Tuesday, March 17, 2009

An Honorable Ignoramus

Everyone has by now read about how Gary Goodyear, our, um, excitable Minister of State for Science and Technology, replied to a question about his scientific views by proclaiming his religious opinions:

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.

“I'm not going to answer that question. I am a Christian, and I don't think anybody asking a question about my religion is appropriate,” Gary Goodyear, the federal Minister of State for Science and Technology, said in an interview with The Globe and Mail.

Oddly, it's not the creationism angle that bothers me the most about this. Yeah, that bothers me too, but many otherwise intelligent people fall for that, and still manage to be rational and competent at their jobs. It seems to me that the potential harm here depends on exactly how much control the Minister has over specific funding decisions (at least, such seems to be my subconcious rationalization).

But what really got me was this comment (emphasis mine):

“Now I have got a portfolio that I am absolutely passionate about and frankly connected to,” he said, adding that his days of experimenting with engines in high school automotive class gave him an appreciation for what it feels like to come up with something new.

“When I was in high school, we were already tweaking with a coil that would wrap around the upper [radiator] hose and it got an extra five miles to the gallon. … So I've been there on this discovery stuff.”

Well, ain't that folksey? I also really dig "being there on this discovery stuff". Sounds like George W. Bush with an impact wrench, doesn't he?

Magic devices that dramatically improve gas mileage are an old standard of urban legends and scams -- and even among that sorry gallery, frigging with the cooling system seems one of the less likely candidates for improved fuel economy. That much should be obvious to anyone with even the smallest inkling of how engines actually work. It's bad enough that the government is cutting basic research in favour of "get[ting] some of these technologies out of the labs onto the factory floors. Made. Produced. Sold" (though even a creationist chiropractor could probably manage that kind of short-sighted mandate). But with the gas-mileage remark, Goodyear reveals himself as a gullible ignoramus who not only does not understand science, he's also clueless about technology -- he can't tell (as they say) shit from shinola. He's a jumped-up amateur mechanic who believes in woo -- chiro-woo, creation-woo, or car-woo; taken together it forms a pattern of consistent ignorance and anti-scientism.

And in case there is any remaining doubt of the man's complete babbling idiocy, he dispells it in this CTV interview (quoted at MacLean's blog):
We are evolving, every year, every decade. That’s a fact. Whether it’s to the intensity of the sun, whether it’s to, as a chiropractor, walking on cement versus anything else, whether it’s running shoes or high heels, of course, we are evolving to our environment. But that’s not relevant. And that’s why I refused to answer the question. The interview was about our science and tech strategy, which is strong…
I don't expect Ministers to have Ph.Ds, or be professional scientists. But I do expect them to have at least a basic appreciation of the nature of the field they are responsible for -- enough that they're willing to listen to those who are expert in those fields.

Gary Goodyear shows himself to be utterly unfit for any position with influence over science or technology.

Fire. Him. Now.


AJM said...

Fire. Him. Now.


(...also, keep him away from my car.)

Anonymous said...

Jesus! Don't give him power tools.