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Science Shmience

My very strong hunch is that it’s because the Harper Government is ashamed of what social scientists poke their noses into. The behaviour and custom of distant lands; literature in funny languages; philosophies whose tenets might not pass the screens erected by the PMO. Questions about the role of women in our society and a thousand others. It’s all so icky. Which is why the Harper government has ensured that this year’s new money for the SSHRC will fund only “business-related” graduate scholarships. And why Harper is so eager to tell visiting scientists about his plans for getting their ideas out of the lab, and so reluctant to ask them what their ideas are. Now, I’m no expert, but I seem to recall that Jesus had the occasional problem with moneychangers. Readers are invited to draw their own conclusions.

The above is a quote from Paul Wells’ characteristically thoughtful and intelligent piece on research funding in this country. If you haven’t read it, you should. Go. Go now. Post haste!

Like (hopefully) most of the people in this country, I am embarrassed that our Minister responsible for directing government’s science policies does not believe in one of the most pivotal theories of modern science. However, I agree with Mssr. Wells that his beliefs are irrelevant so long as they do not impact his actions as Minister. A central premise of maintaining a division between church and state – something too many people, particularly Conservatives, are anxious to eliminate – is that one must be free to believe whatever they believe, so long as they do not let their religious beliefs impact government policy.

And contrary to popular right wing thought, I’m not hostile to religion. I do, however, have a vehement opposition to biblical literalists. I am a product of religious school education that began with an Orthodox Jewish school (complete with the beards, long sideburns, etc.) and continued throughout my secondary education. Having studied Hebrew for more than a decade, I can say this unequivocally – there are staggering differences between biblical Hebrew and Aramaic that makes up the Old Testament and the modern Hebrew spoken today. There are significant volumes written by Jewish scholars debating the exact meaning of individual words which significantly alter their context. If the great Rabbinical scholars of history – who spent their entire lives studying these texts and their meanings in a time when the language had not evolved nearly so drastically (no pun intended) – could not come to agreement on the meaning of these words, how can we be so arrogant as to assume that we can perfectly understand their meaning and their purpose. Moreover, I was taught at several points – as an arrogant little pischer, myself – that for us to assume that we understand the exact will and intention of God is more than arrogant but blasphemous.

The bible is an important document in history that represents the foundation of our morality. Whether we believe it to have been divinely inspired or divinely written or none of the above, we must concede that at minimum, it represents the greatest wisdom of mankind at a given point in history (again, that’s at minimum). But anyone that suggests that they may fully understand the exact word of God and his intentions has clearly never understood a single word they’ve read within the bible.

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Filed under: Oh, Canada

4 Responses

  1. Mentarch says:

    Question: do you really think that Goodyear puts aside his evangelical/creationist beliefs at the door when he enters his office?

    (the question is rhetorical -because religious fundamentalists *never* check their parochial beliefs at the door. Creationists have demonstrated this time and time again …)

    • tcfsc says:

      To be clear, I would never put myself in the position of defending Gary Goodyear. All I am saying is that he has the right to believe whatever he believes. The fact that he believes in creationism cannot disqualify him from serving in this role, no matter how strongly I oppose his views. It is only if and when it can be fairly asserted that he is imposing his views on Canadians/the scientific community that there is an issue. But again, this is not a defense of his actions nor of his views – simply his right to hold them.

  2. KC says:

    Im usually reluctant to vote for any religious politician but given that thats more or less all we have I have little choice. So I accept that some people need to create myths to deal with the fear of death and get on with life.

    But when a politician refuses to acknowledge the truthfullness of a widely held scientific belief I draw the line. You’re entitled to your religious beliefs but you are not entitled to scientific facts.

    And for what its worth I completely reject your assertion in your last paragraph. Many aspects of the bible are patently immoral, and others proscribe conduct that has nothing to do with morality.

    • tcfsc says:

      As someone who holds the belief that the bible was divinely inspired but not written, I am perfectly comfortable volunteering the fact that many of the 613 commandments are no longer applicable to society today.

      Perhaps the best example I can offer is that of kashruth, the dietary laws spelled out in the bible. Those laws – which famously prohibit the eating of pork and shellfish – are widely attributed for saving many lives. Though no reason is given in the bible for their prohibition, it can be argued (and I believe, personally) that it was rooted in hygienic reasons, as there were safety concerns in consuming those prohibited animals. In modern society, I don’t believe those rules are still applicable. On the Sabbath, we are forbidden from doing work, which includes creating fire. In the time that the laws were written, such action was work-intensive. Nowadays, to create fire is an insignificant task.

      I support same-sex marriage and oppose capital punishment and am at odds with a host of other biblical proclamations. With that said, I think we have to understand the time and place that these laws were introduced. And so, I maintain that they represent the greatest wisdom of that generation. While I believe many of the principles espoused by the bible are still as relevant as they were thousands of years ago – honouring ones parents, forbidding adultery and theft, etc… – of course I believe that some no longer make sense in today’s world are even meet today’s moral tests.

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