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The Shy Minister PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by James Randi   

Gary Goodyear, the Canadian Minister of State for Science and Technology, who is at the centre of a current fuss over federal funding cuts to research in that country, has been pressed by the media and by interested citizens to state - yes or no - whether or not he believes in one of the most basic findings of modern science, a constantly reconfirmed triumph of reason and research: evolution of species. He just flat-out won't say. There's a suspicion that Mr. Goodyear is suspicious of this aspect of science, perhaps because he's a creationist. Asked about those rumours, Mr. Goodyear said that "such conversations are not worth having." I think we'd strongly disagree on that ...

(I must say that I'm happy to see that President Obama's suggestion of making Sanjay Gupta the US Science & Technology boss, was not realized. The charismatic Gupta had the looks and smile for the job, and far better qualifications than Mr. Goodyear, but he withdrew his name after a heavy negative reaction resulted to his name being introduced. See this link for a few details...)

You should know that Mr. Goodyear, 51, is a chiropractor from Cambridge, Ontario, who studied chemistry and physics courses as an undergraduate at the University of Waterloo, welding and automotive mechanics, statistics and kinesiology. Those are his total qualifications for the position which he now occupies.

(I'll add, to be fair, that it's not necessarily "applied kinesiology" [AK] that is referred to here, since the term kinesiology refers to the legitimate study of body movements, while AK is pure quackery.)

In response to an inquiry from the Globe & Mail newspaper about his shyness, Minister Goodyear said:

I'm not going to answer that question [about evolution]. I am a Christian, and I don't think anybody asking a question about my religion is appropriate.

Brian Alters, founder and director of the Evolution Education Research Centre at McGill University in Montreal, characterized Goodyear's refusal to answer:

It is the same as asking the gentleman, "Do you believe the world is flat?" and he doesn't answer on religious grounds. Or gravity, or plate tectonics, or that the Earth goes around the sun.

Executive director of the Canadian Association of University Teachers, James Turk, said he was shocked that the minister would invoke religion when asked about evolution:

It is inconceivable that a government would have a minister of science that rejects the basis of scientific discovery and traditions.

Well, it may be worse than that. Mr. Goodyear claims that when he was in high school, he'd discovered a dramatic and unrecognized fact about internal combustion engines that should have made him a millionaire before graduation, though he seems not to have followed up on it. He says:

We [students] were already tweaking with a coil that would wrap around the upper [radiator] hose and it got an extra five miles to the gallon... So I've been there on this discovery stuff.

Does he really believe this? And does he believe in evolution?

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I guess Canadians can't be complacent about creationism any more.
written by ContainsCaffeine, March 17, 2009
Great article. As a Canadian, I always thought the problem of creationists in the government was only in the US. It was bad enough that I knew he was a chiropracter, but this makes me even more concerned. But, I believe it is promising that the Canadian press is covering this in a pretty negative (and fair) light, and that Canadian citizens are responding with concern. Hopefully his influence on science funding and policies can be nipped in the bud.
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A Problem with Government
written by Realitysage, March 17, 2009
Unfortunately if you kicked out all the woo believers in any government, hardly anyone would be around to ruin run things including the dogcatcher.
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written by Gr8wight, March 18, 2009
Luckily, Mr. Goodyear has very little influence on science policiy in Canada. The "Minister of State" position is little more than a junior administrative position. It comes with a car and a bigger office, but little real power or responsibility. It was really just a bone thrown by Prime Minister Harper to Goodyear for his supprt during the election.
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written by MadScientist, March 18, 2009
I always thought Canada might be too cold for weasels - obviously I was wrong. (My apologies for denigrating those furry little animals by associating them with an evasive cuckoo politician. And of course my apologies to the cuckoos for associating them with a politician.)
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written by joeybernard, March 18, 2009
I wouldn't put too much weight on this particular minister being an issue. In Canadian politics, almost all of the ministers seem to be figureheads, there to do whatever Harper tells them to do. Now, if there was evidence that Harper was a creationist, I'd be worried about it actually affecting policy.
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Link?
written by rosie, March 18, 2009
For me, that link redirects back to this article.
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Link
written by rosie, March 18, 2009
... and when I track it down, the november-9-2007 SWIFT doesn't appear to be relevant.
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In and Out
written by RobbieD, March 18, 2009
Looking at Wikipedia for Gary Goodyear leads you to the following:-

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/In_and_Out_scandal

Seems Mr Goodyear is so good at filibuster and delaying actual debate that he was thrown out as chair of the Canadian House of Commons Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs by a vote of no confidence. Hmmm
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written by WendyL, March 18, 2009
Goodyear has admitted that he DOES believe in evolution. Seems he just didn't want to answer the question.

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/LAC.20090318.GOODYEAR18/TPStory/National

Isn't it interesting that after he refused to answer the question, all the blogs blew up with assumptions that Goodyear is a creationist. I thought we were supposed to skeptical?
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written by Kuroyume, March 18, 2009
Unfortunately if you kicked out all the woo believers in any government, hardly anyone would be around to ruin run things including the dogcatcher.


While I agree with your statement fully, this is the Minister of State for Scienceand Technology that we're talking about. How can he be 'iffy' about Evolutionary Theory and evolution and be the minister for 'Science'? It's like making James Randi the Pope of the RCC. Evolution is as much an underpinning pillar of science as gravity, electromagnetics, and chemistry. Very little of our technology would work without them either.
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written by Beamstalk, March 18, 2009
"Isn't it interesting that after he refused to answer the question, all the blogs blew up with assumptions that Goodyear is a creationist. I thought we were supposed to skeptical?"

Yes, but his response about evolution was that he was a Christian and didn't discuss his religion. What does evolution have to do with Christianity? His answer was evasive and had no relevance to the question unless you were a creationist that denied evolution. I find it interesting that he waited to answer the question and gave an answer that does not directly conflict with religion like he suggested with his first answer. Maybe he was pandering to the creationists, he is a politician, or maybe he didn't realize the implications of what he was saying at the time, he could be covering his tracks now after the negative backlash, or there is just something else I can't think of right now. I just find his first response evasive and interesting. It is good that he has come back and finally answered the question.
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written by Bruno, March 18, 2009
Isn't it interesting that after he refused to answer the question, all the blogs blew up with assumptions that Goodyear is a creationist. I thought we were supposed to skeptical?

It is the most reasonable explanation of his behaviour. Someone who thinks that evolution is a religious position is unlikely to be a scientist.
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Pure Bashing, is that it?, Lowly rated comment [Show]
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written by MJG, March 18, 2009

As if that wasn't enough, we are shown Mr. Goodyear's total qualifications, emphasizing chiropractor and student of kinesiology. For all of you that don't understand, this is a scientific method called ad hominem attack.


Ah, no danieljref. An ad hominem attack is not a "scientific method". It is rhetorical technique that is based on a logical fallacy. It consists of trying to discredit a claim made by one's opponent by attacking a characteristic of that opponent that is irrelevant to his claim.

If you wish to claim that an ad hominem attack has been made, please identify the claim that Mr. Goodyear had made. Then please identify the attack that has been made upon a characteristic that he possesses. Then please demonstrate how that characteristic is not relevant to the claim Mr. Goodyear has made.

Or, alternatively. Stop using terms you don't understand.
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written by Willy K, March 18, 2009
What's up with politicians who live on the north?

Apparently Mr. Goodyear of Canada shares with Mrs. Palin of Alaska a lack of intelligence and a lack of knowledge. They seem to demonstrate this with every utterance about the state of scientific knowledge. IMHO they both are idiots when it comes to politics, why would a politician knowingly alienate the majority of the electorate just to please a angry, vocal minority?

If they want power, money and blindly loyal sycophants all they need to do is start a church in an affluent area. smilies/wink.gif
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Does he really believe?
written by AndyD, March 18, 2009
Given that his first response was to equate evolution with religion, it is right to doubt his understanding and acceptance of the science. As for his later admission that he believes, does he really?

Creationists accept microevolution - change within "kinds" - but not the macroevolution that forms the basis of the biological sciences. Goodyear's comment about humans "evolving" to adapt to their environment isn't a strong statement in favour of macroevolution. IF he is a creationist, then perhaps he was coached on how to over a response that seemed supportive without undermining his religious beliefs.

It might just be, as others have said, that he was playing politician and trying not to put creationists offside by defending religion. If so, it appears to have been a poor strategy.

The question remains open as far as I can tell. The only way to close it is for Goodyear to unequivocally state his support for science in the classroom. If Canada is "enjoying" the same push to get God into the science class as other places are then he needs to go further and state that God has no place there. Until then, skeptics are right to harbour doubts about his position.
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written by bosshog, March 19, 2009
Firstly, I would guess that a government "science and technology" minister would be oriented towards practical application of the physical sciences such as agricultural innovations, synthetic paving materials and environmental protection and the like. Although it is laughable that such a figure would be a creationist it wouldn't really affect his job performance.
Secondly, the presumption that Canada is somehow inherently more rational or scientific than the US seems to me to be chauvinistic posturing and pretense more than anything else. Sure, the science dweebs in high school were boring, but boring does not necessarily equal smart.
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Belief?
written by Arkayik, March 19, 2009
I have no inside-track on what the Minister does or does not believe, I'm left to speculate with the rest of the world.

If one views it from a political point of view, there is no win to answer a "belief" question. If someone asks me if I "believe" in Evolution, I might assume they're asking a religious question, or setting me up for a follow-up religious question. IMHO, don't ask about beliefs if you want to discuss science... Neither do I confess belief in Evolution, I do accept evolution as the best (only) explanation to fit the currently available evidence.

I think we need some perspective on the whole issue. Adherence to Scientism (unrelated to Scientology) does not automatically confer immunity from crackpot theories... There is a lunatic wandering around who is credited with co-discovering DNA.

While I'd prefer the portfolio be held by an individual strongly able to advocate for Science, I'm not yet prepared to hang the guy for avoiding what he saw as a potential Kobayashi Maru... He is after all doing what a politician does, prevaricating....

While I'm not a big fan of NOMA because I think it grants religions too much, it is an elegant policy which I'm surprised more politicians don't embrace.

Cheers,

Arkayik
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written by Bruno, March 19, 2009
@danieljref: So you really think evolution theory was arrived at in the same manner as, say creationism, christianity or any religious belief?
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Daniel
written by Bill Henry, March 20, 2009
Sad.

If you don't understand how science works you shouldn't be the minister of science and technology. You can't deny that evolution is fact (in the same sense gravity is) and be able to do your job properly. I support the conservatives in Canada, but they do a lot of sad things and this is one of them.

I repeat, evolution is fact. What is not clear is the mechinisms of how evolution works. Intelligent educated people accept that gravity, chemistry, geology and evolution are all fields based on facts, and they are explained by theories that are continually being refined. The world may be 7 billion years old, or 8. This is debatable. It is not 10 years old, or 6500 years old or even 10 million years old. The evidence is overwhelming. It is also not a trillion years old. Period.
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written by brucea, March 20, 2009
I'm not sure if I agree or disagree with Daniel. While I believe the evidence supporting evolution is significant, if not almost overwhelming, it is still not a fact - it is a "theory", as compared to a "law". The fact that it is still a theory is one of the great aspects of science.

I do know that I have pressured my local MP to have the conservative party reconsider Mr. Goodyear as the Minister of State for Science & Technology, as he is not worthy of the position. A little too much woo for me. (I have traditionally supported the conservative party, in its various forms, in Canada).

(for reference, I consider the "right wing" of Canada to be more aligned with the American Democrats than the Rebulicans).
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written by Caller X, March 21, 2009
Kuroyume wrote:
Evolution is as much an underpinning pillar of science as gravity, electromagnetics, and chemistry. Very little of our technology would work without them either.


Perhaps you'd like to rephrase. How often do you use evolution in daily life? Thinking about it and feeling good about being superior to people who believe in nonsense doesn't count. You're verging on worshipping evolution.

ALL of our technology works without evolution. Radio works without gravity, as do computers. For that matter, there's a simple machine that works without gravity. It's called a lever. I would tell you screw, too, but there's some debate about that.
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written by knitwit, March 21, 2009
Technology may WORK without evolution, but the science behind technology is part and parcel to evolution. You cannot separate out evolution from the rest of science. I'm going to talk to a good scientist I know and see if I can come up with an example of technological development related to evolution because something is rattling around in my head but it's very late and I can't think of it.
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written by SalzVR6, March 22, 2009
One does not 'use' evolution as a tool, nor does one use most scientific laws that way either. It's interesting you mention radio as something you use- that technology works without evolution. Consider vacuum tubes and how the evolution of semiconductors has changed all that.

You don't 'use' gravity, but you're held to it's constraints and behavior for your entire existence. Same follows for evolution.
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written by pxatkins, March 23, 2009
re. danieljref ... It's disappointing that so many will down-vote a post because it does not jive with the mantra.
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Technology related to evolution
written by Marlinspike, March 25, 2009
Knitwit wrote:

"I'm going to talk to a good scientist I know and see if I can come up with an example of technological development related to evolution because something is rattling around in my head but it's very late and I can't think of it. "

The development of new antibiotics is driven by the evolution of drug resistant bacteria. I believe the manufacture of monoclonal antibodies uses techniques derived from the study of evolution.



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written by Steel Rat, April 12, 2009
Radio works without gravity, as do computers. For that matter, there's a simple machine that works without gravity. It's called a lever.


Wow, ok. Let's see you make a radio or a computer without gravity. and a lever, well without gravity you wouldn't NEED a lever...
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