Saturday, February 24, 2024

Barrie Davis: I Lift My Pen…

The proposed Treaty Principles Bill by the ACT Party has caused debate about the meaning of the Treaty of Waitangi in Maori. Dame Anne Salmond recently published an article in which she claimed that Maoris have a different way of thinking to Pakehas and so attribute a different meaning to the Treaty. I will consider that claim and its implications.

Dame Anne takes her ways of thinking from Cartesian dualism, which she says is brought about by the division between the thinking self and the material world. She says this gives rise to logic based on binary oppositions which organizes reality into entities that are radically distinct from each other. She also says that is the origin of scientific racism.

Salmond further says that the analytic logic used by the thinking self is more common in European ways of thinking than it is for Maoris who she says use relational thinking and logic:

“While analytic logic is based on binary oppositions, relational logic works differently. Here, relationships are all important, and generative. In te ao Māori, for instance, the world is organised through whakapapa into complementary pairs that endlessly create new forms of life, from the aeons of Pō and Kore to Ranginui and Papatūanuku onwards. Rather than static silos, this orders reality into dynamic relational networks, expressed in a language of kinship.

Relational logic is not culturally restricted, but can also be found in European ways of thinking – Gaelic philosophy, for instance …”

Rene Descartes distinguished the conscious agent we call ‘I’ with his famous dictum “I think, therefore I am”. The thinking ‘I’ is language based and we experience it as a constant stream of words running through our consciousness. However, Descartes is not the only person to have made that distinction: Plato and his student Aristotle wrote of the rational intellect which they distinguished from the remainder of the soul; St Thomas Aquinas used Aristotle’s description of the intellect as the psychological basis of his explanation of the Holy Trinity; and Freud distinguished the conscious mind from the bulk of the unconscious psyche.

More recently, the distinction of a rational part of the psyche has been considered within the discipline of evolutionary cognitive science under the head Dual Systems Theory, and made popular by Daniel Kahneman in Thinking, Fast and Slow. System 1 is the fast, automatic, non-rational part of the psyche that we share with other animals and uses pragmatic, associative thinking. System 2 is the slow, rational, conscious part that is effortful and lazy, uniquely developed in humans, and uses abstract, rule-based logical thinking. Both are considered intentional agents with their individual personalities, abilities and limitations. So, as Goethe put it, “Two souls dwell, alas! in my breast.”

Kahneman tells us that System 1 and System 2 interact; for example, there are “circumstances in which System 2 takes over, overruling the freewheeling impulses and associations of System 1.”

So why did Peeni Henare’s rational faculty not prevent him from rashly blurting (in Maori) “I lift my gun, and I let the shots do the talking”?

System 2 is evolutionary recent and there is no reason to suppose that the uniquely developed human rational faculty is complete: Indeed, there is evidence that suggests it is presently evolving at pace.

Evolution works by replication, variation and selection: organisms reproduce, which provides random variations that are selected according to how well they fit their environment. The degree of fitness is measured by the rate of increase or decrease of the variant population.

The System 2 rational faculty is a variation that is uniquely developed in humans and uses analytic logic. According to Anne Salmond, the analytic logic that is used by the thinking self is more common in Pakehas than in Maoris. That raises the question of the adaptive significance of analytical logic of Europeans compared to the relational thinking preferred by Maoris. Do Maoris prefer relational thinking because their System 2 analytic logic is not as developed as that of Europeans?

It is a matter of history to trace the development of European philosophy, science and technology. It began in Mesopotamia and Egypt with the invention of writing and mathematics, then migrated to Greece and Rome with development in philosophy, spread further West to Europe and culminated in the industrial revolution in Britain about the time Cook came to New Zealand.

Recent books relate the development of the European mind to the development of European culture, including philosophy, science and technology. Those I am aware of include Charles Freeman (2020) in The Awakening: A History of the Western Mind AD 500 – 1700, Tom Holland (2019) in Dominion: The Making of the Western Mind, and A.C. Grayling (2016) in The Age of Genius: The Seventeenth Century and the Birth of the Modern Mind. The titles of these books speak for themselves: they describe a European development of evolutionary significance.

The Greeks subscribed to gods and goddesses similar to the gendered Maori deities mentioned above by Anne Salmond. But with the advent of Christianity popular theology developed to a monotheistic God as the principle of creation, which is the same hypothesis as that used in physics by the likes of Stephen Hawking for the search of a single ‘theory of everything’: ‘God’ is the theological name for the principle of everything. The Greeks also developed and formalized democracy and logic and they communicated these concepts in writing. As a consequence, these ideas continued to be developed for centuries to become the advanced forms of philosophy, science and technology that we have now.

Of course that development did not occur in the Pacific. It was a Western development over thousands of years that the Maoris did not participate in until the British colonized New Zealand only two centuries ago. Since European technology was introduced in New Zealand, the Maori population has increased from 100,000 around the time of the Treaty when it was static, to 800,000 part-Maoris now. It therefore seems that European analytical thinking and its resulting technology has been used to greatly shape the fitness of Maoris to a Western environment, resulting in a large increase in the Maori population. But there remains the possibility that the Maoris are still in the process of catching up regards development of System 2 and analytical thinking.

Patricia Alexander reviews the topic here in “Relational thinking and relational reasoning: harnessing the power of patterning”. Alexander considers relational thinking to be largely unconscious, instinctual (intuitive, innate), spontaneous (automatic) and effortless, and based on percepts of sensory experience, which are characteristics of a System 1 faculty. Anne Salmond claims that relational thinking is ubiquitous in te reo. Whereas System 2 thinking uses rule-based analytical logic, System 1 thinking is associative, so we can posit that the generative relational logic referred to by Salmond is brought about by adjusting previously learned examples of relational networks, such as those found in tradition and myth.

Alexander additionally posits relational reasoning as a more intentional, effortful and consciously evoked analytic process based on concepts to discern meaningful patterns or abstract relationships in our environment. That is similar to the thinking self of System 2, the analytical logic of which Salmond says is more common in European ways of thinking than it is for Maoris.

Alexander also gives the locus of the percepts of relational thinking as ‘in mundi’ (of the world) leading to the concepts of relational reasoning as ‘in menti’ (of the mind), much as Salmond says Cartesian dualism is respectively the division between the material world (res extensa) favoured by Maoris and the thinking self (res cogitans) which she says has links to “imperial habits of mind”.

Alexander says of relational thinking and relational reasoning:

“Thankfully, humans enter the world with the capacity to perceive patterns within the sensory information that surrounds them and then draw on that capacity in intentional, effortful, and strategic ways to promote higher-order cognitive processing. Granted that initial capacity, which we labeled as relational thinking, can be quite primitive and can vary greatly from person to person or from situation to situation, but it is nonetheless the neurobiological functioning that guides the development of human perception and cognition across the lifespan.”

“As I have sought to establish from the outset, relational reasoning, especially when coupled with its more intuitive, spontaneous counterpart, relational thinking, underlies all human performance - an observation shared by cognitive scientists and neuroscientists. Early in the twentieth century, Spearman, one of the progenitors of modern intelligence testing and someone strongly influenced by the Gestalt school, came to see human intellectual capacity largely in terms of pattern perception. His search for the unitary intelligence factor “g” was orchestrated around certain “fundamental laws”, including the law of the eduction of relations, which pertains to the power to bring relations to mind.

“… when relational reasoning is examined within novel problem-solving tasks or contexts, it is indicative of fluid intelligence.”

A meta-analysis of the research on intelligence by Professor Richard Lynn in Race Differences in Intelligence (2015) gives average IQ by race relevant for New Zealand as: North East Asians 102, Europeans 99, Maoris 90, and Pacific Islanders 85.

Professor Helmuth Nyborg of University of Aarhus says “This is the definitive study … by the man who did more than anybody else to collect the extensive data.” In his 2016 review of the book, Edward Dutton wrote, “Clearly, this new book will now be the definitive resource for anyone interested in understanding race differences in intelligence. … This is an important work, documenting all of the available data, and prosecuting the most parsimonious case to explain it.”

These data are from the second edition (2015) of Lynn’s book which was revised and updated to include information from studies subsequent to the first edition (2006). The first edition is freely available on the internet here. A ‘Summary of race differences in intelligence’ is given in Table 13.1 of both editions and there is not a significant change to the general pattern of results.

The first edition has a chapter on Pacific Islanders (which is absent in the second edition) and includes a section on Maoris (p. 77). The chapter also has sections on ‘Brain Size of Pacific Islanders’ and ‘Environmental and Genetic Determinants of the Intelligence of Pacific Islanders’ (p. 80). Lynn says “The IQ of 90 of the Maoris is higher than the 85 of the other Pacific Islanders, suggesting a beneficial effect of living in an affluent European environment.” I expect a key element of that is the early attention given to Maori education, as mentioned in the Appendix.

The data given are of average intelligence for a particular group rather than for an individual. That does not preclude the possibility of a Maori Einstein, but it does mean it is less likely than an Ashkenazi Jewish one, as Ashkenazi Jews have an average IQ of 112. An average is given because intelligence is distributed within a group according to a ‘normal distribution’, or ‘bell curve’. That is because intelligence is ‘polygenic’ which means that independent variants of many genes (alleles) accumulate by chance to determine the general intelligence (IQ) of an individual. So the total amount of individual genetic variation for intelligence is randomly acquired contributing to a normal distribution of individual difference of general intelligence in a group.

It is therefore not a matter of two different ways of thought that have equivalent value, as Anne Salmond suggests. Relational thinking is as present in the European System 1 as it is for Maoris, but as mentioned above relational reasoning in Europeans is stronger due to historical development and as indicated by differences in average IQ scores.

European thinking has been far more beneficial than whatever the Maoris were doing prior to European arrival. That does not preclude consideration of relational thinking, but its less beneficial outcomes discount its exclusive application in government policy. If the Maoris were any good at building a country, they would have had one up and running for when Cook arrived.

It is a matter of whether System 2 consciously applies logic to provide rational thinking or whether System 2 thinking is subject primarily to System 1 biases. For relational thinking, that would include ‘myside bias’ or ‘confirmation bias’. Steven Pinker (Rationality, 296-7) says “The problem is we are living in a myside society. The sides are left and right, and both sides believe in the truth but have incommensurate ideas of what the truth is.” In New Zealand the two sides are localized as Leftist pro-Maori and Rightist non-Maori. Only by consciously identifying the relevant evidence and applying formal logic to System 2 thinking can we hope to avoid this bias. (see also Kahneman, 80-1)

There is a pertinent illustration of such bias here, in the picture captioned “National leader greeted with a hongi at Waitangi this year.” We are presently experiencing an unwelcome increase in Covid cases, yet affected Maori ritual is overriding reasonable precaution.

Perhaps Anne Salmond would say my above argument is scientific racism, and the dictionaries say she would be right. The Oxford Reference dictionary says of Darwinian evolution: “… an isolated variety within a population might give rise to a new species by survival of the form best suited to its new surroundings; this is what the term survival of the fittest means.” It also says that racism is: “a belief in the superiority of a particular race.” Race is an ‘isolated variety’ within the human population and ‘survival of the form best suited to its surroundings’ means it is higher in quality to the rest of the population (i.e., superior), which is ‘a belief in the superiority of a particular race’ (i.e., racism). So the idea of evolution of superior traits by race is racist by definition. The superior skin colour by race when adapted to local climate is an example, race differences in intelligence is another.

It is racist to hold a belief that for evolution to proceed within the human species entails racial variations that are superior to those of other races. So if scientific evolutionists are racists, what then are all the rest? Creationists perhaps? No, that’s not right. There’s something wrong with the idea of scientific racism that won’t be addressed by Peeni Henare ‘lifting his gun’. It needs a rational explanation from its proposer: What is meant by ‘scientific racism’?

I get the impression that we are presently on the cusp of a disaster; already we may indeed be on its downward slope. An indication is that we are now not even maintaining what was previously built by the colonists. Maori thinking is more likely the cause of the dilemma than its salvation: rational science-based engineering builds infrastructure, not Maori mythology and tribal lore. Any hope of pulling it back lies with the science of evidence-based reasoning. We need to have the gumption to accept that some of our policies are just plain daft – such as our fixation on the Treaty – and the assertiveness to replace them with something that is within reason. Unfortunately, I’m just not seeing that approach at the moment.

Barrie Davis is a retired telecommunications engineer, holds a PhD in the psychology of Christian beliefs, and can often be found gnashing his teeth reading The Post outside Floyd’s cafe at Island Bay


Anonymous said...

As the French would say: N'importe quoi!

What further arcane academic clap trap will be trotted out to place indigenous lore on an untouchable pedestal ( to justify the planned ethnocracy of course ) and mask the reality - NZ's productivity is failing, its future generation of productive talent is leaving in droves and it will shortly be a 3rd World country with woefully insufficient tax revenue to pay the ever-increasing number of beneficiaries.

PS I have 2 PhDs - neither is needed to work out the approaching disaster. Just ordinary common sense is enough.

Erica said...

I won't be as blunt as Anonymous and call much of this academic clap trap but highlight what for me is noticeable by its absence.

Number one is : Were the Colonists influenced by Darwinism or the biblical
view of humanity? This is easy to answer since Darwin wrote 'Origin of Species'1859 and 'Descent of Man' 1871 a couple of decades after the Treaty signing in 1840.

For me this means the biblical world view as man being made in the image of God probably dominated and therefore all men were to be treated with dignity and respect.

In contrast unlike Darwinism native people were not descended from apes, but fairly similar in intelligence and capable of learning as well as Europeans. Our education system used, but which has now been proven wrong, evolutionary ideas to develop teaching methods that disadvantage the learning of low decile students including Maori and Pacific Islanders. Asian countries,
wisely did not adopt these methods. Learning affects intelligence.

Here is a quote from Darwin's 'Descent of Man' where he makes a disturbing link between his belief in white supremacy and his theory of natural selection and offers a biological explanation for it namely that white people are further evolved. 'As white Europeans exterminate and replace the world's 'savage races' and as great apes go extinct' he claimed ,'Africans and Australians are more closely related to apes than Europeans'.

Also evolution and specifically Darwinism is a Theory Still in Crisis according to NZ academic Michael Denton who is not a creationist but a structuralist and wrote a book recently with that title. The evidence is becoming overwhelming through mathematical probabilities incorporated into biology and evo devo ideas that Darwinism needs replacing not just changing.

Darwin's theories contain dangerous racial ideology and our contemporary reverence for the pure scientific brilliance of his theories needs reviewing and particularly the overly optimistic illusion shatters upon a closer look at his publications on race in 'Descent of Man'.

Reference: 'The Dark Side of Darwinism ',by Austin Anderson Philosophy for the Many

Anonymous said...

Richard Lynn (his professor emeritus status was withdrawn by Ulster University in 2018) and Helmuth Nyborg are both very controversial in the scientific study of intelligence. Lynn’s work in particular has been widely condemned as racist pseudoscience and white supremacist.

You can make a strong case for an enlightenment approach to science (and likewise its underpinning of policy) and against the Indigenous woo woo being inflicted on many of us today in New Zealand without invoking the dodgy work of the likes of Lynn.


Robert Arthur said...

Wow. Some great quotes there but if I use will be accused of hate speech for sure. Viewing the rabble at Waitangi and most gang members, maori youth law breakers, state house ghettos, maori shool attendance and achievements it easy to accept the maori relative IQ figures. But not sure how maori defined; must draw a line at dilution somewhere. Considering the artful like late Kawharu, Walker, Majurie, Drury and the clever like Shane Jones they must be very uncommon to still have such a low average.

DeeM said...

"generative relationships...aeons...static silos....dynamic relational networks (is that a fancy term for a gang, Anne?)...culturally restricted....

Anne certainly hasn't grasped the concept of plain English. Maybe that's because her brand of tosh doesn't translate.

So let's see where Maori "relational logic and thinking" got them.
- basic stone tools and weapons,
- vegetation for clothes,
- basic housing,
- constant in-fighting and wars,
- utu - which according to Google is often defined as revenge (yep), but actually means the maintenance of balance and harmony in society!!!! By killing everyone who pisses you off, you mean.
- slavery
- cannibalism
- female infanticide

Not exactly a ringing endorsement, is it, Anne? In fact, there's very little logic or relational thinking going on there, as far as I can see.

And you want NZ to embrace this same philosophy.
Astounding wokeness, idiocy, and ideological racist nonsense from yet another Left-winger who trumpets her credentials as a leading academic and thinker but is unable to see the gaping musket holes in her argument.