Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Yabba Dabba Doo!

I guess we could shuffle him out, and replace him with Day...

Canada's science minister, the man at the centre of the controversy over federal funding cuts to researchers, won't say if he believes in evolution.

"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," Gary Goodyear, the federal Minister of State for Science and Technology, said in an interview with The Globe and Mail.

A funding crunch, exacerbated by cuts in the January budget, has left many senior researchers across the county scrambling to find the money to continue their experiments.

Some have expressed concern that Mr. Goodyear, a chiropractor from Cambridge, Ont., is suspicious of science, perhaps because he is a creationist.

UPDATE: Paul Wells, of course, ignores the Flintstones jokes and looks at this rationally.


  • I am shocked and ashamed at how far backwards our nation has gone under this government.

    I could never have imagined the day when a Minister of Science of Canada would invoke religion as a reason for not accepting a scientific theory.

    I can only imagine what other scientific theories he rejects based on religious belief.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:55 a.m.  

  • can you say lightning rod...

    this should be great

    By Blogger Anthony, at 12:20 p.m.  

  • No surprises here. We've seen it in the States. FDA head that reduces inspections. Environment chief that cuts regulations. SEC head that cut the uptick rule for shortsellers. Boom!

    By Blogger JimTan, at 12:27 p.m.  

  • So much for Liberals reaching out to the church goers, rural folk and the West!
    That will have to go on the back burner to make room for a spirit lifting, good old fashion Liberal bashing of religion.

    How dare anyone think they can hold religious beliefs and still have a job with the government!!!
    Only athiests need apply, right?

    By Blogger wilson, at 1:40 p.m.  

  • wilson

    It's not religion bashing to not want religious belief to impact acceptance of scientific theories.

    Goodyear was asked about science, he refused to answer the question and invoked his religion.

    He can hold any religious believe he wants, but if he has issues with scientific theories based only on religious beliefs, then he damn well should not be Minister of SCIENCE.

    His answer clearly implies his issues with the scientific theory of evolution are religious in nature.

    What’s next? Is his religion not going to allow him to accept carbon dating?

    Carbon dating which is based on nuclear decay, the same principals used in nuclear reactors? So cut off funding for nuclear research?

    What other research is he going to stop funding based on his bias?

    What will the long term cost be to Canada of his bias?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:17 p.m.  

  • I am guessing there are a lot of Libertarians and ex-Liberals voters who think they shook hands with the devil at this point.

    This is what happens when you let idiots run your country.

    You get the government you deserve.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:23 p.m.  

  • "So much for Liberals reaching out to the church goers, rural folk and the West!"

    Right! It's a good idea to appoint a fundamentalist chiropractor to run the Science Ministry. It's a good idea to appoint a Trade Minister that plays for the American team. It's a good idea to appoint officials who were oil/coal lobbyists to run the energy portfolio.

    Go Team Harper/Bush! Our lives are in your capable hands.

    By Blogger JimTan, at 2:53 p.m.  

  • Whoa, we have a freaking Minister of Science???? That's AWESOME!!! Canada is more like the Enterprise than even I ever imagined!!!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:53 p.m.  

  • "Are you now, or have you ever been, a creationist?"

    Wake me up when he tries to force ID in the classroom or ban nuclear research, etc. Until then, mind your own business.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:13 p.m.  

  • Or we could elect a Party that believes Al Gore is a scientist.

    go figure

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:34 p.m.  

  • No one should care about his religious faith. It IS, however, relevant to ask a SCIENCE Minister whether he believes in evolution, a controversial but very solid scientific theory the acceptance of which does not necessarily preclude one from being religious. In other words, Goodyear is cloaking himself behind the veil of religious privacy in response to a reasonable question.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:49 p.m.  

  • It IS, however, relevant to ask a SCIENCE Minister whether he believes in evolution"

    Maybe we should also ask him if he believes ethanol research is the solution to global climate change. Or if he believes stem cell research can lead to a cure for pancreatic cancer. The fact is that until you can come up with concrete evidence that his beliefs are affecting funding for a particular area of science, his beliefs are irrelevant.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:02 p.m.  

  • I tried carbon dating once, but she didn't put out so I wrote it off.

    Seriously, though, there are some legitimate critiques of Harper's science policy, but this one is all about culture war crap (I would argue most of both opposition and love of Harper is of this sort - it is about affinity not policy).

    Firstly, Goodyear refused to answer, by emphasizing the irrelevance of the evolution question to policy (he later came out and said he did believe in evolution).

    Secondly, research grants are not directly doled out by the minister of science. There are third party organizations like NSERC and the SSHRC that handle that. Goodyear couldn't impact science policy in that way if he wanted to.

    Thirdly, people generally think differently about theology than they do about the temporal world. Harry Reid, for instance, is a devout Mormon. This implies that he believes that Jesus went to North America at one point. There is no tangible evidence for this, but we don't question Reid's capacity for logic. Why?

    Because the story behind religion is not what matters for policy purposes, it is the message religion. Generally speaking, that message is one few would find offensive (be nice to others, don't kill people, etc.), at least in part because even our secular values have religious roots.

    Moreover Goodyear's reaction to the evolution question was in substance very pro-science (and much in keeping with the views of many classical scientists). We can't prove the existence of God, but perhaps we need a microscope. A truly faithful Christian, like Goodyear, would be open to greater scientific proof, confident that eventually vindication would be found.

    As a Catholic (albeit a lousy one), of course, I do think Protestants are a bit rigid on the matter. Scientific discovery, by uncovering consistent laws within nature is in keeping with, rather than in conflict with, the advance of science.

    Is there much evidence that religious conservatives are anti-science?
    -Harper cut grants, but raised R&D spending (by a much larger amount) in other areas. His preference is for less university-based research, and more practical research.
    -when Bush was in office, virtually the only aspect of science policy anybody discussed was stem cell research. Ignored was the fact that R&D spending remained more or less the same, while productivity growth (a good measure of the impact of science) was higher than ever.
    -Major increases in R&D spending as a % of GDP were instituted under president Reagan (an evangelical and conservative Christian).
    -Neither Christian Democrat governments in Germany not Christian Democrat Appeal governments in the Netherlands have exhibited no special tendency to reduce R&D funding.

    We should judge politicians on the evidence provided by their concrete policy actions, not our prejudices about their religious beliefs.

    By Blogger french wedding cat, at 7:23 p.m.  

  • "he later came out and said he did believe in evolution"

    B.S. He said he believed in something that he called evolution, where humans learn to walk on concrete wearing high heals or something.

    It is a distinction creationist make between what they call macro and micro evolution.

    It's nice spin, nothing more.

    Ask him if he believes humans and other species evolved from a common ancestor via natural selection?

    I bet you get a very different answer.

    But hey, nice spin. kudos.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:48 p.m.  

  • I'm Catholic and a Liberal and I don't think this is at all funny.

    A new low. I don't want to support a party that makes light of people's religions.

    I don't care what their position is.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:56 p.m.  

  • I must admit Conservatives have gotten much better at hiding their true beliefs when compared to the Stockwell Day days.

    ohhh memories....

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:58 p.m.  

  • How exactly is the Liberal Party making fun of his beliefs?

    He is entitled to his beliefs.

    The concern is if his religous beliefs impact his acceptance of scientific theory.

    If they do, he shouldn't be Minister of Science.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:03 p.m.  

  • "Generally speaking, that message is one few would find offensive (be nice to others, don't kill people, etc.), at least in part because even our secular values have religious roots."

    I "like" the way people with religious backgrounds try to claim moral higher ground with statements like this. They in effect say that ONLY people with religious backgrounds promote messages like "be nice to others,don't kill people," as if those aren't secular values as well. In any case, if there are identifiable groups that explicitly don't adhere to those values, they're most likely religious groups.

    But don't believe me on this. Read "The God Delusion" by Richard Dawkins, where he lays it out very very well.

    By Blogger Party of One, at 9:35 p.m.  

  • "But don't believe me on this. Read "The God Delusion" by Richard Dawkins, where he lays it out very very well."

    Wow you're so well-read. Next I bet you'll recommend Freakonomics or the Davinci Code. In fact I find it ironic that as you imply I am some sort of fundamentalist (I go to church once a year, I'm a Rudy Giuliani Catholic), you base your argument on an appeal to this book a lot of people have read.

    Of course if you had half a brain you would also realize that the version of God I refer to above isn't even in conflict with Dawkins (I don't believe in a theistic god).

    Nowhere did I say that only religious people believe in being nice to others. I did say that our (North American) values have judeo-Christian roots.

    I think Dawkin's key notion that morality is evolutionary is fine (he is hardly the first person to make that argument - for instance it is a key proposition of Margolis' version of social choice theory, but I suppose they don't sell that book in airport bookstores, so you wouldn't have heard of it), but again, doesn't "prove" that we don't need religion.

    Dawkins employs an "altruism is genetic" notion which implies morality will happen anyways because a society full of rapists and murderers wouldn't do very well.

    Of course the only reasonable mechanism by which a socially (not individually) optimal trait like optimism would be transmitted is through the competition among states through war. Societies with sub-optimal mixes of altruistic and selfish people are less likely to survive, and thus, their citizens are at a disadvantage.

    However, the halycon days of warfare where failing states were conquered by neighbours are at an end. Among the great powers, nuclear weapons deter major warfare (or if major warfare did happen this debate wouldn't matter much because society as we know it would end). The main mechanism for the evolution of societies, in other words, has expired.

    Altruism however is only advantageous for between-society battles. Within-society, altruists generally do poorly relative to selfish rational utility-maximizers. It is the latter group then that is at a reproductive advantage (successful jerks). Over time the number of altruists will decline - even though their decline is socially sub-optimal.

    The loss of religion means losing a powerful tool that could arrest that very decline because religion is an institution that can make selfish utility-maximizers behave AS IF they were altruists, since it gives morality an actual enforcement mechanism (heaven and hell). Pseudo-religions like Marxism cannot accomplish this (and certainly failed to create a society of altruists despite 75 years of brainwashing).

    Of course, in order to survive, religion may need to adapt, and take a form that those in the past might find offensive. That said, in the principle agent game of life, God is the ultimate third party.

    By Blogger french wedding cat, at 1:55 a.m.  

  • The wee slag on Stock Day is a bit harsh, considering everyone and their dog has been pretty impressed with him as a Cabinet Minister so far. Yes, the bar wasn't super high to start with, but people really like working for him which must count for something.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:31 a.m.  

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