Gary Goodyear Would Be an International Embarrassment, if Anyone Were Paying Attention
Last month I wished the ghost of Charles Darwin a happy 200th birthday with a somewhat downbeat post, which noted the depressing prevalence of creationism in 21st century Canada. Now it seems that the intellectual infection may extend to our Minister of State for Science and Technology, Gary Goodyear.
The trouble started when the Globe and Mail asked Goodyear whether he believed in evolution. The article implied that the question was meant to follow up “rumours” that Goodyear might be a creationist, and his reply certainly left room for the possibility:
“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… said in an interview with The Globe and Mail.
This Tuesday he “clarified” his views on evolution by saying:
“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.”
That simply doesn’t sound like any form of evolutionary theory I’ve ever heard of. Human evolution takes place on a time scale of generations, not years, and it certainly doesn’t have much to do with one’s choice of footwear. It’s hard to take this statement as anything but either a clumsy attempt to obfuscate or a display of total ignorance of the subject. Worse yet, the Wednesday installment of the Goodyear evolution saga was a mind-boggling declaration that creationist beliefs would have “no relevance” to a person’s fitness to hold the Science and Technology portfolio.
No relevance? That’s like saying it should be all right for the Foreign Minister to believe that the United Nations is secretly controlled by reptile women from Venus. Evolution, of the non-chiropractic variety, is a scientific fact as basic as the Copernican theory of the solar system. Cabinet members are not necessarily supposed to be experts on their portfolios, but for a minister to be either doubtful or ignorant about something so fundamental is inexcusable. Goodyear is verging on the absurdity level of South Africa’s former Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, the infamous “Dr Beetroot” who used to argue that AIDS victims should forget about anti-retroviral drugs and just eat the right vegetables.
Unlike Tshabalala-Msimang, Goodyear is only a small-scale international embarrassment. At least a couple of scientifically-minded American bloggers, P.Z. Myers at Pharyngula and Phil Plait at Bad Astronomy, have taken the time to express disgust, but the mainstream foreign media seem not to be paying attention. Sometimes Canada’s low global profile is a blessing in disguise. Nevertheless, I would much rather have a Minister of State for Science and Technology that the country can actually take pride in. Stephen Harper, if you’re reading this, please ease Gary Goodyear into another job before too many people outside Canada notice how spectacularly unfit he is for his current one.