1. Welcome to Religious Forums, a friendly forum to discuss all religions in a friendly surrounding.

    Your voice is missing! You will need to register to get access to the following site features:
    • Reply to discussions and create your own threads.
    • Our modern chat room. No add-ons or extensions required, just login and start chatting!
    • Access to private conversations with other members.

    We hope to see you as a part of our community soon!

Featured Indigenous Science

Discussion in 'Science and Religion' started by Quintessence, Nov 19, 2022.

  1. Quintessence

    Quintessence Tale Weaver
    Staff Member Premium Member

    Joined:
    Aug 19, 2011
    Messages:
    21,751
    Ratings:
    +16,516
    Religion:
    Druidry
    I recently had the privilege of listening to a speaker who introduced the concept of indigenous science to me. For those who aren't aware, my own formal education is in life science, with an emphasis on ecosystem-scale questions and applications like conservation. Ecological approaches tend to be less reductionistic and more holistic in how they understand the subject, but indigenous science takes this to a whole different level, apparently!

    Dr. Pfeiffer has written a good (though a bit lengthy) article about indigenous science and why it is important. Indigenous science is, in many respects, intermarried with indigenous religion rather than compartmentalized like how things are often viewed in Western culture. Here's a little snippet from the article to kick things off:

    "Indigenous peoples continuously occupying specific ecosystems for centuries or millennia maintain intimate familiarity with how those ecologies function. From the Yanomami in the Amazon to the Inupiat in the Arctic, Native communities successfully shepherded resources through a combination of deeply held belief systems and sophisticated adaptive management technologies, augmented by the pervasive accumulation, intergenerational transfer, and application of scientific knowledge. This is why Native peoples developed scientific terminology to categorize and characterize species and interspecies relationships—such as birds associated with specific fruiting trees, or the migration patterns of walrus and caribou—long before Western science invented academic fields like agronomy, animal behavior, ecology, climate science, restoration ecology, soil science, and zoology.

    ...

    During my career as a university lecturer, whenever scientists in my field alluded to place-based or experiential knowledge, they described it as “anecdotal” or derived from an “informant,” downgrading local expertise as nonscientific or ancillary to “real” science. In every natural resource management agency meeting I attend as a consultant, decisions are ostensibly based on the “best available science.” Translation? Anything written by someone with degrees accompanying their name, even if it was published decades ago or is the sole article on the topic, will take precedence over the unpublished expertise of a Native or local practitioner."
    -- Dr. Pfeiffer in We Need Indigenous Science | OpenMind Magazine

    This is just fascinating for me to think about, both as a Druid and as a scientist. I've studied enough philosophy of science to be aware of its limitations and shortcomings, but there is a massive repository of knowledge indigenous peoples have about how the world works we just... ignore. I'm looking forward to digging into this topic a bit more, and am curious if others have already done so or have some observations to contribute. :D
     
    • Useful x 7
    • Informative x 4
    • Like x 2
    • Winner x 1
    • Optimistic x 1
  2. Heyo

    Heyo Veteran Member

    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2019
    Messages:
    12,594
    Ratings:
    +12,000
    Religion:
    none

    There is no such thing as "indigenous science". Either it is based on scientific principles and makes use of the scientific method - in which case it is science - or it isn't and doesn't - then it isn't science.

    I see no use in redefining science.

    What is really the issue here is realizing that indigenous people have indigenous wisdom. Many of their anecdotes and habits result from observing their environment and forming rules to preserve it. That's almost science. And scientists are well advised to take those wisdoms into account. Many of them are there for a reason. Others, otoh, are simply superstitions or outdated but nobody remembers the reason they where established. That is where modern science comes in and can test and explain the indigenous traditions, to sort superstition from wisdom.
    Where I emphatically agree with Dr. Pfeiffer is that it would be stupid and arrogant to ignore the indigenous wisdom.
     
    • Winner Winner x 6
    • Like Like x 2
    • Useful Useful x 1
    • Optimistic Optimistic x 1
  3. Debater Slayer

    Debater Slayer Veteran Member
    Staff Member Premium Member

    Joined:
    May 8, 2011
    Messages:
    24,617
    Ratings:
    +25,539
    One of my main issues with a subset of liberal thought is the tendency to put minorities or people of other cultures on a pedestal. Sometimes this is driven by good intentions and a genuine belief that it makes one more progressive and respectful.

    Personally, I find some of it to be patronizing and most of it to be focused on the wrong issues. One can respect Indigenous wisdom, as you noted, and Indigenous people without having to shoehorn their experiential wisdom into the construct of science or diluting the rigor that science requires before verifying and incorporating information into its body of peer-reviewed knowledge.
     
    • Like Like x 4
    • Creative Creative x 1
  4. Debater Slayer

    Debater Slayer Veteran Member
    Staff Member Premium Member

    Joined:
    May 8, 2011
    Messages:
    24,617
    Ratings:
    +25,539
    I should add, though, that the popular version of the "scientific method" is a myth and not how science is done in reality. Still, I agree with much of your post.
     
    • Like Like x 1
    • Friendly Friendly x 1
    • Optimistic Optimistic x 1
  5. Yerda

    Yerda Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jul 2, 2004
    Messages:
    9,855
    Ratings:
    +2,762
    Religion:
    Nothing in particular
    I don't know anything about the topic but would be interested to hear what you find. I've no doubt there will be accumulated knowledge within indigenous populations that we'll sadly be losing as we lose those peoples.
     
    • Friendly Friendly x 2
  6. ideogenous_mover

    ideogenous_mover Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 26, 2014
    Messages:
    4,421
    Ratings:
    +1,503
    Religion:
    Agnostic with a Theistic bent, toward some form of Dualism
    I guess the way I'd look at it, is that it is 'science and more.' Science alone, does not seem to tell itself how to use itself. I've been reading now about farming in the amazon, and am becoming shockingly more informed on how much wiser the indigenous ways were/are when farming in the rainforest. And they didn't need academics or text books to figure it out, but through basic observation, their approach to agroforestry seemed intrinsically scientific, and wise

    The europeans came in, and apparently wanted to burn out the soil with mono-cultures, maybe for short-term scale. That seems less than wise, and less than science, for whoever informed them to do it that way
     
    • Like Like x 2
  7. mikkel_the_dane

    mikkel_the_dane My own religion

    Joined:
    Dec 14, 2018
    Messages:
    16,012
    Ratings:
    +4,684
    Religion:
    The Wrong One
    That is not science, as you can't observe utility. That is your <beep> 1st personal subjective belief system and you have no evidence for that. Learn the limits of yourself and when you are not doing science!!!
    In my culture there are in effect 8 kinds of science and not just one. So you are in effect being a cultural imperialist, because you first person claim in effect objective authority over what science is. You don't have that authority and neither have I.

    For the rest of your post you are reasonable, but the bold one is not science.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  8. lewisnotmiller

    lewisnotmiller Grand Hat
    Staff Member Premium Member

    Joined:
    May 6, 2013
    Messages:
    24,052
    Ratings:
    +17,553
    Religion:
    atheist
    I recently attended (and briefly spoke) at a water conference here, and one of the talks would have been fascinating to you I think.

    It was focused on man-made actions to allow controlled flooding of substantial floodplains through my state which have been suffering from extended drought conditions.

    Ironically the projects are on hold temporarily due to massive uncontrolled flooding, but that's neither here nor there.

    The part you'd have found interesting was the collaboration with a very large number of local tribes groups, and the associated efforts in establishing a circular economy around water, where water is either being returned, or at least net neutral, rather than being removed from the environment for various purposes.
     
    • Like Like x 1
    • Winner Winner x 1
    • Informative Informative x 1
  9. lewisnotmiller

    lewisnotmiller Grand Hat
    Staff Member Premium Member

    Joined:
    May 6, 2013
    Messages:
    24,052
    Ratings:
    +17,553
    Religion:
    atheist
    Notions of the 'romantic savage...'
     
    • Like Like x 1
  10. mikkel_the_dane

    mikkel_the_dane My own religion

    Joined:
    Dec 14, 2018
    Messages:
    16,012
    Ratings:
    +4,684
    Religion:
    The Wrong One
    As long as you can separate science and your cultural worldview for what matters.
     
  11. exchemist

    exchemist Veteran Member

    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2018
    Messages:
    16,956
    Ratings:
    +17,972
    Religion:
    RC (culturally at least)
    I think @Heyo is spot-on here.

    Science requires a particular approach to the natural world, viz. hypotheses tested by reproducible observation. Some of the (undoubtedly valuable) wisdom of the people described will have arisen in this way, by a sort of unconscious adoption of this principle. However the rise of natural science after the European Renaissance required a conscious recognition that this method was a systematic way to make reliable discoveries about nature. This enabled people of the time to distinguish between the ideas and knowledge that were science and those that were not. That distinction is critical to separate scientific ideas from religious ones, or indeed from charlatanry or just hogwash. I suspect this distinction does not exist in most of the communities the writer talks about, leading to a mix of valuable insights and completely wrong ideas.

    I agree with the sentiment that we "scientific" people should listen to what such communities have to say about nature, because they are just as intelligent as us and they will have a different perspective and experience that gives them plenty of good observations and ideas to contribute. But I think the term wisdom is better than indulging in the cultural relativism of calling it science.
     
    • Like Like x 2
    • Winner Winner x 1
  12. mikkel_the_dane

    mikkel_the_dane My own religion

    Joined:
    Dec 14, 2018
    Messages:
    16,012
    Ratings:
    +4,684
    Religion:
    The Wrong One
    As long you don't use science to solve the ought side of the is-ought problem.
    So for cultural relativism that also applies to you and not just everybody else including me.
     
  13. exchemist

    exchemist Veteran Member

    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2018
    Messages:
    16,956
    Ratings:
    +17,972
    Religion:
    RC (culturally at least)
    I make no reference to any is-ought problem.
     
  14. mikkel_the_dane

    mikkel_the_dane My own religion

    Joined:
    Dec 14, 2018
    Messages:
    16,012
    Ratings:
    +4,684
    Religion:
    The Wrong One
    Yes, you do, because you claim in effect that we all ought to use your cultural understanding of science.
     
  15. exchemist

    exchemist Veteran Member

    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2018
    Messages:
    16,956
    Ratings:
    +17,972
    Religion:
    RC (culturally at least)
    No I don't mention this "problem" at all.

    But I do indeed admit to thinking there are things that are true and things that are untrue.

    I have little time for the Trumpy world of "alternative facts".
     
  16. mikkel_the_dane

    mikkel_the_dane My own religion

    Joined:
    Dec 14, 2018
    Messages:
    16,012
    Ratings:
    +4,684
    Religion:
    The Wrong One
    Yes, but all answers can't be reduced to things that are true or not true as per science. That is where it ends and as long as you treat STEM as the only version of true, we will be going in circles, because I can do things, which are not true according to science, yet are in effect still true.
     
  17. Augustus

    Augustus the Unreasonable

    Joined:
    Dec 27, 2014
    Messages:
    14,415
    Ratings:
    +13,619
    Religion:
    none
    I remember this from a while back:

    A rare study of Aboriginal cultural burning in southern Australia has found the practice as effective at fuel reduction as conventional hazard reduction burns, while being much less harmful to native plants than bushfire.

    Monitoring of an indicator species, the threatened Backwater grevillea, established that cultural burning had a relatively minor impact on mature specimens. A bushfire that ripped through part of the study zone in 2019 killed 99.6% of existing grevillea plants.

    “Wildfire, hazard reduction and cultural burning all reduced standing fuel load by about the same amount, but only cultural burning left a multi-age population of grevillea,” said lead researcher, University of New England (UNE) cross-cultural ecologist Dr Michelle McKemey.

    “It is more evidence that cultural burning practices have an important place in managing our natural heritage as we try and reckon with the effects of climate change.”

    The study was conducted on Wattleridge Indigenous Protected Area (IPA) in forested escarpment country north-east of Guyra, NSW, by the land’s Indigenous owners, the Banbai nation, and a team of researchers led by Dr McKemey.

    For Banbai nation elder, Lesley Patterson, the advantages of cultural burning are clear. "You know your canopy and the older plants are going to survive if you do low intensity burns. It does the country better, and the bush doesn’t take as long to come back as it would with a bushfire."

    The multi-year project drew on Indigenous and scientific concepts to investigate how cultural burning affected local ecology, compared to conventional hazard reduction burning.

    Cultural burning involves typically low-level patchwork fires conducted at times calculated to support the life-cycles of key plants or animals.

    Hazard reduction burns involve setting controlled fires over specific areas in cooler seasons, but without cultural burning’s focus on managing particular species and typically over much larger areas.


    Burning for the bush

    The point in adding the prefix indigenous is to differentiate it from 'normal' science, so it is not redefining anything.

    The question is simply whether the term is more informative than "indigenous wisdom".

    It highlights the fact that some areas of indigenous knowledge are demonstrably effective based on centuries of empirical data, and map on well to modern scientific fields/ideas, and could be examined according to these principles.

    Indigenous wisdom would also cover things that may be more philosophical than scientific (in the western sense), and so it helps to make a distinction.

    Also, for many westerners, the connotation of "indigenous wisdom" is the gnomic utterances of some wizened elder while some stoned hippies say "that's deep man".

    The point of terming it indigenous science is to reduce the likelihood of that happening by making people think about it differently, especially given the historical prejudices of those in the west towards "primitive" societies.

    [all of the above assumes that people are genuinely trying to use the term in an accurate and non-ideological manner]
     
    • Like Like x 4
    • Informative Informative x 1
  18. Heyo

    Heyo Veteran Member

    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2019
    Messages:
    12,594
    Ratings:
    +12,000
    Religion:
    none
    I'm not so sure about that. At least, I'm not sure it has the intended effect. Maybe I'm just burned by another prefix that was intended to discredit science: "creation science" (also "Christian science"). Better not repeat that.
     
  19. mikkel_the_dane

    mikkel_the_dane My own religion

    Joined:
    Dec 14, 2018
    Messages:
    16,012
    Ratings:
    +4,684
    Religion:
    The Wrong One
    Well.
    Science works on nothing.
    Science works on in limited sense.
    Science works on everything.

    If you conflate the top 2, I get it and in a sense assume the last one, I get it. What science is, is in part of a culture war for these 3 versions.
    And then add some versions of religion, and off to the races we are.
     
    • Friendly Friendly x 1
  20. RestlessSoul

    RestlessSoul Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Apr 3, 2021
    Messages:
    5,709
    Ratings:
    +4,857
    Religion:
    Agnostic Lapsed Catholic
    BC929C52-D24E-49CB-804D-0B1B6A7131FE.jpeg

    Amazonian pharmacy
     
    • Like Like x 1
Loading...