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Striking a blow for the forces of revisionist history

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Well struck boys.


In completely separate but intrinsically linked news stories this week, we see strident attempts by two courageous men to reset our understanding of two of the great issues of our time.


First, Pope Benedict XVI told reporters on his Papal Plane on his way to Africa that distributing condoms was not the solution to the HIV pandemic eviscerating that continent. He went further, suggesting that the distribution of free condoms, in fact, "increases the problem."


This is the first definitive statement by the Pope on HIV and AIDS, the increasingly controversial leader of the Roman Catholic Church. Pope Benedict has sparked great rifts within his own flock recently with a decision to lift the excommunication of a Holocaust-denying bishop. The move was framed by the Vatican as a gesture to reach out to ultra right wing elements of the Church. The Pope later issued a statement that admitted mistakes were made in the rehabilitation of the bishop, but stuck to his original decision and expressed his disappointment at church officials who criticized him.


It's certainly no surprise the Pope would prefer monogamy and abstinence over condoms, but the Roman Catholic Church already has such a spotty record of trying to undo the much-needed public health campaigns in Africa aimed at stemming the rising tide of HIV and AIDS. On a continent where politics and religion are still deeply connected, the Pope's statement could have a devastating impact on struggling public health efforts to stop the spread of this virulent disease.


On this continent, Canada's Minister of State for Science and Technology, Gary Goodyear, self destructed in an interview with Globe and Mail science reporter Anne McIlroy when he refused to say whether he believes in evolution.


For those of you scoring at home, that's the SCIENCE MINISTER refusing to acknowledge EVOLUTION. Heck, that's like the Pope saying he doesn't believe in The Resurrection, or a golfer denying the mystical powers of titanium. Crazy stuff.


It's not surprising that the Conservative government would have evolution disputers in their midst; this is the party that used to be that other party led by that other guy who once said he didn't believe dinosaurs walked the earth. So, you know, Goodyear is sort of following a tradition. Sort of.


The timing is also kinda special. This is the minister who has tried, unsuccessfully, to explain budget cuts to the scientific community at a time when all the other G-20 countries are ramping up investments in science and technology. Now, the Tories will have to live with a science minister who is a chiropractor who won't touch the issue of evolution with a 10-foot dinosaur bone. You can hear the support leaking from the Tory balloon in Ontario and Quebec as we speak.


To recap today's astounding events, we've got a pope that thinks public health is a betrayal of his religious beliefs. And we've got a science minister in Canada who thinks acknowledging evolution is a betrayal of HIS religious beliefs.


In actual fact, neither the distribution of condoms nor the acknowledgement of evolution makes someone a bad person, a bad Christian, or a bad Catholic for that matter. The failure of these influential figures to acknowledge these simple but important concepts makes me  worry that we're never going to put destructive and divisive attitudes behind us and finally solve some of the world's great problems.


And THAT makes me question the existence of evolution.

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About Dan Lett

Dan Lett came to Winnipeg in 1986, less than a year out of journalism school.

Despite the fact that he’s originally from Toronto and has a fatal attraction to the Maple Leafs, Winnipeggers let him stay.

In the following years, he has worked at bureaus covering every level of government – from city hall to the national bureau in Ottawa.

He has had bricks thrown at him in riots following the 1995 Quebec referendum, wrote stories that helped in part to free three wrongly convicted men, met Fidel Castro, interviewed three Philippine presidents, crossed several borders in Africa illegally, chased Somali pirates in a Canadian warship and had several guns pointed at him.

In other words, he’s had every experience a journalist could even hope for. He has also been fortunate enough to be a two-time nominee for a National Newspaper Award, winning in 2003 for investigations.

Other awards include the B’Nai Brith National Human Rights Media Award and nominee for the Michener Award for Meritorious Public Service in Journalism.

Now firmly rooted in Winnipeg, Dan visits Toronto often but no longer pines to live there.


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