Science and the Harper Government

A few weeks ago, I praised the Canadian government for their decision to post unhindered data from Alberta’s Oil Sands, free to all who want to know about its productivity and environmental effects. As mentioned, this decision was announced in February of this year. Since that time, the government has renewed its stance in opposition to good science with a continuance of its practises that include: preventing scientists from speaking directly to the media, cutting budgets and/or eliminating scientific research in the Experimental Lakes areas, attacking the Fisheries Act, finishing off the mandatory Long Form Census (which led to the departure of the head of Statistics Canada), linking environmentalists to terrorism, calling them radicals, and so on. July, this came to a head for Canada’s scientific community, and they held a well-publicized protest in front of Parliament Hill called “The Death of Evidence“. It remains to be seen what will happen with the open data initiative in the Oil Sands, but I am skeptical about its future. Something will likely be thrown together, no doubt, but I fully expect delays well beyond the projected 2015 start date.

Why does the Canadian Government of 2012, under the leadership of Stephen Harper, have such little regard for science, scientists and environmentalists? Here we begin to enter conspiracy theory territory. *cue flashlight and spooky music*

Stephen Harper is *gasp* a Christian. An evangelical Christian.

It’s highly amusing for Canadians to watch the American descent into hyperreligious kakistocracy at both the federal and state level, but few of us are as extreme as many in the USA. Last April, Leger Marketing released a poll indicating that 78% of Quebecois do not consider themselves religious. Countrywide, 66% claimed not be be religious. As one commenter pointed out, Canadians just aren’t as interested in the topic as they are down south. For the most part, a Canadian’s religion is just a small part of who they are, and not particularly important in the grand scheme of things. As a country, we overwhelmingly adhere to today’s so-called “theories” of gravity, germs and heliocentrism, despite what bronze age shepherds used to tell each other in the dark of nescience. It tends to go without saying that our leaders subscribe to a belief in science, much as they might “believe” it will hurt if they were to be punched in the face.

Not so for evangelicals, it would seem. From a cursory glance through the web, it seems that The Tyee was the first news publication to say anything about Stephen Harper’s religion. There were, however, some brief warnings in the spring of 2009 when our (still current) Federal Minister of State for Science and Technology, Gary Goodyear was found to be a creationist. (While Mr. Goodyear expressed his views in a roundabout way, Phil Plait at Bad Astronomy gives a logical approach to explain Goodyear’s remarks as being religious in nature.)

Stephen Harper is a member of the Christian and Missionary Alliance, and evangelical protestant church with strangely libertarian views, including a belief that the free market is divinely inspired. While this is not cause for alarm when people who hold such views in private and weild no power over the country, it most certainly can be a major issue when they hold public office and carry out their views without proper discussion or warning to the public. As discussed in The Tyee, Harper would likely endorse what they called “evangelical climate skepticism”. Meaning? God promised that he would never destroy the earth again, or otherwise render it uninhabitable for humans. Therefore, any indications that the earth is headed for trouble, as has been claimed by scientists worldwide since the 1970’s, are downright false, and the research must be wrong. So, the thinking goes, why bother funding them?

Something to think about, anyway.

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One Response to Science and the Harper Government

  1. Margaret says:

    I’m no fan of BC premier Christy Clarke’s take that everything will be fine so long as BC gets enough money, re the pipeline project. Round here, (BC) the talk is that no amount of money would ever be enough to clean a big mess in the treacherous fjords around Kitimat nor the steep mountain terrain of the hinterlands. People need to understand that although after the exxon valdez spill nature appeared to recover quite weil, the flora and fauna of the region is now very different from before.

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