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Saturday, December 10, 2016

On the second weekend after the 2012 election, the 2016 election season began, as Senator Marco Rubio visited Iowa to attend Iowa governor Terry Branstad’s birthday party. Iowa, of course, is the home of the first presidential nominating caucus and a second home to all prospective candidates.

As expected, Rubio dismissed speculation about his presidential ambitions, then tried out his new take on spinning Republican economics. “The way to turn our economy around is not by making rich people poorer, it’s by making poor people richer,” he said in his 24-minute speech at the dinner.

New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait points out that Rubio is the perfect candidate if the GOP wants to move left on immigration to attract Latino voters, “then to change on absolutely nothing else.” However, The New Republic‘s Nate Cohn has looked at the data and noted that if Romney had performed 20 points better with Hispanics, Obama still would have won 303 electoral votes.

Still, Rubio is a handsome Cuban-American Tea Party darling with a neo-conservative foreign policy. If he didn’t exist, the GOP would be trying to genetically engineer him. Simply put, he offers the ability to present the image of change without even attempting to alter the GOP’s pro-rich, anti-science policies.

In a new interview with GQ magazine, the junior senator from Florida stakes out his know-nothing credentials on science in a Mitt Romney-like way. When asked, “How old do you think the Earth is?” Rubio, a member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, responded:

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.

Here Rubio shows that he’s not going to be wrangled, as former Republican candidate Richard Mourdock was, into making stark theological prescriptions. But he’s also not going to show any intention of deferring to science. Science has theories and theologians have theories, let’s teach them all, he suggests. It sounds as if he’s suggesting teaching creationism in schools, but he then goes on to say that parents should be able to teach their kids both what their faith says and what science says. As if anyone ever questioned that.

His closing thought is that the age of the Earth is “one of our great mysteries,” which is true unless you believe in science. According to the US Geological Survey, we don’t know the exact age of the Earth. But we do know, “Ancient rocks exceeding 3.5 billion years in age are found on all of Earth’s continents.”

Rubio isn’t a scientist, we know that. But the question is if he trusts scientists. His answer seems to be that their opinions are no more important than those of theologians. And that’s still exactly what you have to say if you’re running for the Republican presidential nomination.

Photo credit: AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari, File

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