Richard Dawkins made a short visit to New Zealand last week, during which he went after the concept of Mātauranga Māori (MM)—the indigenous “way of knowing”—as a supposed replacement for science. (The government has decreed that MM be taught as coequal to science in secondary-school classrooms, although this “way of knowing is a melange of practical knowledge, religion, traditional stories, morality, and superstition.) I posted about Dawkins’s visit here, noting that he’d written a “diary piece” in the Spectator that was critical of MM as science (though not as anthropology or sociology).
I knew this would cause a kerfuffle, and, sure enough, the New Zealand Herald, the country’s biggest newspaper, put out a hit piece on Dawkins. Click below to read it; if it’s paywalled you can read it archived here.
The piece first describes what Dawkins said in his Spectator piece, not neglecting to mention that Elon Musk issued a brief tweet seconding Richard’s thoughts. When you read the piece, notice the dry, almost sarcastic way that Dawkins’s views are reported—in a manner guaranteed to irritate the woke. He even mentioned the giant flightless moas which were, of course, hunted to extinction by the Māori. That’s almost taboo to say, though it’s true. (Richard didn’t mention that they also destroyed much of the North and South Island’s forest by burning and agriculture. Some “stewards of the environment”!)
Where the knife goes into Dawkins is when the paper calls for comment only on one person: Dr. Tara McAllister, a Kiwi (and Māori) freshwater ecologist whose research career has largely morphed into a series of papers attacking the racism and white supremacy of Kiwi science and trying to gain scientific equity for MM. In fact, McAllister won a research award from New Zealand’s Royal Society largely for an incendiary paper called “50 reasons why there are no Māori in your science department.” Although she says the article was “somewhat cheeky”, it is in fact dead serious, basically accusing the whole New Zealand academic establishment—and the seven Auckland Uni professors who, in the infamous Listener letter, said that MM was not equivalent to science—of being riddled with racism. Here are the first eight reasons (the people named in #1 are the signers of the Listener letter):
UPDATE: McAllister actually won the award for a paper that’s just as misguided, “Why isn’t my professor Māori?“, which details the “inequities” in universities and blames them on racism. Here’s a table from that paper (and remember, it got a prize for being a research paper):
I’m sorry, but the Māori are not victims: the government is turning education inside out trying to give indigenous people more research money , positions, and power, and people like McAllister are furthering this enterprise by claiming that, contrary to facts, they are all victims. (Yes, they were once discriminated against by “colonists”, but now they’re the most lauded group in the country.) It’s not wrong to say that McAllister is making her career by playing the “racist” card to gain more power for MM. And shame once again on New Zealand’s Royal Society for giving her an award for such a vile, divisive, and inaccurate paper.
At any rate, McAllister is the only Kiwi scientist quoted about what Dawkins said in the Spectator piece, and everything she says is negative. So much for getting different points of view! (And yes, they exist, though most Kiwis who oppose the government’s police censor themselves lest they lose their jobs.)
McAllister criticizes Dawkins for his lack of expertise in MM and, of course, for being a racist. Her quotes take up half the article, and remember, this paper represents New Zealand’s most mainstream media. Here’s the article’s second half:
Dr Tara McAllister, whose research has sought to address the under-representation of indigenous scholars in academia, responded to Dawkins’ column.
“It is boring, embarrassing, inaccurate and full of racist tropes,” she told the Herald.
“It is clear Richard Dawkins has no expertise on mātauranga.”
She said Dawkins’ comments were damaging and – like the public letter from the University of Auckland professors – “function to embolden other racist scientists in Aotearoa”.
“Dawkins’ comments are, however, a great example of how clearly white supremacy is ingrained in Western sciences globally, and how colonising scientists continue to attempt to undermine the global resurgence of indigenous knowledge, which I will incorporate into my teaching and research,” she said.
“It is abundantly clear that Dawkins knows nothing about mātauranga Māori.
“We have plenty of experts in mātauranga, like Rereata Makiha, Rangi Matamua and Ocean Mercier. Richard Dawkins is clearly not one of them. He has no relevancy here in Aotearoa.”
McAllister said there was “a very long history” of mātauranga Māori being excluded and marginalised in Aotearoa since colonisation.
“I believe that its incorporation into the curriculum, in principle, is an important step in the right direction,” she said.
Notice her claim that Dawkins and the signers of the Listener letter were racists and colonizers, that Dawkins can’t criticize MM as science because he knows nothing about it (believe me, you don’t have to be an expert to see that it’s by no means coequal to science), that all criticism of MM is “racist” (it isn’t; read Dawkins’s piece, for he says nothing racist), and that MM should be incorporated into the curriculum, certainly as science. If the last bit is what she truly feels, then she knows LESS about MM than Dawkins does. Part of MM involves empirical knowledge, but most of it has nothing to do with what we think of as modern science.
Four things are clear to me from reading this article and from following the government’s woke path in New Zealand
1.) Scientists there are fighting a losing battle, largely because they are prevented from speaking out by fear of losing their jobs (see Richard’s Spectator piece). Yet despite this, I get at least one or two emails a day from Kiwi scientists objecting to the takeover of academia and science by MM.
2.) The indigenization of Kiwi academics is being helped along and promoted by the mainstream media who crank out biased pieces like this.
3.) The fear of Kiwi scientists and other academics to speak out on this issue—and a frank discussion really is needed—is driven by their fear of being called “racists”.. And nobody is better at wielding the “racist” and “white supremacist” trope than the prize-winning Dr. McAllister.
4.) New Zealand’s Royal Society remains a joke. Imagine giving a “research prize” to McAllister for her promotion of MM as science, especially the victimization narrative in her “50 reasons” paper.