Tuesday, 21 December 2021

Free Press, 21 December 2021


The Haps 

The so-called Tai Tokerau Border Control checked 20,000 cars on State Highway 1. The occupants of 19,900 cars were vaccinated or tested. TTBC then gave up. A real Prime Minister would have just said the costs outweighed the benefits to start with. We predict many more businesses and authorities will find checking every person to find the tiny minority unvaccinated isn’t worth the hassle. Meanwhile South African hospitalisations are flat while omicron cases take off. Expect our government to delay the Australian border opening out of an abundance of caution, though. If only that caution applied to people’s livelihoods.

Free Press is taking a break until the new year, thank you for reading and for all your support.

The Royal Society Inquisition 

We should probably end the year ticking off the Government’s damages, ACT’s successes, and picturing 2022. Instead, here’s one issue worth thinking about over the holiday. 

If you care about liberalism (free speech, universal human rights, scientific progress, and ultimately human welfare), then this issue underpins everything else.

Free Press has covered the attack on liberalism by identity politics in our review of Cynicial Theories. The Royal Society, of all institutions, has brought the matter to a head this year with its inquisition into two of its members who dared to debate what science is and isn’t.

How did we get here? The long story is set out in Cynical Theories. Post modernism started out theoretically enough, but it has come to dominate public affairs. It makes it hard to have rational debate.

Post Modernism’s father, Michel Foucault, said that there is no one reality. Instead there are many truths. We don’t think the earth is round because it is, he’d say. It’s just our culture happened to construct that view. Other people might think it’s flat and that’s equally valid. Free Press studied philosophy; we didn’t take any of this seriously.

Turns out, a lot of other people did. Over the past 50 years post modernism metastasised because it gives many mediocre ‘academics’ a meal ticket. Now you don’t need to advance human knowledge according to rigorous agreed methods. 

You just need to write ‘from a (insert identity here) perspective’ and you can sit and ponder, even on full pay through lockdown. If anyone questions you, call them (insert identity here)-ist.

In case you think we’re making this up, here’s one example you’re paying for in taxes. Fat Studies is a field of research in New Zealand universities. Check out Dr Cat Pause (she/her)’s profile at Massey. Cat has made a largely taxpayer funded career out of, among other things, fighting anti-obesity campaigns and telling the world that fat people have great sex.

Metastasised post modernism has now escaped the lab. Graduates have carried it from the universities out into politics, Government departments, schools, even the legal system. And that takes us to today’s Royal Society Inquisition.

The Ministry of Education may be the best example of this lab escape. It’s been busy introducing Mātauranga Māori, Māori knowledge, into the curriculum with ‘equal status.’ The question is, equal status to what?

That’s the question that the ‘magnificent seven’ focused on with their now famous letter to the Listener. The seven University of Auckland academics argued that science is a method belonging to all humanity. Many civilisations have carried it forward in different times and places. Some indigenous knowledge may be scientific but not all of it, and not automatically, they said. 

The Cat Pauses of the world went nuts. If Mātauranga Māori is not automatically knowledge, then what might happen to ‘writing from a fat/queer/postcolonial perspective?

Led by politicians-masquerading-as-academics Shaun Hendy and Siouxsie Wiles, a petition denouncing the Seven did the rounds. Who needs to be right when you’ve got sheer numbers? Even the University’s boss, Dawn Freshwater, hung them out to dry. They all cried that words on a page had ‘caused hurt.’

The Royal Society’s Act of Parliament says “The object of the Society is the advancement and promotion in New Zealand of science, technology, and the humanities.” It is now undertaking disciplinary proceedings against two of its own senior fellows who signed the letter.

The whole country is now a laughingstock. Toby Young wrote a scathing piece in the Spectator. Richard Dawkins pointed out we were mixing science and religion. Stephen Pinker got stuck in during an interview with Kim Hill. This is New Zealand in 2021.

That’s how we got there. The question is how we get back. The answer is we won’t. We can only go forward in time. We must make sure that the future is one where people have the right to speak freely, debate, and seek knowledge without being shouted down, disciplined, or forced to believe others’ dogma. Religious belief should not be put on the same level as scientific knowledge.

Metastasised post modernism and its many beneficiaries are deeply entrenched. Pushing back to a rational, liberal, world will be an enormous job. It may also be the most important one that we have.