John Robinson’s Open Letter to Dick Bedford, President of the NZ Royal Society:
The code of ethics proposed by the Royal Society of New Zealand is an abomination.
The ruling that scientists should take account of whakapapa, mana and matauranga Maori introduces superstition into science.
This is a reversal to centuries past when scholarship was vulnerable to the censorship of the Inquisition and the judgement of the Pope.
Scientists are asked to act in accordance with the spirit of the Treaty of Waitangi and endeavour to ensure that all research is conducted in accordance with the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi – which are defined in law.
Those requirements deny the right of a scientist to question what is meant by this spirit, these principles – even the true text and meaning of the Treaty.
Newly minted principles
This is of great importance to the New Zealand of today. Those principles and the spirit of the Treaty that now divide us by race are newly minted.
If science is to remain true to its basic values, scientists must be left free to question them and to demand that they disappear from any criteria for good science.
This call for a newly minted political correctness introduces a new inquisition into New Zealand science. It raises questions of power over science.
Who will be our Pope, the all-knowing, the judge? What power does he/she have? As it stands, some Maori committee – with no scientific expertise, but a knowledge of ancient beliefs – would adjudicate whether research can continue.
This matters. Once your prescription is accepted, publications will be judged on whether they conform. The careers of those who fail to conform will be crippled.
A denial of the meaning of science
That way lies the denial of all that science stands for. The business of science is to question, to challenge the accepted dogma, to make those who hold to it uncomfortable.
The way of thinking that you espouse has been asserted already in New Zealand, and has done great damage. One example comes from my experience.
When demographer Ian Pool wrote of the Maori population in 1991 he was guided by a self-imposed censor. “I was concerned about the fact that I was a Pakeha writing on Maori population change. … it is also imperative to ensure that a manuscript does not contain culturally offensive material. I am therefore particularly appreciative of the review Assoc. Prof. Ranginui Walker, of Auckland University’s Department of Maori studies, made of the entire manuscript.”
That led him to downplay the deaths of the savage inter-tribal wars, to refuse to acknowledge the widely recognised practice of infanticide, to fail to consider the impact of the shortage of women and girls in the years following 1840, and to refuse to acknowledge the demographic recovery brought about by the Treaty of Waitangi, when the decline ended within fifty years.
Conclusion must be based on science not culture
The numbers do not depend on the race of the researcher, on who was their great-grandfather. The analysis should be based on demography and not culture – it should not hesitate to be “culturally offensive” if the facts should say so.
To refuse to consider the facts on the basis of cultural sensitivity (and refusing to question current dogma) is the death of science.
I have researched the population dynamics of Maori in the nineteenth century, but the facts I then report are thought to be uncomfortable. The Crown Forestry Rental Trust rejected the first draft of a report, claiming that it would “obscure the true nature of the cataclysm which affected Te Tau iwi between 1850 and 1850”.
The New Zealand Population Review turned down a paper since “it is essentially promoting a particular political viewpoint, i.e. that European colonisation was beneficial for Maori.”
Those are not valid criticisms of a straightforward demographic analysis, based on numbers, on the importance of women and girls for births, replacing deaths. But that orthodoxy, critical of European civilisation, dominates and must be obeyed.
Crippling the discipline of Science
Much science is crippled today. Your prescription is to destroy the foundations of science and to place power in few hands, to continue to be used for political purposes.
Let’s return to the heart of the matter.
There is no god. There was no virgin birth, no resurrection. The Bible is not an absolute authority. Once you could be burned on the stake for believing that. But no longer. Science is free, we can think for ourselves.
Spirits, atua, do not exist. Whakapapa and worship of ancestors is nonsense. Matauranga is based on ancient superstition that I do not accept. That opinion is to be forbidden; those words cannot be said in the science of the Royal Society.
Science is in chains. Every scientist is asked to don the shackles.
Every scientist who understands the underpinnings of science must oppose you, must take time to write letters such as this. What a waste!
Please wake up. (see earlier story below)
No longer a bastion of independent science
By John Robinson
Many educational institutes, including universities that were once bastions of questioning, and enlightened thinking, have long moved from the idea of universal scholarship to accept direction from an uncertain mix of ancient, tribal, traditional beliefs.
The former bastion of independent science, the Royal Society of New Zealand, has joined, to become a captive propaganda arm of Government.
It is now despised by a great number of scientists, certainly by every fellow scientist that I have spoken to over the past twenty years.
The Royal Society is developing a new code of ethics that takes another step along the road of replacing secular inquiry with superstition.
Although we have long given up on the Royal Society as a true scientific organisation, its voice continues to be heard and to influence politicians. It is important then that we continue to speak out.