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November 23, 2012 10:28 AM Still Fighting the Enlightenment

By Mark Kleiman

Marco Rubio decides that running for President as a Republican means pretending to believe that the Earth is flat, or that it might be flat, or that the question of its shape is in dispute among scientists and theologians and therefore above his pay-grade, but in any case kids shouldn’t be taught the scientific answer if their parents object.

Well, not quite. The question wasn’t about the shape of the Earth, but the equally factual question of its age.

Here’s the answer in full, from Rubio’s GQ interview:

I’m not a scientist, man. I can tell you what recorded history says, I can tell you what the Bible says, but I think that’s a dispute amongst theologians and I think it has nothing to do with the gross domestic product or economic growth of the United States. I think the age of the universe has zero to do with how our economy is going to grow. I’m not a scientist. I don’t think I’m qualified to answer a question like that. At the end of the day, I think there are multiple theories out there on how the universe was created and I think this is a country where people should have the opportunity to teach them all. I think parents should be able to teach their kids what their faith says, what science says. Whether the Earth was created in 7 days, or 7 actual eras, I’m not sure we’ll ever be able to answer that. It’s one of the great mysteries.

b-z-z-z-z-z-t! Thanks for playing, Senator, but the quantum, the cosmos, and consciousness are mysteries. The age of the age of the Earth is no more a “great mystery” than the weight of a pint of water. And if you think that the difference between truth and b.s. has nothing to do with the GDP, you should consider a different line of work.

Footnote Rubio’s answer is opaque with respect to what he means when he says “parents should be able to teach their kids what their faith says.” Either he’s calling for what always has been true and always will be true – that parents can tell their kids anything they please – or he’s calling for parents to be able to do so without contradiction from the schools.

If this is the best the GOP can do for 2016, I say “Bring it on.” And it may, in fact, be the case that no one who insisted on the rational answer to that question could win a Republican primary.

[Cross-posted at The Reality-based Community]

Mark Kleiman is a professor of public policy at the University of California Los Angeles.

Comments

  • TomParmenter on November 24, 2012 5:16 PM:

    If simple straightforward sciences like biology and geology disturb the primitive mind, just wait till they hear about the physicists.

  • boatboy_srq on November 25, 2012 11:12 AM:

    I can tell you what recorded history says, I can tell you what the Bible says, but I think thatís a dispute amongst theologians...

    This is the most dangerous part of the line. "Recorded history" (does Rubio mean Herodotus, or Gilgamesh, or the the harvest tallies of the Qing or the Indus?) - and "the Bible" (again) - and then this "that's a dispute amongst theologians" as if the age of the Earth were a matter of religious doctrine and not experimentally provable science. I suppose that, since Rube(io) is "not a scientist, man," that means that he's not only disinterested in a scientific answer but that scientific answers aren't relevant to him.

    And then there's [A]nd I think it has nothing to do with the gross domestic product or economic growth of the United States. I think the age of the universe has zero to do with how our economy is going to grow. He'd best think again if he thinks all those computers and smartphones and digital timepieces are all going to go on being connectable and accurate and stable, since the same science that measures the age of the Earth was used to make them accurate and powerful and capable. And more of that same science was used to create the US military arsenal (both the nuclear and conventional; the one manufacturing the warheads and developing the launch, guidance and trigger systems, and the other building ever-stealthier, ever-more-efficient, ever-more accurate delivery systems right down to the personnel armor and rifles) which the GOTea worships ever so reverently every November 11th: if the age of the Earth has nothing to do with everyday reality then all the investment in all those tools has been for naught, since prediction of their stability, accuracy or durability is nearly pointless. And even if the age of the Earth has nothing to do with making the US GDP grow, the same science that reached the numbers is in use forecasting weather event probabilities and tracking real weather events; Rubio by now ought to be able to say how useful such science is in predicting how extreme events are going to make the US GDP shrink - especially after Andrew, Charlie, Frances, Ivan, Jeannie, Katrina, Rita and Wilma, and then Deepwater Horizon, whose events he was in-state to see first-hand, and now Sandy, for which recovery he'll at least see part of the price tag.