The Royal Society of New Zealand takes down its statement damning the Satanic Seven

December 28, 2021 • 10:00 am

Just a short note about what’s going on with the Royal Society of New Zealand’s Inquisition. As you may recall seven professors at the University of Auckland wrote a letter to a magazine called The Listener objecting to the government’s and universities’ plans to teach  mātauranga Māori , or “Maori ways of knowing” as coequal to science in science classes. Although there’s some knowledge in mātauranga Māori, there’s also a lot of myth, untruth, and other stuff that is not science by anyone’s lights—including morality and philosophy. You can see the Listener letter signed by the group I call “The Satanic Seven” here, and it’s pretty innocuous—simply a defense of science against myth.

But you can’t in any way go up against the Māori in New Zealand because, as an oppressed and indigenous people, they are considered by the Woke to be sacrosanct in every way.  Denying that their “body of knowledge” is coequal to and in no way inferior to modern science just cannot be done unless you want to be called a racist.

Further, the Royal Society of New Zealand (RSNZ) launched an investigation of two of its members who signed the letter (Robert Nola and Garth Cooper; another, Michael Corballis, recently died). An investigation!  I guess members of the RSNZ don’t have freedom of speech. In fact, the RSNZ, which is supposed to defend science, issued a statement criticizing modern science as “outmoded”. The statement, below, is one I discussed here.

Note that it disses the “group of Auckland academics” for daring to assert that mātauranga Māori is not a “valid” truth, and the RSNZ upholds the whole Māori “way of knowing” as worthy of support as science, supplementing “the narrow and outmoded definition of science” by the Satanic Seven—which is simply modern science.

While many Kiwis (and academics, even scientists) agreed with the RSNZ statement, it was derided and mocked by those overseas, including Richard Dawkins (mātauranga Māori is explicitly creationist):

Dawkins also published a letter in The Listener originally called “Dear New Zealand friends of science and reason,”  later changed to “Science is science.”

My guess is that all this negative attention from overseas, including the RSNZ launching its own Inquisition, embarrassed the organization, for when you click on the screenshot of its statement above, it’s gone. It’s vanished, extinct, singing with the Choir Invisible. It is an Ex-Statement. Clicking on it now (try it) redirects you to a more recent statement by Paul Atkins, Chief Executive of the RSNZ—a statement that I wrote about before. It’s not as inflammatory as the first statement, but it’s still weaselly.

So the RSNZ has made its words vanish, and there’s no record of them online except in screenshots saved by people like me. I suppose this is good news, for it shows that they know they screwed up by taking the stand that mātauranga Māori is “valid truth” (yes, bits of it do constitute knowledge).  But, as far as I know, the RSNZ Inquisition continues. Another letter I wrote them urging them to put away the instruments of torture has gone unanswered.

As I’ve said before, I love New Zealand and its people, but I have to take a second look at whether I love its academics. I’ve met many real scientists in New Zealand, all of whom I respected, but there are too many other people in academia whose wokeness and sympathy for the oppressed, while well-meant, has clouded their judgement to the point of blindness. I have, however, received many emails from Kiwis, including scientists, who agree with me, but are afraid to publicly express their opinion.  That’s what the RSNZ intended with its original statement—to chill the speech of dissenters.

63 thoughts on “The Royal Society of New Zealand takes down its statement damning the Satanic Seven

  1. The seeming willingness of both the left and right to reject the findings of science that do not conform with the demands of their ideological agendas has taken place at the same time that religion has declined. If this is true then this question is raised: what is the significance of this decline in religion in terms of its effect on society? In other words, does the decline of religion simply mean that it is being replaced by other forms of superstition and irrationality? And, if so, are these new forms more dangerous to rationality, science, and freedom of speech than the old ones? To believe that the decline of religion could mark the ushering in of a better world unfettered by superstition could be a delusion. Human nature may be such that the majority of people require belief in the irrational to survive in an uncertain and cruel world. At least in the popular press, I have not seen these issues discussed to any extent. They should be because the answers may dictate new strategies for those that desire to limit as much as possible the negative effects of superstition and irrationality.

    1. I think of declines in organized religion to be like when a swamp is drained. The falling water levels (religion), reveals old tree stumps (woo-full thinking; spiritual thinking) that were always there, but now we notice them more.

    2. I’ve wondered about this, too — why, if religious belief is waning, is that kind of thinking in the driver’s seat? For example, the election and continued support for our last president.

    3. It is interesting being a regular reader of this site, with many posts about the decline of Christianity and then many others about the rise of this strange new religion called Woke aka Postmodern Social Justice, which I think of as a sort of post-Marxist post-Christian mashup.
      According to Durkheim, religion starts with some agreed conception of The Sacred (be it a tree, rock, river, skygod etc) and next comes a moral community that forms around it. And then what inevitably follows is dogma, priests, rituals, taboos, dueling orthodoxies, hounding of heretics, etc etc. It just seems to be a basic foundational part of our apeness to form ingroups and then look for an outgroup to attack.
      I’m inclined to believe that asking humans to live without “religion” is like asking them to live without lungs.

      1. Well, how, then, do the inhabitants of Scandinavia live without religion (if you say there’s a substitute, what is it)? ZERO PERCENT of Icelanders under 25 believe in God.
        There must be a lot of people that need to be put on respirators!

        1. Serious question: how many Icelanders actually believe in elves? Is that just a joke which went too far and can‘t be put back into the box, or is there a non-negligible fraction of otherwise sane people who believe in elves?

        2. Serious question: What fraction of Icelanders believe in elves? Is that a joke which went too far and can‘t be put back into the box, or is there a non-negligible fraction of otherwise sane people who believe in elves?

          1. According to the National Geographic, a good fraction of the population do. It certainly seems so, but I could not read beyond the first few lines because I was interrupted by a request to sign up — I didn’t. However, that Icelanders believe in elves does not mean that religion is a necessary to support life.

            I was intrigued by a recent report that some people waited in Dallas, Texas for JFK to come back. It seemed like satire, so I am skeptical. People can’t be that stupid, surely.

    4. The seeming willingness of both the left and right to reject the findings of science that do not conform with the demands of their ideological agendas has taken place at the same time that religion has declined. If this is true then this question is raised: what is the significance of this decline in religion in terms of its effect on society?

      My impression is that traditional religion has been on the decline for a long time, at least in the West. So what do you mean by ‘at the same time that religion has declined’? I don’t usually think of people as being from the political left or right, but many people have a tendency to reject the ‘findings of science’ that contradict their ideologies, but this is not new. Do you think that recent history is markedly different?

      Because religion in the West has declined over a long period of time, it is conceivable that historians and sociologists are already studying its effect on society. I have not looked to see if they have come up with anything useful. I should.

      In other words, does the decline of religion simply mean that it is being replaced by other forms of superstition and irrationality?

      ‘New age’ religions have been around for decades, and yes, some people left traditional religions to embrace new ones. I don’t know if older religions are being ‘replaced’ by new ones, but we should inspect the ‘nones’ more closely. I’ve always wondered about their finer structure.

      There are many people who abandon their beliefs in traditional religions for bad reasons. I don’t think such people are more rational than they used to be, therefore I am not convinced that the decline of traditional religion implies that people are getting better at reasoning. I don’t know how to measure it. Some time ago, I came across a set of questions, formulated by a psychologist, to test one’s ability to think rationally. Maybe we can administer such a test annually, worldwide. Then we can force people who fail it three times to isolate themselves during the holiday season — no hugs, no wine.

      And, if so, are these new forms more dangerous to rationality, science, and freedom of speech than the old ones?

      That depends on what the new beliefs are. If a new belief involves burning grey cats while another involves worshiping them, then, while both beliefs are silly, the former is not good for grey cats. Therefore, we have to know what the new beliefs are. I think there are examples of conspiracy theories that spread over the internet that brought about direct harm. Even in traditional religions, beliefs and practices change with time. Current members of a religion may have beliefs and practices that are more conducive to modern living than archaic ones.

      Mormonism and Scientology are relatively new, but I don’t know if they are more dangerous.

      Human nature may be such that the majority of people require belief in the irrational to survive in an uncertain and cruel world.

      What precisely do you mean by ‘require’? That people have a tendency to believe in the supernatural is clear, but I don’t know if that is ‘required’ to achieve some desirable state in society.

      At least in the popular press, I have not seen these issues discussed to any extent. They should be because the answers may dictate new strategies for those that desire to limit as much as possible the negative effects of superstition and irrationality.

      How has this happened historically? I think there have been laws that have directly contradicted religious beliefs and traditions, such as laws banning polygamy.

      1. Polygamy among consenting adults is not something clearly outlawed by reason or humanist ideals (unlike female genital mutilation). Christianity banned Germanic areligious elite polygyny. Distaste for polygamy (which I share) is in itself akin to religious sensibilities and may have roots in the Christian tradition. Historically, outlawing the practices of religion A was more frequently done by rulers adhering to religion B than by atheist rulers attempting to weaken religion. When polygyny was banned in Atatürk’s Turkey, he was trying to imitate the West whose societies seemed superior, so he adopted Western practices wholesale. Religions tend to be a conglomerate of beliefs, rituals and social norms and values, areligious societies still have social norms and values (and some rituals).

        1. A problem with polygyny is that in most (all?) cases there is / was significant inequality between men and women. It seems that in societies that don’t have significant inequality between men and women that women almost never choose to enter a polygynous relationship. Polygyny seems to be a symptom of a society in which women are subordinate to men.

          1. It’s a bit more complicated. The correlation you mention does exist. Whether it is a symptom, cause, both, or neither is unclear.

            Historically, polygyny died out not because women protested, but because men protested: in such a society, a few successful men will have all of the women, and many or most men will have none, which is not a very stable sociopolitical state. Were the women happy? One could argue that, in a society in which they were second-class citizens, they had no choice. On the other hand, most women would rather be the mistress of JFK than the only wife of Bozo the Clown. Maybe they would like even more to be the only wife of JFK, but that is not an option. Just ask Marilyn Monroe. She didn’t need the money. She could probably have had just about any man she wanted to have, but she chose to be the mistress of a married man.

            Polygyny of course lived on even after it was officially banned. Do you really think that those 18th- and 19th-century rich dudes need that huge number of female servants? French-maid costume anyone?

            One sees evidence of it in the groupie phenomenon, in which women are happy to share a successful man with other women. (Male groupies are rare. Maybe men don’t want to share, maybe female rock stars aren’t into it.) By all accounts, such action is completely voluntary on the part of the women.

            Of course, these days, in many countries you can have a sexual relationship with as many people as you can find who are willing to participate. Being married to more than one person is often illegal, but one doesn’t have to be married at all. In the past, many polygynous relationships were not multi-wife, but one wife and many mistresses.

            It does seem that men are more interested in having many women than vice versa, and there are obvious evolutionary-biology explanations for that.

            1. Sure, most things are more complicated than a comment on a website can handle.

              “Were the women happy?”

              Sure, there are even women that wear shirts asking Trump to grab their pussy. That’s why I mentioned inequality rather than simply whether women liked it.

              “On the other hand, most women would rather be the mistress of JFK than the only wife of Bozo the Clown.”

              Possibly, though I don’t think that is a given. Particularly if the longer term is considered. And being a mistress is not even close to the same as being one of many wives in a polygynous marriage.

              “Do you really think that those 18th- and 19th-century rich dudes need that huge number of female servants?”

              Apologies, but I don’t understand what you are getting at here. I mean, sure, men that have the desire and the means to have sex with whoever they want whenever they want will do so. In societies where women are less equal than men and or it’s harder for anyone to get ahead, such men will have more success because women will be more willing to trade sex for some measure of economic security.

              “One sees evidence of it in the groupie phenomenon, in which women are happy to share a successful man with other women.”

              Evidence of what exactly? That women like being in polygynous marriages? I disagree. Groupies might be happy to have sex with the object of their fascination even knowing that he has sex with lots of other women, but this is not remotely the same as being one of many wives to one man.

              “In the past, many polygynous relationships were not multi-wife, but one wife and many mistresses.”

              Again, being a mistress is not remotely the same as being in a polygynous marriage. Neither is single people having lots of sex with lots of different partners.

              I tend to think that consenting adults in a reasonably fair and decent society should be free to form whatever kinds of relationships they care to. However, I was not talking about legalities, I was talking about human behavior. The historical evidence strongly suggests that when women are equal to men very few would decide to be in a polygynous marriage. Even in the case of mistresses, even in more modern / equal / free societies, very few such relationships can withstand the affair becoming known to the wife. Either the marriage ends or the affair ends. People being fine with a marriage in which both parties agree to have relationships with other people, and make that work long term, are rare.

              1. As to what I was getting at: after polygyny became socially less acceptable, it continued in disguised form, though it was probably an open secret. One example were the landed gentry of a couple of hundred years ago. Yes, without modern technology, they did need many servants, but not really that many female servants.

                As to the difference between wives and mistresses, that depends. I was using “mistress” as a synonym for “sexual partner to whom one is not married”. Some systems had more or less equal wives, some had one wife and many concubines, sometimes they knew each other and sometimes they didn’t, and so on. Francois Mitterand had a mistress who became public knowledge only after his death. Jacques Cousteau had a wife on board and a mistress on the shore. Charles Lindbergh had three mistresses in Europe who didn’t know each other at the time (and each thought that she was the only one). Lots of different models.

        2. Distaste for polygamy (which I share) is in itself akin to religious sensibilities and may have roots in the Christian tradition.

          I don’t have a problem with polygamy, that is, I don’t have a distaste for it. But, of course, my personal views are irrelevant to the matter. I was merely trying to find an example of a law that was in conflict with religious belief or tradition and was under the impression that polygamy was outlawed in some US states, at least at one time, and that it conflicted with Mormon tradition.

    5. Certainly something to think about, but at the moment my view is that there has not been an increase in people willing to disregard science in favor of beliefs that are important to their self image. I think all we are seeing is that the divisive politics of our era is making this common human failing more visible.

      I don’t think that losing religious belief will result in eliminating all the fallacies and irrationalities humans are prone to, but I think there is good evidence to support that it would result in significant improvement in a society.

  2. Hmmm, probably a good sign but they could have been a little less disingenuous when taking down the original statement – it doesn’t bode well in terms of transparency and accountability.

    1. I still wonder how much it has actually been taken down. Often enough, people take the article off of the front page, but don’t actually purge the file from their server or from their archives. Do links to the page still work?

      More importantly, given that the page was up on the public internet, I’m wondering what similar pages they still host on their internal private intranet.

    2. As a New Zealand citizen and resident, I request readers here to please NOT allow the Royal Lysenkoist Society of NZ to exit the academic battleground with its dignity intact. Please ensure they hobble off with their scientific pants down. The top two, Drs Brent Clothier and Charlotte MacDonald, hold great responsibility for the society’s cultural Lysenkoism. Do as I did within two days of the Royal Lysenkoist Society of NZ posting its rebuke, which was to google the academic emails of Clothier and MacDonald, and let them know. Clothier and MacDonald are prime examples of White NZ postcolonial guilt.

      The degeneration of the RSNZ into the Royal Lysenkoist Society of NZ occurred after the legislative changes of 2012, which opened up the Society to non-scientists, as well as altering the governance structure into ‘Maori-White co-governance’. The Maori-White co-governance structure is also adopted by the Museum of NZ; and is what NZ universities are moving towards. The criteria for which the non-scientists were admitted seemed rather occult, since one can’t use standard science measures such as international research impact. The non-science inductees hold a disproportionately high number of people who are vehement supporters of NZ Maori-White ‘biculturalism’ and who, critically, are silent on the fact that NZ is a multiethnic nation where Asians such as myself make up a disproportionately high amount of the wider science /tech workforce, far more than Asians’ 15% of the NZ population. The strident Maori-White biculturalists that came into force after 2012 in the Royal Lysenkoist Society NZ, pretend that NZ society is overwhelmingly White and Maori, as it was prior to 1970. In other words, the Royal Lysenkoist Society of NZ is not a 21st century organisation, but after 2012 sought to turn the clock back to an imagined social construction of NZ as it demographically existed in the past.

      Readers should understand what Maori-White biculturalism entails, as avowed by the Royal Lysenkoist Society of NZ. It means that NZ society is a ‘partnership’ between Maori and White people. What about Chinese, Indians, Muslims, Pacific Islanders? The cultures of these people DO NOT OFFICIALLY EXIST in NZ ‘bicultural co-governance’. Like Rosa Parks on the bus, these cultures have to head down further towards the back, to be seated. Believe it or not, NZ by legislation is NOT a multi-ethnic or multicultural society like almost all other western nations. NZ lacks a Canadian Multicultural Act, or the Australian declarations of multiculturalism. The Royal Lysenkoist Society of NZ is perfectly fine with NZ society not being officially multicultural.

      The scientists who belong to the Royal Lysenkoist Society of NZ have to keep quiet in the face of the arrant nonsense that the ‘scientific workforce of NZ is Maori-White bicultural’. Members of the Royal Lysenkoist Society of NZ have to keep quiet in the face of reality, which is that NZ is a westernised Asia-Pacific nation in terms of demographics and economic ties.

      You will never hear from the top two, Drs Brent Clothier and Charlotte MacDonald, that NZ has a highly multi-ethnic science workforce where the cultures of ALL NZ scientists should be recognised equally. Instead, the official NZ dogma is that all aspects of Maori culture are functionally equal to White culture in terms of ‘scientific truth’ and ‘cultural truth’ and ‘contribution to NZ society’ . Those who rise to the top of the Royal Lysenkoist Society of NZ and all other Maori-White co-governance structures have to accept this statement the way Catholics must accept all decrees of the pope.

      THAT IS WHY LISTENERGATE HAPPENED. The debacle was not an accident. It was inevitable, due to the cultural changes enforced after 2012 that turned the clock back to the 19th and early 20th century, when NZ society was mainly White and/or Maori.

      1. I’m an English immigrant to NZ and I too have always found the insistence on “biculturalism” as opposed to “multiculturalism” odd. I also find it kind of weird the emphasis placed on the Treaty of Waitangi as the “founding document of the nation”. To an outsider like me, it’s just a treaty, and one that was signed in 1840, 79 years before the Treaty of Versailles, and nobody talks about the latter with reverence. I guess you have to have grown up here to understand this stuff, although many natives seems as baffled as I am.

        An article here gives a flavour of some current discussions:

        eg “Multiculturalism assumes that Māori are just another minority group, a view that is strongly rejected across the spectrum. ”

        It seems that everyone who is not Māori, or tangata whenua, is lumped together as tangata tiriti. And, as you pointed out elsewhere, any amount of Māori ancestry, however small, makes you Māori. As Simon Bridges, himself around one-eighth Māori said in his recent book, “Today it’s not okay in the more socially liberal inner suburbs of Auckland and Wellington to talk about being part-Māori”

        I guess any country seems pretty odd in some ways to outsiders. Hard though it is to believe, some people even find aspects of English life strange.

        Ramesh, what is Listenergate?

        1. ‘Listenergate’ is my preferred term for the Listener letter debacle, as it is wittier, just as the Royal Lysenkoist Society of NZ is a far more accurate term for the RSNZ as it describes their current relationship to scientific truth.

          I’m glad you cited Dr Simon-Kumar’s article, as it is the best contextualising article on NZ society for the purposes of Dr Coyne’s blog. But readers here should note what Dr Simon-Kumar is loath to say explicitly, even on a non-NZ intellectual/academic site, that NZ lacks an equivalent to the Canadian Multiculturalism Act 1988. [ ‘Intellectual/academic’ is the best formula, since the Royal Lysenkoist Society of NZ amply demonstrates how many NZ academics are not intellectual at all ].

          Catch up with me on as I have written much on crackpot NZ Maori-White ‘biculturalism’. The NZ Human Rights Commissioner, an ethnic Chinese, has written to me about my formal complaint the NZ Human Rights Commission is currently processing, about how crackpot Maori-White ‘biculturalism’ has resulted in anti-Asian discrimination.

      2. Ramesh’s comment helps explain the use of ‘coequal’ instead of ‘equal’ in documents promoting the parity of matauranga Maori with colonial/western science – it’s not just polysyllabic pomposity, but an assertion of Maori importance.

        At the ideological heart of political and academic Maori resurgence is the quite ahistorical and unconstitutional notion of a partnership, allegedly enshrined (a semi-religious term is the correct language here) in NZ’s most publicised founding document, the Treaty of Waitangi, combined with the notion of group rather than individual rights. The use of ‘coequal’ helps reinforce the exclusive ‘partnership’ in which Maori tribes are one partner and the Crown, representing everyone else lumped together, is the other partner. Asians and Pacific Islanders had better not start promoting their own folk-knowledge as equal.

        As someone who spent more than half of his teaching career in schools where Samoan was the most common playground language after English, whose wife and friends mostly speak Cantonese as a mother tongue, my ‘lived experience’ matches the statistics – we are a multi-ethnic nation, but that very multiplicity of ethnicities threatens the pre-eminence of Maoris as special people with privileged access to money, power and status.

        1. I think the Indigenous people of Canada are seeing the same writing on the wall. They account for 5% of our population by census, top end estimate including people who as, Ramesh delightfully puts it, ransack their family tree for Indigenous relatives because having some native ancestry can move you along a little, as long as you don’t have to know anything, well, Indigenous. On a population of 35,000,0000 we welcome 300-400,000 immigrants a year, almost all from various parts of Asia and Africa, many to highly skilled and academic work that very few Indigenous people have any hope this generation of doing. And yes our Multiculturalism Act makes it difficult for Indigenous people to successfully cut the non-white communities out of the discussion.

          Indigenous activists have noticed this, and no longer blame all their dysfunction on whites or Europeans or “whitey”, instead they call us all settlers now from whom they must be decolonized. Still, they have to suspect that new Canadians don’t care a fig for their grievances that go back to 1604, or even to the 1870s. It will be only a matter of time that the Sacred Treaties they made with the Crown will be discarded by the larger westernized Asia-Pacific Canada as mere impediments to our development. Then what will they do? Complain to the U.N.? Go to war?

          Settlers should not be overly complacent that they will not resort to violence against us. The Maori did in the late 1800s. The essay, “Decolonization is not a metaphor” Tuck and Yang 2012 does not explicitly advocate violence but it is difficult to imagine how the 95% of Canada (albeit unarmed) and the 99% of the United States (armed) that is not indigenous could ever be “de-settled” without it.

          Is the current “fetishization” of all things Maori an attempt to be on their good side when the Revolution comes? Or is there some other agenda that the Maori are playing their part in but will be thrown under the bus when their allies achieve victory?

  3. I’m extremely skeptical of the idea that wokeness or any of the initiatives it spawns are actually rooted in sympathy for the oppressed. The woke use expressions of sympathy for the oppressed as tokens to accumulate social capital among the like-minded. Telling members of a historically beleaguered minority that their traditional myths are just as true and sound as a modern scientific understanding of evolutionary biology or or geology or cosmology stands to benefit no one, save the people whose reputations are burnished by the effort. It is cowardly, cynical, and patronizing.

    Of course, spelling that out is hardly an effective route to persuasion. And the human capacity for self-deception and rationalization is pretty damn impressive, especially among properly motivated smart people, so I could be totally wrong. History is littered with examples of intelligent people embracing silly notions for this or that ostensibly higher end. Maybe the censorious officials in the RSNZ really have convinced themselves that their efforts will somehow materially benefit the Maori. I just have a mighty hard time buying it.

  4. I strongly suspect that when PCC(E) wrote “Saying that their “body of knowledge” is coequal to and in no way inferior to modern science just cannot be done unless you want to be called a racist.” it was a slight typo, but I agree with your statement as is. If the reason one says that the body of knowledge is coequal is because the Maori are an “oppressed” and “indigenous” people IS racist; it’s just as dismissive, condescending, and embarrassing as the old tropes of the “noble savage”.

  5. Thanks to the efforts of the fine people at, not much ever really vanishes from the internet. Plugging the original URL into the Wayback machine will allow you to see archived versions from July 27 to December 8:*/

    In answer to “Anonymous, Sorry” the original link seems to have been explicitly re-directed on their server to take you to the latest statement, and a link to the original statement no longer appears on their news page, although links to older items are still there, so it does look as if the intention was to make the original statement vanish into an Orwellian oubliette:

    Incidentally, is entirely supported by voluntary donations and is currently asking for support. I’ve found it enormously useful for finding vanished documents on a few occasions, and think it well worth sending a few bucks their way if you can spare it.

      1. For some – many! – websites, they have an archive of dozens to hundreds of previous versions of a page. I can’t remember what it was I was looking for a year or so ago, but it was some piece of Creationist gibberish which had “disappeared” a few months previously. Sadly, that site had been attracting attention of years, and there were dozens of previous versions of it’s front page, complete with gibberish they later chose to try to forget.

        It’s a useful resource, well worth exploring.

    1. Incidentally, is entirely supported by voluntary donations and is currently asking for support.

      They’ve been getting a fiver a month from me for a year or so – since their last funding campaign.

      1. There used to be. All the NZ universities were colleges of the University of New Zealand in my parents’ time, and maybe Popper’s too.

        Btw, I think the overall thrust of opinion on this site about the situation in NZ academia is on the money. Appreciate your interest and concern, as one of the Listener Seven. Your support is cheering to us.

        1. “All the NZ universities were colleges of the University of New Zealand”

          I had no idea – that’s so interesting. You’re right that Popper was at University of New Zealand (Canterbury University College) from 1937 to 1945. The four colleges of UNZ became independent universities only in 1962. Thanks for the lesson!

        2. Thanks for the reply. I am a kiwi but not in academia, this is as close as I get. All the same I feel we are sleepwalking into woke and I am encouraged with your stand for science and truth.

        3. Incidentally, one of the very few public supporters of the Listener 7 Samurai [ this is a Kurosawa metaphor ] is U Auckland literature academic, Brian Boyd, the Nabokov scholar. Boyd is currently writing a biography of Popper. Pervasive rumour has it that Popper, as a cosmopolitan and highly educated Jewish intellectual, was stone bored in emotionally constipated Anglophone NZ of the 1940s. NZ at that stage couldn’t even muster a proper symphony orchestra, and held a grand total of one French impressionist painting in the entire nation. [ Lots of Victorian English painting of barnyard animals and naked ladies though.] After the Nazi menace had passed, Popper one presumes didn’t wish to risk chronic terminal cultural enervation in NZ and returned to the Western world.
          Boyd’s 2 volume biography of Nabokov garnered a whole slew of academic prizes in the western world, which posed a problem for NZ’s book awards, for it had zero Maori content. Can’t recall whether his book was 1st equal or runner up, the ‘worthier’ book being something with mainly Maori content. This bias of NZ’s book awards has continued with the entrenchment of Maori-White biculturalism.

          As for ‘matauranga Maori’, Western readers may presume as the University of Auckland is NZ’s top-ranked university, that UoA press is as cosmopolitan as the US Ivy League presses, OUP, or CUP. One would presume as the composition of Auckland City is 28% Asian, 16% Pacific, only 11% Maori [ where Peter ‘3.125% maori artist’ Robinson is counted as an official Maori resident of Auckland ], that this would be reflected in the books published by Auckland University Press. So take a look at the 50 : 1 ratio of Maori-to-Asian content of books published by Auckland University Press cumulatively from 1990-2020. The same applies to all other NZ university presses.

        4. ”Btw, I think the overall thrust of opinion on this site about the situation in NZ academia is on the money. Appreciate your interest and concern, as one of the Listener Seven. Your support is cheering to us.”

          Yes, yes I see what you mean here Doug. Your own dept. (or School as they call it) had this to say on Twitter:

          ”Our thread has seen a large level of engagement since we posted it last night. We thank everyone who has retweeted the message so our stance against scientific racism is widely seen. The School of Psychology explicitly rejects the narrow views of science expressed in a letter published in The Listener titled ‘In Defence of Science’.

          The expressed opinions are representative of the legacies of colonisation and scientific racism, and therefore impact us all, and, in particular, Māori. We acknowledge the harm this letter has caused for Māori staff and students within the School of Psychology, Faculty of Science, University of Auckland, Aotearoa and beyond. The School of Psychology recognises and values the richness of mātauranga Māori, and the invaluable contributions made by Māori scholars and students to psychology.

          We embrace a psychology reinvigorated by the knowledge generously shared by Māori and which has existed for thousands of years. We strive to create a disciplinary home that is inclusive of, and responsive to, the richness of mātauranga Māori. ” The link is here:

          Who knows, in the near future your dept. might have a new course offering – ”The psychology of scientific racism”.

          Good luck Doug.

          1. I don’t tweet, so I don’t follow the various Twitter mobs.
            However, in reference to the UoA psychology department’s woke Twitter manager, at least I can comment as being one of the few people in Auckland who actually studied ‘scientific racism’ as an academic discipline at grad student level. In my case, for several months at the Wellcome Institute for the history of Medicine, London, supervised by the medical historian Roy Porter. My subject of study was in the construction of how 19th and early 20th century science was used to create and justify racial/ethnic/class hierarchies in Europe, and the European colonies. I wonder who in the NZ twitter mob actually studied the subject they invoke, ‘scientific racism’, like me.

            The UoA twitter manager’s statement is amusing in its inability to reason :
            1. ostensibly ‘school of psychology rejects the narrow views of science expressed’ etc. This was a twitter mob vote. Doesn’t count, since frontal lobe deductive reasoning is required to mediate a science statement. Maori creationist myths are not science. That’s not a ‘narrow view of science’. I know in India some Hindu twitter mobs espouse the Mahabharata as a source of valid science. Just swap Hindu twitter mobs barracking for the eternal truths of 3k old Hindu verses and NZ twitter mobs wanting Matauranga. The Taliban also believe in most essential knowledge being found in the Koran, and successfully fought to rid Afghanistan of western knowledge.

            2. The fatal error of the UoA psychology department’s twitter mob is that scientific racism in the 19th-20th centuries was used to justify hierarchies of people based on their ethnic and socio-economic characteristics, both real, and to a greater extent, largely imagined. Listenergate was about the truth-value of discrete beliefs, not the value of any ethnicity. Many of the non-scientific beliefs enshrined in matauranga maori are shared by strident White ‘biculturalists’ and therefore straddle ‘race’, as can be seen in the names of those who signed the original petition of Wiles & Hendy. Wiles and Hendy are White, and strident White-Maori ‘biculturalists’. [ By the way, I have never seen a statement by Wiles or Hendy that unequivocally praises the massive and highly qualified South Asian or East Asian scientific workforce in NZ or elsewhere.]. If I take the piss at Hindu ultra-nationalist beliefs that the Mahabharata contains inestimably current leading-edge science, it does not mean I disparage Indian ethnicity or culture. But the UoA psychology dept twitter mob obviously cannot understand this distinction.

            3. ‘The knowledge shared by Maori and which has existed for thousands of years.’ OK UoA psychology department twitter convenor — Maori in NZ radiocarbon calibrated evidence of inhabitants since 1280 AD. That’s 740 years. Is 740 years equal to thousands. Oh, do the strident Maori-White biculturalists mean the Maori inherited the Lapita culture heritage? Well, duh yeah, but why stop at the Lapita culture? Using my frontal lobe reasoning, unlike the UoA psychology department’s twitter mob, I can work out that substantial navigational skills were required to enable the precursor-Lapita to sail into the South Pacific. So the great ‘maori navigational skills’ were actually built on by the precursors of the Lapita, somewhere between Taiwan where Maori genotypes are traced back towards, and the South Pacific. Maybe the maori navigational skills of matauranga maori were developed somewhere in the Malay archipelago, where I was born! Yay! So the maori navigational skills should be credited to the peoples of South-East Asia, who eventually sailed towards the Lapita home world! So, strident Maori-White biculturalists, why doesn’t the UoA psychology department’s twitter mob respect South-East Asians like me culturally in NZ, when we in the Malay-Indonesian archipelago were a critical part of pre-Maori navigational skills?

          2. I assume that knowledge which has existed for thousands of years and has been generously shared by Māori has made it into standard textbooks worldwide by now?

          3. It was indeed a disappointing tweet from the School of which both Mike Corballis and I were former Heads.

            If it’s a ‘narrow view of science’ to expect science to be (a) open to falsification and challenge rather than demanding protection from it and (b) public and open to all rather than the property of a predefined group, I’m unrepentant about holding such a narrow view.

            It’s worth remembering that our Listener letter only said that indigenous knowledge isn’t science, as above. We didn’t say we didn’t think it was true! We said it fell short of science as a way of seeking empirical and universal truths. Since IKs tend to be specific to particular places and peoples – that’s why they’re indigenous – and that they differ from each other, it’s hard to see why saying that was even controversial. A claim of a special inherited relationship must surely preclude a claim of universality.

            As many have said on here, the reaction to us may have little to do with the actual issues and much more to do with trying to be positioned on the ‘correct’ side of a possible future NZ history. It’s depressing, and one thing that keeps us going is the intelligent support and understanding of the issues from overseas.

            Thanks again, Jerry and friends.

            1. ”As many have said on here, the reaction to us may have little to do with the actual issues and much more to do with trying to be positioned on the ‘correct’ side of a possible future NZ history.”

              Yes, this is true but only to some extent. As someone has pointed out on this blog some of the pro-indigenous science brigades are truly misguided in that they do believe in their own crackpot concepts. An apposite and real-time example is from your own dept. I had a look at this course outline of critical health psychology:


              Here is the preamble:

              ”Course Prescription: Utilising the frameworks of critical psychology, including gendered, Indigenous and intersectional frameworks, this course examines ways of theorising, understanding and promoting health for individuals, communities and societies.”

              The rot has set in and it is quite advanced in the soft sciences in NZ. Hard sciences are next!

  6. In a comment above, Ramesh makes reference to two leading lights of the NZ Royal Society. One is Dr. Brent Clothier, the new president-elect of the RS, who is a soil physicist with extensive and practical publications. The other is Professor Charlotte Macdonald, a feminist historian who is author of “The Book of New Zealand Women / Ko kui ma te kaupapa” (with Merimeri Penfold), Bridget Williams Books, 1991; and “The Vote, the Pill and the Demon Drink: A History of Feminist Writing in New Zealand”, 1869–1993, Bridget Williams Books, 1993. Both Dr. Clothier and Professor Macdonald have degrees from Massey University in Palmerston North.

    In the 1980s, a friend of mine took an academic position at Massey, but eventually resigned and fled to the UK. His letters, glowingly enthusiastic about NZ in general, became steadily more discouraged about his academic institution, in which he found the classic small-puddle syndrome: a mix of academic inbreeding, pretention, smugness, and provincialism. [His letters reminded me of Bernard Malamud’s very funny academic novel “A New Life” (1961), based on Oregon State U. in the 1950s.] It is perhaps not hard to picture a recent version of this disposition combined with woke performances, particularly performances of “allyship” with an indigenous, nominally (meaning in the past) marginalized culture.

    1. Interesting. “A mix of academic inbreeding, pretension, smugness, and provincialism” nicely sums up my impression of much NZ academia from the outside. Thanks for the Malamud book recommendation. In a fit of pre-Christmas madness I bought a copy of Misner, Thorne, and Wheeler’s door stopper “Gravitation” on special and it’s proving challenging. Something lighter will be nice to give the brain a rest.

      Interesting to see the name Bridget Williams Books cropping up here. My wife worked for her briefly years ago when she ran Allen & Unwin NZ, who were famously woke even then. They published Claudia Orange’s (or “Dame Claudia” as she was referred to in the office) magnum opus “The Treaty of Waitangi”. Must dust off our copy to see how it’s aged.

  7. Your reference to Malamud reminded me of the Jane Smiley novel “Moo”, which apparently was an early Poe: written as a send-up, but difficult for some readers to recognize as such.

  8. “emails from Kiwis, including scientists, who agree with me, but are afraid to publicly express their opinion. ”

    I believe you and it is one of the saddest facts in this whole mess. The wokerati have totally overtaken NZ and have been doing so before woke was a thing, for 40 of the 50 years I”ve been visiting (and for a time when young lived) there.

    Which always surprises me as by any objective standard or metric the Maori had the least hard time of any conquered indigenous people. It wasn’t all wine and roses, of course, but compared to pretty much anywhere else colonized by white, black or Asian people.

    Your efforts to push back against this madness in New Zealand are appreciated.


  9. Another good post, but just wanted to say how much I enjoy the comments. Reasoned, intelligent, and interesting. Ramesh, in particular, is brilliant here.

  10. it’s gone. It’s vanished, extinct, singing with the Choir Invisible. It is an Ex-Statement.

    The remaining ex-Pythons could do with updating the script of the Parrot Sketch while they’re still nailed to their perches.
    Then again … it might form an advertising campaign for the Internet Archive.

  11. People here may find this of interest in the current context:

    It’s a set of five articles by Dame Anne Salmond, a New Zealand anthropologist and author of an entertaining book on Captain Cook’s travels, “The Trial of the Cannibal Dog”. I found the articles a really odd mix of Māori language jargon, bits of sense on biculturalism, and complete tosh on scientific matters – “In the spiral of space-time, this process is ongoing, and the whakapapa of life keeps on unfurling.” She also seems to feel that Europeans imported a mix of Cartesian dualism and the Great Chain of Being to NZ.

    One of the Satanic Seven, Robert Nola, wrote a response to the first of the articles, and Dame Anne responded in turn.

    Readers can judge who got the better of the exchange, but I found it pleasant to be reminded by Prof Nola’s piece of the eminent NZ logician Arthur Prior, now almost unknown in his own country.

    One passage from Dame Anne reminded me oddly of my student days – “In this framing, the world is an all-encompassing set of kin networks, based on ongoing reciprocal exchanges among different life forms. This is not unlike ideas of complex networks and systems in contemporary science.” When I was a PhD student in high energy physics in the 1970s there were a couple of books which were very popular amongst non-scientists – “The Tao of Physics” by Fritjof Capra and “The Dancing Wu-Li Masters” by Gary Zukav. Both claimed to draw parallels between modern physics and ancient Eastern Wisdom, possibly stimulated in part by Murray Gell-Mann’s use of the name “The Eightfold Way”. Zukav went on to become one of Oprah’s many gurus. The attempt by Dame Anne and others to claim that ideas in modern science were anticipated in some way by the wisdom within mātauranga Māori strikes me as remarkably similar in concept.

  12. A lot of us (scientists I NZ) are simply scared to express a public opinion (that is against this latest nonsense) because of some increasingly serious freedom of speech issues going on in NZ universities over the last few years. Not only does it appear that universities and Vice Chancellors will not support academics who speak out as “the wrong sort of critics and conscience of society”, putting ideology above science and academic rigour, but at least one university VC has been initiating legal action against academics who have spoken out publically about university management and policies. This is not publically known because of confidentiality clauses in the papers served the targeted academics. These threats all eventually come to nothing, as the university never has a solid case to stand on, but are intended to drive the targeted academics into silence through fear. In the cases I know about the university VC and Provost have charged academics with “bullying” and/or “bringing the university into disrepute”, served them with notices from the University’s lawyers, and initiated lengthy internal processes that drag on and create a lot of stress. The University has large pot of public money with which to pay lawyers; the academic does not – just a weak Union that in some cases is compromised by inappropriate relationships between Union leaders and members of the University senior leadership. I know of all ofvthis anecdotally, but from very reliable sources.

    1. Gayle, what bit of NZ non-science/nonsense do you refer to in your first sentence? After all, the universities using the legal fusillade had nothing to do with Listenergate — it was primarily directed at staff protesting the mega-financialisation of the overseas student revenue stream.

      In reality, almost no NZ scientists spoke out against Wiles & Hendy’s petition against the Listener 7 and the ensuing twitter mobs. [ Note to non-NZ readers. In astonishing irony, earlier this week it was revealed that Siouxsie Wiles and Sean Hendy, who co-authored the petition against the Listener 7 signed by 2000+ people, have SUED the University of Auckland for not ‘protecting’ them in their roles as covid spokespeople public intellectuals, against what they term in their lawsuit ‘increasingly unhinged covid-deniers’! While the last part is true, I haven’t seen any public expressions of ‘duty of care’ by Wiles and Hendy for the Listener 7 in the wake of the twitter persecution they unleashed on the Listener 7 for what should’ve been an esoteric academic dispute. Their petition gained widespread interest in the first place because Wiles is the current ‘NZer of the year’, and both feature prominently in the media re covid. ]

      How hard could it be for NZ scientists to protest that Maori creationism and the spirit world of ‘taniwha’ have no place in contemporary science or epistemology? After all, Welsh cultural knowledge [ translated into Aotearoan = Matauranga Cymru ] states that Stonehenge was created by GIANTS. I am sure every member of the Royal Society UK would publicly disavow Matauranga Cymru’s belief Welsh supernatural giants created Stonehenge.

      Now to get to your points about university lawyers against academics. What most readers in this blog don’t know is that NZ and Australian universities gain more percentage of their total income from overseas Asian student fees than any other university systems in the Western world. Current U Auckland chancellor of vice Freshwater was hired from U Western Australia before covid hit. The Australian edu-financial template is the same as for NZ. The NZ and Australian academics are not happy about the following :

      NZ and Australian universities wanted, pre-covid, to maximise their income from Asian university students who are not Australian or NZ citizens, particularly top dollar mainland Chinese students. The route to maximising university profit [ U Auckland turned in a historically huge profit in 2020 by accepting government covid assistance $, pushing through major redundancies in academic and non-academic staff, and online teaching ]. The route to mega-financialisation of Chinese student income is to make academics teach as much as possible through massive online lecture courses, and having lower-paid short term contract staff doing as much of the face-to-face tutoring, teaching, marking exams as possible. Covid has merely accelerated the online coursework financialisation aspect.

      1. Ramesh, in the specific context of a NZ University’s version of DEI: “14. Ensuring that, through performance appraisal of all staff, recognise and reward staff excellence and hold to account those staff who underperform“. At some NZ universities the divide found in Listenergate is now tightly entwined with academics’ day jobs. People can be deemed ‘culturally unsafe’ and face consequences. As Gayle notes, legal gag orders are also used by NZ universities. At present there seems to be a battle among Maori academics whether there needs to be ‘a bit of Maori in everything’ or separate specialist Maori courses. Only a select few are allowed a say. If you are not among them, then “it is none of your business” — but if you don’t march lock-step, then you are culturally unsafe.

        1. Oh well, so much for academics being the self-styled ‘critics and conscience of society’, and a NZ degree in the arts serving as ‘a qualification in critical thinking’. This would be serious enough by itself, but what passes for the NZ intelligentsia seems rather vestigial. A friend of mine who was brave enough to run a contemporary art gallery in Saddam-era Baghdad, and is now in Auckland and a member of the NZ Society of Authors, feels Iraqi intellectual life in Saddam’s Iraq was rather livelier than Auckland’s over the past decade.

          Listenergate and Matauranga Maori elevation [ 20 million in grants announced for MM on Jan 6 ] are the inevitable consequence of what happens when the nation is not officially multi-cultural. NZ lacks a Canadian Multiculturalism Act 1988, which means only Maori culture has legal protections by statute. Even Australia has legal federal declarations of multiculturalism, which has never happened in NZ. Some Pacific backers of Maori trad knowledge in schools are also trying to mention, possibly disingenuously, how schools will also incorporate Polynesian trad knowledge into the science curriculum — even though Pacific cultures have no legal protections under the law.

          All of the above distorts the intellectual functioning on NZ society, and academics barely speak up about it. Yesterday I wrote a letter to the ‘Democracy Project’, which is hosted by that tertiary institution in Wgtn cogitating on whether to transition into a less Victorian name. To be fair, it does occasionally host articles by blogger Graham Adams, one of the very few to write long coherent articles in defence of the Listener 7. However, I told them that 15+ % of NZ population is Asian, and it seems bizarre for a ‘Democracy Project’ to publish so much about Maori, and barely anything about Asians. I don’t expect the ‘Democracy Project’ to change course over Asian-tokenisation, because of the points you mention.

          Which is why late last year, in the wake of Listenergate, I submitted a formal complaint which is currently being assessed by the Human Rights Commission, about the distortions inherent when a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural Asia-Pacific society such as NZ is legally-styled as a ‘Maori-White bicultural nation’, an astonishing assertion of legal fiction and sophistry. Sure, my complaint was narrowly focussed on the performing arts scene [ Asian cultures not represented at what it should be for its 15% population, Maori culture overrepresented based on population and even more so by tax revenues ].
          Not a single academic, except a UoA Prof Emeritus, wished to know about my complaint as I was writing it. I didn’t need their help, but the pusillanimity of these ‘critics and consciences of society’ was telling. I’ve written the complaint in such a way that if even some of it is upheld by the Human Rights Commission, I can leverage the legal precedent into other cultural avenues eg insisting Maori trad knowledge be given no privileged status over Asian or Pacific trad knowledge in the secondary school curriculum.

        2. To an outsider the atmosphere in NZ academia seems pretty toxic in general. There was a stoush at the University of the University of Waikato in 2020 in which a group of Māori academics complained about actions taken by the Vice Chancellor Neil Quigley – AFAICT he had taken disciplinary action over unauthorised spending of around $300,000 on a research project.


          An independent report was commissioned which found Professor Quigley had acted correctly in the employment matter, but went on to recommend quite a lot of stuff involving systemic racism, biculturalism etc.

          The report itself is here:

          At some point later on Professor Linda Tuhiwai Smith’s short term contract was not renewed, and there was a twitter storm with a good deal of personal abuse of Prof Quigley, and Siouxsie Wiles weighing in to say “Holy crap. The racism in plain sight at the University of Waikato is appalling” and Shaun Hendy to say “This is just incredible. Neil Quigley must go.”

          I see that the University has a Faculty of Māori & Indigenous Studies, “rated as one of the leading Mātauranga Māori centres in the country” because “The world is looking to Indigenous knowledge to solve modern-day issues.”

          Indigenous knowledge is an asset to any profession. Get an edge by complementing your studies with Māori, Pacific and Indigenous Studies!

  13. I have belatedly seen this article by Siouxsie Wiles, which is worth a read for connoisseurs of the genre:

    In it, she says that the Listener letter contained “several demonstrably false and harmful claims”, the falsehood of which she would no doubt demonstrate if she had the time. The original version of the article also contained an entirely false statement accusing some senior staff of intimidation – “Astonishingly, some are now intimidating junior colleagues with lawyer’s letters.” In an interesting turn of phrase, the web site has now published a “clarification”, rather than a “correction”, saying “These “lawyer’s letters” were sent by the University of Auckland following a Privacy Act request made by two of the “Listener Seven” letter writers”

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