The Darwinian concept of ‘survival of the fittest’ has been used historically to explain and justify status inequalities between different ethnic populations; that the poor socio-economic status of Māori, for example, is due to the biological nature of Māori themselves. Recent research on ethnicity, genes and behaviour, especially the so-called ‘warrior gene’ and its apparent link to violence and Māori, has raised concerns that these discredited theories may be resurrected in a modern genetic guise. Paradoxically, Darwinian reasoning itself can be used to challenge such political interpretations of evolutionary theory. A broader perspective on Māori evolutionary history would emphasise sociality, entrepreneurship and the significance of environment, as well as indicating the socio-political costs and benefits of further genetic research.

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