Kendall Clements, the marine biologist who signed the letter, said they were not trying to disrespect Maturanga, but to point out the differences between it and traditional science.
Maturanga has “the seeds of science,” he said, “but to say then that Maori Maturanga is equivalent to science is meaningless, because there are many elements not found in science, such as visions, prophecies, and dance.”
Maturanga’s supporters say he misses the mark. Dr. Hikurua agreed that Maturanga is not the same as conventional science. But he said it is valuable because it offers alternative interpretations of the world and encourages people to think differently.
“By trying to explore this difference, we can collectively come to a better understanding of the solution than if we were to rely on one set of knowledge in isolation,” he said.
As an example, Dr. Hikorwa cited the construction of a major road in the early 2000s. It was to cross a swamp that the local Maori said was inhabited by the stormy Taniwa. The engineers did not identify any risks, but turned the road to address their concerns. A year later, a large flood hit the area. The diverted path was spared serious damage.
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