Nukes and North Korea

This was the final essay I wrote for my class.

The North Korean nuclear standoff is a complex political situation made worse by distrust and deception. North Korea does not trust the western powers and is willing to do anything to protect its regime. China supports North Korea because it wishes to maintain its economic relations, but it does not trust North Korea with nuclear weapons. The western powers do not trust North Korea to uphold any nuclear agreements, and their concerns are further motivated by North Korea’s denial of its human rights violations. This situation is best described by two opposing views of international relations. While North Korea and China are operating out of self-interest and a desire for power, the western powers are striving to maintain world order. However, even China is beginning to recognize the necessity of working with other countries to maintain peace. Thus, although North Korea is acting from a realist view, the overall situation is best described from the liberalist view.

North Korea’s main concern is self-protection. It feels threatened by the other countries who consistently question and challenge its authority, so it feels justified in its retention of missiles and nuclear weapons. “Kim Jong-il is trying to maintain the existing order, to strengthen his regime based on personal authority, and consolidate control of military forces with the goal of preventing an overthrow of the state” (Vorontsov). The country is certainly not operating out of an interest for the greater good of the global community or even its own citizens, so its leaders must be operating with the sole interest of obtaining power. The western powers are concerned that this interest will lead to a dangerous imbalance of power that will allow North Korea to begin threatening and dominating other countries. However, the response by the west – and particularly by the United States – does not seem to be helping the situation. “The [U.S. war]ships’ deployment angered North Korea, which said it proved Pyongyang was right to develop nuclear weapons to defend itself or use in a pre-emptive strike” (“Xi-Trump”). This is a clear example of a security dilemma; North Korea’s desire for self-protection threatens the western powers, and their response to the threat further encourages North Korea to defend itself. Yet there is no way to know what havoc the volatile country would wreak if there was no response to its actions, so the West does not seem to have any other option except to react against the threat in order to maintain the balance of power. This clearly demonstrates that North Korea’s struggle for power in its realist view is met by a liberal response from the western powers who wish to maintain stability in global politics.

China’s position in the North Korean conflict is rather complicated. It has historically operated from the realist perspective of self-interest, but has recently began recognizing the necessity of working with other powers to maintain the stability of the region. “[China’s] support for North Korea ensures a friendly nation on its northeastern border and provides a buffer between China and the democratic South, [… so] Beijing has consistently urged world powers not to push Pyongyang too hard, for fear of precipitating regime collapse and triggering dangerous military action” (Albert). For many years, China refused to do anything to jeopardize its relationship with North Korea because of the two countries’ strong economic ties. However, as the situation becomes worse and tensions increase, China is beginning to recognize that this advantage will be lost if the region falls into turmoil. As a result, “China has proposed North Korea suspend tests of missile and nuclear technology to ‘defuse a looming crisis.’ Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that in exchange, the US and South Korea could halt annual joint military drills, which consistently infuriate the North” (“China Calls”). China’s attempt to moderate negotiations between North Korea and the other world powers demonstrates that it recognizes the value of cooperation between countries. Although China is clearly still operating out of self-interest, it recognizes that the situation is not a zero-sum game, so the best way to help itself is to help the other powers as well. In this way, China is upholding the liberalist view.

China is now willing to work with the western powers to limit the strength of North Korea, but it is still not entirely willing to lose its economic ties. “Though Beijing, Seoul, and Washington agree that a denuclearized North Korea is a top priority, differences remain over how best to strip the country of its nuclear threat” (Albert). The western powers want to punish North Korea by cutting off economic ties, but China is reluctant to do so. This is likely because although China is beginning to embrace the liberalist view, it is still reluctant to give up the realist view. It realizes that stopping North Korea is in the best long-term interest of all countries involved, but it still does not want to be the one to temporarily lose in the process.

The main priority of the western countries involved is to prevent North Korea from doing anything brash. Their concerns are certainly justified based on the recent actions of the state. “North Korea’s government has continued its aggressive and erratic behavior, as demonstrated by recent military and cyber provocations, and continued efforts to develop nuclear weapons and long range missiles” (“Global Conflict”). Because of its refusal to work with other countries, world powers are reluctant to send aid to North Korea. “[T]he North’s provocative acts like the recent missile and nuclear tests are making it difficult for international aid groups to raise funds for the recovery” after a major flood (Cheol). The country will not allow workers to enter and offer their help, and there is a concern that any monetary aid given to the country will go to the government rather than the flood victims. As a solution, “The United States has pushed North Korea to irreversibly give up its nuclear weapons program in return for aid, diplomatic benefits, and normalization of relations” (Albert). However, it seems highly unlikely that the country will agree to such terms. North Korea clearly believes that the world operates on a zero-sum game, so it is not willing to do anything that might give another country an advantage and thereby diminish its own power.

North Korea’s strict adherence to the realist view of politics is arguably what has brought the other world powers together with a more liberalist view. Because of the horrific measures to which North Korea has gone to obtain its control, the other powers perhaps now realize that a selfish pursuit of power is not justifiable. North Korea has violated the international human rights law in numerous ways, and such actions are inexcusable. A report detailing North Korea’s human rights violations “documents ‘extermination,’ murder, enslavement, torture, rape and persecution on grounds of race, religion and gender [… and] also criticizes the political and security apparatus of the North Korean state, saying that it uses surveillance, fear, public executions and forced disappearances ‘to terrorize the population into submission’” (Mullany). To make matters worse, North Korea denies that these problems even exist, which stimulates further distrust in the country. When the country will not even admit to its internal atrocities, there is no way other countries can trust it to keep a promise to end all nuclear development. Then the only way to prevent a global disaster is for countries to band together against North Korea so that it does not dare to do anything brash.

Overall, the North Korean nuclear crisis is best understood through the liberalist view of politics. Although North Korea itself is operating from the realist view, the rest of the world powers have joined together in an effort to prevent North Korea from causing further damage. These countries are not fighting against each other for power; rather, they are working together in an effort to benefit the world community as a whole.

Works Cited

Albert, Eleanor. “The China–North Korea Relationship.” Council on Foreign Relations. Council on Foreign Relations, 26 Apr. 2017. Web. 06 May 2017.

Cheol, Lee Yeon. “Amid Nuclear Tensions, North Korea Struggles to Secure Flood Aid.” VOA. VOA, 27 Sept. 2016. Web. 07 May 2017.

“China Calls on N Korea to Suspend Missile and Nuclear Tests.” BBC News. BBC, 08 Mar. 2017. Web. 06 May 2017.

“Global Conflict Tracker.” Council on Foreign Relations. Council on Foreign Relations, 8 May 2017. Web. 08 May 2017.

Mullany, Gerry, and Nick Cumming-Bruce. “China Faults Report Blaming North Korean Leader for Atrocities.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 18 Feb. 2014. Web. 06 May 2017.

Vorontsov, Alexander V. “North Korea’s Military-First Policy: A Curse or a Blessing?”     Brookings. Brookings, 28 July 2016. Web. 06 May 2017.

“Xi-Trump Call: China Urges ‘peaceful’ North Korea Solution.” BBC News. BBC, 12 Apr. 2017. Web. 06 May 2017.

Hope for Honduran Campesinos

Again, this was written for a class. We read the book “Don’t be Afraid Gringo” by Elvia Alvarado and were asked to determine whether Alvarado could make a difference in the lives of the campesinos.

In “Don’t be Afraid Gringo,” Elvia Alvarado describes her efforts to combat the unjust treatment of poor Hondurans through organization of her fellow campesinos. There are many factors opposing her success, ranging from a lack of education to the corruption of the Honduran government, but she also has many supporters who are more than willing help fight for her cause. While their opponents are many, Alvarado and her supporters are certainly capable of reducing the inequality in the lives of campesinos.

Perhaps the greatest opposition Alvarado faces is the corrupt Honduran government. The Agrarian Reform Law was passed in order to return unused land to the campesinos. However, according to Alvarado, “The National Agrarian Institute, INA, is supposed to uphold the law… But that’s not what actually happens. While the 1975 law is a good law on paper, it’s not being put into practice” (68). As a result, the campesinos must take the law into their own hands. Rather than the government identifying unused land and turning it over to the campesinos, the people must find unused land themselves and make an appeal, which involves going through a lengthy legal process that usually results in years of delayed paperwork. When this happens, campesinos resort to performing “land recoveries,” which are always met with brutality from the landowners, who have the advantage of having the military on their side and being able to afford expensive lawyers (82). However, campesinos have strength in numbers. Although they must face military guns with just their machetes, are frequently jailed, and occasionally lose a comrade in the struggle, almost nothing can deter them from the fight. By banding together and refusing to back down, they are frequently able to obtain the land despite the vast odds against them.

Another major factor hindering the success of the campesinos is their lack of education. Whether or not they attend school, they are kept ignorant about their rights. Alvarado laments that even after obtaining a university education, “I’ve had students come to my house to ask me what the Agrarian Reform Law is all about, because they didn’t learn about it in school” (61). Furthermore, the government refuses to provide the campesinos with the proper technical assistance promised by the Agrarian Reform Law so they can farm their own land (77). The major companies insist that campesinos are not intelligent enough to manage a major farming business, yet the only reason why the they cannot manage on their own is because the government impedes any attempt for them to do so. Even if they do finally win land, the campesinos are often unable to farm it because they do not have any information about the land they are farming or the crop they are supposed to be raising. As a result, the land becomes nearly useless, and the campesinos simply go into more debt.

Fortunately, the campesinos do have support from some groups. One supporter of the campesino unions is the Christian Democratic Party, which offers courses that educate the campesinos about how to organize and fight against inequality (61). Some international groups also support the campesino movement, typically by sending boxes of food or clothing. Although Alvarado is insistent that this type of aid will not solve the problem, it does provide temporary relief while the campesinos fight for a more permanent solution. There are also many professionals such as lawyers and doctors who are willing to stand up for the campesinos, to defend and protect them despite the inevitable persecution they will suffer as a result. When this support is coupled with the organization of the campesino unions (at least, the ones that have not been bought out by the government), the campesinos have a force that can truly make a change.

The church is another source of both suppression and support for the campesinos. They were the first ones to begin organizing women, and they provided relatively safe places to meet and organize. For Alvarado, church was where she was taught to stand up for her rights and do something about her problems, and it encouraged her to become a leader and organize other campesinos as well (13). However, the church eventually stopped supporting the groups. Now many of the priests in the Catholic church do not care about the poor and teach that they should simply accept their lot in life, and many Evangelicals preach that it is a sin for campesinos to organize and fight against their oppressors (32). Yet despite such prevalence of false teaching in the church, not all church leaders have been corrupted; some continue to offer their support despite harsh consequences from the government. Furthermore, Alvarado believes that “the story of Christ proves we can make change if we fight hard enough and if we never lose faith in what we’re fighting for” (30). Jesus provides an example to the campesinos of how to fight for the rights of the poor, so they have a constant reminder that no matter what happens to them, they are suffering for a righteous cause, just as Jesus did. This gives the campesinos – and especially Alvarado – an incomparable amount of endurance, which in turn significantly increases their chance of success.

A different aspect of inequality in Alvarado’s life is that of gender inequality. For the most part, women are expected to stay in the house all day grinding corn and caring for children. They are generally viewed as unintelligent and only good for having babies, and men have the right to do anything they want to them. Furthermore, because there are so few jobs, men cannot find work and resort to drinking instead. Any money they might manage to make is squandered with drinks, then they frequently beat their wives when they return home (52). Unfortunately, this is the socially accepted standard way of life, so these problems are typically ignored. One of the greatest challenges Alvarado has with the male union leaders is that “they often don’t want their own wives to participate. They talk a good line about ‘the role of women,’ but when it comes to their women – well, that’s a different story” (90). However, the fact that these same men have great respect for Alvarado and are willing to work with her demonstrates that the situation is gradually beginning to change. With more and more women like Alvarado rising into leadership positions in the campesino unions, men are beginning gain a respect for women. And as men begin to have more respect for women, they will begin to treat women with more respect as well.

On her own, there is almost nothing Alvarado can do to lessen the inequality in her life. There are simply too many forces against her – the government, the landowners, and even the fact that she is a woman. However, this does not mean that there cannot be change. Elvia Alvarado is not alone in her struggle. She is united with her fellow campesinos through the unions, and their strength in numbers is powerful. The campesinos are anxious for change, and they are willing to work together to make it happen. They have nothing to lose, so there is nothing stopping them from fighting for their rights until they have finally won.

Living in the Kraettli Apartments

As I mentioned in the last post, I live in Kraettli Apartments. Kraettli is the super old university apartment complex across from Traditions East. The apartments certainly don’t look very nice, but they actually aren’t that bad. The rent is extremely cheap (which is what I like!), and the apartments are actually really big. I am fortunate enough to live in one of the more updated buildings (meaning I actually have a double sink in the kitchen and the walls were painted semi-recently), so I can’t complain much considering the cost.

The funny thing is, not very many American students live here. My neighbor across from me is American, but I don’t think I have seen any other American students here. Most people who live here seem to either be from Asia or the Middle East. I have also seen a couple of French people around before, but I think they might actually live in Traditions East. My roommate suggested that the reason why so many Asian and Middle Eastern students live here might be because of the difference in currency value. Since their currencies are not worth as much as the dollar, it is probably a lot harder to afford housing. In contrast, Americans probably don’t want to live here because it isn’t very stylish. I personally don’t see why curb appeal is so important when rent is so cheap, but I guess other people have different priorities.

Because of the large percentage of international students here, I am always surrounded by other cultures. It is always an adventure using the laundry facility because people often use the washers and dryers for non-traditional purposes, and you always have to check that the washer or dryer you want to use is actually clean.

I can also often smell the awesome food people are cooking, and it always makes me want to go eat at a good, authentic Chinese restaurant. Sometimes, though, people burn the oil they are using, and then the whole area smells like smoke for several hours. Often times, people actually cook with their doors open so that all the smoke can get out without setting off the fire alarm. One of my neighbors does that quite frequently. I have also seen some rather interesting things setting out in the courtyard. Over the summer, someone had hung some sort of food out to dry, and I could have sworn it looked like intestines. Someone kept going out to check on it, and I could smell that they were cooking something inside. The drying stuff certainly looked gross to me, but apparently they were pretty excited to eat it.

Kraettli really has quite a unique culture compared to most apartment complexes. A lot of families live here (I know at least three of my neighbors have young kids), but there are also a lot of people living here who are around my age. Everyone living here has to be attending OU because it is university housing, but unlike other university housing, there seems to be pretty even mix between undergraduate and graduate students. My neighbor next to me seems to throw a lot of parties, but it is pretty quiet other than that. It also seems like there is a lot more interaction between residents than in normal apartments because of all the different events and get-togethers that are held. It truly is just like living in a mini international community.

Living with a Chinese Major

As I have mentioned before, my roommate is a Chinese major. She is incredibly awesome at speaking Chinese, and she is always interacting with the Chinese students on campus. Then when she’s back at the apartment, her love for Chinese starts to rub off on me. Again as I have mentioned before, I don’t know any Chinese whatsoever, and I don’t exactly plan to learn it any time soon, but I can definitely still appreciate the Chinese culture. For one, my roommate cooks some pretty amazing Chinese cuisine, and I always love trying her new recipes she gets from her Chinese friends. She has also been introducing me to Chinese music. Sometimes she’ll run a playlist of Chinese songs while we’re cooking, and I’ve started to be able to sing along to some of them, even though I don’t really know what they are saying.

However, there is one thing that “annoys” me about my roommate… I’m the one studying French, yet she still meets more people from France than I do! She came back from Chinese Club one day and told me that a guy from France had shown up because he wanted to learn Chinese. Go figure. Plus, there is a French girl in one of her classes. I have never actually spoken with anyone from France here before, so I have to say that I am pretty jealous of her for that!

Goals for Abroad

Studying abroad is a great adventure, and a wonderfully intimidating one too. I have never left America before – in fact, I have only ever left the Midwest once. I have also never been on a plane, and I have never traveled any great distance without someone else in my company. Yes, going to a foreign country is a very scary thing indeed. And going to a foreign country that doesn’t speak my language is even scarier. Yet the adventurer inside me is just dying to go out and explore the world, so explore the world I will.

So, where will I go first? France. I can’t think of better way to begin my adventures than to go somewhere that does not speak English and to go entirely alone! Sound scary? Sure! Am I up for it? Of course! I have wanted to go to France for a very long time, so I am thrilled that I finally have the chance to go. Going to France will give me the opportunity to branch out and exercise my independence, and to stretch my communication skills. Honestly, the scariest part about going to France is the fact that I won’t always be around people who speak English. I am planning to go to the Vichy summer intensive French program, so I should hopefully still have some people around who speak English, but that is by no means guaranteed. And considering that I already have a hard time communicating in English, I am very worried about how I will possibly be able to communicate well in another language. But the experience will be good for me, and I know that I will certainly grow from it.

Why France? To study French of course. When I was little, my mom taught Spanish for a while, and both of my older siblings took Spanish in school. But I, in an effort to be different from my family, decided that I would rather learn French. That was honestly the only reason why I wanted to do it at first. My family learned Spanish, so I had to learn French because doing the same thing as everyone else would be boring. Then as I started learning French in high school, I realized that I had actually pick the right language to learn after all because French is a very common language to be spoken in the scientific fields, especially physics. After all, CERN (a giant particle accelerator… something that is super cool for physicists) is in Geneva, Switzerland, which both borders France and speaks French. So now I have two reasons for studying French: I can do something different from what my family did, and I can study a language that is useful in physics. It seems pretty perfect to me. Plus learning French has really helped with my communication skills in general. I am really not any good at expressing what I am trying to say in coherent sentences when I talk, and I am awful at thinking up answers on the spot. But somehow, learning another language has helped me overcome both problems, or at least to an extent. One of the most useful skills I have gained from learning another language is being able to “talking around the subject,” which basically means being able to describe what you are talking about even if you don’t know the word for it. Although I do use that in French quite often, I have found that I use it just as much in English as well. A lot of times while I am having a conversation, I will forget a certain word, so I have to “talk around it” until I remember what it is. It seems like a perfectly simple trick, but I never thought to use it before I started studying French.

Then where shall I go after that? England. In comparison to France, England seems like a much more comfortable place to study. For one, they (obviously) speak English there, which means that I will not have to try to overcome any language barrier. But going to England does present other challenges. I am planning to study there for a full academic year, which means that I will be away from home for far longer than I ever have before. On top of that, I will be studying at an actual English university (the University of Sheffield to be specific) with actual students from England. At least in France, I will be surrounded almost entirely by other international students, so I will be in the same boat as everyone else when it comes to knowing what to do. But when I am in England, almost all my classmates will be from England, so I will be the odd one out. That’s a little nerve wracking to me, knowing that I am going to be in an unfamiliar place and won’t necessarily be with other people in the same position as me. But the experience will be good for me, and I will again certainly learn from it. I suppose I will have to learn how to figure stuff out on my own eventually, so I might as well do it while I’m in a foreign country.

So why do I want to go to England so badly? Physics! Well, that and the fish and chips. Those are good too. But it’s mostly for the physics. I’ve already mentioned it quite a bit, but I really am extremely excited to be able to study in England. There will just be so much to learn, and so many new perspectives on the same topics I’ll have already been studying. Even though my trip is still a long way off, I am waiting in eager anticipation of what I might be able to accomplish there. If things work out the way I hope, and if I can really get some good connections through my professor who already graduated from there, then I should be able to do much more than the average exchange student could while I am there. What I really hope is that going abroad will improve my chances of being able to attend a good graduate school after college. It is a bit of a gamble because I am taking an extra year to graduate by studying abroad, but I am sure that the experience will be worth it. All in all, studying in England will be a wonderful opportunity for me to explore a new perspective, and that is what really matters to me.

International Students on Campus

It’s amazing how many international students you will see on campus. There are so many here that it’s hard to not run into one wherever you go. Whether you’re at work, in class, hanging out in the dorm lobby, or eating dinner in the cafeteria, you are almost always sure to see an international student around.

I work as a receptionist for the university’s pharmacy, and we frequently have international students use our services. Interestingly, of all the international students at OU, it is mostly the Asian and French students who use us the most. I rarely see people from any other part of Europe or from Latin-America, and I only see Middle-Eastern students on occasion. Maybe it is because that is where most of the international students are from, but I don’t know. It is simply an interesting trend.

In several of my classes, I am friends with some of the international students. One of the things they frequently mention is that the language barrier often makes it difficult to understand what is being asked. For instance, a problem in physics asked to find the force of a tow truck on another car. My friend didn’t know what a tow truck was, so he didn’t know how to answer the question even though he knew how to do the physics. They also frequently mention how much easier the classes are here than in their home countries. I have a friend in my engineering class who is from Israel, and she is always talking about how surprised she was that the class is so easy. She said she doesn’t even have to try to do well here, but back home she has to work really hard just to receive the equivalent of a C.

It’s kind of weird sometimes when you are in a public place and hear a group of people talking in another language. Many times, they speak in the other language because they don’t want others to know what they are saying. I was studying in the lobby of my dorm, and a group of people came in and started taking in Arabic nearby. I didn’t think much of it until they started glancing over at me frequently, as though they wanted to make sure I didn’t know what they were saying. Fortunately for them, I didn’t, but it kind of made me nervous knowing that they could say whatever they wanted in front of me, and I wouldn’t have a clue. So at that moment, I was really wishing I knew Arabic. But other times, it can be very amusing when you actually do know what they are saying. My brother worked for a drywall company for a while, and once when he was making a delivery to a job site, he saw a group of Mexican workers chatting and laughing nearby. My brother is very proficient in Spanish, so he actually knew what they were saying. They were laughing at him, and making fun of him for being a “white boy.” So my brother walked up to them and said to them, in Spanish, “this white boy knows what you’re saying” and walked off. My brother said they stopped talking after that. You never know if the people you are laughing at might actually know what you are saying.

Another place you can frequently see international students is in the cafeteria. It is interesting to see different people’s preferences to different types of food. Typically, the students will eat the food most similar to what they are used to, but then they always complain about how it is nothing like what they are used to. And if they do eat American food, they eat it the wrong way. Like eating french fries with forks and cutting sandwiches into bite-size pieces. But hey. There is always more than one way to eat each food. I mean, my roommate usually eat cheesecake with chopsticks! And honestly, it tastes better that way anyway.

Understanding Culture through Science

Culture – the way we are raised, the people who surround us – influences everything about us. It influences the way we act, the way we speak, and the way we think. Not one aspect of our lives can remain untouched by it.

Modern science has, in a sense, become a culture of its own that unites the individual cultures of those within. But despite this, each individual remains influenced by the culture around him. So a scientist in France is a part of the same scientific culture as a scientist in England, but the Frenchman is still influenced by French culture and the Englishman by English culture. As a result, the scientific culture can be somewhat turbulent when national cultures are at odds.

The purpose of science is to discover how (experimentally) and why (theoretically) the world works. There is very little disagreement between scientists about the proven facts of nature. Gravity exists (well, kind of) and makes stuff fall. Friction exists and makes stuff stop moving. The list goes on. But when scientists begin creating theories about how they believe the world should work, national cultures begin to be at odds. A good example of this is Greece versus Italy, Aristotle versus Galileo. Each scientist came to his conclusions based on his cultural preconceptions. Aristotle would have believed that the gods controlled every aspect of life based on whether or not they were happy with humans, so every natural phenomenon was a direct result of human actions. He would also have believed that astrologers could tell the future based on the stars. With these preconceptions, he could not possibly believe that the earth was not the center of the universe. But Galileo’s Christian worldview did not hold these preconceptions, so he was not restricted by them. Furthermore, Galileo would have believed that the world was imperfect and full of sin, so he could come to the conclusion that a perfect universe could not possibly revolve around such an imperfect object as the earth.

It is no coincidence that the sun-centered model came from the western, Christian world. Such a model disagreed with the fundamental beliefs of the eastern world. And this makes an interesting point about the relationship between science and the fundamental beliefs of different cultures. Science serves as a way to discover what fundamental beliefs truly agree with reality, but discoveries can never be made unless there is a diversity of beliefs. Therefore, it is essential to encourage cultural diversity in science because you never know which culture might be able to reveal something about reality that others were blind to. It is also important to realize that sometimes the correct idea seems the most absurd, so you must be careful when determining what is really true.

Ultimately, you must be able to understand the culture from which ideas come before you can truly understand the ideas in themselves. If you understand why someone believes something, you will be more likely to understand what they believe, whether you agree with it or not. And if you do disagree, you will be able to better articulate your reasoning because you will know what core idea it is that you disagree with. At this point, you will not likely be able to have a particularly scientific argument about the disagreement because the issue is not scientific in nature. Science in its purest form cannot be argued against, but its interpretation can. And that is the issue behind almost every “scientific” argument. These interpretations can eventually be proven to be true or false, just as it was between Aristotle and Galileo, but only indirectly through the science they imply. So instead of looking down on different cultures because they interpret science differently than you, look deeper into the culture so you can understand why they interpreted it the way they did. Then, through further scientific investigation, you can determine whether or not the interpretation is valid. And who knows. You might just be surprised to find that they were right all along.