Cultural Reverence vs. The Scientific Good

This post is a response to an article in the┬áJune 27th – July 3rd issue of New Scientist Magazine

(No3027), page 17 “DNA cracks case of Kennewick Man”


Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act

Q. When do the benefits of scientific discovery and inquiry supersede cultural tradition?

Q. When does the possibility of the discovery of something that could prove to be beneficial to the majority lose out to the cultural or pseudo religious practices of the minority and the federal law that protects it.

As it happens, this particular find turned out to be closer to what the Native Americans thought it to be. A fact that could only have been verified via scientific scrutiny. But what if the initial indications had proved true–that it wasn’t even likely Native American? You have to leave the possibilities of what even greater possibilities the relic could have held, to the experts, but surely even a layman can see the benefit of at least categorizing it and confirming it as the 8500 year old specimen it was, is of greater import than blind reverence to sacred tradition and federal law, for that matter.

Also, are certain cultures given an inordinate amount of reverence as an overreactive response to past atrocities committed against them? I can think of one that clearly isn’t.

Native American culture seems to gets a “mystical pass” for this reason, but also rightfully so because a lot of their cultural practices have at their core a respect and reverence for nature. Sure the practicality at the base of their way of life can be easily evidenced in things like reverence for animals and sustainable practices regarding the land that supports them, but one has to admit that there is a certain “woo” factor involved with their ceremonies and traditions. For instance, one can be pretty sure no rain dance has ever actually caused the flow of precipitous torrents of h20 from the sky. It’s nothing more than a signaling. A prayer.

With all the recent debate regarding the church’s tax-exempt status, is it just a matter of time before scientific inquiry, tempered with respect for cultural tradition, takes priority.

Diversion of tax dollars toward inquiry that can lead to discoveries that benefit humanity as a whole, from anti-equimenical sectarian institutions whose charge is the promotion of antiquated dogma that has all but ceased looking for answers to the perplexities of the human condition, would seems to be money better spent.