It's a shame to shut out science

Politics, religion, science need to get talking

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

This has been a bad week for science.

Perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised when Canada’s science minister, Gary Goodyear, says believing in evolution is irrelevant.

But somehow I just can’t accept that. Maybe I’m off my rocker, but is it not reasonable to ask our science minister about his stance on a core scientific theory?

Yesterday, Goodyear clarified his standpoint on evolution, saying that he does indeed believe in evolution, but emphasizing its irrelevance to his position in the government.

Marc Garneau, science critic for the Liberals, said that believing in evolution is not a job requirement for the science minister.

I can only laugh at this statement, otherwise I would cry. What’s next, the minister of transport declares his belief in a flat world?

While it’s no surprise a Conservative government would appoint a devout Christian to lead Canada’s scientific community, I am surprised at the Liberal’s stance.

Don’t get me wrong, there is still much mystery surrounding evolution. Of course, there is room for supernatural involvement, and as a very spiritual person I actually lean towards this frame of mind.

But there is no denying that a significantly large portion of science research and theory is based on the theory of evolution. While personal faith is irrelevant in most political issues, I think it’s fair to ask our science minister whether he believes in the Bible or science.

Initially choosing to close the door to dialogue was a bad call on Goodyear’s part " if he truly is a Christian who believes in evolution, he should be open to discussing how Christian doctrine and evolution are not mutually exclusive.

To make the week worse, Pope Benedict XVI made a controversial, while not surprising, remark on his way to Cameroon.

He has declared that condoms are not the best way to fight AIDS and argued, instead, that they actually increase the risk of contracting HIV.

As a better solution, he suggested abstinence.

While the Pope’s philosophy might work in more privileged regions of the world, what about the millions of people who depend on an income from prostitution to feed themselves and their families?

These people are faced with a tough decision: starve to death in poverty but avoid being infected with HIV or continue their sex trade work in the hope that their children will live in a better world.

The Pope is living in an idealized world. Sure, it’s great to educate people and explain why premarital sex might not be the best idea, but let’s put the cards on the table: some people will still do it. What’s better in this situation, giving people the necessary protection or letting them risk unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections?

It’s long past time for religious and scientific communities to start talking. Who knows, maybe they could even find some similarities.

If religious leaders don’t make a move soon, Generation Y is going to have to make a choice and the odds are religion won’t be the winner.

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