Francis (2017). Postmodern Creationism in Academia: Why Evergreen Matters.

Francis, N. (2017, October 29). Postmodern Creationism in Academia: Why Evergreen Matters. Retrieved October 31, 2017, from http://quillette.com/2017/10/29/postmodern-creationism-academia-evergreen-matters/

“… a comprehensive search reveals widespread acceptance of notions that oppose the conclusions of research on human evolution, particularly regarding the migration and dispersal of early cultures that came to populate the New World. This opposition has now become the dominant view in many departments of American Indian Studies, Indigenous Studies, Multicultural Education, Ethnic Studies, and allied fields (a broad umbrella, henceforth referred to as Cultural Studies).” (¶3)

“The most important recent impetus for the surge in creationist ideology — _within the institutions of higher learning_ — can be traced to the brazen attack on the theory of evolution in _Red Earth White Lies_ by Vine Deloria Jr.2 The backdrop to the evolution-denial arguments is the politicized dismissal of the advances of modern science that are cast as ‘Western,’ leading to, for example, creation myths being held up as contradicting the findings of evolutionary anthropology, population genetics, and archaeology.” (¶4)

“Deloria called into question the scientific consensus on the colonization of the Americas as an imposition of so-called ‘Western’ knowledge. … _Red Earth White Lies_ rejects in principle the Siberian migration that populated the New World, and rejects the advances of science on this question as a ‘hilarious farce’ (p. 182). … between two responses:

“Outright acceptance — the claim that the ‘Bering Strait theory’ disparages the creation stories of indigenous people. Land rights and access to natural resources are presented as being tied to the idea that Native American communities ‘have always been here.’

“… The work of scientists is qualified as beholden to the ‘academic establishment,’ ‘as serving hegemonic interests,’ or as ‘disrespectful’ of ‘traditional knowledge,’ and ‘used to colonize and dominate indigenous communities.’4” (¶7)

“The common theme that sustains evolution/migration-denial is a purported opposition between ‘Western knowledge’ and ‘indigenous knowledge.'” (¶8)

“… gives credit to _Red Earth and White Lies_, as it purportedly represents ‘a blistering attack on Western science’ (p. 168)6 — note to the author: in this discussion, the idea of ‘Western science’ is as incoherent as the category ‘Western knowledge.'” (¶10)

“… an underlying fallacy: the confusing comparison between so-called ‘Western science’ and ‘indigenous knowledge.'” (¶11)

“… Evergreen State College that offers a ‘culturally appropriate curriculum’ for Native American students. With course readings featuring the creationist _Red Earth White Lies_ and other non-academic fringe sources, the syllabus specifies the criteria for evaluation of student learning: ‘Since this issue has no wrong answers because of the fluctuation in scientific reasoning, creative writing should be embraced as having the potential to be as accurate as the current scientific opinion.'” (¶14)

“One of the roots of the crisis in Cultural Studies is the union, now fully consummated, of radical social constructionism and a version of postmodern relativism. In contrast, researchers who base their hypotheses on objective empirical findings, and who apply the research methods of their respective field, strongly object to the idea that science is just one among different kinds of alternative ‘narrative.’ They also object to the self-serving postmodern notion that science is a socially constructed ideology of dominant classes, colonizers, and ‘hegemonic interests.'” (¶15)

“Belief systems and political programs of social groups compete, each with their own knowledge system, each ‘epistemology’ with its own equally valid interpretation of facts.” (¶16)

“Following from the above paradigm shift, the ideology-over-science method logically lends itself to outside politicized control over research and independent scholarship, imposing dangerous restrictions on academic freedom.” (¶17)

“The interests of indigenous communities are not served in any way by the anti-scientific speculation of radical social constructivists or the promulgation of alternate realities still popular in many university departments. Pseudoscience, disguised as multiculturalism and concern for indigenous rights, is a false solution to the problems and challenges that communities face.” (¶22)

“Greater understanding and further progress in other areas, such as the preservation of linguistic, literary, and artistic heritage, will depend on developing a strong partnership between local educators and scientists, other empirical researchers, and humanities scholars who apply rational methods of inquiry.” (¶23)

Selected References

  • [2] Deloria, V. Jr. (1997). Red Earth white lies: Native Americans and the myth of scientific fact. Fulcrum.
  • [4] Hermes, M. Bang, M. and Marin, A. (2012). Designing indigenous language revitalization. Harvard Educational Review, 82: 381—402.
  • [6] Regal, B. (2004). Human evolution: A guide to the debates. ABC-CLlO.
Image credit: Tamm, E., Kivisild, T., Reidla, M., Metspalu, M., Smith, D. G., Mulligan, C. J., … Malhi, R. S. (2007). Beringian Standstill and Spread of Native American Founders. PLOS ONE, 2(9), e829. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0000829
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