Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Colloquium about Mauna Kea controvery at Yale

I have been working with Tracy Leavelle at Creighton University on the controversy over telescopes on top of Mauna Kea, Hawaii. This topic adds variety to the usual science and religion debates. I will be giving a colloquium on this controversy at Yale astronomy department this coming Thursday (11/13) at 2pm. If you are in the area and are interested in the talk, here is the title and the abstract:

Colliding Cosmologies on top of Mauna Kea

In recent times, science & religion have often been framed either as in conflict (much popularized by John Draper and Andrew White in the late 19th century) or as Stephen Jay Gould’s two separate but non-overlapping Magestaria (NOMA). Such discussions usually center on world religions (mostly of Abrahamic tradition) and on the authority to explain questions about our origins. The controversy over telescopes on Mauna Kea, however, is a departure from these standard narratives. The conflict, instead, pitches astronomers who need the mountain-top to better understand the nature of the cosmos, against an indigenous culture, whose cosmology and origin mythology are intimately linked to the top of the mountain – deemed so sacred that only priests are allowed to go to the top. The acceptance of one perspective necessarily comes at the cost of another. There have been ongoing negotiations between the major stakeholders – but how do we put value on science and culture/religion? What is the cost of compromise – both for astronomers and for the native Hawaiians? I will present an analysis of the conflict and place it in the larger context of contemporary science & religion debates.