by Christopher B. Ruthe
Controversy swirls around the proposed new science teaching in our schools. Driving the reforms is the Ministry of Education on the road map of the Ardern Government. The Ministry says the new science curriculum is required to “ensure parity between matauranga Māori and particularly Western (Pakeha) epistemologies”. Six of NZ’s leading scientists wrote a letter to the Listener raising their serious academic concerns. They said (inter-alia) “Indigenous knowledge is critical for the preservation and perpetration of culture…. However, in the discovery of empirical, universal truths it falls far short of what we can define science itself”.
In a revealing NZ Listener article headed “The Meaning of Science” (7-13.8.2021) was noted that The NZ Royal Society (being NZ’s scientific elite) decried their own members saying “The recent suggestion by a group of University of Auckland academics that matauranga is not a valid truth is utterly rejected by the Royal Society. The Society strongly upholds the value of matauranga and rejects the narrow and outmoded definition of science” (Listener p.16).
The Ministry of Education fails to define Maori Science. The Royal Society clearly holds that it comes within their definition of science, debunking as narrow and outmoded the conceptual underpinnings of science — the outmoded being the pursuit and application of knowledge and understanding of the natural and social world following a systematic methodology based on evidence. Dr Georgina Stewart in a PhD thesis Kaupapa Maori Science succinctly sets out what it is in this table and this is the intellectual underpinning for the new Aotearoan view of science.
|Category||Scientific worldview||Māori worldview|
|Origins of the universe|| The Big Bang bought matter into existence. The universe is still evolving in time and space. || 3 processes bought the world into existence:|
Te Āo Korekore,
Te Āo Pō, Te Āo Mārama.
|Origin of Species||Different species evolved through genetic mutations and survival of the fittest||The children of Ngā Atua|
|Views on spirituality||Does not take into account the spiritual, mainly because it is not measurable.||Spiritual and physical worlds are not separate, but continuous|
|Values which are upheld||Objectivity, Scepticism, Rationale, Truth||Whanaungatanga , Kaitiakitanga, Manaakitanga, Wairuatanga, Kotahitanga, Aroha, Tika, Pōno,|
|Behaviours|| The scientific method: Systematic measurable |
investigation of phenomena
|Rules of tapu Tikanga Māori|
The new curriculum’s Five Pillars
The case for the new curriculum is predicated on five pillars. ‘Outdated’ science as claimed by the Royal Society) is: (1) Eurocentric/ Western (2) suppressed Maori knowledge (3) provided the rationale for colonisation of Māori. (4) Maori science has parity with ‘colonialist Eurocentric’ science (5) Maori science is from time immemorial – Te Ao Korrekore, Te Ao Po and Te Ao Marama. What facts support the Five Pillars?
Science is Eurocentric Western?
Students are to be told this is the new truth, whereas most international scholars consider that the scientific method, though honed in Europe, is an amalgam of inputs from diverse sources. The contribution of the genius of Egyptian engineering the with Pyramids is insulted as being European.
Bhāskara, an Indian Hindu (c. 600 – c. 680) who introduced a circle for the zero into mathematical formula — a critical development in science — is European. The Golden Age of Islam’s (9th and 10th centuries) contributions to the development of mathematics, astronomy, physics and chemistry: European and Eurocentric. The students are to be taught this and the denegration of other great cultures will be nourished by this new curriculum.
Western science a tool of colonial oppression?
The Listener article (above) stated: “The decolonization of science and the education system is underway in earnest as a matter of public policy”. The Ministry of Education loudly asserts: “Western science has been used to support the dominance of Eurocentric views among which is science’s use as a rationale for colonization of Maori and the suppression of Maori knowledge”. This our children will be taught as scientific truth.
Students will be required to believe that “Western science has been used to suppress Maori knowledge.” Conspicuously absent are facts proving scientific methodology deliberately suppressed Maori knowledge.
History is replete with example of societies replacing ideas and concepts when what are considered more insightful analyses — such as Darwin’s origin of the species — is seen as a more useful tool than “The children of Nga Atua”. To demand students believe this is active suppression by science?
Science needs “decolonising” (!)
The new curriculum has a further objective — the “decolonising of science”. Teachers of science will have to teach about the political and culturally subversive nature of eurocentric science and its deliberate suppression of Maori science and knowledge. Rejected is the historical evidence that there were a multiplicity of factors in British colonisation, including–
(a) economic: access to resources, trade, (b) political: for example the British didn’t like the French sniffing around, (c) sociological: the poor escaping poverty and lack of political rights and freedoms.
Science taught as an epistemology demands parity
The Ministry says the new science curriculum is needed to “ensure parity between matauranga Māori and “particularly Western (Pakeha) epistemologies”. Epistemologies means “the theory of knowledge — the distinction between justified belief and opinion.” (Oxford English Dictionary). The Ministry, in using “epistemologies” clearly considers the new “science” to be taught is concerned with distinguishing between justified belief and opinion. It is this “truth” that provides the philosophical basis for teaching the equal validity of two opposing world views on what science is. We await the results of this truly revolutionary experiment. Will our science students become the All Blacks of world science?
Roger Dewhurst said:
The bimbo and her communist clowns will happily return NZ to the stone age while she luxuriates in an overpaid UN job. I wonder if she will draw the line at a return to cannibalism? She might not even notice.
Rob McMillan said:
When visitors from the western world first visited New Zealand they found Polynesians who called themselves “Maori.” Now, let us establish an important fact, that these people were what we technically term “stone age” people. The term is used because their tools were stone. They had not discovered the extraction of metals or the use of those metals. They had not invented the use of the wheel and their weapons certainly did not include the powerful bow and arrow, let alone the effectiveness of gunpowder weapons. Saying this is not to denigrate these people but to clarify to what level their science and culture had reached. This is not to say they were stupid because they certainly had knowledge of their world; indeed considerable knowledge and wisdom that has been lost to more developed cultures and we would be wise to open our minds to what things they can offer. However Maori of today would be unwise not to open their minds to what the modern world and present-day knowledge has to offer them. They are not slow to accept all the benefits of the modern world and surely realise that a return to stone age tools and stone age life would not really be a step forward. I agree we can learn something of huge value from them, but science, real science, is not one of them. My Maori friends, where is your nuclear power station? That is the difference between real science and realy genuine stone age wisdom.
Roger Dewhurst said:
Before the arrival of Europeans the level of cultural development here and in Australia were apparently similar. But the abos were somewhat less inclined to eat people. However the difference now, culturally, between maoris and abos is vast.
Here is some more ancient input from another culture.
Greeks honed it, as they had connection with the Persians regions and maybe got it off them.
Pythagoras’ father, Mnesarchus, was from Tyre, a Phoenician city now in Lebanon, and he is said to have visited Egypt. Also, he met Thales and so knew the work of Thales. Thales is said to have visited Egypt and Babylonia. So it’s safe to conclude that Pythagoras knew some mathematics from Egypt and Babylonia, or both. In his time, what we now call the Pythagorean theorem, that is, the rule of the right triangle, was probably common knowledge.
So why did the rule of the right triangle become associated with Pythagoras?
Well, he apparently used it, and it was passed down through the Pythagoreans, and that’s enough to have his name associated to it. Stigler’s law of eponymy says that concepts and theorems in mathematics often are not named after their original discoverers, but named after someone who came later. The Pythagorean theorem is an example.
Last but not least interesting is the conclusion of the analysis that the Mycenaean, Minoans, and modern Greeks had some kinship with the ancient people living in the Caucasus, Armenia, and Iran. The proven kinship between Greeks and Iranians (Persians) is one more confirmation of Greek mythology. According to mythology, the Greek Perses, son of the hero Perseus and Andromeda, was the forefather of the Persians, and Medus, son of the Athenian king Aegeus, was the forefather of the Medes. In fact, the Persians called upon this exact kinship asking the Athenians to surrender, with the Athenians replying that based on genealogy, the Persians should surrender to them instead (since their ancestor was Greek). It is no accident that Iranians and Armenians are genetically similar to Greeks. Most ancient nations of Asia Minor and the Middle East are related to each other, which is described by Greek mythology, as it mentions their forefathers as being Greek.