Posts Tagged ‘Royal Society’

Plagiarism by ex-president of the Royal Society. 1: The facts

Friday, November 8th, 2019

Background: What the decolonisation activist should know

By way of background theory, decolonisation activists need to understand the following. Western wealth was initially built on the obvious theft of land (e.g. of “Red Indians” by killing them) and the theft of labour (of blacks by enslaving them) and forcing them to work on the land. However, colonial power was built on a lesser known and more intangible theft: the intellectual theft of knowledge. This intellectual theft was used to glorify the West by systematically creating fake intellectual heroes from early Greeks to the “renaissance” (see Is Science Western in Origin?). This self-glorification was then used (e.g. by Macaulay) to impose colonial education, the key and continuing source of colonial power. (See, Ending Academic Imperialism: a beginning.)

To dismantle continuing colonial power, decolonisation activists must understand two key ways of covering up intellectual theft. The first is to use the “doctrine of independent rediscovery”, to let off the intellectual thief, and, indeed, continue to give credit to him. The second is the systematic technique of demonisation, to attack the one whose idea is stolen. Recall, how, instead of condemning genocide, it was the “Red Indians” who were demonised e.g. through “Western” films and narratives of “cowboys and injuns”. Likewise, instead of condemning slavery, it was the blacks who were demonised, and continue to suffer from the resulting prejudice even after slavery and apartheid officially ended. That is, apart from creating fake heroes, the West also systematically creates fake villains by demonising all its opponents to make even genocide and slavery “morally righteous”.

The following should be regarded as a case study which explains how these tricks continue to be used today at the highest level of the most reputed Western academic organizations to perpetuate colonial power and academic imperialism.

Introduction

Recently, a blog post “Putting math in context” came to my notice. It “tangentially” links (a) decolonisation of math (in which I have been involved over the past decade) to (b) the brazen and repeated plagiarism of my earlier published mathematical work by a former President of the Royal Society, Sir Michael  Atiyah and (c) its cover-up by the American Mathematical Society (AMS). This post on the AMS official blog, is written by Anna Haensch, an Assistant Professor at Duquesne University, and former AMS-AAAS mass media fellow. Her job as a blogger is supposedly to improve the public understanding of science. But the post is misleading. It distorts facts. Since this is a matter of great public importance, the issues need to be clraified, especially in the context of attempts by racists and formal mathematicians to protect their power (and jobs) by derailing the effort to decolonise math.

My response is in three parts. (1) The facts, (2) the cover-up by the American Mathematical Society, and (3) the lessons for decolonisation.

Fact, not allegation

First, referring to my webpage on Atiyah’s  plagiarism of my work and its cover-up by the AMS, Haensch calls it an “allegation of intellectual theft”, and “a really wild ride”.

But, it is a FACT that Atiyah plagiarised my work. There is a public finding by an ethics body that Atiyah was prima facie guilty of plagiarism. This is the first entry on the Atiyah webpage:

Hence, this is today an established and cited case of plagiarism. There is a distinction between a convicted criminal and an alleged criminal! Journalists are required to respect facts, but Haensch does not. (Perhaps because she is also a formal mathematician. Formal math is divorced from empirical facts, and hence can reach any false conclusions through bad postulates. This is one good reason to decolonise math.) A formal mathematician can simply postulate that “fact=allegation”. :) How else does Haensch reduce the public finding of three experts of an ethics body to a mere allegation made by me? For she has not offered a single new fact, or argument. Her related journalistic trick of avoiding facts is “proof by adjectives”, to persuade people who are too lazy to check facts.

AMS belatedly acknowledged my prior work

The other fact is that even before the judgment by the ethics body, the Notices of AMS itself eventually admitted the similarity of my earlier published ideas to those falsely claimed by Atiyah. This is again stated on the Atiyah webpage:

Is the journal (the most widely read math journal) so abysmally lacking in standards that it published such an admission merely on the strength of a wild allegation? Haensch’s insinuation implies this!  Actually, the strong similarity with my ideas is indubitable, and anyone can cross check it: just use the links to various documents on my Atiyah  webpage.

To recall, I first linked functional differential equations to a paradigm shift in physics on the one hand, and to quantum mechanics on the other. This was published as part of a long series of journal articles later consolidated into a book, Time: Towards a Consistent Theory, Kluwer Academic, 1994. (Fundamental theories in Physics, vol. 65.) These novel ideas were exactly the one’s for which Atiyah dishonestly claimed credit in his AMS Einstein centenary lecture 2005 and in its report published in 2006. This was done in full knowledge of my past work.

Why a post-facto acknowledgement is NOT enough

OK, so why is the post-facto acknowledgement to my prior work not enough? (more…)