Yesterday I wrote a jeremiad against the media’s curiously inconsistent approach to science. The hook was the media outrage over Sen. Marco Rubio’s comments (in the middle of a fluffy GQ interview about rap music) equivocating on the age of the earth.
I didn’t have a beef with the question so much as the larger media context, where only certain people are asked science questions.
Over at National Review, I began reading a piece that begins with a telling of a Hindu creation story. Reporter Dan Foster discusses some of the questions he has about it, and adds:
I’m sure practicing Hindus have views on this and other matters of their faith, and an enterprising reporter might have asked a prominent Hindu — say Representative Tulsi Gabbard (D., Hawaii), the first to be elected to Congress — about hers. But near as I can tell, nobody has. Sure, it was widely noted as a source of pluralist pride that Representative Gabbard would be sworn in on a copy of the Bhagavad Gita, and presumably Gabbard’s connection to that book is sufficient to ground its use in underwriting her sacred oath, but nobody thought to query her about how she understood and related to the truths contained in it.
He brings up the different standard for Rubio and notes that some critics think the question was silly:
But a better question might be, why wasn’t Gabbard asked it? Or President Obama, or Senator Harry Reid or Representative Keith Ellison? After all, Gabbard’s espoused Hinduism, like Obama’s espoused Christianity or Ellison’s espoused Islam or Harry Reid’s espoused Mormonism, entails a range of commitments to claims that are, prima facie, at odds with the empirical record. But there isn’t a cottage industry in interrogating Democrats on their faith the way there is with religious conservatives.
Except that Obama has been asked the question! Really! It wasn’t from the media, of course, but it happened none-the-less. I want us to consider the media reaction to President Obama’s statement versus the media meltdown and prominent coverage given to Rubio’s.
First, though, let’s look at what President Obama said, as reported this week by Slate in a piece headlined, “Who Said It: Marco Rubio or Barack Obama? Willful ignorance of science is a bipartisan value“:
And here’s then-Sen. Obama, D-Ill., speaking at the Compassion Forum at Messiah College in Grantham, Pa. on April 13, 2008:
Q: Senator, if one of your daughters asked you—and maybe they already have—“Daddy, did god really create the world in 6 days?,” what would you say?
A: What I’ve said to them is that I believe that God created the universe and that the six days in the Bible may not be six days as we understand it … it may not be 24-hour days, and that’s what I believe. I know there’s always a debate between those who read the Bible literally and those who don’t, and I think it’s a legitimate debate within the Christian community of which I’m a part. My belief is that the story that the Bible tells about God creating this magnificent Earth on which we live—that is essentially true, that is fundamentally true. Now, whether it happened exactly as we might understand it reading the text of the Bible: That, I don’t presume to know.
And the response to these statements? Was it the same as the response to Rubio’s? You know the answer.
Galaxy image via Shutterstock.