Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Gary Goodyear and (micro)-Evolution

After initially refusing to state that he "believed" in evolution, Mr. Goodyear, Canada's minister for science and technology, has changed his mind. He offers the following quote:
On Tuesday, Mr. Goodyear said twice during the CTV interview that he did believe in evolution.

“We are evolving every year, every decade. That's a fact, whether it is to the intensity of the sun, whether it is to, as a chiropractor, walking on cement versus anything else, whether it is running shoes or high heels, of course we are evolving to our environment. But that's not relevant and that is why I refused to answer the question. The interview was about our science and tech strategy, which is strong.”

First of all, this was on CTV? I thought CTV was averse to "do-overs"?

What Mr. Goodyear is doing here is a typical creationist trick. He's telling us that he can't deny what the creationists call "micro-evolution", the "little" changes within species (or maybe "kinds"). But he won't admit that evolution can create new species and he probably actually believes that there wasn't enough time because the Earth is only about six thousand years old anyway.

On top of that, he's ignorant on the subject of what evolution does say. Let's go over that first bit again. "We are evolving", he says and, as examples, he mentions, "walking on concrete" and "walking in running shoes."

That's really ignorant. Walking on high heels won't make our species evolve differently, at least not in the sense he means. I had an elementary school teacher once tell me that pulling on his ear lobes would cause his kids to have longer ear lobes. That's called Lamarckism and it's very painful to hear from a Minister of Science and Technology. The things you do in your life, unless they involve irradiating your genitals, do not affect the genes of your children. Period. There's no "debate" on this and there hasn't been for two centuries.

And what's this nonsense about it being irrelevant? If you told the space exploration people that you thought the earth was flat because the bible said so, wouldn't that be relevant? If you told the automotive sector that you supported the phlogiston hypothesis, would that be irrelevant? If you wanted the chemists to research Alchemy, would that be irrelevant?

Of course it would be relevant. And if you tell the biologists, the astronomers, the geologists and the paleontologists (this list is not exhaustive) that the Minister in charge of scientific research thinks that the Earth is 6000 years old and that evolution didn't happen, of course they're going to freak out.

They're going to freak out because they know an ignoramus is in charge.

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Nerdbeard said...

Not entirely true. Things that happen to you in your life (or even in your parent's life) can actually affect the expression of the genes you pass on to your children. Genes can become activated or deactivated in response to conditions experienced. We are learning that there is more to genetics than simply GATC.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epigenetics says:

In biology, the term epigenetics refers to changes in phenotype (appearance) or gene expression caused by mechanisms other than changes in the underlying DNA sequence (hence the name epi - "in addition to" - genetics). These changes may remain through cell divisions for the remainder of the cell's life and may also last for multiple generations. However, there is no change in the underlying DNA sequence of the organism; instead, non-genetic factors cause the organism's genes to behave (or "express themselves") differently.

Greg said...

Nerdbeard. Yes, I generalized a little. Some of the things you do in your life can affect your children. So can having babies after you're over 40 (for women) and at some as yet undetermined age (for men).

But pulling on your ear lobe doesn't make your children have longer ears. And walking on concrete, or in high heel shoes, doesn't make your children more adaptable to high heels and concrete. That's the point I was trying to make.

Nerdbeard said...

Ya I don't think Goodyear was attempting to make such fine distinctions. He's just decided to pretend that "change" and "evolve" mean the same thing in a biological context, so that he can form sentences that sound kinda like he's talking about evolution. If pressed on the point in the future, he can now claim he held virtually any position one can imagine.

helical4 said...

Gary Goodyear went on CTV Power Play on Mar.17, the same day that the Globe and Mail article was published, to set the record straight. He knew that the fact that he did not answer the question about Evolution painted him in a bad light, so he went on TV to put all the Scientists' minds at ease. He would have known that he would be asked the question about evolution again and he would have to answer it on air. You'd think he would have properly prepared himself to provide a better statement about evolution, one that would show that he understands it.