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Science and anti-science, Catholicism, and… oh yeah, Mars. November 22, 2012

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Astronomy, Religion, Science, Uncategorized.

It’s interesting to hear news from the United States that up and coming Republican contender Marco Rubio has been explicitly saying in a GQ magazine interview that he doesn’t know whether the earth is 4.54 billion years old. Actually it’s even worse than that because he slips into a discourse rooted in the Bible.

Q: How old do you think the Earth is?
A: 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.

Er… no, no it’s not a mystery at all. The research and theoretical basis for asserting that the Earth is 4.54 billion years old is solid.

Actually it’s arguably even worse than that again because Rubio, as it happens, is a Catholic and whatever else about the Catholic Church, and boy are we seeing it in some respects at its most unlovely at the moment in this state, it has never been shy in the modern period about integrating scientific theories and concepts into its worldview. In other words the Catholic Church accepts the science on the age of the Earth, the universe and so on. Though interestingly – to me at least – it adds its own spin as regards believing is a process guided by God. Tricky one that.

At a stretch so, one could say that in terms of science on the big ticket items it gets it particularly right, whereas on the smaller more human scale as we’ve seen… well… anyway.

Now, as noted here in the past, there have been some wobbles, a certain tone entering the discourse which is troubling. And perhaps in the super-heated context of US political activity, in a state where 58 per cent of Republicans and 46 per cent of US citizens claim to believe in creationism (as noted in the NYT by Juliet Lapidos) – statistics that are stunning in their own way.

But one wonders is this a straw in the wind as regards unreason. The list of Catholic creationist organisations and lobbies appears to be increasing – many are US based, but not all, and tellingly some are allied with ‘traditionalist’ views. In that context perhaps Rubio’s remarks are suddenly more explicable, in that lamentably creationist views are gaining a wider currency. And closer to home there’s more than a hint of the broader environment within which these beliefs flourish from Alive!

Meanwhile in Slate there’s a good [no it’s not, on reflection I read it too quickly and as smiffy says it’s disingenuous] piece on how this discourse distorts even Obama’s responses, albeit not to anything like the same degree – where he too fudges on the age of the universe, while giving a sterling performance in regards to supporting evolution.

But what sort of a pass have we reached?

And as for Mars, also from Slate, seems like the Curiosity rover may have found something very interesting there. Very interesting indeed. Though they’re not saying what. Yet.

Scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena are keeping their lips sealed for the time being while they run additional tests to make sure the discovery holds up. That, however, hasn’t stopped one of the mission’s leaders from speculating loudly that it’ll be one that rewrites at least some of what we know about the universe. 
“This data is gonna be one for the history books,” John Grotzinger, the rover mission’s principal investigator, told NPR last week for a the buzz-inciting segment that aired today. “It’s looking really good.”

If you look through the comments you’ll find some entertaining suggestions as to what has been found. Tongue in cheek, I have to add.

Rubio and NASA. There one has it, a sort of dichotomy between world views, between abstractions and actual events both on this world and an immediate neighbour.


1. smiffy - November 22, 2012

The Slate piece comparing Rubio and Obama is disingenuous. Rubio was asked a straight question about how old he thinks the earth is. Obama was asked a religious question, about Biblical interpretation for children. Slate are being a bit mischievous with that one.


WorldbyStorm - November 22, 2012

Absolutely agree. I didn’t emphasise that in the text above Still, I wonder what the response in this polity would be to a similar series of questions for candidates. Different, I hope.


smiffy - November 22, 2012

I think they would be, but I think the key difference is that those sort of questions wouldn’t be asked and aren’t a political issue over here.

Not that the overlap between religious belief and public policy isn’t problematic in Ireland, obviously.


2. shea - November 22, 2012

i’ve noticed a few practicing catholics in Ireland in the last few years defending creationism. its an odd one but i have also noticed atheists use creationism as an argument against all religion. get the feeling that the both groups are having some sort of knee jerk reaction to the other. oh where is a priest to instruct their flock when needed.


WorldbyStorm - November 22, 2012

Could be. Either way it’s an abomination. And btw, I’m not anti-religious, but this sort of stuff… 😦


3. EWI - November 25, 2012

Speaking of science, this morning’s ‘Miriam’ trainwreck is with David McConnell and a young female colleague from TCD. My ears nearly bleed to hear claim that Dev was anti-education and anti-science (a claim made as part of a broad anti-Irish language, anti-Church and anti-Republican hobby horse that McConnell clearly likes to ride about in his spare time).

It was up to O’Callaghan to have to mention that De Valera set up the /rather/ well-known Institute for Advanced Studies, to which McConnell’s rather lame reply was that he’d have to do some research on that, but that “the evidence” (unspecified, of course) still said what he claimed it did.


4. Jonathan Devitis - March 12, 2013

We believe the Bible, comprised of the Old and New Testaments, to be the inspired, infallible, and authoritative Word of God (Matthew 5:18; 2 Timothy 3:16-17). In faith we hold the Bible to be inerrant in the original writings, God-breathed, and the complete and final authority for faith and practice (2 Timothy 3:16-17). While still using the individual writing styles of the human authors, the Holy Spirit perfectly guided them to ensure they wrote precisely what He wanted written, without error or omission (2 Peter 1:21).’

My personal blog


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