A Letter to the PM: Regarding Minister Goodyear

In response to the shocking revelation of comments by Canada’s Minister of State for Science and Technology on evolution.

(see here for some great responses from the research community)

To the office of the Prime Minister of Canada:

As a student in scientific field, I wish to express the deep concern I felt reading about Minister Goodyear’s comments on a central fact of scientific knowledge – evolution. I was disappointed to learn that the man in charge of scientific development in this country is so deeply ignorant of his domain. The fact is that evolution is a central pillar of many avenues of scientific research today – from biomedical advances which increase our ability of understand and fight diseases, to even seemingly unrelated fields such as my own – artificial intelligence – where concepts of evolution have been adapted into successful computational techniques. Far from being a controversial issue, as some dishonest partisans imply, there is no controversy amongst scientists; Evolution is a fact, and an important one.

Moreover, it is confusing that the Minister would frame the question as a matter of belief in the first place – evolution is the result of overwhelming evidence and consistent data from a wide array of research avenues. To frame the issue as one of personal belief or even as a matter of religious freedom is to miss the point entirely, and suggests a frightening lack of understanding on the Minister’s part.

To have the Minister of Science be so ignorant of a central fact of scientific knowledge is absurd – as absurd as if the Finance Minister did not “believe” in supply-and-demand, or if the Minister of Defense did not “believe” in the existence of Iraq. How can Canada hope to remain relevant and competitive as a location for research if those in charge are so incompetent? As a student looking towards graduate school, such revelations about our country’s leadership make me seriously question whether I wish to continue my studies in Canada, or go elsewhere.

I sincerely hope that further clarifications will be made on the Minister’s stance on this issue and that, if it his found that he is as ignorant as his previous comments suggest, a more suitable replacement will be found.

Beyond the comments on evolution, I am further concerned that the minister hinted at an approach the research focusing on commercial applications. Such a focus on research that will sell will harm the research community in Canada; pure research is important and valuable, and it should not be the domain of the government to decide which avenues are likely to be the most profitable.

Nicholas FitzGerald

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Nicholas is a senior undergraduate majoring in Cognitive Systems (Computational Intelligence stream). He enjoys a wide spectrum of intellectual pursuits from programming to philosophizing. As well as writing for the Terry project, he maintains a private blog, and a personal home page. His long-term goals include earning his Ph.D, and crushing all life beneath the iron-clad heel of his merciless robotic cohort.

4 Responses to “A Letter to the PM: Regarding Minister Goodyear”

  1. Nicholas FitzGerald

    Two major things are wrong with his response:

    1. “Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s spokesperson, Kory Teneycke, said Goodyear didn’t answer the question because it would have made it seem as if religion had a role in science policy.”

    The question said nothing about religion! The question the minister was asked was about evolution. It was he (Minister Goodyear) who made it a question about religion, and that is the problem. The minister in charge of science policy should not be answering scientific questions from a religious viewpoint.

    2. “It’s unfortunate a reporter has chosen to take this as something of interest when in fact the focus should be on . . . creating jobs and securing our economic future.”

    This should NOT be the focus of the Science minister. Research funding should be based on the benefits to the research community, not on the commercial possibilities attached to them. It is a dangerous precedent if research funding in Canada is going to be based on commercial output…

    But oh man, this snarky remark from the liberals made my day:

    “Our science critic is a former astronaut (Marc Garneau), he can testify from personal experience that the world is round, it’s not flat,” Liberal MP Ralph Gooddale told Power Play. “I think that distinguishes our decision making processes from the Conservatives.”

  2. Nicholas FitzGerald

    Oh, also he is still dodging the question in his discussion of evolution:

    “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.”

    Seems like he’s he either really does not understand the theory of evolution, or he is hedging his bets by trotting out the creationist line about believing “microevolution” but not “macroevolution”… whatever that means.

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