Scientific rationality and multiculturalism do not mix, as shown by recent revelations
“University science lecturers have been warned off making the familiar statement in class that “Aboriginal people have been in Australia for 40,000 years”. It “puts a limit on the occupation of Australia” and many indigenous Australians see this as “inappropriate”, according to the University of NSW language advice for staff. The document suggests it is “more appropriate” to say Aborigines have been here “since the beginning of the Dreaming/s” because this “reflects the beliefs of many Indigenous Australians that they have always been in Australia, from the beginning of time, and came from the land’’. A new set of classroom guidelines, which alert scientists to existing language advice, was circulated in the science faculty this month. One scientist said most academics got on with their work and did their best to ignore such documents. Asked by the government to review free speech on campus, former High Court chief justice Robert French reported in April on the censorship potential in myriad university policies, among them some inclusive language guides which imposed “very wide-ranging constraint” on freedom of expression.
The inclusivity guidelines, which introduce and link to the indigenous language advice, were approved by a working group involving the dean Emma Johnston. The guidelines say: “Recognise that intentional or unintentional racist, classist, homophobic, ableist, ill-informed and/or disparaging comments or content can be harmful or damaging to students from minority identities. “In the case that a student calls out your use of non-inclusive language, avoid being defensive. Acknowledge it, and reflect on how you might ensure inclusivity.” The indigenous language advice says putting a date on Aboriginal arrival “tends to lend support to migration theories and anthropological assumptions’’. “Many indigenous Australians see this sort of measurement and quantifying as inappropriate.’’ Asked for evidence, a UNSW spokeswoman cited “extensive consultation” with the university’s Centre for Indigenous Programs, Nura Gili, and its Equity Diversity & Inclusion Division. Last year a UNSW science faculty research centre said the First People “arrived soon after 50,000 years ago, effectively forever, given that modern human populations only moved out of Africa 50,000-55,000 years ago”. The centre’s blog on its review of the scientific evidence begins: “Many Aboriginal Australians would say with conviction that they have always been here.”
The Weekend Australian asked researchers in this field whether indigenous Australians had warned them against the attempt to unravel the timing and sequencing of arrival on the continent. University of Wollongong archaeologist Richard Fullagar said: “The Aboriginal people I’ve worked with are enormously interested in the scientific evidence” of early indigenous occupation. He said this research could be sensitive, and said: “Aboriginal people have sometimes told me that they have been here forever. “Current scientific evidence indicates that the first Aboriginal groups in Australia came from islands to the north and ultimately (like all of us) from modern human dispersals out of Africa with subsequent genetic mixing. “It is true that migrations of people from other places contradict the idea that Aboriginal people have always been in Australia but I don’t think this creates such a conflict that migration theories are objectionable in the sense that they have to be offensive.” Danish DNA scientist Eske Willerslev, of Cambridge University, said it was important to spend time with indigenous communities, secure their agreement for research, and tell them the possible risks and benefits. He said: “Scientists can potentially damage the standing of the elders, or the right to land claims, should our findings contradict the oral traditions.” Today’s results were provisional and might not reflect the true history, he said.”
What more proof is needed that objective truth has been replaced by cultural relativism? The only answer is to close down the universities.