Following threats of expulsion from The Royal Society in New Zealand, academics were furious at being accused of criticizing plans that would add Maori knowledge into the school curriculum.
Former and current professors from the University of Auckland sent a criticism to the New Zealand Listener’s editor about a government group’s plan to place the same emphasis on Maori mythology than science in the classroom.
7 professors signed this letter including Garth Cooper from the University of Auckland, who is a professor of Biochemistry and Clinical Biochemistry.
Five Royal Society of New Zealand members complained about the letter. They claimed that it was causing ‘untold damage and hurt’. The society launched an official investigation.
Critics claimed the investigation is an assault on freedom speech and that scientists are being punished for supporting science.
Professors in the letter titled “In Defence of Science”, stated they believed indigenous knowledge should be taught at schools since it was crucial for the preservation of cultural practices and key to management and policy.
But they argued it could not be treated on a par with biology, chemistry and physics, adding: ‘In the discovery of empirical, universal truths, it falls far short of what we can define as science itself.’
After the letter was published in July, the Royal Society of New Zealand received complaints from five members demanding disciplinary action against three society fellows: Professor Cooper, philosopher Robert Nola, and psychologist Michael Corballis. The sudden death of Mr Corballis last month was unexpected.
After academics from New Zealand threatened with expulsion by the Royal Society, fury erupted when they criticized plans to add Maori knowledge to school curriculum. Pictured, Maori warriors celebrating Waitangi Day in 2017
Seven professors signed a letter critiquing plans, including Garth Cooper (pictured), professor of biochemistry & clinical biochemistry at University of Auckland.
The authors of the letter argued they were exercising their rights under New Zealand’s Education Act, which allows academics and students freedom to ‘state controversial or unpopular opinions’ as well as ‘question and test received wisdom’.
However, the complainants claimed that at most nine of the Royal Society’s professional standards and ethics had been broken by the authors. These included claims of failing “integrity” and “professionalism”.
The complainants included Dr Siouxsie Wiles and Dr Shaun Hendy, two colleagues of Professor Cooper.
Maori belief holds that all living creatures originated in Tane Mahuta, who sent his father Ranginui to the heavens and his mother Papatuanuku to the ground.
Today’s Sunday Times columnist Rod Liddle called the response to Professor’s letter “madness and stupidity”
He stated, “So from New Zealand comes more evidence of what I call De-Enlightenment actually is upon us.”
A government-run working group demanded that Tane Mahuta’s and other strange relatives’ stories be included in the teaching of origins. It’s the science.
“One distinguished scientist, Garth Cooper (a professor of biochemistry & clinical biochemistry at University of Auckland), slightly balked at it.
‘He signed an open letter suggesting that, while it was important everybody knew about the interesting Maori take on creation, “In the discovery of empirical, universal truths, it falls far short of what we can define as science itself.”
“Yet for one freedom of speech here is not the critical issue. We are heading towards the De-Enlightenment because of our growing madness, stupidity and condescension.
“All those academics and the Royal Society know that the Maori explanation of creation is incorrect. Yet, they act hypocritically, and even patronizingly, as if this were the case.
Five members initially complained about the letter of professors, but they were dissatisfied when the Royal Society asked three to withdraw.
The Royal Society of New Zealand launched a formal investigation into the complaint. Two of them remained.
Rod Liddle (pictured), columnist, called the Professor’s reaction and the subsequent investigation’madness’ and’stupidity’
Toby Young, a commentator (pictured), stated that the plans would put Maori schoolchildren at ‘even greater disadvantage.
Commentator Toby Young argued the government working group’s plans would give Maori schoolchildren ‘even greater disadvantage if their teachers patronise them by saying there’s no need to learn the rudiments of scientific knowledge’.
In the Spectator, he wrote: “The minute this letter was published all hell broke down.
‘The views of the authors, who were all professors at Auckland, were denounced by the Royal Society, the New Zealand Association of Scientists, and the Tertiary Education Union — as well as their own Vice-Chancellor, Dawn Freshwater. In a hand-wringing, cry-bullying email to all staff at the university, she said the letter had ‘caused considerable hurt and dismay among our staff, students and alumni’.
‘Two of Professor Cooper’s academic colleagues, Dr Siouxsie Wiles and Dr Shaun Hendy, issued an “open letter” condemning the heretics for causing “untold harm and hurt” and said it pointed to “major problems with some of our colleagues”.
“Apart from having to prioritize one religious view in a society with varying ethnicities like New Zealand (what about Christianity? Islam? Hinduism?)), there is the problem that Maori schoolchildren, already among the least privileged in the country, will be at an even greater disadvantage if their teachers patronise them by saying there’s no need to learn the rudiments of scientific knowledge.
‘Knowing about Rangi and Papa won’t get you into medical school.’