Marco Rubio’s Statement about Earth’s Origins Isn’t Much Different From Barack Obama’s.

The state of the universe.
Nov. 20 2012 4:10 PM

Who Said It: Marco Rubio or Barack Obama?

Willful ignorance of science is a bipartisan value.

Sen. Marco Rubio and Pres. Obama.
Sen. Marco Rubio and Pres. Obama.

Photos by Mark Wilson/Getty Images and Jack Kurtz/Getty Images.

By now you've heard the outrageous quote from Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., on his doubts about the origins of planet Earth. When asked to give its age, he replied: "I'm not a scientist, man. … 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."

Daniel Engber Daniel Engber

Daniel Engber is a columnist for Slate

He's not a scientist—no, indeed—and his comments have brought on a slew of finger wags and face-palms from the godless left. The answer was "so confused and error-riddled," wrote Phil Plait in Slate, "it's difficult to know where to start." We all should understand the age of Earth is not a matter of opinion, but a scientific fact: Our planet formed 4.54 billion years ago. If Rubio suggested otherwise, it's because he's uninformed or stupid.

Of perhaps he's talking to his base. Writing in the New York Times, Juliet Lapidos points out that 58 percent of Republicans believe in creationism, as do 46 percent of all Americans. "Mr. Rubio probably figured that these same Republicans have no truck with geologists," she says, "and so there was no advantage to stating clearly that the earth is 4.54 billion years old. But if his response was more proof of cunning than idiocy, it was still ludicrous." By arguing that every viewpoint has a claim to truth—that the geologists and theologians are each entitled to their own opinions—the senator gave up on dealing with reality at all.

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I've no doubt that these critiques of Rubio are sound. But I'm hesitant to let the crown prince of the Tea Party be singled out for blame. His shameless dodge and pander on the matter of the Earth's creation don't mark him as a radical, nor even as a soldier in the war on science. They mark him only as a mainstream politician.

Beware, for thou that judgest doest the same things: Members of both parties have had to squiggle through elections by appealing to a hazy sense of geo-history. In fact, the Antichrist himself—Barack Obama—has had a tendency to get a little soft with science. Let's compare Rubio's offending quote to one that came out of Obama's mouth four years ago, when he first campaigned for president.

Here's Rubio, in his interview for the December 2012 issue of GQ:

Q: How old do you think the Earth is?

A: 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.

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.

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