The Anti-Science of #DecoloniseScience

With no end in sight to the current nationwide student protests, it was no surprise that this has been making the rounds in the media:



There is a lot that this “student leader” wilfully misunderstands about the scientific process, which by definition is a culturally agnostic practice since it is an objective pursuit of the truth (unless you are of the persuasion that all truth is somehow subjective). Firstly, there is much robust debate in science, so once someone makes a claim on a natural phenomenon, whether it is gravity or some other, it does not suddenly become non-debatable. The lack of debate signifies the weight of evidence behind the existence of a natural phenomenon (think evolution), although its particulars are still most likely being hashed out. Secondly, since science makes a concern with discerning truth from delusions such as superstition there is no “non-Western” science which would suddenly make claims of influencing lightning, or being influenced by the motion of stars and such like, any less laughable than they are. All else is wishful thinking at best or a grave con at the worst. Finally, science works. Why else would this “student leader” be so happy to flip out her smart phone immediately after her tirade despite exclaiming previously that “the whole thing should be scratched off”?

I have a feeling that the leaders of these protests are more concerned with making splashy controversial statements than any actual serious thinking behind their meaning. There does not seem to be much coherence around the definition of “decolonisation”; I am sure few would disagree with having more choice of studying African topics, but this is heavily degree specific. Much of the contents of the degrees do naturally focus on topics related to South Africa, such as its biodiversity or laws. Perhaps more of an effort could be made to include literature and history choices around the South African perspective. It is nonsensical to suggest that we should disregard whole swaths of knowledge simply because it was produced in the West.


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