When asked about the age of the earth, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) replied: “I’m not a scientist, man. […] It’s one of the great mysteries.”

I’m not a scientist either, but the evidence confirming the age of the earth makes me wonder what Sen. Rubio’s other “great mysteries” might be. (More)

As I’ve written before, squirrels have a rich if often unreported history in science. Isaac Newtufts dropped that apple on Newton’s head, and derived most of the first equations for classical physics while Newton was still rubbing his noggin. Albert Einstail saw how relatives warp time and space, as families across America will discover again this Thursday, and mentioned it to his friend in the Geneva patent office.

So while I’m not a scientist, I have a squirrel’s natural inclination in that regard and I can usually make heads and tails of journal articles. For example, I understand what they mean when the U.S. Geological Survey describes the radiological sampling of earth rocks, moon rocks, and meteorites from asteroids and concludes:

These calculations result in an age for the Earth and meteorites, and hence the Solar System, of 4.54 billion years with an uncertainty of less than 1 percent. To be precise, this age represents the last time that lead isotopes were homogeneous throughout the inner Solar System and the time that lead and uranium was incorporated into the solid bodies of the Solar System.

No, the scientists aren’t certain. That age of 4.54 billion years could be off by a million or so years, one way or the other. But that hardly justifies Sen. Rubio’s reply in GQ:

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.

Senator Rubio treats this as a trivial question, as compared to gross domestic product and economic growth, and a question he must dance around to avoid either admitting his scientific illiteracy or turning off the religious fundamentalists at the heart of the Republican Party.

But he’s wrong. This isn’t a trivial question, and it has everything to do with gross domestic product and economic growth. On one side we have data derived through rigorous scientific inquiry. On the other we have myths and legends for which the only evidence is devout belief. When Sen. Rubio says the answer to that dispute is “one of the great mysteries,” he highlights exactly why the Republican Party is unfit to govern. Indeed much of our modern economy – from the internet to nuclear power plant safety – relies on the same scientific theories used to determine the age of the earth.

But the issue goes deeper still. Do tax cuts boost economic growth and increase tax revenues? On one side we have data derived through rigorous scientific inquiry, and on the other we have myths and legends for which the only evidence is devout belief. And what does Sen. Rubio say?

Well, he has no “religious, spiritual objection” to tax increases. That’s a relief. On tax policy, unlike geology, we needn’t consult theologians. But, Sen. Rubio continues:

The billionaires and millionaires that are going to be impacted by higher rates, they can afford to hire the best lawyers, lobbyists and accountants in America to figure out how not to pay those higher rates.

In other words, rich people will find ways to get what they want and avoid what they don’t want, and there’s nothing anyone can do to stop them, so we shouldn’t even try. Oh, and he sponsored a bill to make the Bush tax cuts permanent.

This is the start of Sen. Rubio’s audition to be the GOP presidential nominee in 2016. Republicans hope a Cuban-American candidate will help them win a larger share of our nation’s growing Hispanic population, and rescue their party from political purgatory. But to secure his base, Sen. Rubio must pledge fealty to the religious and ideological fundamentalism on which his party is grounded.

So I want to know what his other “great mysteries” are. Avogadro’s Number? How about whether Obamacare, a system built on private health insurance, is “a federal government takeover of health care?” How about climate change?

Or does he think storms like Sandy also have “nothing to do with the gross domestic product or economic growth of the United States?”

Good day and good nuts.