Goodyear’s bias undermines science

Gary Goodyear is wrong. Earlier this week, during an interview with the Globe and Mail's Anne McIlroy, the Canadian Minister of State for Science and Technology refused to say he believed in evolution. Declaring himself a Christian, he equated questions a

Gary Goodyear is wrong.

Earlier this week, during an interview with the Globe and Mail’s Anne McIlroy, the Canadian Minister of State for Science and Technology refused to say he believed in evolution.

Declaring himself a Christian, he equated questions about evolution with religion - and he wouldn’t answer.

“Not appropriate,” he said.

“I do believe that just because you can’t see it under a microscope doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist,” he added. “It could mean we don’t have a powerful enough microscope yet. So I’m not fussy on this business that we already know everything. É I think we need to recognize that we don’t know.”

That type of pseudo-scientific claptrap makes scientists nervous, especially coming from the guy who holds the chequebook. Heck, it makes educated people nervous.

Which is why Goodyear’s remarks were so controversial.

And it’s why Goodyear, a chiropractor, is now equivocating.

On CTV, he said he believes in evolution. But his remarks do little to bolster confidence.

“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.”

And this is where Goodyear’s mistaken.

Whether Goodyear publicly declares a belief in evolution does matter. It sends a message about government support, or lack thereof.

When Goodyear talks science, it’s all practical stuff – fixing car engines to get better gas mileage, making better shoes to negotiate our environment. But, in dodging evolution, he seems uncomfortable with higher science – the less practical stuff.

Goodyear gives the impression science is all about making stuff to make money to bolster the economy.

However, it’s the theoretical, nonpractical stuff – basic curiosity – that usually pushes society forward. That’s where the world-changing research lies.

And right now, the researchers behind that magic are jittery.

Federal support to science has been slashed.

You might remember that Ottawa recently cut support to Genome Canada, a non-profit, nongovernment agency that employs more than 2,000 people, supports 33 research projects in cellular biology, agriculture and cancer research.

Canada was a world leader, but now that is in doubt. Last year, the feds gave it $140 million. This year it will get nothing.

Ottawa’s move away from such raw science comes at a time when the US is coming out of eight years of Christian fog.

President Barack Obama is pumping money into science for the future of the US economy.

In the face of that, Canada risks losing talented scientists to cash-flush US research centres.

Restricting science because of faith is going to retard Canada’s economy, and its future development.

Goodyear says his views on evolution aren’t anybody’s concern.

But he’s wrong.

His tepid support of evolution betrays a bias. And when it comes to science, biases can hide basic truths and lead to wonky results. (Richard Mostyn)

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