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Featured Indigenous Science

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

  1. mikkel_the_dane

    mikkel_the_dane My own religion

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    Yes, because it only count if it is called science and that
    Be in favor of or against without objective reason or evidence.
     
  2. Ella S.

    Ella S. Stoic Utilitarian

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    Empiricism (tied to scientific observations) and falsification (the foundation of scientific experiments) are rather modern concepts, yes.

    ETA: Also, methodological naturalism and scientific skepticism in general, often together considered a form of informal science on their own.
     
    #42 Ella S., Nov 20, 2022
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  3. mikkel_the_dane

    mikkel_the_dane My own religion

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    Well, it is absurd. Why, because then before that humans had no knowledge at all. But you know, you can't survive without knowledge, so the fact is that the human race died out before science came around. Because it is a fact that the only knowledge is science.
    You really have to read up on the word knowledge.
     
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  4. mikkel_the_dane

    mikkel_the_dane My own religion

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    Take 2. Popper wrote about falsification after Einstein wrote about the theory of relativity. So that is not science.
     
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  5. Ella S.

    Ella S. Stoic Utilitarian

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    Who said anything about knowledge? Science is a methodology, not a dogma. It helps us correct our beliefs when they are falsified or otherwise turn out to be unjustified.

    Arguably, Einstein's Theory of Relativity wasn't science until it was supported by later experiments in modern science, which came after Karl Popper.

    At the same time, Popper only provided a word for what scientists had already been doing before him and formalized it, but the importance of falsification was still quite new. So new that nobody had a proper word for it yet.
     
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  6. mikkel_the_dane

    mikkel_the_dane My own religion

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    Okay, I can live with that. So other people can have knowledge and science is only a variant of knowledge.
     
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  7. Ella S.

    Ella S. Stoic Utilitarian

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    I wouldn't even say that science is a variant of knowledge. It's a method for justifying beliefs and a body of those justified beliefs, subject to change.

    We can't say whether those beliefs are true or not. All of our current conclusions might be wrong. It's just that they're the only good conclusions we have.
     
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  8. mikkel_the_dane

    mikkel_the_dane My own religion

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    Well, that is philosophy. And since you are a rationalist and I am a strong universal skeptic, I think we are doing okay for now. No need to go deep, unless you want to. :)
     
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  9. lewisnotmiller

    lewisnotmiller Grand Hat
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    Absolutely.
    And the term really comes from the repudiation of it.
    Nobody would claim to be 'pro-savage-romanticism'.

    But more colloquially, some people believe strongly in the wisdom of indigenous peoples as being somewhat unimpeachable, or correct by definition.

    My argument is simply that wisdom is where you find it, and we should be more closely considering and communicating with ancient peoples...which we are, albeit we can always get better at this.

    Sidenote, and some people would push back or be confused by this...

    Almost every presenter at the water conference individually did a welcome to country, and acknowledgement of traditional owners. This is generally very formulaic and any Australians who attend government meetings or functions would be familiar with it.

    I have no issues with it, but when hearing the same message 7 or 8 times to the same audience, I wonder what the point is. Virtue-signalling springs to mind.

    Do it once for that audience, surely is enough.

    One later presenter eschewed the formula and simply thanked indigenous leaders for the key role they played in a program he was establishing, pointing out in very simple form their high level contributions. It was much more authentic, meaningful and interesting.
     
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  10. RestlessSoul

    RestlessSoul Well-Known Member

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    I don’t think empiricism is a modern concept at all. The Egyptians knew the Nile was going to flood, when the Dog Star (Canis Major) was in the ascendant. That’s what empiricism is, observed regularity facilitating accurate predictions.

    I’ll grant you falsification as a doctrine is a recent development, from philosophy of science. But it’s really just a formal way of saying that theories are abandoned when their predictions are contradicted by experience, and that learning occurs, and technologies develop, through trial and error. And this has always been the case; Ancient shipbuilders, for example, learned about stability, water displacement, manoeuvrability etc by trying things out, and abandoning the ideas that didn’t work in favour of those that did. That’s falsification by experiment, even if they didn’t call it that.
     
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  11. Quintessence

    Quintessence Tale Weaver
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    It was one of the biases we touched on a bit during that seminar, yeah - it was weird to think about for me. Western science likes to attach numbers to things and quantifying observations is perhaps one of the more non-negotiable aspects of what we consider science. We dismiss the value of, say, oral tradition passed down by apprenticeships which is what a lot of indigenous science would be grounded in. Western intellectualism developed at a time that their world was steeped in the written word as a means of transmitting knowledge; it had supplanted oral traditions pretty thoroughly and that impacted our sciences. It's interesting to consider how the cultural context within which academic disciplines arose impacted (and still impacts) their course.

    For another example of our weird and wonderful Western version of science - the wedge typically stuffed between science and religion was also briefly touched on in the seminar. Supposedly that's not done so much with indigenous science, as it is understood how important relational aspects are to knowing and living on planet earth. The unfortunate tendency towards reductionism was cited as a particular contrast of indigenous versus most other fields of Western science as well. Most of the talk was really focused on applying indigenous science to understanding climate change, though, so the speaker didn't go into a tremendous amount of nuance here. Just got us thinking (mission accomplished!).
     
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  12. Heyo

    Heyo Veteran Member

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    Doing it in a systematic way and calling it science is. The foundations of modern science were only laid during the Enlightenment but even in the 19th century "science" (and the scientific method) wasn't fully established and who we think of as scientists were called "natural philosophers".
     
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  13. lewisnotmiller

    lewisnotmiller Grand Hat
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    I think about it a little differently, in terms of science being more an evaluation tool for our hypothesis about all aspects of the natural world, and indigenous wisdom being a valid source of hypothesis.

    However, I do think the concept of reductionism is a vital consideration in evaluating 'knowledge' in it's broadest sense. We can reduce and test multiple aspects of knowledge, and assume that the sum total is then understood, only to have misunderstood nuances due to assessing things in a reductionist way.

    Indigenous knowledge often approaches things from a macro level, rather than ground up, and can be a good balancing point. It can be 'wrong' at the detail level, and retain utility, just like science can be wrong at the macro level and retain utility.

    Sorry, that's not a great way to explain my thoughts, but hopefully it's somewhat coherent!!
     
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  14. Dan From Smithville

    Dan From Smithville Out of a hat and into the blue.
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    Are you familiar with the work of Richard Schultes or Wade Davis? They immersed themselves in the wisdom of various indigenous peoples of the US Southwest, the Caribbean and South America in studies of botany and ethnobotany. Davis has written some very good popular accounts of some of that work.

    I generally agree with @Heyo and @exchemist regarding the classification of indigenous knowledge as wisdom. However, I am going to have reread some of Robin Dunbar, because I recall he mentioned some instances of indigenous people applying a crude methodology that mirrors a basic scientific methodology. But this may be more accidental than directed.
     
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  15. lewisnotmiller

    lewisnotmiller Grand Hat
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    I don't recall having read Dunbar, and I'm struggling to remember where I read this, but...

    I've got a decent little library of indigenous American material at home. A lot of it focuses on Northern Cheyenne, Arapaho or what we might broadly call 'Sioux', so my guess is this relates to them, but...yeah...can't remember, sadly.

    Anyway...there were descriptions of a process used when encountering unfamiliar berries or fruits. Effectively it involved checking the actions of local animals, particularly birds, before ingesting a small amount, rubbing some juice on their arm, and a few similar, small-scale actions.

    This would be followed by one person ingesting a larger amount.

    Once the berries or fruit was 'approved' it could be more generally consumed.

    This isn't exactly scientific method, but it's a methodology of some description. I remember at the time being frustrated because there was no mention of medicinal plants, or what process was used to identify those, or test them, but to be fair the book was an old one, focused more on first hand accounts than organised research.
     
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  16. Dan From Smithville

    Dan From Smithville Out of a hat and into the blue.
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    It is a crude methodology to arrive at an answer with some sort of confidence. Not science, but not unlike science in a way.

    I have always been amazed at the knowledge that indigenous people have amassed and with, historically, oral tradition as the chief or only means of preserving that knowledge. Much, perhaps, by simple trial and error, but there are clearly accounts that show a rational methodology.
     
  17. Dan From Smithville

    Dan From Smithville Out of a hat and into the blue.
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    Somehow, tribes in South America figured out ayahuasca. The active ingredient from one plant must be brewed with another plant containing an MAO inhibitor to make the active ingredient work. How they figured that out is, to me, pretty amazing.
     
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  18. Dan From Smithville

    Dan From Smithville Out of a hat and into the blue.
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    The book I was thinking of is "The Trouble with Science", Robin Dunbar 1995. I'm going to have to read it again to find what I was reminded regarding indigenous people. It's a good excuse to read it again anyway.
     
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  19. Dan From Smithville

    Dan From Smithville Out of a hat and into the blue.
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    Observation, trial and error, simple methodologies that could be considered a sort of proto-science or near it to a limited degree.

    I recall the mammalogist that taught a conservation biology class I took referring to the use of indigenous markets as a useful means to survey local species. In some cases, she claimed that species new to science had been found for sale as food or fur. More local knowledge obtained through need of those local peoples.
     
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  20. JDMS

    JDMS Academic Workhorse

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    Indigenous people can inform the process of science and direct it toward important questions through observation.

    What I mean by this is that groups of people living in an area are more likely to be familiar with the inner workings of that area, whether they have empirical proof or not. These native residents share their observations with scientists, and those scientists can then pursue exploring those observations further. They might not even have thought to ask that "question" themselves, without the locals suggesting it.

    It's like a bystander reporting their eyewitness account to police that are investigating the crime.

    Better yet, the locals would have the tools and education available to "do the science" themselves.

    Different groups of people also value and experience different things, which leads them to ask questions differently. For example, cultures that put a lot of stock/value into the concept of ancestry/descendancy have historically been known to focus on environmental questions more than cultures that do not. Cultures that put a lot of stock/value into agriculture drove the discovery of genetics and hereditary. Cultures that experience extreme weather have made a lot of contributions to the development of architecture.... etc, etc.

    I don't think that any culture has a better overall viewpoint about science than all the others. I think that the more people that have access to the scientific realm, the better. There are people out there that will ask questions no one else thought to ask, and people out there will see something from a perspective no one else saw it from before. We would all benefit if they were able to access the tools necessary to see their vision through... well, barring unethical science for the purpose of domination and violence, of course.
     
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