MP James Lunney quit the Conservative caucus to defend his views on evolution and religious freedom. He is shown here at the 2014 National March for Life. Photo by Deborah Gyapong

MP quits Conservative caucus to defend views on evolution

By 
  • April 8, 2015

OTTAWA - MP James Lunney quit the Conservative caucus March 31 to sit as an independent so he could better defend the religious freedom of Christians facing mounting attacks and ridicule in Canada.

“I am tired of seeing my co-religionists belittled in the public square,” the B.C. MP said in an interview.

Lunney, a chiropractor, said he experienced attacks and social media “crowd shaming” when he came to the defence of Christian politicians running provincially who were targeted for their beliefs concerning evolution. Lunney had chimed in on Twitter, only to be smeared, ridiculed and derided, he said. Because of his scientific training, he decided to throw off the shackles of caucus discipline and wade right into the debate. He stressed the Conservatives did not ask him to leave, but he chose to do so because no political party wants controversy.

On April 1, he spoke in the House of Commons about his decision, warning of “a concerted effort by various interests in Canada to undermine freedom of religion in Canada.” He referred to a March 25 news conference in Ottawa where evangelical Christian faith leaders expressed “alarm at increasing and unprecedented attempts to stifle freedom of religion, conscience and expression in Canada.” They spoke of the attempts to keep Trinity Western Law School graduates from practising law and the violations of physicians’ conscience rights by provincial physicians’ colleges, among other things.

“They identified deliberate attempts to suppress a Christian world view from professional and economic opportunity in law, medicine and academia,” he said. “I share these concerns, and I believe there is a growing and malignant trend by what some would call cyber trolls to engage, entrap, belittle and embarrass politicians of faith over false constructs of the word ‘evolution.’ ”

He spoke of how his comments were distorted and became a national story “inflated by the media,” and “creating a firestorm of criticism and condemnation.”

His profession and the schools where he studied “were subject to slander,” and his constituents “insulted.” He said he decided to fight back because of his background in science, and has higher credentials in the scientific field than most of his critics.

“Freedom of religion and conscience are fundamental freedoms in Canada. Bigotry cloaked in defence of science is as intolerable and repugnant as bigotry from any other source,” he said.

In an interview Lunney explained that everyone believes in evolution to some degree, since one can observe species’ adaptation. Where he differs from the “prevailing atheistic mindset” is on macro-evolution, the theory that human beings evolved by chance from the primordial slime.

“That theory is in crisis,” he said. 

That theory of evolution comes to a “full stop” at the immense complexity of the living cell discovered through advances in molecular biology. Lunney said the technology to study the cell did not exist in Charles Darwin’s day. 

“I know far more about the human body and cells than most of my critics,” he said. “If evolution is not controversial enough, my beliefs are based on science.”

Lunney, an evangelical Christian, disputed the idea the Christian faith and science are incompatible. 

“I’m a believer in God,” he said. “I am not ashamed of that.”

An observer who has studied the scientific debate on evolution for the past 14 years agrees with Lunney that old ideas of evolution have been challenged by recent scientific discoveries.

“Evolution just means change happens over time,” said Denyse O’Leary, author of By Design or By Chance? The Growing Controversy on the Origins of Life in the Universe. “It is reasonable to expect a person to demonstrate the change they say happened.

“Claiming that huge changes happen and just calling it ‘evolution’ without demonstration is a way of smuggling a philosophical concept in. Often, it is a way of smuggling in naturalist atheism.” 

O’Leary contends both religious believers and atheists can be guilty of importing faith or philosophical concepts into science that are not supported by evidence.

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