Marco Rubio: not a scientist

November 19, 2012 • 9:00 pm

by Greg Mayer

In an apparent effort to keep up with Rep. Paul Broun (R-Georgia), Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida), who is being touted as a presidential candidate, produced this gem of reasoning in an interview with GQ:

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.

Andrew Sullivan responds:

No, we have answered that. The earth was not created 6,000 years ago in seven days. Period. Anyone who says anything else as a factual matter is nuts.

Rubio’s waffling was immediately noticed, and even arch religious conservative Ross Douthat, of all people, is mildly critical. Paul Krugman takes up Rubio’s claim that science doesn’t matter:

when Rubio says that the question of the Earth’s age “has zero to do with how our economy is going to grow”, he’s dead wrong. For one thing, science and technology education has a lot to do with our future productivity — and how are you going to have effective science education if schools have to give equal time to the views of fundamentalist Christians?

Importantly, Krugman notes that the underlying  problem is epistemological:

More broadly, the attitude that discounts any amount of evidence — and boy, do we have lots of evidence on the age of the planet! — if it conflicts with prejudices is not an attitude consistent with effective policy. If you’re going to ignore what geologists say if you don’t like its implications, what are the chances that you’ll take sensible advice on monetary and fiscal policy?… [T]he modern GOP [is] fundamentally hostile to the very idea of objective inquiry.

Rubio is either ignorant, lying to prevent alienating his “base”, or incapable of rational inquiry. But whether it’s ignorance, mendacity, or stupidity, surely this should disqualify this man from being put in charge of anything, let alone the United States.

Update. Alex Knapp at Forbes has a great post on Rubio, “Why Marco Rubio Needs To Know That The Earth Is Billions Of Years Old”, in which he details some of the practical consequences of the science of the age of the Earth being all wrong. Do read the whole piece. Money quote:

The bottom line is that this economy, at its root, is built on  a web of scientific knowledge from physics to chemistry to biology. It’s impossible to just cherry pick out parts we don’t like. If the Earth is 9,000 years old, then virtually the entire construct of modern science is simply wrong. Not only that, most of the technology that we rely on most likely wouldn’t work – as they’re dependent on science that operates on the same physical laws that demonstrate the age of the universe.

h/t Andrew Sullivan