Durham University asks professors to consider the race of mathematicians before trusting their work – JONATHAN TURLEY

We previously discussed from the perspective of the University of Rhode Island and the Director of Graduate Studies in History Erik Loomis that “science, statistics and technology are all inherently racist”. Others agreed with this view, including denouncing math as racist or a “tool of whiteness”. Now, as part of its “decolonization” efforts, Durham University is calling on professors in the math department to consider whether they are citing work by “predominantly white or male” mathematicians.

According to the Telegraph and college correction a guide tells faculty that “decolonizing the math curriculum means considering the cultural origins of the math concepts, goals, and notation we most commonly use.” He adds :

“[T]he question of whether we have allowed Western mathematicians to dominate our discipline is no less relevant than whether we have allowed Western authors to dominate the field of literature. It is perhaps even more important, if only because mathematics is rather more essential to the advancement of science than is literature.

Some professors objected to being asked to consider the race or gender of mathematicians rather than their underlying theories or formulas.

In the Telegraph article, Doug Stokes, professor of social sciences at the University of Exeter is quoted as saying that “[t]The idea behind the decolonization of mathematics is that because everyone should be considered equal, the status of their beliefs should also be equal. He denounces this view as “judgmental relativism is an inversion of science that is based on what is real rather than making everyone feel included”.

But not all ideas are created equal, especially math. Some literally don’t add up. Mathematics is inherently objective and based on demonstrable principles or theories. As I said earlier, it’s a shame to see mathematics treated as a privileged field when many of us see it as a field of pure intellectual pursuit and neutrality of prejudice. Either the calculation is there or it is not. The race of the mathematician will not change the result.

The Durham University guide insists that academics must not only consider which theories to apply, but also the race of theorists to “decolonize” mathematics. It does not indicate how a failure to do so will impact a professor’s retention or advancement at the university.

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