In an interview with GQ, Senator Marco Rubio (FL-R) was asked about the age of the earth; according to him, the age of the earth is a complete mystery. The truth behind this answer should be clear to all: defending creationism and the teaching of evolution in public schools.
I Pledge Allegiance to the
Christian States of America
Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty
You can be pretty sure that neither GQ nor any other media would ask a Democrat about the age of the earth. It's only Republicans and conservatives who deny the scientific reality that the earth is billions of years old. Sometimes, if they are politically astute, they give evasive answers like Marco Rubio.
The "politically astute" part is important here: Marco Rubio is a rising star in the Republican Party and many conservatives look to him as a future leader, if not presidential candidate. He knows it, which means he has to know that he hasn't a hope of success as a Republican if he doesn't deny evolution, either implicitly or explicitly.
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.
No, the age of the Earth isn't a mystery. Granted, we don't know it down to the day and Marco Rubio may not personally know the answer, but it's not a mystery. Several different lines of evidence all give the same answer: about 4.5 billion years old. Saying that the age of the Earth is a mystery is no different from saying that the shape of the Earth is a mystery. So why did Rubio give this particular answer?
It's possible that he believes that creationism and evolution should be taught side-by-side. His answer is certainly consistent with that, even if he doesn't say it outright. That, however, has been struck down by the courts as unconstitutional - and for good reason, too, because schools shouldn't be teaching religion as if it were science.
More significant, though, is his statement that "parents should be able to teach their kids what their faith says, what science says." If we don't read anything at all into it, Marco Rubio is simply stating the obvious: that parents can tell their own kids whatever they want. Parents have always been able to do this, so why make a point of saying it?
It's more likely that he means to communicate more than just the obvious. But what? One plausible interpretation is that he wants parents to be able to teach whatever they want... and not have to deal with the annoyance of having their teachings be contradicted in schools. That's a horrible position to adopt because parents don't have a right to prevent their kids from learning if and why reality contradicts what they are teaching at home or in a church.
Why does Rubio preface and qualify his answer by saying "I"m not a scientist"? It's the sort of thing a person does just before they insist on dismissing what science has to say. It's no better than saying "I'm no doctor, man, but I think we should use prayer to cure cancer because that's just as good as medicine."
It's noteworthy that Marco Rubio quickly says that he knows "what the Bible says," as if that were relevant and as if that should actually answer the question. I expect that his answer isn't just an effort to pander to the Christian Right but rather is an honest expression of the belief that whatever the Bible says is more important and more relevant than the information provided via science.
Keep in mind that the debate between evolution and creationism is not, as Rubio claims, irrelevant to the economy. A nation that expects to benefit from scientific and technological progress is not one that can afford to be distracted by religious fairy tales.