The Evolution Of Criticism

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

March 24, 2009 Ed Cartoon

The decision by Canadian minister of science Gary Goodyear to not explicitly state his views on evolution raises an interesting question â€" in Canada’s increasingly secularized society, how should the public face an authority figure with strong religious views?

Though Goodyear subsequently clarified his stance on the issue, many members of the scientific community labeled his identification of evolution as being more in line with lifestyle adaptation, leaving many questions unanswered in the process.

An initial reaction to Goodyear’s beliefs on evolution would be to identify his religious beliefs as being counterproductive to his ministerial role. This is an unacceptable stance.

While Canada may be a more secular society in the modern age, it is still a free society and as a result the minister is more than welcome to have his own beliefs â€" whether they fall in line with current scientific thought is inconsequential.

What is an issue, however, is if Goodyear’s beliefs negatively affect the manner by which he performs his duties. One could see it being difficult to be passionate about a job if your beliefs oppose much of your work.

Unfortunately, it seems likely the Canadian public will not receive an immediate answer on how Goodyear’s belief system will affect how he handles his role as minister.

From the outset, the skill by which a politician is able to answer a question is in many ways indicative of their political skill. When faced with a question about his views on evolution, Goodyear may have seen either answer as running the risk of alienating either the social conservatives or the secular moderates of the party. So he chose the best option at the time â€" not answering.

While it may be desirable to have a science minister who believes in evolution, a person cannot be required to adhere to a set of beliefs in order to get a job. Besides, many notable scientists do not see an issue with fitting evolution into their religious beliefs. Their professional integrity is neither compromised nor is it questioned and until one sees anything different from Goodyear there is no reason to assume he cannot do his job properly.

Due to the extensive media coverage of his statements, it is likely the minister will be under intense scrutiny for the remainder of his term, which is also a good thing. Holding public figures accountable for their potential biases is one of the fundamental roles of the media.

Though there will always be concern for how someone’s personal beliefs are affecting their job, it is not in the purview of society at large to impose a limit on a public figure’s beliefs. If it turns out Goodyear’s religious views have negatively influenced his performance then he will be fired for not doing his job properly, not for his beliefs.

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