Canadian Science Minister update: kinda.

By Phil Plait | March 18, 2009 12:04 pm

So yesterday I asked if Gary Goodyear, the Canadian Minister of State for Science and Technology was a creationist, because he was being pretty dodgy about his answer to the question, "Do you believe in evolution?"

He got a lot of flak from this, both in the Globe and Mail, which broke the story, and by the blogs.

Well, when asked the same question again, today he "clarified" his position:

“Of course I do,” he told guest host Jane Taber during an appearance on the CTV program Power Play. “But it is an irrelevant question.”

I’m calling shenanigans on him. Why? Because 1) he should have answered it in the first place — if, by his reasoning, the question was irrelevant yesterday, it still is today, and 2) it is an extremely relevant question, given that he was couching his answers yesterday in religious terms.

As I pointed out in my post yesterday, religion is irrelevant only if it doesn’t affect the job. But as we have seen over the past 8 years in the US, religion does indeed have a tendency to affect people’s decisions, especially, critically, if they are a creationist. Then it colors everything they do, including trying to overthrow the Constitution.

Of course, this is Canada and not the United States we’re talking about here, so the ground rules legally are different. But tell me, how would you feel if the head of an official in your federal science department told you he believes the Earth is flat? Or the Sun revolves around the Earth? Or that he thinks the sky is a great crystal sphere, and he lies awake at night worried that the Voyager probes will smash it and let all our air out?

Those beliefs have just as much basis as young Earth creationism: they are faith-based only, and have no evidence for them, and about a billion solid pieces of evidence against them. If your science advisor told you any of those things, you’d think he was crazy and you’d look for a replacement.

So yeah, you’re darn tootin’ this is a relevant question. And for him to say otherwise is a denial of reality both politically and, well, realistically.

I certainly hope his equivocal answer isn’t the last of this situation. Canadian scientists and politicians need to continue to look at Dr. Goodyear very carefully.

Comments (75)

  1. idav

    Of course this isn’t the kind of vindication we’re looking for but lets be honest, this is how progress is made. Every day views like the ones espoused by this man become more and more marginalized. That’s all we can hope for, so I suppose we should be happy about this…

    …wow I’m not usually an optimist.

  2. Michelle

    You’re right to call shenanigans on him. Afterall, he first thought this was a RELIGIOUS question. That’s already a lot of bells ringing for me.

  3. But tell me, how would you feel if the head of your federal science department told you he believes the Earth is flat? Or the Sun revolves around the Earth? Or that he thinks the sky is a great crystal sphere, and he lies awake at night worried that the Voyager probes will smash it and let all our air out?

    Wait, there is evidence against these things? Darn that mean ole reality! :P

  4. Shenanigans?? Did someone just call Shenanigans??

    SHENANIGANS!!!

    Everybody grab your brooms!!

  5. Ian

    It’s worse than that. Later in the interview he offers even more clarification:

    “We are evolving every year, every decade. That’s a fact, whether it’s to the intensity of the sun . . . or to the effects of walking on concrete. Of course, we are evolving to our environment. But that’s not relevant.”

    That’s right, he equates Darwin’s theory with Lamarck’s. Science FAIL

  6. Trebuchet

    He’s a chiropractor. (Chiroquacktor, as my wife calls them.) That puts him firmly into the anti-science camp before you even ask about evolution.

    Then again, at least Canada HAS a Minister for Science and Technology.

  7. Thankfully, our Science Minister is not Stockwell Day, who HAS publicly stated that he believes the Earth is only 6,000 years old!

  8. Hoonser

    From the looks of it Harper’s not too concerned about having qualified people in cabinet positions. Or maybe that’s the view from the ground.

  9. David

    I emailed my MP again about level of science understanding in the cabinet , this time asking about the Minister for Science and Technology. No reply. My MLA is much better but then he has a Doctorate in Biology.

  10. “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, of course we are evolving to our environment.”

    WROOOOOONG!

    If anything, he just dug the hole deeper. To paraphrase Mark Twain, he should have just kept his mouth shut and deal with being thought a fool. Instead, he opened it and removed all doubt.

  11. Ray

    So it is the claim of the residents here that the environment doesn’t affect evolution?

    Who’s not doing science now?

  12. Todd W.

    @Ray

    So it is the claim of the residents here that the environment doesn’t affect evolution?

    Who’s claiming this?

  13. Lawrence

    No – what he is saying is that we (meaning individuals) are constantly evolving – right now – to day-to-day conditions. Which is FALSE!!!!

    Evolution occurs across generations, not to individuals across their lifetime.

    Science FAIL

  14. Doc

    A sociological observation here on Canadian vs. US beliefs and manners.

    When I worked up in Ottawa I got into a few discussions about how people treated the subject of religion. One thing that shocked them is that it was common in South Carolina for total strangers to ask where you went to church. Apparently the privacy around religious belief in Canada is such that that kind of question borders on rudeness.

    This does not excuse Mr. Goodyear from answering the question clearly – as you have noted, someone with anti-science beliefs is not likely to do well in a pro-science job – but it may shed light on some of the attitudes that lead to his initial, evasive answer.

  15. Todd W.

    @Lawrence

    Difference between an individual (adaptation) and populations/generations (evolution).

  16. @ Todd W, the quote that jbrydle put up is brobably what Ray is reacting to.

    The quote itself shows a gross missunderstanding of how evolution works and what it means in the context of our incredibly short lifespans. The examples that are in the quote are not truly environmental factors that would have a real effect on evolution. Furthermore it seems to imply that evolution happens on short timescales, and that there is some sort of purpose to evolution. Both of those things are backwards interpretations of evolution thinking.

  17. Todd W.

    @Larian

    I figured that, but I wanted to get him to clarify his statement.

  18. Ray

    Yes, I was reacting to Jbrydle primarily. The notion that the environment has no impact on evolution is rediculous. Seems to me that for all his flaws Mr Science Minister was at least partially right. He’s also a whackjob, but even broken clocks are right twice a day.

  19. Minkrat

    He’s a nutcase and idiot, just like James Moore our beloved federal Heritage Minister who cannot identify dicky squat from anything art/music that’s not directly from the west. Both of them are a disgrace to this country, I sure hope that this govt doesn’t last long, it’s riddled with redneck idiots like Moore and Goodyear.

  20. Caleb

    I think part of the problem is that using the term “believe” is quite loaded in a religious context. He may have been concerned with how his response could be taken out of context (just a guess).

    That said, his original response:

    “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.”

    …was unfortunate, and in the context of his job he shouldn’t care much how certain religious groups may take him out of context. Besides, since when does what one thinks about certain scientific theories affect their ability to be a Christian/Jew/Muslim/Buddhist/Atheist/etc?

    If find it ironic how certain Christian groups are so quick to label people as Christian or not when their own religious founder, Christ, says he is the only one qualified to do so (parable of the sheep and goats if anyone cares).

  21. Quatguy

    It is my observation that there is generally a large difference between how Americans and Canadians deal with the issue of religion. I generally agree with @Doc that it is definately considered rude to discuss your religous beliefs or ask people about their own beliefs in Canada. My experience with Americans is that they tend to wear their religion on their sleeve (huge generalization), so to speak, and have no problem asking you about yours.

    Canadian politicians almost always keep their beliefs to themselves (with the exception of that quack Mr. Day) and that is the way it should be. Under no circumstances should it influence how they do their job.

    As an aside, remember the time Day arrived at his lake-side news conference via jet-ski and was wearing a wet suit trying to show everyone how cool he was. What a wanker.

  22. koby

    Yes Goodyear now says he believes in evolution and the theory has “potential”. It is too bad for Goodyear that it is readily apparent that he does not understand the first thing about Darwinian theory. To wit:

    “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, of course we are evolving to our environment. But that’s not relevant and that is why I refused to answer the question. The interview was about our science and tech strategy, which is strong.”

    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20090317.wevol0317/BNStory/politics/?page=rss&id=RTGAM.20090317.wevol0317

  23. José

    I pointed this out on the other thread, but the quote Jbrydle referred to sounds like he’s just saying “Of course I believe in microevolution”, and thereby ducking the question.

  24. When I worked up in Ottawa I got into a few discussions about how people treated the subject of religion. One thing that shocked them is that it was common in South Carolina for total strangers to ask where you went to church.

    I live in Ottawa, but I travel a lot on business. I was in Bloomington, IL some years ago doing some consulting work. At the lunch table, my Bloomington colleagues entered into some prayer, through which I sat quietly and respectfully while they invoked their mojo.

    After this was done, someone said to me something like “Do they not pray in Canada?” and another one said “It’s different up there”. I must admit, my first reaction was one of surprise – that would never be asked here, or at least not at the dinner table.

    I replied with “well, I imagine religious people pray, but I don’t believe in the supernatural.”

    Wow, was that a conversation stopper! You’d think I had just flayed a rat on the table.

    My experience with Americans is that they tend to wear their religion on their sleeve (huge generalization), so to speak, and have no problem asking you about yours.

    Canadian politicians almost always keep their beliefs to themselves

    Indeed, it is an odd irony that the country that has legally separate church and state as spelled out in their constitution pretty much requires its leaders to be publicly religious while the country whose head of state is technically the leader of the Church of England and has no formal recognition of separation of church and state pretty much requires that its leaders keep their yaps shut about their superstitions.

  25. Everywhere I see this mistake repeated I try to correct it. Gary Goodyear is not the Canadian Minister of Science and Technology. He is a “Minister of State” for Science and Technology. The Minister of State position in Canadian Politics is a junior cabinet position sometimes attached to a specific Ministry, and sometimes not. The position comes with a car, a larger office, and little to no actual responsibility or authority. Goodyear’s appointment was pretty much just a bone thrown to him by the Prime Minister for his support during the election. While it is (or should be) embarrassing to us Canadians for a visible member of our government to be such an imbecile, we can take some solace in the knowledge that Gary Goodyear really has no influence on science policy in Canada.

  26. vel

    One would think that belief would indeed influence creationists. But no, they are just hypocrites who belittle science when it disproves their myths but still use every convenience it produces. They are simply dishonest and willfully ignorant.

  27. As long as he doesn’t become a Minister of State for Silly Walks! :P

  28. while the country whose head of state is technically the leader of the Church of England and has no formal recognition of separation of church and state pretty much requires that its leaders keep their yaps shut about their superstitions.

    Now now… the British Royal family has plenty of superstitions. Didn’t you hear that Prince Charlie has his own brand of homoepathic quackery?

  29. IVAN3MAN

    Evolving Squid:

    Indeed, it is an odd irony that the [USA] that has legally separate church and state as spelled out in their constitution pretty much requires its leaders to be publicly religious while [Canada] whose head of state is technically the leader of the Church of England and has no formal recognition of separation of church and state pretty much requires that its leaders keep their yaps shut about their superstitions.

    It’s the same here in the UK. Tony Blair stated, after he had stood down as Prime Minister, that he had kept his faith and religious beliefs to himself, during his term as PM, because he did not want to be labeled as a “nutter” by the press.

  30. Wendy

    He was definitely wrong to call the question irrelevant, but I wouldn’t call shenanigans on him. I bet that he didn’t want to answer the question because he DOES accept evolution, but that his position may not be too popular among his particular church/group of friends/family/general fundamentalist population. (And as we all know, fundamentalists tend to run the show.) Anyways, he’s chosen a side, and it just happens to be our side. I’m trying to think positively. Lol

  31. TheBlackCat

    Chiroquacktor, as my wife calls them.

    My father calls them “quackopractors”, which works quite well also.

  32. Davidlpf

    To paraphrase Rick Mercer
    Canadians consider politicians as egomanics who have to get up speak in front of a crowd once and while.

  33. The only thing more depressing than this story is reading throught the 600+ comments for the article on the Globe and Mail site. I had to stop when one said the only reasonable stance to take on ‘evolution vs. religion’ is to be agnostic.

    *superbarf*

  34. Huron

    Again, he is just a Minister of State for Science and Technology, not Minister for Science and Technology.

    A Minister of State is very unimportant.

  35. Utakata

    Michael L Says:

    “Thankfully, our Science Minister is not Stockwell Day, who HAS publicly stated that he believes the Earth is only 6,000 years old!”

    Well…it could of been a lot worse; Day tried to become our Prime Minister.

  36. Daniel J. Andrews

    “From the looks of it Harper’s not too concerned about having qualified people in cabinet positions. Or maybe that’s the view from the ground.”

    Outside of the business-related cabinets, are any of the ministers, now and in the past, qualified to hold their positions? John Snobelen was an education minister and a high school drop-out. He later became minister of natural resources, another post which he knew nothing about. Basically we have school drop-outs, businessmen (mainly failed businessmen it seems), and lawyers trying to run posts that require a science background. How can you persuasively make your case for more funding when you’re ignorant about the basic science? The arts have similar poor performers trying to do those jobs.

    As for Goodyear, the fact that he said he believes in evolution (for all his misunderstandings of it) is probably satisfactory. If he was truly a creationist, he would not deny it as that is like denying a fundamental part of your religion. He is not going to lie about something like this. I do wish he had a background in science, but hey, why should that post alone be filled with someone who knows what they are doing.

  37. gopher65

    One of the common criticisms of Prime Minister Harper is that he isn’t a team player. He personally oversees all significant departments of the federal government, except for the Finance and National Defence departments (which are given to his only two acceptably intelligent lieutenants). Every other ministry is under Harper’s direct control, with political wankers as the ministers who serve no purpose except to occasionally be scapegoats when something goes horribly wrong.

    There are some *remarkably* unintelligent people in the Conservative Cabinet… but that’s exactly why they were chosen. They are loyal to Harper and not intelligent enough to challenge him. It’s not a bad strategy for an extremely paranoid leader, really.

  38. Then Again

    I was reading an old astronomy text (‘The Planet Mercury’ by Werner Sandner, 1963) the other day and stumbled upon this striking line on page 30 :

    “ [Various astronomers observations agree] … so that there can no longer be any doubt that the day on Mercury is equal to its year, namely 88 days.”

    Bzzzt! Incorrect! We now know that what the scientists asserted there so vehemently there as right – beyond doubt – is in fact completely WRONG! A day on Mercury, we know now, is actually 59 days two-thirds of the time it takes to orbit the Sun. Instead of being tidally locked to the sun so half Mercury is permanently daytime & the other half permanently night, the Sun does rise and set on Mercury.

    Often (& there are many other examples) science claims utter certainty – and is found to be totally wrong.

    Now they’re claiming absolute certainty in the doctrine of evolution – while many others claim this is equally as wrong as Mercury’s 88 day roatation period.

    Science gets things wrong.

    Even when scientists claim have been proved something an utter certainty with “…no longer any doubt ..” it turns out they stuffed up and failed to correctly determine the truth.

    Scientific theory is only theory – NOT reality.

    Much of what science currently teaches as absolutely right is likely to be equally seen to be in error in the future. Maybe this will include evolution – this historical and philosophical axiom is undeniable – far more so than Mercury’s endless day / night & so many other scientific blunders.

    Scientists and followers of the godless cult of Scientism can not deny this fundamental truth but need to be realistic and less arrogantly dismissive of the likelihood that they, as fallible, non-omniscient mortals, have plain got it wrong. They need to learn to bear this in mind and be humble.

    They simply have to admit that if they got Mercury’s rotation wrong then there’s a chance they got evolution along with many other things wrong as well.

    Scientists for all their smarts cannot come up with a “unified theory of everything”, cannot explain what caused the Big Bang or what its purpose was. Scientists do NOT know everything and many things remain utterly mysterious and unexplainable to them.

    Instead of claiming to know it all and to know their way is the only way and mocking anybody who disagrees with them they need to face up to the fact that all to often they are in error and the inerrant truth lies in another non-scientific realm.

    So don’t slam those who disagree with your scientific ideas but accept that they may be right and you may be wrong – because odds are that todays’ orthodox scientific “truth beyond any doubt” will be tomorrows scientific “well we looked pretty silly thinking that didn’t we!” ;-)

  39. Then Again

    Ooops -sorry about theitalics error – I’ll freely admit that I can and sometimes do get things wrong (why won’t science?)

    Trying again :

    I was reading an old astronomy text (‘The Planet Mercury’ by Werner Sandner, 1963) the other day and stumbled upon this striking line on page 30 :

    “ [Various astronomers observations agree] … so that there can no longer be any doubt that the day on Mercury is equal to its year, namely 88 days.”

    Bzzzt! Incorrect! We now know that what the scientists asserted there so vehemently there as right – beyond doubt – is in fact completely WRONG! A day on Mercury, we know now, is actually 59 days two-thirds of the time it takes to orbit the Sun. Instead of being tidally locked to the sun so half Mercury is permanently daytime & the other half permanently night, the Sun does rise and set on Mercury.

    Often (& there are many other examples) science claims utter certainty – and is found to be totally wrong.

    Now they’re claiming absolute certainty in the doctrine of evolution – while many others claim this is equally as wrong as Mercury’s 88 day roatation period.

    Science gets things wrong.

    Even when scientists claim have been proved something an utter certainty with “…no longer any doubt ..” it turns out they stuffed up and failed to correctly determine the truth.

    Scientific theory is only theory – NOT reality.

    Much of what science currently teaches as absolutely right is likely to be equally seen to be in error in the future. Maybe this will include evolution – this historical and philosophical axiom is undeniable – far more so than Mercury’s endless day / night & so many other scientific blunders.

    Scientists and followers of the godless cult of Scientism can not deny this fundamental truth but need to be realistic and less arrogantly dismissive of the likelihood that they, as fallible, non-omniscient mortals, have plain got it wrong. They need to learn to bear this in mind and be humble.

    They simply have to admit that if they got Mercury’s rotation wrong then there’s a chance they got evolution along with many other things wrong as well.

    Scientists for all their smarts cannot come up with a “unified theory of everything”, cannot explain what caused the Big Bang or what its purpose was. Scientists do NOT know everything and many things remain utterly mysterious and unexplainable to them.

    Instead of claiming to know it all and to know their way is the only way and mocking anybody who disagrees with them they need to face up to the fact that all to often they are in error and the inerrant truth lies in another non-scientific realm.

    So don’t slam those who disagree with your scientific ideas but accept that they may be right and you may be wrong – because odds are that todays’ orthodox scientific “truth beyond any doubt” will be tomorrows scientific “well we looked pretty silly thinking that didn’t we!” ;-)

  40. KC

    >Scientific theory is only theory – NOT reality.

    Oh really now?? Try jumping off a building. Take that Mr. Fictious Gravity!

  41. KC
  42. PJE

    @Then Again

    ““truth beyond any doubt” will be tomorrows scientific “well we looked pretty silly thinking that didn’t we!””

    Just because one thoery may be falsified does not make another theory true.

    i.e if evolution is shown to be false (unlikely) does not mean creationism is true, it only means that evolution is false.

    I can see some nutter quoting me as saying “evolution is false” from my above statement :)

    Pete

  43. Ah, I see the difference in his title. I corrected it. Thanks.

  44. Dear Mr. Then Again,

    The next time you get a very serious illness, try visiting a Chiropractor, like Mr. Goodyear, instead of a “real” doctor. Because Science has been wrong once before, therefore I had to put scare quotes around the word real in that last sentence. Best of luck to you in your future endeavours. Luckily you live in a world where you can take full advantage of the benefits of science every moment of every day while slagging it on the (irony if ironies) Internet every night. Revel in your hypocrisy. Wallow in your ignorance. The rest of us will keep picking up the slack. It’s OK, we’re used to it.

  45. Then Again, your book was arguing over a detail. They weren’t arguing over the existence of Mercury. That’s what creationists are doing. Scientists argue over details all the time, but not that evolution itself exists. What you’re saying is a standard creationist tactic. Remember, science’s ability to admit mistakes — which it did in the case of Mercury’s rotation, mind you — is a strength, not a weakness. Science learns. Fundamentalism stagnates.

  46. Then Again

    Not if the building is the International Space Station! Then I’d just float! ;-)

    As often you miss the point entirely.

    Jumping off a building and falling may be real – & yet the theory of gravity may still not be a complete or actual answer for why. Science even now doesn’t fully understand “gravity” or what gives things mass – its one of the things I read somewhere that the LHC was looking for with the “God particle.”

    (Science trying to find God and explain everything in all the wrong places as usual. Have they considered that perhaps God is no particle but actually God!?)

    Besides, even if gravity is real doesn’t mean Darwininan evolution is. Its quite possible for science to ocassionally be right about some things (eg. gravity) & get others badly wrong. (eg. evolution)

    I’d just like to see scientists confess: “Hey we could be wrong, after all we’ve been wrong so many times before, we don’t know everything and sometimes other ways of knowing are equally valid or more so than our own rigid and all-too often arrogantly dismissive approach.”

    Science ain’t the be-all & end-all & yet it frequently pretends to be. There are things beyond it and above it.

    Sciuence gets it wrong sometimes. Be humble. Accept that.

    Let other alternative ideas have a fair go as well. That’s surely reasonable enough isn’t it?

    Just because some ones ideas aren’t what science would like doesn’t make them a fool – often the fools are the scientists! Just as they were with Mercury’s rotation, canal-building life on Mars (google Percieval Lowell) & much, much more …

    Reality is you – & science (& yes me too) just don’t know everything. I hate the arrogance of those who say they do, dismiss all who disagree with them with contempt and are totally wrong in their claims. This applies to much of today’s science elite and its smug, arrogant, condescending attitude to anyone who thinks differently.

  47. Then Again

    Phil Plait – the book wasn’t arguing over a detail.

    It asserted with utter certainty & based on the scientific thinking and observational evidence of the time something thatwas plain wrong.

    Its called precedent. Science makes a habit of claiming there’s no doubt when they are flat out wrong.

    They claim to know somethingas fact when it ain’t.

    They claimed to be certain of Mercury’s rotation – and were dead wrong.

    Now they claim the same certainty about evolution.

    Is it not at least plausible that they are again, equally wrong in their claim which had equal certainty?

    Can you not just admit science gets it wrong and can’t be trusted to always have the right answer?

    Or that sometimes the answer may be outside science in something greater than science?

    BTW. The above post of mine was adddressing KC obviously.

    Funny how none of you oh-so-smart people are able to see (or is it face up to to?) the actual point I’m making here!

  48. TheBlackCat

    Let other alternative ideas have a fair go as well. That’s surely reasonable enough isn’t it?

    Creationism and ID have been given a fair go. Much more than fair, in fact, scientists have tried to bend over backwards to work with them. But they have nothing. They have no evidence and their arguments have all been shown to be wholly without merit. They refuse to even say what their ideas really are. They have utterly failed to make their case on scientific grounds. That is why they are going to schools and trying to get their ideas incorporated there. They know they have nothing scientific to offer, they know their claims can’t stand up to any scrutiny, so instead they try to teach it to kids who don’t know enough to see through their faulty logic, misrepresentation, and lies.

    So your entire argument is based on a false premise, that creationism and ID have not been given a fair chance. They have. They have failed.

    If there is any actual evidence contradicting evolution, scientists would love to hear it. But proving evolution wrong on this point would be like proving atoms don’t exist. Actually, it would be far more difficult because evolution has been directly observed with human eyes and atoms never have.

  49. StevoR

    @ Then Again :

    Its called precedent. Science makes a habit of claiming there’s no doubt when they are flat out wrong.

    They claim to know somethingas fact when it ain’t.

    They claimed to be certain of Mercury’s rotation – and were dead wrong.

    Now they claim the same certainty about evolution.

    Is it not at least plausible that they are again, equally wrong in their claim which had equal certainty?

    Can you not just admit science gets it wrong and can’t be trusted to always have the right answer?

    Or that sometimes the answer may be outside science in something greater than science?

    Subsitute the word “religion” or “fundamentalism” for the word ‘science’ there & you’d actually be a lot closer to being right! ;-)

    Hmm .. Let’s see :

    ***

    Its called precedent. Fundamentalist religion makes a habit of claiming there’s no doubt when they are flat out wrong.

    Religious fundamentalists claim to know something as fact when it ain’t.

    They claim to be certain the world was made in 6 days, 6,000 years ago – and are dead wrong.

    Now religious fundamentalism claims the same certainty about evolution being false / pi being 3 / the Sun going round the Earth not vice-versa / slavery being okay / genocide being okay (see the case of Saul & the Amalekites, the supposed global flood wiping out the wicked, the Canananite sbeing legimuately wiped fromtheir own land for the supposedly divinely “Chosen People” totake over & many more..), ad nauseam …

    Is it not at least plausible that the religious fundamentalists
    are again, equally wrong in their claim which had equal certainty?

    Can you not just admit religious fundamentalism gets it wrong and can’t be trusted to always have the right answer?

    Or that sometimes the answer may be outside religious fundamentalism and in something greater than religious fundamentalism instead – like science!?

    ***

    Aha! Now that sounds about right!;-) :-P

  50. Russ

    Geez then again, you almost made me spit something up with that “god” particle comment. A quick search would tell you that its just a nick name for a higgs boson, and not even one that physicists came up with afaik.

    And you keep saying “They” like there is some unified “They”. Science did not write whatever book you are talking about. An individual did. Science is *all* about the war of ideas and alternate ideas and theories are always entertained, and greatly rewarded if they have merit. But it is the responsibility of those with new ideas to substantiate their theories.

    Creationists have substantiated NOTHING. Its like the guy who comes along with the energy from nothing generator and can never prove a thing or even explain clearly how his device functions.

  51. StevoR-Correcting

    Argh typos! Um .. BA what is happeneingabout gettingsoemediting capabilityadded here? Please! It’d make thisgreta blog justsomuchbetter!

    TAKE II :

    [“Genocide is okay & demanded/ performed by God” in the Bible list :]

    See :

    1. the case of Saul & the Amalekites where King Saul lost “divine favour” for not committing the complete genocide of the Amalekites by sparing an Amalekite king – the “prophet” Samuel then went & completed the extermination and told Saul he’d lost divine favour and the kingship for showing too much mercy to non-jews;

    2. the Canaanites being “legitimately” (& on Yahwah’s orders) wiped from their own land for the supposedly divinely “Chosen People” to take over their “promised land of “Mlik & Honey

    BTW. Uh, Biblical literalists – where are those rivers flowing with milk and honey again? Most unlike any rivers I’ve ever heard of; particularly the highly polluted, over-exploited muddy drains of the Jordan and Yarkon rivers in Palestine!

    3.The supposed global flood wiping out the wicked, caused by God.

    (Couldn’t S/He have found a better solution to “pre-Flood” Humanity’s supposed “evil” than mass murder on – if you believe the fundamentalists -the worst scale ever?!

    4. Sodom & Gomorroah (spelling) being divinely destroyed again for supposed evil -and a female refugee who dares just look back at her hometown gets turned into salt for having the temerity to do so! :-O

    5. The tribe of Benjamin neraly getting exterminated by the other jewish tribes following an incident where a priests (levites) concubine was surrendered to a Benjaminite mob (by the Priest) to be pack raped and murdered by them. That concubine’s corpse was then cut up into pieces and a war aginst the Benjaminites started which nearly wiped them out – before they stole “wives” off another group.

    (That stories in the “book of Judges” along with more nasty stuff.)

    & there’s stacks more where these unpleasant examples came from…

    It amazes me that book so full of such hateful, unethical, racist rubbish as the Bible is (Especially its jewish Old Testament / Torah / Talmud segment) could ever be labelled “the Good Book! :-(

    It also amazes me that in this age of the space shuttle and internet, anybody takes this bronze age balony seriously and thinks it could somehow replace our scientific mindset as an effective and accurate portrayal of reality. What *is* up with that? :-(

  52. StevoR-Correcting

    Argh typos! Um .. BA what is happeneingabout gettingsoemediting capabilityadded here? Please! It’d make thisgreta blog justsomuchbetter!

    Is meant to read :

    Argh typos! Um .. BA what is happening about getting some form of editing capability added here?

    Please!

    It’d make this great blog just so much better!

    You see, you see?!

    (For example, no need for posts like this … Sigh.)

  53. MartinM

    It’s worse than that. Later in the interview he offers even more clarification:

    “We are evolving every year, every decade. That’s a fact, whether it’s to the intensity of the sun . . . or to the effects of walking on concrete. Of course, we are evolving to our environment. But that’s not relevant.”

    That’s right, he equates Darwin’s theory with Lamarck’s. Science FAIL

    Even worse, that’s the kind of statement a creationist could quite happily make. Nothing there about common descent, or natural mechanisms.

  54. MartinM

    If he was truly a creationist, he would not deny it as that is like denying a fundamental part of your religion. He is not going to lie about something like this.

    Heh. You’re new to this, aren’t you?

  55. T_U_T

    Its called precedent. Science makes a habit of claiming there’s no doubt when they are flat out wrong

    Yes. One guy long time ago has been mistaken about something so this causes a precedent and the entire group the guy belongs to can be dismissed as liars.

    Just a thought. The mercury guy was not only a scientist. He was also a human. Does that create a precedent that anything that a human said is most likely flat wrong, included your ideas about precedents ?

    Is that not the liar paradox ?

  56. MartinM

    So don’t slam those who disagree with your scientific ideas but accept that they may be right and you may be wrong

    What you seem to be missing is that no one is criticizing creationists for disagreeing with evolution. We criticize them for doing so badly. Is it possible that evolution is false? Yes. Is it possible that evolution is false because it violates the second law of thermodynamics? No. There’s a very slim chance that the creationists will turn out to be correct to disagree with evolution. That won’t change the fact that their arguments against evolution are wrong, stupid, and frequently dishonest.

    The other thing you’re missing is that even wrong ideas are frequently useful. The claim about Mercury was a single datapoint. Evolution is the central unifying theory of biology. It’s been subjected to a level of testing few other concepts in science will ever rate. You can provide plenty of examples about science being wrong about isolated cases, but how many can you provide of foundational theories turning out to be completely wrong? And I mean wrong, not just incomplete, like Newtonian physics. The mere fact that the theory of evolution works as well as it does means that any replacement will have to incorporate it in the same way GR and QM incorporate Newton. Observation constrains theory, and to the extent that evolution predicts our observations, any replacement will have to satisfy the same constraints.

  57. Peter Henderson

    What the Canadian science minister should have asked is “how old is the Earth/Universe”. It would have been interesting to hear his answer. This question always gives YECs away.

    Do not forget that YECs do in fact accept natural selection. However, they call this “variation within a kind” or speciation. It is not evolution. This is perhaps what the science minister meant when he answered the question.

  58. Darth Robo

    “Then Again”, what precisely are you saying that we should teach as alternatives to evolution, just because evolution MIGHT be found to be wrong at some unknown point in the future? (That’s a pretty big “might” by the way)

    And what’s this “God” idea you’re on about? What is the SCIENCE behind this said idea? And why is it in conflict with evolution?

  59. Todd W.

    @Then Again

    You know, it’s funny. The people who disparage science tend to be the only ones who actually claim that science knows everything and never admits that it could be wrong. In reality, the vast majority of scientists and those who understand science openly and readily admit that scientists make mistakes, that their ideas can be wrong, and that they do not know everything.

    And, for the record, “science” isn’t a sentient entity. It cannot be right or wrong. It is merely a process. The people, y’know, individual fallible humans, can make mistakes in their conclusions, but that should not cast doubt on the entirety of the discipline. I believe taking an opinion based on a single individual and casting it on an entire population is what one might call prejudice or stereotyping.

  60. Wayne Whig

    *As I pointed out in my post yesterday, religion is irrelevant only if it doesn’t affect the job. But as we have seen over the past 8 years in the US, religion does indeed have a tendency to affect people’s decisions, especially, critically, if they are a creationist. Then it colors everything they do, including trying to overthrow the Constitution.*

    Sorry, can you point out any instance whatsoever in which Goodyear has pushed `creationist’ views on anyone? Not just, `I believe he will because George W. Bush did…’ (overthrow the Constitution btw?)

    The answer is no. And, the question was originally a back-door attack on goodyear’s religion because, as I just mentioned, he has not imposed `creationist’ views on anyone under his mandate – views which, by the by, he has not even espoused.

    I will say again, as I said yesterday, if individuals are going to be queried as to their `anti-science’ beliefs, there would be virtually no one left in public life, because all religious views (and very many secular views) are `anti-science’ at their face.

    This is garbage journalism and I’m surprised you’ve decided to engage it.

  61. Matt

    @Then Again:

    You missed Dr Phil’s point: you’re comparing apples to oranges. The length of Mercury’s day is a fact (a single piece of data); the ToE is a Theory (an underlying theoretical explanation of a wide variety of phenomena). Overturning a “fact” is easy (if the “fact” is actually wrong, of course): take another measurement. Overturning a Theory is very difficult: the word “Theory” is now reserved in science for things that have a heck of a lot of supporting evidence. Maybe one or two bits of evidence will be overturned, but rewriting an entire theory requires explaining how a vast body of evidence has pointed us to an erroneous conclusion. And, as others have pointed out, nobody has yet done this. If you want to, go ahead. Publish your findings, collect your 1.5M kroner and tell your future grandkids to look for your name in their textbooks under “greatest biologist evah!!!”.

  62. Matt

    @Then Again (again):

    even if gravity is real doesn’t mean Darwininan evolution is.

    You owe me one irony meter — mine just exploded. By the same token, even if science got things wrong in the past, doesn’t mean they’re wrong about evolution. They could be, in which case there should be some evidence to demonstrate this fact. We’ve been waiting 150 years, though, and it hasn’t shown up. Quite the reverse, in fact. Nobody knew about DNA until a century after On The Origin Of Species debuted, but DNA evidence for evolution is now one of the strongest pillars of the ToE. Prediction -> test -> falsification or validation. See how this game is played?

    Its quite possible for science to ocassionally be right about some things (eg. gravity) & get others badly wrong. (eg. evolution)

    Good thing my irony meter’s already broken. Yes, this is possible. So is the reverse. Or any other combination. Forget possible. What’s probable? The great irony of your example is that our current ToG is actually weaker than our current ToE. (See Evolving_Squid’s comment on the original blog post about this story.) So do I hear you(or anyone, for that matter) demanding that scientists admit that the ToG could be secular lies and that we should teach the “alternative” “theory” of Intelligent Falling?

    After all, the Bible says that Jesus was lifted up into the sky. But, according to our current scientific theories of gravity and cosmology, this means that Jesus is floating around in space somewhere, not in heaven. Thus physics contradicts a literal reading of the Bible. Why are they not being taken to task for it? Why just the biologists? I could posit an answer, but I won’t. Would you like to enlighten us? Remember, scientifically, the ToE is on firmer ground (ahahaha) than the ToG. OK, go:

  63. Ismael

    IT’S JUST NOT AT ALL A RELEVANT QUESTION.

    I can believe whatever I want, just like you can. I’ll bring some of it into my daily life, and other bits I’ll leave out.

    It’s not the BELIEFS you should worry about, it’s thePEOPLE behind those beliefs.

    Creationism isn’t a bad idea, it’s just the people that worship it above all other things that are the bad idea. Science isn’t a bad idea, it’s just the people that worship it above all other things that are the bad idea.

    Everything in moderation.

    It’s great that you’re paying attention, but THINK before you speak. Stop nit-picking and grasping at any minor opportunity that comes your way.

  64. Manny

    None of the above comments mentioned the NSERC or the CIHR.

    In Canada, as in other Western democracies, science funding is controlled by non-governmental councils made up of scientists. Depending on the type of research, Canadian researchers apply to the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), or the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). The minister decides only on the total money available to these councils, not on the research project they will fund. I can assure you, from knowing personally several individuals sitting on these councils, that if the Minister attempted to control research, he would be publicly crucified and be forced to quit.

    GOODYEAR IS RIGHT, HIS PERSONAL BELIEFS ARE IRRELEVANT. WE IN CANADA HAVE BUREAUCRATIC STRUCTURES TO ENSURE IT REMAINS SO. I cannot believe the crap all of you write here. You are no better than the idiot journalists writing about this lately. I hope none of you is a career scientist.

  65. MartinM

    Creationism isn’t a bad idea

    Yes, it is. It’s a load of pseudoscientific bollocks.

  66. Michael Kearney

    I’d like to add this “spot on” (in my opinion) editorial from John Moore of the Globe and Mail today. Michael

    Ignorance is not a civil right
    John Moore

    When asked by a Globe and Mail science reporter, Canada’s Minister of State for Science and Technology wouldn’t say if he believed in evolution. Was that a problem, or just a niggling matter of personal conscience?

    Let’s put it this way: If Finance Minister Jim Flaherty were to say he didn’t understand how the money supply works but he prays daily for an end to the current economic turmoil, I believe we would all think we had a problem.

    Jonathan Kay — who columnized on this issue in Tuesday’s Post — thinks that religion is a private matter, and that those pesky secularists with all their logic and proven science are merely engaging in a “witch hunt.” With all due respect to him, this represents a forever mind-numbing failure to properly frame the place of science in our society.

    Science is not what we believe, it is what we know. It is based on observation, reason, fact and proof. Faith, on the other hand, is all those things we cannot test, document or prove. That’s why it’s called faith; we believe in the absence of proof.

    Some insist this makes science the enemy of religion. They are wrong.

    Here’s the syllogism that evolution’s faith-driven critics never seem to be able to master: Evolution is established science. The religious are free to think that God guided evolution; but since there is no proof of God, science remains agnostic on His role. This doesn’t mean scientists don’t believe in God. It means they can’t document His existence. What science cannot document, science leaves out of the record.

    Science Minister Gary Goodyear says he believes in things we cannot see. “Maybe,” he says, “we don’t have a powerful enough microscope yet.” This is a false logic that permeates the creationist community: the idea that because there is much to be revealed in the world, we can’t count on what we have already seen. Are creationists willing to apply this logic to medicine, and forgo Penicillin pending what we still don’t know about bacteriology? Do they reject what we already know about the world’s geography because we haven’t fully mapped the sea beds?

    Of course it matters whether the Science Minister acknowledges or contests evolution. This isn’t a case of a politician who likes to read the Bible and pray — it’s a Cabinet Minister who holds philosophical beliefs that are antithetical to his portfolio. Jonathan Kay insists Christian-hating lefties would never raise similar alarm over a Cabinet minister of another faith. Well this leftie, who holds faith in considerably high regard, would have very serious concerns about an aboriginal justice minister who declined to comment on the efficacy of Western legal systems, and would be even more up in arms if a Scientologist health minister refused to discuss mental illness. And I’m pretty sure the National Post editorial board would have some pretty pointed questions for a Muslim MP given the status of women portfolio.

    The first problem with Goodyear is that he fronts the science portfolio in a government that has demonstrated through its most recent budget that it doesn’t value the sector. The man delegated to argue the vital importance of science at the Cabinet table doesn’t actually know what it is. More significantly, Goodyear’s insistence that religion should come to bear on science provides comfort to those who teach their children the falsehood that to follow God you must reject science.

    This is the willful dissemination of scientific illiteracy. More frankly put, it is the promotion of stupidity.

    John.moore@cfrb.com
    John Moore is host of the drive home show on NewsTalk 1010 CFRB.
    Outside of Southern Ontario he can be heard at http://www.cfrb.com.

  67. Lawrence

    I’ve said it before & I’ll say it again. Science & our knowledge of the Universe grows with each passing year. With greater technology, we can perceive areas of the natural world that we couldn’t before (like DNA, for example) that change our thinking on a particular theory (or generate new ones).

    I get very upset every time ID’ers or Creationists claim that Science refuses to listen to them or refuse to admit when they are wrong. Plenty of theories have changed or been discarded over the years – they just don’t do it on a whim.

    The whole reason we have a scientific process is to hold those ideas & theories to a higher standard – to provide proof, facts, and data to support their conclusions. On a daily basis, Scientists constantly test new ideas against old ones, and when new information or data is brought to light, the Scientific community takes notice & tries to replicate the same results.

    For ID’ers & Creationists – there are no tests, no results, etc – they are the ones that refuse to change or accept the fact they might be wrong. A Scientist is not going to admit he was wrong without any proof or evidence submitted that points to an alternate conclusion. “Because the Bible says So” is not scientifically proveable.

    And yes, Scientists do admit, quite often, that there is plenty they don’t know. Just because Science doesn’t have an answer today does not automatically mean “God Did It.”

    Just because we didn’t understand the nature of Lightning – doesn’t mean “God Did It.” Just as today, gaps in our scientific knowledge do not mean “God Did It,” it just means that technology needs to advance, our understanding needs to advance, and we need to continue to test, test, test to figure out what it is exactly that we don’t know.

    Science is a process – not a belief system.

    Religion doesn’t change (it can’t – because God is infallible, right?) – Science change & expand, contract, revise, and help understand. Did praying to God put a man on the Moon? I don’t think so.

    Sorry – just a little ticked off this morning.

  68. Matt

    @Manny:

    And Bush didn’t decide which projects would be funded by the NSF, but it’s still worrying when he spouts anti-scientific nonsense. The Minister was asked about evolution and HE brought up Christianity. If his beliefs (about science) are irrelevant to his position (as a government official related to the governance of science) then

    1) his response should have been roughly what you said: “I don’t get to decide who gets funded, so my views on that are irrelevant. We have scientific panels to decide funding; as I understand it, the scientific consensus is that the Theory of Evolution is the fundamental underpinning of the biological sciences, so I expect that research proposals will be funded accordingly.”

    2) why have any government officials? Seems like a massive waste of money: “here, wear this silly hat that says ‘sciencey guy’ and we’ll pay you. Just don’t actually DO anything. Don’t have any influence. Don’t try to dictate policy at any level. Just wear the damn hat and keep quiet.”

  69. Matt

    @Manny:
    Ignore my last post, and just read John Moore’s editorial that Michael Kearney posted.

    @Michael K:
    Thanks. That was superlative. I just emailed Moore to give him a thumbs up.

  70. zach

    It will never cease to amaze me, those people who investigate the aspects of nature and reality they don’t understand, for investigation and experimentation are the most obvious professions of ignorance, are called arrogant by those who claim to know the exact nature of everything through God’s word.

  71. Quatguy

    The scientific process rocks!

    Information and knowledge is power.

    Religion is not science and the bible (or Koran etc.) should not be used as the basis for the search of scientific truths (unless perhaps you are researching some aspect of biblical archaeology or historical reference, which is then fine, go ahead).

    Religion when used by an individual to get them through their day (or lives)is nobody’s business but their own.

    Religion, when imposed on others, used to influence science or used to support ignorance should be fought tooth and nail and is truely a burden on society.

    Just a few general thoughts.

    Paul

  72. Mark P

    Gday Phil,

    Big fan of your work, love the space stuff, and the skeptic stuff.

    However, I gotta take issue with your thoughts on religion, mate. You said ‘…religion does indeed have a tendency to affect people’s decisions, especially, critically, if they are a creationist.’ What the?!? Seriously mate, I lost a whole lot of respect for you there. You’re implying that a person in power, or a scientific person, should not have beliefs, as those beliefs may cloud his decision. That’s not true, and you know it.

    Now, I’m not condoning what this fella has done, he has clearly shown that he struggles to seperate his religion from his science, but until he does something obviously anti-science, then you have no right (and I mean NO right) to imply that his religious beliefs are clouding his judgement.

    You should be more careful what you say on such a public, popular blog.

    I will continue reading your blog (as I have for years now), but rest assured that if you continue spurting anti-religious propaganda, then, well, you’ll lose me. And I want to keep reading about astronomy, and skepticism, I really do! So please, turn the FUD down a notch.

    Sincerely,

    Mark

    PS You’re more than welcome to continue this discussion via email, if you’re interested.

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