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Letter: A scientist talking science — that’s outrageous!

FILE PHOTO: Canadian astronaut Julie Payette smiles as she is introduced to employees as she arrives at the Canadian Space Agency Friday August 28, 2009 in Longueuil, Que. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Gov. Gen. Julie Payette — CP file photo


Some people thought it odd, and possibly a little bit improper, when our Governor General, Julie Payette, spoke recently about astrology, faith-healing, Creationism and climate-change denial without showing the proper respect for them.

Payette is, after all, a scientist, and she was addressing a gathering of fellow scientists, so I think she may be forgiven. In a Spiritualism Congress, or a Synod of Fundamentalist Bishops, possibly, her attitude might have seemed less appropriate, but I doubt that they would have invited her.

I think the GG should press on undaunted, talking science to scientists, and policy to policy-makers.

I don’t know if scientific reasoning is now considered politically correct, and therefore off limits to right-thinking people, but surely in a Canadian Science Policy Conference a scientist should feel free to talk science, on the assumption that that was why they had gathered. I’m sure astrologers and spiritualists talk quite openly about their own beliefs when they get together for a conference, and it wouldn’t surprise me if they made some irreverent observations about mainstream science.

The Governor General, speaking to scientists, probably assumed that our unscientific brethren would have had little or no interest in her remarks. Bless her heart, she probably doesn’t know very much about the Six-day Creation Theory, or the effectiveness of “the Laying on of Hands.” We may think she should go away and learn about them before addressing a convocation of unscientific specialists, and maybe she will, if she’s ever invited to do that.

It’s accepted that governors general should be non-political, but for some reason astrology, Creationism and, for all I know, aura-diagnosis, are now thought to be the preserve of Conservatives. Liberals, it seems, have been left holding the science portfolio. I don’t know how our Governor General could be expected to know this. It’s not exactly common knowledge.

Don’t tell anybody, but I have a sneaking suspicion that there are lots of Liberal Tarot-fanciers out there, just as there are Conservatives who accept objective scientific fact. I think the GG should press on undaunted, talking science to scientists, and policy to policy-makers.

For my own part, I understand quantum physics about as well as I do the Resurrection, and the Large Hadron Collider (bless you, autocorrect!) is about as intelligible to me as the Virgin Birth. I believe in all of them, because scientists on the one hand, and theologians on

the other, assure me they are genuine.

For a rank amateur like me, the gift of faith is quite as helpful in physics as it is in metaphysics. In politics, it’s not believing in miracles that causes problems, but allowing ourselves to depend on them in place of scientific thought.


Ed Healy


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