Sunday, November 25, 2012

Marco Rubio Sounds the Death Knell of the Republican Party

Had to go and say it, didn't you.

GQ: How old do you think the Earth is?
Marco 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 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.
Some might believe it's wishful thinking, but I take Marco Rubio's statement above to disqualify him from the office of the presidency. It may be that other deficiencies hurt his chances or that even to consider him as presidential material is highly premature, but since he's already haunting the political spaces of Iowa, we know what he's got in mind. And since he is already the de facto Solution to the Hispanic Problem for the Republican Party, his hat is automatically in the ring.

What's disqualifying about his "I'm not a scientist, man. I can tell you what recorded history says, I can tell you what the Bible says..." remarks? It's that he has, by this statement, firmly presented his anti-science credentials to his core conservative Christian base, full stop. He's already amassing his list of dog whistles and already begun to blow them. Good base politics? Sure. Good way to attract 51 percent of the vote? Unlikely. Not impossible, just unlikely.

That's why it's not wishful thinking or hyperbole to say Rubio has quite likely, in the YouTube/social media/web-pages-never-die reality of the Information Age, ended his chances as a serious candidate for We the People. For his shrinking party, sure. The rest of us? Nah.

Now, if his Republican Party decides "Hey, this good Christian Latino boy is our man!" then both he and they live or die as the anti-science party. Good for a decent run from Ronnie to George W.? Sure. Good for a durable life in the 21st century? Don't think so.

Nice art, nice story. Teach it as possibly factual? Please.

Another part of Rubio's answer -- "It's one of the great mysteries" -- is also terrifically dismissive of science. No, Marco, it's not one of the great mysteries. We can know the age of stuff quite accurately, you know, by measuring. Using radiometric age dating we discover that the Earth is 4.54 ± 0.05 billion years old. That's accurate to within one percent.

I'm adamant about this, but that doesn't mean I'm absolutely right. Checking in with the latest Gallup poll on the popularity of the biblical story of creation, we find that 46 percent of Americans believe that God created man in his current form some time in the last 10,000 years. Yikes!

Behind the headline answers, we find that more Republicans than Democrats or Independents believe in creationism without an evolution component. Also, the more educated an American is, the less likely he or she is to believe in the biblical view. Still the vast majority of Americans, 78 percent, believe that God was involved in the process.

I really shouldn't be surprised at these findings. I grew up believing in God and science, and thus I believed in the God-induced evolutionary scheme. By sixteen I still believed in science. In God, not so much.

But the point here is not whether you're a Christian, believe in God, or believe that God created man in His image about 6,000 years ago. We have Marco Rubio, a senator and a serious candidate for president, rejecting science as the true arbiter of facts surrounding the origins and age of the Earth.

I find his views disqualifying, but of course the Republican Party, by and large, does not. So he can win the Republican nomination. And he can always Etch-A-Sketch his anti-science views with a statement like "What I meant was we're free to believe whatever we like because it's America," which is good as far as it goes. But it's still anti-science, anti-intellectual, anti-inquisitive, anti-education.

Paul Krugman's comments influenced me here and here. And, yes, there are policy implications when considering a candidate for president who rejects overwhelming scientific evidence out of hand. That candidate would be almost required by his core constituents to base his decisions not on science but on a biblical view. This is how politics work, after all.

Krugman also linked to a PDF that tells the story of John Hutton, the Scot who can be credited for laying out the first credible scientific view of how the Earth and its rocks were formed and the probable length of time involved. And this in 1785. It's a great story and well told.

John Hutton looked at the rock formations in the picture above and knew that the Earth was older than 6,000 years. Marco Rubio looks at it and says, "It's one of the great mysteries." Sorry, Marco, we need more than that in a president, and it would be one of the great mysteries if you were ever to be so elected.


  1. Rubio speaks the mind of the rank-and-file Republican soldier (evangelical and engaged).

    This will win him points with the base while going under the radar (sadly) of the mainstream public awareness.

    A dogwhistle of sorts to the religious extreme of the party to start his candidacy.

    Whether the GOP can make anti-science palatable to the public at large is yet to be seen... remember, they think their message is ok, they just need a charismatic enough messenger :)

    1. Right. That's been the funniest -- and most predictable -- aspect of the lessons learned by the GOP from 2012: message fine, need better messaging.

      Which I've can only conclude -- besides having minorities pitch the same crap -- means better false advertising or shrewder dog whistles.