42 days ago

Science or Myth?

Tel from Central Whangarei

We have all had a good laugh about Southern States of USA teaching creationism as being the equal of (or even more true than) The Theory of Evolution. Well the same thing is happening in this country. It seems that Māori myths are to be taught in Science Classes.
Māori heritage is very important and it has a lot to teach us but it is not Science. Māori technology was awesome. Being able to do so much with so little has lessons for us to-day but do we want our children to believe that rain is caused by a goddess weeping?
The following is a letter written by Richard Dawkins to The Royal Society of New Zealand.


Dr Roger Ridley
Royal Society of New Zealand

Dear Dr Ridley

I have read Jerry Coyne’s long, detailed and fair-minded critique of the ludicrous move to incorporate Maori “ways of knowing” into science curricula in New Zealand, and the frankly appalling failure of the Royal Society of New Zealand to stand up for science – which is, after all, what your Society exists to do.

The world is full of thousands of creation myths and other colourful legends, any of which might be taught alongside Maori myths. Why choose Maori myths? For no better reason than that Maoris arrived in New Zealand a few centuries before Europeans. That would be a good reason to teach Maori mythology in anthropology classes. Arguably there’s even better reason for Australian schools to teach the myths of their indigenous peoples, who arrived tens of thousands of years before Europeans. Or for British schools to teach Celtic myths. Or Anglo-Saxon myths. But no indigenous myths from anywhere in the world, no matter how poetic or hauntingly beautiful, belong in science classes. Science classes are emphatically not the right place to teach scientific falsehoods alongside true science. Creationism is still bollocks even it is indigenous bollocks.

The Royal Society of New Zealand, like the Royal Society of which I have the honour to be a Fellow, is supposed to stand for science. Not “Western” science, not “European” science, not “White” science, not “Colonialist” science. Just science. Science is science is science, and it doesn’t matter who does it, or where, or what “tradition” they may have been brought up in. True science is evidence-based not tradition-based; it incorporates safeguards such as peer review, repeated experimental testing of hypotheses, double-blind trials, instruments to supplement and validate fallible senses etc. True science works: lands spacecraft on comets, develops vaccines against plagues, predicts eclipses to the nearest second, reconstructs the lives of extinct species such as the tragically destroyed Moas.

If New Zealand’s Royal Society won’t stand up for true science in your country who will? What else is the Society for? What else is the rationale for its existence?

Yours very sincerely
Richard Dawkins FRS
Emeritus Professor of the Public Understanding of Science
University of Oxford

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