Mauna Kea, NAGPRA, and science’s “turn back toward the dark ages”

Now this is welcome: the New York Times (via Ronald Bailey) has a column by George Johnson jumping off from the question of whether locating a giant telescope on Mauna Kea would unfairly desecrate the religious and ancestral heritage of (some) native Hawaiians. Johnson notes:

While biblical creationists opposing the teaching of evolution have been turned back in case after case, American Indian tribes have succeeded in using their own religious beliefs and a federal law called the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act to empty archaeological museums of ancestral bones — including ones so ancient that they have no demonstrable connection to the tribe demanding their reburial. The most radical among them refuse to bow to a science they don’t consider their own. A few even share a disbelief in evolution, professing to take literally old myths in which the first people crawled out of a hole in the ground.

In this turn back toward the dark ages, it is not just skeletal remains that are being surrendered. Under the federal law, many ceremonial artifacts are also up for grabs. While some archaeologists lament the loss of scientific information, Indian creationism is tolerated out of a sense of guilt over past wrongdoings.

Even some scientists bow and go along in the spirit of reparations, while admitting the loss to human inquiry and future knowledge. Earlier on NAGPRA and the Kennewick Man controversy here, here, etc.


  • I think you wrote “reparations” where you meant “repatriations”.

  • Although “repatriations” might seem like the likely word, the scientist quoted in the NYT piece was using “reparations” and that makes sense in context: the sacrifice being demanded goes beyond particular tangible items of real or personal property once held by the tribes.

  • No, I think he meant “reparations”, in the sense of making amends for past wrongs.

  • Confirmation is now a science. Only a confirmation denier could say otherwise.

  • The 3rd Circuit ruled on a NAGPRA case today

  • Our party rulers only like “science” when it is used to cudgel Christianity. otherwise, “science’ gives way to anti-white obscurantism and worship of primitive tribal cults.