Fossils Are Racist
Nature worries that rich white countries are collecting
all the fossils, skewing our picture of natural history
Big Science continues its path of self-destruction by valuing equity over truth (8 Dec 2021, 15 Jan 2022), where “equity” in today’s parlance requires performing self-flagellation for past sins of systemic racism, sexism and colonialism. To be sure, fairness is only fair, but truth trumps it. The truth about scientific data is what matters. Once Big Science becomes more concerned with the skin color or national origin of a fossil collector, it becomes a slave of political correctness. Big Science has already sold its soul to global elites (25 January 2022). Here is one particularly weird example.
How rich countries skew the fossil record (Nature, 13 Jan 2022). “Scientists from wealthier nations in Europe and North America contribute the lion’s share of fossil data,” worries Ewen Callaway. OK. So what?
The outsize influence of rich countries on palaeontology could lead to a warped view of life’s history, the researchers say.
That is a non-sequitur, and Callaway provides no evidence that rich countries have warped our view of life’s history. He hides behind “researchers say” with the above and a subsequent claim:
Researchers studying large-scale trends in palaeontology using resources such as the PBDB [Paleobiology Database] are keenly aware that the fossil record is biased in myriad ways, including the age and type of rock in which fossils survive.
Surely he could provide some instances, perhaps one or two out of the “myriad ways” (a non-scientific, non-specific number). The age and type of rock that bears fossils could have biased the record in the 19th century, but not now. There’s hardly a country on earth that has not yielded plentiful fossils. Who again are these “researchers” who are “keenly aware” that the fossil record is biased? The claim works against the point of the article. It would encourage paleontologists to make the record less biased by gathering more fossils from other countries. It would encourage more of that dreaded sin, “colonialism.”
Callaway draws attention to the culprits as “richer nations” but it is obvious what he means in these days of talk about “systemic racism” – the “richer nations” are predominantly white, with a history of colonialism. In these days of dividing people into oppressors and oppressed, it is chic to portray Americans and Europeans as the worst sinners in the history of the world.
Some of his worries are legitimate and could be easily corrected, such as giving locals credit who help on paleontological studies. Researchers often just parachute into a country (so to speak), grab fossils, and leave.
In many cases, such efforts did not involve local collaborators — a practice known as parachute science. Raja and Dunne’s team developed a ‘parachute index’ that measures the proportion of a country’s palaeontological data contributed by foreign teams without local scientists as co-authors. This proportion was the highest for Myanmar and the Dominican Republic (see ‘Parachute science’). Highly coveted amber-encased fossils from both of these countries have made them especially vulnerable to parachute science.
A solution? Pay a fair price for fossils. Involve locals and list them as co-authors. Easily done. But fossils are what they are, wherever they are found. If some of the most informative amber fossils in the world are found in Myanmar, then the entire world will benefit from learning about them, regardless of the skin color or wealth of the collectors. If Myanmar had a productive government instead of an oligarchy of tyrants (Breitbart), then perhaps its local people could get a decent education and grow up to be paleontologists.
Nature‘s editors, though, are so focused on past sins of “colonialism” that they feel ashamed that Europeans have published most fossil studies. They listen to a guy named Nussaïbah Raja whose career is to prove that rich white people are the guiltiest sinners on the planet. Raja combed through thousands of paleontological studies and found that — gasp — the vast majority were done by Europeans!
The analysis also found that colonial ties shed decades ago are still affecting palaeontology. One-quarter of palaeontological research in Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria — former French colonies — was done by scientists based in France. Furthermore, 10% of papers describing fossils in South Africa and Egypt included UK-based researchers, and scientists based in Germany contributed 17% of papers on fossils from Tanzania.
Fossil specialists need to go where the fossils are. Europeans had long ago cataloged most the fossil sites in their home countries, so naturally they are curious about fossils in other lands.
For example, 86% of the PBDB-indexed papers authored by scientists based in Switzerland were based on fossils discovered elsewhere.
Well, well. My, my. Did it occur to Raja that Switzerland is a small country, without a lot of fossils? Did he ponder the fact that its few paleontologists might like to go fossil hunting elsewhere? Did he recall that Switzerland is not a colonial empire? Did he apply some logic to his data search? It’s not clear what the point is.
What is the harm of branching out to other countries to learn more about the global distribution of fossils, as long as the researchers are nice about it? If they haven’t been nice, they can apologize and learn to be nicer. If they have taken fossils out of the country without permission, they can make 3-D scans of them and return them, or offer fair market value to keep them. Raja might think about the fact that more people could benefit from seeing amber fossils in a French museum than a Myanmar museum, where a machine gun might be needed to get around. And these days, high quality 3-D scans of fossils are easily publishable online, where the whole world can have access.
Science needs a global record to get a decent picture of natural history. What will happen if paleontologists, taught to feel guilty about colonialism and racism in their home countries’ past, are prevented from gaining access to fossils in the name of anticolonialism? What do Raja and his fellow antiracists recommend?
Pedro Godoy, a palaeontologist at the Federal University of Paraná in Curitiba, Brazil, says that quantifying the field’s bias towards high- and upper-middle-income countries is important, because it can reveal unexpected patterns, such as the sheer scale of parachute palaeontology. “Scientific knowledge should not be restricted to small parts of the planet, and should not be produced by researchers in a handful of countries,” he adds. “Science certainly loses quality by being so restrictive.”
“Important” is a value judgment, not a scientific result. Godoy gives no proof that paleontological science has lost quality, and Callaway offers no evidence that fossil collectors are being restrictive. Nothing is restricting the Dominican Republic or Tunisia from becoming world leaders in paleontology and other branches of science except for their own tyrannical and corrupt governments who rob their people of a chance to fulfill their potential and participate in science because of shabby schools, crime and poverty.
European empires ended decades ago. Fossils are available to everyone regardless of skin color, but paleontologists need access to places where they are found. Let scientists cooperate with local peoples fairly, but let the whole world learn about the record in the rocks.
Not Just Fossils
Other science journals show this leftist trend in Big Science. In PNAS 11 Jan 2022, four do-gooders from Europe, Canada and the US proposed more self-flagellation as punishment for “Intersectional inequalities in science.” They claim that “The US scientific workforce is primarily composed of White men.” But in the body of the paper, they offer no evidence for systemic barriers to entry. Never in American history has there been a more welcoming attitude to minorities. Indeed, most science institutions go out of their way to increase minority totals; there is great fear in not doing so, and great pride the more minority boxes they can check. If anybody is being barred entry today, it is whites and Asians because of aggressive affirmative action policies.
The US scientific workforce is not representative of the population. Barriers to entry and participation have been well-studied; however, few have examined the effect of these disparities on the advancement of science. Furthermore, most studies have looked at either race or gender, failing to account for the intersection of these variables.
Intersectionality is a key buzzword among communist race-baiters who allege systemic racism and sexism is victimizing minorities. The idea is that science will improve if more transgender black queers do the work. Presumably the more identity boxes that can be checked, the better, with the consequence that more affirmative action is needed as penance for past inequities. These are leftist priorities. They are also seen in President Biden’s campaign promise to appoint a “black woman” to the current vacancy on the Supreme Court. Should not the selection be based on one’s qualifications, judgment and record of jurisprudence? In science, is not character and commitment to integrity more valuable? Intersectionality distracts Big Science from focusing on quality. It derails science from the priority of seeking truth about the natural world based on research quality and the ability to support a claim using evidence and logic. Those values have nothing to do with race and gender.
It’s just like leftists to point to the wrong problem and propose the wrong solution. For every injustice committed under the imperial period, one can find benefits; it’s a complex picture. The British Empire brought some western values of education and self-determination to some countries such as India, helping end evil practices like suttee and offering education to those oppressed in the caste system. Trade expanded, and jobs were created for local people. Doors were opened for Christian missionaries who brought the light of the gospel to people oppressed by witch doctors and who superstitiously lived in fear of evil spirits. This is not to minimize evils that were committed by some empires; read about the Darwin-inspired Herero and Nama genocides as examples of particularly egregious horrors committed by German colonists (AnswersinGenesis). But some Africans enslaved other Africans, too. Imperialism has been a fact of human history since Sargon I of Akkad. The truth is, every nation is capable of great evil, because all human beings (as sons of Adam and daughters of Eve) are sinners.
The solution is not self-flagellation over past sins that today’s scientists did not participate in. The solution is to spread freedom. Instead of pulling Europeans down, lift everybody up. Encourage constitutional republics, the rule of law, private property, fair voting and education for all. There is no reason in the world that Haitians or Somalians, as members of the human race, could not be among the world’s leading scientists. What holds them back is not racism and colonialism. What impoverishes them is tyranny, corruption, and superstition. In many cases, it is tyrannical religions that keep commoners enslaved to false beliefs. Some religions exalt isolation from all thoughts, or scarring and punishing the body, in a vain hope of attaining a state of nothingness. Obviously, such beliefs are not conducive to scientific investigation of the world. It was the spread of Christianity in Europe that gave birth to modern science. In the roll call of the world’s greatest scientists, a large majority were Christians or at least respected the Bible and its values (see list).
Leftists in the “Woke” movement, like communists, are making things worse by punishing success and promoting victimization. The result of their brand of “fairness” is polarization; equity would be achieved when everybody is equally poor and equally miserable, except for the pigs, because some animals are more equal than others. Raja and his ilk will not improve science; they will tear it down. Science needs Christianity in two ways: (1) to rescue scientists individually and personally from the darkness of sin so the indwelling Holy Spirit can lead them to holiness, and (2) to promote righteousness collectively toward a society that values truth, knowledge and wisdom. Those results could “lift all ships” by promoting godly families and encouraging education in righteousness and truth. Those results are available to “all tribes and peoples and languages” on the earth (Revelation 7:9-17). The Bible instructs us, however, that the Great Liar is working overtime to deceive the nations (Revelation 12:9). Since his doom is assured (Revelation 20:10), we can choose to be on the right side of history (Revelation 21-22).