Dinosaurs and Denial
Last month, when GQ asked Rubio “how old do you think the Earth is?” he stammered through an answer.
“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.” He continued, “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.”
This week, in an interview with Politico, he attempted to mop up that mess.
He said, “There is no scientific debate on the age of the Earth. I mean, it’s established pretty definitively. It’s at least 4.5 billion years old.”
But then he hedged: “I just think in America we should have the freedom to teach our children whatever it is we believe. And that means teaching them science. They have to know the science, but also parents have the right to teach them the theology and to reconcile those two things.”
Why the hedge? Because he is in a party of creationists. According to a June Gallup report, most Republicans (58 percent) believed that God created humans in their present form within the last 10,000 years. Most Democrats and independents did not agree.
This anti-intellectualism is antediluvian. No wonder a 2009 Pew Research Center report found that only 6 percent of scientists identified as Republican and 9 percent identified as conservative.
Furthermore, a 2005 study found that just 11 percent of college professors identified as Republican and 15 percent identified as conservative. Some argue that this simply represents a liberal bias in academia. But just as strong a case could be made that people who absorb facts easily don’t suffer fools gladly.
Last month, Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, the chairman of the Republican Governors Association, said on CNN:
“We need to stop being the dumb party. We need to offer smart, conservative, intelligent ideas and policies.”
This is exactly the kind of turn the Republicans need to take, but Jindal’s rhetoric doesn’t completely line up with his record. As The Scotsman of Edinburgh reported in June, “Pupils attending privately run Christian schools in the southern state of Louisiana will learn from textbooks next year, which claim Scotland’s most famous mythological beast is a living creature.” That mythological beast would be the Loch Ness monster.
The Scotsman continued: “Thousands of children are to receive publicly funded vouchers enabling them to attend the schools — which follow a strict fundamentalist curriculum. The Accelerated Christian Education (ACE) programme teaches controversial religious beliefs, aimed at disproving evolution and proving creationism. Youngsters will be told that if it can be proved that dinosaurs walked the Earth at the same time as man, then Darwinism is fatally flawed.”
This is all because of a law that Jindal signed. Thankfully, last week a state judge ruled that the voucher program is unconstitutional. But Louisiana isn’t the only red state where creationism has state support.
Kentucky has a Creationist Museum that warns visitors to “be prepared to experience history in a completely unprecedented way,” according to its Web site. It continues: “Adam and Eve live in the Garden of Eden. Children play and dinosaurs roam near Eden’s Rivers.” Unprecedented is certainly one word for it.
Now the museum group is planning to build a creationist theme park, with $43 million in state tax incentives. It should be noted that Mitt Romney won Kentucky by 23 points last month. President Obama won only four of Kentucky’s 120 counties.
And the beginning of the world isn’t the only point of denial. So is the potential end of it. A March Gallup poll found that Republicans were much less likely than Democrats or independents to say that they worried about global warming. Only 16 percent of Republicans said that they worried a great deal about it, while 42 percent of Democrats and 31 percent of independents did.
This as the National Climatic Data Center reported that “the January-November period was the warmest first 11 months of any year on record for the contiguous United States, and for the entire year, 2012 will most likely surpass the current record (1998, 54.3°F) as the warmest year for the nation.”
Surely some of this is because of party isolationism and extremism and what David Frum, the conservative columnist, called the “conservative entertainment complex.” But there is also willful ignorance at play in some quarters, and Republicans mustn’t simply brush it aside. They must beat it back.
If the Republicans don’t want to see their party go the way of the dinosaurs, they have to step out of the past.