Latest Woke Purge: Let’s not burn the heretic scientists

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Auckland University professor resigns over letter claiming Māori knowledge isn’t science

A University of Auckland professor has stepped down as acting dean of science after backlash to a letter he co-authored claiming Māori knowledge “is not science”.

Professor of Psychology Douglas Elliffe emailed the science faculty to say his role in writing the letter meant his leadership had the potential to “increase division” among the university’s scientific community.

Elliffe was one of seven professors to sign the letter published in the Listener magazine last week in response to proposed changes to the Māori school curriculum.

Those changes are meant to put mātauranga Māori (Māori knowledge) on a par with other types of knowledge, particularly Western knowledge.

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Ugh, hasn’t this gotten ugly fast.

To be fair to the 7 Professors, they have a technical point.

You can’t have a publicly funded curriculum that undermines the legitimacy of ‘western science’.

1 + 1 always equals 2, that’s not up for negotiation. We already have enough people who think crystals cure cancer, that microchips are in the vaccine and that Covid is being spread by 5G technology.

We can’t undermine the legitimacy of ‘Western Science’, this is a public education curriculum, you can’t set it against itself, the task is to turn out scientifically literate citizens for a high tech economy. Debating the ideas about cultural dominance of western scientific presumptions at Uni is one thing, sowing seeds of illegitimacy in high school students is completely another.

So the 7 Professors have a technical point, but the whole debate becomes immediately moot because this branch of inquiry wasn’t included in the next stage of the curriculum, so the 7 Professors claim a victory despite the other side not turning up.

Where I think they totally jump the shark is their condescending perspective that trashes 1000 years of indigenous knowledge by using an excruciatingly narrow definition  of what science actually means.

It’s like burning down the Sistine Chapel because proper art is painted on canvas.

I think the Professors are wrong about that, a people who navigated oceans by the stars, with complex astronomy, with vast natural science knowledge through a deep oral tradition, you can’t just arrogantly write that 1000 years of knowledge off with such snide parameters.
B-U-T we have academic freedom in NZ and as such it’s our academics who have the responsibility and freedom to articulate ideas that can be controversial.

I respect academic freedom enough to disagree vehemently with their conclusion but defend their right to say it.

The most disappointing part of this debate is that it’s made The Listener politically relevant for 30seconds.

Which is awful.

The Listener has all the self importance of a fart in an elevator. I stopped reading after Finlay MacDonald left.

The letters page of The Listener is the perfect place for these academics to duel it out. A white realm of Boomer privilege duking it out in the most low brow news media these ivory tower titans will collectively agree to stoop to.

What would be terrible right now is some type of woke purge to have these Professors expelled from Auckland University or from the Royal Society.

People can academically disagree and even be disagreeable without a lynch mob forming to burn heretics.

We should resist an academic purge because beyond its lynch mob immorality there is already a chunk of voters who fear the Woke will use new Hate Speech laws to settle scores.

Figuratively hanging Professors in the Uni Quad for crimes against dogma isn’t going to settle those nerves.

Finally I find the concept of ‘western’ science to be an eye rolling concept because ‘western’ science has stolen so much science from every one else.

We stole everything the Greeks had and took enormous amounts in science, medicine, math, astronomy and chemistry from the Muslims, so the concept of Western Science when we are discussing the totality of human knowledge seems a critical race theory too far.

 

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54 COMMENTS

  1. Agree again Martyn. WTF is happening? Why can’t more people see it? Its f…g scary.

    Science is science and they do have a point. Why do we have to compare oranges with apples, both have their value.

    It is science who inform us about climate change, covid, develop vaccines, find treatments that work for cancer.

    It is science that has been able to tell us if trans women compete in women’s rugby there will be a 30% increase in injuries to women rugby players. The 10,000 fastest men in the world run faster than the fastest women. Need I go on.

    Geniune question……….what can be done about it?

    • And again I agree with you, and Martyn, Anker. And it is scary. And we are living in the rapid breakdown of so-called civilised society.

      The upside is that the deranged woke send me delving into yellowing old books I had been going to dump. Now it is: A.N Whitehead “ Science and the Modern World “ Cambridge Univ Press 1933. First printed 1926.
      The other upside is understanding more of it than I did when it was on our undergrad reading list.

      If these numskulls asked a pure mathematician to describe his work, they would barely understand a word.

    • The term “Western Science” is simply racist.
      The labyrinth of human history back to our first tool making ancestors was an utterly complex network of technological discoveries.
      The evolution of technology was a proto-scientific enterprise that we all participated in and contributed too.
      Idea diffusion across cultures is rarely acknowledged today and is naively and hypocritically labeled appropriation.
      But modern humans are a result of this sharing of knowledge ~ intrinsic to trade, conquest, religion, genes, empathy, diet, technology and yes “science”.

      • Simon Shepherd: “The term “Western Science” is simply racist.”

        No, it isn’t: that term is meaningless in the context of science. Modern science is the child of the Enlightenment, which of course happened in Europe. No getting around that fact.

        Modern science entails the falsifiable hypothesis, as Karl Popper succinctly put it.

        The authors of that letter point out that modern science has its underpinnings in ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia and Greece. India also contributed, as did China.

        Everything humans do is built on the knowledge base developed by those who came before them.

        Matauranga Maori isn’t science, though it’s critical to the “…preservation and perpetuation of local culture and practices…” as the authors point out in their letter.

        I conclude that attempts to characterise it as science spring from the very evident ethno-nationalism espoused by Maori activists.

  2. Oh and BTW the Lancet (a top medicine journal) editor had this to say: https://www.drugawareness.org/editor-of-lancet-medical-research-is-unreliable-at-best-or-completely-fraudulent/
    So it should really come as no surprise that it turns out the much heralded and promoted CoVID vaccine doesn’t actually work:
    https://www.cnbc.com/2021/07/30/cdc-study-shows-74percent-of-people-infected-in-massachusetts-covid-outbreak-were-fully-vaccinated.html
    Where to from here?

    • To be fair, the tenuous relationship between pharmaceutical companies and independent medical research has existed for a long time.
      I wonder which vaccine the CNBC report is referring to. Just because (presumably) one Covid-19 vaccine, based on one account, is reportedly largely ineffective, doesn’t necessarily mean that all Covid-19 vaccines are. If in the case they were, well, that’s when we ask the question: Where to from here?

    • “Where to from here?” For a start don’t bother reading articles that are full of references to their own pages, but don’t appear to reference any original sources. There is no point mentioning how reputable the Lancet is if you cannot actually reference what they say, but only link to some dodgy website nobody has ever heard of before.

      We can expect that vaccines will cease to work as the virus evolves to thwart them. Hopefully we will have effective modified vaccines before that goes to far.

      As to the CNBC report, however, it says “the delta variant continues to hit unvaccinated people the hardest.” That implies that the vaccine DOES work. We are not told in the report what percentage of vaccinated people get covid, or what percentage of people in Massachusetts are vaccinated. If it was a 99.9% vaccination rate, then the figure of only 75% of those infected being vaccinated would be fantastically good.

      If we were told that 75% of people infected in Texas were vaccinated, though, I would be very worried because, unlike Massachusetts, we know that there are a lot of scientifically illiterate people there who do not take the vaccine despite all the expert opinion being in favour.

      • Yes and we still have delusional people who think covid is no worse than a seasonal flu despite all the scientific evidence to the contrary. I’m still to recieve evidence from these delusional people however they may like to read the latest on Lewis Hamilton who is still suffering the effects of covid after contracting it at the beginning of the year.

  3. “Science” has a quite specific meaning and origin. To qualify as a scientific fact something must be falsifiable, repeatable and use objective observation, measurement, critical analysis and data for verification and then be subject to critical exposure and scrutiny, peer review and assessment.

    Confusing various forms of unscientific knowledge (absent a willingness to subject them to proper scientific scrutiny) with science (in the accepted meaning of the word) is deceptive and dangerous.

    Now this: Dr Raymond Richards who teaches history at the University of Waikato faces potential disciplinary action for his lectures about methods of critical thinking in history. The University of Waikato has attempted to stop him from describing people as “cranks”, who claim on religious authority that the earth is flat, and that people lived alongside dinosaurs.

    Are we at peak crazy yet?

  4. Firstly, “Western science” is misnomer. Even though modern science as we know it first came to fruition in Europe, it has long since gone global. I wonder how Chinese or Iran nuclear physicists would react to being told what they’re doing is “western science”. “Modern” science is probably a better term.

    There is no doubt the Polynesians were brilliant navigators, like the Vikings. Whether their skillful use of the stars and other evidence means they had developed a form of “science” is a moot point, depending on your definition. But, it’s hard to see how ancient Polynesian (or Viking) navigation techniques are relevant to the practice of science in the 21st century. So I think the seven “heretics” are right to be concerned about the importation of Mātauranga Māori into the NCEA science curriculum. If I had kids, I would much rather they were learning about the periodic table or the theory of evolution during science periods.

    Teaching kids about Polynesian navigation may enhance appreciation of and respect for the achievements of pre-contact Māori. But it doesn’t belong in the science classroom.

    • A lot of modern medicine is hocus pocus stuff, synthetic materials backed up by flawed research analysis. Glysophate would have to be one of the biggest cons known to mankind. When I worked in the Agricultural Chemical Industry in the 1980’s for a French Multi-National Chemical Company, the sales pitch used by the Monsanto Sales Representatives was that Round Up was less toxic than table salt. Glysophate actually comes out of the metal industry and is used in the manufacturing and coating of metal products. Nowday’s we are seeing confirmed rates of cancer linked to Glysophate.

    • I love that Maori put sustainability at the forefront of knowledge, so relevant these days as we try to minimise our impact on nature and reverse the damage done. As well as environmental scientists and astronomers, Maori were also engineers, for example building pà which repelled sustained modern heavy artillery.

      • Jody: “…Maori put sustainability at the forefront of knowledge…”

        Not until they were forced to by the pressure of diminishing food resources. It was the foodstuffs brought by the first European explorers which saved them from starvation and a likely population crash.

        “As well as environmental scientists and astronomers”….”

        They were not. It’s overstatement to say that they were. The Polynesians used the stars for navigation, as did many other early peoples. The Vikings reached North America by that means. And when the first Polynesians arrived in NZ, they did what all other humans have done wherever they went: they exploited the local resources, until extinctions and diminishing food supplies forced them to manage what remained.

        “Maori were also engineers, for example building pà which repelled sustained modern heavy artillery.”

        In pre-European times, Maori had no access to tools, beyond the stone age implements the first settlers had brought with them. They used earthworks and trenches in warfare: this allowed warriors largely to avoid injury and death. But the pa, being built of timber, were susceptible to fire and artillery barrages (once Europeans brought such weapons here).

        It isn’t clear to me why people make such claims about Maori. At the time of first European contact, they were still a stone age people. They had been cut off from contact, even with other Polynesians, because this country was so remote, and they lacked either resources or expertise to journey back to the nearest islands. Thus the technological advancements of their Polynesian relatives (let alone any more remote peoples) weren’t accessible to them. It entails nothing negative about Maori as a people: it was the tyranny of distance.

        Maori are modern humans, just like the rest of us. It’s instructive to note how quickly they took up European technology once it became available to them.

      • JODY, They were and are exactly the same as all mankind, some good, some bad. Under their stewardship became at least 30 birds extinct plus other species as in te ara, not to mention Moriori in Chatham Islands who became nearly extinct (Micheel King Moriori).
        They had some knowledge but definitely no science. To push all things Maori on all will have just two results: people will get annoyed and fed up and especially Maori children will be come hugely disadvantaged in 21st global economy.

    • Learning about the periodic table has never been helpful to me but learning about nature – navigation with modern tools, looking the seasons and knowing what to plant and when to plant eg are more useful. So what might seem advanced education is / was actually useless information that turned me off school, as well as all the false history taught.

  5. There is no “western” science.
    There is the scientific method and there is non scientific method.

    It’s the reason current science builds on all cultures knowledge – we are using the best bits from all over, Hindu, Persian, Greek, Roman many more, scientific method tests hypotheses, discards that which doesn’t work and keeps what does.

    We do not want to get to a point where we are accepting as scientific fact that Maui sat on the South Island and hauled up the North Island for example, and I’d much rather the doctors treating me should I go to hospital are basing decisions on the best real science available.

    There is academic argument over just how many “sciences” are scientific in their method (eg economics) and also within fairly strict scientific communities like human and veterinary medicine there are those who push for evidence based medicine (too long to go in to here but google it if interested) eg: academia examined itself over these things constantly, it’s pretty dumb to cancel them for doing their job.

    Also note those most likely to support the ban are those with a background in non science “feels” subjects rather than in the hard sciences.

    Which is not to discount other knowledge as not important, but it’s not necessarily science based.

    • Pretty good reply until to mentioned “we are accepting as scientific fact that Maui sat on the South Island and hauled up the North Island for example: DO western sciene try and prove santa claus, easter, exist, you know the public holidays celebrated by christians. Why do you think this is what Maori Matauranga science is about. Just a little bit condescending and a whole lot of racist. Shame you were on the button for most of it.

      • One of my kids at primary school was recently taught that Maui fished up the North Island . . not in the vein of Maori folklore but in one of ‘scientific fact’ . . took me some time to try and convince my kid that this didn’t actually happen and she probably still thinks that I am full of shit.
        We will all be back living in caves in couple of generations (in NZ anyway).

  6. Science is a method, blind to culture, there is no such thing as Western Science or Nigerian Science or Wherever Science. There are nevertheless achievements: Western achievements in science, American achievements in science, Maori achievements. Unfortunately the scientific method is vulnerable to cultural attitudes, some stifling it, some encouraging it.
    You engage in comparative judgements at your peril, same as with any cultural and politically fraught topic.

    • Big Pharma is a con, understanding the problems and using natural methods & products is a far better long term strategy.

        • Ben there done that had both Surgery, Chemotherapy and Radiation, however Natural Medicine is a very powerful supplement and provides benefits to the immune system. 80% of the world’s medicine was Cannabis based until the 1920’s until Big Pharma outlawed. Cancer rates have climbed from 3 in 100, to 1 in 100 over the last 100years. Have a think about that Black Ada.

    • Correct Richard

      What’s more, successful non-European nations today (eg the Asian Tigers) have adopted the ‘western method’ for scientific endevour and moved on.

      Because it works.

  7. If we are take the NZH piece at face-value the position taken by the 7 professors is that although indigenous knowledge contributes to our understanding of the world, it falls far short of contemporary understandings of science. But Martyn is correct to say that this view trashes 1000 years of indigenous knowledge by using an excruciatingly narrow definition of what science (and knowledge) actually means.

    Defining “knowledge” is at the heart of the matter. And it should be said that even within contemporary views of science the creation of new knowledge is contestable. The term epistemology immediately comes to mind.

    What should be a focus in the school curriculum is not contemporary science per se, or indeed ingenious knowledge as science, but questions such as: “What is knowledge?”, “How is knowledge acquired?”, “What do people know?”, and “How do we know what we know?” With this critical view, a focus on indigenous knowledge is as valid as knowledge derived from contemporary science.

  8. I think Labour are behind all of this: they have been pushing identity politics. non stop, even though they never campaigned on it.

    They don’t have a mandate from the people to bring about all the changes they are currently pushing through.

    I am not against change per se at all, but it is how it is done that matters to me and right now I feel like I have been deceived by the Labour Party, a party I have voted for all my life until last election.

  9. I agree.

    But I’d just like to point out one issue which seems to have gone largely unnoticed.

    Our universities should be run independent of racial opinion or agenda. That is to mean that our universities have for many decades had good reputations, attracting students the world over, and offering no more than this so called Western scientific knowledge

    So why is it therefore now important to incorporate Maori scientific knowledge? I’m not arguing that this idea does not have it’s merits, there would be a significant added contribution in adopting Maori scientific knowledge into the curriculum, however it would have it’s drawbacks potentially

    How far would a Maori based agenda go? Would it eventually include a quota of Maori University lecturers or something akin to that? Not an awful idea, as Maori make up around ten percent of the population, and if there is already an extra Maori based knowledge that’s already been added into the curriculum, it would be sensible to introduce a Maori quota for lecturers as well

    Would it not, though, put our other ethnic minorities, such as Chinese and Indians, as well as Japanese, Canadians, South African people, etc, at a disadvantage if the historic knowledge of their countries isn’t also added into the curriculum? It indeed would. And whether you argue it to be right or wrong for these other groups to be under represented in the knowledge of their ancestors to not be represented at New Zealand universities, would it not create a new source of frustration and bitterness for these people, as they are already under represented in New Zealand Parliament? And would this in turn not be off putting to our international students, at least to a degree?

    I feel that, post Covid-19, cohesion in our universities is a must. Once the borders begin to reopen, we should be once again attracting international students, using our best traditional methods, which is our so called Western scientific knowledge, our famed English language programs, our famed physical education courses, etc.

  10. And the Greeks expanded on the knowledge of the Egyptians and Mesopotamians.

    The preoccupation of many with Maori navigation is rather odd. Seemingly as if to suggest it was their only remarkable achievement with regards to knowledge. Agricultural methods often have the hallmarks of the scientific method. Archaeological remains of gardens at various sites around the country contain evidence of methods used for improved drainage, fertilisation, heat retention, shelter and storage of crops. Adapting crops from a tropical to temperate climate would involve obvious experimentation.

    Having recently read a book on the history and destruction of Carthage, it was interesting to find the Romans sought Punic texts on agriculture due to their abilities to produce large yields.

    Considering this country seems to pride itself on its agricultural production, the recent farmer protest, ongoing concerns of food production worldwide and the advancement of agricultural science. The first human presence in this land was preoccupied with such concerns.

    These culture war sideshows are incredibly tiresome. If only the wasted effort could be applied to resolving the many pressing issues affecting so many.

  11. An insider at Auckland Uni tells me the atmosphere among the staff is somewhat frosty at the moment. LOL

    The debasement of academia is possibly the source of what you call ‘woke’ and I call Neo Marxism, so I supposed it is in academia where the battle must be fought.

    • Previous Presidents and Chancellors of Auckland University from nothing would be turning in their graves.

      It is all about $$$’s these days, not about excellence and academia.

  12. “Where I think they totally jump the shark is their condescending perspective that trashes 1000 years of indigenous knowledge by using an excruciatingly narrow definition of what science actually means”

    Martin, by “narrow definition” were you by any chance referring to the Oxford Dictionary? Science: “knowledge about the structure and behaviour of the natural and physical world, based on facts that you can prove, for example by experiments”

    I am also in favour of including more knowledge from te ao Maori in the school curriculum, but I think it would be nice if we could use words that actually mean something. We do not call nuclear physics matauranga Maori because that would be misleading. The reverse is also true.

    I think part of the problem is that we have let the term science to be used euphemistically, as in “home science”, “Christian Science” and “social science”. I am a history fan, and I am an anthropology fan, but they are not science because they do not conclusively prove things. These other disciplines and belief systems latch on to the term science because it has a lot of mana, which is because its achievements have been extraordinary. However, those disciplines must stand on their own achievements.

    The French have been very successful in protecting the names of their products, such as “Champaign”, even when other sparkling wine is almost identical. Maybe we should have similar protection for disciplines such as science which is VERY different from other methods of gaining knowledge.

    I hope we get some Maori scientists coming out in support of these very reasonable scientists who have been attacked for standing up for the truth. I am under the impression that tikanga Maori supports the right of people to tell their own stories, and not have it told by outsiders. So who better to tell the story of science than scientists?

    • Well said Bob. Perhaps if this ancient knowledge was subjected to proper scientific rigour it could be properly labeled as, and included with, the body of scientific knowledge. Unsurprisingly there doesn’t seem to be much of a push for that, most of it is, to put it bluntly, pure woo-woo.
      Carl Jung in his book “Modern man in search of a soul” has a fascinating section on archaic man. He lived among hunter/gatherer/herders about a hundred years ago. He could speak Swahili and gained some fascinating insights into their ways of thinking and the contrast with the more western, scientific ways. Some of the nonsense these people believed, and acted on, was patently absurd; their lives filled with fear and superstition and subject o the torment of unseen forces and the capricious advice of some pretty dodgy “shamans” It’s a good read.
      The scientific revolution fundamentally changed the way we think with it’s has emphasis on objective truth and continues to underlie the extraordinary standards of prosperity, longevity and freedom from fear we enjoy today.

  13. Sir George Fowlds would be doing flips in his grave, he was Minister of Education & Health in the Liberal Government from 1899-1911. He worked closely with Apirana Ngata, Maui Pomare, James Carroll, and Te Rangi Hiroa (Peter Buck) to help restore the Maori population which had been decimated in the previous 100 years, through Civil War (the Musket Wars), European Settlement, Land Confiscations and the resulting health and disease problems resulting from these confiscations.

    Time for some maturity to be shown by the University Leaders, there silence id deafening IMHO ?

  14. I’m sorry but i find it hard to respect “science” that couldn’t figure out the wheel. I also have a problem when they say they lived “sustainably” with the natural environment when they hunted multiple species into extinction…. Ever heard of Easter island?

    • The wheel was not very useful in early NZ, but the ancestors of Maori did invent ocean going waka and the most advanced navigation techniques of their time. Not science but still a startling achievement for a very small society.
      Indeed I have heard of Easter Island. The natives there are not Maori. This is a little like blaming the holocaust on the English because they have shared ancestors with Germans.
      Sustainable is a relative term, and although the first people here did wipe out 50% of NZ bird species with introduced pests, they did eventually find a balance where they stopped causing extinctions. Since Europeans arrived however, we have not stopped wiping out habitats and sending native species toward extinction.

      • Did they not have large gardens where a wheelbarrow might have been useful. We only have there account of how good their navigation was. A lot of people think they found NZ by chance. Maori do trace their ancestry back to Easter island (at least dna does) They ate all of the wildlife that was worth eating (or were able to catch) before starting on rats and each other. 300 more years and NZ would have been bare land with a few waring tribes battling it out for the last of the resources..

    • they had triangle shaped sails that could sail upwind when europe was tying their own to a wheel and smashing every bone for entertainment

  15. pretty woeful academic literature – sounds like a PR blurb. I have a son who has finally woken up and his ability to obtain objective knowledge at school is frustrating. fully agree with university professors. the abuse of science is the real issue here. gunpowder made a big bang. as does atomic energy. is this where we bring up peak oil and eroei?

  16. Sure traditional Maori knowledge of navigation by the stars is astronomy but it is not the fundamental science that can land Maori on the moon. It is not the fundamental science that can measure the nitrate and ecoli levels of the local awa. What this educational effort ought to be doing is ensuring Maori student uptake of science and the consequent number of Maori scientists is improved. How can telling Maori students they are the victims of a colonising science do that?

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