Wokeness is making war on science — and even math
Category: News & PoliticsVia: texan1211 • 3 weeks ago • 27 comments
Wokeness is making war on science — and even math
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I keep wanting to write about something other than the woke revolution. Heaven knows there are other things happening right now. But, as Michael Corleone says, just when I thought I was out, it pulls me back in.
The latest insanity is the attack on scientific principles. Oxford University has hired a team of students to diversify and "decolonize" its STEM subjects: science, technology, engineering, and math.
What does this mean in practice? The usual: Digging around for women scientists in times and places in which they were rare, placing heavy emphasis on anything non-European, and reassessing the "history of modern measurement, which is tied deeply to the idea of the 'Empire' and Imperial standardization."
That's right, they're coming after imperial measures, which is what the units of size and weight employed in the United States are called everywhere else. The U.S. is now almost alone in using ounces, yards, and so on. But they survive informally elsewhere, especially in Canada, the United Kingdom, and other parts of the Anglosphere.
The U.K. adopted the metric system in the 1970s when it harmonized its regulations with Europe's. In theory, things are now sold in meters and liters. In practice, most people still mentally buy apples by the pound and milk by the pint.
I remember a Brussels official once explaining, with the air of a man letting an obstinate child win a game, that we Brits were still allowed to sell pints of beer, provided we didn't call them that. He meant it, too. A market trader in Sunderland was prosecuted in 2001 for selling bananas with imperial scales — that is, in the units his customers preferred. He became a national cause celebre. I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that the so-called Metric Martyr's travails contributed to what eventually became Brexit.
It is curious, on one level, that Oxford should thus line up with the bureaucracy against the little guy. But when absolutely everything is seen through the prism of anti-colonialism, the word "imperial" is fatal.
In fact, the truly imperialist project, the project spread with revolutionary fervor by French radicals and imposed with force of arms by Napoleon, was the metric system. Similar to all revolutionary ideals, it is abstract, inhuman, and rooted in theory rather than practice.
While the imperial system corresponds to familiar sizes — a foot, a thumb, a pace — the Bonapartist measures are based on a calculation (later discovered to be a miscalculation) of the distance from the poles to the equator. The imperial system is evolved, organic, Burkeian, while the metric system is imposed, arbitrary, Cartesian. The one is domestic and handy, the other cold and logical. This is why, after more than 200 years, pre-revolutionary units survive patchily even in France. I have been to remote rural markets there and heard traders talk in inches ("les pouces") and pounds ("les livres"). If Oxford were truly on the side of indigenous traditions, it would be anti-metric.
But when it comes to wokeness, we are way past logic or consistency. We are in a world where everything is racist and oppressive and patriarchal — not just the theories developed by white men, but in scientific principles themselves.
A state education panel in California is looking at ways to root out what it calls the "white supremacy culture in the mathematics classroom." What are the identifying characteristics of this culture? Among other things, one is an excessive emphasis on "getting the right answer." No, really, that's a quote.
This kind of thing is becoming mainstream. Last year, the National Museum of African American History and Culture defined "the scientific method" as "an aspect of whiteness," along with "hard work," "objectivity," and "progress."
It is, if you think about it, the logical endpoint of wokery. The essence of identity politics is that feelings trump facts, that "lived experience" matters more than empirical data. In order to claim that, say, racial hatred is on the rise or that women are more repressed than ever or that gay people are more persecuted, it is necessary to disregard some pretty ineluctable evidence. After a while, you start to argue that the facts themselves, the whole concept of scientific inquiry, is a white, patriarchal imposition.
Mathematical principles are perhaps the purest thing we can conceive of, as the laws of physics turn out to be surprisingly malleable when applied to the beginning of the universe. The one constant, there during the Big Bang and since, immune to the weirdness of quantum physics and unrelated to human observation, is math.
"Freedom is the freedom to say two plus two equals four," wrote Winston Smith in George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four. "If that is granted, all else follows." In the novel, he is tortured into renouncing that truth.
What is our excuse?
Tags:Opinion, Science, Math, Education, Race and Diversity, woke, Cancel Culture, United Kingdom, Britain
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