No progress here

Science minister’s evolution comments expose Canada’s backwardness

Imagine a minister of justice who believed in stoning adulteresses or a minister of health who prescribed exorcism.

It is impossible to believe that any of Canada’s portfolios could be headed by a minister whose views on the subject hadn’t changed since the book of Genesis.

Or at least it was impossible until Mar. 17, when MP Gary Goodyear, Minister of State (Science and Technology), refused to comment on evolution in an interview with the Globe and Mail on the basis of it being irrelevant.

“I’m not going to answer that question. I am a Christian, and I don’t think anybody asking a question about my religion is appropriate,” he said.

Evolution, in the eyes of the nation’s executive agent who funds scientific initiatives, is a religious question – impossible for a Christian to discuss without conflict of interest.

He covered himself the next day in a reactive interview with CTV, reassuring voters outside of the Fundamentalist Christian Right that he believed in evolution, or at least his definition of it: “We are evolving every year, every decade. That’s a fact, whether it is to the intensity of the sun, whether it is to, as a chiropractor, walking on cement versus anything else, whether it is running shoes or high heels.”

This is a man’s grasp of the powerful, verified and applicable theory in the whole of the natural sciences is limited to a nearly illiterate commentary on footwear. The question is whether we, as Canadians, are content to allow this man to judge which scientific endeavours are worthy of federal funding.

Let’s hope that voters and critics can pressure Goodyear enough to put down his Genesis and pick up a high school biology textbook.

Strangely, frighteningly, impossibly, the answer may be yes.

Liberal science critic Marc Garneau made no bones about it. The Globe and Mail quotes him saying that believing in evolution is not in the job description of the science minister.

How about believing in the automobile for the minister of industry?

Or believing in a round earth for the minister of foreign affairs?

Canadians seem willing to accept this insult to the secular state. We are not in any way a fundamentalist nation, yet we are posed to allow our science policy to be dictated to us by a holder of the most backwards and divisive viewpoints in modern science: creationism.

Perhaps it is our love of plurality, our innate ‘nice guy’ feelings that any idea popular with enough people must be taken seriously. I teach biology classes on Saturdays – the number one excuse I hear made for creationists during my struggle against their irascible influence is “everyone is entitled to their own opinion.”

It is difficult to imagine a more dangerous mindset in evaluating the executive branch of our government.

And if you are as naive as Marc Garneau, and think that Goodyear’s inability to differentiate science and hocus-pocus is private and separate from his work, cast your eye over the science spending for the year: cuts to history, cuts to critical theory, and an unprecedented elimination of funding for Genome Canada, cornerstone of evolutionary biology in Canada.

Let’s hope that voters and critics can pressure Goodyear enough to put down his Genesis and pick up a high school biology textbook.

Otherwise who knows where the next cuts will fall. Apples? Snakes? Or on those crazy folks who don’t think maternal mortality comes from original sin?

Gary Goodyear has been an MP since 2004, and has been endorsed by the anti-gay marriage group Vote Marriages Canada.

Steve Currie is president of the DUI debate club.

Published in Volume 63, Number 25 of The Uniter (March 26, 2009)

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