Thursday, November 09, 2017

Governor General science & faith?

Julie Payette, Canada’s Governor General, in a speech at the 9th annual Canadian Science Policy Convention in Ottawa, on 1 November 2017, set off a bit of a firestorm. 

Rather than speak on her areas of expertise, she decided to take on sciences outside her expertise and, in fact, whole disciplines (philosophy, religion) entirely beyond her training.

Payette brings a science background to the office of Governor General. She was trained as a computer engineer and later became an astronaut and licensed pilot and in 1999 was the first Canadian to board the International Space Station.

She urged her friends and former colleagues to take responsibility to shut down the misinformation about everything from health and medicine to climate change and even horoscopes that has flourished with the explosion of digital media. That part is good. And the previous Conservative government did a lot to hinder scientists from communicating clearly. But then, she went on:
“And we are still debating and still questioning whether life was a divine intervention or whether it was coming out of a natural process let alone, oh my goodness, a random process.”
In her inaugural speech as Governor General, Ms. Payette emphasized “collective duty” and the need for teamwork to tackle difficult global issues such as climate change, poverty, and nuclear proliferation.

I trust and pray that our Governor General (which means she is Her Majesty’s representative – the Queen is also head of the Church of England), will take seriously her call for “collective duty” and “teamwork” and enter into real dialogue with scientists who are also people of faith.

Maybe she should read some books by scientists who are also people of faith. For a start: Francis Collins, John Lennox, Alister McGrath, and John Polkinghorne.

Her words, seem to me, to be minimizing and even discrediting the science done by Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Shiks, 1st Nations people and others who hold to a belief in a Creator. 

Ms Payette, as Canada seeks to model a community that welcomes diverse beliefs, religions, cultures and languages, I am disappointed to hear remarks which could be understood as exclusionary and belittling. You are better than this.

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