In 2010 New Zealand’s venerable science body, the Royal Society of New Zealand, amalgamated with the Humanities Council. Science doesn’t have all life’s answers. Where would we be without literature, art, music, diverse cultures and the work of humanities scholars? But warm, fuzzy talk of inclusion and connection papered over a fundamental and long-standing philosophical clash.
Most scientists believe their scientific method is a superior way of building factual knowledge and, through technology, contributing to humankind’s material well-being.
What other human endeavours have delivered the internet, space exploration, organ-transplantation or knowledge of natural selection and continental drift?
This is self-evident to the public, but many in the humanities dismiss the scientific stance as “Western arrogance” and consider science is merely one of many world-views, all equally valid.
The “Western arrogance” idea, and a revisionist interpretation of the Treaty of Waitangi, are presumably behind the policy at the University of Otago that all research proposals by its scientists must be vetted by a Maori committee. In similar vein, the draft of the Royal Society’s new code of conduct now places the Treaty central to the society’s work.
There follows a proposal that New Zealand zoologists should “partner with Maori” whenever they study native animals. This goes too far.