Ok, so this is going to be a little difficult to put into words, especially since Tumblr can be about as bigoted toward creationists as conservative Christianity is toward gays. (Don’t assume conservative Christianity and creationists are equivalent.) Earlier this week, Sen. Marco Rubio (R) answered a question in an interview for GQ:
GQ: 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 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.
Since then his comments have sparked a bit of a crapstorm in the political echo chamber, and I’ve become annoyed.
Yes, we want officials who do not operate with complete disregard for scientific evidence. Knowing their relationship to the scientific community is important when sizing up the sorts of choices they might make once elected. (No more Todd Akin junk, thank you very much.) This consideration for science is especially important when it comes to climate change. Creationism, however, is more nuanced. And the question asked by GQ about the age of the Earth really is a subtle way of asking about the origin of the Earth.
My biggest gripe with the Rubio story is that the talking heads are trying to make scientific sense of an inherently evasive answer. Rubio’s response is not the best form of the argument by a long shot. In fact, it’s very purposefully not an argument at all. His words are calculated to keep from alienating a religiously conservative base, not to answer a question about the age of the Earth. A certain degree of responsibility needs to be placed upon the reporter, too, because it’s foolish from the outset to assume that a politician with a couple of law degrees is in any kind of position to be answering questions pertaining to archaeology and astrophysics.
Still, the only part of Rubio’s answer that is actually reproachable is when he says that the age of the universe is “a dispute among theologians.” I disagree with that. I believe that the realm of theology is too saturated with metaphor to adequately address the issue.
As for the rest of his answer, Rubio is pretty responsible: “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.”
Also, if this country is going to continue to have the religious freedom that it has had for its entire existence thus far (and please note that I am not very religious), it’s important that creationists (whether you agree with them or not) have free voice. I don’t think one particular religion belongs in the classroom. But considering the fact that a large percentage of the US population do believe in some version of God, I don’t think it’s inappropriate to make mention of one of their shared beliefs in the educational system.
Since Marco Rubio avoided the question, I’m hoping to give you a better form of the argument - one that will hopefully explain why being a creationist is not so fundamentally idiotic.