On Campus

Science minister answers Globe question

Yes, he does believe in evolution. So what was that Globe story about, exactly?

There was something more than a bit weird about today’s front-page Globe and Mail story, in which the reporter for some reason asked Gary Goodyear, the federal minister of science, whether he believes in evolution.

I don’t know the context of the question, but let’s give the Globe the benefit of the doubt: maybe this was something worth asking. In any case, Goodyear gave a non-committal answer (albeit not a particularly politically astute one, since he for some reason chose to raise the fact that he’s a Christian). Now, remember that most answers given by most politicians most of the time are non-committal, precisely because they have become justifiably paranoid about falling prey to a gotcha moment. Anyhow, the Globe took Mr. Goodyear’s response and decided to run with the following headline: “Minister won’t confirm belief in evolution.”

In the first sentence of the story, the reporter suggests a link between federal cuts to science funding and the minister’s alleged uneasiness with evolution/science. The two are connected? Really? Based on what evidence? Has anyone ever credibly alleged that any of the various increases and decreases in research and post-secondary funding under the Tories have been caused by a minister’s or the Cabinet’s religiously-motivated antipathy to science? The lead of the story reads, “Canada’s science minister, the man at the centre of the controversy over federal funding cuts to researchers, won’t say if he believes in evolution.” And the story continues trying to mine the tories-cut-research-funding-because-they-are-religious-troglodytes vein: “A funding crunch, exacerbated by cuts in the January budget, has left many senior researchers across the county scrambling to find the money to continue their experiments. Some have expressed concern that Mr. Goodyear, a chiropractor from Cambridge, Ont., is suspicious of science, perhaps because he is a creationist.”

Later in the story, two members of the academy go on to express their concerns about Goodyear’s alleged creationism. But unless I’m missing something, the “concern” that has been “expressed ” about Mr. Goodyear being “suspicious” of science was not expressed until yesterday, when the Globe speed dialed two people, told them the minister might not believe in evolution—and asked them if this discovery raised any “concern” that they might like to “express.” It’s like the old joke about journalism: reporter calls up subject, says “would you say this is an outrage?” Subject begins answering question. Reporter interrupts, says, “no, I mean, would you please say, ‘this is an outrage.'”

And what are we to make of this phrase from the Globe: “… Mr. Goodyear, a chiropractor from Cambridge, Ont., is suspicious of science, perhaps because he is a creationist.” I’m not sure if the phrasing is sloppy or deliberate; read as written, The Globe is saying that Goodyear is a creationist. (Whatever exactly that means.) The “perhaps” is not hedging the possibility that he might not be a creationist, but is rather equivocating on the source of his alleged suspicion of science. Is he suspicious of science because he is a creationist—or could there be some other source of this man’s antipathy to the modern world, which incidentally is connected to his government’s cuts to science funding? Inquiring minds want to know.

Anyhow, today the minister told CTV that “of course” he believes in evolution.

And so the news cycle turns. Moving on.

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