"Māori knowledge isn't science"

  • Thread starter StevieTNZ
  • Start date
  • #1
1,620
548
https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/auckl...edge-isnt-science/NF4CMOCYRJZGI5Y4DXACKKJU54/

An University of Auckland professor has stepped down as acting dean of science after backlash to a letter he co-authored claiming Māori knowledge "is not science".

Professor of Psychology Douglas Elliffe emailed the science faculty to say his role in writing the letter meant his leadership had the potential to "increase division" among the university's scientific community.

Elliffe was one of seven professors to sign the letter published in the Listener magazine last week in response to proposed changes to the Māori school curriculum.

Those changes are meant to put mātauranga Māori (Māori knowledge) on a par with other types of knowledge, particularly Western knowledge.

I have not read the article in the magazine the Listener, but what are you views on this news article? If I can, I'll attempt to get ahold of the article and post it here (while avoiding copyright issues).
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
atyy
Science Advisor
14,666
3,127
There is a photo of the letter in:
https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/scien...ge-is-not-science/GN55DAZCM47TOZUTPYP2Q3CSLM/

Here are excerpts from the above article (not from the letter).

"The University has deep respect for mātauranga Māori as a distinctive and valuable knowledge system. We believe that mātauranga Māori and Western empirical science are not at odds and do not need to compete. They are complementary and have much to learn from each other."

"Some indigenous knowledge - though not all - had been generated using the scientific method so it was clearly science, Hikuroa said.
He pointed to the Māramataka - the Māori lunar calendar - and how it is applied as science."

"The Listener letter took issue with proposals that would see students looking at "the ways in which science has been used to support the dominance of Eurocentric views", including how it's been used to colonise Māori and suppress mātauranga Māori.
The course would also discuss "the notion that science is a Western European invention and itself evidence of European dominance over Māori and other indigenous peoples".
The authors claimed that would spread "disturbing understandings of science" and lead to mistrust in science."
 
  • Like
Likes russ_watters
  • #3
1,950
1,303
"The University has deep respect for mātauranga Māori as a distinctive and valuable knowledge system. We believe that mātauranga Māori and Western empirical science are not at odds and do not need to compete. They are complementary and have much to learn from each other."
That's almost word-to-word mirror of how genesis and stuff from Bible (and in case of different cultural background: Chinese medicine and Indian sutras and so much more on this line) referred at these days.
By my opinion this is already a decisive blow in itself regarding the original issue.
 
  • #4
0
0
For the entirety of human history we have had civilizations take ideas from each other, whether that be from a neighboring tribe, different culture etc. After some thought, it seems astonishing that any scientist would disregard any information that could give another perspective or another answer. Claiming that any part of science will always be true, and not evaluating alternative theory sounds like the least scientific thing I can think of.
In my eyes this argument fails at its first step, regardless of any racial biases that may be present, it is prima facie that there has been a misunderstanding about the meaning and purpose of "science", which however the intent may have been, is concerning given the positions of the authors.
 
  • #5
1,950
1,303
For the entirety of human history we have had civilizations take ideas from each other...
With that, you yourself put the entire 'Māori knowledge' issue into the 'cultural thing' category.

...there has been a misunderstanding about the meaning and purpose of "science"...
Indeed.
 
  • #6
Dale
Mentor
Insights Author
2020 Award
31,823
8,671
This appears to be a response to a specific suggested change in the NZ school curriculum. It is difficult to tell the details, but inferring from the content of the letter it may be a change to teach some indigenous knowledge in one or more of the classes.

Indigenous knowledge is certainly knowledge, but science does not have a monopoly on knowledge and not all knowledge is science. Science is the scientific method and the knowledge generated using it. So if the proposal is to teach the indigenous knowledge in a science class then it is right to object to the proposal.

Indigenous knowledge has not been developed through published experiments with careful descriptions of the hypothesis, experimental methods, and results. So it should be taught elsewhere than in a science class.
 
  • Like
Likes wukunlin, Astronuc, Klystron and 7 others
  • #8
35,628
12,168
"to ensure parity for mātauranga Māori with the other bodies of knowledge credentialed by NCEA (particularly Western/Paheka epistemologies)"
(taken from the letter quoting the proposed curriculum changes)
That certainly sounds like a wrong step . That's a direct equivalent to the arguments creationists use to push their myths into science classes. "Science says there are 118 chemical elements, Māori knowledge has 10 elements, teach the controversy!"
The scientific parts of Maori knowledge can be included in science classes without any problem - they are science, after all.
 
  • Like
Likes russ_watters and BillTre
  • #9
18
3
I just tried to google mātauranga Māori and on first pass I can't find any description of what it actually is. Sounds like a bunch of mumbo jumbo to me.
 
  • #11
russ_watters
Mentor
20,959
7,575
The Honourable Marama Davidson MP has the following to say:

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1...ynCA7sIn2kflteP2yENmh6zVEik-XbLK-lT_zyqRA7L9M
Well that's quite....something. What it's not, though, is a logical/reasoned argument.

That's a direct equivalent to the arguments creationists use to push their myths into science classes. "Science says there are 118 chemical elements, Māori knowledge has 10 elements, teach the controversy!"
That's what I see.

And when someone complains... call them a racist? Because it's disrespectful to point out that indigenous knowledge is not on par with modern scientific knowledge? Is that really what this is all about? Science needs to be (and generally is, imo) above that. Local school systems/colleges, however, are well known (in the US as well) to be mired in local politics.
 
  • #12
1,950
1,303
The Honourable Marama Davidson MP has the following to say:
.... Indigenous knowledges - in this case, Mātauranga - are not lesser to other knowledge systems....
Then he is free to develop vaccines (for example) based on that. I wish her great success.
 
  • Like
Likes russ_watters
  • #13
Dale
Mentor
Insights Author
2020 Award
31,823
8,671
I still cannot tell what exactly the proposal is. I cannot tell if it is proposed to teach indigenous knowledge inside a science class or somewhere else in the broader curriculum. As both a teacher and a scientist, that distinction is important.
 
  • Like
Likes atyy and russ_watters
  • #14
russ_watters
Mentor
20,959
7,575
I still cannot tell what exactly the proposal is. I cannot tell if it is proposed to teach indigenous knowledge inside a science class or somewhere else in the broader curriculum. As both a teacher and a scientist, that distinction is important.
Sure. My first reaction was "I don't care what they teach in history class." However, if they are teaching "Scientists [engineers] are all a bunch of imperialist racists and you shouldn't listen to them" I think I would care.
 
  • Like
Likes nsaspook, atyy and Dale
  • #15
2,121
1,311
I don't think that this tattoo:

1627594353594.png


. . . (which allegedly means in Maori Language 'man warrior') is scientific, but I still have zero inclination to step into the ring as an opponent of the great 'Iron Mike' - nope . . .
 
  • Like
Likes russ_watters
  • #16
733
616
Sure. My first reaction was "I don't care what they teach in history class." However, if they are teaching "Scientists [engineers] are all a bunch of imperialist racists and you shouldn't listen to them" I think I would care.
My understanding is that they intend to teach that science has been used by imperialist racists as a tool of colonization historically (which is true, but science has also been used for the opposite purpose), but also possibly that it is still used today as a tool to maintain the societal structure that colonization produced (which is more complicated and subjective).

I doubt it really means to blame science itself, but probably rather the moderation and control of mainstream scientific application and results, and the use of that authority to selectively suppress knowledge or make knowledge actionable.

Throughout history, scientific authority has been abused in various terrible ways (even when what was being presented as scientific knowledge were actually pseudo-science). Besides the overtly corrupted science, other ways this can happen are by selectively supporting some projects and not others, and selectively highlighting results while ignoring others.

This is actually, in my opinion, a major continuing problem. One issue is that science is pushed forward based on measures of progress, and scientists are forced to justify the impact of their work in furthering this progression. There is little motivation for authors to fairly reveal the risks or downsides to something, and there is constant pressure to convince otherwise. Initially people imagined TVs as being primarily educational tools. People in AI research today do similar things, by painting unrealistic pictures of how the work will benefit society. Often those benefits take a back seat to the use of the methodology for manipulating people into buying or doing things. This is just an example. Other cases include weaponization of new scientific knowledge. Overall, the pressure for progress, which is basically unavoidable due to competition and incentives, both domestic and international, private and state, is hard stop, even if we take the time to think about it, and even if we realize it's pushing us dangerously close towards a cliff. But I'm not sure to what extent that what I've said in this paragraph is relevant to what would be taught in the new NZ curriculum.

I suspect one of the themes could be simply the demand for scientific progress and how that affects our way of life. Industrialization and colonization has made most people dependent on earning wages, and their success and wealth, in some cases, dependent on their ability and commitment to contribute to technological progress. For example, I am pretty decent at computer programming, and I've committed to sitting in front of a monitor for the bulk of my days, and chasing difficult to meet deadlines. In the first place, most people don't have such a skill. And in the second place, most people don't want to live like that ( I suspect). But also, since this is where money is going, people are pressured to do this, and people who don't have those skills or don't want to are disadvantaged. The result is that progress, besides providing benefits and doing some harm or creating risks along the way, is also enforcing a way of life, and that way of life is counter to the way of life that many people and cultures believe in or support.

So there is a movement among some people to "decolonize" society and education. Part of what they want to achieve is to reduce this pressure to be like me and compete with me (just as one example).

In South Korea, for example, the extreme pressure and competition to get a good education has lead to the situation where 34% of students have considered suicide over academic pressure, and the average student sleeps only 5.5 hours a day because they have to study so much.

http://www.koreaherald.com/view.php?ud=20190724000749
http://www.koreaherald.com/view.php?ud=20140218000688

Another argument they make is that this kind of highly competitive way of life, and the rules for that competition, were designed by people from some, less diverse, and specific groups, and thus some people may have some special affinity or advantage in that system.

Overall, throughout the world, it would be nice to de-escalate this kind of competition and reduce its effect on our way of life. It would be nice as a start to figure out what kind of way of life is desirable and beneficial to a wider group of people and whether something like that is attainable, or whether multiple ways of life can coexist comfortably. It's conceivable that how we perceive the role of science and how we fund and moderate it could be a part of that. I think the people pushing for "decolonization" will be pushing to re-examine every aspect of education. And the conclusions they reach and things they teach will not all be true or widely agreeable. But I hope that after everything is out on the table, people at large will eventually choose for themselves what they believe and what they want out of society, and also be considerate about what others believe and want out of society as well.
 
Last edited:
  • Like
Likes Klystron and PeroK
  • #17
russ_watters
Mentor
20,959
7,575
My understanding is that they intend to teach that science has been used by imperialist racists as a tool of colonization historically....
That is what it says in the quotes of the policy (or policy justification, I'm unclear which), in addition to the bit about "to ensure parity with other bodies of knowledge". The parity bit isn't 100% clear but sounds problematic.

The use of science as a tool of imperialism is tougher/worse. I'm not at all familiar with this specific indigenous population, but I've never heard of science itself being wielded as a weapon of oppression. So (again with the caveat that I don't know this specific situation), I would question the both the historical and scientific accuracy of such teaching. Using the fruits of scientific knowledge for bad isn't the same as science itself (the scientific process/method and any supposed authorities) being bad. If the Pope/Catholic Church wants to ban and imprison you for the rest of your life for your heliocentric views, it has (well...had) the power to do that. Science just doesn't have such an authority that could even be capable of such a suppression.

I would expect if the situation were reversed and members of the science department were intending to teach falsehoods maligning historians, the historians in the history department might care. Ok, maybe I'd pick a fight with the philosophy department over Aristotle, but I think that's warranted...
...but also possibly that it [science] is still used today as a tool to maintain the societal structure that colonization produced (which is more complicated and subjective).
Can you give specific examples? Because I don't think I've ever heard of such a thing.
I doubt it really means to blame science itself, but probably rather the moderation and control of mainstream scientific application and results, and the use of that authority to selectively suppress knowledge or make knowledge actionable.
If your example is the EM Drive I may have to close this thread, but it won't prove your point [/joke]. I'm not a scientist, but still, I think most scientists want to be a part of a revolutionary discovery. Suppression of new knowledge to maintain an orthodoxy is exactly the opposite of what most scientists would want, and in any case, results are king. The criteria is not strict or particularly difficult to comply with. For example, the US Patent Office's policy on perpetual motion machines is open-minded and easy to comply with: just drop off your functioning PMM and if it's still running in a year, they'll evaluate it. Easy peasy.

And heck, if your results are revolutionary enough, you can go straight to the media instead of publishing and the media hype will force the scientific community to take a serious look at the idea. But be careful what you wish for Mr's. Pons and Fleichmann.

Throughout history, scientific authority has been abused in various terrible ways (even when what was being presented as scientific knowledge were actually pseudo-science). Besides the overtly corrupted science....
Again, I'd love to see an example because though I'm somewhat of a history/science history buff, I can't think of one.
...other ways this can happen are by selectively supporting some projects and not others, and selectively highlighting results while ignoring others.
That I just reject. Nobody gets to tell anyone else what they have to care about. The most one can do is make a compelling case. And no, they don't get to judge their own work to be compelling. And no, ignoring someone's work isn't colonization.
This is actually, in my opinion, a major continuing problem. One issue is that science is pushed forward based on measures of progress, and scientists are forced to justify the impact of their work in furthering this progression. There is little motivation for authors to fairly reveal the risks or downsides to something, and there is constant pressure to convince otherwise.
Again, example?
Initially people imagined TVs as being primarily educational tools. People in AI research today do similar things, by painting unrealistic pictures of how the work will benefit society. Often those benefits take a back seat to the use of the methodology for manipulating people into buying or doing things. This is just an example.
What? No, those examples don't make any sense. Imagination doesn't dictate reality, and one of the key aspects of science/technology (after patent expiration) is that nobody owns it. Nobody gets to claim TV was intended to be an educational tool. Nobody gets to claim a purpose for AI, and it is future so it isn't written yet.

Anyway, whether TV is education or entertainment is far, far short of the claim that it's (or any science/technology is) imperialism. Do you have any examples of science as imperialism? The US (colonies) was in large part settled by religious extremists and capitalists, but I've never heard of a colony of extremist scientists (for example).
Other cases include weaponization of new scientific knowledge.
You mean like the atomic bomb? Sure, but that's not what this is about. This isn't about a particular new invention/technology/discovery being used as a weapon, it's about science itself being used as a weapon.
So there is a movement among some people to "decolonize" society and education. Part of what they want to achieve is to reduce this pressure to be like me and compete with me (just as one example). Another argument they make is that this kind of highly competitive way of life, and the rules for that competition, were designed by people from some, less diverse, and specific groups, and thus some people may have some special affinity or advantage in that system. So maybe we should start trying to figure out what kind of way of life is desirable and beneficial to a wider group of people and whether something like that is attainable. It's conceivable that how we perceive the role of science and how we moderate it could be a part of that.
Again, I've never heard of such a movement, so please cite it. Unless this is about 23 year-olds on reddit who just got their first job and realized that work tends to suck so they are talking about vague ideas to change "the system" (I've seen a lot of that). But as you said, that would be less specific/not necessarily related to the subject here.

Caveat: the response to the response cited in post #10 is pretty unhinged, to put it charitably. It's not clear if that particular advocate of the policy is representative of the policy itself, but the quotes of the policy/justification would suggest it is at least on the right track.
 
Last edited:
  • #18
733
616
Can you give specific examples? Because I don't think I've ever heard of such a thing.
Up to this point I only suggested this might be what they want to study in such a class. I didn't claim to know what they have concluded or whether they are right.

If your example is the EM Drive I may have to close this thread, but it won't prove your point. I'm not a scientist, but still, I think most scientists want to be a part of a revolutionary discovery. Suppression of new knowledge to maintain an orthodoxy is exactly the opposite of what most scientists would want, and in any case, results are king. The criteria is not strict or particularly difficult to comply with. For example, the US Patent Office's policy on perpetual motion machines is open-minded and easy to comply with: just drop off your functioning PMM and if it's still running in a year, they'll evaluate it. Easy peasy.

And heck, if your results are revolutionary enough, you can go straight to the media instead of publishing and the media hype will force the scientific community to take a serious look at the idea. But be careful what you wish for Mr's. Pons and Fleichmann.


Again, I'd love to see an example because though I'm somewhat of a history/science history buff, I can't think of one.

One example is eugenics.

That I just reject. Nobody gets to tell anyone else what they have to care about. The most one can do is make a compelling case. And no, they don't get to judge their own work to be compelling. And no, ignoring someone's work isn't colonization.

I don't see the correspondence between your response and what I said, and what you are asking me to provide. What I said is simpler said that authoritative groups sometimes get to decide what gets funded, and what gets published. Some of that authority could have come from a monarchy, or emperor, a dictator, or authoritarian regime. These things happen even today in some countries.

But it's also happened among scientific communities like we have now. Papers are more or less likely to be accepted depending on trends in what these communities are interested in. And contradicting others in your community can sometimes be an uphill battle. Here is one example,

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/history/article/handwashing-once-controversial-medical-advice

Historically, researchers have had to deal with dogmas of various levels of absurdity that have influenced what kind of research is easier or harder to get funding for or get published.

Again, example?

You are asking for examples for something that is self evident. The general structure of most research papers, is to first give motivation, then make a claim that you've made a contribution, and then convince people that you've made that contribution, and then also convince people that your contribution has a high impact.

What? No, those examples don't make any sense. Imagination doesn't dictate reality, and one of the key aspects of science/technology (after patent expiration) is that nobody owns it. Nobody gets to claim TV was intended to be an educational tool. Nobody gets to claim a purpose for AI, and it is future so it isn't written yet.

The people who propose to do scientific research, whether it be research about making televisions or AI, or whatever, have to convince funding agencies that the research is worthwhile. So in their proposals they have an incentive obviously to highlight the benefits of the said research to society. Likewise, as already said, researchers are also commonly incentivized to make a case about the benefits their work in their published papers, both as a way to demonstrate they've achieved the goals of the work outlined in the proposals, and as a way to convince their peers that their work is high impact enough to be accepted to a particular journal.

All of this depends on the beliefs and ideals of your peers and the funding agencies, who decide what the value of your work is and judge its worthiness to be funded or published accordingly.

Anyway, whether TV is education or entertainment is far, far short of the claim that it's (or any science/technology is) imperialism.

TV also has been used for propaganda. But that wasn't the point. I never claimed TV is a tool of imperialism. I was making the point that science is steered based on judgements about the value of doing it, and scientists have to make the case that their work is valuable. This makes for a situation where we confuse ourselves about why we're doing something and what the long term result will likely be.

Beyond academia though, you have industry, where its much worse. For example, a google researcher gave a talk at my University about augmented reality for google maps, to help guide you while you walk to a destination for example. The sell was multifaceted, but all positive, ranging from improving accessibility, to the fun factor, to making your life easier. It was only after some pressing by the audience that a discussion about google having a real time POV from your perspective while you walk about was discussed, and the potential for advertising in real time based on what you're looking at, and the potential in projecting personal ads on buildings, and the security risks, and the physical dangers, and so forth. And when you see an ad for Alexa, it doesn't emphasize how much profit Amazon will make from selling information about you, it emphasizes how convenient it will be to play your favorite song.

Do you have any examples of science as imperialism? The US (colonies) was in large part settled by religious extremists and capitalists, but I've never heard of a colony of extremist scientists (for example).

Race theories and eugenics have been promoted by those with power over scientific and educational institutions historically. And the conclusions of those theories have been used to justify mistreatment of indigenous peoples. That is the obvious stuff. But the deeper question I expect they really want to get at is not just those obvious conscious direct actions, but also indirect ones. For example, ways in which the approach to science and curation of scientific knowledge might have inadvertently aided or upheld imperialism. I already said this is more complicated and subjective and some of the things concluded about this may be untrue or disagreeable. But this is one of the things people will look at when trying to "decolonize" curriculum.

Please specify.

I mean, for example, the atom bomb.

Again, I've never heard of such a movement, so please cite it. Unless this is about 23 year-olds on reddit who just got their first job and realized that work tends to suck, so they are talking about vague ideas to change "the system". But as you said, that would be less specific/not necessarily related to the subject here.

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news...ies-have-said-they-will-decolonise-curriculum
 
Last edited:
  • #19
russ_watters
Mentor
20,959
7,575
One example is eugenics.
That's an interesting example, thanks. I'm not sure it qualifies, but it isn't clear-cut. The claim being made is that science itself is a tool and authority for imperialism, but I'm not sure eugenics is even a scientific idea, and it certainly is not a scientific authority. For the Galileo example, the Catholic Church is the authority and the idea is Geocentrism vs Heliocentrism.

Eugenics is the idea and policy that you can improve the population by selective breeding. As a face-value scientific idea, it is obviously true. What makes it bad is that it's a political goal/philosophy.

Part of why this entire idea of science as a tool of oppression is alien to me is that it is just not a feature of modern western thought. Catholicism dominated for centuries, and thought/knowledge-control was a feature of that system. It may be true that Hitler used thought control, including the incorporation of Eugenics, but he was quite a flash-in-the-pan and I'm not sure it can be said that he was a scientific authority.

Further and more specifically, science as a justification for slavery was old/poorly-developed, thin and dominated by politics/economics. The tail is wagging the dog in these examples. Or maybe more specifically, these ideas long pre-date science and while science was maturing people often used early/malformed scientific ideas/processes in an attempt to hold on to them, whereas once matured, science ultimately played more of a role in tearing them down. To put it another way: science wasn't needed to create slavery. So why was it used in an attempt to justify maintaining it? The answer is: science was pointing away from slavery. It was a threat to the status quo, so it had to be corrupted in attempt to maintain the status quo. That's not a failure of science, it's a failure of non-science authorities to try to corrupt science.
I don't see the correspondence between your response and what I said, and what you are asking me to provide. What I said is simpler said that authoritative groups sometimes get to decide what gets funded, and what gets published.
If that were all you said, it would be totally bland and pointless to say. I broke apart the quote, and the prior sentence provided the point/context: "Throughout history, scientific authority has been abused in various terrible ways...."

Not being interested in someone's research is not abuse.

Some of that authority could have come from a monarchy, or emperor, a dictator, or authoritarian regime. These things happen even today in some countries.
What's key here is that (for example), the Catholic Church did in fact claim to be The Source of Knowledge and for many centuries successfully wielded control of knowledge itself as a weapon. And governments adopted religion in large part to harness knowledge control as a weapon. But that's pre-science history and science is the literal antithesis of that. The rise of science with the Enlightenment was an explicit rejection of central/government/religious control of knowledge. If current countries are trying to do something similar, it is most certainly not with the blessing/assistance of scientific communities.
But it's also happened among scientific communities like we have now. Papers are more or less likely to be accepted depending on trends in what these communities are interested in. And contradicting others in your community can sometimes be an uphill battle. Here is one example,
That's just so bland/mundane. The claims made in the new policy are about imperialism, not handwashing or fickle interests/attention. The lack of support for string theory (example - I don't even really know) is not slavery. Big claims need big examples.
Historically, researchers have had to deal with dogmas of various levels of absurdity that have influenced what kind of research is easier or harder to get funding for or get published.
Example? Again, please recognize/keep to the context of the discussion. The scientific community not immediately dropping an established idea in favor of a new one has nothing to do with imperialism/slavery.
You are asking for examples for something that is self evident.
I retract that request, as re-reading I see the claim as stated is too bland and disconnected from the subject of the thread to be useful/relevant. Please remember what we are talking about here. We're talking about science as a tool for global domination.
The people who propose to do scientific research, whether it be research about making televisions or AI, or whatever, have to convince funding agencies that the research is worthwhile. So in their proposals they have an incentive obviously to highlight the benefits of the said research to society. Likewise, as already said, researchers are also commonly incentivized to make a case about the benefits their work in their published papers, both as a way to demonstrate they've achieved the goals of the work outlined in the proposals...
Of course. But that does not convey permanent ownership of the idea. Heck, practical applications aren't even a requirement of research.

Caveat: Science isn't technology, so the examples are off-point anyway. You're confusing commercial technology development with pure scientific research. There can be overlap, but their purpose is very different. Commercial technology research has to bear commercial fruit or the company will go out of business. Academic research sometimes would be nice to have commercial application, but it isn't a requirement and in a lot of cases is undertaken with the expectation that it won't. This depens on the department though.
Likewise, as already said, researchers are also commonly incentivized to make a case about the benefits their work in their published papers, both as a way to demonstrate they've achieved the goals of the work outlined in the proposals, and as a way to convince their peers that their work is high impact enough to be accepted to a particular journal.
I'd like to hear a scientist weigh in on that, because I don't think commercial application significance weighs heavily on publication-worthiness. But I could be wrong.
TV also has been used for propaganda. But that wasn't the point. I never claimed TV is a tool of imperialism. I was making the point that science is steered based on judgements about the value of doing it, and scientists have to make the case that their work is valuable.
Well...to summarize my responses above then, I'd say your pulling the discussion off-track. The question at hand is indeed about science as a tool of imperialism, so answers about the workings of modern research funding and publishing are far off-point.

I mean, for example, the atom bomb.
I guessed that in a late edit -- yeah, that's a piece of technology, not "science" itself.
I don't see anything there relevant to the topic we are discussing, but admittedly I only skimmed it. If you could quote something I'd appreciate it. What I see there is re-examining historical myths like the US frontier and Columbus stories, which are told from the perspective of the conquerors. That's a valid re-alignment of history, but it has nothing to do with science.
 
Last edited:
  • #20
1,950
1,303
What I said is simpler said that authoritative groups sometimes get to decide what gets funded, and what gets published. Some of that authority could have come from a monarchy, or emperor, a dictator, or authoritarian regime. These things happen even today in some countries.
Just wondering whether you missed the sarcasm in writing something like that in a topic which is about politicians trying to artificially raise a 'knowledge system' to equal footing with science.
 
  • #21
1,620
548
The following is written by The Hon Willie Jackson MP:

It really speaks to how desperate National are becoming that they attack any new idea when it comes to advancing Māori!
Meth rehabilitation programs, basic NZ history, women speaking on Marae, koha and now mātauranga Māori needs to be attacked as if the very core of our country were threatened.
What is National so frightened of? A system that listens to and acknowledges its indigenous peoples?
Mātauranga Māori knowledge is the science of our First Nation. Our astronomy, navigation skills, herbcraft and land use harmony are all scientific skills and knowledge that are more important than ever before on a burning planet.
The need to recognize such indigenous knowledge for the science that it is, doesn’t in any way denigrate or dilute ‘Western Science’, it merely asks to exist, not as an alternative or as a challenge, but as basic acknowledgment that this knowledge was known and tested by Māori.
All this is about is basic educational recognition, why does that terrify the National Party so much?
 
  • #22
atyy
Science Advisor
14,666
3,127
It seems reasonable to me that some parts of Maori knowledge are "science".

But if one were to allow that, it wouldn't make much sense to hold "the notion that science is a Western European invention and itself evidence of European dominance over Māori and other indigenous peoples".

If that were so, then those parts of Maori knowledge that are science would be Western European inventions that are evidence of European dominance over Maori and other indigenous peoples.

Of course, the way out is to consider different definitions of "science". Probably left as an exercise for the reader :oldbiggrin:
 
  • Like
Likes BillTre and russ_watters
  • #23
733
616
On these kinds of topics, I am just disappointed about the social dynamics a little bit.

It begins sometimes with complex sets of ideas full of special definitions and subtle arguments that are highly contextual.

Then, depictions of these ideas go viral on social media and society has a large scale discussion about it. That discussion plays out where most of the arguments are expressed through insults, memes, and snippets. Critics then pick what they think are the most ridiculous ones and attack them. And then defenders jump in to defend their side. And in the end, its the more controversial or disagreeable positions (on both sides) that get amplified the most by social media algorithms. And then we have peer pressure to pick a side and agree with or disagree with those amplified positions. For example, one such case involved an argument over whether objectively 2+2=4 or if this is just western imperialist propaganda and there are other equally valid answers. One side is now defending this, with all of the power of short social media posts consumed by people with 5 second attention spans, and the other side is claiming that there is a conspiracy to replace real math classes with new ones that teach 2+2=5.

And I'm then compelled to attempt to defuse the situation a little by tracing back the 2+2 can equal 5 comment back to the original idea that the comment was referencing, or at least to some reasonable version of the underlying ideas that might have lead to this, and then attempt to make a reasonable defense for those ideas. Because those are presumably the ones we should be talking about instead, regardless of whether I agree with that more reasonable version of the idea or not. In reality, I usually see some aspects I agree with and some that I don't.

I see some people on social media feeds that obsessively point out the absurdities coming from people on the other side of the camp as much as possible. I even see a lot of time those are absurd things they are pointing out. And in some cases those are even absurd things that seem to be actively having a negative impact in the world as far as I can tell. And I think they think that by pointing out all of these ideas they think are bad and making fun of them, it will somehow help put a stop to them. But it ends up making people defensive and it just amplifies the amount of attention that those ideas get. So I think at least just pointing them out and making fun of them is not helping much and might just make it worse.

I think basically, when the arguments are flowing from a lot of people and are easy to pick from, rather than looking for the weakest links and attacking them, its better to try to find the most reasonable ones whose conclusions you disagree with and rather than set out with the exclusive goal to defeat them, try to contribute to the discussion in a constructive way. In other words try and find something you can agree on that is close to what they are arguing. Then, what happens is that the ideas evolve towards better ideas rather than worse ones. At least that's how I think about it.
 
Last edited:
  • #24
1,950
1,303
It begins with some highly complex sets of ideas full of special definitions and subtle arguments that are highly contextual.
The scope of this topic is about politicians arguing about something they just does know very little. Trying to make this mess looking something sophisticated won't help, since the very starting point is what's flawed. Those flaws won't disappear just by some layers of lacework.

The way this 'mātauranga Māori' is not science is the very same way the Chinese medicine, the Platonic (and all other) philosophy, the Christian Bible, the Quaran, the Bhagavad Gita, the Vedas and so much more is not science.

If some politicians feels like 'mātauranga Māori' is shamed with that company that's up to them. Feel free to discuss the issue with any religious bunch they dare to pick.

All these can be the foundation of some nation, an important cultural heritage, the pride and honour of a country and so on - still neither of them is science.

But the very moment some politicians are trying to enforce 'mātauranga Māori' being science they are opting for the illustrious company of some 'great leaders' from the darkest side of history with their own 'national science' enforced (and, consequently: thoroughly ruined).

Exactly in favour of 'mātauranga Māori' I hope this bunch won't succeed.
 
  • Like
Likes russ_watters
  • #25
733
616
The scope of this topic is about politicians arguing about something they just does know very little.
How can you rule out the possibility that the scope is larger than you say and that you actually know very little about the topic? Because it even sounds like you misinterpreted, or at least misrepresented the content in the article itself.

Edit: I should clarify, what the article is about is a group of faculty members objecting to the introduction of a new course about Māori knowledge at a University. The proposed course is actually not proposed as a replacement for science, but the curriculum of that class would include someones theory about how science has been used as a tool of imperialism and in particular has suppressed Māori knowledge. This was a concern to some faculty members because they thought it would cause a negative opinion of science. In there letter, they say Māori knowledge isn't science. People were offended by that, and the response led the faculty member to resign in protest. The article linked in the OP has been amplified by snipping out this part of text from that letter "Māori knowledge isn't science", because they know that is a snippet that will invite all kinds of reactions and get all kinds of clicks.

Now your interpretation seems to be that people are trying to put Māori knowledge on an equal footing as science. But, have you considered that Universities teach all kinds of courses on non-scientific subject matter like this including, religion. And also have you considered that the entire body of Māori knowledge isn't necessarily only as valid as religion? Because that is the exact implication that people seem to have been insulted by.

What you should be talking about is whatever that one teacher who wanted to teach about science supporting imperialism actually meant to teach and whether that has any merit, and if so, whether even so it shouldn't be taught due to the risk of detracting from people's trust in science.
 
Last edited:

Related Threads on "Māori knowledge isn't science"

  • Last Post
4
Replies
80
Views
10K
  • Last Post
Replies
10
Views
3K
Replies
42
Views
5K
Replies
7
Views
799
  • Last Post
Replies
14
Views
2K
  • Last Post
Replies
11
Views
1K
  • Last Post
Replies
9
Views
4K
  • Last Post
3
Replies
56
Views
5K
  • Last Post
Replies
24
Views
6K
Top