I thought of a few more points to make on Marco Rubio’s creationist-friendly waffling. In an interview, the Republican senator argued that his view on the age of the earth didn’t affect economic prosperity. That provoked outrage from his political opponents but it shouldn’t have.
Many commentators twisted Rubio’s words so they could accuse him of saying that science had nothing to do with the economy and then disagree vehemently and pompously with something that was never said. I wrote about that last weekend in this post.
We might have a problem if everyone in the country was hit with some weird dementia and started believing the Earth was 6000 years old. So what? That’s not going to happen. If some subset of the people chose to deny certain aspects of science, it may make no difference to the economy.
Also, shouldn’t truth outweigh economic utility in decisions about what to teach students? What if a study showed that the economy would be set back if people learned the truth about some environmental problem? Would that justify lying to the public?
Because it’s so patently absurd, Biblical creationism seems unlikely to suddenly start exploding. A more interesting and insidious challenge is intelligent design. This form of creationism allows for the scientifically established age of the Earth and even for evolution to occur, but unlike the standard version, intelligent design insists that some aspects of the process must be guided by an unnamed “intelligent designer”.
One of the most powerful and logical arguments against teaching intelligent design or any other type of creationism came from a Republican. I’m referring to U.S. District Judge John E. Jones, who presided over a famous case in Dover, PA in 2005. Parents there objected to the inclusion of intelligent design in their children’s science classes. The age of the earth was not at stake, but the intellectual honesty of public school curricula was.
Judge Jones ruled in favor of the parents. His reason – intelligent design wasn’t a scientific idea and teaching it amounted to endorsing a particular religious view. It’s a thoughtful ruling that helped set a precedent for future cases. It is likely to be applicable even if the creationists invent yet another, even more science-y sounding brand of their ideology.