Marco Rubio is not a scientist, man
November 21, 2012By Dick Polman
You know how the commonsensical wing of the GOP is always insisting that the party has to show more respect for science? Because, after all, most voters live in the 21st century and not the Middle Ages? Because at this point on the human calendar, factual empiricism is a tad more credible than superstition?
Sage advice, yes. But here's Marco Rubio, the party's great Latino hope for 2016, answering a question in the new issue of GQ magazine.
Q: "How old do you think the earth is?
Rubio: "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 among theologians and I think it has nothing to do with 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 seven days, or 7 actual eras, I'm not sure we'll ever be able to answer that. It's one of the great mysteries."
Oh no, another Republican pandering to the faith-based lobby — and doing so with an inartful straddle, creating a false balance between science and magical thinking. We just endured two years of Mitt Romney, a candidate whose utterances all too frequently required serious unpacking, and now it appears we've got to annotate this guy too.
First of all, the age of the earth is not "one of the great mysteries." It is well established — thanks to various scientific disciplines, notably the radiometric dating of rocks — that the earth is roughly 4.5 billion years old. Anyone can find out that with a click of the mouse. Even if Rubio didn't know earth's age, "billions" woud have sufficed — if he had wanted to acknowledge the primacy of science. But he didn't. Instead he contended, regarding the age of earth, that the Bible is just as credible a teaching tool as science. Pretty ironic, give the fact that Rubio sits on the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee.
Second, "I'm not a scientist, man. . . .I don't think I'm qualified" is such a fatuous remark. Nor is he an economist, man, but that lack of qualification has never stopped him from railing about the sluggish economy. Oh, and speaking of the economy: Rubio insisted, as part of his bob and weave, that the "age of the universe has zero to do with how our economy is going to grow," that this dispute between science and religion "has nothing to do with gross domestic product or economic growth of the United States." He might want to rethink that one, because it's the primacy of science that powers our economy. Science will enable us to compete effectively with the other nations in the 21st century — unless the other nations trump us scientifically.
Clearly Rubio is already thinking about the religious-right voters in Iowa — if he'd answered "billions," he might've alienated some of them — but, as Yogi Berra supposedly said, this is deja vu all over again. Somehow, at some point, the GOP is going to ditch its anti-science baggage, and join the modern world — if it wants to start winning national elections again.
As Jeb Bush said on CNN Tuesday morning, "We've got to be a kind of pro-science and pro-technology party." And when asked about Rubio's ruminations about earth, Jeb replied: "Yeah, kind of a strange response, I guess." But it's the kind of response that Republicans have given all too often, in obeiseance to their conservative base. A new primary season cycle has begun, and here they go again.
Have a great Thanksgiving. Bottom line, let us be thankful for the gift of living. As the great sage Robert De Niro says (in his inimitable way), "I've gotta account for every day, every moment, every this, every that."
I'll be posting on Black Friday.
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