Still fighting the Enlightenment

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.

Comments

  1. says

    As a Democrat, I’m fortunate that there isn’t anything approaching a similar portion of my party that is batshit. Anyone who, in this day and age, can’t see their way past this fundamentalist load is not a serious human. And when a party’s best presidential material has to grab his ankles like this, the party itself is simply not serious.

    Big tents are fine, but you keep the porta-potties outside.

    • bobbyp says

      As a Democrat, I’m fortunate that there isn’t anything approaching a similar portion of my party that is batshit.

      Take the Blue Dog Coalition, please. When it comes to fiscal policy and economics, they are batshit to the gills.

  2. Ed Whitney says

    It’s a fallacy all right, but how do you get the people to resent it as they would an insult? GB Shaw, recently quoted on this website, might well wonder how this is to be done.

  3. navarro says

    over at the political animal blog i had an argument in the comments a few months ago over how far the earth is from the sun during different parts of its orbit. my interlocutor there thought it was ridiculous to assert that the earth was farther from the sun during summer in the northern hemisphere than during winter and called me a brainwashed idiot for attributing the difference in temperature to the tilt of earth’s axis. it was a very frustrating conversation. i am stumped by the question of how to rationally discuss scientific facts with people who wear scientific ignorance as a badge.

    • Seth says

      “…called me a brainwashed idiot for attributing the difference in temperature to the tilt of earth’s axis.”

      To what did he attribute the temperature difference? Gremlins?

      “…how to rationally discuss scientific facts with people who wear scientific ignorance as a badge.”

      You don’t. We have to engage those who aren’t already committed to anti-science paranoia. There is a substantial minority who just take that “proud to be an idiot” stance to be provocative. Don’t we all have a crazy uncle like that? They have to be ignored and out-voted by the non-obtuse.

      • navarro says

        he attributed it to the intuitively obvious “fact” that the earth was closer to the sun when it was hot in the northern hemisphere and farther away when it was cold.

        • Warren Terra says

          In fairness, I think I was actually taught in elementary school that an elliptical orbit accounted for the warmth of summer and the cold of winter. I have no idea when it was that I learned better.

          • Seth says

            What I find intriguing about this mind-set is the way *some* need for rational causal explanations co-exists with categorical rejection of unfamiliar evidence. If elliptical orbits — themselves involving quite a lot of not-exactly-biblical scientific evidence — don’t fall under the “brain-washing” stigma, why does the tilt of Earth’s axis? The acceptable dogma is acquired young and Must … Not … Change … apparently.

  4. Anomalous says

    See the above post on “facing inconvenient truths”.
    The batcrap just goes a-squirtin’ out all over. OOOOH WHAT A GOOEY MESS!

  5. says

    And just to nitpick: the age of the earth (and the supposed dispute about it) has everything to do with how the US economy grows or doesn’t. At the tactical level, we need young people who know how the universe works, that modern physics does a good job of describing the world, that evolutionary theory describes how systems of organisms develop, that the abundances and behaviors of particular elements aren’t accidental. At the strategic level, we need leaders who can understand evidence and know that cutting spending doesn’t help recessions, cutting taxes doesn’t reduce deficits, and calling your opponent a muslim or a socialist really isn’t a good response to their arguments.

  6. rachelrachel says

    But see this new Slate piece from science columnist Daniel Engber:

    http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2012/11/rubio_and_obama_and_the_age_of_earth_politicians_hedge_about_whether_universe.single.html

    They’re not exactly the same, but they both think that the question of whether God created the world in six or seven (if you include the day of rest) days is a matter to be debated among theologians, or as Obama puts it, “the Christian community.” Neither thinks it’s matter of a scientific fact, as Mark presumably would want them to.

    It’s worth reading Engber’s commentary, linked above.

    **————————————————————**

    Here’s Rubio, in his interview for the December 2012 issue of GQ:

    Q: How old do you think the Earth is?

    A: 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.
    And here’s then-Sen. Obama, D-Ill., speaking at the Compassion Forum at Messiah College in Grantham, Pa. on April 13, 2008:

    Q: Senator, if one of your daughters asked you—and maybe they already have—“Daddy, did god really create the world in 6 days?,” what would you say?

    A: What I’ve said to them is that I believe that God created the universe and that the six days in the Bible may not be six days as we understand it … it may not be 24-hour days, and that’s what I believe. I know there’s always a debate between those who read the Bible literally and those who don’t, and I think it’s a legitimate debate within the Christian community of which I’m a part. My belief is that the story that the Bible tells about God creating this magnificent Earth on which we live—that is essentially true, that is fundamentally true. Now, whether it happened exactly as we might understand it reading the text of the Bible: That, I don’t presume to know.

    **————————————————————**

  7. Andrew Laurence says

    I hate religion, but I agree with Rubio here. The age of the universe has nothing to do with fixing America’s problems. If you believe that people who subscribe to religion are also irrational in other areas of their lives, then we should definitely place only the non-religious in policymaking positions, but there’s no real evidence that a person’s “Sunday beliefs” necessarily affect the work they do on Monday morning.