Monday, April 4, 2011

Speaking the Language of Science, not the Language of Neoconservatism

Our local Liberal candidate in Kingston, Ted Hsu, said something in an introductory speech recently that I found compelling.

A man with both an economic and environmental background, he told us that he is fluent in English, French, Mandarin and the language of science. And I realized just how important that was.

All professionals become fluent in the language of their craft. Whether it's computer-speak, medical terminology or whatever, it is the language that allows them to interact with their peers.

Gary Goodyear, the Conservative Science Minister, does not speak the language of science. In fact, he doesn't really believe in science at all, or at least not in evolution, one of the fundamentals of science.

So how does he communicate with stakeholders? Being a neoconservative, there's really only one word he needs to understand: "no".

Because this is a government that does not appreciate science, and does not feel that it's something government should be worried about, despite the fact that it plays an integral role in most aspects of our lives.

Marc Garneau, the Liberal science critic, was an astronaut and the first Canadian in space. He understands not only the language, but the importance of science.

In his new book Rogue in Power, Christian Nadeau is also concerned with the course of action that the Harper government is taking.
In the field of science, the Conservatives also show their mistrust towards anything that could run counter to their traditionalist convictions. There have been some astonishing statements, too embarrassing to be really funny, such as Science Minister Gary Goodyear's remark to a Globe and Mail interviewer who asked him if he accepted Darwin's theory of evolution. The minister refused to answer, citing religious reasons. His ambiguous retractions later on were not of a sort that would reassure the scientific community.

It would be simplistic, however, to put all the Conservatives who are close to Harper together in the same creationist basket. What is most striking is not so much the statements and shocking revelations regarding members of Harper's team, but rather its persistence in treating the scientific world and basic research as something of secondary importance. It is hard to understand the Conservatives' disdain. This attitude could be explained in part by their religious convictions or antiscientific prejudices, but the likeliest hypothesis is that they simply do not see basic science as useful. In the homogeneous moral universe they inhabit, science must not run counter to their concept of good, and it is of interest only if it serves this concept. If it doesn't, it is of little value in their eyes. (1)
He reminds us of the controversy surrounding the Mont-Megantic Observatory, when the government cut the subsidy provided to the observatory by $325,000 while allotting $2million to a consultation process on rebuilding Quebec City's military armoury, clearly showing their priorities. They later reinstated the funding but only on a temporary basis.

I wrote previously of how Christian Paradis is now demanding that all scientific announcements be funnelled through his office, comparing it to Bernhard Rust, the Nazi "man of science", who also ran his department with tight message control.
"Our national policies will not be revoked or modified, even for scientists." Adolf Hitler
We have also learned recently that the government has privatized the National Research Council's government-owned publishing arm, denying free access to many scientific journals.

On May 2 we must learn a new language. It's called the language of saying goodbye to Stephen Harper. We are better than this.


1. Rogue in Power: Why Stephen Harper is remaking Canada by Stealth, By Christian Nadeau, Lorimer Press, ISBN: 978-1-55277-730-5, Pg. 86-88.

No comments:

Post a Comment