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RICHARD DAWKINS: Why I’m sticking up for science

I’m in New Zealand, climax to my antipodean speaking tour, where I walked headlong into a raging controversy. Jacinda Ardern’s government implemented a ludicrous policy, spawned by Chris Hipkins’s Ministry of Education before he became prime minister. Science classes are to be taught that Māori ‘Ways of Knowing’ (Mātauranga Māori) have equal standing with ‘western’ science. Not surprisingly, this adolescent virtue-signalling horrified New Zealand’s grown-up scientists and scholars. Seven of them wrote to the Listener magazine. Three who were fellows of the NZ Royal Society were threatened with an inquisitorial investigation. Two of these, including the distinguished medical scientist Garth Cooper, himself of Māori descent, resigned (the third unfortunately died). I was delighted to meet Professor Cooper for lunch, with others of the seven. His resignation letter cited the society’s failure to support science against its denigration as ‘a western European invention’. He was affronted, too, by a complaint (not endorsed by the NZRS) that ‘to insist Māori children learn to read is an act of colonisation’. Is there an implication here – condescending, if not downright racist – that ‘indigenous’ children need separate, special treatment?


Perhaps the most disagreeable aspect of this sorry affair is the climate of fear. We who don’t have a career to lose should speak out in defence of those who do. The magnificent seven are branded heretics by a nastily zealous new religion, a witch-hunt that recalls the false accusations against J.K. Rowling and Kathleen Stock. Professor Kendall Clements was removed from teaching evolution at the University of Auckland, after the School of Biological Sciences Putaiao Committee submitted the following recommendation: ‘We do not feel that either Kendall or Garth should be put in front of students as teachers. This is not safe for students…’ Not safe? Who are these cringing little wimps whose ‘safety’ requires protection against free speech? What on earth do they think a university is for?


To grasp government intentions requires a little work, because every third word of the relevant documents is in Māori. Since only 2 per cent of New Zealanders (and only 5 per cent of Māoris) speak that language, this again looks like self-righteous virtue-signalling, bending a knee to that modish version of Original Sin which is white guilt. Mātauranga Māori includes valuable tips on edible fungi, star navigation and species conservation (pity the moas were all eaten). Unfortunately it is deeply invested in vitalism. New Zealand children will be taught the true wonder of DNA, while being simultaneously confused by the doctrine that all life throbs with a vital force conferred by the Earth Mother and the Sky Father. Origin myths are haunting and poetic, but they belong elsewhere in the curriculum. The very phrase ‘western’ science buys into the ‘relativist’ notion that evolution and big bang cosmology are just the origin myth of white western men, a narrative whose hegemony over ‘indigenous’ alternatives stems from nothing better than political power. This is pernicious nonsense. Science belongs to all humanity. It is humanity’s proud best shot at discovering the truth about the real world.


My speeches in Auckland and Wellington were warmly applauded, though one woman yelled a protest. She was politely invited to participate, but she chose to walk out instead. I truthfully said that, when asked my favourite country, I invariably choose New Zealand. Citing the legacy of Ernest Rutherford, the greatest experimental physicist since Faraday, I begged my audiences to reach out to their MPs in support of New Zealand science. The true reason science is more than an origin myth is that it stands on evidence: massively documented evidence, double blind trials, peer review, quantitative predictions precisely verified in labs around the world. Science reads the billion-word DNA book of life itself. Science eradicates smallpox and polio. Science navigates to Pluto or a tiny comet. Science almost certainly saved your life. Science works.


Postscript on the flight out: Air New Zealand think it a cute idea to invoke Māori gods in their safety briefing. Imagine if British Airways announced that their planes are kept aloft by the Holy Ghost in equal partnership with Bernoulli’s Principle and Newton’s First Law. Science explains. It lightens our darkness. Science is the poetry of reality. It belongs to all humanity. Kia Ora!



Richard Dawkins is a British evolutionary biologist, ethologist, and popular-science writer. This piece was published in The Spectator and is archived here.



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114 Comments


Dr Tara McAlister‘s delight at a Zonta award to her last year. Winner of the Zonta Science Award 2022, Dr Tara McAllister.


https://www.zontawellington.org.nz/post/winner-of-the-zonta-science-award-2022-dr-tara-mcallister


What has changed her mood to one of hatred of those who do not believe what her like-minded academic wokes peddle about how marvellous are Maoris?


Desperation as it dawns on her she and her ilk may lose the battle for NZ public acceptance of her deluded and inflammatory TOW rhetoric. So, she doubles down in an evil manner.


Aside: What set this off late last century was the following -


“In the Lands case (1987) the Court of Appeal elaborated the principles of the Treaty as required by section nine of the State Owned Enterprises Act…


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ron
ron
Mar 06, 2023

"Cringing little wimps" sounds like the right technical term, particularly for those claiming to be scientists who've failed to denounce in no uncertain terms the ridiculous, laughable idea that survival knowledge and superstitious beliefs of an illiterate, Neolithic, hunter gatherer tribal culture could in any shape or form be en par with the scientific method of the civilised world. Only an obsequious cringing little wimp would be scared enough of CRT driven racist cancel culture crap to throw their principles, such as they are, out the window into the garbage can, so as to be seen to side with such drivel, which it is pretty damn obvious they couldn't possibly believe in any more than that pigs can fly, which…

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Mark Edgeworth
Mark Edgeworth
Mar 06, 2023

Congratulations Richard, in a few short paragraphs you have shoveled through the bullshit that unfortunately we Kiwi's live up to our necks in on a daily basis. Why this marxist govt persists with what are the most disliked, unwanted and divisive policies in NZ political history is beyond most sane thinking Kiwi's grasp. Do this govt not understand that co governance will not be enough for the maori elite, they want it all. All the power but none of the responsibilty that comes with it. When it all goes arse up, and it will, the greedy hands will pop out of the ashes pointing the finger of blame at everyone else and looking for yet more public money to waste,…

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There is no such thing as ‘Matauaranga Maori,’ there couldn’t be, because there is no such thing as Maori. When people first started arriving in New Zealand, none of the groups were known as Māori.

Before the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi, the individual nations (tribes) were not known as Māori.

In 1840, the noun Maori, didn’t even exist. If you look at the 1840 documents taken around New Zealand, none of them as a capitalised ‘M’ in the word “maori.”

Pre-European influence the separate nations all had their own ideas about the various phenomena that we find in our universe. Each tribe had their own myths and legends, so to say they were all the same and call it…

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Im a bit worried about my house now, I never had it blessed ( couldnt afford it), or my boat, or my new car, oh lordy lordy what to do, all them nasty spirits waiting to deal to me, I know, I will have a hui and insist on at least a virgin sacrifice, Iwill feel a lot better and safer and fulfilled and bloody stupid, never mind, the dark ages are nigh.

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Beware of the Taniwha too!

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