'Self-Serving Propagandist' Should Respect Academic Research

Cape Times (South Africa), September 3, 2007 | Go to article overview

'Self-Serving Propagandist' Should Respect Academic Research


Not surprisingly, Cyril Hromnik missed the object of my article "How metals were worked long before the industrial revolution - discovering Africa's age-old iron smelting secrets" (July 6) in his letter "Cheap propaganda"(July 17).

My piece discussed the extractive processes involved in indigenous iron smelting and contrasted them with modern methods.

This was based on research combining archaeology, pyrometallurgy and material science.

Not believing in and not understanding science, Hromnik translated what I wrote into something which tickles his fancy.

He proceeded to use his invented fantasies to criticise my article and academia in general.

The main point which Hromnik missed is that the "technological secrets" I was referring to include the raw materials used, conditions of operation in the furnaces and the skills of the smelters in manipulating redox conditions, among others.

Because these processes were not documented, this information is obtained by analysing iron smelting remains, such as slag, using standard scientific techniques such as Scanning Electron Microscopy and X-ray Fluorescence Spectrometry.

Surely, dismissing the results of such research as "transparently false, self-serving, academically fabricated and grossly exaggerated claims" shows Hromnik's misunderstanding of not only my article but science and academia as well.

Informed readers should judge for themselves but Hromnik has no right whatsoever to verbally abuse those who believe in science and academia. …

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