Payette Gate

Canadian politics are boring. So boring in fact, that we turn anything we can into scandals, just to have scandals to talk about.

See last year’s “elbow gate” or as it is also known: “how a person bumping into another person in a crowded room became a cause for uproar.” (Those people shouting over bumping elbows have clearly never been on Montreal’s Metro during rush hour, but that is neither here nor there.)

Our latest non-scandal/scandal was everywhere in today’s news.

This morning, commentators were denouncing Governor General Julie Payette. Across the internet, commentators (including at the CBC) were crawling out of the woodwork to condemn her for “criticizing” religions and that she somehow “mocked” and disrespected millions of Canadians in the process all because of a speech she made at a scientific conference.

Let’s review what happened.

Payette appeared as the keynote speaker at the Canadian Science Policy Conference in Ottawa. One assumes her career as an astronaut (I.E. scientist) had something to do with this.

During her address, she observed (with some incredulity) that “we are still debating and still questioning whether life was a divine intervention or whether it was coming out of a natural process let alone, oh my goodness, a random process.”

Despite her tone, one should probaby assume that Payette wasn’t taking the pulpit to be offensive, but to address the general state of things concerning the scientific community.

Let’s recall that Payette wasn’t invited to speak at the pulpit of a Church or to give a sermon. She was speaking at a conference for scientists, as a scientist, about “science stuff.”

In such a context, it would seem that arguing that religious beliefs and astrology have no place in science is somewhat matter-of-fact and not out of place.


In case there was ever any confusion, science and religion are not in competition. Nor are they interchangeable. As processes, they are both concerned with exploring fundamentally different things.

Science is a critical pursuit, a form of investigation – whether it be the natural world, the laws that govern it, or the ways in which humans interact on a sociological level. You start with a hypothesis, review the data, and draw your conclusions based on the evidence at hand.

Science is impersonal and kinda boring.

Religion, on the other hand, is a different sort of pursuit. Religion investigates personal truth, the meaning of this world, and our place in it. The process doesn’t begin with a hypothesis, but a conclusion (see opening verses of the Bible… it does not begin with an investigation whether God did or did not create the world in seven days, but a statement). These conclusions then inform people how to live their lives.

Religion is personal and dynamic.

It is also has nothing to do with science.

So, saying that divine intervention has no place in a scientific inquiry should be as matter-of-fact as pointing out that scientists have no place storming into a church and telling people how they should be praying or singing.

Wouldn’t that be fun? I didn’t think so either.

Let’s try keep each to their own. If we can’t, then at least not lose our collective minds every time something we disagree with happens to drip all over the news.