Sunday, 26 November 2017

Decolonizing mathematics at UCT -Part 1

Closing down and summarizing the Raju Affair

With regard to Raju’s “closet-racists” at UCT (whom I call the “Silenced majority”), some are just too frightened by Fallist thugs (like the perennially pardoned/registered Chumani Maxwele) to attempt to engage in public debate.  Others, are emeritus senior scientists or in-house funded younger researchers who fear that the UCT Executive will take away their privileges if they speak up. Others still, are senior professors with enough funds to ‘weather’ the Fallist storm until they reach retirement age.  But, sadly, many buy the Fallists’ false accusations that they are guilty racists, simply because they are ‘white’.  The older ones didn’t do enough to resist Apartheid while institutionally-racist UCT was “colluding” with Verwoerd/Vorster/Botha.  The younger ones, by hook or crook, still bask in pro-‘white-biased bounty from the government, UCT itself and the “white-monopoly” private sector while they humiliate ‘black’ students and deny ‘black’ academics ad hominem promotion.

Tragically, these colour-coded criminals, like Raju, either avoid reading well-documented history [e.g. mine for UCT - Was/Is the University of Cape Town (UCT) an institutionally colonialist/sexist/racist institution?  Parts 1 & 2 on my Blog Site –] or just change it to suit whatever power-based ”contextual” desire currently prevails.   The ‘truth’ (a dirty word at today’s embattled UCT) is that the old guys and gals resisted Apartheid peacefully, colluded with no one, and developed UCT into a world-class university capable of generating real “critical” thinkers and daring ‘do-ers’ needed to resuscitate South Africa, indeed the continent.  [On the downside, during the 1980s, they did evade educating poorly prepared ‘black’ students, leaving that to the failed/still-failing Academic Support/Development Programmes.]  Under the Saunders/Ramphele ‘hegemonies’, major adaptive institutional and curriculum-related change took place and racist acts were dealt with decisively and severely.  An excellent example of curriculum development is the decolonized, Afrocentric, affirmative-action M.Sc. Programme in Conservation Biology run by the FitzPatrick Institute within the Department of Biological Sciences.

Also during that period, the Faculties of Science, Health Science, Engineering and Commerce introduced and developed transparent and fair policies for ad hominem promotion that are applied equitably today.  That fact was confirmed at a well-attended meeting on 24 June 2017 by Director of the Next Generation Professoriate Programme, eminent educationalist Prof. Robert Morrell.  But, because of objections raised by pro-Fallists (especially members of UCT’s new, racialist, secret society, the Black Academic Caucus), Rob’s conclusions have been kept secret by the UCT Executive.
Raju is right when he states that decolonisation is about “critical rejection”.  But, his and Fallists’ “critical” stems not from rational debate, but from critical race theory that seeks power, regardless of the cost, for the self-identified oppressed rather than academic credibility. 

With regard to Raju’s question: “Is there a single salient point of mine anyone could argue against?”, Henri Laurie and Jeff Murugan did just that extensively, pretty much politely, at his seminar and in subsequent e-mails.  Indeed, all of UCT’s mathematical scientists, including two DVCs, refuse to endorse Raju’s ganita/zeroism alternative as a preferable way to do or teach mathematics.  I am informed by several of them that it has no academic foothold even in India.  Where are Raju’s great ganita-based research publications and who are his intellectual academic ‘offspring’ that might form a School of Ganita Mathematics anywhere on Earth, especially in the Third World? 

What respectable mathematic historians endorse his two most conclusions:
1.       there was no Euclid or Euclideans 300 years BCE and that Hypatia, a black woman, compiled The (‘proof-free’) Elements during the 4th c. CE and was raped and hanged; and
2.       Newton and Leibniz’s development of the calculus is little more than ganita hijacked in India by Jesuits and garnished in Europe with Christian metaphysics.
With regard to Euclid and The Elements, very little is known about the author(s), beyond the widely accepted conclusion (disputed by Raju) that she/he/they lived in Alexandria around 300 BCE.  The Elements is a compilation of theorems probably not developed/discovered by ‘Euclid’.  They were the work of earlier mathematicians (mainly Greeks): e.g. Pythagoras (and his school), Hippocrates of Chios, Theaetetus of Athens, and Eudoxus of Cnidos.  In The Elements, ‘Euclid’ arranged theorems in a logical manner (albeit not with the rigour of modern formal mathematics) so that they follow from simple axioms. The Elements is also credited with devising particularly ingenious proofs of previously discovered theorems: e.g., Theorem 48 in Book 1.

Hypatia, in all non-Raju references, is depicted as ‘white’ and described as the daughter of Theon, a Greek mathematician from whom she learned and developed mathematics.  Her major interests appear to have been in astronomy and Platonic philosophy.  Because she was an influential pagan who challenged the status quo, she was kidnapped by a mob of Christian monks who stripped and tortured her by scraping her skin off with tiles or oyster shells.  Then they dragged her through the streets until she died, ripped off her limbs and burned her.  Raju’s only ‘evidence’ that Hypatia was ‘black’ is that she may have been born in Egypt.

With regard to Newton, Leibniz and calculus, they ‘concocted’ it in parallel using markedly different strategies and notation.  If anyone hijacked it, it was Leibniz who benefitted from examination of Newton’s notes.  To say the least, they disliked and disparaged one another.  Indeed, the history of “Western” science is replete with similar less-than-professional behaviour.  For an excellent example of this, read David Hull’s Science as a Process that chronicles the ‘systematics wars’ that plagued evolutionary biology during the last four decades of the 20th Century.

To answer Raju’s question: “Did you or anyone else in UCT produce an iota of evidence or arguments against those statements? “, follow his advice and “just examine all the videos and also all the emails”.   Better still, go to UCT magnificent libraries and do your own research.  As film character ‘Dirty’ Harry Callaghan says: “Opinions are like assholes; everyone has got one”.

Raju concludes that: “The whole world is laughing at the closet racists, [charlatans, KKK types] of UCT who only understand medieval witch hunting tactics and the mob fascist tactics.”

Just who are “these people” that are the object of Raju’s, pro-Fallist (indeed the “whole world’s”) sniggering and smearing.

George earned his B.Sc. and Honours degrees at UCT and is a senior scholar and emeritus distinguished professor of complex systems in the Department of Mathematics and Applied Mathematics.  Although he has conducted ground-breaking, internationally acclaimed research on gravity and cosmology, he also has explored the essence of complexity and causation, especially how it relates to the brain and human behaviour. One might get some total sense of his work by reading On The Moral Nature of the universe: Cosmology, Theology, and Ethics, which has been translated into Russian and Chinese.

Ellis earned a PhD in Applied Mathematics at the University of Cambridge exploring inhomogeneous and anisotropic cosmologies and singularities and continued and expanded his research along these lines. This culminated in his co-authoring (with Stephen Hawking) The Large Scale Structure of Space-Time in 1973, now regarded (except by Raju) as a classic.
He is a founding member of the Academy of Science of South Africa, participated in the commission that recommended the construction of the Southern African Large Telescope, and served as a member of the task group responsible for drafting SA's Green Paper on Science and Technology.
He has published more than 500 (peer-reviewed – not opinion pieces) articles in the world’s top scientific journals (Nature, Physical Review and the Astrophysical Journal) and authored/co-authored 12 books and many more book chapters.  This led to his serving on the editorial boards of leading journals (Classical and Quantum Gravity and the Monthly Notes of the Royal Astronomical Society) and as editor-in-chief of General Relativity and Gravitation.
Locally, in 1984, Ellis was one of the few researchers awarded an A-rating by the National Research Foundation when it initiated its rating scheme. He is one of a less than handful of researchers that has retained an A-rating since then. 
He is a Fellow and Past President of the Royal Society of South Africa (RSSA), Founder Member and past Member of Council of Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf), Fellow of the Third World Academy of Science (TWAS), Past President of the International Society for General Relativity and Gravitation and Fellow of the University of Cape Town.   He earned more medals than were displayed on Idi Amin’s uniform, including the Star of South Africa Medal presented by President Nelson Mandela (1999), the Templeton Prize (presented in 2004 by Prince Philip at Buckingham Palace) and Order of Mapungubwe (Silver) conferred by President Thabo Mbeki (2006).

In recognition of his achievements as a formal mathematician, he was invited to speak at the Turing Centenary Conference in Manchester in June 2012.
His education/developmental publications include:
·         A view on the school maths syllabus. (CASME talk, 1995).
·         The Development of Quantitative Social Indicators. (Notes 2001).
·         South African Developmental Issues. SAIRR (Western Cape), 2001.
·         Science, technology and Humanity (for STIAS New Humanism Project).

Outside of academia, George is chairperson of Quaker Service (Cape), and serves on the board of the Association for Educational Transformation (ASSET). ELRUPhilaniNalibali, and The Little Hands Trust are other inspiring local organisations (I was on the Boards of ELRU and Philani for many years). I am an avid fan and supporter of the Pro Cantu Youth Choir.

Unlike me and most other UCT ‘Ivory Tower’ academics, at the height of Apartheid he would drive to the townships with his students to the aid of people assaulted by apartheid police officers, and hide black activists in his home to protect them from the police during the state of emergency.  He used a substantial amount of his R10 million Templeton Prize money to establish a scholarship fund to pay for talented young black students who couldn't afford to take up their offered places at UCT.

Jeff Murugan

Also a UCT grad, although he never ‘self-identifies’, associate prof. Jeff is a ‘black’ South African of Indian descent who was able to come to study at UCT because his parents initially ‘invested’ in him beyond their means.  Thereafter, he earned scholarships on academic merit.  More than anyone I know, he understands fully the horrendous effects of Apartheid.

Raju is correct when he ‘brands’ Jeff as one of George’s many prominent academic ‘offspring’.  But, Jeff is not an Ellis ‘clone’.  They have disagreed more about everything from black holes to the neuro-physics of the human brain than they have agreed, and even wrote a book about their arguments.  Although he asked me not to, I’ll quote one statement from his devastating critique of Raju: “From him [Ellis, not Raju] I learnt two things: always be curious and never compromise on your principles.” 

With regard to academic achievements, Jeff is currently, deputy head of department, president of the South African Gravity Society, a founding member of the South African Young Academy of Science, an Associate of the American Museum of Natural History (like me!), Vice-President of the BRICS Association of Gravity and Cosmology and a former member of the Institute for Advanced Study, the single most prestigious institution for theoretical research in the world. He has graduated 4 PhD students at UCT, two of whom are female and two of whom are black.  All have the most significant letters (other than B.Sc. and Ph.D.) after their names: JOB.  They have successfully competed for either faculty positions (University of Surrey, University of Khartoum and the Ecole Normal in Mauritius) or postdoctoral positions (WITS).

In 2020, his research group here at UCT will host the Strings 2020 annual conference, the single most prestigious meeting in his primary field of research.  Raju’s son was one of the organisers for the 2015 meeting held in India.  This is the first time it will be held in Africa, or for that matter the Southern Hemisphere.

Henri Laurie
I’ve known Henri for decades.  He is a coal-face educator who brilliantly taught my daughter mathematics she uses today in her job – salaried far beyond that of a UCT professor.   Henri’s main interest is using mathematics to sharpen debates in plant ecology. To that end, he has worked on pattern analysis, the effect of size distribution, lottery models for Cape fynbos, heuweltjies, projective geometry for human motion and spatial dynamics.  As his e-mails above indicate, he emphasizes the meaning of mathematical statements, and he cultivates enthusiasm for mathematics as a meaningful and therefore useful activity.

With regard to me and my laughable life, have a look at the following pieces (and others) in my Blog Site (

My (and my spouse’s) ‘white’ privilege

Races within modern humans are artificial, nefarious, perverse constructs

I close with questions to Raju and those who spent thousands of UCT’s limited Rands in promoting his ‘efforts’ to decolonize her.

Who’s honest and who’s laughing at whom?  To Max – is there any hope of your at least admonishing Raju for his latest defamation of the mathematicians?  Or, are they going to join me in being “left behind”?

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