Separating Facts from Values

One critic charges that Western Science separates facts from values. The provenance of science is to define the facts, while “politicians and moralists” are left to define values.

Problem is, according to Bruno Latour, you cannot distinguish facts from values, or the rational from the irrational.

The head-scratching moment from Latour’s prose resonates with American Indian science and traditional ways-of-knowing. One observer, writing in 1866, noted that the Sioux accepted the Divine Being without question or cynicism.

“The Indian…has no spirit of propagandism because he cannot conceive of that infidelity which denies a supernatural control of human destiny.” In other words, life without a Divine Being is inconceivable. Equally inconceivable is the notion that subterfuge or stealth would cleave to religion.

Writers such as Henry Carrington, a colonel in the US Army in the 1800s, described the indigenous people as simple and savage, yet capable of being civilized.

But the irony was never lost of Carrington, who wrote that the so-called “civilized invaders” of North America “trampled on treaties” and “abjured faith” with the Indian.

The facts, Carrington writes, are laden with values. Progress would take no prisoners: “The Indian…is in the iron grip of the advancing empire and will be hurled aside in its progress.”

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About Cynthia Coleman Emery

Professor and researcher at Portland State University who studies science communication, particularly issues that impact American Indians. She is enrolled with the Osage tribe.
This entry was posted in authenticity, Indian, Lakota, Native Science, science, science communication, Uncategorized, writing and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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