Not science, but privilege vs. culture

in Indigenous issues

When people talk about Hawaiians being anti-science and bring up lofty aspirations that the TMT will be save humanity and that Mauna Kea’s TMT will advance science, then attempt to degrade Hawaiians who want to perpetuate traditions or those supporters who question the environmental impact, what those people are really talking about is privilege. Their privilege specifically.

They believe that their values, their understanding of “progress” (which is linear to them), and their way of looking at the world is the best and the only way. The term “natives” has appeared in some of the pro-TMT comments. Too often the name of science has been used to mask privilege and racism. Not to mention greed and colonialism.

I love science, particularly biology and genetics. I think its fascinating. But I know that genetics and biology has a tainted past. I know that German scientists used Jews, Gypsies, and homosexuals in biological experiments.The Japanese also used Koreans and Chinese in “medical experiments.” American scientists too have experimented on African-American, Latino and Native American subjects on a number of tests including on STDs and drugs—unbeknownst to their subjects.

When any group of people privileges itself over other human beings and deliberately ignores morality or ethics, it is no longer science; it is arrogance. When you are building upon land that you know was stolen from an indigenous people, then systemically ignore them, that’s not science; that’s colonialism.

Scientific research must always be mindful of ethics and of the human dimensions of their research. One can not say “we are doing this for all of humanity” but then begin arresting a segment of humanity who have a different world view from your own. Pro-TMT supporters like to bring up Galileo and the Roman Catholic Church in this argument on the TMT. But tell me, how is arresting Hawaiians who are defending land plundered by an outside power ethical?

Hawaiians and environmentalist groups still have pending cases in court and they have been fighting this for the last decade. Consistently, however, UH administrators, DLNR, and the telescope consortium have acted like an oligarchy, wielding the sword of state at those who oppose them. They have simply dismissed their—no, our—-concerns about Mauna Kea. These concerns are not being articulated by a fringe sovereignty group. These concerns are being articulated by people of various races, social-economic class, occupations and political affiliations. Both democrats and republicans, and even scientists, have questioned the way the TMT is being built against the will of the community.

A majority of local people believe that we are being over-developed and that development is only profiting a select few who ignore laws—like what UH, DLNR and the TMT LLC are doing now. Queen Lili’uokalani was fond of this quote from Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure: “...it is excellent / To have a giant’s strength, but it is tyrannous / To use it like a giant.”

A line has to be drawn at UH on what constitutes ethical research, and there must be greater awareness that the pursuit of science in the name of humanity must not mean the pursuit of science at the expense of humanity itself. Scientists themselves can not claim to be the victim of historical persecution while they persecute others who do not share their values or ideas on what constitutes “progress.”

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