Education professors are now being asked to provide evidence for the theory of evolution in their grant applications to the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, perhaps the main funding body for social scientific and humanistic work in Canada (pronounced “shirk” for you non-Canadians). Read up here and here.
I love that the SSHRC rep said that Alters took the comment about intelligent design out of context. Sure, there may have been other reasons to deny his application, but good lord, if the issue wasn’t whether or not an education professor could “prove” evolution, why mention it as an issue in funding the grant? If Alters’ research program wasn’t up to snuff or if his plan for spending the money (by the way, $40000 sounds like a lot but it is not a particularly huge SSHRC grant in this day and age) was flawed, then by all means turn down the grant. But what business do they have asking him to prove the theory of evolution? It’s a grant about education.
In McGill’s own PR about the opening of Alters’ Centre in 1999, they quote his colleague Graham Bell as saying
When [he] talks to colleagues in his field in the U.S. about the Kansas decision, the consistent reaction is one of “embarrassment.”
Canada dodged a parallel experience thanks to its federal system, notes Bell. “There was a school board in B.C. where a similar sort of thing was going to happen, but the administration of education is a provincial responsibility.”
Well, now it’s got an issue in its federal system.
The idea that the Enlightenment quotient increases north of the 49th parallel is an important part both of liberal and left Americans’ idealization of Canada and of Canadian anti-Americanism. And I sometimes partake of it, let down my guard, and enjoy that I’m up here and not “down there.” But this is a reminder that vigilance is essential in protecting intellectual inquiry from ignorance rooted in religious dogmatism. Everywhere.