What are Maori “ways of knowing”, and should they be taught in science class as coequal to modern science?

December 19, 2021 • 10:45 am

I’ve been describing the big kerfuffle in New Zealand (well, it’s not a huge kerfuffle as the Kiwi public seems to know little about it) involving whether mātauranga Māori, (henceforth MM), which loosely translates to “Māori ways of knowing,”. should be taught as science alongside modern science in both secondary-school; and college science classes. In the past two weeks, I’ve been reading up on these ways of “knowing”, trying to understand them and to figure out how they can (or should) be fit into a science curriculum.  The more I read, the more puzzled I get about what exactly is going to be taught, but that’s no surprise since advocates of incorporating MM into science class are not specific about how and what will be taught. That’s important! There are FIVE questions I’ve had, and I’ll give some quotes below about the issues. At the end I’ll advance some tentative conclusions.

I’ve put references to the quotes as numbers, which you can consult at the bottom of this post.

WHAT IS MM? The definition of MM varies widely depending on what sources you read, but it can be regarded as a combination of theology, philosophy, mythology, morality, and a set of practical tools for how to get things done, both in the practical realm and in the human-relations realm. In quotes below, highlights (except the title are mine:

Mātauranga Māori Principle

This principle refers to the central value and recognition the University accords to Māori knowledges and ways of knowing. It refers also to the responsibility and honour we have as a knowledge institution to develop, nourish, protect, and help revitalise mātauranga, and to learn respectfully from Māori knowledge experts from the University as well as from communities outside the University.

For the purpose of this project, mātauranga Māori is defined as “the unique Māori way of viewing themselves and the world, which encompasses (among other things) Māori traditional knowledge and culture” (WAI262 p6).

Mātauranga Māori encompasses ancient knowledge of the human, natural and spirit worlds as well as modern and creative knowledge of these realms. It is knowledge developed collectively by Māori in the past, present and future. It refers not simply to knowledge but to ways of knowing.

Mātauranga Māori is a taonga, and as such requires protection. While iwi Māori are the primary kaitiaki of their knowledge, the University has an obligation to protect mātauranga Māori, and to provide a safe environment in which mātauranga can flourish. WAI 262 Waitangi Tribunal Report provides detail on the Crown’s kaitiakitanga obligations with regard to mātauranga.  (Source 1.)

Note that MM incorporates “ancient knowledge of the spirit world?” Is that really knowledge? If so, why is it better and truer than the other “ways of knowing” of indigenous people throughout the world?

Another definition:

Mātauranga Māori is the pursuit and application of knowledge and understanding of Te Taiao (the natural world), following a systematic methodology based on evidence, incorporating culture, values and world view. Pūrākau (traditional Māori narratives) and maramataka (the Māori calendar) comprise codified knowledge and include a suite of techniques empirical in nature for investigating phenomena, acquiring new knowledge, and updating and integrating previous knowledge. They can be both accurate and precise, as they incorporate critically verified knowledge, continually tested and updated through time. After their arrival in Aotearoa and Te Wai Pounamu many centuries ago, Māori developed various forms of codifying knowledge – many based upon oral delivery – each with its own categories, style, complex patterns and characteristics. Whakapapa is the central principle that orders the universe, demonstrates an interconnectivity between everything, and is a cognitive genealogical framework connecting creation of the universe to everything that exists within it via descent from ancestors. (Source 2)


Mātauranga Māori is about a Māori way of being and engaging in the world – in its simplest form, it uses kawa (cultural practices) and tikanga (cultural principles) to critique, examine, analyse and understand the world.

It is based on ancient values of the spiritual realm of Te Ao Mārama (the cosmic family of the natural world) and it is constantly evolving as Māori continue to make sense of their human existence within the world.

Eminent Māori scholar Dr Charles Royal describes Mātauranga Māori in this way: ‘he whakaatu, he whakamārama hoki i ngā ahuatanga o te Ao. Mā reira e mōhio ai te tangata ki te Ao, e mātau ai hoki ia ki ētahi whainga, ki ētahi tikanga. He mea ako, he mea whangai’ (2008, p.37).

In short, Royal thinks about Mātauranga Māori as something that helps explain and enlighten us about different aspects of the world around us, and in that process, a person gets to know about and understand some of the different purposes and meanings, some of the different ways of learning about his/her world that can be transferred from one person to another.  (Source 3)

More spirituality being dragged in.


I’ve read much more than the five references below, and it seems that MM is a gemisch of legend, mythology, oral tradition, morality, philosophy, theology, and practical knowledge. The latter, like learning how to navigate using the stars or how to catch eels, or how to judge which parts of the landscape will flood, are what I call “science construed broadly”. This knowledge (“practical knowledge”) is based on trial and error and a form of hypothesis testing—and can lead to empirical predictions. But the rest of MM, including its creationism, its reliance on gods, its spiritual and moral aspects, and its philosophy, are not science, but fall into other realms. If MM is to be folded together and taught as coequal to Western science, only the bits that are “science construed broadly” should be taught.

Hikuroa (reference 2) points out the differences between MM and science, and he appears to be an advocate for teaching MM:

Clearly there are significant similarities between mātauranga Māori and science. Specifically, pūrākau and maramataka comprise knowledge generated consistent with the scientific method. The critical difference is that mātauranga Māori includes values and is explained according to a Māori world view. Some other relevant differences are outlined in Table 1.

Mātauranga Māori is, first and foremost,mātauranga Māori, valid in its own right. Both mātauranga Māori and science are bodies of knowledge methodically created, contextualised within a world view. As demonstrated herein, some mātauranga Māori has been generated according to the scientific method, and can therefore be considered as science. While there are many similarities between mātauranga Māori and science, it is important that the tools of one are not used to analyse and understand the foundations of another (Hikuroa et al. 2011). Thus, mātauranga Māori is mātauranga Māori, scientific in part, and in the context of this special issue, extends the history of scientific endeavour back to when Māori arrived in Aotearoa and Te Wai Pounamu, many centuries ago.

Note the inclusion of values in MM, as well as the “everything that is interconnected” trope, a fuzzy concept at best. We also see spiritual in MM versus “physical stuff” in “science”. Tellingly, “intuition” as a method of knowing applies in MM, but not really in science: intuition isn’t a method, but sometimes a way of thinking of testable hypotheses.  The explicit inclusion of creationism in MM but not in science (a creationism whose story varies from Maori tribe to tribe) makes an important part of MM totally inviable as something to be taught in science class.

Here’s an explanation by the Māori for the creation of humans, all of us descending from a primal couple:

 In the New Zealand story, Tane took his daughter Hinetitama to wife in order that the human species might be continued. They had a daughter who was named Hinerauwharangi. She married Te Kawekairangi, but there is no explanation of how he had appeared on the scene so opportunely. Perhaps there was some adjacent Land of Nod after all. Be that as it may, the Matorohanga version gives human descent as continuing through this last pairing. A genealogical tree gives 28 generations from Hinerauwharangi to Ngatoroirangi, the priest of the Arawa canoe. Percy Smith has made the count from Tane and Hineahuone to approximately the year 1900 as 52 generations. Applying the time measure of 25 years to a generation and adding 50 years to bring it up to the present date, the genealogy reveals that the first human being was created about 1350 years ago, or in the year 600 A.D. The fact that the time is rather short does not render the genealogy less valuable to the person who can memorize and recite it.

This is far younger than Biblical young-earth creationism—it’s the creation of humans 1.3 millennia ago!

Some advocates of MM say that the mythological/spiritual part of MM can also be interpreted literally to comport with science, for example, the single set of primal parents in the creation myth has led some to say that this buttresses evolution and genetics, because it shows that all of us are related.

The way people refute the idea that MM is “just myths” (it isn’t all myths, but includes myths), is also demonstrated by Hikuroa:

Pūrākau are a traditional form of Māori narrative, containing philosophical thought, epistemological constructs, cultural codes and world views (Lee 2009). Pūrākau are an integral part of mātauranga Māori and were deliberate constructs employed to encapsulate and condense into easily understood forms, Māori views of the world, of ultimate reality and the relationship between the atua (deities), the universe and humans (Marsden 2003). In traditional Māori society, pūrākau were fundamental to understanding the world. This is contrary to the widespread belief in the science and wider community that the numerous collections of pūrākau (e.g. Reed 2011) are just myths, ancient legends, incredible stories and folklore. Pūrākau explained as myths invalidate Māori ontological and epistemological constructs of the world, and pūrākau understood as just storiesis an inadequate explanation of the importance of pūrākau in teaching, learning and the intergenerational transfer of knowledge (Lee 2008).

This reminds me of “scientific creationism” in the U.S., in which legend is said to presage later scientific findings. A frequent example used to defend MM is the legend of a giant water-dwelling lizard in New Zealand valley who flicked its tail back and forth, said to explain the floods in that valley that kept the Māori from building their sacred areas there. Like Augustine and Aquinas, who had both a literal and metaphorical interpretation of Scripture, this appears to apply to MM as well: if MM advocates can squeeze legends into the Procrustean bed of science, it supposedly demonstrates that MM is science.

One more bit from reference 3:

Mātauranga Māori provides insight into different perspectives about knowledge and knowing. The Māori epistemological penchant for trying to understand the connections and relationships between all things human and non-human first, ‘what is its whakapapa?’ provides a contrast to the western paradigm that tries to seek knowledge and understanding by a close and deep examination of something or someone in isolation first, ‘what does it/he/she do? What is it for?’

An initial question is, ‘who or what is this thing I am seeing in this world and how do I relate to it?’ Western knowledge’s initial question is, ‘what is the role that this person or thing has?’ In summary, the emphasis on the human element and the impact on the human element differentiates a Mātauranga Māori approach from a Western Pākehā approach. (Source 3)

One could be excused from conflating this kind of MM with modern New Age philosophies in the West.

WHAT IS WRONG WITH TEACHING MODERN SCIENCE? Advocates of MM characterize Western science as white supremacist and colonial, and find it deficient in the spiritual and moral aspects of MM. There are other issues as well—things about modern science said to be a problem. This is from reference 4:

Simplified versions of science taught in schools are collectively known as ‘school science’ in which the big three (Biology, Chemistry and Physics) still reign as specialised subjects in the last two years of the school curriculum. These simplified versions plus the quasi-religious devotion to an outdated ‘lockstep’ version of scientific method add up to a simplistic model of science taught in school that bears very little likeness to the diverse milieus of contemporary working science and scientists (Aikenhead, 2000). The conservatism and resistance to change of school science curricula has been documented for many years (Blades, 1997). It is reasonable to argue that school science must of necessity be simplified by comparison with the real world of working science. But textbook presentations of science also tend to the triumphalist, promoting the successes of science but omitting to mention its failures and disgraces (Ninnes & Burnett, 2001). Distorted textbook versions of science must be considered ideological, although the relevant intentions and effects form complex chains of power, difficult to discern.

Secondary science teachers may believe that teaching science through the scientific method aligns with tertiary science education, making a strong rationale for them to reject the proposed changes. But this belief is flawed on two grounds: first, since contemporary philosophy of science accepts that there is no one ‘scientific method’ (Okasha, 2016); and second, because tertiary science educators are also under pressure to introduce Māori knowledge into their curricula, and may well expect their secondary school colleagues to share this responsibility. The next section considers how science teachers could respond to the challenge represented by these changes in relation to each of the three Māori concepts in the titles shown above.

If school kids are taught that there is a single “scientific method”, as implied above, then that’s wrong. As I note in Faith Versus Fact, the practice of science itself is a toolkit with many tools, includng observation, consensus, predictions, hypothesis-testing, experiments, falsification, and so on. Not all of these tools need be used in any scientific endeavor. As Feyerabend said, “Anything goes”—so long as “anything” involves some of the tools of science. But teaching science is far more than just teaching the methods scientists use: it also involves imparting a body of knowledge to students, and, at higher levels, answering the question, “How did we come to know that?” What is evolution? How do we know it’s true? What happens when chemical bonds are formed? Why do we find marine fossils at high altitudes? And so on and so on. . . . Does MM provide ways to answer those questions that differ from the ways of modern science?

As for the conclusion that science is white supremacist and colonial, I reject it. Yes, science was used in some cases to colonize (invention of weapons and so on), just as architecture and chemistry helped the Nazis build gas chamber to gas Jews. But all that means is that some scientists used their knowledge in damaging ways. It does not mean that science itself is colonialist. The “whiteness” of science reflects that modern science was developed largely by white people–and mostly male. But whether something is true doesn’t depend on the race or gender of who finds it and, thankfully, scientists are becoming much more diverse. Are Asian scientists practicing white supremacy?

SHOULD MM BE TAUGHT IN SCIENCE CLASSES? My answer is, “by and large, no“, because much of MM is not based on science and the methods of MM are not the methods of science. It would simply confuse students to learn two incompatible ways of knowing, for that results in incompatible “facts” (e.g., creationism and evolution) presented as coequal.

This does not mean that the “science construed broadly” of MM—the practical knowledge that helped the Māori thrive and survive, shouldn’t be incorporated into science class. It’s good to do this not just to help Māori connect with modern science, but to show Kiwis that part of the indigenous people with whom they rub elbows were skillful in empirical endeavors using a form of science. But MM should surely NOT be taught as coequal to modern science in schools, and MM should occupy only a small part of science classes. MM, by and large should be reserved for courses on culture, anthropology, and sociology.

Elizabeth Rata (reference 5) has shown some of the deleterious effects that occur when MM replaces science (Rata, a Professor of Critical Studies in Education at the University of Auckland, was one of the signers of the original letter in The Listener):

Curriculum design in New Zealand’s bicultural context tends to favour sociocultural knowledge at the expense of academic knowledge. Here are two illustrative examples. The first is from a study of Māori teachers’ classroom practices (Lynch, 2017). The teachers had benefitted from an academic education themselves and intended this for their own children. However, in line with bicultural policy, they teach a sociocultural curriculum to their Māori students. The social studies teacher has replaced history and geography with kapa haka (traditional Māori dancing and chanting) to ‘provide students with an opportunity to learn… through a Māori lens’ (p. 56). Another teacher rejected the idea of educational success, calling it ‘white success’ and in opposition to succeeding ‘as Māori’ (p. 60). The second example is from the media (Collins, 2020). According to a school principal, the ‘dangers of prescribing a powerful knowledge curriculum’ are because it ‘is about whose knowledge’. A ‘Eurocentric’ approach is ‘a colonial tool of putting old western knowledge ahead of indigenous communities’.

Sound familiar?

WHY THE BIG PUSH, THEN, TO TEACH MM AS COEQUAL WITH MODERN SCIENCE? Everybody knows the answer to this, but dare not say so because it’s the Elephant in the Room. The Māori are being catered to because they were (truly) an oppressed group, and, as reparations, their culture is being valorized—including arguing that MM is science. Further, it’s said that teaching MM will enable young Māori to connect better with science and thus become scientists who will join other working scientists in New Zealand. And yes, Māori are owed a form of reparations and certainly equal treatment morally and legally. But this should not include teaching non-science as science and pretending that the non-science is science. It failed with Biblical “scientific creationism”, and it will fail with MM, except for the parts of MM that are scientific.

Nevertheless, MM will be taught in schools and colleges as a form of science. You don’t have to read much about government and academic initiatives to know that this movement is unstoppable. New Zealand, in this respect, is the wokest of all Western nations, for it’s the only such country willing to corrupt science in the service of equity. I pity the country, I pity its science teachers, and, above all, I pity the children who are bound for a confusing education in science, depriving them of all the wonder and glory of real science. I love New Zealand and its people, but they are being divided along racial lines the same way that we are in America.

Further parallels with the U.S. are palpable. The push for teaching MM is part of the extreme Leftist attack on modern science, propelled by a combination of postmodernism and a desire to dismantle the meritocracy. For science is perhaps the most meritocratic of academic disciplines, since everybody can check on whether you’ve had a good idea that produces truth.


REFERENCES (links are given to all publicly available documents).

1.) “Pūtoi Ako”, internal document of the Curriculum Transformation Programme of Auckland University

2.) Hikuroa, D. 2017. Mātauranga Māori—the ūkaipō of knowledge in New Zealand. Jour. Roy. Soc. New Zealand. 47:5-10.

3.)  Kia Eke Panuku organization. Undated.  Mātauranga Māori. Online at https://kep.org.nz/assets/resources/site/Voices7-16.Matauranga-Maori.pdf

4.)  Tuari Stewart, G. and A,. Tedoldi. 2021. Bringing Māori concepts into school science: NCEA.  Access: Contemporary Issues in Education. 41:77-81.

5.)  Rata, E. M. 2021.  Curriculum design in a bicultural context.  Research Intelligence. 148:22-23.

86 thoughts on “What are Maori “ways of knowing”, and should they be taught in science class as coequal to modern science?

  1. While there are many similarities between mātauranga Māori and science, it is important that the tools of one are not used to analyse and understand the foundations of another …

    That’s rather convenient, isn’t it?

    1. It saves acknowledged experts (by whom?) in MMology from having to quickly write an MMology-based analysis of the roots of “Western Imperialist” scientific methods (“WISM”).
      Of course they could just rely on their established literature. Yeah, right.
      Or they could rely on the automated Sokal method and generate some impressively long auto-blurb passages. Except, that’s a tool produced by WISM, so isn’t available to M7Mology.

  2. Excellent — and shocking— summary.

    I’ve read that what might be the most significant aspect of the scientific method is its contentious nature, in which every scientist is forced to deal with, and answer to, other scientists who think they got it wrong. You don’t just have to do the work, but show it. You have to try to convince people who don’t agree with you, and not just share your findings with those who are ready and willing to believe. Science is a metaphorical series of fistfights.

    This arrangement and attitude is in no way consistent with a sensitive desire to present the “special ways of knowing” and special truths of an unfairly marginalized group. Science is THE way of knowing in science. There is only one weight class (not that it matters, of course, because Māori “science” is not about to try to punch back at Vedic “science” or Navajo “science” to establish who’s right.) If students aren’t allowed to criticize or ask to see answered criticisms of the claims, then they’re learning something other than science. Calling it that is a travesty.

    They will leave more ignorant than they began.

    1. Great response. Speaking of ‘metaphorical fistfights’, here’s a paraphrase of an old truism: You are entitled to your own connotations, but you are not entitled to your own denotations.

    2. How people – who presumably are able to live in society (pay bills, do a job, mow the lawn, etc) can ACTUALLY BELIEVE (not pretend to but actually think it is true) that the universe came out of shark, or that the islands of NZ were “fished” from the ocean, OR the idiotic Judeo-Christian creation myths…are actually TRUE and represent facts….is beyond me. I. Just. Don’t. Get. It.

  3. They lost me at Table 1, with talk of values and “intuition as method”. What this really means is that if you want something to be true, it will be treated as true.

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  4. In an age where it can no longer be assumed for scholarly purposes that people know other languages such as French or Latin, I like that Dr. Charles Royal is quoted in Maori (I assume). That makes it rather hard to understand or evaluate what he says. My favorite is that MM says that “everything is interconnected” but Western Science says “everything physical is connected,” implying that there is something non-physical that Science ignores. I’d like to see that demonstrated. This is all just more sapping of the foundations of modern culture in the guise of the Noble Savage. It belongs in Anthropology.

      1. “We don’t want to fight, but, by jingo, if we do, we’ve got the ships, we’ve got the men, and we’ve got the money, too!”

  5. Let’s view this dispassionately. New Zealand has become, willy nilly, a test case for the putative Woke paradise of a country. We can make hypotheses about what is going to happen in this case. I, for one, agree with our host that this is a bad development and is to the detriment of all New Zealanders, including Maori. Furthermore, I predict that we will see an exodus of the best minds from this “paradise,” accelerating the country into backwardness. I invite my fellow commentators to weigh in with any hypotheses or predictions you might have.

    1. this is a bad development and is to the detriment of all New Zealanders, including Maori

      I agree. Do they not understand that the moment NZ science students have to start doing laboratory work, they’re going to find they have to throw out all this MM stuff and this will end up undermining it? Kept as a separate traditional/sociological subject, it can be taught and respected for what it is: Maori culture. But the moment this idea or any other idea enters into science, it’s going to be put to the test, and if it doesn’t work out, treated as a failed hypothesis.

      The Maori history of humanity is a good example. As an origin myth, it’s great. It’s interesting and we can learn a lot about how the Maori thought about their world by exploring it. But once these well-meaning NZers insist it be considered science, and kids start treating it as science, then they’re going to come to the conclusion that it is empirically wrong. And now you’ve actually lowered it’s value in their eyes from the value they would have taken from it had you simply left it in the category of cultural myth.

    2. Brain drain has long been a problem there (before woke) as many bright young kiwis go to Australia (where they can live by right), the UK or (less so) USA. Many come back to have children, but many don’t.

      1. Sounds a rather Irish vibe to me.
        Where’s Graine? Oh. Yeah.
        Where, for that matter, is Heather Hastie? I don’t recall having seen an update from her blog-not-website for a while.

  6. Perhaps a more tangentially related point, but:

    I hear more and more of this narrative that science is “white” and / or “white supremacist.” I partly understand where it comes from, as Europe did misappropriate science and the concept of rationality to help justify colonialism; but the idea that “therefore science is white supremacist” doesn’t follow.

    In order to adopt such a narrative, one really has to ignore the history of science and mathematics. Not only has scientific progress always been made by a diverse collection of individuals, from diverse areas of the world, but there was a 500 year period in Europe’s history (the Dark Ages) when little scientific progress was made in Europe.

    The idea of “science is white” feels like a HUGE slap in the face to the vast multitude of non-white, non-western individuals who helped (and are helping) build up our scientific understanding.

    1. We on the science side have a lot of strong arguments, but that latter one – that science has long been international and unbound by country or race or history of oppressor or being oppressed – is perhaps the strongest. There has been no such thing as white / colonist science for many decades.

    2. Yes. I’ve found the phrase “science is white” often means something like “in social activism, one frequently sees “science” invoked as a method of justifying (white) racism and European colonialism, i.e. white supremacy”. And the latter is a very true statement as far as it goes, it is indeed common to see this. But I don’t know how to respond to these people in way they’d accept a distinction between science as a way of thought, versus the political misuse of it. Going on about that tends to get tuned-out, as not having heard them in the first place, or nitpicking in the face of the need to oppose injustice.

  7. Thanks for reading all that stuff, so we don’t have to! The paragraph beginning, “Mātauranga Māori is a taonga, and as such requires protection. While iwi Māori are the primary kaitiaki of their knowledge, …,” is incomprehensible. It reminds me of students I knew in college, who dropped foreign phrases into their vocabulary so that they could appear sophisticated. The first thing I thought of was, “For the Snark *was* a Boojum, you see.”

    1. I’m trying to remember the name of the English (?, well, British) comedy actor of the 1950s who’s schtick was very rapid speech with pseudo-random swapping of words and syllables. I think it was sometimes described as “gobbledegook”, but I can’t remember the guy’s name.
      Oh no – got him, via the “Carry On…” series. I had him filed behind the publisher. “Professor” Stanley Unwin.
      Unwinese : “an ornamented and mangled form of English in which many of the words were deliberately corrupted in a playful and humorous manner, but which was still largely comprehensible to the listener.” Again, I suspect the writers of this stuff don’t do their own editing, because they have forgotten the bits about “humorous” and “largely comprehensible”.

    2. The Maori terms you cite would be understood by most NZers.

      ‘taonga’ means treasured property, tangible and intangible, in modern speech, though the earliest definition I’ve seen says something like ‘property procured by the spear, from tao, spear.’ NB, the following ‘as such requires protection’ is an allusion to the second article of one of NZ’s founding documents (Treaty of Waitangi) in which the Crown guarantees Maoris the protection of their property, seen by many as sacred (by others as a sacred cow) and binding on all governments, so this is a quite intelligible argument.

      ‘iwi’ = tribes; ‘kaitiaki’ = caretakers, guardians.

      On another matter entirely, I was struck by But textbook presentations of science also tend to the triumphalist, promoting the successes of science but omitting to mention its failures and disgraces. Whoever would have guessed that teachers and textbooks focus on the valuable and reliable knowledge created by science rather than failed hypotheses? I say, spend more time on phlogiston and less on oxygen – that’ll learn them.

      1. Very good, thanks for the translations! I suppose since it was an “internal document” it was OK to use what are to the rest of us very abstruse terms. Perhaps I should have not, um, kvetched.

      2. “…. omitting to mention its failures and disgraces”
        How many secondary school biology textbooks and coffee table books on evolution do not start with Lamarck?

      3. I had to look up “kaitiaki”, and nobody else in my household, ages 25 – 67, knew what it meant, although it’s clear enough from the context. Iwi & taonga are widely understood though.

      4. It’s hard to say about the textbooks without actually seeing them. But you’re essentially right, in that most texts spend 90%+ of their space teaching what science thinks are the correct hypotheses, with only the occasional call-out box or biographical page spread to cover things like (illustrative examples) Piltdown man or N-rays.

        This is IMO good pedagogy. You want to teach some failures to show what can go wrong if you ignore scientific good practices (“too good to be true” results should be met with skepticism and checked; ignore peer review and reproduction and you may fool yourself, respectively). But you don’t want to linger on them because then students may remember the wrong conclusions of past science rather than the more accurate conclusions of the present. Science is not a history class, you’re supposed to learn how to do science in it. So teaching a historical unit on what science did wrong takes away time from a lesson where they learn to calculate some value, or learn physical lab skills, or design an experiment or what have you. The ‘how to do science’ lessons are the priority – history and philosophy of science is what you teach when the class needs a one day break, or what you delve into when your honors class has finished the semester’s material early (all IMO, of course).

    3. YES YES YES. And that is exactly how it appears there (in NZ) also. It is especially egregious since extremely few people grow up speaking Maori at all, let alone only Maori.
      It is a woke affectation that has been slowly infesting NZ for 20-30 years now, presumably also as a way of distinguishing NZ from the rest of the Anglosphere. When it fact it only alienates at home and abroad.
      The diacritical marks are an affectation also as there’s no sound in Maori that isn’t in English.

      NYC (formerly of Auckland, NZ)

      1. At the risk of outing myself as a wokester, I agree with Gordon below that this kind of tone is unhelpful and a distraction from the main point. I can quite understand why people might value the Māori language and want to keep it alive, much as people elsewhere want to keep the Welsh or Irish languages alive. The intrusive mixing of Māori terms that few people understand into English text can become an affectation, but I don’t think that valuing the language itself is. Nor is the use of the macron an affectation, any more than the use of the umlaut or the circumflex accent. It serves to mark a difference in pronunciation which has sometimes been marked by a double vowel – eg Maaori.

  8. Some thoughts :

    “the unique Māori way of viewing themselves and the world, which encompasses (among other things) Māori traditional knowledge and culture”

    So … neglecting things that refer specifically to the Maori themselves, any epistemeological (if that’s the appropriate field) method that the Maori use, which is also used by (say) the San of the Kalihari, or the Yanomami of the NW Amazon … cannot be part of MM, because it is not unique?
    Do these people read the things they write with a critical mind before publishing them?

    Applying the time measure of 25 years to a generation and adding 50 years to bring it up to the present date, the genealogy reveals that the first human being was created about 1350 years ago, or in the year 600 A.D.

    That’s not a terribly bad estimate for the date at which the Maori first settled the Aotearoa archipelago, bearing in mind that the first few generations were likely to be complicated by new groups of settlers arriving from the home region as more-or-less adults. Which, for their population would have been more or less a “year zero”.
    Of course, I’m using WISM, and am incorrectly applying my Imperialist mindset to what was actually not an imperialist acquisition of new land by an expansionist group of settlers from a home region.

  9. All the “failures and disgraces” of Science go into a pop-tune sung continually by academics of the postmodernist and “post-colonialist” varieties (typically chanted into a cellphone while driving an electric car to a dentist appointment). In counterpoint, there are routinely hymns of praise to alternative Ways of Knowing, especially those of indigenous cultures such as the pacific Lakota Sioux (see under Costner, Kevin and movies), the deeply humane Aztecs, the sagely environmentalist First Nations of Canada, or the wise African medical tradition which discovered a cure for HIV in Hypoxis hemerocallidea (common name: African potato).

    These tunes seems to be particularly pervasive in New Zealand. One can think of several possible explanations. One might be the unitary character of the indigenous Maori culture, in contrast to the
    multitude of different indigenous tribal cultures (often at war with one another) in the American and African continents. Another might be the respect historically accorded to the Maori by the British newcomers, as witness the terms of the Treaty of Waitangi. Still another might be the number, among
    New Zealanders, of British and American romantics in search of a pristine utopia. And I suppose we
    cannot exclude that possible influence of spirit-beings, or of other emanations of whakapapa.

  10. Another excellent article which conveys very well the nebulous nature of MM and the extraordinary difficulty of understanding exactly what is being asserted. Of late I have noticed that advocates for MM have settled on a few real achievements as proof that MM is science, not mentioning the rest of the guff – ocean navigation and the cultivation of the kumara in a temperate region being the most often quoted.

    1. Thanks to our host for this critical review.

      I’ve been trying to learn more about how the Polynesians did navigate over open ocean. One stark reality is that without written records, voyages that vanished without trace would, literally, vanish without trace. There would be no survivors and no written records of the doomed voyage ever having departed. So voyagers who did find land and start new colonies — there’s that word again!—have benefited from survivorship bias. Their resulting oral tradition would credit some supernatural gift of navigational skill to whichever sky and sea reader was at the helm of their boat.

      Maori sky reckoning is really nothing more than the ability to work out latitude, gussied up with mythology. Lacking a North Star, as we will someday again as the axis precesses, they had to compute it indirectly from when stars rose. Additional practical observational knowledge of sea swells, bird flight patterns, deduced reckoning and cloud formation, OK, fair enough. That does appear adequate, with sufficient embarked provisions, to make two-way open-ocean voyages using modern reproductions. Remember there was no way to determine longitude at sea until Harrison invented his series of chronometers in the 1700s. As Drake and Magellan showed, you could cross the Pacific (if you were lucky) without it. And William Bligh accomplished a Pacific voyage in an open boat. It’s making a specific landfall that is so difficult.

      But my question is, did Maori, having established themselves in New Zealand, make return trips to the Old Country to report their good fortune, as the Vikings did, thus encouraging others to join them? And did other Polynesians, from the same or another island group arrive subsequently? Or are the current Maori the only ones who lucked into the place, and had no way to find their way back?

      1. I don’t think latitude or longitude is the best comparison. Those terms sort of come with an understanding of the dimensions and shape of the earth. If you give me the lat and long of my destination, and provide me with a sextant, a chronometer, and the correct tables, I can get there. It does not matter where my start point is, I can get there, unless I run aground on the way. Importantly, I can get home again.
        Polynesian navigation, as I understand it, is more like a recipe. There were stars to follow or keep on the beam, birds to look for, and the observation of swell and waves. That is often enough to get you in the rough area, and signs of land are often detectable far out to sea.
        Swells and bird patterns are subject to disruption, and overcast is the bane of all navigators.
        My understanding of current scholarship is that different Pacific populations had varying knowledge of, and ability to travel to, other islands known to them. I don’t think very long distance travel was ever undertaken casually or regularly. The risk/reward possibilities were different than that of the Vikings, who had fairly high confidence that they could get where they were going, and return when they wanted to, even when crossing oceans.

      2. The Polynesians (I’m no anthropologist, so this may be a passe’ term) landed on nearly every speck of rock in the Pacific (at least the southern Pacific). There are relicts on most of the small islands that turned out not to be able to support human populations, long-term. (I think Jared Diamond discusses this extensively in his book Collapse; it’s been a long time since I read it.)

        They were amazing navigators; but as you point out, the people touting their methods are practicing confirmation bias: Counting the hits and ignoring the misses. They have no denominator. No one knows the denominator.

        What’s interesting to me is how long it took them to discover New Zealand, given that it is closer to their presumed point of origin than many other places colonized much earlier. And it is much larger than almost all of those.

  11. Cultural exportation! From Maori to the world of science. I appreciate the Maori desire for deserved recognition and stature. Who is driving this, guilt plagued European Kiwis or Maori? More cultural exportation, from the liberal northern white world: As a Spanish speaking guerro, don’t bother discussing ‘the deeply humane Aztecs’, when I’ve tried that Mexicans look at me blankly, sometimes bring up a proud desire to use Aztec names for their children. Another example, my observation is twenty years ago Frida Kahlo was not valued as a feminist or great artist in Mexico, but as the preserver of folklorica, especially regional clothing, costumes. Today I see Mexican women with Frida tattoos. All very symbolic.

  12. “Mātauranga Māori is, first and foremost,mātauranga Māori, valid in its own right.”
    Is that the kind of quality pedagogy we can expect from the New Zealand university system?

  13. Thanks for trying to make sense of all that for us.

    “Mātauranga Māori is…constantly evolving as Māori continue to make sense of their human existence within the world.”

    Do any of those references explain *how* MM evolves? What do Maori do to improve their understanding of existence? I want these folks to stop describing the parallels between scientific knowledge and Maori knowledge, and start explaining the parallels between scientific methods and Maori methods for getting *better* knowledge.

    1. Exactly. The Maorists are confusing science with technology. Optics, as a developing science, shed light on the nature of light as well as the making of better lenses to improve scientific observations, and for practical things like lighthouses and military/naval observations. But optics is a mature discipline today and is no longer studied as a science. As a technology, lens crafters have to know it chapter and verse and there are guild secrets that the best makers use to advantage. A lens grinder doesn’t claim to be doing science. Nor should a Maori navigator, whose theory of the cosmos is irrelevant to the task.

    2. That is a great point. If anyone with a modicum of knowledge about science were asked: What examples can you give where scientific theories and paradigms were overturned? Demonstrated to be wrong and so taken off the table? That person should be able to go on at some length with examples that show the self-correcting process of science. This is really one of the pillars of how science works.
      But if the same were asked scholars of MM, I suspect the best they can do is to tell some tales about how this tribe has come to believe this, while that tribe disagrees and instead believes that. The difference will be very telling.

      1. If indeed science is an ever self-correcting process, why are scientific findings at particular time periods considered as truth? Is science not meant to discover truths about the universe? I find ‘self-correcting process’ and ‘truth’ to be an oxymoron

        1. Science never claims to find absolute truth–truth is always provisional. We have no way of finding the final, unchangeable truth. Scientific truth (or “fact”) was best defined by Steve Gould, I think,

          In science, ‘fact’ can only mean ‘confirmed to such a degree that it would be perverse to withhold provisional assent.’ I suppose that apples might start to rise tomorrow, but the possibility does not merit equal time in physics classrooms.

          In other words, truth is something that you’d bet your house on. Evolution, in this sense, is true.

          No oxymoron!

          1. But there is a statistically calculated probability that I will suffocate in a few minutes because the air in the room I’m in, or even just the oxygen molecules, will segregate into the other half of the room, leaving me with none. The denominator for this probability is 10 raised to more zeroes than there are atoms in the known universe but this violation of the Second Law is not impossible, even though we will never observe it.

            This improbable event, unlike rising apples, is worth teaching in science classes, and is taught, because it provides more insight into the nature of entropy than merely stating it as induced from empiric observations that entropy of the universe for any spontaneous process always increases.

        2. ‘Self-correcting process’ usually means that scientific theories get better. While the newer, ‘corrected’ theory subsumes the older theory, it does not mean that the older theory is completely wrong. General relativity subsuming Newtonian gravity is a good example. We have not discarded Newtonian gravity, and we still use it because it is a good approximation for many things we want to compute. However, because we expect general relativity to fail at high energy scales, the effort to find a theory that would subsume general relativity is ongoing.

          The program of science is to formulate theories that explain observed natural phenomena. In this effort, we don’t need to use the terms ‘truth’ or ‘absolute reality’ because we only look for agreement with observations. As was said above, the word ‘truth’, to the extent that it is used, means ‘provisional truth’. This is why scientists keep doing experiments to find out where existing theories fail.

          While science need not use ‘truth’ or ‘absolute reality’, religions use these terms all the time without being able to reify or demonstrate anything.

  14. I’m an expat murican who has lived in kiwiland and worked in schools for years as well as raising kids here. The teaching of sciences here has been bad for decades. As well as history and geography etc. the Maori are among the least oppressed of colonized people but among the whiniest. The ‘other ways of knowing’ bs isn’t new but seems to have become increasingly important.in a modern polarised world. Gravity is gravity wherever you are.

    1. 100% agreement. Compared to the North Americans, Japanese Ainu or (just about worst) Australian (where I was born) aborigines…. the Maori had probably the best conditions of any conquered people. There was even a treaty!
      They way they (or their representatives) talk you’d think it was the exact opposite.

      1. Oh wow, they had a treaty so they didn’t get walked over how dare Maori pull that one.
        So the govt of the day confiscates land for the war effort (WW2) saying it will be returned. It is not returned but made into a golf course.
        The local Iwi “whined” about it for the return of the land.
        It eventually did but so much for trust.

  15. The key difference between science and the Maori “way of knowing” is the first one listed, which deserves more attention—namely, the difference between being “Participatory ‘experiencers’ of systems” and “detached ’observers’ of systems.”

    For the scientific mindset, knowledge is something “out there” in the external world to be observed. For the Maori (and other indigenous peoples) knowledge is not wholly ‘out there’ nor is it wholly ‘in here’; knowledge is the polarity between the two, a creative tension between the subject and the object. It’s a synthesis of observer and observed that must be participated in and experienced, not merely observed. To understand the Maori world view, then, we need to envision a kind of world in which the strict separation of inside and outside, subjective and objective, is not the case.

    But this presents a problem when it comes to including the Maori “way of knowing” in science classes. Just as in poetry, although we can agree on the observable characteristic of a poem—its form, meter, use of poetic devices etc.—no two “experiences” of the poem are going to be the same, since they include the interaction between the objective characteristics of the poem and the subjective characteristics of the reader, including age, personal history, intelligence, imagination, etc. You and I may both experience and participate in Frost’s poem “Birches,” but your “Birches” will never be the same as my “Birches.”

    So if we want to limit “knowledge” to “facts”—i.e., what we can observe, demonstrate, and come to consensus about—then our host is right: except for the practical aspects of MM that coincide with “science construed broadly,” the Maori “way of knowing” has nothing to contribute.

    1. So if we want to limit “knowledge” to “facts”—i.e., what we can observe, demonstrate, and come to consensus about…

      Theories that are supported by experiment are also a part of scientific knowledge as well as facts.

      The issue here is about what constitutes scientific knowledge — what we teach kids in science class. So if you start from a broader sense of ‘knowledge’ that includes subjective experiences, then yes, we would have to limit its meaning. Personally, even though I appreciate art in a subjective way, I don’t start with a broad definition of ‘knowledge’, so I can have both (subjective and objective) without having to limit the meaning of the word ‘knowledge’.

      When we teach science there is absolutely nothing wrong with talking about how people, ancient or not, developed methods that worked. We definitely talk about the recent history of physics all the time when we teach it.

      There is also nothing wrong with talking about the mistakes people made in the past, although this may not sit comfortably with some people. For example, we can teach about how some ancient people turned away from divine explanations to come up with more naturalistic explanations, an approach that led to scientific progress.

  16. This brings to mind a book from way, way back (probably from the 1970s). It is Castenada’s “…Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge”. I didn’t read it but from vague memories of discussions it relates to the Maori topic.

    1. Its in a series of books where the author tells a tale of following an Indian Shaman guide as he explores the effects of peyote in an attempt to discover a hidden reality. I read the whole series as I found it to be fascinating at the time. It was supposed to be a true account, but its really just very trippy fiction.

  17. Excellent post but the woke answer is “all of that is just Western epistemology that focus on what is superior and what is inferior, where Indigenous epistemologies are not concerned with making judgements about the value of one over the other.” I wonder if Western philosophers think that Western epistemology is better than other epistemologies, if they don’t, why do even study epistemology?

  18. In another part of the real world, the NZ Government seems to have decided that it’s worth their while to weaken the long-standing Five Eyes Intelligence-sharing agreement in order to crawl up President Xi’s a***hole: see eg https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/apr/23/new-zealands-stance-on-china-has-deep-implications-for-the-five-eyes-alliance

    One of my sons-in-law is a Kiwi, and a proud one, but he’s just taken out British citizenship. I’m not surprised! His family includes one of the longest-established farming dynasties in Marlborough, who now produce some of the best Sauvignon Blanc grapes in Blenheim. Goodness knows what they think of this farrago, if indeed they have to take notice of it. I fear for New Zealand.

  19. I studied Māori language and culture in primary school (grade school), high-school and even did a course at tertiary level.
    Things I took away from those years include:

    – Māori is a complex culture and worth celebrating and respecting (as all cultures are).
    – Pre-colonial times (1820’s onwards) Māori were an advanced stone age culture. They did not have machines (no wheel, nothing mechanical) and did quite well for themselves in their environment.
    – Mātauranga Māori was learned the hard way. Archaelogical evidence all across Aotearoa shows that Maori would arrive in an area and decimate the local flora and fauna. When there was nothing left to eat (which could take years) they would move on. Eventually they developed the much vaunted respect for nature and developed farming techniques and started practicing more environmentally sustainable practices.

    Like every other culture, Māori are not “pure” in their relationship with their environment.
    Personally I think that Mātauranga Māori does have a place in the NZ education system, not as science but as part of a wider Māori cultural education which should be part of a core curriculum for all students.

    1. Thanks to Paul for some interesting comments. That article by Morgan Godfery is entirely typical of the smug, parochial and dismissive attitude of MM proponents to “a rump of New Zealand academics and conservative activists”, the highly distinguised theoretical chemist Professor Peter Schwerdtfeger being part of the rump. After all, what could “a British retiree” have to say worth listening to, especially when we can listen to the wit and wisdom of a Wellington-based writer, trade unionist, and specialist in Maori poltics?

      Dawkins himself has commented on the navigation issue here: https://twitter.com/RichardDawkins/status/1471088143415885830

      “There’s only one way of knowing: science. And Polynesians must have used it or they’d never have reached NZ in the first place.”

  20. Three practical questions occur to me:

    1. Is there consensus about MM throughout NZ? Since it seems to rely on oral transmission, one would expect considerable variation. Which version will be taught and examined?

    2. Are there textbooks which students can study in connection with teaching?

    3. Are all NZ students taught the Maori language at a sufficient level to engage in academic discussion at university level? Is it the intention that all students are taught the same MM in the same classroom? Anything else would seem the worst sort of apartheid.

    An optimistic view would see this a a token response to placate woke sensitivity with a couple of hours a week spent on MM while real science is taught elsewhere.

    I seem to remember reading that one of the advocates of MM is a microbiologist. I wonder if MM has a useful concept of infectious disease as due to microbes, not to mention as explanation for the action of penicillin.

  21. White guilt is a helluva drug and New Zealand has too many junkies. Maori “ways of knowing” are being forced onto the science curriculum not because they have greater merit than other “ways of knowing” but because they come from a group oppressed by whites…and now the descendants of those whites can alleviate their guilt and feel good about themselves by having MM taught as science, the subject the intelligentsia has the least knowlege and most suspicion of.

  22. For further background reading, may I suggest
    — Lester-Irabinna Rigney’s “Internationalization of an Indigenous Anticolonial Cultural Critique of Research Methodologies: A Guide to Indigenist Research Methodology and Its Principles,”
    — Gorelick’s “Indigenous Sciences are not Pseudosciences,”
    — Martin Nakata’s “Disciplining the Savages / Savaging the Disciplines,” and
    — Rigney’s “Indigenous Australian Views on Knowledge production and Indigenist Research,” Chelsea Watego’s “The irony of the Aboriginal academic,”

    Plus, Watson-Verran, Helen and David Turnbull’s “Chapter 6: Science and Other Indigenous Knowledge Systems” (1995) in Sheila Jasanoff, Gerald E Markle, James C Peterson and Trevor Pinch (Eds) Handbook of Science and Technology Studies, SAGE Publications.

    Material on Torres Strait Islander astronomy can be found here…

    I look forward to reading more of your thoughts on this important topic.

    1. I looked up the one link and I see that you’re defending indigenous knowledge as science. I suspect that every one of your references did that. Sorry, but I’m not going to read them all. Maybe one or two, but the link you gave about astronomy is off-putting:

      The First Nations cultures of Australia – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders – speak over 250 distinct languages and stretch back for over 65,000 years. This makes the First Australians the oldest astronomers and the oldest continuing cultures in the world. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people developed a number of practical ways to observe the Sun, Moon and stars to inform navigation, calendars, and predict weather. Australia’s First Nations people assign meaning and agency to astronomical phenomena, which informs Law and social structure. It also serves as the foundation for narratives that are passed down the generations through song, dance, and oral tradition over tens of thousands of years.

      1. In my rush I failed to provide background. Sorry. No, I do not believe indigenous knowledge is science! In fact, I’ve been arguing with friends about this for some time. They gave me these sources as seminal works in the field of “indigenous science.” I thought you might want to read what they considered to be important.

        Believe me, we’re on the same page. I came to your blog and books after a debate with a friend who is a creationist. I needed to bone up on evolution so I could argue with him as well as remind myself why I agreed with the theory of evolution. In fact, after he recommended the sci-fi book “I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist” I recommended your “Why Evolution is True.”

        Now my sister-in-law, also a creationist, has me reading “The Science of God.” If you have written about this book, please let me know. So far, I’ve only found Mark Perakh’s piece on TalkReason.

        So, just by happenstance one set of friends is arguing for indigenous knowledge and another set for creationism. From my perspective, they have a good deal in common and none of it is truth.

        1. Thanks for clarifying your comment. In general I don’t argue with creationists, since their “theory” rests on their faith–a faith that few are brave enough to abandon in the face of countervailing evidence. Seriously. Argue with the open-minded, or with people on the fence, but not with somebody who’s already committed to the worldview regardless of the evidence. As for indigenous knowledge, it of course depends what they are claiming as “knowledge”, and if that “knowledge” rests on some of the empirical tools that scientists use. My experience with MM-loving Kiwis is that they are like the woke: their beliefs are not subject to refutation. In other words, they’re quasi-religious.

        2. Oh dear; Gerald Schroeder. He keeps coming up. Here is something I wrote last year on The Panda’s Thumb: “Be very, very careful if you want to use science to prove something about religion,” https://pandasthumb.org/archives/2020/03/be-very-very-careful.html. Also, in “Antony Flew’s conversion to deism,” https://pandasthumb.org/archives/2004/12/antony-flews-co, I provided a handful of references that may prove useful, not least “The Bible as a science text,” https://inside.mines.edu/~mmyoung/BkRevs.htm, which discusses Schroeder’s “thesis” after the review of Hugh Ross.

    2. Prof. Gorelick’s title appears in several Google citations. He made a submission with the same title to Indigenizing the University. Diverse Perspectives, Frances Widdowson, ed., 2021. Frontier Centre for Public Policy. His essay was rebutted by Massimo Pigliucci and each of them got a second kick at the can. Prof. Widdowson is well-known to Canadians (and I hope to others) as a skeptical thorn in the side of the indigenization/decolonization movement on campus, which seems to have erupted spontaneously from the foreheads of university administrators after the release of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s report in 2015. Its origins are political and not academic. She states in her Introduction that in trying to present diverse perspectives on what “Indigenization” actually means, she invited proponents of Traditional Knowledge to submit contributions. Few did. Some declined when told that their submissions would appear alongside opposing views (or, in Gorelick’s case, specifically rebutted.).

      In Jan. 2017, Gorelick complained to the Society for Academic Freedom and Scholarship that his university had infringed his academic freedom in denying him permission to teach a course in Indigenous perspectives of ecology and evolution because it had too much folklore in it.
      A rebuttal to that argument by Albert Howard appears here:

      I realize that you are not citing these references as authoritative. I’m just highlighting Gorelick because I have read him.

    3. This collection of links is prima facie evidence of the sort of creationist stories that well-meaning but ill-informed people are trying to ram through as “history” and “science” in a mil que-toast attempt to atone for the sins of their forebears. The idea that the current languages and cultures in Australia are the oldest in the world will surely be news to the Khoisan, Baremba and other distinct groups inside and outside of Africa that are genetically far older and have cultures to match. Can’t wait for the evidence to support your points and refute theirs.

  23. When did the scientific method become intrinsically associated with Europe and 🏤 colonialism? While it might have been codified and refined in Europe, surely it has been practiced in some form or another all over the globe. I’m thinking of Central America, the Middle-East, India, China, and Japan.

    1. It happened as soon as Europeans and related colonialists started to justify slavery and land theft by reference to “Science” rather than “God”. If you dig into the history, there was a real shift in the rhetoric over time. It went from “We get to enslave you because God told us so, you don’t have souls.” to “We get to enslave you because According To Science you are lesser beings.” . That’s what drives these issues. You can say over and over that the political abuse of science, even if massive and extensive, doesn’t invalid the scientific method itself. But the people who make such an association seem to regard that argument very unfavorably.

  24. Thank you for covering this topic so well.

    I saw the writing on the wall about 20 years ago on my visits there noticing woke Kiwiland as increasingly the (particularly government) everyday language started to be peppered with Maori words (understood by almost nobody). This formed unnecessary divisions and alienation between groups within NZ and NZ’s status in the world.
    It is a small country, but an important democracy in the larger world. I’m glad this latest outrage is getting some attention abroad thanks in large part to yourself and Prof. Dawkins, etc.

    NYC (formerly Auckland, NZ)

    1. It is unhelpful to insert this type of tone into a debate that is centred on what is science and what is not. Just to be clear I am fully in agreement with the arguments being made on this ongoing thread, although unlike some commentators I am fairly optimistic a somewhat more balanced outcome will result from the debate over time.Unfortunately public utterances by a limited and active group do not always provide a full picture of the situation.

      The Māori language (te reo), which is also an official language, is spoken by by a significant proportion of the population albeit not fluently in many cases. Admittedly this shrank over the last century or so but is increasing as part of the cultural reconnection many Māori are experiencing. That reconnection with their culture is in the main is beneficial and important in moves to alleviate the health, educational and economic disadvanatages many Māori face and to provide Māori with a firm and secure cultural base for advancing through their lives.

      New Zealand English has long contained a significant proportion of Māori words and these are understood by most non-Māori New Zealanders, many of whom are married to and work with Māori. While the usage of Māori words has increased rapidly in the last few years and many are not familar to 70 year olds such as me they are likely to be familar to many younger New Zealanders who have learn’t much more of the language. Māori language and culture may upset some but the great majority of New Zealanders would see many elements of Māori culture as an integral part of being a New Zealander and as a major part of New Zealand identity. To use one obvious if over-used example – the haka.

      1. I think that the practice of sprinkling Māori words throughout English text has increased dramatically in the last year or two, and it’s not just 70 year olds who have trouble understanding some texts. On the haka, I recommend this video from a satirical TV show from a few years back:


        For overseas readers, I should point out that “Dr Tipene Walsh” is not a real academic, and the concept of “Peak Haka” is a joke.

        1. Gordon I think you’re overestimating when you say re reo Maori is spoken by a “significant proportion of the population.” I don’t think that linguists would agree that sprinkling some Maori words into English sentences could be seen as ‘speaking a language’.

          I’m Maori, I grew up in Northland where there is a large population of Maori, my grandparent was a fluent first language speaker of te reo Maori, and I can tell you with some confidence that language revitalisation is in isolated pockets, and to a very low level of fluency. There is too little opportunity for full immersion for it to ever be more than a hobby.

          I’m also sceptical of claims that reconnecting with traditional Maori culture is always a force for good. In asserting this you infantilise us, you presume that we are all a homogeneous, rather simple-minded group. I’ve also seen plenty of people brainwashed into this toxic activist grievance culture when they seek to ‘reconnect with their roots’.

  25. How depressing that the encroachment of religion in it’s various forms has to be defended just as vigorously these days from the Left as from the Right.

    These days it feels like that scene in Star Wars, with the Trash Compactor walls closing in from both sides on those who still hold rational, enlightenment, empirical values.

  26. Is writing books good ? After all, Hitler wrote books. So if you can agree *most* books are not written by hitler-people, then writing isn’t that bad. Same goes with science.

  27. Michael Behe and the creationists at the Discovery Institute must be kicking themselves at not having this approach back in “teach the controversy” days. If only they labelled evolution as “White Supremacy” instead of “Social Darwinism”, or whatever it was they came up with….

  28. I wonder what the mātauranga Māori contribution to the understanding of the recent (last week) mud volcano eruption on North Island is going to be.
    Are we likely to discover that the ghosts of extinguished moa are kicking up a stink amongst the chthonic spirits? Or that the pore pressure has been cranked up a bit (volcanic activity, or a bolus of hot fluids from a dewatering mudrock unit?) resulting in mud and hot water gouting onto the surface.
    The point about science is that it makes useful predictions about the universe. Or, as Feynmann put it so eloquently – if your beautiful theory disagrees with experiment, it’s wrong.

  29. This is contrary to the widespread belief in the science and wider community that the numerous collections of pūrākau (e.g. Reed 2011) are just myths, ancient legends, incredible stories and folklore. Pūrākau explained as myths invalidate Māori ontological and epistemological constructs of the world, and pūrākau understood as just ‘stories’ is an inadequate explanation of the importance of pūrākau in teaching, learning and the intergenerational transfer of knowledge (Lee 2008).

    Fixed that:

    This is contrary to the widespread belief in the science and wider community that the numerous collections of Norse mythology (e.g. Reed 2011) are just myths, ancient legends, incredible stories and folklore. Norse mythology explained as myths invalidate Valhallan ontological and epistemological constructs of the world, and Norse mythology understood as just ‘stories’ is an inadequate explanation of the importance of Norse mythology in teaching, learning and the intergenerational transfer of knowledge (Lee 2008).

    I am of Norse heritage, and I am offended, offended, at the scientific/colonial erasure of the Norse traditional ways of knowing!

  30. As a New Zealander, I am so very thankful that you and Richard Dawkins have taken the time and effort to criticise Auckland University and the RSNZ. I’m not a scientist but I have been dismayed and sickened by what has happened to the “Listener 7”. The odious activism displayed by Wiles and Hendy was unbecoming of a “New Zealander of the Year” and of high-profile COVID advisors to government.

  31. contemporary philosophy of science accepts that

    How convenient that one set of superstition devoid of knowledge – philosophers can’t agree, even after 3000 years of speculation – can be used to prop up another.

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