To read some of the reactions to Senator Marco Rubio’s comments on the age of the earth, you’d think that he’d proposed rounding up scientists and imprisoning them in gulags. Liberals apparently think this is a plank in the vast right-wing “anti-science” conspiracy. At the very least, a man who refuses to swear a blood oath to the current orthodoxy that the earth is 4.5 billion years old is not fit to hold any job that requires any more intellectual heft beyond knowing the proper temperature for grilling burgers.
In case you missed it, Rubio was interviewed by the
great intellectual journal men’s fashion magazine GQ. No doubt interviewer Michael Hainey is congratulating himself for asking the first “gotcha” question of the 2016 presidential campaign and is contemplating where he’ll display his Pulitzer Prize. In the middle of the interview, Hainey asked the random, drive-by question, “How old do you think the Earth is?” Rubio’s response:
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.
Rubio, widely regarded as the GOP’s rhetorical Wunderkind, tried to walk the politi-religious tightrope by giving a non-answer answer because he could smell his own blood in the water. Blowing up the campaigns of conservatives with controversial questions has become the favorite sport for left-wing (so-called) journalists, a contest that conservatives have sadly begun to participate in.
Aside from the goal of derailing any future political ambitions of Rubio, the basic premise behind Hainey’s question is “Do you believe in God or science?” — as if they are mutually exclusive. It’s actually an insidious question, rooted in the Progressive philosophy which demands that “progress” and the evolution of history be seen as superior to Natural Law, our Judeo-Christian heritage, and antiquated notions of God.
Hillsdale College professor Ronald Pestritto describes the competing visions of Progressives and the Founders:
The founders had posited what they had held to be a permanent understanding of just government, and they had derived this understanding of government from the “laws of nature and nature’s God,” as asserted in the Declaration of Independence. The progressives countered that the ends and scope of government were to be defined anew in each historical epoch. They coupled this perspective of historical contingency with a deep faith in historical progress, suggesting that, due to historical evolution, government was becoming less of a danger to the governed and more capable of solving the great array of problems besetting the human race.
Dennis Prager wrote a column at Town Hall earlier this year about an evolutionary biology professor who proclaimed that we have “evolved to need coercion” — and thus Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s soft drink limits were justified. Prager warned about the dangers inherent in this philosophy:
Whereas until now, the democratic left has attempted to persuade humanity that left-wing policies are inherently progressive, this Harvard professor has gone a huge step further. Left-wing policies are scientifically based. This is exactly how the Soviet Communists defended their totalitarian system. Everything they advocated was “naoochni,” “scientific.”
To differ with the left is not only definitionally sexist, intolerant, xenophobic, homophobic, Islamophobic, racist, and bigoted (SIXHIRB, as I have labeled it) — it is now against science itself.
The long march of the left to marginalize religion from public life is now coming to fruition and they are winning decisive battles in the culture wars.
One of the most important victories has been to control the language by deeming certain speech either anti-intellectual or hate speech. There are consequences if one veers from the so-called “settled” orthodoxy on a number of issues. The age of the earth (and its origins) is just one example. Ask Juan Williams about Muslims in airports or Rick Santorum about his defense of the natural family or a certain filmmaker about YouTube videos on “The Prophet.” The truth is, there are things you cannot say in America without severe consequences in the year 2012.
This is not how our Founders envisioned our country when they penned the First Amendment. Matthew Spalding of the Heritage Foundation explains the role of religion in a republican government in his excellent book We Still Hold These Truths: Rediscovering Our Principles, Reclaiming Our Future:
While it is often thought that religion and politics must be discussed as if they are radically different spheres, the Founders’ conception of religious liberty was almost exactly the opposite. The separation of church and state authority actually allowed—even required—the continual influence of religion upon public life. In a nation of limited government, religion is the greatest source of the virtue and moral character required for self-rule. … In recognizing the need for public morality and the prominent role that religion plays in nurturing morality, the Founders invited the various religious communities to cooperate at the political level in sustaining the moral consensus they share despite their theological differences. While this does not exclude any religious denominations that agreed with this consensus, in America as a practical matter, it overwhelmingly meant the Protestant denominations of the Christian faith and a religious tradition formed by Christian theology.
What the “separation of church and state” does, then, is liberate America’s religions—in respect to their moral forms and teachings—to exercise unprecedented influence over private and public opinion by shaping citizens’ mores, cultivating their virtues, and in general, providing a pure and independent source of moral reasoning and authority. That is what Alexis de Tocqueville meant when he observed that even though religion “never mixes directly in the government of society,” it nevertheless determines the “habits of the heart” and is “the first of their political institutions.”
Any candidate who dares to speak about religion so openly today is labeled as a religious fanatic and, more often than not, is branded as “anti-science” and “anti-intellectual.” Those on our side of the political spectrum should know better than to join with the left in these gladiator-style executions of our candidates and legislators when they express their heartfelt religious or political beliefs that veer to the right of the accepted politically correct talking points. We should recognize the motive behind the left’s tactics: erasing all vestiges of religion from public life and the American political dialogue. Instead, we hear conservative political pundits and multitudes of commenters in the conservative blogosphere warning Rubio — and any other knuckle draggers who might be tempted to get too religious in our new intolerant tolerant America — to remain properly areligious so as not to offend the skittish atheist pundit and media classes.
In what now seems like ancient history, President Ronald Reagan recognized and renounced those who would scrub religion from public life and remove its tenets as a moral authority for good governance. In his “Evil Empire speech” in 1983, speaking before the National Association of Evangelicals, Reagan made statements that would today have him branded a radical and placed squarely in the camp of Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock:
But we must never forget that no government schemes are going to perfect man. We know that living in this world means dealing with what philosophers would call the phenomenology of evil or, as theologians would put it, the doctrine of sin. There is sin and evil in the world, and we’re enjoined by Scripture and the Lord Jesus to oppose it with all our might.
Prior to that statement he explained the reasons he was pushing Congress for a constitutional amendment to allow school prayer. Ronald Reagan. School prayer! He expounded on the role of religion in America:
Freedom prospers when religion is vibrant and the rule of law under God is acknowledged. When our Founding Fathers passed the First Amendment, they sought to protect churches from government interference. They never intended to construct a wall of hostility between government and the concept of religious belief itself. The evidence of this permeates our history and our government. The Declaration of Independence mentions the Supreme Being no less than four times. “In God We Trust” is engraved on our coinage. The Supreme Court opens its proceedings with a religious invocation. And the members of Congress open their sessions with a prayer. I just happen to believe the schoolchildren of the United States are entitled to the same privileges as Supreme Court Justices and Congressmen.
He contrasted the Founders’ vision for the United States with the godless Communist philosophy of the Soviet Union:
…I pointed out that, as good Marxist-Leninists, the Soviet leaders have openly and publicly declared that the only morality they recognize is that which will further their cause, which is world revolution. I think I should point out I was only quoting Lenin, their guiding spirit, who said in 1920 that they repudiate all morality that proceeds from supernatural ideas — that’s their name for religion — or ideas that are outside class conceptions. Morality is entirely subordinate to the interests of class war. And everything is moral that is necessary for the annihilation of the old, exploiting social order and for uniting the proletariat.
That’s the vision the arbiters of proper political prose are imposing on us, and we are letting them get away with it by throwing our candidates under the bus every time the left calls the “Rule 13” play. That would be Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals’ Rule 13: “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, polarize it.” It’s a simple strategy, really. Instead of trying to win converts to their causes by debating their policies, they give the cause a human face.
So, in the “War on Women,” Rush Limbaugh, Todd Akin, and Richard Mourdock became the poster boys for the left’s advocacy of abortion on demand and free birth control. They were targeted, frozen, personalized, and polarized. And instead of directly going to war with the Almighty, the left chose Marco Rubio as the current face of their “War on God.” Alinsky’s Rule 5 is also a common companion: “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon. It is almost impossible to counteract ridicule. Also it infuriates the opposition, which then reacts to your advantage.” So, although the left is at war with God and religion in America, Rubio is the current scapegoat. If they can paint him as anti-intellectual and anti-science, and ridicule and mock him, they can strike a blow to religion and take down a strong political foe at the same time. And it appears many on the right are happy to participate in this game, lest the anti-intellectual stench rub off on them. The bullying minority wins and our Judeo-Christian heritage and the Constitution lose.
For what it’s worth, a June 2012 Gallup survey revealed that 46% of Americans, despite the best efforts of the public schools, public universities, the media, and the entertainment industry, believe that God created humans in their present form in the last 10,000 years. The number is the same (46%) for college graduates and, in a number that will likely upset those for whom evolution is a religion, 25% of those with postgraduate degrees agree with the creationist view. Somehow, all of these individuals (and I include myself in that group) managed to make it through many years of school. The vast majority of them were instructed in the the current scientific orthodoxy that the earth is 4.5 billion years old (and tested on their proficiency) and came to a different conclusion. Somehow, they manage to stumble through life, presumably holding down jobs and living as productive members of society. Gallup concluded:
Despite the many changes that have taken place in American society and culture over the past 30 years, including new discoveries in biological and social science, there has been virtually no sustained change in Americans’ views of the origin of the human species since 1982. The 46% of Americans who today believe that God created humans in their present form within the last 10,000 years is little changed from the 44% who believed this 30 years ago, when Gallup first asked the question.
More broadly, some 78% of Americans today believe that God had a hand in the development of humans in some way, just slightly less than the percentage who felt this way 30 years ago.
All in all, there is no evidence in this trend of a substantial movement toward a secular viewpoint on human origins.
Despite the histrionic protestations from the science orthodoxy police, this is really not the end of the world as we know it. While many Americans agree with the so-called “settled science” that the earth is 4.5 billion years old, clearly many do not. Many are conflicted about the issue. The party that hasn’t removed God from their platform should be perfectly OK with the diverse views on the subject and should not require sworn allegiance to the atheistic dogma as the only answer to one of life’s most complicated questions. It’s simply untruthful to say that half of all Americans (a large number of them with college degrees and many with advanced degrees) are anti-science and anti-intellectual because they have alternative views on this one issue.
As conservative Americans, we should be the first to defend everyone’s inherent right to freedom of thought , speech, and religion, even when it conflicts with current scientific “consensus” (see: global warming and/or ice age impending doom). This goes for U.S. senators and even presidential candidates. Instead of going after Rubio for his equivocal answer, we should defend his right to express his sincerely held religious beliefs, whatever they are, and instead evaluate the man on his policy positions and voting history. In doing so, we defend the Constitution and the 1st Amendment and create an atmosphere in which our candidates can be free to express their views without fearing these absurd recriminations from the left and from the home team. We also push back the advancement of the vocal minority attempting to erase our Judeo-Christian heritage .
We need to stop pandering to the media elites, the girly-men in the political consultant class, and the nihilistic blog trolls who want to convince us that God is dead and that we must eschew religion and ban both God and social issues from the vocabulary of our candidates and legislators. Our Constitution is built on the Judeo-Christian ethos of Natural Law. Remove that and we are left with the old communist model: “the Soviet leaders have openly and publicly declared that the only morality they recognize is that which will further their cause.” Government will then be our god. God, save us from that.
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