Photo: Marco Rubio/Flickr
Republican Senator and speculated-about 2016 candidate Marco Rubio has caused a bit of a stir with an answer to a question on evolution, as part of a wide-ranging interview with GQ:GQ: How old do you think the Earth is?
Marco Rubio: 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.
Half of the reaction is outrage that Rubio is “flirting with creationism.” The other half is comprised of outrage that Rubio was even asked the question — which, seemingly, came out of nowhere. The best guess of why he answered the question this way is that he is already making trips to Iowa — and his views are popular among Iowa Republicans, according to one 2011 poll.
With that in mind, here are six science-laden facts Republicans — especially ones like Rubio, who could have 2016 presidential aspirations — should be prepared know. Because the fact of the matter is that for the next 4 years, journalists are eagerly going to try to trip up Presidential aspirants with these topics, hoping to expose them as science-haters or worse.
So here are the facts. Being able to answer them does not make you not conservative.
1. According to scientists, the Earth is about 4.5 billion years old.
This question probably won’t go away, now that Rubio has made news with his answer (or lack thereof). There are two ways to answer this question, neither of which Rubio really committed to. Republicans can either choose the answer that’s more suitable to the GOP base (the scepticism to which Rubio alluded) or they can choose the one that panders more to the moderate crowd — that radiometric dating puts the Earth’s age around 4.5 billion years.
2. The majority of Americans — and scientists — think climate change is real.
After it came up as a topic of conversation with Superstorm Sandy and Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s endorsement during the last week of the campaign, climate change is poised to play a larger role in President Barack Obama’s second term.
Republican nominee Mitt Romney was panned for his convention speech line that took a dig at Obama’s 2008 rhetoric on climate change. There are signs of bipartisan compromise starting to emerge on the issue. The conservative-leaning polling firm Rasmussen recently found that 68 per cent of Americans now say that climate change is a “serious” problem — so Republicans would be wise to embrace the scientific consensus.
3. A woman cannot “shut down” her pregnancy in cases of “legitimate rape.”
Perhaps the most infamous gaffe in the 2012 campaign came from Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin, who tried to explain his position on rape and abortion by using a scientific argument that is not at all scientific.
“If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down,” he said.
Because of Akin’s comment, this topic dogged Republicans throughout the rest of the campaign — and it will likely come up again during the next election cycle.
4. Homosexuality is not a “choice.”
With the Republican loss comes a desire to broaden the base — and social issues like gay marriage are a starting point. With that in mind, it’s best to drop the notion that homosexuality “is a choice,” like former presidential candidate and pizza magnate Herman Cain said back in June 2011. According to the American Psychological Association, “nature and nurture both play complex roles” in a person’s sexual orientation — but “most people experience little or no sense of choice about their sexual orientation.”
5. HPV vaccines do not cause mental retardation — and suggesting they do could prevent women from protection against the disease.
Republican candidate Michele Bachmann started a dangerous rumour during the Republican primaries, when she suggested that the HPV vaccine can cause mental retardation. The comment was quickly denounced by medical professionals and doctors. The centres for Disease Control and Prevention “strongly recommend” that women receive the vaccine to protect against HPV, which causes cervical cancer. This should not be repeated in future campaigns.
6. Having an abortion does not increase the risk of cancer.
California Republican Congressional candidate Doug LaMalfa caused a stir when he said in a debate that women who have abortions are more likely to get cancer. He did not specify certain types of cancer. And he quickly backed off his statement the next day. That’s because both the American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute say there is no evidence from studies that have been conducted on the topic. Like the comment on HPV vaccines, Republicans would be wise to avoid mentioning this in the future.
BONUS: No, there is probably not going to be an electromagnetic pulse attack.
This post explains, in detail, why Newt Gingrich’s doomsday predictions comprised an extremely unlikely scenario.
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