Wed 28 Apr 2021 9:49PM

How does science support colonial ideas?

D Danny Public Seen by 14

Why does this thread exist?


In the process of creating our first Mission Vision and Values document there was a lot of discussion. There was one particular digression that prompted me to extract it from the thread and instead put it here for further discussion.

It's not that the digression/conflict shouldn't happen in BwoB spaces. It's that it did not seem to advance any valid Objection to the Mission Vision Values. You will see I left some comments on that thread because indeed there could be something to gained from discussing Chirag's comments further, but I think it will need edits and further discussion. That thread is closed now but could be reopened if there is interest among members

The discussion was moved from the Mission Vision Values thread after a comment during the Objection Phase by Chirag which is repeated here for clarity. We did not make this change on the document:

Scientists could be replaced with science driven humans or even humans who think to be more inclusive and less inspired by colonialism


This is an example of a discussion that occurred very early in our time using Loomio and it provides an view into the thoughts of some community members as well as how a record of conflict can elicit useful ideas and may be useful to review in retrospect. In my view the discussion could have been improved in two main ways:

  • incorporated more views by a cleverly authored poll

  • a kinder tone allowing more time for personal reflection and responses

I am careful not to punish based on emotional reactions that we all have the capacity to feel. Instead, I advocate for some care in responses, and a recognition from all communicating parties that while we may elicit unpleasant emotions in each other, we should strive to not intentionally seek this type of response. Of course I will take action on any formal grievance that violates our code of conduct.

A generative perspective was communicated in the last comment before discussion petered out in July 2021 which (to my reading) provides advice on how to strategically position public communications as to not alienate folks with explicitly political discussion.

I still think it's useful to have a space where people can see this history and if interested engage in this type of discussion. But I will note that nobody has viewed the thread since it went silent so interest (or capacity for engaging with this) is low.

What should be posted in this thread?

This thread is to continue the discussion about science and colonialism. One can ask their questions here if they are curious as to what folks think of some scientific advances or BwoB policy through the lens of political philosophy and/or sociology. The FreeRads group and their website is a great resource for information around this type of thought. In particular I find this comic a nice introduction to some of the concepts that might be up for discussion here.


Yuriy Fazylov Sun 18 Apr 2021 7:32PM

😂 Let's split hairs down to atoms. “'Scientists' could be replaced with 'science driven humans' or even 'humans who think to be more inclusive and less inspired by colonialism'”

Humans? You know any other species for whom these outlines may not be written? In which case, why so speciest?

Humans as opposed to any other intelligent beings able to pick up a tool and perform scientific reasoning. Let's see. Pandemic? check. What sci-fi plot are we living in today? When did generalist term of “people” get disgusting? Being AI friendly? or waiting for ET to crawl out of the screen? “Science enthusiasts” maybe?

"Community" and "citizen scientists" are already nonconformist science terms. If you are going to add an image, add how sub categories of DIY and DIT scientists fit into super categories.

What colonialism? How exactly did colonialism inflict its pain on anyone alive today? Even when fighting the old you are still defining your fight with respect to it. How about you drop your inspiration and earn respect regardless of that crusade?

If there are codes of conduct on this forum, I haven't gotten any notifications about them.


Danny Sat 3 Jul 2021 2:22PM

Sorry this is so late. It occurs to me that you might not have seen the codes of conduct although I did comment here that they are posted to the group settings. I am adding them to this comment for good measure as well.


[deactivated account] Sun 18 Apr 2021 7:56PM

If you need these answers I can share them privately with you. From your response and where your view is on the matter a response here will not be of much value. If it is any food for thought, we have 8B people many of whom are scientists. New ideas could usher a golden age by elevating our enterprises to be more cooperative and reduce suffering by creating solutions instead of profit.


Yuriy Fazylov Sun 18 Apr 2021 8:50PM

“I can” doesn’t mean that I will. We could also redefine the dictionary in its entirety and have left mean the opposite just to stand for anti colonialism. Judging from the lack of any message, including private, no answer?


[deactivated account] Sun 18 Apr 2021 9:02PM

The biological context of colonialism as it impacts BwB today is that because the groups that perform science are so insular there is a lack of cohesion with other segments of society which is hurting everyone. This based on frameworks that were established and are cultivated for colony forming stability. We are no longer a CFU and have to continue the process of growing more cohesive (the garden of humanity).


[deactivated account] Sun 18 Apr 2021 9:23PM

I responded directly since you mentioned no response. Happy to discuss more but its my opinion only.



Yuriy Fazylov Mon 19 Apr 2021 1:15AM

Why so pessimistic? Why doesn’t your Food for thought satiate? Why did we go to biological context of colonialism? How does colonialism equate to colony forming units? How does it relate to 8 billion people? I am so confused. Why use “insular”? Putting science with wrong think? Who is hurting? The thing about colonialism is that it brought best parts of the world and strung them together. Hence the melting pot and diversity being the spice of life. Or are is the academic narrative moving past that now?


[deactivated account] Mon 19 Apr 2021 1:45AM

I am hopeful; depends on your appetite; everything is biology: 8B means something new is welcome; scientists are insular; wrong think?; the cattle are hurting; good point on brining the best profits of the world together.


Danny Mon 19 Apr 2021 5:23AM

Dropped two reactions:

  1. The heart because I think similarly. There might be a space for insular science but that's not what I want to build at BwoB

  2. The thumb's down because you missed Chirag's definition of CFU. Please take more time to understand the viewpoint of another before pushing for more answers to other topics. It will help keep these conversations more concise and directed. Please ensure you are making a good faith effort to understand when engaging another; bad faith lines of questioning are unacceptable to me. Question asked quickly in ignorance may sometimes lead to a interesting idea but the environment it creates is not something I am interested in cultivating.


Yuriy Fazylov Mon 19 Apr 2021 9:29AM

You are only as hopeful as those 8 billion people for whom you wait great surprises. An avalanche of people is also new but rarely welcome. For example genspace, in new place, was always bogged down with classes or community projects during which little of anything else could get done. I embrace "the more people there are, the less oxygen," concept.

@Danny We have a google doc for viewing, copying, and commenting. To declutter on prior draft, we moved to this site. We are moving to another site now to keep this place neat. Call me complacent, I wasn’t a fan of site hopping in Open Plant days. but I don’t feel like site hopping now either. A lot is lost in loss of context and confusion of what was left on each site.

You are right @Danny. I should have asked @chirag raval what CFU is. In my experience CFU is how I defined it. So @chirag raval, what is CFU and insular as you meant it?

@Danny, what do you mean by brake up lines?

@chirag raval I've spent some time with scientists a couple of weeks ago. It takes time for scientists to come up with a concept, fool proof it -design, build, test the ideas. From what I remembered about you, you are a bio-entrepreneur yourself. Not everyone is working on repurposing the old for new causes. Can you really blame others for being insular for wanting a payout or recognition? or not wanting to get scooped while they are still working on it? We are living in a materialistic world. No one canceled that yet.

I was trying to be constructive by simply asking two questions. Someone seems to have lost the point of my original questions and I went along appeasing their trolling. Why the use of “humans?” and what does “colonialism” have anything to do with BwoB, that document or, now that we spiraled out of control into 8 billion people at large, science in general? I can understand if English is not a first language. It’s the meandering way that that someone brought me to their own defeat is the thing that got me even more confused (still unsure of this). If you mean to plug something into the document, you should be able to be defending that argument in public, not just in private. This is a public organization after all. Again I ask, Humans as opposed to what? What parts of colonialism do you mean and you would like to retroactively downplay?

tisk tisk tisk - want to edit that yet? Sheep are herding together, not hurting.

I checked under the bell (I think notifications), still no notification about codes of conduct, @Danny


[deactivated account] Mon 19 Apr 2021 6:45PM

See monism. The goal was to be universal in approach to engage, represent and perception. Slack is better for these back and forths see you there and I will close. colony forming units. I am not ignoring your questions but there are too many to answer and not sure how to interact with your framework or tone.


Danny Mon 19 Apr 2021 5:19AM

Just posted them to the group settings. When I have some time tonight I will make a poll to alert everyone to the document.

Also Yuriy, I suggest you try to break up your lines of thought by separating those ideas that speak to different points into different comments to make it easier for people to follow. Loomio is so others can follow along with our ideas and we can come to a group decision about various issues. It's possible that there is not an appropriate thread for some ideas in which case I am more than happy to split off a comment to a separate thread.

Disagreement is allowed (and encouraged) but it should be building towards something. At least that's my current thinking about critical discussion.


Danny Wed 28 Apr 2021 9:50PM

To set some expectations because I sense a little tension which I would like to try and relieve: I do not expect community/members to have to teach each other about larger issues in society which contribute to inequality. But if both parties put in the time and energy to create that learning it would be wonderful. However, we must all recognize that proper teaching takes time and energy and ultimately my conception of Loomio is for decision making. So this may not be the proper forum for learning.

One of the responsibilities of learning falls on the student. If they are unable to receive information in a format that satisfies they are encouraged to seek additional resources. The will to have debate as a format for learning may not always exist for a specific topic. A relevant responsibility of the teacher is to provide quality information.

We all must consider each others' time as valuable and nuanced communication a difficult problem. However, I believe time spent learning how to craft a nuanced message is valuable. This is why I am a fan of this platform because it gives us the tools to write more carefully and seek context when we need it. As the organization grows we will have those who are not familiar with Loomio join and have adapt to this mode of communication. It would be nice to have our current community be fluent with the communication on this platform.

It may be that we aren't interested in this conversation, or perhaps uninterested in having this conversation on Loomio. In this case no problem. Perhaps someday others will look at what transpired and gain insight from this exchange that happened at BwoB. They may even decide to continue the conversation!


Danny Sat 3 Jul 2021 3:34AM

Found this post today @Yuriy Fazylov, it says that there is are large proportion of self-identified Caucasian members in a survey of makerspaces. It reminded me of some data (p39) you dug up about diversity in the biotech workforce. You claimed in those statistics it said that in the biotech workforce demographics in the USA were at, or near, or wanted to be at US demographics, but I would say that it shows that much work still remains to be done to align the demographics of the industry to the US as a whole.

I think a close reading of information I provided as well as p39 might be useful in thinking about how— when conceiving a community lab space—we have to be careful not to replicate the structural elements of community labs/makerspaces that have come before us. Of course I don't think that actions that improve diversity can in isolation change systemic problems but they are actions within our power to act on and contribute to a striving for a more just system.

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Yuriy Fazylov Sat 3 Jul 2021 7:25AM

Thank you for relaying that message.

@Danny shame on those Caucasians, I guess. They should have known better. It's time to identify anything but. Should have identified as Slavic.

What related predecessors? I am not feeling like finding a cure for polio today (not that BwoB is opening this year). I'm going to go feel Asian... get a taste of acupuncture, try out different menus.

Beads and quilts are a far cry from biotech. Even then a culture only makes these luxury items if they have the time to distinguish themselves from other locals. You have to admit that. How do you accelerate for equity? Take from one and give it to another? Make some noise about one race being inherently evil? I thought our focus should be on RFP. Why rock the boat with other causes? Got too much free time on your hands? I missed something on June tenth?

BTW, Was BwoB's new site looted from these people? down to the buttons? If it was, I like their contrasts better. Why are these people based in Baltimore? I thought Makers with credibility were based in SF-CA.


Danny Sat 3 Jul 2021 1:54PM

Do you identify as Caucasian? I sense some level of antagonism in this comment but I can't figure out where it's coming from so I am asking. As I previously stated about some of your posts there are too many ideas for a single comment here so I will try to respond in a list. Also note that not all of them are related to the thread.

  1. I don't know what related predecessors. Could you clarify this question?

  2. This paragraph of questions does not seem in good faith but rather meant to create an emotional reaction. I believe it is a pattern in your communications. Do you agree? Please refrain from this practice in this space (but I also recommend in other spaces too). Can you please restate what you are trying to communicate here.

  3. Not looted, convergent evolution maybe. When it comes to CSS and HTML, there is certainly a shared ancestor though so maybe that's what you're picking up on. But there are plenty of good ideas on that site to be inspired by (and yes I agree about the contrasts).


Yuriy Fazylov Mon 5 Jul 2021 9:22AM

I identify as two eyeballs. It wouldn’t help to identify as anything else. There is someone always feeling more superior weather it be a lack of pigment in the skin or hyperpigmentation of one. Having experienced supremacy from even outside those extremes, amusing as it was, not complaining about it or set up advocacy groups against it. Everyone is just a bearer of their own ideas.

  1. If you don't know “related predecessors,” then don’t mention it. Someone might misunderstand it, compounding the problem further. What did you mean by it?

  2. That which shall not be named. Which paragraph?

    • The acupuncture bit? I never imagined I'd fall asleep with needles sticking out of me.

    • The Asian bit? Oh come on. For all you know, I was born and raised in Central Asia. I’d call myself African or south American if I was born and/or raised on those continents.

    • Beads and quilts? I can see how it can be misunderstood, but no nothing emotionally invoking there.

  3. Ok


Danny Mon 5 Jul 2021 2:20PM

  1. Oh roger that. You made a separate comment so I was confused about the term itself, too. I searched the thread though and found it. It's edited now, hopefully that clarifies what I meant.

  2. Yes I am referring to the paragraph that starts was "Bead and quilts". You make a statement: "You have to admit that" and then ask a string of questions some of which are likely rhetorical that do not seem to be created to further your understanding rather to evoke an emotional response. Can you please clarify what you are trying to communicate in this paragraph? I am also curious as to if you agree that this is a pattern in communication you have previously engaged in on Loomio? Regardless, please try to avoid doing it in the future. Questions copied below for your reference:

    How do you accelerate for equity? Take from one and give it to another? Make some noise about one race being inherently evil? I thought our focus should be on RFP. Why rock the boat with other causes? Got too much free time on your hands? I missed something on June tenth?


jenliu3 Sat 3 Jul 2021 11:17AM

Just want to pop in to say that I appreciate the attempt to make a space for a discussion of science and colonialism here, and I wish I had more time to contribute, especially as such discussions are at the heart of my ongoing dei committee work here at Bennington College, and my work overall. However, it is disappointing to see it highjacked in this way (broad reactionary right wing talking points built on historical revisionist perspectives, driven by negative emotions rather than earnest intellectual engagement). Without any actionable codes of conduct, I wonder if it’s time to shut this thread down, so as to minimize the inbox bitterness and the fractiousness of this tiny group overall.


Danny Sat 3 Jul 2021 2:13PM

Thanks for your comment Jen! I appreciate your attention and thoughts on this matter.

Sorry if I haven't communicated the codes of of conduct correctly. I guess I thought that they were redundant to post in the thread given that they are on the group settings. I am posting them here and on the previous comment they might be important context for. I want to enforce them but I don't want to do so at the expense of the Mission Vision and Values but please be assured that I have them in mind when reading posts and I heavily weight the opinions of members who align with our Mission Vision and Values. I am not an experienced moderator but I am trying my best in this space. Please let me know if there is anything I could do better.

I am most upset about this inbox bitterness (because it has been previously communicated in not as eloquent a way to me). I am not ready to give up on this thread just yet (aka I am not ready to deem it hijacked and close it) but I would advise you or anyone else who is experiencing these feelings to email me or add me to an invite-only thread with this grievance and if required unsubscribe from the thread. I will make sure to let you know when I think the space is better.


Yuriy Fazylov Mon 5 Jul 2021 9:33AM

Good job on shutting down a conversation by pulling “right-wing” out. Not even close. And I’m going to have to borrow that one. Since when did “right wing” become an impairment? What brand of right wing rubs your world view the wrong way, Bushite, Trumpian? Any other?

I do agree with you on this topic, and that it shouldn’t be here, but not for the censorship though. Just so that its here to distract from the actual problem. We were even given Codes of Conduct. I finally saw it.

by the way @Danny To comment on how questionable a code of conducts that we have finally received is.
On “
Ask Questions First/When in doubt ask

  1. Who do I ask if the respondent I have chosen is not replying? What and where is the chain of respondents’ contacts? When is a good time to ask? (more to come)

I don’t see how experiencing cultures, or even taking on contrarian stance is right wing, if following common sense makes me that, great to have more parties to associate with.

What time is name dropping academic institutions (of which I have yet to hear) supposed to kick in or carve out my respect? Brick in the wall,. You mean you are probably getting paid herding the next generation to questionable ideas. Yes, spinning narratives and sloganeering, while getting paid earns my respect. I have yet to see value in its message though. Thank you for admitting you have a bias to contribute. At least it was honest of you.

Too bad time travel is not a thing. Would be interesting to test out just how much glory through victimhood, and demands tax on later generations should be tolerated in conversations such as this. Tweak history, it would also be interesting to see who does the actual revisionism. Fortune favors the bold, I guess.

Bitterness: yes, I have something I have yet to discuss with the management.


Danny Mon 5 Jul 2021 1:40PM

I interpret the code ofAsk Questions First/When in doubt ask” as as speaking towards they way in which we assume something of the ideas of others but may forget to ask for clarification before responding to the idea.

  • If the respondent you have chosen is not responding, then unfortunately that conversation may be over. A big part of the Codes of Conduct is to eliminate harassment but still allow for disagreement and the voicing of disagreement. Might be better to phrase your comment as "I disagree with ... because I believe ..." and leave it there. I would suggest not replying directly anymore and, if you are still interested in contributing to the thread, thinking about the context of the thread and how a new comment may continue or promote a different discussion. It's possible a thread might have mutually incompatible ideas, even ideas that are not aligned with the Mission Vision Values, but until a poll gains alignment on some issue (and even then it's only as strong as its quorum) then I am of the current opinion we can tolerate the disagreement.

  • I don't understand what you mean by the "chain of respondents' contacts". Please clarify.

  • I think the best time to ask is before you compose your reply to the comment/reply


[deactivated account] Sun 4 Jul 2021 6:10AM

what does equity look like? it doesn’t matter what it looks like. the superficial is precisely the problem with how we demonstrate value. equity feels/smells/tastes/sounds like an enterprise centered on supporting resiliency of thought and stability of purpose across all communities. beyond that general idea there is the hope we can eliminate pursuits which serve individual ascent (objectivism) at the expense of social cohesion and bonding. I love biology but life science has existed for millennia before printing press and english. this western MBA methodology market ends up as “eating its own”. I am even willing to say ecology is trumping colonialism out west where people are in the renaissance of returning to the wild and land. English is a language of discussion and debate. Truth is not a debate. Happy independence day. Equity Forever.


Yuriy Fazylov Mon 5 Jul 2021 9:43AM

Equity takes from those who can, warns those that could that the deck was stacked against them, thus they can’t (without external redistribution), and creates auxotrophs out of those that haven’t tried because they were given the end goal. Their subsequent generations will not thank you for it. Take it from what was an auxotroph and had to quit the field in which I was given a head start.
By generations I am not suggesting dynastic as much as turnover of long term users in BWOB.
Places like BwoB are multi-generational organizations because people will be replaced by newer people within the same decade.

To get back to my point, one cannot force cohesion in that format, even if you put an academic face (farce) and your organization’s documents in impartial intent.


Susan Harrington Sun 4 Jul 2021 3:14PM

My feeling about this is it's important to emphasize how individual initiative and innovative ideas can be lost in traditional lab settings (where the 'star' at the top gets the credit, even though they acted more as producers or figureheads and securers of funding), and indeed funding committees usually will select the more incremental and clearly achievable projects. Of course, many forms of discrimination play into this, and it's fine to mention that community labs can help find and recover this lost talent. But as a strategic point, please stay a million miles away from the jargon of sociology or political philosophy. Almost all scientists and possible supporters will be put off by this jargon since it is often clumsy when used to make sweeping statements, and it's often associated with ideologues. This language has also been demonized by its opponents. For example, there is clearly sexism in science, but I am 100% sure that talking about the patriarchy is not the most effective way to combat it. And not that I'd explicitly mention it, but I think that most scientists would recognize that, e.g, Chinese grad students and postdocs are used in a certain way that isn't fair (although to a lesser extent this also holds for grad students and postdocs in general), but if you emphasize colonialism or white privilege up front I think you will lose A LOT of people who are fundamentally on your side. We definitely want to sound as though we care much more about science than political philosophy or sociology and that we have a concrete and positive approach to a better or complementary way of pursuing science. Most people will have had experience with some kind of malfunctioning hierarchy and will sympathize with the 'little guy' trying to develop their ideas, especially if they face (even unintentional) discrimination.


Yuriy Fazylov Mon 5 Jul 2021 10:43AM

well put.