Well, that certainly didn’t come up at last night’s science awards ceremony …

But if the story in today’s Globe and Mail had come out just a few hours earlier, we probably would have paid considerably more attention to what the PM’s pointminister on science and technology had to say to the crowd during the NSERC research awards last night at the Chateau Laurier last night.

Oh, who am I kidding? If Goodyear’s comments – or rather, refusal to comment – on evolution had been reported before last night’s awards ceremony, I suspect that reporters who turned up to cover it would have discovered that it had suddenly become closed to the media. (Maybe that’s why those PMO staffers were in such a rush to hustle us out the door after the presentations were over.)

Anyway, I’m sure that the deeper implications of Goodyear’s refusal to discuss his views on evolution will be analysed in painstaking detail, but at the moment, all substance aside, I’m having trouble getting past how badly the minister managed to botch this interview from a communications perspective.

If he truly sees evolution as a religious issue, and, as a result, is genuinely uncomfortable discussing it in an interview about his role as minister of science and technology, there are any number of ways to avoid addressing the nub of the question without turning a non-response into the headline.  If you read the whole story, he did not simply refuse to respond – and that may have been his fatal mistake.

Before rejecting the question as inappropriate, the minister was apparently willing to put forward his belief that “just because you can’t see it under a microscope doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist”  and suggest that “we need to recognize” that not everything is known. Only then does he chide the reporter for asking the obvious follow-up question  — specifically, whether he was referring to a “creator”. She wasn’t the one who brought up the idea of a “more powerful microscope” that could allow us to see the unseen — he did, and if he really didn’t want to go down that road, as far as his religious views, he shouldn’t have opened the door to a more philosophical line of questioning.

Instead, he all but guaranteed that his remarks would overshadow everything else that he might have to say about science and technology in Canada in an interview that his office likely agreed to specifically to undo some of the political damage incurred the last time the Globe reported on the decision to cut research funding. Nice going, minister.

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