Plagiarism by ex-president of the Royal Society. 3: Lessons for decolonisation of math

So, what are the lessons for decolonisation from part 1 and part 2?

Lesson 1. Do not blindly trust Western/White authority. Fight to reject any system which forces such trust.

If the editor of the most prominent math journal (Notices of the AMS) can act so shamelessly in such a public case, just imagine what mischief an editor can do in secret. Yet our whole academic system forces academics to trust editors. University academics are required to submit papers to editors and get their certificates of approval through a secretive process of refereeing. This system of valuing only publication in secretively refereed “trusted” and “authoritative” journals, whose ranking strongly correlates with their degree of Westernization, turns university academics across the world into slaves of the West. For their career advancement they are forced to keep Western authority happy. This is particularly the case in formal mathematics, where authority is the sole guide to truth.

With such secretive editorial control over what constitutes valid knowledge, no serious critique of colonial knowledge is possible. For example, the racist editor of the Conversation censored my article on decolonising math, after it was published and went viral. (For more details see “Mathematics and censorship“, Journal of Black Studies, and Rhodes Must Fall.) Her stupid excuse was that (as a non-White) I am not allowed to cite original ideas from my own published work, but must only repeat White/Western falsehoods. It is strange that so many news portals across the world, which first reproduced my article, believed that excuse, and pulled down my article.

That editor’s idea of a proper article was one which began with the fake history that “mathematics…is the work of dead white men”, and hence blacks and women are bad at math. The recommendation “imitate the West/Whites”. This way of using fake history to demand imitation of the West was the strategy of colonisation, and that is being now passed off as a strategy of decolonisation.

Reject this system of thought control. Refuse to be guided by such editors. As stated in Ending Academic Imperialism, in this digital age, there is a very easy alternative in the form of post-publication public review. (That would diminish colonial power of thought control, which is exactly what the decolonial activist wants.)

Lesson 2. Colonial authority is built on false myths of supremacy, just as racist authority was built on the false myth of racist supremacy. Tear it down by demanding evidence for those myths.

Much colonial power is based on lies propagated through colonial education. To teach the intellectual supremacy of the coloniser, math texts tell all sorts of glorious but false tales of White/Western/ colonial achievements in math, such as those of early Greeks such “Euclid”, “Archimedes” etc. for which there is no serious evidence. (See the drafts of these lectures. “Not out of Greece”, delivered at the University of South Africa, Pretoria.) The Greeks and Romans knew little math little math as shown by their defective calendar, copied, like their gods,  from Egyptians.

Challenge that false claim of Western intellectual supremacy by repeatedly pointing out the falsehood of these myths. Demand solid evidence, as I did through my Euclid challenge prize mentioned also in my censored article. And keep pointing out the falsehood of those myths for at least a century to drive home the point.

Apart from the early Greeks, in “official history, scientific discoveries are mostly attributed to post-renaissance Europeans. Atiyah is hardly the sole case where brazen theft has been passed off as “independent rediscovery”. As regards post-renaissance “discoveries” in science there are numerous fraud cases of people glorified on the strength of such “independent rediscovery” just when dependent discovery was possible. This includes cases such as Copernicus, or Newton’s purported invention of calculus, as described in my books Is Science Western in Origin? (Multiversity etc., 2009, 2014) and more elaborately in Cultural Foundations of Mathematics (Pearson Longman, 2007)

First, the simple remedy is this: the onus of proof must be on the one who claims independent rediscovery or glorifies it. This principle must be applied especially to fake Western heroes. Second, there is no reason to continue to give credit to the one who claimed the idea at a later date. Give credit only to the one who did it earlier. Thomas Kuhn in his Copernican Revolution (1956) brazenly continued to glorify the “second discoverer}, Copernicus, AFTER he was exposed in 1952 by Kennedy as having copied from Ibn Shatir. Was Kuhn such a bad researcher that he didn’t know about Copernicus’ exposure? (When I ask this question in my decolonised course on history and philosophy of science, all students opine that Kuhn tried and succeeded in a cover-up.)

Keep in mind the trick of “Atiyah’s hypothesis”: that most people go by nomenclature, not facts. Hence, insist on large-scale changes in nomenclature in history books to reflect this principle, that the numerous second discoverer’s cannot cannot continue to be credited, and delete the names of people who have been fraudulently credited with ideas on the strength of “independent rediscovery”. Smashing fake Western icons, and the related claim of intellectual superiority, by speaking the truth, would expose the true face of colonialism, and greatly diminish its continuing power.

Lesson 3. Beware of the counter-reaction when editorial authority and false myths are challenged.

Colonial power was based on lies, like the power of the church. The church developed a systematic technique of preserving its lies, and the West continues to use it. The stock technique is to demonise all those who challenge its authority . That is, the simple trick is to preserve fake heroes by painting any challenger as a villain, through further lies.

This technique of creating fake villains works exactly the way witches and heretics were demonised by the church. To reiterate, American wealth was built on theft of land (from the “Red Indians” who were all killed) and  theft of labour (from black Africans who were brutally enslaved). But instead of condemning genocide and slavery, genocide and slavery were extolled for centuries as a high moral acts, and supported by copious references to the Bible. The thieves were glorified, and it was the “Red Indians” and blacks who were (and are) demonised to this day, as in “Western” (cowboy) stories. Blacks continue to suffer from the resulting prejudices, as is still evident in biased police action against blacks in the US. Something similar happened in post-apartheid Africa. Those like Mugabe were demonised for demanding some reparation through land redistribution back to blacks, not the proponents of apartheid who continue to enjoy their ill-gotten wealth. It was this sense of “righteous” racism, advocated also by top Western philosophers like Kant, etc., which generated the lynch mobs in the US, after the declaration of emancipation.

So, what should one do to counter this method of maintaining lies through demonisation? Simple. First recognize when someone is being demonised. First ask: is that person doing something right which challenges White/Western/colonial authority? If so, immediately reject such post-colonial misguidance, whether academic or journalistic.

Since decolonisation concerns education one should also expect post-colonial academic lynch mobs, as in post-emancipation US. Thus, when I challenged the academics of the University of Cape Town to an intellectual debate on decolonisation, the still dominant White academics in UCT felt threatened. They were intellectually too feeble to respond to even a single one of my substantive points. See the advance summary here, the presentation (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3) and the videos of the discussion here, here, and here.)

Therefore, some academics of the University of Cape Town took the easy way out and did what they were able to do: they systematically spread the canard that I was a conspiracy theorist. No one bothered even to specify what the conspiracy theory was: presumably they were referring to the theory Atiyah plagiarised. Hilarious isn’t it: the world’s supposedly top mathematician caught repeatedly plagiarising from an alleged conspiracy theorist! But racist nitwits who were stupid enough to believe in the silly dogma of apartheid for so long can believe anything. I will have a lot more to say on this in a forthcoming blog.

Meanwhile, note how Western journalists are spreading that canard. Lewton, a journalist from Kenya, repeated this slander against me for the US-based Undark magazine, again without verifying facts. (And why did Undark editors, not demand that facts be checked?) Haensch too cites this, neglecting facts to add her own little bit to that academic lynch mob. Little by little, after a couple of decades, the West will claim I was the villain and Atiyah the hero!

Decolonisation practitioners must learn to contest this demonisation of all opponents of colonialism. How?

The opponents of decolonisation have only lies to tell, whether about heroes or villains. Hence, the decolonisation formula is simple: focus on the facts. Just check, check, and cross-check the facts and arguments. Don’t ever trust the West/Whites one inch, for so much of their power is built on lies. Cross out every last story (there are thousands of mutually supporting stories) for which you have no solid evidence (or evidence only from Wikipedia). Cross out every last empty adjective used to supplement a lack of facts. And you will see that nothing remains!

And, even if you are ignorant of math, never consult a formal mathematician privately for an opinion about the decolonisation of math. Ask them first to respond publicly to the substantive critique of formal math. Ask them to respond even to my decade-old Euclid challenge prize, that Euclid existed, was a white-skinned man, as depicted, in our school texts (and not a black woman) or that there is a single pure deductive proof in the book attributed to him. And, if the formal mathematicians dodge, and merely engage in personal attacks, and mouth more lies, or try to pass off the opinion of authority as facts, take it as a sure sign of their total intellectual defeat.

Decolonisation activists: if you take these simple lessons to heart, decolonisation will surely triumph, including decolonisation of math. Millions of children will be saved from the torture of useless formal math that is inflicted on them today. Future generations will forever thank you.

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