A New Zealand teacher writes the government protesting a proposed curriculum asserting the equality of indigenous “ways of knowing” with science

December 1, 2022 • 9:00 am

I’ve often written about how New Zealand’s government and school authorities are determined to teach the indigenous way of knowing,”Mātauranga Māori (“MM”), which I’ve often discussed, as coequal to modern science in science classes.  While many (like me) maintain that MM should be taught in sociology or anthropology classes as an important part of national culture, I vehemently object to it being taught as coequal to modern science.

That’s because MM, though some of the entire system contains “practical knowledge” taken from observation and trial and error, also contains many things that aren’t science-y at all: ideology, morality, religion, legend and superstition. Teaching the two systems as coequal would not only confuse students about what science is, but also confer coequality where it isn’t warranted. Even if you just teach the parts of MM that encompass practical knowledge, it’s important to show how this differs from the systematic methods and tools used by modern science to find truth. The efforts of the NZ government and schools will, in the end, doom science in New Zealand. I’m not exaggerating when I say that this is my worry

(I’ll add that MM advocates, when they claim empirical knowledge, often do so unscientifically. Their remedies are often untested, and, regarding history they have claimed, falsely, that the Polynesians, ancestors of the Māori were the discoverers of Antarctica in the 7th century AD. [see also here]. This is untrue, and based on both legend and a mistranslation; Antarctica was first seen by the Russians in 1820.)

Because equating MM with other “ways of knowing” like modern science is a way of valorizing the indigenous people, and because there’s no government more “progressive” (in the pejorative sense) than New Zealand’s, efforts by me and others to stop the impending dilution of science with MM are almost surely doomed. It’s even worse, for criticizing what the government is doing is seen as anti-Māori racism. It’s not: it’s just distinguishing between a real way of knowing and a dubious “way of knowing”. As preacher Mike Aus said after he publicly renounced his faith at an FFRF meeting,

“There are not different ways of knowing. There is knowing and not knowing, and those are the only two options in this world.”

Thus, critics of teaching indigenous ways of knowing in science class critics are forced to shut up, for raising one’s voice not only leads to pile-ons and petitions, but has actually cost teachers their jobs. Today I’m posting a letter written by a critical teacher who dares not give their name for fear of being fired, but who’s sufficiently courageous to let their views be known, including a letter they wrote about the MM/science controversy to various government ministers (all anonymously, of course, as this person wants to keep their job!). The teacher was disturbed at a government lesson plan to equate modern science with Māori empirical knowledge, and I also show a bit of that lesson plane.

So. . . .

A friend of mine in New Zealand got a letter from a secondary school teacher who went to a meeting in they were given proposed government curriculum for integrating modern science (which they call “Western science”, abbreviated “WS”) with the indigenous “way of knowing”.  The curriculum, which you can have by emailing me, is for “year 9” students, who are 13 years old.

The curriculum tries (but fails) to take the superstition out of MM, so that the part of MM that’s supposedly co-taught with “western science” is actually “Mātauranga Pūtaiao” (“MP”)—practical knowledge related to the natural world. The plan, an outline of the future curriculum from which I’ve taken excerpts, demands that we must consider MP equivalent to Western science (though they’re also claimed to be different in ways that aren’t explained).  As you’ll see, though, they haven’t managed to keep the numinous bits out of MP, and they don’t attempt to show what’s unique about MP as opposed to WS.

Everything below is reproduced with the permission of the principals, and, as I said, I will be glad to send you the whole curriculum plan—an 11-page pdf—if you want to see it.

Here’s what the teacher wrote to my friend, who then forwarded the teacher’s letter to me with permission to see it and reproduce it here.

I have attached a curriculum unit plan to this email that was distributed last week to school teachers in my region during a teacher-only day dedicated to the curriculum re-alignment. It illustrates how a typical school is attempting to integrate mātauranga Māori in the science curriculum. Rather distressingly, it is quite political in how it presents the relationship of science to mātauranga Māori.

I have also included a letter I have written to government ministers that illustrates the potential for confusion to occur when local schools are left to interpret the implications of such integration without authoritative guidance from the Ministry of Education. I have written this anonymously, both for the benefit of the school from which the document originates as well as for the sake of my own career as a teacher. Within the teaching profession, there is considerable confusion over what mātauranga Māori is and how it relates to science.

Finally, here’s the letter the teacher wrote to government ministers (bolding is the teacher’s). It’s quite eloquent and clear.

Good day,

I am a science teacher writing from a regional city on the South Island. This past week, my colleagues and I attended a government-funded day of professional development, the purpose of which was to discuss the re-alignment of the new NCEA science curriculum with other teachers from the region. Among the topics discussed were mātauranga Māori and its integration into the science curriculum. As part of this discussion, the host school that was facilitating the meeting distributed resources outlining how they were teaching (or intended to teach) mātauranga Māori and science. I have included a copy of the unit plan that was distributed during the meeting to illustrate the concerns I will outline below. Of particular interest is how the realignment of the curriculum could enable epistemic relativism to be introduced into what should be a world-leading system of publicly-funded education. The highly decentralized nature of the NZ education system, coupled with the vague wording of the proposed curriculum by the Ministry of Education, introduces the possibility that local schools will ultimately be left to devise science programs based on faulty premises and questionable interpretations of the relationship of mātauranga Māori to science. I have attached the unit plan presented by the host school of this meeting as evidence of this potential.

First among my concerns is the presentation of science in this school’s unit plan as a “western” knowledge system. This is peculiar (to say the least), given that science is a global endeavor drawing on a toolkit with contributors from many cultures and ages. To call science a “western” knowledge system is to ignore the contributions of many cultures from places such as India, the middle-east, China, and the Maori themselves. For example, Arabic and Indian scholars made fundamental contributions to the development of mathematics, which is the decision-making language of science. Labeling science as “western” makes as much sense as dividing mathematics into categories of “Arabic,” “Chinese,” or “Roman.” It may be true that over the past century many contributions to science have originated from a few countries in the so-called “west;” but that point has more to do with economic forces and the vagaries of historical chance, rather than cultural “ownership” over a methodology. Moreover, the Māori themselves used aspects of science (observation, pattern-seeking) as part of their exploration of Aotearoa [JAC: the Māori word for New Zealand]. Why can’t we simply celebrate the varied contributions of humanity to science and our knowledge of the natural world, rather than create an ideological division that does not exist in the first place?

The unit plan also makes the claim that both “knowledge systems” have equal authority. Again, this statement is based on a faulty premise and false dichotomy. To teach children that science is a “western” knowledge system is to undermine the idea of what science is. Ultimately, science is a collection of methodological tools and approaches that allow us to reliably distinguish and relate cause, effect, and chance. Put simply, science has predictive power in how humans relate to the natural world. In everyday life, no one practicing science (or using its products) cares about cultural attribution or the so-called “knowledge system” it arose from. If an idea or technique works in practice and has predictive power, it is accepted as part of our understanding of the natural world. To take an example from history: Polynesian, European, or Chinese sailors from centuries ago would no doubt have told us that there are two types of navigation: the sort that gets you where you are going and the sort that gets you dead. No one cared where your technique came from: if it worked, it was adopted. Categorically, scientific knowledge is either descriptive of our objective reality or it is not.

I would also draw your attention to the first lesson in the attached unit plan, whose focus is the subject of Maori gods and “their powers.” Now, I assume that this is a lesson on how people in the past have explained natural phenomena by appealing to supernatural explanations. As mātauranga Māori is a living knowledge system and is intended to be taught within the science curriculum, it no doubt has replaced such concepts with ideas based on naturalistic explanations. However, I cannot confirm this because the Ministry of Education has not provided teachers with an authoritative reference on how these two systems are similar or different. The document presented by our meeting facilitator claims that no one system has “authority.” If that is the case, science teachers need a clearly articulated vision of how these differences are to be taught in the classroom.

Thank you for your attention to this matter. I am sending you this letter and the attached example from a local school’s curriculum to illustrate the potential for confusion that has arisen from the inclusion of mātauranga Maori in the science curriculum. Is the Ministry of Education intending to publish and distribute a detailed and authoritative guide on how schools should integrate mātauranga Maori in relation to science? As illustrated by the material presented at the meeting I recently attended, there is considerable potential for disagreement without ministry guidance.I would ask that you raise this issue with the Minister of Education as a matter of urgency given the proposed timeline for the implementation of the new curriculum. Both teachers and students deserve clarity and a set of authoritative guidelines on how mātauranga Maori and science are to be taught together. Without such guidelines, teachers will be left to interpret how these systems relate and how to teach them as a single subject (as illustrated by the example unit plan I have attached to this letter).

It is unfortunate that I must write to you anonymously. In the present climate, my intent could be misconstrued or mischaracterized if I were to put my name to this letter. Furthermore, my career as a teacher could suffer if I were to air these concerns publicly.

Kind regards,

A concerned teacher

Below are a few screenshots from the 11-page proposed document.

Here’s how the lesson starts: a “warm up activity” that teaches the 13 years old about “the Maori Gods and their powers”. Are they going to mention that there’s no evidence for the existence of these gods? If not, then they shouldn’t be mentioned, for this is not science but religion. But of course they won’t do that. Thus the confusion between MM and science starts at the outset of the course. Do they warm up the students by teaching about the “Western gods and their powers.” Of course not! Science is a godless activity, so get this stuff out of the curriculum!


Part of the level 3 assessment on page 10 says: “Understands that Māori have always been scientists, and that MP and WS are different.” Are Māori unique in this regard, i.e., did they alone among indigenous peoples came up with science, or does this apply to all indigenous people? The former is rather racist, while the second dilutes science to only that derived from observing the natural environment.

Note as well that they explain differences and similarities between science and the empirical bits of MM, but don’t say what those similarities and differences are. Further, they don’t explain “the importance of multiple perspectives.” Any perspective that is empirically correct is part of science.  And just as not all “westerners” aren’t scientists, so not all Māori are scientists. This is gobbledygook in the cause of inclusion.

Week 5 includes the story of Maui and Aoraki, although it looks like the Youtube video link no longer works. The tale of Maui and Aoraki is in fact the creation myth of the Māori , describing how two of the several gods created the North and South Islands. Why is this in the curriculum? Is the curriculum also going to describe the Western Biblical creation myth as outlined in Genesis, complete with God, Adam, Eve, and a talking serpent?

Whakapapa” is a numinous concept that relates to the connection of all things, both earthly and spiritual. That, too, doesn’t belong in a “science” curriculum, but in an anthropology class.

Below we see again the flat assertion—one that the teacher emphasizes above—that WS and MP, though not exactly the same (they don’t say how), are of equal “authority and status”. Can you imagine half of a 9th-form science class devoted to all of modern science, and the other half devoted to MP, which includes things like Polynesian navigation (not a Māori development) and when, exactly, the Maori pick their berries and catch their eels? Yes, the latter bits are “empirical knowledge” deriving from trial and error, but to give these things authority equal to all of modern physics, chemistry, biology, and mathematics is a fool’s errand. But such is the government of New Zealand, heavily “progressive” and pressured by the Māori and their sympathizers to give local ways of knowing a status equal to what “Western” science has given us in the last four centuries. This includes the claim that untested remedies involving herbs and spiritual chanting are just as good as modern medicine (see here, here, and here). (I hate using the words “Western” science, as the term is meant to denigrate modern science by implying it’s a “colonialist” enterprise.)

Have a look. If you want the entire curriculum (and some of it is okay), email me.

I feel sorry for nearly everyone involved in this sad tale: the New Zealand government, in thrall to the indigenous people to the extent that it will destroy science education; the Māori themselves, who will be given not only a false view of science but an education that will hold them back; the teachers, forced to teach ludicrous propositions and must keep their mouths shut about it; and all the people of New Zealand, who will be shorted on science education. In the end, that will hold science back in one of the countries I love the most. And that is ineffably sad.

40 thoughts on “A New Zealand teacher writes the government protesting a proposed curriculum asserting the equality of indigenous “ways of knowing” with science

  1. My hasty new-to-me thought on this :

    If teaching MM on the basis that it [1] came first and [2] is somehow true, then the same provisions could be afforded science from other periods of time that are superseded by now.

    And as an anonymous commenter on a website, I understand why. Sadly, being anonymous is ignored, mostly – unless a program somehow can identify them – I would not be surprised.

  2. This nonsense would be laughable if it weren’t for the damage caused to students and the understanding of science in NZ. As our host says, “ineffably sad”.

  3. The lack of clarity seems purposeful. One can state that Maori “science” and “WS” both have “authority.” But that statement begs the question of what kind of authority and under what circumstances. Leaving out the needed clarification indicates (to me) that the authors of the curriculum are just mouthing the right words—the woke words. They can’t or won’t go any further either because (i) they don’t in fact believe that the two types of knowledge have equal authority (in other words, they are being disingenuous) or (ii) they believe the authority claim but have no good arguments for it (they believe it on faith). This seems to be a good example of the creative use of ambiguity.

    1. I’m not sure I’d put the distinction in terms of ‘belief’. It’s really about intelligence. In dealing with these people, one notices quickly an overconfidence, an arrogance even. They want to DO things, achieve objectives; they do not want to think. They don’t care about clarity, ambiguity is fine. In meetings with them, I’ve come to the view that most of these folk are simply not very bright. Few of our MM advocates have developed a level of expertise in any subject to come to love it for its own sake, and so they have little in common with the perspective that grounds WEIT. They are however mostly well meaning (in their own limited way). The real problem is that their efforts are aimed at something which from almost any perspective, other than their narrow one, is wrong. And no one else in NZ is permitted to hold the microphone at present.

      1. I’d agree that MM advocates come across as mostly well-meaning, but woefully ill- informed about what they refer to as “Western science”, and, to put it bluntly, a bit thick.I think of people like Rangi Matamua here – New Zealand’s current go to guy on Maori astronomy – or Dan Hikuroa, who seems unable to write a clear sentence to save himself. For a recent example, see this article by Ella Henry from AUT, which I’ve seen referred to as “brilliant” by MM advocates. https://thespinoff.co.nz/atea/14-11-2022/busting-the-myths-about-matauranga-maori

        1. That article was fairly well worded. Sure, in such a heated topic anyone who has the time can make a well worded article online.
          Plenty of Māori friends of mine have no issue saying the navigation system used was impressive, but it was a relative system between either two known points or a set path one must go up or down on, not exact with a dependence on regular weather and even some time of the year being better than others.

          Then one of them also said his ancestors were a violent mob who savaged the lower North Island and the Chatom’s, and he regrets that is not spoken of. But the European settlers were quite shocking at times as well, and there were many bad business deals that started some legit conflict. My friend said it also involved many corrupt Māori as well who sold tribal land acting as if they owned it or had taken it from another. Then there were the later government confiscations as well.

          1. Polynesian navigation is a fascinating topic. I’ve just been reading “We, the Navigators” by David Lewis. He’s a New Zealander who used his understanding of traditional methods to navigate from Rarotonga to NZ (although he was sensible enough to have a backup navigator with instruments in case he went seriously wrong, which he nearly did once), and subsequently made a study of traditional Polynesian navigation by talking to surviving practitioners. It comprises a whole range of methods, and as you say largely involves holding to a course in a known direction using the rising or setting stars, sun, ocean swells, and wind, with dead reckoning corrections for the effect of currents, and observation of waves, bird flight etc for detecting land. It’s obviously capable of very good accuracy, but I wouldn’t describe it as science. And determination of an accurate position in terms of longitude is quite beyond it in the absence of an accurate timepiece.

            1. It is. Captain Cook was very impressed by it, but noted a weakness, after a storm a group of Tahitians were thrown off course and were lost, they crossed paths and after finding out where they were, gave them a direction and they got home.
              But it is heavily over romanticized and was limited to either going between two rough points or back and forth in lines.
              I remember reading as well that the colonization of the Pacific by the Polynesians was not back and forth but rather a single sweep with little return trips. So, a guy on one side may know so much on his side and a little in the middle and a guy on the other side of his area, with the one in the middle knowing that and so forth.

              Here are some more.
              The first two answers are great, the third a good laugh!

              The first two answers the third by a guy who is a bit like me and unromantic and I have a comment there he thumbed up.

  4. The curriculum document, with its instruction that neither Western science nor stories of the Maori gods and their powers should be taken as “authoritative”, was undoubtedly written by School of Ed graduates. The document’s authors should be asked whether they respond to toothache by going to the dentist or by intoning a karakia.

    The mentality behind this kind of blather is due to their assumption that all the results of “Western science” are just there for them, automatically, as part of the world—like the way the lights go on automatically when you press a light switch. They cannot conceive that “Western science” (a mystery, to them, of arcane mathematical incantations) has anything to do with the way that they lead their lives—and they blithely announce its equivalence to indigenous or other stories in texts they transmit on their cellphones.

    1. My own experience with the phrase “Western Science” comes from 2 areas of debate: Alternative Medicine, and claims that mystical experience provides reliable evidence for Eastern philosophies on the nature of Existence and Consciousness.

  5. The letter writer was right to point out that this is “epistemic relativism,” which puts all knowledge on equal footing as expressed by the popular bromide “No right; no wrong: just different.” That’s a fine philosophy to use when judging children’s artwork or diplomatically cooling a heated argument about the best band. But it works hell on science, and can’t even be followed because disagreement with epistemic relativism is still somehow wrong.

    By diversifying science into “different kinds” we remove the concept of common ground and replace it with the idea that differences between people are more important than our similarities. This doesn’t fit well with a liberal or progressive mindset. A phony “harmony” where skepticism and rebuttal are forbidden upfront is a conservative value.

    It’s also antithetical to a prime attribute of the scientific process: the search for a consensus won from a series of critical challenges. Pity the poor student who raises their hand with a real objection. Pity the teachers who are even too afraid to write an anonymous letter. And pity the administrators who think this will teach the children to respect the Māori. In the long run, it infantilizes them to the level of children.

  6. So why is New Zealand doing this? Who benefits? For some well-meaning people, the useful fools, it is a way to feel better about themselves as a costless gesture of atonement for imagined wrongs against Maori in the past. But that’s only a reason to go along with it, not a reason to drive it. Some people, like the pink-haired ones with made-up woke names who led the Listener outrage, may see opportunities for small-stakes (i.e. academic) power. But the people with real power? Whom are they afraid will behead them if they don’t give it up quietly?

    David Lillis and others were talking about “co-governance” the other day. (Any mistakes here are mine, not theirs.) Water (including municipal water and sewerage projects) and Crown land will be managed through bureaucracies with equal numbers of Maori and settler* seats–how selected?–at the table. This will give the Maori racial faction (17% of the population) a veto over anything that comes under co-governance. If the other 83% want to get anything approved, they will have to make concessions that they would not have to make under one-man-one-vote. Some of the concessions demanded will surely be enlargement of the list of domains to be co-governed, i.e., Maori-vetoed, such as education, child protection, and health care, ostensibly to rectify inequities in those areas. The mistake is to imagine that the factions will work together making equal contributions to the good of New Zealand as a whole, when in all likelihood one faction will see co-governance as a ratchet toward greater power for its own good. It’s not clear to me that Parliament can or would dare legislate an end to the co-governance model if it is leading to perverse outcomes. If school children are taught to believe that whakapapa must inform all policy decisions, who better than the ancient practitioners of this art to be the decision-makers?

    Perhaps this abasement of science teaching now is a way of softening up the population for the inevitable bi-cultural state where all legislation has to pass both a Maori house and a settler house in order to become law. Settlers would not be able to run for office in the Maori house yet in the spirit of race-blindness required of settlers, candidates of Maori heritage would be able to run in the settler house. A heavily Maori riding might be able to send a Maori MP to each house or, for efficiency, elect the same one to both houses. Remember, being a member of a valorized group can only entitle you, never disqualify you. (In Canada we call this “citizens-plus.”)

    If New Zealand doesn’t stop doing this soon, by legislating against it, they will be forever unable to undo it. (The Treaty of Watangi does not have constitutional status in New Zealand, as I understand it, and it does not itself require any form of co-governance.) Once you give someone a veto either from fear or out of the goodness of your heart, you can never take it away.
    * I am using the North American term “settler” instead of “pakeha” even though Maori were of course settlers too. Pakeha means European, or “Whitey”, which would be a slur against New Zealand’s large Asian minority.

    1. Leslie, that is a powerful and eloquent dissection of the current trend. I presume it is fully supported by the Ardern Government. Is there any pushback at all from any opposition party? Or any indication as to how far it’s supported by the people as a whole? What chance of this disastrous juggernaut being derailed?

      1. I’m just a foreigner with vicarious skin in the game, Steve, watching closely from Canada where similar Indigenous irredentist forces are at work. I don’t know what resistance might be being marshalled in New Zealand. Nobody dares to talk much about it here. There is a sense that the authorities are not capable of containing things if they get out of hand.

        This is supposed to be about New Zealand so all I’ll say about Canada is that we have DEIDI here. An additional D for “decolonization” and an I for “indigenization”. These are not just aspirations but actual political/ideological viewpoints that universities have determined their operations must support, which would violate America’s Kalven Report.

      2. There is pushback from at least two parties — ACT and NZ First. Many people who say they voted for Arden are looking for a party to support but are cautious about (or simply against) ACT and NZ First, for a variety of other reasons. The National party (the main opposition to Ardern’s Labour Party) has been too quiet on the MM and many regard National as having got NZ into this mess via the UN work on Indigenous Peoples.
        The election will be in late 2023 and the warm up to it hasn’t begun in full.

        1. There is also increasing pushback from Winston Peters, who rises from the grave every so often to stir the pot. I believe it was indeed National who got us here. Helen Clark, the Labour PM, refused to sign UNDRIP, with the then-Māori Affairs Minister Parekura Horomia saying it was “fundamentally incompatible with New Zealand’s constitutional and legal arrangements and established Treaty settlement policy”. Subsequently John Key, the national PM not noted for his attention to detail, signed us up, possibly while asleep. Subsequently, my impression is that the powerful Maori caucus within the Labour party has been emboldened by Labour’s outright majority in the last election to push through as much of its agenda as possible. Their thinking may de divined from the He Puapua report here:


          They say this is just a draft, and not official policy, they would say that, wouldn’t they. As for the next election, I don’t like National or especially ACT myself, but am tending to feel I will have to hold my nose and vote for the. Unfortunately, I can’t see that the National leader has any interest in science education, and no great confidence that the situation will improve under them. The NZ Media is no help either.

          1. Have you considered TOP? They’re built on a foundation of evidence-based policy and I’d love to see them gain some ground against the populist parties’ pandering to the public.

        2. Pushback requires knowing what to push against – given the total silence of most NZ media on all of this most people would have little idea of just how insidious this science curriculum is. I see more on Jerry’s site than I have ever seen domestically. It’s not just sience, there are similar problems with history .

      3. Somewhat off topic, but “we” finally get a free thinking atheist head of state, and she suffers a woke stroke.

    2. ” Some people, like the pink-haired ones with made-up woke names who led the Listener outrage, may see opportunities for small-stakes (i.e. academic) power.” Well put, Leslie.
      But we should not forget that Lysenko, Prezent, and their confederates started off in the 1930s in a campaign for mere academic power. It did turn into a large-stakes matter pretty quickly, but In our more refined environments, dissidents will presumably suffer only professional cancellation, rather than arrest by the NKVD.

    3. While I very much disagree with the MM inclusion within science curriculum as stated in this article, you have a number of inaccuracies in your arm-chair-from-Canada comment, Leslie

      1) “imagined wrongs against Maori in the past” – they aren’t imagined. There were real and abhorrent wrongs committed in the past by Pakeha (yes, I’m Pakeha and I’m proud to identify as such) against Maori. There’s no doubt about that. The atrocities committed by Europeans against the indigenous peoples of Canada are also real fact. Don’t minimize this – I’ll note that Germany doesn’t minimize the Holocaust, perhaps you could ruminate on why that is, and if it relates in any way to Canada.

      2) “The Treaty of Watangi does not have constitutional status in New Zealand” – False. If you could bother with a quick Google you’d come across the Wikipedia page https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constitution_of_New_Zealand – we don’t have a single written constitution document. Rather, we have a range of articles, documents and unwritten principals that form our uncodified constitution. A big part of this is the Principles of the Treaty. We say Principles because there’s mistranslation fuckery in the actual document, so we look to the principles established in the Treaty.

      In the context of The Principles of the Treat of Waitaingi, co-governance is something completely different to what you’ve articulated in your comment. Exactly how the Principles are lived up to, exactly what co-governance looks like, operates and what it achieves are all very difficult conversations that New Zealanders will need to grapple with in the not-too-distant future. And it would be great if we can do it ourselves, without notes from the Canadian cheap seats. We really have nothing of value to learn from Canada’s engagement with your indigenous peoples.

      1. I have to jump in here to say you could have made all these comments without dissing the commenter, saying that criticism from Canada comes from the “Canadian cheap seats”, and that you “have nothing of value to learn from Canada’s engagement with its indigenous peoples.”

        Way to undermine your argument with snideness and arrogance. You will not post here again until you apologize. First-time commenters like you should read the posting Roolz before wading in with invective.

  7. It would be useful to contrast what the Māori accomplished and genuine early science, specifically the astronomy of Mesopotamia. This may have been tied in with their religious beliefs. But it involved careful systematic observations, and theory-based predictions, and it included the very significant discovery that a celestial object visible in the evening sky was the same object as was visible at other times in the morning sky. You have to work with a model to get hold of the idea. This is not ‘Western’, it’s the Middle East, but anyone interested in what the serious beginnings of science looked like will be interested in Babylonian science.

  8. Enlarging on our host’s phrase “science conceived broadly,” and in my capacities as a parent and a librarian who has interacted with countless children, I see every human being as a scientist, that is, as someone who bases decisions on a body of knowledge. The question then becomes, is a person a good scientist or a poor scientist. A good scientist is one who bases decisions on reliable knowledge, and the only way to get knowledge that is reliable is by using the scientific method. By this measure, then, proponents of MM are poor scientists.

  9. Yikes, I’m glad I’m an adult and no longer at school!

    Not that it helped, Wellington High School was a dump with hopeless teachers who delt with the cities scum. It’s ironic in this case that the Te Reo teachers were some of the few I got any respect from, despite the fact I was a hopeless student in all classes being an aspie who wasn’t a total moron (they got the support, not that it helped, it was sad seeing them being talked through stuff totally clueless).

    Anyway, I think a better term over “Western Science” would be “Secular Science”.

    1. What rubbish about WHS -while it is co-educational which is unusual in Wellington city, generally its students are pretty much middle class (as is the case with most schools in Wellington) and its teachers are pretty much the usual mix.

  10. Indeed, New Zealand is thrall to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and that’s where much of the present activity begins. I believe that much of this stuff is well-meaning but, unfortunately, the road to hell . . . .

    As I have said before, I worked in a Government education agency as a researcher and statistician and met many good people. However, many of those who rise to management and senior executive Government positions in the relevant agencies have little or no education background. I suspect that this lack of expertise is a factor in all of this, as is their lack of science background.

    So I encountered education policy people who had no relevant training and also education research and statistics managers with no education, research or statistical training or talent. I cannot see into their minds but I suspect that they saw their appointments as a way of progressing their careers and earning big salaries, rather than contributing to the public good. They got there by cultivating a working relationship with the top decision-makers, rather than by delivering good work.

    I saw that those sorts of characters will do anything to keep their jobs and secure promotions, including actively inserting traditional knowledge into the national science curriculum – if Government decrees it. They also administer the most vicious bullying in New Zealand.

    Read this:


    It ways that bullying is widespread in the public sector, especially in health and education.

    I had a very able Ph.D-trained colleague who was then already one of New Zealand’s expert thinkers on education and who, in my opinion, is today New Zealand’s leading education thinker and quantitative researcher. I keep up with him for coffee sometimes and invited him to give a lecture on science education at the Royal Society of New Zealand premises a few weeks ago.

    Anyway – our team leader never finished high-school and had held down a prior career in a form of night security (believe it or not!). What can I say but “My God!”?

    A decade later I have a vivid memory of my team leader announcing to me that he had placed my expert colleague on an “exit strategy.” In other words, he was managing my expert colleague out of the organization. Go figure!

    And, indeed, it is very risky to speak out. You may well lose not only your job but your Public Service career


    1. Ah, UNDRIP ….

      David, you might be interested in a three part series by retired Canadian litigation lawyer Andrew Roman, drawing on his many years of experience in resource regulation and Indigenous affairs. The link is to Part 1; you can navigate from there to the other posts if it piques your interest. It’s a legal focus, not a scientific one, and is off-topic I suppose except for the role of UNDRIP.

      At the time of writing in 2020, the Canadian Parliament with a minority Liberal government was seeking to “enshrine” UNDRIP in Canadian law as part of the endless one-way street of “reconciliation” efforts; it has since done so. While Canadian constitutional history and law is different from NZ’s, you might be interested in some of the parallels.


      1. Many thanks, Leslie.
        I have read the material quite rapidly but will need a closer look tomorrow. In New Zealand we seem to give more status to UNDRIP than New Zealand law. Certainly, the political scene is not positive here and our Prime Minister, who was so popular three years ago, has lost much of her support. The sad thing is that she is probably a relatively decent person and empowering disadvantaged minorities is ostensibly a laudable endeavor. But Government is being savaged for something not quite the same – elevating one minority socio-politically above others on the basis of genetics or self-reported ethnicity, but also for what is happening within our secondary science curriculum.

        Of course, politics is a good way of losing friends and last night I was on Zoom to a group of young people who are lobbying Government to lower the voting age to 16 years. They were very impressive and highly articulate, especially for teenagers. But I sensed the possibility of disagreement if I spoke my own mind on political issues, so that I mentioned a few current issues without giving my own views. Sometimes, it’s better to say almost nothing and retain good relationships until such time as it is relatively safe to voice your opinions. .

        In relation to Professor Coyne’s blog – that’s different. I imagine that all of us who read it and contribute do so out of interest and a genuine desire to make a positive difference. Sometimes that positive difference is to be achieved by standing up to that which you perceive to be wrong; for example, confusing science and mythology and exposing and defying workplace bullying.

        As a statistician who worked closely with another (one Dr. M. Johnston) I have views on our education system and on standards-based assessment, but that’s another discussion for another time. For now, as I am sure most or all readers of Professor Coyne’s blog will agree, science and mythology are immiscible.

        By the way – I have noted a degree of statistical expertise in one or two of your submissions in recent times. Are you, by chance, a quantitative researcher?

        1. No, I’m not, David. I only taught critical appraisal as a clinical teacher in academic medicine, as a consumer and interpreter of medical research, not a producer. Staying ahead of the trainees in Journal Club keeps you on your toes.
          Thank you very much for the compliment. It made my day.

          Good luck in New Zealand. We circumnavigated South Island by bicycle in 2017, itinerary adjusted by the recent earthquake and the Port Hills fire that was still burning when we arrived.

          1. Hi Leslie.
            I re-read Andrew Roman’s piece on UNDRIP. Many thanks.

            UNDRIP does appear to provide a useful set of ethical principles. Roman says that UNDRIP may inspire countries with little protection for indigenous populations to progress from where they are to where they should be. That’s OK. Also that Canadian aboriginal law is already as good as or better than most of UNDRIP. OK – that’s his view.

            Of course, indigenous peoples are not monolithic, either in Canada or in New Zealand, or elsewhere. In Canada some object to pipelines and others do not. Nothing is easy!


            1. An issue that is common though is many have tribal leaderships that are really the ones with the power. Many passed on from parent to child and are basically a bit like nobility or aristocracy in the classic feudalist sense. As a friend of mine said about their Iwi leadership, “it’s about power and money”.

    1. I say we get blacklisted from the international secular scientific community and only Kiwi scientists who are independent or not affiliated with any of our “scientific institutions” being allowed to take part.

  11. “The Treaty of Watangi does not have constitutional status in New Zealand, as I understand it, and it does not itself require any form of co-governance”

    The Treaty has constitutional significance in that it is recognised as NZ’s founding document – but not in the US sense of something that allows the nullification of conflicting law/statutes. I note NZ does not have single written constitution but a constitution made up of a range of statutes, documents and practices with both English and NZ origins.

    What the Treaty means is the subject of much contemporary debate not helped by the fact that there are English and Māori versions which are not fully equivalent and hence there is much confusion on its meaning. Terms such as co-governance are also used in a range of senses about which there is considerable public confusion.

    That being said the so-called science curriculum remains rubbish – my 12yo granddaughter recently told me when asked what they learnt in science answered “You have to go to a private school for science, we do discovery.” It seems even the kids aren’t fooled.

  12. I know I should probably shut up, but in the past and today people of Māori decent have had it very rough from many things, once kids were hit for speaking the language in class (today it is a subject and rightly so), and I won’t get started on other well recorded historical stuff, so as there is reliable record, and we could go on about it.
    Robert Fitzroy, yes, the guy who commanded HMS Beagle was British Governer down here about 180 years ago tried to maintain peace and the rule of law, often siding with the local Māori over the corrupt New Zealand company, but with little funds, few personal to enforce anything and the problems of later years started with nothing he could do after conflict started with the Flagstaff War and all sides being foolish, he instead of addressing the problem, just put it back up and all hell broke loose, later Hone Heke was foolish and restarted it after they all did come to a settlement. Despite his flaws and being a creationist, he meant well down here.
    And then more wars, land confiscations (later much was given back, but in a haphazard way), many legal restrictions and the like, I could go on.

    But even today many are treated with a certain attitude in stores, restaurants and the like, and the healthcare system can be the same. Would a white guy (like me) usually be suspected of being a shoplifter and a dine-n-dasher?
    The highest rates of child abuse, crime, drugs, gang membership and prison population are you guessed it. Sure, personal responsibility plays a part there and I’m all for locking up violent criminals.

    But those very attitudes are being shown here by many commenters who instead of just being critical of religion in science class are showing that bad attitude, one I’m known to show as well.
    We are being the very thing they speak against, and they are the very thing we speak against as well. Even Richard Dawkins wasn’t exactly smooth in his reactions to this, though it was rather funny!
    The Satanic Severn’s Listener is the standard I go by, modest, impartial and bland.

    Feel free to tell me to shut up.

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