Religion Versus Science in Hawaii — Update

A few months ago we wrote Religion May Defeat Science in Hawaii, which is all about native Hawaiian opposition to construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope atop Mauna Kea, a site scientists believe to be ideal because of its remote and sheltered position, nestled in the crater of a dormant volcano.

The natives believe the telescope site is sacred because that’s where their creation story begins. Unfortunately for them, according to Wikipedia:

[Mauna Kea] is one of the best sites in the world for astronomical observation. Since the creation of an access road in 1964, thirteen telescopes funded by eleven countries have been constructed at the summit.

The natives regard the Thirty Meter Telescope to be the ultimate insult, and they’ve been protesting and litigating its construction. It’s a classic conflict between science and Oogity Boogity. How dare those scientists defile a holy mountain with their Satanic instruments?

One question occurs to us which is never mentioned — who owns Mauna Kea? Ah, that’s the problem. It appears to be owned by the state of Hawaii, and its use is controlled by some kind of governmental agency — Mauna Kea Science Reserve Master Plan. It’s not surprising that things are confused.

So how’s the controversy going? We found a brief article on the situation at PhysOrg: After 44 days, hearings end for giant telescope in Hawaii.

Forty-four days? That’s longer than the Kitzmiller trial! What were they talking about all that time? Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis:

Long-running hearings for whether a giant telescope can be built atop a Hawaii mountain have wrapped up. State Department of Land and Natural Resources spokesman Dan Dennison says testimony ended Thursday after 71 people testified over 44 days on the Big Island. The hearings officer will recommend whether the land board should grant a construction permit for the Thirty Meter Telescope on Mauna Kea.

M’god — 71 witnesses! Then we’re told:

Testifiers included Native Hawaiians who believe the project will harm cultural practices and Native Hawaiians who believe it will provide educational opportunities. The state says it spent $225,000 on the hearings.

That’s not too much to pay for 44 days of babbling. This is the rest of the article:

This round of contested-case hearings is necessary after the state Supreme Court invalidated an earlier permit issued by the board. Telescope officials plan to build in the Canary Islands if they can’t build in Hawaii.

So there you are. We’re left in suspense. Will the infernal instrument be built on the holy mountain, or will the natives prevail? If the mountain were privately owned, the decision would be up to the owners. But in this case the owner is the state, and its functionaries have the impossible task of making everyone happy while clinging to their jobs. Whatever they decide will probably be appealed. Isn’t this fun?

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11 responses to “Religion Versus Science in Hawaii — Update

  1. My Take! This BS as sacred does not exist as a thing! It is make believe for people who think(?) they are adults. There is NO religion worth respecting!!

  2. James Bolton Theuer

    This doesn’t look good. As far as I know, native creationism is the only variety to have been supported in the US legal system within the past 60 years or so. http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CJ/CJ311.html
    NIMBYism plus native creationism might be unbeatable.

  3. Interesting enigma.
    Block the telescope based on native religious claims is deemed negative and blocks scientific progress and observations of the universe.
    Block the Dakota pipeline on native religious claims is deemed positive as the pipeline endangers happy hunting grounds and water sources.
    Block the continued study of Kennewick man and bury a treasure of ancient man for religious reasons where continued study could help understand man’s migration to the NA continent.
    And so on.

  4. I disagree, this is not classic Oogity Boogity. Creationists want to push their Oogity Boogity on the rest of us, while this is a matter of native beliefs and rights. I wish there could be a happy compromise, but given the abuse of the past I can understand how the native might be reluctant to cooperate.

  5. James Bolton Theuer

    @TomatoAddict they’re pushing it ‘on the rest of us’ by impeding research. Creationist classroom antics can be countered by using the internet or a library to learn the truth later, but if they impede research then there is no information to access. It’s really a worse situation. ‘Native beliefs’ who cares? Their history is completely irrelevant to whether or not some fairy lives on the mountain, unless you’d like to rationalize Israel’s existence as well. They’re resentful, marginalized people getting attention the only way they can. Like children throwing a tantrum.

  6. A legal case in 1988 was decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in favor of a project and against minority religious rights:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lyng_v._Northwest_Indian_Cemetery_Protective_Ass'n

    There’s no telling if that decision would be reached in our current political climate.

  7. Also note that this is a replay of what happened immediately prior to when the two Keck telescopes were trying to be built. Naïve opposition due to the mountain top being a “sacred” site. If only the supremely superstitious could get their gods to testify in court this could be quickly resolved …

  8. Naïve ==> native, but it also works as is.

  9. Ross Cameron

    Bit hypocritical to follow ancient (?) beliefs while benefiting from science like medicine, surgery, technology, etc. Yes, even astronomy has spin-offs that reward all.

  10. Hopefully it gets built, and I suspect it will. The native claim is absurd, especially since the whole peak is full of telescopes. The law says before they get the permit there will be a hearing, they got their hearing. Oh your gods live up there? Don’t pee on my leg and tell me its raining! Yes it is that absurd, and days of listening to the superstitious concerns won’t change the fact they aren’t compelling in the least.
    I like Zetopan’s notion of the gods being silent. If they were displeased could they perhaps make the volcano shake? Open a crack in the earth and destroy them with lava? Well even for a GOD that is hard!…how about the bane of every new telescope purchaser? Just send in the clouds!

  11. There is a segment of Hawaiian society that remains resentful and angry
    about western culture’s arrival in the 18th century and its eventual overturning of the traditional order. This included the removal of the Hawaiian
    monarch and the marginalizing of native peoples by those forces.
    Is the push back a function of something other than resentment and anti science bias. I grant you that these groups are not going to be at the forefront of science and progress to begin with however one wonders if they are expressing societal views rather than hatred for science.
    This complication of societal tradition is one I don’t know how to separate from fundamentalist christian disdain for established sciences.