At least the creationists in the DUP didn’t try to cancel science
New Zealand is fast becoming the weirdest, most woke place in the entire world. Currently it’s convulsed by a bizarre row over whether traditional Maori religious beliefs should be given the same weight as empirical science.
In other words, the belief that all living creatures descend from Papa and Rangi, the Maori sky mother and sky god, should be treated on a par with chemistry, biology and physics.
This is the recommendation of an official government working group on schools, so it could very well be brought on to the science curriculum and into NZ classrooms.
In response, a group of eminent professors wrote a public letter, which they called ‘In Defence of Science’. They said that while they considered indigenous mythologies to be important for the preservation of local cultures, when it came to “the discovery of empirical, universal truths, it falls far short of what we can define as science itself”.
The distinguished scientists were merely stating the blinking obvious, you might think.
But in these mad days, reason, logic and evidence are routinely dismissed when they don’t fit the approved narrative — often shamelessly so, with the truth staring everyone full in the face.
In a conflict between facts and fiction, fiction will win if it ticks enough ideological boxes. Especially, it seems, among the woke zealots of New Zealand.
Sure enough, shrieks of virtue-laden outrage quickly followed the publication of the letter.
There were calls for disciplinary action of the scientists. Five members of the Royal Society of New Zealand lead the charge, saying the contents of the letter had caused “untold harm and hurt”. They kicked up such a fuss that the Royal Society launched a formal investigation into the signatories, which may end in their expulsion from the society.
What’s fascinating about this case is that it mirrors the row which gripped Northern Ireland over Young Earth creationism. Remember? Creationists, who believe that God created the planet only 6,000 years ago, demanded that their religious beliefs should be given the same weight as evidence-based scientific theories.
The then DUP culture minister, Nelson McCausland, wanted the Ulster Museum to include creationist material in addition to displays about Darwin and the theory of evolution.
Mervyn Storey, at that time chair of the Stormont education committee, insisted that “creationism is not for the RE class because I believe that it can stand scientific scrutiny”.
Such was the influence of these politically powerful Young Earthers, even the newly-opened National Trust visitors centre at the Giant’s Causeway included a reference to the Biblical account of creation in the book of Genesis. The caption on the exhibit — which was subsequently removed — encouraged visitors to “join the debate”.
Er, what debate? Not a scientific one, that’s for sure. But there’s one big difference between the historic Northern Ireland dispute and the ongoing tussle in New Zealand.
In NI, it was religious fundamentalists demanding that their faith-based beliefs about the origins of the world be treated as equivalent to scientific research based on factual evidence.
In NZ, it’s the so-called progressives, the liberals — ha! — and the self-righteously woke who are insisting that Maori mythology must be given equal standing with science in schools. Anyone who says otherwise must be hounded down and severely punished.
I don’t imagine for a second that the people baying for the metaphorical blood of the scientists actually believe that the world originated with Papa and Rangi. Nor do I believe they give a stuff about Maori traditions. This is merely a vehicle for them to display their virtue.
At the time of the Giants Causeway controversy, the evolutionary scientist Richard Dawkins said that the National Trust had given into pressure from fundamentalists. Ten years later, Dawkins has intervened on the New Zealand dispute too, pointing out that “science classes are emphatically not the right place to teach scientific falsehoods alongside true science”.
Dawkins is right, as anyone with a shred of moral or intellectual integrity must admit. But he should probably save his breath. The battle is already lost. In a world where weaponised emotion trumps objective reason time after time, truth has ceased to count for much.
Today, it’s the woke who are the new fundamentalists: pious, punitive, and increasingly politically powerful.
They have complete intolerance for anyone who thinks differently to them, steam-rolling over any inconvenient facts that don’t fit their beliefs. It’s their way or the highway, which is where you’ll soon be if you fall foul of them, run out of town by the contemporary version of the pitchfork mob.
Whatever I might think of Nelson and his fellow creationists, at least they didn’t try to cancel science.