Op-Ed of the Day: A call for a scientific statesman

How old do you think the Earth is?

It’s a simple question that GQ asked Senator Marco Rubio, who is often mentioned as a contender for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. Rubio gave the magazine a convoluted and controversial 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 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.

Critics have called the remarks cowardly, doctrinaire, confused and error-riddled. Other have said he sounds like Obama.

Rather than bash Rubio for his hedging, Nicolas Wade in the New York Times lays part of the blame for his evasiveness at the feet of the those who believe in evolution. Wade calls for “a scientific statesman.” Since, “like those electrons that can be waves or particles, evolution is both a theory and a fact,” why not admit that and discuss it as such?

Evolutionary biologists are furiously debating whether or not natural selection can operate on groups of individuals, as Darwin thought was likely but most modern evolutionists doubt. So which version of evolution is the true one?

By allowing that evolution is a theory, scientists would hand fundamentalists the fig leaf they need to insist, at least among themselves, that the majestic words of the first chapter of Genesis are literal, not metaphorical, truths. They in return should make no objection to the teaching of evolution in science classes as a theory, which indeed it is.

Nicolas Wade will join us tomorrow to talk about how scientists could be better ambassadors to the evangelical community.

–Stephanie Curtis, social media host