I disagree with Hightower.

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Sunday, November 25, 2012

Dear Mr. Rubio,

You were in the news recently and criticized vis a vis your lack of a position on the age of the earth.  I have a suggestion for you that may be worth your having a staff member look into.  The following assumes that it is not one of your objectives to force the the teaching of your religion in the schools.

For a long time now the left and the media have allowed candidates to take the following position:  I am personally opposed to abortion, but I would not allow my personal beliefs to interfere with a woman’s right to choose. 

Perhaps you could take some version of the following variation of that position:  I have my personal beliefs and some of them are based on the Bible. But, like Jefferson, I also believe in the separation of church and state and I would not seek to impose my personal beliefs on the academic world. 


  1. Asking a politician the age of the earth is a gotcha question. When GQ magazine asked Rubio the age of the earth it was an obvious attempt to make him squirm. Shame on Michael Hainey for stooping to that level of questioning and I would call on all reporters to exercise some semblance of professionalism.

    With that out of the way, I have the feeling that a nuanced answer to this question is becoming less acceptable over time. And I think it (a nuanced answer) is becoming less acceptable to those on the right, left, AND of various religious stripes.

    Politically I think no politician would get hurt (in a major way) if they simply said 4.5B years. It would completely disarm the reporter/questioner and it would be on to the next question. If Rubio truly does not believe the science, and his integrity will not allow a deception, he is probably stuck with Wayne’s suggestion.


  2. Hold up on the crucifixion of Marco Rubio. Slate has an article http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2012/11/rubio_and_obama_and_the_age_of_earth_politicians_hedge_about_whether_universe.single.html
    which points out that Obama has said something similar.

    I predict that the verdict will be that Obama didn't really mean it like Rubio did.

    1. I agree. That the statements of the two men will be evaluated inconsistently is troubling only to a few who have a “logic yardstick” in their head.

      I expect that the yardstick most used in connection with the two statements will be a political one that ignores the logical one.

      What was said is not as important as what was heard. So with a huge amount of generalization here is what I think people heard (in both cases):

      Rubio’s statement:
      1. Religious right – He’s one of us, good answer
      2. Secular left – What an idiot
      3. Press – This is detrimental to Rubio and it is going to have legs.
      Obama’s statement:
      1. Religious right – I am willing to believe he believes what he said – OK
      2. Secular left – He may not believe a word of it, but he did not alienate the religious right (and possibly their vote) so it’s OK
      3. Press – It does not matter if he believes it just so he did not alienate the religious right – end of story.

  3. Gentlemen (Tom and Wayne): I think the broader question illuminated by the Slate article Wayne refers to is not really whether we ask politicians "gotcha" questions [any politician should know how to answer these--and both Rubio and Obama did a reasonably good job] but rather the question of pandering as a way of behaving in America, and perhaps especially in American politics. I am in Germany now and my German friends are rather astonished that American leaders and the public put up with so much outright falsehood, much of it motivated by religious intolerance and fundamentalism.

    What would happen if Obama had said: "I believe that science currently pegs the age of the planet at 4.5 billion years. I accept that, knowing that science is always in motion and that scientific estimates of the age of the earth might change in either direction in the future. Like Jefferson and Voltaire, I respect the right of people to hold different views on this matter, but I do believe that those of us who propose to lead this country should base our views on the best evidence."

    That answer may or may not be sufficiently nuanced to get votes from one's base but sooner or later, on all issues facing us, from the economy through immigration to global warming, some leaders simply must stop pandering to their "base" and start telling the truth, albeit in as gently and nuanced a say as possible. If they don't, we as a nation are doomed. [Sorry, no nuance there.]

    1. Interesting comment on how US politics are perceived abroad.

      Agreed that pandering may be our downfall. If we cannot clearly state a problem (without pandering) it is unlikely we can actually solve that problem. Sadly, I see no force that will moderate pandering, much less eliminate it.

      Back to the comments of your German friends. Do they perceive us (US citizens) as gullible, naive, undiscriminating, or just stupid?

    2. Re: do Germans see Americans as "gullible, naive, undiscriminating, or just stupid?" Depending upon whom you are talking to, it could be "all of the above."

    3. Sad, and in introspection even more so since I do not see Germans that way.

    4. Evidently the Russians don’t think much of us either. This article refers to us (us) as “an illiterate society”.


  4. I don't believe a Republican politician can voice a belief in the "separation of church and state" without it costing them politically.