Over the last year or so, Canada has had to deal not only with the global financial crisis and growing recession, but with a parliamentary crisis as well. Now, on top of it all, there’s a controversy over whether the science minister accepts evolution — and whether or not his religious beliefs have affected budget decisions, as reported by CBC News:

Federal Science Minister Gary Goodyear’s refusal to say whether he believes in evolution has left scientists questioning what that means for Canadian research.

Dolph Schluter, a professor at the University of British Columbia, told CBCNews.ca in an email that he was “first flabbergasted and then embarrassed” when he heard Goodyear’s response to a reporter’s question about whether he believed in evolution.

“I’m not going to answer that question,” Goodyear, federal minister of state for science and technology, told the Globe and Mail in an article published Tuesday. “I am a Christian, and I don’t think anybody asking a question about my religion is appropriate.”

A deeper concern to me is not just that Goodyear may be allowing his religious beliefs to affect how he handles the science ministry in Canada. He happens to be a chiropractor, and given the unscientific metaphysical beliefs on which chiropractic is based, I have to wonder whether he should have his current position at all.

Note: While many people believe chiropractic is scientific medicine, it is not. It supposes that disease is caused by subluxations of the spine. Exactly what a “subluxation” is, has never been clear. They are obstructions of energy-flow of some sort, apparently (like the qi meridians postulated by the even-less-scientific field of acupuncture). Neither the energy flow nor the subluxations in them which cause disease, have ever been documented to exist by any known means. The idea that these subluxations of some unknown force causes disease, is wholly unscientific.

I have to wonder, then, why Goodyear got his job in the first place. A metaphysician — Christian or otherwise — has no authority to decide science policy for anyone, let alone a great country like Canada.

At any rate, Goodyear’s dodgy response to a question about evolution has elicited a furor in Canada which is being played out in its media outlets. Various pundits are commenting on how evolution is compatible with evolution, or it isn’t, or it’s not fair to ask a scientist (if Goodyear could be called one) a religious question, or whether something called “scientism” has damaged both science and society; and so on. It’s almost funny, if it weren’t so sad.

Religious people often erroneously consider science a threat to their beliefs, when in truth, that’s not the case. Science is a rigorous method of learning about natural phenomenon — nothing more and nothing less. Centuries ago many great scientists, such as Johannes Kepler and Isaac Newton, were deeply religious or spiritual men, who believed their scientific investigations were almost a form of worship in themselves. They saw no incompatibility between the two. Unfortunately, religious fundamentalists — mostly starting with Biblical literalists who were angry that science contradicts their ancient documents, thus casting their literalist interpretation of them in doubt — decided that science was a threat to them. They’ve managed to create a “war” which need not exist.

Science is, in fact, fully compatible with religion — so long as that religion doesn’t profess to be science as well (as is the case, for example, with “Young Earth” creationists).

At any rate, a much bigger concern for Canadians than just whether or not Goodyear is a creationist or whether or not his beliefs affected his administration, is how Goodyear — a metaphysician by vocation — came to his office in the first place. That Stephen Harper and other conservatives had no problem placing a chiropractor of all people into the science ministry, should be deeply disturbing. He never should have been asked whether he believes in evolution, because he’s unqualified for the job he holds.

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