Friday, November 30, 2012

My Goat is Gotten


Seems there's been some ill-considered comments by Florida Senator Marco Rubio, supposedly one of the Republican party's rising stars, about the age of the earth.  Via Alex Knapp at Forbes:

Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who many political observers think has a strong shot to be a 2016 Presidential candidate, just finished a lengthy interview with GQ that you can read here. One thing that struck my interest here, as someone who often reports on science, was Rubio’s answer when he was asked the question, “How old do you think the Earth is.”
In response, Rubio told GQ that, “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.”
 

Matthew Francis at Galileo's Pendulum weighs in on the age of the earth and Rubio:

I also get that in today’s Republican Party, there is a conflict between secular conservatism—which cares little for theological debates, in favor of and a powerful Christian fundamentalist element that won’t throw support behind anyone who doesn’t take a literalist view of Genesis. You’re trying to have it both ways.

However, the age of Earth is not a matter of opinion, so there is no “middle ground” for discussion. Whether there’s a dispute among theologians or not is, frankly, irrelevant. The age of Earth (4.54 billion years, which you find if you type “age of earth” into Google search) is not a controversial issue, and hasn’t been for many years in the scientific community.
 
And (going back to Alex Knapp) here's why what Rubio says and thinks matters:

This doesn’t mean that our representatives to the Congress and to the Senate should be scientific experts. But if they hold ideas about the world around us that are fundamentally at odds with scientific evidence, then that will ultimately infringe on their ability to make reasoned judgments about a host of issues where the economy touches technology. And that could end up harming the economy as a whole.
 

In other words, Rubio (to use but one example) is saying:

1. I believe X is true, as so pronounced by my faith. 

2. The premise Y--although universally accepted within the scientific community--is at odds with my belief in X.

3.  Therefore, since X must be true, that means that Y is false.

When I see scientific denialism, my goat is gotten. Nothing drives me nuts more than simply denying facts that conflict with one's paradigms. My

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