The University of Auckland, according to its Vice-Chancellor, Dawn Freshwater, is not happy with a letter written by several academics recently published in the Listener. It has caused "considerable hurt and dismay" and the views "do not represent the views of the University of Auckland", she says.
The letter, a response to the proposed changes to the Māori school curriculum, is no more than a defence of scientific method. It takes issue with the claim made by the committee overseeing the proposed changes to the Māori school curriculum, "science has been used to support the dominance of Eurocentric views (among which, its use as a rationale for colonisation of Māori and the suppression of Māori knowledge): and the notion that science is a Western European invention is itself evidence of European dominance over Māori and other indigenous peoples".
For the Vice Chancellor to claim that the letter does not represent the university's views is puzzling. Does she mean that the claims made by the curriculum committee do represent the university's views?
A university by its nature cannot have a prescribed view about the value of one idea or culture over another. Until recently, a university was an institution committed to free inquiry and rigorous debate. Indeed that was its raison d'etre when I was an undergraduate and graduate student.
The Auckland Vice Chancellor's claim that the university has an established view on the current issue suggests submission to the morality of critical race theory and some kind of scientific consensus. Neither of these phenomenon permit open debate; indeed they operate only on closing it down.
Science by its very nature can never arrive at a consensus. Consensus is the language of politics, not science.
A university is not a church preaching revealed doctrine. It is an institution given to the support of scientific method; certainly in those faculties that have science in their name. If that is not the case, then the university should pack its bags and go home to the planet of the Wokerati.
The writers of the proposed curriculum, and it would seem the Vice Chancellor too, make one all-embracing error. They fudge the necessary distinction between scientific method and science as a school subject. Scientific method cannot be identified with "Eurocentric views", whatever they are claimed to be, even if scientific method is a discovery of European culture.
The condemned letter writers claim: "better to ensure that everyone participates in the world's scientific enterprises. Indigenous knowledge may indeed help advance scientific knowledge in some ways, but it is not science."
Precisely. Science is a universal tool because it rests on the universal truth that the world is an ordered place. Hypotheses can be imagined, experiments repeated and the findings
found to be true or false.
Scientific method is a 17th century discovery. And it was for Isaac Newton, and most of the early scientists a consequence of their belief in created order.
Māori religion and culture before the introduction of the Christian gospel was essentially pantheistic. God is an extension of nature and not distinct from it. There was no concept of created order. There was no foundation for the establishment of scientific method.
It is ironic that the "university" gets its name from the belief in an ordered world. Now
many faculties are dominated by the contemporary cultural cult that would claim that
truth is the mere product of culture.
And yet, more irony, the Vice-Chancellor is worried about the apparent hurt and dismay suffered by some students and staff. Really? Just what are they hurt and dismayed about? Is there some kind of wicked intelligence they must be protected from?
When the university fails to fulfil its traditional function it becomes an institution interested only in its own survival. Western culture loses its confidence. Truth and therefore justice is up for grabs and government policy becomes "the views of the university". Māori and Pākehā share the common loss.
• Bruce Logan is a former teacher.