Why did local media ignore Richard Dawkins during his speaking tour of New Zealand? And why isn't it likely to be an issue that RNZ's Mediawatch will explore?

THE EMINENT British evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins has been in the country for two speaking engagements. He spoke to capacity audiences in both Auckland and Wellington last weekend. 

Professor Dawkins is one of the world's most prominent public intellectuals but despite his international reputation, he largely received the cold shoulder from local media. Other than Newstalk ZB's Mike Hosking and The Platform's Sean Plunket, no one else was interested in talking with the author of such landmark books as The Blind Watchmaker, The Selfish Gene and The God Delusion

You don't need to be a rocket scientist - or an evolutionary biologist - to understand why Dawkins was ignored by local journalists. His 'crime' has been to criticise the concerted push by the government to conflate 'Matauranga Maori' (ways of knowing) with recognised science - and introduce it as part of the science education curriculum. His view mirrors that of the seven local academics who wrote an open letter to the Listener criticising government plans to give the same weight to Maori mythology as they do to science in the classroom. That letter saw the seven professors threatened with expulsion from the Royal Society. 

In a column for The Spectator this week and also reported in The Times, Professor Dawkins writes: 

'To grasp government intentions requires a little work, because every third word of the relevant documents is in Maori. Since only 2 per cent of New Zealanders (and only 5 per cent of Maoris) speak that language, this again looks like self-righteous virtue-signalling, bending a knee to that modish version of Original Sin which is white guilt. Matauranga Maori includes valuable tips on edible fungi, star navigation and species conservation (pity the moas were all eaten). Unfortunately it is deeply invested in vitalism. New Zealand children will be taught the true wonder of DNA, while being simultaneously confused by the doctrine that all life throbs with a vital force conferred by the Earth Mother and the Sky Father. Origin myths are haunting and poetic, but they belong elsewhere in the curriculum. The very phrase ‘western’ science buys into the ‘relativist’ notion that evolution and big bang cosmology are just the origin myth of white western men, a narrative whose hegemony over ‘indigenous’ alternatives stems from nothing better than political power. This is pernicious nonsense. Science belongs to all humanity. It is humanity’s proud best shot at discovering the truth about the real world.'

Such logical and rational observations are not going to win favour with media organisations like Radio New Zealand, Stuff and Spin Off. They have dropped any pretence of journalism and have been mere propagandists for the introduction of Matauranga Maori into the science curriculum. In these media organisations it is now less important for reporters to be accurate than 'directionally' correct, which mostly comes down to having the right views. But such 'journalism' allows them to wallow in a sickly moral superiority as they castigate, censor and deplatform those who do not conform to the 'correct' viewpoint.

Richard Dawkins has been another victim of the uniformity of thought that characterises woke politics. But he is well aware of what he has been up against in New Zealand.  He posted his Spectator column to Twitter with the following comment: 'My on-stage interviewer in NZ asked my views on their ridiculous science education policy. Spectator happened to ask me to do their Diary same week. The Times picked it up but my NZ friends are betting local media won’t dare. Can Kiwi readers help?'

Such appeals should not be necessary. But New Zealand seems to be descending into some kind of intellectual twilight zone where even the Metrological Service has tried to explain Cyclone Gabrielle with reference to the Maori god of weather. In his interview with Sean Plunket, Dawkins describes this as a disgrace.


  1. I did wonder why there was no media coverage of Richard Dawkins visit. It does indicate there is a systemic problem with MSM.


Comments are moderated.