Canadian Science Headed By Creationist?

Yesterday, the Globe and Mail printed a story about the religious beliefs of the Canadian Minister of Science & Technology, Gary Goodyear.  When Goodyear commented to reporter Anne McIlroy that he wasn't "fussy on this business that we already know everything. ... I think we need to recognize that we don't know" and asked to clarify whether he was talking about a creator, I think the reporter found a better story than she the one she was expecting about Canadian science and the recent federal cuts to basic research funding. Goodyear refuses to discuss evolution because he is Christian and thinks being asked about his religion is inappropriate.  He is also a chiropractor and has taken chemistry, phsyics, and physiology courses during his education. Goodyear's response isn't an outright admission to creationist beliefs, but by citing "religious" reasons for not discussing evolution, he definitely tossed the ball into that arena.  To me, evolution really has nothing to do with religion.  The idea of a higher power doesn't have much bearing on the idea that organisms, over time, adapt to their environment via selective pressure etc.  Whether a divine force created these organisms is a different question, but evolution in and of itself is pretty much pure scienceit can be observed, tested, repeated, and analyzed. But you, gentle readers, what do you think of Canada's Science & Technology Minister's refusal to discuss evolutionon grounds of religious beliefs?  Do you think someone who views evolution as a religious issue can successfully head a country's scientific efforts?  How diametrically opposed are the ideas of god and evolution, really?  Some of this is discussed in a recent C&ENtral Science post here.

Author: Kenneth Moore

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7 Comments

  1. I think molecules are Satanic and have no place in civil discourse.

  2. How bigoted to suggest that because someones religious beliefs would disqualify them for a job. Only
    an ideologue judges a person on their beliefs than on whether or not he is competent in what he does.

  3. Josh: So you would want a preacher that doesn’t believe in religion to be your conduit to God?

  4. I agree with Gary Goodyear that it is inappropriate to ask about his religious beliefs as qualifications to be the Canadian Minister of Science. People in Canada, the United States, and many other countries have freedom of religion. Don’t go around persecuting or questioning scientists who are also people of faith. Show some respect for other points of view, as long as they are good and seeking the truth. I concur with him that we don’t know all the answers yet.

  5. So it seems the consensus here is that the topic of evolution is a matter of religion, not science?

    I have no qualms whatsoever about anyone of any religion heading a nation’s scientific efforts–but when they refuse to discuss pure science because they view it as an infringement upon their religious beliefs, that gets sticky. You have to be able to discuss the focus of your job in order to do it effectively, especially when you’re in the international spotlight like that.

    Do you, Josh and David, think evolution truly is a matter of religious belief, or of science?

  6. It’s good that Goodyear refuses to discuss evolution because he is a Christian. His reason is relevant because in this case his religious views are important to his politcal position. A better reason is that he is apparently unprepared to rationally discuss evolution.

    Personally, I also resist efforts by creationists/IDers to be on (public) school boards becasue they will attempt to assert their uninformed, polarized views on the rest of us. Observe the havoc in Kansas, Texas, and of course Dover PA.

    I’ve answered the first question. For the second, no, I don’t think that someone who views evolution as a religious issue can successfully head a country’s scientific efforts. Third, as I and others have written elsewhere, the philosophies of God and religion need not be diametrically opposed with evolutionary theory and findings.

  7. Ken is right that evolution (a theory) and belief in, for want of a better word, God (along with all it suggests about the ineffable and what we don’t and can’t know through the scientific method but know in other ways) are not mutually exclusive. But I just love how public acknowledgement of this infuriates the science establishment (and sidetracks reporters). One of my fondest memories at C&EN was Benjamin Carson’s speech at the magazine’s 80th-or-whatever birthday. I’m not surprised that Goodyear is a physician.