Science buffs warned not to transgress local belief
Published on: Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Kota Kinabalu: The Prime Minister's Science Adviser Tan Sri Professor Dr Zakri Abdul Hamid has warned science buffs against transgressing local belief amid a science-customary debate on a rite planned to appease the spirits at Mount Kinabalu. "Science would have a neutral outlook. Science has no answer to that. If the mountain is sacred, we have to respect that," he told reporters, here.

"It is part of the traditional and local knowledge that are increasingly recognised by the international community," he added.

Many have blamed Friday's 5.9-magnitude earthquake on the act of desecration by 10 foreign climbers who stripped naked atop Mount Kinabalu sometime late May.

The earthquake claimed the lives of 18 climbers.

However, Dr Zakri felt there should be a place to examine and develop such practices hand-in-hand with science without dictating "what and how it should be done."

Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan on June 7 had proposed a traditional rite and ceremony to be held soon.

A Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas) academic has cautioned against superstition, saying "clearly, earthquakes are seismic events," while another Universiti Malaysia Sabah anthropologist said supernatural beliefs gain traction when inexplicable natural disasters occur.

Unimas Social Sciences Faculty Associate Professor Dr Andrew Aeria criticised Pairin for telling the media that a flock of swallows circling his home was a premonition.

"The earthquake has nothing to do with swallows and nothing to do with offensive tourists taking their clothes off.

"What on earth is he talking about? It was an earthquake," Aeria said.

"The fact that so many people believe what Pairin said shows us that our education system has failed.

"Instead of teaching science and rational thinking, society is reinforcing superstition and feudalism. And we talk about being developed?

"We are one of the most backward countries in South East Asia now," he was reported as saying.


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