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Scienceless Science Minister?

March 29, 2009

I have been waiting a little while to weigh in on this one.  My good friend Matt, not to be confused with other Matts, who has become my most regular commenter here asked my thoughts on this.  For those who don’t know about it, Canada’s minister for Science and Technology, Gary Goodyear, refused to say he believed in evolution.  His response was that he didn’t feel the need to discuss his religious beliefs.  As someone who has spent 88% of his life in secular education I can understand playing your cards close to the chest when it comes to a question like this.  There are two fundamental issues with his answer though.  The first is that evolution is an undisputed fact of science.  The (legitimate) dispute is over degree.  This is where clarification over macro and micro evolution comes into play.    As someone who is not in science I can only say that I sit somewhere between the camp known as Intelligent Design* and a secular understanding of evolution.  The fact that Goodyear didn’t have an appropriate answer for this question means that he had not thought about the question except to decide against evolution.  

The second issue is that Goodyear has now given ammunition to those who think Christians are a bunch of idiots.  This is unfortunate on a large scale because there are theists, atheists, and many in between who are not happy with where evolutionary theory is being used.  Where Popper’s idea of the ideological revolution has replaced the scientific revolution it rightly was.  On a smaller scale this story is unfortunate because it ends up downplaying Goodyear’s credentials as a chiropractor (who go through the same anatomical training as doctors), and his studies in Biomechanics and Psychology at Waterloo.  By not thinking through his position he ended up allowing himself to be cast as antiscientific.  There is a lesson in this for all of us.

*Intelligent design is not the same as creationism.  If you haven’t bothered understanding the difference it breaks down quite simply.  Creationism sees the world as 6,000 years old, static, and divinely ordered on a literal biblical model.  Intelligent Design generally encompasses viewpoints from Macroevolution to Creationism, focusing only on the difficulties of accounting for the beginning of life, the cambrian explosion, and complexities of the cell as happy accidents and instead explaining them as the products of intelligence.

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2 comments

  1. If they had written that article in a different order, say, not leaving his real credentials until the very end, it would have come out differently. But even if he’s a creationist, I don’t see how that would actually affect policy or the scientific community. I think the goal is generally to make Christians of any ilk look like a bunch of eejits, and he just made himself look like head honcho eejit number one.


  2. To the above commenter…I agree journalist (being the son of two) sometimes misrepresent the story in the title. But I don’t think the goal of the Globe (which has endorsed the conservatives in the last two elections) was so much to make Christians look like idiots as to point out the our government has a truly unfortunate track record of appointing people who follow an agenda rather than being particularly well-suited to the job. Notice I say well suited and not qualified. Our minister is qualified: he knows his “science stuff.” I don’t believe he’s well suited if he can’t say he believes in evolution. It doesn’t matter if he is Christian, it doesn’t matter if he believes in Intelligent design, many excellent scientists believe in both (sorry about the grammar). But Creationism is bunk, pure and simple. If he believes that, he shouldn’t be there. Evolution, micro and macro is the basis of genetics, of biology, of biochemistry and many other sub branches of science. To say that this basis is completely false is the equivalent to saying that science has been really wrong for the last two hundred years, about almost everything to do with nature. The Creationists say this…does our minister? Well no, but he doesn’t say what he believes, and he needs to, if only to restore some kind of trust in a government that has massively cut our R and D budget and science programs…for reasons that cannot be explained as economic necessity.
    Peace Love and Maple Syrup. Good post Liam.



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