Why Robert Nola quit New Zealand’s Royal Society

March 21, 2022 • 8:15 am

As I’ve written before (see here), philosopher Robert Nola and his Auckland University colleague Garth Cooper were “investigated” by New Zealands Royal Society (RSNZ) after they and five others co-signed a letter to a popular magazine-like site, The Listener, arguing that Mātauranga Māori (MM), the indigenous Māori “ways of knowing,, should not be taught as co-equal to science in science class, though should certainly be taught as history of sociology. The charges were diverse, ranging from unethical behavior to creating (unspecified) “harm”.

Ultimately, Cooper and Nola were exculpated of all charges. Then, a few days ago, both resigned from the RSNZ. I applaud this decision, and were I a member of the RSNZ I would have done the same thing. I asked Robert, whom I knew before all this fracas, why he resigned. He wrote out his reasons and allowed me to put them here.

I’ve placed Robert’s entire statement below the fold, but one of the crucial issues is of freedom of speech, which the RSNZ abrogated by “investigating” fellows who simply wrote a letter to a magazine. Another is chilling of that speech contrary to the Māori-valorizing views of New Zealand’s politicians and educational officials. I’ll just give the last point of the 13 Robert made, but if you have been following this controversy, click “read more” below to see the whole statement:

  • In sum, why resign? The main issue underlying this dispute has to do with freedom of speech in the area of science. It has been long recognized that science best advances when it is open to the critical discussion of any of its doctrines, whether alleged to be indigenous or not. This is something found in the 19th century discussion of freedom of speech by John Stuart Mill. If anything is given privileged protection from criticism, then this undermines the advance of science. At the moment the dogmatic stance seems to be in the ascendancy for the RS. And it is supported by the acceptance of a Code of Ethics which can be used all too easily to curtail free speech.

The remark in the letter that indigenous knowledge is not science has clearly been taken by many within the RS to be an unacceptable claim to make, given the way in which it has been challenged by reprimands and investigations. But this stance should never have been accepted if the Royal Society NZ was a fully “open society”. A resignation can be a sharp reminder that it ought to provide a better forum for the discussion of contentious views instead of condemning them on websites or having panel investigations into them.

Click “continue reading” to see the full statement:

Why I Resigned from the Royal Society NZ

Notes by Robert Nola just after quitting (March 2022)


  • The reasons have to do with lack of good support by the Royal Society NZ (RS) for important issues concerning science in a free society.


  • The dispute discussed here arose over a letter to the 31 July 2021 issue of the NZ Listener, called In Defence of Science. I was one of seven signatories to the letter.


  • Many good things are done by good researchers in RS; but not always because they are in it. Much of the good work might have been done before being made a fellow while the use of the acronym “FRSNZ” comes as a later bauble.


  • I received supporting comments from many Fellows during the dispute with the RS. And we should note that the Investigatory Panel (IP) set up by RS to look into the complaints against professors Garth Cooper and Robert Nola ended up largely in support; it recommended not to continue the investigation. But the views of the IP set up by the RS are not necessarily the same as those of RS itself.


  • The RS raised three lines of objection. The first was based on what we said in the letter. The main critical target in the letter was a claim in a Government NCEA working party report that science itself has been used to support Eurocentric views and colonisation (as opposed to people as agents of colonisation who might also use science). We strongly objected to this view. But I am not aware of any response to this from RS (though there should be one given the state of science and mathematics education in New Zealand).

This did not get as much critical comment in the ensuing discussion as the final sentence of the letter which said: ‘indigenous knowledge … is not science’. This is a contestable claim which is worthy of debate, but none was given through the RS. Its response was to shut down dogmatically such discussion, as will be seen.


  • The second line of objection was a note on the RS website set up by the President Dr Brent Clothier and the Chair of the Academy Executive Committee Prof Charlotte Macdonald (it remained up for about 5 months).


  • It made false claims about what we allegedly said in the Listener letter about Mātauranga Māori. And it added that ‘it deeply regrets the harm such a misguided view can cause’ (presumably the view being that indigenous knowledge is not science!). No evidence was ever given concerning the harm allegedly caused. But this is also part of a view in which any harm caused by free speech, and even the extent of academic freedom, ought to lead to the curtailment of such freedoms. In fact, it has now become much more common for there to be requests for restrictions on academic freedom as defined in the relevant 2020 Act. I regard this as an unwelcome development.


  • Even though the Code of Ethics of RS endorses freedom of speech (but not obviously academic freedom), the Code clearly admits restrictions which I would regard as highly contestable. I am strongly of the view, contrary to the Code of RS, that no Code of Ethics should impose restrictions on the freedoms that the laws of the land would permit. This is a problem with many codes of ethics; they need to be challenged in the courts.


  • Clearly, we had no support in advocating views about science and knowledge which were not sanctioned by RS, especially in the case where indigenous “knowledge” systems are given a privileged protection immune from criticism. We are simply not permitted to say that indigenous knowledge is not a science (even though many scholars working in the field of Mātgauranga Māori say that it is not!). Even if one might disagree with these views, at least support of the doctrines of academic freedom and free speech would not lead one to reject these views out of hand. In sum, I regard the website note as obnoxious, as did many who commented to me about it.


  • The third line of objection arose when the RS took up five complaints about the letter to be addressed by their Complaints Procedures and their Code of Professional Standards and Ethics in Science, Technology and Humanities. Of the five complaints only two were made public and were investigated by an Investigatory Panel (IP).

The final conclusion of the IP was that the complaints be taken no further. Their grounds were clause 6.4(i) of the Complaint Procedures which provides circumstances in which a Panel can conclude no further action should be taken, viz., “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….”. This an important win in the complaints’ procedure. But it is something which might have been arrived at by a more appropriate vetting procedure of the original complaints in the first place.

  • Clearly the investigation got bound up in the legalisms of a Code of Ethics rather than a discussion of a substantive issue about science, such as whether indigenous knowledge is, or is not, science. But one would have thought that this was something for which the RS might have at least provided a forum instead of evading it by retreating behind its Code. This is just one example of how codes might be employed to stifle free speech. It is a serious failure of the RS that it cannot have such a discussion of some claim rather than dogmatically adopting some stance which is then put beyond the pale of criticism.


  • Ten and eight years ago I published two papers on the nature of science with a co-author, Professor Gürol Irzik, a professor of Philosophy at Sabanci University in Istanbul. We have now been invited to write about the same themes after ten years and are in the process of completing the paper. Has the dispute I have had within the Royal Society in dealing with the complaints brought against me produced anything I could use in the paper? No! The dispute has been entirely unproductive of any research in this area and has been a waste of time. My complainants have produced nothing which would be of value for this paper.

42 thoughts on “Why Robert Nola quit New Zealand’s Royal Society

  1. Clearly the investigation got bound up in the legalisms of a Code of Ethics rather than a discussion of a substantive issue about science, such as whether indigenous knowledge is, or is not, science.

    The New Zealand Institute, later renamed the Royal Society of New Zealand, was founded in 1867. I’ve argued elsewhere that many organisations become captured by the interests of those in charge. There are exceptions but 70 years strikes me as enough time for most cases. Perhaps the RSoNZ has done well to last this long?

    1. I believe the problem started with the decision in about 2012 to extend membership to the humanities and social sciences- this of course provided an open door for the woke. The announcement of new fellows a few days ago starts as follows: “new Fellows have been elected … for their distinction in research and advancement of mātauranga Māori, humanities, technology and science.
      An interesting statement of the new order of priorities!
      It would be interesting to know how many other resignations might have resulted from the fiasco in which Prof Nola was involved.

      I find it interesting that I as a good solid old lefty have more in common with some of the more right-wing commentators in New Zealand, at least on academic freedom and freedom of expression generally, Google “Free Speech Union”, although I suspect that is not unique to me and pub conversations are of course quite different to those that you might hear in more career limiting environments. This

      1. A handful of decades ago I studied at the Loughborough University of Technology (a recently promoted Technical College) that majored on science and technology (and later sport). There was very little interest in political protests… but the separate Art College down the hill was riven by protests.

        Perhaps C. P. Snow’s “two cultures” debate still smoulders away today?

      2. I agree with Gordon about the membership, even though I was elected to the RSNZ under either Social Sciences or Humanities (they don’t tell you, and my work could be either). A joint Academy is a bit unusual, and my sense is that no-one really thought carefully about what “Distinction in Research” would mean across the new and existing fields.

        The expansion of fields was followed by an expansion of categories for Fellowship. One can be nominated now for “Distinction in Research”, “Distinction in Research with impact” and “Advancement [of a field] but including research content”. I think this has also been relevant to how the Society has developed.

      3. ““new Fellows have been elected … for their distinction in research and advancement of mātauranga Māori, humanities, technology and science.” – Great. So mātauranga Māori and science are obviously two separate doctrines.

  2. This is discriminatory behaviour by the RSNZ. Their policies are discriminatory in the same way as picking on someone for their race or their sexual orientation. Scientists have a particular orientation in their thinking an orientation to prefer logic and reason over just vague notions or feelings. They contain openminded people who tend to be a bit outspoken and blunt about things about which they are certain of. For example,being content to “offend” the religious beliefs of others, when they are not based on evidence is just a manifestation of an orientation that is largely inborn like sexuality. These kinds of policies discriminate against people for their inborn traits just like homophobia and racism.

    I am not talking about the right to deliberately cause offence, athough I support free speech. We do not need to go that far. These people were discriminated for what they are. ie logical people acting according to their inborn traits. It isn’t and cannot be offensive just to say that a non science by definition isn’t science!

  3. The RSNZ has behaved unconscionably throughout this episode, not least in its initial response and the statement that “it deeply regrets the harm such a misguided view can cause”. I fully understand why Nola (and Cooper) no longer wish to be associated with an organisation that has treated them so abysmally.

    1. The ideological makeover of the Society into an Antipodean cultural version of Soviet Lysenkoism isn’t an aberration.

      This short article published over the weekend ( replete with a photo of Dr Coyne ) shows how the ideological politicisation of NZ science is an integral part of Labour government policy : https://theplatform.kiwi/opinions/next-stop-for-co-governance-science-and-universities
      As two UoA academics note , a ‘Waitangi Treaty-led’ system is as nonsensical as ‘Christian-led’ or ‘Xi-Jinping-thought-led’ science. The RSNZ is merely an echo chamber for this ideological stance.

      Apologists for this stance ( eg Wiles and Hendy, who fomented the twitter witch-hunt / petition against the original seven Listener letter UoA academics ) are deeply disingenuous when they claim Matauranga is about ‘decolonising the university curriculum’. If the University of Auckland actually cared about reflecting modern NZ society, UoA would appreciate that Auckland’s population in the 2018 census showed 28% had some Asian heritage, 16% Pacific Island, and only 11% Maori. The ‘science and university decolonisation’ espoused only has room for Maori cultural heritage, and no status for the 44% of Auckland society with Asian or Pacific cultural heritage.

      Society president and soil scientist Brent Clothier, along with feminist historian and ‘chair of the academy executive committee’ Charlotte MacDonald, have never made any public statements on valuing Asian or Pacific traditional knowledge on an even keel with Maori knowledge. There is no impartiality presumed or acted on by the Society, acknowledging that modern NZ is a multi-cultural, westernised, Asia-Pacific society.

      1. I don’t mind a western colony-derived country giving more-than-population-percentile resources and focus to it’s native culture(s). The justification is not current representation like what you propose, but rather a ‘you broke it, you bought it’ reasoning where the government colonial inheritor of the land they took from others, now recognizes some (at least de minimis) responsibility of helping out those they took the land from.

        But with that in mind, shoving MM into science was certainly not the right fix. It’s not directly applicable, but I think Hugo Black’s “A union of government and religion tends to destroy government and degrade religion” is tangentially on point here. Maybe: the union of science and nativism tends to destroy science and degrade native culture.

  4. Their decision to resign was the first in this sorry saga that was not shocking. I am (still) shocked that:
    1. A society whose role is to promote Science in the national interest so obviously and intentionally came down on the wrong side at every turn.
    2. The degree to which speech not only in RSNZ but in NZ is not free. That RSNZ got this so wrong was obvious to many in NZ, who privately sided with Nola, Cooper, et al. Yet so few publicly supported them, or spoke out against the principles that were violated, presumably for well-placed fear of repercussions.

    To the rest of the world, the honor of being a Fellow of RSNZ now comes with a giant asterisk.

    1. Thoughts.

      1) The idea that science must be shaped or restricted to respect the “harmony of nature” as elucidated by elders with special racial knowledge is just shamanism, or woo, and cannot be science. Mixing it in with science education is going down the same road as New Zealand is going. Sneaking it in as a local initiative in a backwater of Canada with already miserably inadequate educational standards for all residents does nobody any favours.

      2) Two-eyed seeing is a clumsy nonsensical metaphor and the idea of Indigenous “lenses” is just jargon borrowed from settler sociology. Who is keeping an eye on whom?

      I’m grateful to Jerry for his coverage of the Listener Affair that raised our consciousness about how dangerous and insidious these machinations are in other parts of the world.

      1. Leslie, I agree completely. Any suggestion that someone’s birthright automatically grants them unique privileges in understanding the world has to be resisted.

      2. Leslie.
        I appreciate your response and point of view and course you are absolutely correct, it is shamanism and woo.
        Does not seem to have attracted any attention here although that is not surprising either.
        Robert Ladley NS Canada

        1. Mount Royal University in Calgary has fired Prof. Frances Widdowson for uncollegiality. The attention she has given to this very issue in her writings and public speaking is well known, including a chapter in 2021’s From Truth Comes Reconciliation, a long overdue and more thorough and less biased reading of the Truth and Reconciliation Report. (For non-Canadians that’s the report that finds us all guilty of genocide and underpins much Indigenous agitation today.) Last I heard, her Faculty Association is grieving her dismissal. She has spoken about the affair on Meghan Murphy’s Youtube channel. To the CBC she is radioactive. To other academics and scientists she is an object lesson.

          Remember all universities and professional licensing and accrediting organizations in Canada are solidly supportive of indigenization and decolonization. If they had Kalven Reports they would say that obeisance to these principles is central to the mission and purpose of the university. They don’t know what they mean exactly but you are in trouble if you don’t play ball…because they know they are in trouble if they don’t make you. (Like traditional knowledge, they make it up as they go along.). Even if it’s only lip service, mostly, for now, it’s compelled speech.

          As Canadians know, and I posit New Zealanders know too, this isn’t just about conflating Indigenous ways of knowing as science or medicine or law or whatever. It’s about racially based land claims, veto power over public policy by a tiny unproductive factionalized minority with a disturbing taste for menace, and enormous sums of money….all being abetted by a strangely detached national government on a vague quest for “reconciliation”, undefined and open-ended. I don’t doubt the same currents underly the conflict over science in NZ. Observers who live in countries where Indigenous grievances are not a thing have no idea just how much national oxygen it takes up. I fear the NZ and always fractious Canadian states are in over their heads. The professors were sensible to leave a society that has been captured by these forces.

          1. Hello Leslie:

            Thank you so much for drawing attention to my case. Six episodes have now been released on https://wokeacademy.info/episodes/.

            There is also another video about my case in an interview with I.J. Makan – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5fUbIjuC00A&t=4239s.

            I have written several things on the “Indigenization” of Canadian universities. These are being compiled on https://wokeacademy.info/booksandarticles/.



            1. Thank you for your acknowledgement, Frances, and for the links. Just trying to do what I can. The American Conservative piece, Billy Remembers, is dynamite (contained in the wokeacademy link.) Did that earn you a special public rebuke from the Minister?
              Best wishes for your case and for your continued cheerful churlishness.
              You got an general good wishes email from me a few months ago. I’ll reconnect so as not to take up too much space in Jerry’s living room.

    2. I was looking through online issues of the NZAS journal to see what they deem worthy of publication and found an article on “Mātauranga Māori and School Science” in this issue:


      It talks about “two-eyed seeing”, and has this to say, on which comment seems superflous:

      “As a biologist I have come to understand that humans have two-eyes to the front or monocular vision (as do all predators). The evolutionary benefit it gives us is the ability to judge the distance better, and have improved focus on distant objects. So why not use one eye for each way of seeing, the scientists’ way and the Māori way. “

      1. But that’s not the way binocular vision works, which is why I said it’s a clumsy nonsensical metaphor. I didn’t elaborate in the interests of space because I thought it was obvious. For binocular vision, both eyes have to be looking at the same thing, with both lenses focused at the same point. The images as represented in the brain must overlap with high fidelity for us to make sense of what we see. Inserting a Paheka “lens” in one optical path and a Maori “lens” in the other would act like filters, not lenses, and would degrade the information acquired by both eyes. If the two lenses were focused on different points in the visual field, the images when they overlapped would be blurry at both focal distances and stereoscopic vision would be lost. If the two eyes aren’t looking at the same thing, because of damage to the way the eyes are yoked together, the brain suppresses the neural function of the “wrong” eye and it goes functionally blind even though the optical part still works. Serviceable vision with one eye — you can still drive a car — is better than unintelligible vision from both.

        Whatever, it’s a metaphor, a rhetorical device, not an argument. It only appeals to someone who already believes that the primitive way of knowing is co-equal with the scientific way. It doesn’t have probative value. Rhetoric is not subject to argument, so if someone wants to imagine we see differently with two eyes, fine. I just think rhetoric snuck into an argument should have some basis in fact.. The author shouldn’t be implying that ways of knowing are co-equal because we see with two eyes, don’t we? In contrast, “the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing” is actually medically possible and the saying perhaps arose because someone noticed the effect after a stroke or other brain injury..

        The link doesn’t work, by the way. I can’t cite the biologist author by name.

        1. Leslie, indeed. It seemed such obvious nonsense that, as I said, comment seemed superfluous. Apologies for the broken link – the “.pdf”. although displaying, did not form part of the link when I pasted for some reason. I’ll try again:


          You can also get to the document as vol 76 no 3 here:


          This also has links to a good deal more of this sort of tosh, although TBF one issue does have an interesting article on prime numbers by one David Lillis.

          1. Mr. Trudgeon, Thank you for the second link to the journal archive. Even when I had snipped off the “pdf” the first didn’t work. The two-eyed-seeing article was eye-opening. It seems the main contribution of the Maori “eye” was that someone repurposed a water-bath as a kind of electric barbecue to cook food in, and won a prize at a science fair. That was a dystopian vision: scientific laboratories have been destroyed by some apocalypse and the salvaged equipment is being used for survival purposes…..as long as the power stays on, I suppose.

            The illustration of the small boat with unbalanced vector forces acting on it showed how inserting a “lens” that doesn’t work the same way as the other causes the problem solver to, literally, lose focus. The Maori lens adds irrelevant clutter to the problem (is boat in river or on sea, is someone paddling etc.) that, as the teacher says, is easily solved by a child who uses Paheka lenses in both eyes. If a settler child was getting derailed by such clutter we would, if the material was age-appropriate, worry that she had a learning disability…or just didn’t understand what newtons were, or didn’t know what numbers were. Yet the Maori is celebrated for being unable to grasp that all the information needed to solve the problem is present.

            The author also elides over the “interconnectedness” central to Native spirituality as a kind of equivalent to scientifically determined ecological relationships that are invisible to spirituality. But the spiritualists always have a gotcha. You can teach about the way iron leaches out of rocks, into bogs, and then into life forms where it is incorporated into cytochromes, haemoglobin, and myoglobin up the food chain and the evolutionary tree. But the Natives will reply, triumphantly: “See, we told you the rocks talk to the trees and the animals. We knew that before you figured it out with science.”

            I do apologize for not getting your drift in your original reference to comment seeming superfluous. I misunderstood your understanding that it was tosh.

  5. Prof Robert Nola et al have done us all a favour by stirring the pot and bringing this issue out in the open .
    A big thank you to Nola for clarifying the exact reasons for his resignation .
    I hope the University of Auckland provides a forum to discuss and debate this issue.
    In any case, if university academics think this issue (whether MM is science or not ) is still up for debate , I wonder how high school kids in NZ, can be taught MM in science classes without a thrashed out discussion by academia on an appropriate platform /forum.

  6. There is little I can add to any of the foregoing comments, except I was so embarrassed by the lickspittle behaviour of the RSNZ I resigned my Companionship (strangely enough, on the same day, as a colleague also resigned his). Furthermore, the NZ Association of Scientists is just as weak-kneed and I resigned from them as well. Despite all, science still rules, hopefully leaving nature study coupled with animism in its wake!

  7. Professor Cooper’s and Professor Nola’s resignations send a clear message about the stupidity of the entire affair. They and the other five professors were guilty of nothing more than defending science and defending the integrity of New Zealand’s education system.

    The brand of political correctness we see in New Zealand and elsewhere is actually quite dangerous. Those who hold socio-economic and political power must attend to the needs of minorities and those who command less power. However, the current fads we see here and in the US and Canada may set, not only science but race relations, back 50 years. David Lillis

  8. In response to Allen Heath – I, too, was disappointed in the NZ Association of Scientists. In fact, along with Professor Peter Schwerdtfeger, I submitted an article on the question of indigenous knowledge and science. We advanced the Popperian view of science as requiring falsification but were perfectly respectful of indigenous knowledge and stated clearly its social and historic, as well as ethical, value.

    The NZAS declined to publish and that’s OK. However, its stated justifications for declining were bordering on the offensive. David Lillis

    1. Could you quote verbatim what their reasons were for non-publication? Considering Popper was the most distinguished philosopher of science to ever hold an academic position at a NZ university, they ought to be substantive reasons.

      If this group is in reality the ‘Aotearoa Association for the Advancement of Postcolonial Guilt’, non-publication is OK. If your group claims to be a ‘NZ Association of Scientists’, non-publication is not OK if your paper passes certain standards of quality that should be impartially applied to all submissions.

      Maybe the RSNZ should be renamed the AAAPG. It fits their born-again stance.

    2. David, very interesting to see your comments. I presume that the article by yourself and Prof Schwerdtfeger that NZAS rejected was similar to, or the same as, the one published online by NZCPR and Breaking Views? I thought it was a really excellent and thoughtful article which should have formed part of a public discussion of these matters. If anything I thought you were at times over-respectful of matauranga Maori, and it is extremely disappointing that NZAS rejected the article. I too would be most interested to hear their stated reasons.

      The NZAS put out a statement last year which makes their decision hardly a surprise:


  9. Hello Ramesh and Jumbo Trudgeon.

    Indeed, the article is a longer version of that which went online on Breaking Views etc.


    I want to make clear that I have friends and colleagues within NZAS and have no wish to attack or discredit anyone. However, organizations like NZAS should be receptive to points of view that differ from their own. I accept that they may have felt that our article was not up to standard – but really?

    The NZAS feedback:

    (i) It is not written well enough for the standard of our rebooted journal.
    (ii) It provides no pathway forward and so only brings negativity and controversy.
    (iii) There are a number of points that are questionable in terms of veracity.
    (iv) Finally, it makes no serious attempt to connect with the substantial and internationally recognised literature on mātauranga Māori.

    OK. So – that’s their view and I accept it. In the next message I give the submitted article.


    1. I’m sorry, but as I wrote you privately, your “submitted article” is 8,500 words long, when the suggested limit is 600 words. See the rules. I cannot fathom how you could think that I would publish an article four or five times longer than what I normally publish on this site. This website is not for other people to use as a venue for publishing papers submitted elsewhere, accepted or not.

    2. Hi Dr Lillis,
      what a weird melange of excuses given for rejection.

      I particularly enjoyed the NZ Association of Scientist’s ‘it provides no pathway forward and so only brings negativity and controversy’ ! Umm, it does provide a pathway forward, which is that Matauranga Maori has the same epistemological significance and veracity as Matauranga Mahabharata, Matauranga Dao, Matauranga Zulu, Matauranga Zoroaster etc. None of these pre-modern packets of knowledge have the same depth and capability ‘to provide a pathway forward’ than contemporary international science that is based on quantum theory, calculus, natural selection, etc.

      As for reason 4, ‘it makes no serious attempt to connect with the substantial and internationally recognised literature’, non-NZ readers should know this is a favourite stratagem of NZers. I used to know a young chap who wanted to be a fashion ‘influencer’, so international labels might give him free stuff to wear and keep. He promoted his Auckland blog as ‘internationally recognised’ because he used to get a few website hits from non-NZ IP addresses every week, though doubtless many were from his overseas Facebook friends. Ipso facto, he was ‘internationally recognised’ which is exactly what he wrote on the landing page of his fashion blog.

      ‘Internationally recognised’ obviously is a disingenuous way of implying ‘published in high-impact non-NZ journals’, when it is not. Maybe a couple of articles on MM have been published in university of Hawaii press journals, but U Hawaii is known for publishing lots of such material that concern Indigenous cultures. Or maybe the NZAS editors are referencing the Nature commentary from last year that stated ‘Maori discovered Antarctica’ circa 650 AD, even though the first people with a claim to being Maori didn’t land in NZ until circa 1280 AD. [ Rather like claiming New Zealanders called Christopher Columbus and Vikings were the first Whites to also discover the Americas, since many New Zealanders are White, and some have common ancestry with Columbus and Vikings.]

  10. To play the devils advocate ( with respect) and to be fair, Popper has his critics too .
    The problem of demarcation is a huge topic with a lot of proposals from a lot of philosophers of science and thinkers so I would be careful and not hastily base my conclusions on just what Popper said and proposed .

    1. Hi Sonal.
      Agreed! At some point the position we take can become a question of preferred definitions. Tests of scientific truth can include verification, falsification, observation, experiment, comparison of models, trial and error and others. Indigenous knowledge can include all of the above and more. Not everyone goes along with Popper. It so happens that I and others do – but we can see why others do not and why others are comfortable with indigenous knowledge as science. David Lillis

        1. Agreed! Elements of indigenous (traditional) knowledge overlap with science. Much of indigenous knowledge does not. As we said in our article in BreakingViewsNZ:

          The present controversy may originate in a confusion between science as the most widely-accepted description of the universe devised by humans and the traditional knowledge of groups of people across different parts of the world. This traditional knowledge is relevant to their descendants and of great interest to modern humanity, but should not be confused with science, particularly in education.

          David Lillis

          1. OK, but one would expect the leadership of scientific organizations like RSNZ not to be confused about such an obvious and basic distinction. To rationalize their claim of equivalence (of MM with Science), they must redefine Science to something it palpably is not. This is not a problem for Science, which, sooner or later, retains, modifies, or discards concepts according to how successfully they describe or even predict Nature. The problem is teaching kids that they are equivalent. When they later learn that some (most?) MM concepts are not scientific, won’t they wonder why they were taught otherwise? Won’t they feel they were intentionally misguided, even deceived, in the same way that indigenous people have been for…ever? How is this insistence of equivalence, however well intentioned, not just as patronizing and demeaning?

      1. For Karl Popper, science cannot verify its theories empirically, but it can falsify them, and that suffices to account for scientific progress. For Popper, a law or theory remains a pure conjecture, however massively corroborated empirically it may be.
        So folks who endorse verification might have trouble agreeing with Popper on this point .

    2. Sorry, but “demarcation” does not include teaching mythology like creationism in science class or that palpable untruth that Polynesians discovered Antarctica. If you’re trying to say that MM is science because we can’t distinguish science ffrom non-science, you’re not being a very good devil’s advocate.

      1. Demarcation is generally understood as the problem posed in philosophy between the project of demarcation of all activities that can be categorised as science as opposed to all activities categorised as non science .
        Because someone critiques Popper does not necessarily mean or imply that they are in the MM camp ..
        This issue is more nuanced than that !
        All I was trying to point out was that the project of demarcation is understood in many ways including Poppers insistence on the kind of reasoning that is involved in science and the scientific method and those that disagree with Popper on the reasoning he emphasised.
        There are many philosophers who will not endorse MM as science but will still not be in Poppers camp .
        Finally I would also like to separate the theories of science and the activities of scientists or what one might call the scientific method.

    3. Again – agreed! We mean to say that certain elements of indigenous or traditional knowledge can be counted as science.

      To quote again from our BreakingViews article: We remember the motto of The Royal Society – Nullius in verba – which translates as “Take nobody’s word for it”.

      As such, the motto excludes traditional knowledge as science until it has been tested by the methods of science.

      David Lillis

  11. All Robert Nola and Garth Cooper were saying is that all contributions to the scientific canon should be subject to the same level of scientific analysis. A pretty basic assertion, I thought.

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