This quote from the junior Senator from Florida has been getting a lot of internet attention:
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.
First, let’s clear up a few points. No, it’s not “one of the great mysteries,” nor is it a “dispute amongst theologians” as to how old the Earth is. Anyone who paid attention in high school science knows that evidence indicates the planet we live on formed about 4.54 billion years ago. It’s only a theological question if you are sitting around with a bunch of theologians discussing the various Creation myths that are part of every religion, including the one about the two naked people and the talking snake or the giant turtle carrying the world on its back. But even the theologians — at least the ones worthy of the title — will agree that their beliefs have no more to do with earth science than The Lord of the Rings has to do with metallurgy and [spoiler alert] whether or not you can save the world from evil by melting a piece of jewelry in a volcano.
Mr. Rubio’s dismissive “I’m not a scientist, man,” (which is sure to join the campaign lexicon along with “binders full of women” someday) and his attempt to pivot the question to things that he think are more important like GDP and economic growth tell us that he knows he shouldn’t wade into this swamp if he wants to keep the nutsery GOP base happy. But he can’t help himself from sticking his foot in it; by being dismissive he’s made it worse: everyone with more than a Grade 8 education and a middle school level of Sunday school knows how to separate fable from fact and that a potential presidential candidate who panders to the lowest common denominator needs to do his math homework.
The science that Mr. Rubio is concerned with isn’t that practiced by geologists. It’s the one practiced by Nate Silver.