”, abbreviated “WS”) with the indigenous “way of knowing”.  The curriculum, which you can have by emailing me, is for “year 9” students, who are 13 years old.

The curriculum tries (but fails) to take the superstition out of MM, so that the part of MM that’s supposedly co-taught with “western science” is actually “Mātauranga Pūtaiao” (“MP”)—practical knowledge related to the natural world. The plan, an outline of the future curriculum from which I’ve taken excerpts, demands that we must consider MP equivalent to Western science (though they’re also claimed to be different in ways that aren’t explained).  As you’ll see, though, they haven’t managed to keep the numinous bits out of MP, and they don’t attempt to show what’s unique about MP as opposed to WS.

Everything below is reproduced with the permission of the principals, and, as I said, I will be glad to send you the whole curriculum plan—an 11-page pdf—if you want to see it.

Here’s what the teacher wrote to my friend, who then forwarded the teacher’s letter to me with permission to see it and reproduce it here.

I have attached a curriculum unit plan to this email that was distributed last week to school teachers in my region during a teacher-only day dedicated to the curriculum re-alignment. It illustrates how a typical school is attempting to integrate mātauranga Māori in the science curriculum. Rather distressingly, it is quite political in how it presents the relationship of science to mātauranga Māori.

I have also included a letter I have written to government ministers that illustrates the potential for confusion to occur when local schools are left to interpret the implications of such integration without authoritative guidance from the Ministry of Education. I have written this anonymously, both for the benefit of the school from which the document originates as well as for the sake of my own career as a teacher. Within the teaching profession, there is considerable confusion over what mātauranga Māori is and how it relates to science.

Finally, here’s the letter the teacher wrote to government ministers (bolding is the teacher’s). It’s quite eloquent and clear.

Good day,

I am a science teacher writing from a regional city on the South Island. This past week, my colleagues and I attended a government-funded day of professional development, the purpose of which was to discuss the re-alignment of the new NCEA science curriculum with other teachers from the region. Among the topics discussed were mātauranga Māori and its integration into the science curriculum. As part of this discussion, the host school that was facilitating the meeting distributed resources outlining how they were teaching (or intended to teach) mātauranga Māori and science. I have included a copy of the unit plan that was distributed during the meeting to illustrate the concerns I will outline below. Of particular interest is how the realignment of the curriculum could enable epistemic relativism to be introduced into what should be a world-leading system of publicly-funded education. The highly decentralized nature of the NZ education system, coupled with the vague wording of the proposed curriculum by the Ministry of Education, introduces the possibility that local schools will ultimately be left to devise science programs based on faulty premises and questionable interpretations of the relationship of mātauranga Māori to science. I have attached the unit plan presented by the host school of this meeting as evidence of this potential.

First among my concerns is the presentation of science in this school’s unit plan as a “western” knowledge system. This is peculiar (to say the least), given that science is a global endeavor drawing on a toolkit with contributors from many cultures and ages. To call science a “western” knowledge system is to ignore the contributions of many cultures from places such as India, the middle-east, China, and the Maori themselves. For example, Arabic and Indian scholars made fundamental contributions to the development of mathematics, which is the decision-making language of science. Labeling science as “western” makes as much sense as dividing mathematics into categories of “Arabic,” “Chinese,” or “Roman.” It may be true that over the past century many contributions to science have originated from a few countries in the so-called “west;” but that point has more to do with economic forces and the vagaries of historical chance, rather than cultural “ownership” over a methodology. Moreover, the Māori themselves used aspects of science (observation, pattern-seeking) as part of their exploration of Aotearoa [JAC: the Māori word for New Zealand]. Why can’t we simply celebrate the varied contributions of humanity to science and our knowledge of the natural world, rather than create an ideological division that does not exist in the first place?

The unit plan also makes the claim that both “knowledge systems” have equal authority. Again, this statement is based on a faulty premise and false dichotomy. To teach children that science is a “western” knowledge system is to undermine the idea of what science is. Ultimately, science is a collection of methodological tools and approaches that allow us to reliably distinguish and relate cause, effect, and chance. Put simply, science has predictive power in how humans relate to the natural world. In everyday life, no one practicing science (or using its products) cares about cultural attribution or the so-called “knowledge system” it arose from. If an idea or technique works in practice and has predictive power, it is accepted as part of our understanding of the natural world. To take an example from history: Polynesian, European, or Chinese sailors from centuries ago would no doubt have told us that there are two types of navigation: the sort that gets you where you are going and the sort that gets you dead. No one cared where your technique came from: if it worked, it was adopted. Categorically, scientific knowledge is either descriptive of our objective reality or it is not.

I would also draw your attention to the first lesson in the attached unit plan, whose focus is the subject of Maori gods and “their powers.” Now, I assume that this is a lesson on how people in the past have explained natural phenomena by appealing to supernatural explanations. As mātauranga Māori is a living knowledge system and is intended to be taught within the science curriculum, it no doubt has replaced such concepts with ideas based on naturalistic explanations. However, I cannot confirm this because the Ministry of Education has not provided teachers with an authoritative reference on how these two systems are similar or different. The document presented by our meeting facilitator claims that no one system has “authority.” If that is the case, science teachers need a clearly articulated vision of how these differences are to be taught in the classroom.

Thank you for your attention to this matter. I am sending you this letter and the attached example from a local school’s curriculum to illustrate the potential for confusion that has arisen from the inclusion of mātauranga Maori in the science curriculum. Is the Ministry of Education intending to publish and distribute a detailed and authoritative guide on how schools should integrate mātauranga Maori in relation to science? As illustrated by the material presented at the meeting I recently attended, there is considerable potential for disagreement without ministry guidance.I would ask that you raise this issue with the Minister of Education as a matter of urgency given the proposed timeline for the implementation of the new curriculum. Both teachers and students deserve clarity and a set of authoritative guidelines on how mātauranga Maori and science are to be taught together. Without such guidelines, teachers will be left to interpret how these systems relate and how to teach them as a single subject (as illustrated by the example unit plan I have attached to this letter).

It is unfortunate that I must write to you anonymously. In the present climate, my intent could be misconstrued or mischaracterized if I were to put my name to this letter. Furthermore, my career as a teacher could suffer if I were to air these concerns publicly.

Kind regards,

A concerned teacher

Below are a few screenshots from the 11-page proposed document.

Here’s how the lesson starts: a “warm up activity” that teaches the 13 years old about “the Maori Gods and their powers”. Are they going to mention that there’s no evidence for the existence of these gods? If not, then they shouldn’t be mentioned, for this is not science but religion. But of course they won’t do that. Thus the confusion between MM and science starts at the outset of the course. Do they warm up the students by teaching about the “Western gods and their powers.” Of course not! Science is a godless activity, so get this stuff out of the curriculum!


Part of the level 3 assessment on page 10 says: “Understands that Māori have always been scientists, and that MP and WS are different.” Are Māori unique in this regard, i.e., did they alone among indigenous peoples came up with science, or does this apply to all indigenous people? The former is rather racist, while the second dilutes science to only that derived from observing the natural environment.

Note as well that they explain differences and similarities between science and the empirical bits of MM, but don’t say what those similarities and differences are. Further, they don’t explain “the importance of multiple perspectives.” Any perspective that is empirically correct is part of science.  And just as not all “westerners” aren’t scientists, so not all Māori are scientists. This is gobbledygook in the cause of inclusion.

Week 5 includes the story of Maui and Aoraki, although it looks like the Youtube video link no longer works. The tale of Maui and Aoraki is in fact the creation myth of the Māori , describing how two of the several gods created the North and South Islands. Why is this in the curriculum? Is the curriculum also going to describe the Western Biblical creation myth as outlined in Genesis, complete with God, Adam, Eve, and a talking serpent?

Whakapapa” is a numinous concept that relates to the connection of all things, both earthly and spiritual. That, too, doesn’t belong in a “science” curriculum, but in an anthropology class.

Below we see again the flat assertion—one that the teacher emphasizes above—that WS and MP, though not exactly the same (they don’t say how), are of equal “authority and status”. Can you imagine half of a 9th-form science class devoted to all of modern science, and the other half devoted to MP, which includes things like Polynesian navigation (not a Māori development) and when, exactly, the Maori pick their berries and catch their eels? Yes, the latter bits are “empirical knowledge” deriving from trial and error, but to give these things authority equal to all of modern physics, chemistry, biology, and mathematics is a fool’s errand. But such is the government of New Zealand, heavily “progressive” and pressured by the Māori and their sympathizers to give local ways of knowing a status equal to what “Western” science has given us in the last four centuries. This includes the claim that untested remedies involving herbs and spiritual chanting are just as good as modern medicine (see here, here, and here). (I hate using the words “Western” science, as the term is meant to denigrate modern science by implying it’s a “colonialist” enterprise.)

Have a look. If you want the entire curriculum (and some of it is okay), email me.

I feel sorry for nearly everyone involved in this sad tale: the New Zealand government, in thrall to the indigenous people to the extent that it will destroy science education; the Māori themselves, who will be given not only a false view of science but an education that will hold them back; the teachers, forced to teach ludicrous propositions and must keep their mouths shut about it; and all the people of New Zealand, who will be shorted on science education. In the end, that will hold science back in one of the countries I love the most. And that is ineffably sad.

Spot the fake fact

November 10, 2022 • 9:00 am

This article from Linkiest (a real time-waster of a site) adduces, well, you can read the title. Click on the link to “blow your mind”:

As far as I know, all but one of these “facts” are correct, but there is one howler: a “fake fact”.  Can you spot it?  It’s arrantly, blatantly, mind-blowingly WRONG. Put the fact in the comments, but don’t explain why it’s wrong yet; I’ll add the correct answer this afternoon.  I would expect most science-friendly readers here to spot it.

(There’s also a typo in one fact, but that’s not what I’m talking about.)

Luana Maroja on the ideological threat to biology

November 7, 2022 • 10:33 am

The conference on academic freedom at Stanford included a panel on  STEM with chemistry professor Anna Krylov from USC, Mimi St. Johns, an undergraduate in computer sciences at Stanford, Luana Maroja, Professor of Biology at Williams College, and me.  Luana (who’s written on this site before) and I were to handle biology, and we divided up the task beforehand.  Luana teaches undergrads as well as doing research, and so is able to observe the current impact of ideology on both areas.  She thus had a more personal take on “the existential threat” of ideology to biology, and Bari Weiss, who was in the audience, published Luana’s remarks on Bari’s substack site. You can see them for free below (but subscribe if you read often); I’ll give a few excerpts:

Luana’s intro recounts her “woke tipping point,” which happened to be hearing an authoritarian proclamation by—who else?—Reza Aslan:

As an evolutionary biologist, I am quite used to attempts to censor research and suppress knowledge. But for most of my career, that kind of behavior came from the right. In the old days, most students and administrators were actually on our side; we were aligned against creationists. Now, the threat comes mainly from the left.

The risk of cancellation at Williams College, where I have taught for 12 years, and at top colleges and universities throughout this country, is not theoretical. My fellow scientists and I are living it. What is at stake is not simply our reputations, but our ability to pursue truth and scientific knowledge.

If you had asked me about academic freedom five years ago, I would have complained about the obsession with race, gender and ethnicity, along with safetyism on campus (safe spaces, grade inflation, and so on). But I would not have expressed concerns about academic freedom.

We each have our own woke tipping point—the moment you realize that social justice is no longer what we thought it was, but has instead morphed into an ugly authoritarianism. For me that moment came in 2018, during an invited speaker talk, when the religious scholar Reza Aslan stated that “we need to write on a stone what can and cannot be discussed in colleges.” Students gave this a standing ovation.  Having been born under dictatorship in Brazil, I was alarmed.

Then the two areas of danger: teaching and research. Luana dwells on something I alluded to in my bit: the misguided denial of the sex binary, a fundamental observation in animals that is not only instructive about evolution, which repeatedly produces two and only two sexes in animals, but also enlightens is the very basis for sexual selection, which is responsible for a lot of the differences between males and females in animals.

The restriction of academic freedom comes in two forms: what we teach and what we research.

Let’s start with teaching. I need to emphasize that this is not hypothetical. The censorious, fearful climate is already affecting the content of what we teach.

One of the most fundamental rules of biology from plants to humans is that the sexes are defined by the size of their gametes—that is, their reproductive cells. Large gametes occur in females; small gametes in males. In humans, an egg is 10 million times bigger than a sperm. There is zero overlap. It is a full binary.

It goes on, but you can read for yourself. Luana does, however, highlight how this denial on teaching, which has a humorous sidelight:

In psychology and public health, many teachers no longer say male and female, but instead use the convoluted “person with a uterus.” I had a colleague who, during a conference, was criticized for studying female sexual selection in insects because he was a male. Another was discouraged from teaching the important concept of “sexual conflict”—the idea that male and female interests differ and mates will often act selfishly; think of a female praying mantis decapitating the head of the male after mating—because it might “traumatize students.” I was criticized for teaching “kin selection”—the the idea that animals tend to help their relatives. Apparently this was somehow an endorsement of Donald Trump hiring his daughter Ivanka.

Yes, one distraught student did somehow connect Trump and Ivanka with kin selection!

The ideological basis of this distortion? It’s the attempt to validate the diversity of gender identities by claiming there’s a diversity of sex as well. But there’s not: sex is binary while gender, which is more continuous, is bimodal, with most gender identities grouping at the male and female sociosexual roles but with many identities in between. Still, one shouldn’t confuse biological sex and gender, which, unlike sex, is a human social construct based on one’s individual choices.  The bimodality of sex is a biological fact that says exactly nothing about the moral rights of individuals of different genders.

And then there’s the effect on research, with ideology not only limiting access to data but also what what you can publish. Be your results true or not, some journals won’t consider them at if they see potential for psychological “harm”:

But the field that is most directly affected is research related to humans, especially those dealing with evolution of populations.

As an example: The NIH now puts barriers to access to the important database of “Genotypes and Phenotypes (dbGaP).” The database is an amazing tool that combines genomes (the unique genetic makeup of each individual) and phenotypes (the observable characteristics of each individual) of millions of people. These phenotypes include education, occupation, health and income and, because the dataset connects genetics with phenotype at an individual level, it is essential for scientists who want to understand genes and genetic pathways that are behind those phenotypes.

The NIH now denies scientists access to this data and other related datasets. Researchers report getting permits denied on the grounds that studying their genetic basis is “stigmatizing.” According to one researcher, this happens even if the research has nothing to do with race or sex, but focuses on genetics and education.

But why is education attainment any more stigmatizing than health? Especially when all individuals in the database are anonymous? Given the large genetic variation between individuals in a group and the large environmental effect on phenotypes (especially those related to education), are results for the group level even that relevant?

Learning about what differentiates education attainment and occupation is more than an academic curiosity. Understanding the genetic pathways behind phenotypes might help us find solutions and help struggling children.

The denial or rejection biological truth affects two areas of evolutionary biology most of all: the idea that there are differences between groups, and the fact that differences between individuals, and averages between groups, might have a genetic basis.  Ideologues reject both because difference implies ranking, and this supposedly implies superiority/inferiority, which in turn implies bigotry. And the notion that individual or group differences might be partly based on genes somehow makes them easier to reject than if they were cultural.

The facts are the facts, but why on earth should we judge the worth of a human or group based on biology?  That’s an example of the “appeal to nature”, a fallacy that, in short, says “what we see in nature is what should be a model for behavior for humans.” This is bogus in two respects. If we base equality and worth of people on observations of nature, our morality then becomes contingent in biology, and is malleable to any alterations in what we know about nature. Further, what we see in nature is not always good, with many things far from models of human behavior. Nature is red in tooth an claw; there’s murder, theft, forcible copulation, and a whole host of things we want no part of.  In fact, the appeal to nature already assumes a preexisting morality based not on biology but on other factors: preference, reason, utilitarianism, and the other bases of ethics. What is happening when we claim that all groups are identical in a given trait or traits, that all people within a group are identical for traits , and that there are more than two biological sexes, is the reverse of the “appeal to nature”. Instead of asserting that what we see in nature gives us guidelines for how to behave, the ideologues reverse the fallacy (which remains a fallacy): how we decide to behave in humans tells us what we must see in nature—and if we have to distort nature to see what gives us comfort, well, distort it we must.

This distortion is, as Luana emphasizes: an existential threat to biology—and to science in general. Her closing:

The censors and gatekeepers simply assume—without evidence—that human population research is malign and must be shut down. The costs of this kind of censorship, both self-imposed and ideologically based, are profound. Student learning is impaired and important research is never done. The dangers of closing off so many avenues of inquiry is that science itself becomes an extension of ideology and is no longer an endeavor predicated on pursuing knowledge and truth.

More ideological bias: the National Science Foundation gives grants for people to document what the NSF already claims to know

September 25, 2022 • 11:15 am

You can argue about whether the purview of the National Science Foundation (NSF) should include investigating whether American science and science education are “systemically racist” in addition to doing what the NSF normally does—funding science itself.  I won’t argue that, since I think that the NSF does fund sociology, and I suppose science is as good a field for sociological investigation as any other.

But I will argue—and what I discuss hre—is that the NSF isn’t calling for investigations of whether systemic racism is an important impediment to education and professional advancement in STEM. No, the NSF assumes that this is true, and then throws money at investigators to figure out how to remedy a problem that hasn’t yet been demonstrated.

In other words, the NSF claims to already know that not only is systemic racism real and prevalent in STEM, but is also the overweening cause of the inequities in representation.

This is question-begging in the authentic sense—assuming what you want to demonstrate. And I take “systemic racism in STEM” to mean the presence of ingrained features in STEM that cause discrimination against people (it could be any group, but they’re talking about racial discrimination). “Systemic racism” does not mean that “STEM has bigots”—all fields, do, of course—but rather that education in science, math, engineering, and technology have built-in features that discriminate against minorities and women. And that’s why those groups are underrepresented in STEM studies and among STEM academics.

Many NSF-funded scientists were sent a link to a new program solicitation for “racial equity in STEM” education, which has a pot of money between $15 million and $25 million. The goal is to show how systemic racism impedes STEM education and then how to overcome these impediments. The program assumes there’s systemic racism in science and science education, something that many scientists would contest, especially in view of the eagerness of many science departments to recruit minority students and faculty, sometimes giving them advantages over non-minorities. (Not long ago the National Institutes of Health started a program that gave minorities preferential access to grant money, but then quickly dismantled it when I think they realized it was illegal.)

Before I show you this question-begging, let me add that the goal—to give historically disadvantaged minorities a leg up in education—is admirable. But before you do that, you have to figure out exactly how the disadvantages act to reduce STEM participation. And, as I note just below, “systemic racism” is one of just several potential causes for underachievement.  Especially for a science organization, you cannot assume that systemic racism is THE cause. That has to be demonstrated, not assumed. But the NSF assumes and doesn’t demonstrate.

At any rate, here’s the proposal, sent by a colleague who was surprised that an organization that gives money for scientific research assumes from the outset that “systemic racism” is ingrained in STEM, so that there is no need to

a. demonstrate that this is true using an explicit definition of “systemic racism”, and

b. further demonstrate that systemic racism is the cause for inequities of representation of minorities in STEM.  As you know, there are other possible reasons, including “pipeline problems” based on unequal opportunities that start at birth and lead to educational deficits, as well as differences in career preference of different groups.

Click on the screenshot to see the program announcement.

I’ve taken some excerpts. Here is the “Important information” at the beginning of the announcement. I’ve highlighted “systemic racism throughout” so you can see how it’s assumed. Note that three of the four requirements assume systemic racism exists and is important in cause unequal representation.

I presume that “led by or in authentic partnership” means that proposals should have principal investigators that are minorities or at least collaborators. While you can’t investigate racism without studying minorities, this may be code for saying “we will favor proposals by minority Principal Investigators.” But they can’t say that outright because it’s illegal, just as it was with the NIH.

The rationale for the study, which is fine. Every American should have an equal opportunity from birth to study science and become a scientist. That doesn’t assure equity, of course, but it does assure equal opportunity.

The NSF Strategic Plan focuses on ensuring that U.S. research is an inclusive enterprise that benefits from the talent of all sectors of American society – a research enterprise that incorporates the rich demographic and geographic diversity of the nation. The strategic plan recognizes that the more people who engage in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) research and the more diverse their backgrounds, the richer the range of questions asked. The result is a greater breadth of discovery and more creative solutions

The assumption that inequities are due to systemic racism:



There will be a total of 15-35 awards given, each award can be for up to five years, and you can ask for up to $5 million.

Note the big problem: they explicitly and repeatedly ascribe inequities (unequal representation of racial groups in proportion to their presence in the American population) to systemic racism. This is an assumption, not a fact.  And in truth, you cannot even begin such projects without a demonstration of what role ingrained features—and exactly which ingrained features—of STEM impede education in the sciences. Perhaps the NSF should use that $15-$25 to investigate the contribution of various factors to inequities. But that, of course, is taboo, because progressive doctrine already tells us the answer without any need for empirical investigation. It’s revelation, Jake! Or at least ideology.

Heterodox essay claims that overpolicing for sexual harassment reduces scientific collaborations for women

August 24, 2022 • 12:00 pm

Eleven years ago I was the elected president of the Society of the Study of Evolution (SSE), America’s premier organization for evolutionary biologists. I considered it a great honor to serve in that capacity. Now, however, I wouldn’t be so pleased, for over the past 5 or 6 years the Society has joined many other societies in organismal biology by becoming, shall I say, “quite woke.”

I smelled trouble when the SSE issued a statement declaring that sex (and gender) were continuums rather than binaries, which I beefed about here.  Yes, gender could be seen as a continuum, but not biological sex, which for nearly all animals has two simple classes distinguished by gamete size. And that’s because of evolution. How could an evolution society make a statement like that? It’s ideology, Jake!

At that point I saw things were going to get worse, as they have. The SSE then began issuing pronouncements on political issues, which in my view is something that scientific societies should not be doing.  Finally, the annual meetings have turned into venues for ideology, which included changing the names of awards named after evolutionists deemed ideologically impure, and became heavily laden with diversity presentations and initiatives. As I wrote earier this year:

Call me an old grouch, but in my view the organizers are consciously turning societies devoted to the promotion of science into organizations devoted to the promotion of social change. Yes, organizations should not discriminate against any class of people so long as they’re qualified to give talks or attend meetings, but it’s another thing entirely for a meeting to promote equity on the grounds that science is structurally racist. In fact, I think scientific societies should remain politically neutral while obeying any anti-discrimination laws. Effecting social change should be the purview of individual members of societies, as different members have different views (I know a lot of people who object to the fulminating wokeness of evolution societies.)

For the last several years, the SSE (and related American societies) have been policed by roving “Evo Allies” (trained at substantial expense) who walk around the meeting to search for potential cases of sexual harassment—despite there already being a perfectly satisfactory way of dealing with harassment complaints. I am not of course in favor of sexual harassment, but this procedure seems extreme. It’s also expensive, with the trainers charging tens of thousands of dollar for their services.

This policing, and its potential bad consequences, especially for women, is the subject of a new article on the Heterodox STEM Substack pageby Williams College professor Luana Maroja, an evolutionary biologist who has written on my site.

Maroja first describes her “lived experience” with the harassment police at the SSE meetings (this was in 2019, when the meetings were live). A snippet:

In 2019 my professional society (The Society for the Study of Evolution – SSE) hired a consultant to help “prevent sexual harassment at the [annual] conference.”  The initiative consisted of training volunteers to be “allies” (they got buttons and walked among us signaling their role as meeting police), projecting messages (powerpoint slides) on the walls of the poster session saying “stop harassment now,” and putting posters in all bathrooms along with anonymous boxes for depositing complaints about harassment.  This came at a cost: about $10 dollars increase in registration fees per participant, resulting in tens of thousands in the consultant’s pocket.  But aside from cost, are these initiatives a net positive or a net negative for scientific interactions?

I have been attending the SSE meetings since 2003.  Compared to conferences in my home country, Brazil, SSE conferences were a paradise – nobody ever grabbed my rear end, said nasty things in my ear or followed me around.  Yes, there was the normal degree of flirting, but it was polite, with people backing off when they were rebuffed.   Perhaps I have thick skin, but I don’t think anyone would say that serious harassment or sexual violence were commonplace at the American meetings, and there were already procedures in place—involving both the local police and the conference administrators—to deal with serious offences.  Many people think it’s a good thing to raise awareness about even minor actions that might be perceived as unwanted attention.  But is it?

Her answer is “not really,” for she gives data showing that there appears to have been a “chilling effect” from overpolicing sexual interactions. Her informal survey of her colleagues revealed that male scientists have become more wary of mentoring or even talking to junior women for fear of such accusations.

But of course this is anecdotal. Maroja then adduces real data from a paper by Marina Gertsberg, a senior lecturer in Finance at the University of Melbourne. Click on the link to read it (a pdf is free). It’s from SSRN, which appears to be a kind of ARχiv of preprints, so it hasn’t yet been published; be aware of that:

Gertsberg surveyed the number of new collaborations (judged from c.v.s of faculty) between men and women in Economics before the #MeToo movement (2012-2017) compared with afterwards (2018-now). These were compared with new collaborations between men and men, and with collaborators inside and outside the faculty member’s institution.  There are graphs, but read Luana’s piece or Gertsberg’s paper to see them; I’ll just give a summary:

Gertsberg’s abstract:

How did #MeToo alter the cost of collaboration between women and men? I study research collaborations involving junior female academic economists and show they start fewer new research projects after #MeToo. The decline is driven largely by fewer collaborations with new male co-authors at the same institution. I show that the drop in collaborations is concentrated in universities where the perceived risk of sexual harassment accusations for men is high – that is, when both sexual harassment policies are more ambiguous exposing men to a larger variety of claims and the number of public sexual harassment incidents is high. The results suggest that the social movement is associated with increased cost of collaboration that disadvantaged the career opportunities of women.

From Luana’s paper:

The data shows clearly that new collaborations are strongly and significantly reduced inside institutions (where the fear of harassment accusations will be highest). The paper also shows that, where the fear is highest (in institutions where harassment accusations are common and policies are vague), the reduction in collaborations is also higher.

This represents a huge loss to both men and women, but it especially harms women.  Indeed, the academic output of females fell significantly after #MeToo (a decrease of between 0.7-1.7 projects per year, with the loss in male collaborators explaining 60% of this decline), while the output of males did not (they were apparently able to find other male collaborators).

I should note, for those who want to know, that Maroja is a woman.  But she also found a decrease in collaboration in a field of “hard science”— physics—and gives a tweet from a physicist showing the decrease in the total proportion of male-female collaborations over all same-sex collaborations (“same effect” in Strumia’s tweet refers to the effect showed by Gertsberg). The proportion of male-female collaborations dropped significantly in 2016 and has stayed low for six years.

There can, of course, be other explanations for these data, and feel free to suggest them below.

No sane person is in favor of sexual harassment. Maroja’s message is that it can be taken too far, to the point that men shy away from collaborating with women for fear of accusations of harassment. Some of my colleagues, who are not harassers, will nevertheless not talk to a female undergraduate unless there’s someone (preferably female) either overhearing the conversation or witnessing it.

Ideally, all women should not be viewed as potential complainants, nor should all men be seen as potential harassers or predators. This infantilizes both sexes and, when it comes in the form of roving vigilantes at meetings, is also patronizing.

Maroja concludes this way:

It’s clear that well-intentioned actions (protecting women from harassment) can be taken too far.  I hope that our scientific professional societies will absorb these data and start taking steps to bring people together rather than separate them.  Good starts would be clarifying harassment policies and keeping “harassment consultants”, who profit from promoting the idea that harassment is everywhere, out of conferences.  Another important step would be to eliminate anonymous complaints, which set the bar for a complaint too low and can be used for revenge and to bring down competitors and enemies. Both of these effects lead men to worry about what they might be accused of and to thus limit interactions with women. Finally, any sexual harassment judgements should only be made after a pre-defined, fair process where the accused can challenge the accuser– a person should be considered innocent until proven guilty.