I've been following the aftermath from when Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida was given an ambush question by GQ magazine about the age of the Earth and said:
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 seven days, or seven actual eras, I'm not sure we'll ever be able to answer that. It's one of the great mysteries.
Yes, it's true that Republicans are put on the spot with these science questions, but it's also true that they are the ones providing the terrible answers. In the spirit of Ken's Law, yes a trap was set for him, but he threw himself into it when it was sprung.
There's a boiler plate response from the science-friendly left when these issues come up, that this level of scientific idiocy is a marker for incompetence in a leadership position, and holding these incorrect views will spillover to other areas. Phil Plait took that angle in a recent piece.
Rubio is exactly and precisely wrong. Science, and how it tells us the age of the Earth, has everything to do with how our economy will grow.
By teaching our kids actual science, we can guarantee the future of this country and its economic growth. By hiding it from them, by equivocating about it with them, by providing false balance between reality and wishful thinking, what we guarantee is a future work force that can't distinguish between what's real and what isn't.
That's a formula for failure. And you don't need to be a scientist to see that.
I think this card is overplayed, and it misses the real problem with Rubio's reply. He said nothing to indicate that in his opinion the Earth is a mere 6,000 years old, as opposed to 4.54 billion years. Instead, he presented those views as equal.
Which I see as much worse.
Rubio has demonstrated that he is willing to pander to the extreme fringe by throwing a bone to young-Earth creationists. This isn't something he did casually, but a deliberate attempt to play it safe instead of taking a very basic, acceptable stance. Rubio wasn't being stupid; he was being a spineless worm.
When the pro-science left tries to dismiss the economic ideas of Republicans because they have stupid views on science, I'm reminded of the 2000 presidential debate. Conservatives tried to argue that Bill Clinton's lies and betrayals as a husband implied he was also dishonest as a politician, which lead to Al and Tipper Gore sharing an eye-melting kiss at the Democratic National Convention to "prove" he was a trustworthy husband, and therefore, would make a trustworthy president.
Well, we now know he fell short of at least one of those roles.
If we're going to write off the economic policies of a politician because they are ignorant of geology or biology, shouldn't we be all the more eager to write off politicians who demonstrate wacky views about the economy? Look at the blunt-headed foolishness of Bernie Sanders shakedown on the Smithsonian gift shop, Chellie Pinegree's localist job-conjuring pipe dream or now-disgraced Jesse Jackson Jr.s claims that the iPad is a threat to the economy. Shouldn't those foolish ideas be bigger disqualifications?
I would like to see these science questions be given to more Democrats to see what level of pandering they will give, such as in 2008 when all the major contenders for president rejected the scientific consensus that vaccines do not cause autism. Just like Rubio, it's not that they revealed themselves to be stupid, but instead demonstrated that scientific truth will be sacrificed to win the approval of fools.