Dave Armstrong, a columnist for state-subsidised Stuff, went out to bat for mātauranga Māori this week and to remonstrate with Richard Dawkins, the renowned British biologist, science communicator and atheist.
During his recent New Zealand tour, Dawkins had written an article for The Spectator about our government’s decision for Māori “Ways of Knowing” (mātauranga Māori) to have equal standing with “western’ science” in our education curriculum.
Armstrong challenged the renowned scientist’s critique:
Dawkins calls this “ludicrous policy… adolescent virtue-signalling”. Is this a reasonable point or a God-like delusion from an arrogant overseas scientist with little local knowledge?
The columnist’s riposte has not been informed by the concerns of New Zealand scientists and academics about the place of mātauranga Māori in the science classroom, some of them cogently contained in a recent open letter to Prime Minister Chris Hipkins.
Mind you, Armstrong may well be unaware of the thrust of that letter. Stuff – and other mainstream media – have made no mention of it, perhaps because they needed the space to bring us news about Meghan and Harry. Continue reading “Champion of mātauranga Māori dabbles with a myth: European navigators didn’t fear sailing too close to the Earth’s edge” →
Buzz from the Beehive
The Point of Order Munificence for Mātauranga Māori Monitor picked up the announcement from the Beehive this morning of more money being heaped into a trough unabashedly reserved for people from just one of the country’s many ethnic groups.
The latest handouts are being spruiked as further action taken by the government to protect Mātauranga Māori against whatever mischief Covid-19 might do to it.
The Government is continuing to take action to support Māori to safeguard at-risk mātauranga from the ongoing threat of COVID-19, through the extension of the Mātauranga Māori Te Awe Kōtuku programme.
“We’re continuing to lay the foundations for a better future by prioritising the protection of mātauranga Māori and its importance to Māori cultural identity and wellbeing, and to Aotearoa New Zealand,” Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage Carmel Sepuloni said.
“There is an urgent need to protect unique and vulnerable mātauranga Māori, working with kaumātua, tohunga, pūkenga and other knowledge holders to ensure its survival and resilience for future generations,” Carmel Sepuloni said.
Continue reading “Munificence for Mātauranga Māori – how the Ardern Govt is dishing out millions for projects from the arts to science” →
Any notion that “the science is settled” is (or should be) anathema to good scientists.
There is always more to learn
“… because the scientific method never provides absolute conclusions. It’s always possible that the next observation will contradict the current consensus.”
But in this country the fundamental matter of defining science and determining what should be taught to science studies in our universities has become more unsettling than unsettled.
“Indigenous knowledge” has become “indigenous science”, overriding the conventional view that science is colour blind and culturally neutral – that science is science is science.
And the heads of our most highly esteemed academic institutions do not resist the push to have “indigenous science” incorporated within their science faculties rather than – let’s say – Māori Studies or anthropological departments.
And so last week the Otago Daily Times reported: Continue reading “Academics announce new Centre of Indigenous Science – and now (it seems) they will find out what they should be teaching” →
The news media have made much of the government’s firing a shot across the bows of the supermarket duopoly.
The Government has put supermarkets on notice that they must change at pace to increase competition and be prepared for regulation.
It will introduce an industry regulator, a mandatory code of conduct, compulsory unit pricing on groceries and more transparent loyalty schemes.
Not so much attention is likely to be paid to Megan Woods’ Cawthron Institute Centenary Speech, although it portends some key features to be incorporated in a shake-up of the country’s research, science and innovation sector.
Most contentiously, our Minister of Research, Science and Innovation signalled the government’s determination to further incorporate Mātauranga Māori in the country’s science system and to develop research priorities in a partnership with Māori. Continue reading “Buzz from the Beehive: Megan Woods signals no retreat from plans to incorporate mātauranga Māori in NZ science system” →
Oh, look. More goodies from the government.
Today we learn of a $10 million boost for landowners, a $27.6 million investment over the next four years in research and innovation and a $30 million investment for primary and community health care providers.
Budget 2020 is the budget that just keeps on giving.
But those announcements are competing for media attention with news that an independent assessment of stewardship land on the West Coast is delivering recommendations for revised land classifications.
“Stewardship land” is the term given for land that was allocated to DOC when it was formed in 1987 but had yet to be given a specific land classification. Panels were set up last year to reclassify stewardship land to ensure appropriate layers of protection for future generations to enjoy. Public notification will open next week on those recommendations.
But the biggie on the Beehive website today surely must be the PM’s Harvard Commencement Speech – Democracy, disinformation and kindness. You can watch her deliver it HERE and gauge for yourself the audience’s response. Continue reading “Buzz from the Beehive – the PM goes batting for democracy while her Maori ministers announce more Budget boosts” →
A radical makeover of the research and science sector is outlined in Te Ara Paerangi Future Pathways Green Paper, which was launched on October 28 by Dr Megan Woods as Minister of Research, Science and Innovation. Submissions on the discussion paper closed on March 16.
At the launch of the discussion paper, the government did not disguise its intention to embed the Treaty of Waitangi in the design and delivery of science and research in this country and to provide more opportunities for “mātauranga Māori”.
What does this portend? Graham Adams warns that the inevitable conclusion of the changes proposed in the discussion paper – especially if it is read alongside Te Pūtahitanga: A Tiriti–led Science-Policy Approach for Aotearoa New Zealand (HERE) – is co-governance with iwi of universities and Crown Research Institutes.
In other words, constitutional change by stealth.
Submissions are not publicly available. Perhaps they never will be. Continue reading “Professors warn of constitutional change by stealth and of the dangers of protecting Maori knowledge against refutation” →
A lot of funding and influence is riding on the successful casting of indigenous knowledge as equal to science. GRAHAM ADAMS says the debate over the NCEA science syllabus is only the tip of an iceberg.
Anyone trying to get a grip on the mātauranga Māori debate over the past several months is likely to be completely puzzled by now.
The incendiary stoush was sparked last July by seven eminent professors stating in a letter to the Listener that indigenous knowledge is not science and therefore does not warrant inclusion in the NCEA syllabus as being equal to science.
Yet in the five months since the letter was published, virtually no one among those opposing the professors has argued convincingly that mātauranga Māori is scientific (even if some small elements of it could be called proto-science or pre-science).
On the face of it, the debate by now should have been declared a clear win for the professors and their supporters. In rebuttal, their principal critics — including the Royal Society NZ, Auckland University Vice-Chancellor Dawn Freshwater, the Tertiary Education Union and prominent Covid commentators Drs Siouxsie Wiles and Shaun Hendy — have not gone beyond asserting that mātauranga Māori is a valuable and unique system of knowledge that is complementary to science.
This view is not contentious in the slightest — and was explicitly endorsed by the professors themselves in their letter. Continue reading “Follow the money: matauranga Maori and the millions at stake” →
The latest press statement from the office of Kiritapu Allan serves as a reminder that this is a country where science is being positively blended with – or negatively debased by – a knowledge and belief system known as mātauranga Māori.
The press statement looks innocent enough. It tells us the Associate Minister for the Environment, Kiri Allan, is urging all New Zealanders to give feedback on proposed changes aimed at making drinking water safer.
“The current regulations are not fit for purpose and don’t offer enough protection, particularly for those whose water comes from smaller supplies,” Kiri Allan said.
“This was highlighted in the 2016 campylobacter outbreak in Havelock North when close to 60 people were hospitalised.
“We are proposing improvements in three areas; standardising the way we define source water areas, strengthening regulation of activities around water sources, and adding more water suppliers to the register.”
Allan impedes the comfortable digestion of her statement by English-speaking readers at this juncture by melding two languages:
“The changes recognise Te Mana o te Wai, the fundamental importance of water to the health and wellbeing of our people and our environment.” Continue reading “We can gauge volumes of water and count contaminants – but measuring the mauri may be challenging for modern scientists” →
As international criticism mounts, Auckland University’s Vice-Chancellor pledges a symposium next year to debate the role of Māori knowledge in science education. Graham Adams suggests a public apology to the seven professors would show this is more than a PR exercise.
Reading the statement last week by Dawn Freshwater announcing a symposium to be held next year to debate the relationship between mātauranga Māori and science, it was hard not to feel at least a little sceptical about her new-found enthusiasm for free speech.
After all, in late July the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Auckland effectively hung seven professors from her own university out to dry soon after their letter “In Defence of Science” was published in the Listener.
The professors’ 300-word letter was written in response to plans to include mātauranga Māori in the school science curriculum and to give it equal standing with “Western/Pakeha epistemologies” — which means subjects such as physics, biology and chemistry.
The professors acknowledged the value of indigenous knowledge as “critical for the preservation and perpetuation of culture and local practices” and that it “plays key roles in management and policy”. But, while it “may indeed help advance scientific knowledge in some ways”, they concluded, “it is not science”. Continue reading “Dawn Freshwater kicks for touch on mātauranga Māori “ →
A letter in defence of science, published in New Zealand Listener in July, was signed by seven professors from the University of Auckland. Emeritus Professor Robert Nola, one of the signatories, specialises in the philosophy of science. But the Royal Society of New Zealand is investigating him over what it claims are “misguided” views regarding Māori knowledge. Graham Adams reports.
Professor Robert Nola’s bread and butter is analysing what makes science science. This has been his focus for more than 50 years. Yet, he is facing a disciplinary hearing by the Royal Society for expressing his views on science and mātauranga Māori (traditional Māori knowledge).
Nola was one of seven eminent professors from the University of Auckland who, in a letter to New Zealand Listener in July, criticised plans to include mātauranga Māori in the school science curriculum and to give it equal standing with “Western/ Pakeha epistemologies” — which means subjects such as physics, biology and chemistry.
The professors acknowledged the value of indigenous knowledge as “critical for the preservation and perpetuation of culture and local practices” and that it “plays key roles in management and policy”. But (they wrote) while it “may indeed help advance scientific knowledge in some ways, it is not science”.
The Royal Society felt moved to respond with a public statement:
“The recent suggestion by a group of University of Auckland academics that mātauranga Māori is not a valid truth is utterly rejected by Royal Society Te Apārangi. The society strongly upholds the value of mātauranga Māori and rejects the narrow and outmoded definition of science outlined in the Listener Letter to the Editor.
“It deeply regrets the harm such a misguided view can cause.”
Unfortunately for a statement put out in the name of the nation’s premier academy for the sciences and humanities, it seemed to show a poor grasp of what the professors had actually written. Continue reading “The philosopher stoned for his defence of science” →