Did Marco Rubio Stick His Foot in It?

Evolution News

Rubio was asked by GQ about the age of the earth and gave an equivocal answer, a non-answer. At the Commentary magazine blog, Pete Wehner is “disquieted”:

For Senator Rubio to duck on this matter, then, is, to me at least, a bit disquieting. There are many issues that don’t have to do with the economy that are still worth knowing about when it comes to major political leaders. This is one of them, since it offers an insight into the broader views one holds about the nature and validity of science.
One of the attributes of conservatism, at least as I understand it, is openness to evidence, including scientific evidence, and embracing reality.

This is more or less the conventional wisdom on Rubio’s answer, which is certainly muddled. But a couple of points.
Rubio doesn’t affirm Young Earth Creationism. He recognizes the question for what it is: a hackneyed media gimmick to trap Republicans. If President Obama had given the same answer (if he’s ever been asked the question) it would be treated entirely differently.
One purpose of the question is to get people like Wehner to denounce the subject of the interrogation — Rubio — and so create fissures among Republicans. Wehner falls right into the trap. Is it really now intellectually intolerable, when someone asks you an irrelevant question, out of all context, about the age of the earth, to say: “I don’t know”?
Rod Dreher at The American Conservative nails it:

Gotcha questions about creationism and evolution, when asked of national politicians (versus state and local politicians who actually have the power to enforce school standards), are really about social sorting and status.

Why on earth — why on an earth of any age — would a shrewd Republican dumbly, passively play along as if the question has been asked in earnest when he knows it was not?
As for Wehner’s claim that conservatism means “openness to evidence,” how open is he to evidence that contradicts conventional wisdom, and would make him socially uncomfortable to affirm? In fact, as we noted earlier today, it’s striking how some formidable liberal journals have treated respectfully the Darwin-doubting, pro-intelligent design arguments of Thomas Nagel and Alvin Plantinga, neither of whose recent important books has drawn the attention of Commentary magazine.
So who’s epistemically “open” now, and who is closed?

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Evolution News & Science Today (EN) provides original reporting and analysis about evolution, neuroscience, bioethics, intelligent design and other science-related issues, including breaking news about scientific research. It also covers the impact of science on culture and conflicts over free speech and academic freedom in science. Finally, it fact-checks and critiques media coverage of scientific issues.