Coyne v. Wells on Gary Goodyear


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Coyne v. Wells on Gary Goodyear

  1. At the risk of sounding like a shameless macleans.ca shill, that was by far the best videothing yet.

    • Great videothing except for the “smartypants” business. Coyne and others say the evolution debate is settled, done, over, adios amigo’s. But it ain’t so. There are hundreds, if not thousands of scientist who use scientific arguments to prove a young earth. Look at the past and present boards of Creation Research Institute. org.
      I respect the intellects of Wells and Coyne but, neither is an expert at everything, even if they have plaques above their desks to the contrary.

      • Actually those little rectangular things over my shoulder are Bill Cosby tickets.

        • Excuse me for staring, but I thought those were just more heads.

  2. Good vlog. Methinks the comments here are going to be lively, so let me just show off my equanimity by saying, re: the Christian social conservatives: they started it. We had a nice, comfortable, rational arrangement going before they came along, in which all relics of the Thirty Years’ War were collecting dust and rotting away in the attic: God was not invoked in petty partisan squabbles to justify particular social views, even those of Dark Age social conservatism, and then they broke the truce. Now they want to be able to say, of any policy, “God told me to do it.” I am not eager to wait and judge them on their actions when they preemptively argue for them on that basis, first of all because that is an insane basis for any policy and opens the door to exactly the kind of irrational identity politics that destroyed the 17th century, and second because I am not a wimp. So if Gary Goodyear isn’t man enough or smart enough to argue his “beliefs” rationally, he’ll get all the ridicule he deserves, which is plenty.

    • “they started it”

      started what?

      “Now they want to be able to say, of any policy, “God told me to do it.””

      I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone in the Harper Conservative administration nor the Bush Conservative admin ever saying such a thing. I do believe I’ve heard of many hyper-ventilating Liberals trying their hardest to make Conservatives say these things.

      Thanks to Aaron Wherry, we know that the media have been hounding Conservative MPs for weeks trying to get at least one of them to speak negatively of evolution, and now they’ve found their victim.

      “if Gary Goodyear isn’t man enough or smart enough to argue his “beliefs” rationally,”

      What is this, the Spanish inquisition? You want to turn politicians into preachers? You want Gary Goodyear preaching Christian doctrine and Obama acting like Reverend Wright?

      • Started what? Why, the opposition between religion and the modern world.

        “I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone in the Harper Conservative administration nor the Bush Conservative admin ever saying such a thing.”

        Jesus, sf, you are literal-minded. I mean backing up your opinion by saying, “Well, that’s my opinion.” That’s not an argument, it’s an anti-argument. In this case it has a religious basis, but really it would be just as absurd to answer every Why? with a secular “Because!”

        I do indeed want to turn politicians into preachers if their politics are learned from preachers. Not that I want to hear Gary Goodyear’s version of Christian doctrine, of which I’m sure he knows as little as he does about evolution. (“As the great Luther said, ‘Let the little hobbits come to me.'”) But if a member asserts something rather odd, I’d like more than a smirk and a “Trust me, I know.”

        • I can’t disagree with asking for politicians to argue their opinion. I cannot disagee with your position.

          Although to define these things as “religion” vs the “moden world”, that I do not agree with. I’m not religious myself, but I do not think that makes me a more modern person.

          And at the same time, there are many policies that are held “sacred” by the secular, that have no real basis in fact and are just as religious as any other doctrine.

          For instance, medicare: the position that nobody should have to pay for health care, that is an ethical position that is never, ever, backed up by logical debate, it is simply held as a moral and ethical absolute that must never be questioned.

          Same goes for multiculturalism. There’s never been a logical or scientific argument for a policy that encourages us all to do things differently, rather than a policy that encourages us to have common traditions. It’s considered a sacred unquestionable truth in Canada that somehow it is better to have a country fragmented by innumerable ethnic identities.

          Another example: an environmental movement that is becoming more and more religious every day (the green shift was a religious and not a logical policy). The secular crazies that are clamoring for us to return to the stone age are just as illogical as any creationist.

          Anyway, my point is not that I am against any of those things, my point is that the secular are just as irrational as the religious.

          We know that our health care system, in terms of service, is inferior to most other western nations, yet our health ministers refuse to change the system because of an attachment to a secular ideology that is essentially a religion. And that does not seem to bother anyone. To me there is no difference.

          There are just as many secular ideas that have no basis in rational argument as there are religious ones.

  3. Paul, I know you have a soft spot somewhere for Linda Keen, but to lump her in with others who are “accredited” seems a bit of a stretch (unless you were referring to her position as a certified agrologist).

    If you were to post her cv as you have for others, I think you would find she has a “B.Sc. (honours in chemistry) and M.Sc. (agriculture sciences) from the University of Alberta”, and I see no evidence that she had any specific or even general experience with nuclear energy, physics, engineering or being head of a regulatory agency prior to her taking her position as President of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, 2001.

    • Good point, Dot. I don’t see how Linda Keen could possibly be seen as an example of Conservative “anti-elitism” against credentialed “smarty-pants”.

    • I have never met Linda Keen, couldn’t pick her out of a police lineup, and have seen the significant evidence that she over-reacted to the problem that led to her sacking. But it’s tiresome, if typical, that you would decide I keep mentioning her because of a “soft spot.” Three points:

      1) How’s Chalk River looking these days? Tickety-boo?
      2) The mandate of Keen’s successor has been changed, which is your best hint that she was exercising her mandate as it was then described. If the government had a problem with her judgment there were all kinds of ways they could react; sacking her peremptorily and tarring her in the House of Commons as a Liberal partisan probably isn’t the smartest. The PM figured that out, eventually, and began belatedly denying he had made the partisan smear he had made. She is suing for wrongful dismissal; do you suppose she’ll drop her suit the way Harper tends to drop his? I have a hunch she won’t.
      3) On qualifications: before I flunked out of second year as a chemistry major at Western, I had studied freshman physics and calculus, second-year calculus and physical chemistry, which is closer to physics than to anyone’s idea of Laboratory Fun Time. Plus a half-dozen “easy” courses like org, cell biology and psychology. Keen doubled the courseload that broke me and sent me running with my tail between my legs to Poli Sci on her way to her first of two science degrees. What’s your cv look like?

      • Greg Weston’s dynamite column this past Sunday suggests there’s a problem in the space Keen left when the government sacked her in a hurry.


        For what it’s worth, I support nuclear energy as a relatively clean, safe source of new power. But not if the government endorses absurd and shady contortions to short-circuit regulatory and safety checks.

        • Wow, that’s a heck of a piece by Greg Weston. Rather unnerving.

      • 1) Irrelevant to Linda Keen’s dismissal. The Sierra Club etc. uses these types of techniques to cloud the issue. Btw, did you know that prior to the “Linda Keen” affair, most environmental NGOs were claiming the the Linda Keen run CNSC was in bed with AECL? Funny how quickly their tune changed when they saw it was politically advantageous to do so. Personal/profesional smears tend to be viewed as collateral damage in these types of undertakings.

        2) Harper was improperly partisan. Don’t disagree. I have no knowledge of how she happened to become President of the CNSC, only to note that she came from within Nat Resources bureaucracy – I would hope that there was a proper evaluation process put in place at the time, outside of the government of the day. Wrongful dismissal? I have my doubts she’ll be successful in court – she did afterall quit, eventually. Oh, constructive dismissal you say? A legal issue for some to hand-wring over.

        3) Was a professional engineer, MBA, with experience including working in resources and regulated industries and having appeared in regulatory hearings – entering evidence and cross examining witnesses. Western. My professional background (engineering) and design experience gives me some understanding of calculating risks, factors of safety, and double, triple, quadruple, quintuple etc jeopardy.

        And yes, I did watch Linda Keen appear before parliament, and Committee as well as Professional Engineers with specific experience in running nuclear facilities, and Chalk River, refute her testimony. As you may/may not be aware, to become a professional engineer, you must not only have been accredited by a recognized university, have specific expertise in your area of practice, but also pass professional ethics exams. Paramount to any practicing engineer is public safety. And if they fail to act in that capacity, they can be subject to professional discipline, as could, for example, a lawyer.

        So, when the head engineer, responsible for operating Chalk River (who lived I believe in the community in close proximity to Chalk River), as well as independent consultants, claimed that the facility was safe to operate when Keen was claiming it was not, I look at the evidence/arguments from a perspective that some laypersons don’t have. Something that subsequent journalists have begun to catch up with.

  4. I agree with Kady. Easily the best Coyne vs Wells so far.

    I agree with both commentators that there should not be intellectual/religious litmus tests before you are allowed to become MP/Minister and that actions are much more important than thoughts.

    What I found most interesting about this dialogue was Wells talking about Cons and their poor response to dissent. Are Cons incapable of making an argument in the face of opposition or do they think ‘ankle biter’ plays to the Tim Horton’s crowd better than reasoned responses? I wonder about this because it is one the things that frustrates me the most about this admin. They are not engaging in debate and that’s annoying because they would help Con/con movement a lot if they took these issues seriously instead of making puerile insults.

    • The “right to religious freedom” means you are not arrested for your beliefs, it has nothing to do with putting on a bunny suit and hopping around Parliament Hill and then saying “That’s my religion, don’t laugh.”

      Christianity really is dead if it can only survive on special wildlife reserves of the mind. I question the sincerity of any Christian who is unwilling to reevaluate their faith continually — whose faith, let us say, does not evolve as one idea proves infertile, another staves off predators, a third enhances vision.

      • Christianity is fine. Certain christian groups could perhaps use some more education and to be open to more scholastic ways of thinking.

        • I agree that Christianity is fine per se ipsam, but it has something of a PR problem when Goodyearism is able to appropriate the name and nobody bats an eyelid. There should be a vigorous theological response to “creationism” and, though I haven’t looked carefully for it, I can’t say I’ve seen it in the mainstream press.

          • There is indeed a vigorous theological response to creationism, and against intelligent design. The problem is perhaps that you’re not interested in stories or publications that focus on theological content.

          • Oh, and there is little one can do about people who appropriate the name of Christianity who don’t have a right to speak on its behalf. That battle was lost a few centuries ago, and then determined a couple centuries later that it was probably for the best.

          • You’re quite right that I don’t subscribe to journals of scholastic philosophy . . . I along with 30 million other Canadians. That is not what I mean by a vigorous theological response. I mean publicity, dude. Talking heads. Demagogues. Intellectual stripteases. When the survival of a religion is at stake — and that’s what we’re talking about, between militant secularism and Goodyearism — I think it might be worth climbing down from the ivory monastery.

          • There is a distinct lack of interest in publishing the viewpoints of christian theologians on evolutionary theory in Macleans or the Globe and Mail.

            We teach it in Sunday school and among our congregations though. Part of the perks of being an organized religion.

          • @Terry — Hmm, well, I’m glad you’re taking care of it on the human level.

            Much as I love Maclean’s, cheer for the Globe, am psyched about the LRC, and subscribe to Queen’s Quarterly, I have to say we could use a topical intellectual journal in this country that could publish longer essays (and a lot of other stuff besides) on the issues of the day. I.e. Audi ads and theology side by side, poems and recipes, manifestoes and fashion advice. They tell me it is hopeless. But without one I don’t see how we can make progress on big issues like this. Therefore, since we will make progress, we will have one. En avant!

          • @Jack – We have intellectual journals of that sort already, they just have a very small subscriber base.

            In the end, as long as we have the idea that all religious opinions are equally valid, or that all religious ideas are fundamentally the same, people will eschew intellectual rigour for what makes them feel good in their gut.

            So while biblical literalism is as indefensible today as it was in the days of St. Augustine back in the early 5th century, it still appeals to some. Look at the comments of those defending Gary Goodyear, where people say you should have the right not be challenged on religious opinions that are wrong. What a silly notion. All wrong opinions should be crushed through reason whenever possible.

    • How often is the Evolution debate going impact science and research in this country or anywhere? Never. Libs would never do this to a Hindu, Jew or Muslim. It’s open season on Christians tho.

      • Of course the evolution debate is going to impact science and research. You can’t do biology without taking into account evolutionary theory.

        • Right, and when Goodyear takes time out from gazing in horror thru his microscope at the primordial ooze as another proposal for funds for microbiology crosses his desk he’s going to deep-six it because it might spread the word?? Get serious. The only reason he’s being attacked is because he’s Christian. Again, I repeat, if it was a Jew, Muslim, Hindu or a Martian being accused the same people who wrote this up at the Globe would have gone apeshit on the accusers.

          • If we are surrounded by enemies, as you claim, it is all the more reason to be demand more of ourselves and to be smarter than they are. It is not an excuse to tolerate things which are factually wrong, or incompetence of our ministers simply because they share our religious faith. True Christianity cares about Truth.

          • “If we are surrounded by enemies, as you claim,” Get off your high horse.

            “Incompetence of our ministers”? – If I recall correctly Goodyear has no problem with evolution in fact he claimed to believe it, so on what basis do you continue to claim he is incompetent?

            “…excuse to tolerate things which are factually wrong” – See above. I believe Goodyear’s initial response was frustration with journalist seeking their gotcha moment. It was only the ensuing witch hunt that forced him to ‘fess up’ and bow down. He shouldn’t have had to. Question; did he deny evolution initially? (I don’t know…but I don’t believe he did)

            Also why do you suggest disbelief in evolution is incompatible with “our religious faith”? I agree “True Christianity cares about Truth”, but who made you Pope? Dogmatism on both sides is to be deplored.

            For the record, I don’t believe the earth was created 6,000 years ago. Evolution in some sense sounds about right, perhaps it’s all part of God’s plan. In any case I don’t loose sleep over it, but it is a theory with some gradations and shadings. It the rush to judgment I find troubling.

            There are no more ‘reply’ boxes, so I put it here…

    • Will do. By the way, Jonathan, thanks for fixing the comment filters! I haven’t noticed any problems at all in the past few days.

      • Hear hear, thanks Jonathan, it’s working like a dream.

        • Thanks

          It was worth a shot but it looks like you guys are well embedded in this post.
          So no worries, comment away.

    • Sometimes a twit is just a twit

      • Sometimes people resort to ridicule when they don’t have a real point to make.

        • Yeah, spent about 14 minutes making my point in gentle language. Sorry you don’t like it when I go “ad hominem,” but the debate is about the hominem. His name is Goodyear.

          • I did not find your language particularly gentle at any point during the 14 minutes. You suggest that anyone who believes that the universe and the life in it originated from a divine source is “dumb.” You put yourself in the “intellectual” group and social conservatives in the stupid group. Not particularly humble.

            Don’t be too quick to label yourself as an “intellectual.” As Schumpeter wrote, intellectuals are that unfortunate group “whose interest it is to work up and organize resentment, to nurse it, to voice it and to lead it” and are “people who wield the power of the spoken and the written word in the absence of direct responsibility for practical affairs.”

            Goodyear on the other hand has actual responsibility for practical affairs. I’ve heard no report of any practical decision he has made or action he has taken that is not in the interest of science.

  5. Loved it!

  6. These chats are a great idea!

    It’s unfathomnable why Goodyear wasn’t well-prepared for the question about evolution with an answer that would have somewhat satisfied science as well as creationists: a number of scientists have publicly stated that they believe there is some ‘higher power’ that they can’t explain, but they know is there. It wouldn’t have satisfied everyone, but would have at least avoided the current brouhaha. As far as whether or not a guy’s/gal’s religious beliefs should matter, obviously not so much if he/she’s the Transportation Minister.

    Labels like ‘elite’ and ‘smarty-pants’ should make everyone think twice about revealing their formal education.

  7. Bravo! A conversation that is long overdue in this country.

  8. Gd stuff Messers Wells/Coyne, as apposed to some of the tripe i’ve seen today on this subject. One that particularly bugged me was D. Aspers “Liberal war on religion”! He’s supposed to be one of the smart, moderate conservatives?[ or am i wrong?] He did bring up the barney the dino stuff, which certainly was gutter stuff. But then he goes on to use the lack of media scrutiny of liberal catholics [ Trudeau/Chretien] as evidence of bias. Pardon me, but doesn’t that rather undermine yr thesis David? Neither of these gents felt the need to flaunt their faith, or let it interfere with their politcal/electoral responsibilities. In fact they go some way to proving religious convictions aren’t a barrier to being an effective politician. Of course it does help if don’t have a quarrel with the world of science and/or reality to begin with.

  9. I clicked on this expecting a superficial bashing of creationists in science (and politics), and found a very thoughtful and considered discussion. Well done gentlemen. I would enjoy the (unlikely) opportunity to discuss it at length with both of you over coffee (beer?) some day.

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