New Zealand’s Royal Society exculpates two members accused of criticizing indigenous “ways of knowing” as coequal with science

March 13, 2022 • 12:45 pm

I’ve written many times about this big kerfuffle in New Zealand. It involves the government adhering to a misguided interpretation of the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi, in which the British colonists negotiated a truce with chiefs of some (but not all) Māori groups.  That treaty guarantees the Māori full rights as British citizens and has other stipulations about land.

The recent trouble started when both the New Zealand government and educational authorities at all levels of schooling decided not only to teach Mātauranga Māori, (henceforth “MM”) or “Māori ways of knowing”, not just in school, which is fine, but in science classes , and as coequal with modern science. This is an untenable position both educationally and politically, for it would not only water down science education, but also degrade the already-declining educational standing of New Zealand among comparable countries.

Most important, it would confuse students as to what science really is, for MM encompasses not just “traditional knowledge”, like how to trap eels, but also a farrago of myth, unverifiable legend, superstition, morality, and theology, which include many bizarre supernatural statements. Imagine that being given equal treatment in science classes! The Māori, for example, have their own creation myths analogous to but different from those of the Bible. Are these to be given equal time in biology class?

Further, the “way of knowing” of MM is practical knowledge (yes, that’s still knowledge), but wouldn’t expose the students to the way modern scientists practice their trade.

Nobody questions whether Māori history and MM should be taught in schools. They are, after all, part of the nation’s history and sociology. But not in science class as a form of science!

A group of professors, perhaps unaware of the conflagration they’d start, made a public statement against teaching MM as science:

As I wrote earlier:

Seven professors at the University of Auckland signed a letter in the weekly magazine The Listener that criticized the governments’ and universities’ plans to teach the indigenous Māori “way of knowing,” mātauranga Māori, as equivalent to modern science, though the Māori “way of knowing” includes elements of the supernatural, myths, some practical knowledge, and so on. You can see the Listener letter here or here, and I’ll quote briefly from it:

A recent report from a Government NCEA working group on proposed changes to the Māori school curriculum aims “to esure parity for with the other bodies of knowledge credentialed by NCEA (particularly Western/Pakeha epistemologies)”. It includes the following description as part of a new course: “It promotes discussion and analysis of the ways in which science has been used to support the dominance of Eurocentric views (among which, its use as a a rationale for colonisation of Māori and the suppression of Māori knowledge); and the notion that science is a Western European invention and itself evidence of European dominance over Māori and other indigenous peoples.”

. . . Indigenous knowledge is critical for the preservation and perpetuation of culture and local practices, and plays key roles in management and policy. However, in the discovery of empirical, universal truths, it falls far short of what we can define as science itself.

To accept it as the equivalent of science is to patronise and fail indigenous populations; better to ensure that everyone participates in the world’s scientific enterprises. Indigenous knowledge may indeed help advance scientific knowledge in some ways, but it is not science.

As I wrote, the letter brought down heaps of opprobrium upon the seven signers (one has since died), both from the University of Auckland and from the Royal Society of New Zealand (RSNZ), the country’s most prestigious body of science. From my post cited above:

The Royal Society itself issued a statement criticizing the professors, [JAC: that letter has vanished and been replaced by a more conciliatory one; the original version criticized the professors for mischaracterizing science and harming indigenous people] and has launched an investigation of the two remaining signatories in the Academy, Robert Nola and Garth Cooper (Cooper is at least a quarter Māori). Nola and Cooper could be booted out of the RSNZ for simply exercising free speech, which apparently is not “free” in New Zealand if it casts doubt on the truth of Māori mythology. Here’s part of the RSNZ’s statement [JAC: this was the origjnal statement, now retracted and replaced. Bolding below is mine]:

Royal Society Te Apārangi supports, fosters and recognises research within many knowledge systems.

The Society is deeply proud of the rich variety of outstanding work being undertaken across Aotearoa at present. In the past year alone, this includes Distinguished Professor Brian Boyd’s literary scholarship (winner of the 2020 Rutherford Medal), the work of Te Pūnaha Matatini on COVID-19 modelling by 2020 Te Puiaki Pūtaiao Matua a Te Pirimia Prime Minister’s Science Prize Winner (led by Professor Shaun Hendy), and the knowledge sharing of Matariki by Professor Rangi Matamua.

The Society supports all New Zealanders to explore, discover and share knowledge.

The recent suggestion by a group of University of Auckland academics that mātauranga Māori is not a valid truth is utterly rejected by Royal Society Te Apārangi. The Society strongly upholds the value of mātauranga Māori and rejects the narrow and outmoded definition of science outlined in The Listener – Letter to the Editor.

It deeply regrets the harm such a misguided view can cause.

Harm indeed. Far more harmful to the country and its youth to teach mythology and legend as science! The RSNZ apparently has no idea what science really is.

But the teaching of MM as science is almost a foregone conclusion for, as the Wokest of Western countries, New Zealanders worship the Treaty as almost the Bible for guiding national behavior, and nearly everything Māori has become sacred and immune to criticism. The many supporters of the “Satanic Seven,” as I called them, were forced to keep quiet, for public support of their stand could do severe professional damage to academics, as it has already. Self-censoring about MM is pervasive in New Zealand, as I’ve learned from many private emails.

This post brings an end to the Royal Society issue, though not to the MM skirmish itself. In short, 5 complaints were made to the RS about Nola and Cooper as signers of the Listener letter (Corballis was also a member, but complaints against him were dropped when he died.) The Royal Society of New Zealand, to its shame, decided to investigate two of the complaints and produced a confidential report.

In the meantime, the kerfuffle came to world attention. It was reported in the Daily Fail, and Richard Dawkins wrote a letter to the Listener supporting the views of the Satanic seven. I even heard that the Royal Society of London wrote a reproving letter to the Royal Society of New Zealand, though I can’t verify this. All this put the Royal Society of New Zealand in a bad light.

The two complaints against Cooper and Nola investigated by the RSNZ accused them of violating these principles of the RSNZ by writing their letter to the Listener:

. . . Members are obliged:

  1. To behave with honesty, integrity, and professionalism when undertaking their activities;
  2. To only claim competence commensurate with their expertise, knowledge and skills, and ensure their practices are consistent with relevant national, Māori [1] and international standards and codes of practice in their discipline or field;
  3. To undertake their activities diligently and carefully;
  4. To support the public interest by making the results and findings of their activities available as soon as it is appropriate to do so, by presenting those results and findings in an honest, straightforward and unbiased manner, and by being prepared to contribute their knowledge or skills to avert or lessen public crises [2] when it is appropriate to do so;
  5. In undertaking their activities, to endeavour, where practicable, to partner with those communities and mana whenua for whom there are reasonably foreseeable direct impacts, and to meet any obligations arising from the Treaty of Waitangi;
  6. To safeguard the health, safety, wellbeing, rights and interests of people involved in or affected during the conduct of their activities. . . .

9.) To demonstrate and encourage ethical behaviour and high professional standards amongst their colleagues;

It’s absolutely ridiculous to launch a three-month investigation of two honored members of the RSNZ on these bases. They were simply stating their opinion publicly.

I believe there were lots of complaints from other people arguing that, because the Satanic Seven weren’t experts in MM, they had no right to express an opinion about its compatibility with science. That’s palpable nonsense. You don’t have to do much investigation of the nature of MM to see that while, like all indigenous forms of “knowing”, it gives fascinating insights into belief systems not based on empirical science, it’s simply not commensurate with science as it’s practiced today.

Finally, last week the RSNZ came up with its decision: the two members of the Society who signed the letter were fully exculpated. The “confidential” summary of the investigation is below, but I got permission to publish it. That’s no longer necessary since much of it is now public.

But that didn’t stop the RSNZ from pulling a slimy move to get in one last lick against its two miscreant members. The RSNZ issued two statements, the second leaving out out a single sentence from the first. Here’s the original version, but in the final version, now published online, the sentence I put in bold has been omitted:

Royal Society Te Apārangi

Statement in relation to complaints about a letter to the New Zealand Listener

The Society received complaints against Fellows of the Society who were among seven authors of a letter to the New Zealand Listener ‘In defence of science’ _in July 2021. The complaints particularly referred to the vulnerability of Māori and early career researchers.

The Society convened an Initial Investigation Panel (Panel) to consider the complaints as set out under the Society’s complaint procedures. The Society is obliged to follow the Complaints Procedures it has adopted when it receives a complaint about a member of the Society.

The overall role of the Panel was to decide whether the complaints should proceed to a Complaints Determination Committee. The role of the Panel was not to consider the merits of the views expressed in the New Zealand Listener letter.

The Panel considered there was no evidence that the Fellows acted with any intent of dishonesty or lack of integrity.

The Panel concluded that the complaints should not proceed to a Complaints Determination Committee. The Panel referred to clause 6.4(i) of the Complaint Procedures: the complaint is not amenable to resolution by a Complaint Determination Committee, including by reason of its demanding the open-ended evaluation of contentious expert opinion or of contested scientific evidence amongst researchers and scholars.”

In coming to its conclusion, the Panel noted that during the process of their investigation both the complainants and the respondents referred to a considerable number of matters that were outside the Panel’s scope, including the merits of or otherwise of the broader issues raised in the letter or elsewhere. In the Panel’s view, the matters raised are of substance and merit further constructive discussion and respectful dialogue.

The Complaints Procedures provide that such a decision by the Panel is final and cannot be appealed.

The Society notes that it has been inappropriate to publicly comment about the complaints while the matter was before the Initial Investigation Panel.

This summary is being published on the basis that it may be beneficial to other scientists, technologists, or humanities scholars, as set out in the Complaints Procedures.

Now why would they omit that sentence, which simply implies that the two accused Fellows behaved with honesty and integrity? In truth, it’s even slimier than that: it said “there was no evidence that the Fellows acted with any intent of dishonesty or lack of integrity.”  It’s not a verdict of “not guilty”, but the Scottish verdict of “not proven.” But now even that sentence, which is mildly praiseworthy, is gone.

As I said, the controversy over the hegemony of MM in science continues, and if I know anything about New Zealand educational politics, MM will worm its way into science class. All the new RSNZ statement does is exculpate two scientists unfairly accused of misbehavior and harm for saying that MM, while worthy of being taught, is not coequal with modern science.

The Royal Society of New Zealand has acted despicably during this whole episode, abrogating the free speech of its members. If anything undergirds science, it’s the concept of saying what you think; and criticizing an indigenous “way of knowing” as “not compatible with modern science” is certainly within the purview of acceptable speech.

Except in New Zealand.


The only public reporting I’ve seen on this so far has been in the Kiwi magazine Stuff, in the article below (click on screenshot):

What’s new is this:

The Royal Society’s chief executive Paul Atkins earlier said the organisation was taking the controversy seriously.

“We are acutely aware of the potential for significant damage to be inflicted in multiple directions, not least to relationships and our ability to have a balanced and informed dialogue about important questions for the future of our country,” he said in a statement.

Have a look at that statement and its mandatory genuflecting towards MM.  Finally, the University of Auckland promised last year to hold an impending symposium about the compatibility of MM with science, with both sides being defended. It didn’t happen:

The University of Auckland had intended to hold a Māturanga Māori and science symposium in the first three months of the year, but this has been delayed, a spokeswoman confirmed.

And I predict it won’t happen. Unless the University of Auckland stacks the deck with MM sympathizers—and it’s entirely capable of doing this—such a debate, though potentially enlightening, would be perceived as racist, and would be too inflammatory.

36 thoughts on “New Zealand’s Royal Society exculpates two members accused of criticizing indigenous “ways of knowing” as coequal with science

  1. I thought the RSNZ response was pathetic – they basically gave the impression they’d been forced into a corner, and had grudgingly been forced to do the bare minimum in refusing to uphold the complaint. Even that’s been enough to cause some whining in the usual twitter circles about racism, white privilege, and so on.

    A much better and more robust response to a complaint, in my opinion, was this, upholding a complaint made about Stuff & Siouxsie Wiles:

    Needless to say, Wiles has refused to accept that she was wrong in any respect, and has described the ruling as “misleading” and “disappointing”.

  2. What authority does the Royal Society have to “investigate” members? It certainly seems like the investigation itself is intended to be punitive, especially given that, I assume, the only punishment open to the Society would be expulsion, if that. The investigation itself seems defamatory.

    1. I guess it has the authority if the members are accused of violating the Society’s principles (some are stated in my post).Yes, investigating such flimsy charges is defamatory. The RSNZ should apologize to both Nola and Cooper, but they won’t.

      1. The Royal Society is a statutory body and is required by its statute to issue a code of professional standards and ethics-which in turn obviously requires somebody to deal with complaints that the code has been breached. If the Royal Society failed to have such a process its actions would probably be subject to judicial review. Essentially once a complaint is made some processes needed to consider it. A cynic might consider that most of their problems arose once the Society’s membership went beyond science to cover the humanities and social sciences.

        1. Asymmetric warfare against the dominant enemy enabled by weaponizing the complaints procedure. Sun Tzu would approve.

    2. At least it was written, as “Royal Society investigation” starting with a small “i”.

      Pardon the following bitchyness, those in the areas below mentioned. But what really needs investigating here is probably something like the proportion of R.S.N.Z. chosen people listing areas of expertise such as Sociology, English, Philosophy etc. who, e.g., have ever had Monsieur J. Derrida as an author of a ‘positive’ reference of one of their supposedly scholarly publications. Maybe add Wittgenstein while I’m at it. After that, perhaps the R.S.N.Z. could then bifurcate into the

      {set of dickheads} U {its complement}——not meant as a compliment, in case not obvious.

      You know who’s in which IMO. Some of the overly specialized scientists could also fit nicely into the left-hand side above, AFAI’ve learned. Then the bifurcated organizations can compete for government money, in a contest to determine how the set of politicians there similarly splits.

      Maybe another country with an approximate 5 million population, Norway, could serve as something of a guide to New Zealand. My impression is that the treatment, in that more-or less antipode, of their indigeneous Sami, is quite good—but not some kind of axiomatic system based on a 200-year old half-agreed-to treaty, which leads away from the sublime, to the ridiculous. I suspect my own Canadians as well as USians could also learn some better policies that way.

  3. The deleted sentence in the RSNZ statement is perhaps even worse than that – it says that there’s no evidence that Garth Cooper and Robert Nola acted *with any intent* of dishonesty, leaving open the possibility that they were dishonest without intending to be. I think the statement is probably better without it.

    This is the second recent small win for us. The NZ Media Council ruled in our favour over a complaint we made about an opinion piece written by Siouxsie Wiles for the Stuff website, alleging that we were ‘intimidating junior colleagues with lawyer’s letters’. This is untrue, and the NZMC said so, quite forcefully. Stuff has, as they were obliged to, published the ruling, but we haven’t received an apology and I don’t expect that we will.

    The false implication of the original piece that we were using legal means to try to suppress criticism of us has been, of course, damaging professionally and personally. Not surprisingly, there’s been no mainstream media coverage of the ruling, so the damage remains.

      1. Yes, how can you be “unconsciously dishonest”? And why didn’t the RSNZ just say that the fellows acted “honestly and with integrity”? Would that be so hard to say? After all, it was TRUE!

        1. The thought crime of implicit bias does cause you to be unconsciously dishonest, say the DEI folks. Implicit bias is often used, they say, to let yourself off the hook for your unconsciously racist views. But you’re still guilty of racism. I’m not making this up.

          That sentence the Society deleted strikes me as like the sentence long used to illustrate how you can go wrong in written communication. It’s still used in ESL to teach the way vocal stress is used in English:
          “I didn’t say he stole the money.” gives seven different implications depending on which word you put oral or mental stress on, which the writer has no control over. The reader is free to put stress on the word he wants to. Only with conscious effort to avoid stress can you give a non-loaded interpretation.

          So in the sentence you bolded, I would imagine that the Society’s readers were invited to read it thus:

          “The Panel considered there was no evidence that the Fellows acted with any intent of dishonesty or lack of integrity.” Where’s there’s smoke, there’s fire and of course the implicit bias thing we’ll just leave hanging because it needs no proof.

          In administrative law, the inquisitor needs only to weigh the evidence, not surmount reasonable doubt. So in exculpating the Fellows, they were really making a finding of innocence. Wording it the way they did makes it sound like, we are 90% sure you were scoundrels but we couldn’t quite prove it.

          The sentence should have been left in but written in straightforward (and shorter!) language: “The Panel found that the Fellows acted with honesty and integrity.” Then it reads the same way no matter how the reader stresses the words. But of course bureaucracies and quangos want their utterances to be able to be taken in different ways, in order to have plausible deniability when it is their turn to be accused of racism.

          Damning with faint praise indeed. Yes, despicable.

          1. Yes, thanks Leslie, that’s what I meant, said better. I’d better stop commenting now so that I don’t fall foul of Da Roolz.

            Best wishes to all.

        2. Oh, I think I could make a post-modern, critical-theory-flavoured case.

          How about ‘it’s dishonest of you not to acknowledge how your inherited privilege influences everything you say and do. And it must do, because otherwise how could you have said such a wicked thing? And you’re unconscious of that dishonesty because you don’t acknowledge your inherited colonial guilt.’

          Actual discourse comes uncomfortably close to parody here.

  4. Good stuff. Pure conjecture on my part but maybe they were shocked at the worlds response of “you can’t be serious!!! That is daft !” and they weren’t applauded for being so brave. Alternatively any overseas granting funds for scientific endeavours immediately evaporated , who in their right mind would fund this twaddle any way? Reality can be a hard learn.

  5. What gets me about kerfuffles like this one is that the partisans of Indigenous Ways of Knowing are such transparent poseurs. Little doubt that when even the most bien pensant ally/partisan of MM has a toothache, he/she will go to a dentist for real treatment, rather than to a Tohunga healer for massage and incantations. Precisely the same simple test should have been applied to the “critical” sociology-of-science pose of academic post-modernists a generation ago, which would have consigned their affectation to the same bin as homeopathy, chromotherapy, and the orgone box.

  6. Note this key portion of the above:

    “The Society convened an Initial Investigation Panel (Panel) to consider the complaints as set out under the Society’s complaint procedures. The Society is obliged to follow the Complaints Procedures it has adopted when it receives a complaint about a member of the Society.”

    When they receive a complaint, they have no discretion. They MUST have a “panel” on it. They cannot refuse. And the panel has to take evidence, and that means submissions pro, and submissions con, and rebuttals, and on and on and on.

    This is a serious problem with the system. Please, please, don’t reply to me that they should immediately close the case the moment they receive the complaint. They can’t do that according to their procedures. I’m not advocating for their investigation on the merits. But as far as I can see, they have no ability to reject a formal complaint.

  7. At its core imho this is a core issue in philosophy and also in the philosophy of science especially the problem of demarcation.
    What I get surprised by is credible academics instead of behaving like credible academics have reduced this issue by behaving like school girls and school boys talking past each other ..
    I hope there is a proper debate about this issue at the University of Auckland

    The humble outsider

  8. A mealy mouthed outcome, but at least not a totally egregious one. Regardless, the entire saga will have done the global reputation of science in New Zealand, and of the Royal Society of New Zealand Te Apārangi in particular, a great deal of harm.

    1. …And in the latter case, self-harm, of course.

      This whole topic may have given a definitely false impression of uselessness of New Zealand science. Apart from the famous physicist Rutherford, “the father of nuclear physics”, may I point out one of the instances, more recent, of exceptional advance in human knowledge where I happen to know a small amount about it (and actually knew the man personally just a bit). This mathematics area combines knot theory and K-theory in topology with functional analysis, areas said in the same breath only because of the work of the new Zealander, Vaughn Jones. Unfortunately he died fairly recently, so here’s a quote from quotes in NZHerald:

      “… when Jones accepted the medal in front of the world’s leading mathematicians at the International Congress of Mathematicians in 1990, he wore an All Blacks rugby jersey…….He was very down to earth, someone you could have a relaxed chat with over a drink, with a great sense of humour, and who did a lot for New Zealand mathematics……..For many years he wasn’t just the only New Zealander to receive the Fields Medal, he was the only Fields Medallist in the Southern Hemisphere.”

      As FRSNZ (as well as FRS), I feel rather confident he would have supported ‘the seven’, but really I shouldn’t ascribe anything to someone no longer with us.

      1. Do you really want to call Rutherford’s accomplishments “New Zealand science” when his most famous work was carried out in other countries? Yes, he was partly trained scientifically in New Zealand but also in Canada and England (viz. J. J Thomson).You’re then left with the Fields Medalist in topology..

        1. In fact you could argue that Rutherford’s decision to go to England to do post graduate research bespoke a poor level of science in New Zealand even in the 19th century.

        2. Jerry, now your just being ignorant. Rutherford was thoroughly Kiwi. I highly recommend the biography Rutherford Scientist Supreme by John Campbell.

      2. There’s also Roy Kerr, the second person to discover a solution to Einstein’s field equations for GR – the Kerr solution describes rotating black holes. Also, Maurice Wilkins was born in NZ.

        I do wonder however if many NZ scientists are famous for work carried out in NZ. Vaughan Jones did his BSc and MSc at Auckland, PhD in Switzerland, and moved to the US in 1980. Rutherford, Kerr, and Wilkins all did their famous work overseas, and only Kerr returned to live here.

        On the state of NZ science earlier in the 20th century, Roy Kerr says this in his afterword to Fulvio Melia’s excellent book “Cracking the Einstein Code”:

        “This is not to question the good intentions of people there, but simply to say that the New Zealand of the 1950s was just not set up for promoting the intellectual development of its youth in
        the manner practiced by the established universities in the northern hemisphere. I should have studied modern mathematics and physics, but there was no money for new books and therefore the library was a carryover from the nineteenth century. Nobody was doing any theoretical research in either mathematics or physics at that time in Christchurch, so I spent my last
        two years there mostly playing golf, tennis, badminton, and finally bridge.”

        I wonder if things are different in the biological sciences?

  9. …and in the latter case, self harm.

    I’d written, but lost somehow, noting that besides Rutherford, the father of nuclear physics, there is a New Zealander, Vaughn Jones, unfortunately recently died, who won the Fields medal in mathematics, with some interesting quotes from NZ Herald about his recent death.

    So let this topic not be misconstrued as a slam in general against NZ scientific contributions–a physics Nobel, maybe other Nobels, and a Fields is quite an accomplishment for a country with only about 5 million population. I’m sure there are other things as well.

    1. I don’t see how you can consider this discussion a slam against NZ science. Did you read the post? It’s about whether MM should be taught in classrooms as coequal to modern science, and about the freedom of speech of people who oppose that position.

      Also, you have posted under two names: “p” and “Peter Hoffman”. That’s against the rules here. Choose one name ad stick with it, please.

      1. I agree that worrying about the contributions of New Zealanders ( and immigrant settlers in New Zealand ) to science is a bit tangential to the real point of the topic of the discussion.

  10. ‘original version’
    Just a few weeks after I mentioned it as one of my choices of ‘annoying phrases’, here it is again…
    1. “Here’s the original version, but in the final version, now published online, the sentence I put in bold has been omitted”
    2. “The Royal Society itself issued a statement criticizing the professors, [JAC: that letter has vanished and been replaced by a more conciliatory one; the original version criticized the professors…”

    – in both instances, ‘original version’ is in fact the first issue of the statements and cannot therefore be a version at all. It’s the original statement, not a version.
    – in 1., the statement with the bolded sentence is the original, it’s the first time it was issued (so not an ‘original version’), the statement without it is in fact the original version (or just version) as it was a variation (version) on the original statement
    – in 2., it was the original that criticised them, not the ‘original version’ for it was the first time it was issued. The more conciliatory letter is a variation on the original, it is the ‘original version’.
    This isn’t snark or confrontation for giggles, I really am interested in discussing/debating this point!

    1. I’m not in the least interested in debating the point; others may work up the desire to do so.

      Do you really consider it important to have a “debate” about this in a thread about MM vs. science?

    2. I’ll say two things because I have “worked up the desire to do so”.

      Firstly, I would dispute the idea that if there’s only one instance of a thing (finding it hard not to use the word “version” there) then there are no versions. I think you can have only one version without any revised copies.

      Secondly, even if my first point were not true, there’s absolutely no rule that says you can’t retroactively apply the word “version” to the original after a second not identical copy appears.

  11. unverifiable legend, superstition, morality, and theology,

    I don’t know much about MM beyond what has been written by you in your articles and the comments, but I’d be willing to bet that many of the legends and superstitions are verifiable – verifiably false, that is.

    I have two points about the RSNZ’s statement

    This quote:

    The Society is obliged to follow the Complaints Procedures it has adopted when it receives a complaint about a member of the Society.

    This is an apology to the complainants and their supporters for their procedure coming up with the “wrong” answer. Prepare for efforts to subvert the process and/or amend it so that next time they come up with the “right” answer.

    As for the deleted sentence, I think the explanation as to why it was deleted is fairly straight forward. The sentence claims that the panel considered the question of whether there was intent or dishonesty in the actions of the scientists. My reading of the rest of the statement is that the panel never got as far as considering intent or dishonesty because it couldn’t find fault (at least not within its remit) with anything the scientists had done.

  12. The Royal Society has effectively capitulated. Needless to say it has done its best to save face, hence the omission of the sentence that Jerry identifies. To answer Jeremy on Rutherford, you fail to realise that NZ science in 1899 was necessarily pretty rudimentary in a colony, as NZ then still was, of well under 1m. population. Canterbury University College should take immense credit for having provided a scientific foundation for Rutherford but he was a big fish and needed a bigger pond. He remained very grateful to Canterbury and left the university his remarkable set of medals, which I published some years ago in a small book, Golden Atoms. But I digress – the main thing is the Magnificent Seven are exonerated and the RSNZ is looking (suitable for a country such as ours) decidedly sheepish!

  13. It’s a very good thing for the accused that the RSNZ didn’t use applied MM to adjudicate guilt. But that does show some hypocrisy along with sanity. MM: good enough for the RSNZ to recommend teaching, not good enough for the RSNZ to use in it’s own investigations of problems.

  14. Three cheers for comment #14 about the RSNZ “looking sheepish”. It made my day. As for #15’s
    comment that the RSNZ did not use MM in their deliberations—how do we know that? A few RSNZ
    members must have gotten together in a hui about the complaint against the Listener letter signers; and maybe they said a silent karakia that RSNZ not look too damn silly for doing so.

  15. The code of conduct includes (my emphasis) :

    To only claim competence commensurate with their expertise, knowledge and skills, and ensure their practices are consistent with relevant national, Māori and international standards and codes of practice in their discipline or field;

    If someone who knew enough about the matter could show that the national, Maori, and international standards are inconsistent amongst themselves, then someone would have to do some re-drafting of that code of conduct.
    That’s going to take years. Before the various sides “lawyer-up”.

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