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Rubio ignites debate with answer about creationism
November 19th, 2012
04:19 PM ET

Rubio ignites debate with answer about creationism

By Dan Merica and Eric Marrapodi, CNN

Washington (CNN) – Florida Sen. Marco Rubio attempted to walk the line between science and faith-based creationism in remarks that that have provoked the ire of liberal blogs, leaving the door open to creationism in responding to a recent question about the age of the Earth.

When GQ’s Michal Hainey asked Rubio, in an interview released Monday, “How old do you think the Earth is,” the rising Republican star described the debate about the planet’s age as “one of the great mysteries.”

“I'm not a scientist, man,” Rubio told the interviewer. “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.”

“Whether the Earth was created in seven days, or seven actual eras,” Rubio continued, “I'm not sure we'll ever be able to answer that. It's one of the great mysteries.”

Most scientists agree that the Earth is 4.5 billion years old and the universe is 14.5 billion years old. Christian Young Earth Creationists, on the other hand, argue that the weeklong account of God creating the Earth and everything in it represents six 24-hour periods (plus one day of rest) and date the age of the Earth between 6,000 and 10,000 years.

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Left-leaning blogs and sites like ThinkProgress and Huffington Post jumped on Rubio’s comments, with the Zack Beauchamp from ThingProgress writing, “To suggest we can’t know how old the Earth is, then, is to deny the validity of these scientific methods altogether — a maneuver familiar to Rubio, who also denies the reality of anthropogenic climate change.”

Rubio is regarded as a possible Republican presidential candidate in 2016, though the senator says his visit last week to Iowa, home of the first-in-the-nation presidential caucuses, had “nothing to do with 2016.”

His response to GQ’s age of the Earth query has also provoked questions about his political aspirations. Dave Weigel of Slate writes, “How can you read that and not think ‘Iowa’? ” The state is the first to hold a presidential caucus in 2016.

Forty-six percent of Americans believe that God created humans in their present form at one point within the past 10,000 years, according to a survey released by Gallup in June. That number has remained unchanged for the past 30 years, since 1982, when Gallup first asked the question on creationism versus evolution.

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The second most common view is that humans evolved with God's guidance - a view held by 32% of respondents. The view that humans evolved with no guidance from God was held by 15% of respondents.

The Gallup poll has not specifically asked about views on the age of the Earth.

Rubio attends a Baptist church in southern Florida but also considers himself “a practicing Catholic.”

He was born Catholic, but his family converted to Mormonism when Rubio was 8 years old, according to Rubio’s recent memoir. The family left its LDS faith behind when it moved from Nevada back to Florida and Rubio was confirmed in the Catholic Church.

Catholic teaching is that science and faith are not at odds with one another and it is possible to believe what scientists say about the Earth’s age and in God. But many evangelical churches, including Baptist ones, promote a version of creationism.

When CNN reached out to Rubio’s Baptist church in Florida on Monday, a person answering the phone would not comment on its teachings about the Earth’s age and said that a church representative was unlikely to be available in the near term.

During the GQ interview, Rubio argued that “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.”

For the past 30 years, the “equal-time argument” –- the idea that Creationism taught alongside evolution -– has been popular method for Creationists to advance their cause. In the late 1980s, some state legislatures passed bills that promoted the idea of a balanced treatment of both ideas in the classroom.

In 1987, the issue made it all the way to the Supreme Court, where a Louisiana "equal-time law" was struck down. The court ruled that teaching creationism in public school classrooms was a violation of the Establishment Cause in the Constitution, which is commonly referred to as the separation of church and state.

- Dan Merica

Filed under: Creationism • Politics

soundoff (6,211 Responses)
  1. Overly Sensitive Universe

    Hey, most scientists believe me to be 13.75 billion years old, not 14.5 billion. Oh these space time wrinkles ...

    November 19, 2012 at 8:23 pm |
    • MalcomR

      Oh, you look just fine! Getting a little "expansive" around the middle there though...

      November 19, 2012 at 8:25 pm |
  2. MalcomR

    It's probably not very generous or sophisticated of me, but this Rubio looks and sounds like the prototype republican Dbag.

    November 19, 2012 at 8:22 pm |
  3. tom adams

    The earth is many billions of years old. No one who does not accept this well known fact should ever be elected to any office. All fundamentalists beliefs that profess an earth that is only 1000s of years old must be rejected.

    November 19, 2012 at 8:22 pm |
    • PS Miller

      As both a Christian and a scientist, I just can't fault Senator Rubio for his remarks. I've found that it takes some IQ to effectively reconcile the two concepts and you just can't expect everyone to be the same. Yes, it sounds nice to have all sharp and sophisticated senators, but I have also found some pretty good representatives that aren't the brightest bulb in the box. THey represent the people, remember?

      November 19, 2012 at 8:35 pm |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      PS – What is there to reconcile?

      November 19, 2012 at 8:54 pm |
  4. Mike

    It's not even 2016 and this guy has already convinced me not to vote for him.

    November 19, 2012 at 8:21 pm |
  5. DrJ

    If nothing else, the GOP has been consistent (sort of – exclude Mitt) over the last couple of decades. The same people who brought you the "Pixie Dust" concept of trickle down creating jobs seems, as a class, to be ignoring the reality of scientific fact...tons of scientific investigations that have pretty much only one way of interpretation. Did any of these clowns go to school? Were they awake? Inquiring minds really want to know! Shoot...I want to get some of the stuff the GOP is smoking! Ooops...forgot...it is called "Religion".

    November 19, 2012 at 8:18 pm |
    • tom adams

      That is because only idiots would join the GOP. If they had brains they would be Democrats.

      November 19, 2012 at 8:23 pm |
  6. tffl

    This article belongs on the National News or Politics page, not in Belief. This self-serving idiot is on the Senate Science and Space subcommittee with significant power over science and space funding in this country, and he is a science denier. He is also considered a future leader of the Republican party, with strong presidential aspirations. It is important that his willful ignorance be outed as a public policy issue, not just a matter of personal belief.

    November 19, 2012 at 8:17 pm |
  7. Bob

    I'm glad to give creationism equal time as soon as it makes one verified prediction. As a scientific theory, it does make predictions, right? Right?

    November 19, 2012 at 8:17 pm |
  8. Unitarian Universalist

    I don't know what's scarier. This guy or that "Forty-six percent of Americans believe that God created humans in their present form at one point within the past 10,000 years..."!

    November 19, 2012 at 8:16 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @UU

      the 46%.

      They are the reason that Sen Rubio refused to answer this question. He is on the Senate Science and Space Subcommittee and should be ashamed of himself.

      November 19, 2012 at 8:17 pm |
    • Colin

      They are one and the same thing. The fact that 46% are so jaw droppingly ignorant is why Rubio feels compelled to say such rot.

      November 19, 2012 at 8:18 pm |
    • John Stockton

      The 46% is obviously scarier than one theo-con. In fact, the 46% may well be the scariest and most dangerous thing on the planet. The 46% is why Rmoney was even close; why Bachman was re-elected and why Palin was nominated VP. it's amazing we're all still alive, really.l

      November 19, 2012 at 8:41 pm |
  9. MalcomR

    Why do we have government committees on science that are not staffed/populated with scientists? What's the point of that exactly?

    November 19, 2012 at 8:15 pm |
  10. Colin

    Here are a few "inconvenient" facts that, each independently of each other, comprehensively disprove the utter garbage of creationism.

    First and most obviously is the fossil record. The fossil record is much, much more than just dinosaurs. Indeed, dinosaurs only get the press because of their size, but they make up less than 1% of the entire fossil record. Life had been evolving on Earth for over 3 thousand million years before dinosaurs evolved and has gone on evolving for 65 million years after the Chicxulub meteor likely wiped them out.

    The fossil record includes the Stromatolites, colonies of prokaryotic bacteria, that range in age going back to about 3 billion years, the Ediacara fossils from South Australia, widely regarded as among the earliest multi-celled organisms, the Cambrian species of the Burgess shale in Canada (circa – 450 million years ago) the giant scorpions of the Silurian Period, the giant, wingless insects of the Devonian period, the insects, amphibians, reptiles, fishes, clams, crustaceans of the Carboniferous Period, the many precursors to the dinosaurs, the 700 odd known species of dinosaurs themselves, the subsequent dominant mammals, including the saber tooth tiger, the mammoths and hairy rhinoceros of North America and Asia, the fossils of early man in Africa and the Neanderthals of Europe.

    The fossil record shows a consistent and worldwide evolution of life on Earth dating back to about 3,500,000,000 years ago. There are literally millions of fossils that have been recovered, of thousands of different species and they are all located where they would be in the geological record if life evolved slowly over billions of years. None of them can be explained by a 6,000 year old Earth and Noah’s flood. Were they all on the ark? What happened to them when it docked?

    A Tyrannosaurus Rex ate a lot of food – meat- which means its food would itself have to have been fed, like the food of every other carnivore on the ark for the entire 360 odd days Noah supposedly spent on the ark. T-Rex was not even the largest carnivorous dinosaur we know of. Spinosaurus, Argentinosaurus and Carcharodontosaurus were all larger and ate more even meat. Even they were not large enough to bring down the largest sauropods we know of, many species of which weighed in at close to 100 tons and were about 100 feet long. A bit of “back of the envelope” math quickly shows that “Noah’s Ark” would actually have to have been an armada of ships larger than the D-Day invasion force, manned by thousands and thousands of people – and this is without including the World’s 300,000 current species of plants, none of which could walk merrily in twos onto the ark.

    Then, of course, there are the various races of human beings. There were no Sub-Saharan Africans, Chinese, Australian Aboriginals, blonde haired Scandinavians, Pygmies or Eskimos on the Ark. Where did they come from?

    Second, there are those little things we call oil, natural gas and other fossil fuels. Their mere existence is another, independent and fatal blow to the creationists. Speak to any geologist who works for Exxon Mobil, Shell or any of the thousands of mining, oil or natural gas related companies that make a living finding fossil fuels. They will tell you these fossil fuels take millions of years to develop from the remains of large, often Carboniferous Period forests, in the case of coal, or tiny marine creatures in the case of oil. For the fossils to develop into oil or coal takes tens or hundreds of millions of years of “slow baking” under optimum geological conditions. That’s why they are called “fossil fuels.” Have a close look at coal, you can often see the fossilized leaves in it. The geologists know exactly what rocks to look for fossil fuels in, because they know how to date the rocks to tens or hundreds of millions of years ago. Creationists have no credible explanation for this.

    Third, most of astronomy and cosmology would be wrong if the creationists were right. In short, as Einstein showed, light travels at a set speed. Space is so large that light from distant stars takes many years to reach the Earth. In some cases, this is millions or billions of years. The fact that we can see light from such far away stars means it began its journey billions of years ago. The Universe must be billions of years old. We can currently see galaxies whose light left home 13, 700,000,000 years ago. Indeed, on a clear night, one can see the collective, misty light of many stars more than 6,000 light years away with the naked eye, shining down like tiny accusatorial witnesses against the nonsense of creationism.

    Fourth, we have not just carbon dating, but also all other methods used by scientists to date wood, rocks, fossils, and other artifacts. These comprehensively disprove the Bible’s claims. They include uranium-lead dating, potassium-argon dating as well as other non-radioactive methods such as pollen dating, dendrochronology and ice core dating. In order for any particular rock, fossil or other artifact to be aged, generally two or more samples are dated independently by two or more laboratories in order to ensure an accurate result. If results were random, as creationists claim, the two independent results would rarely agree. They generally do. They regularly reveal ages much older than Genesis. Indeed, the Earth is about 750,000 times older than the Bible claims, the Universe about three times the age of the Earth.

    Fifth, the relatively new field of DNA mapping not only convicts criminals, it shows in undeniable, full detail how we differ from other life forms on the planet. For example, about 98.4% of human DNA is identical to that of chimpanzees, about 97% of human DNA is identical to that of gorillas, and slightly less again of human DNA is identical to the DNA of monkeys. This gradual divergence in DNA can only be rationally explained by the two species diverging from a common ancestor, and coincides perfectly with the fossil record. Indeed, scientists can use the percentage of DNA that two animal share (such as humans and bears, or domestic dogs and wolves) to get an idea of how long ago the last common ancestor of both species lived. It perfectly corroborates the fossil record and is completely independently developed.

    Sixth, the entire field of historical linguistics would have to be rewritten to accommodate the Bible. This discipline studies how languages develop and diverge over time. For example, Spanish and Italian are very similar and have a recent common “ancestor” language, Latin, as most people know. However, Russian is quite different and therefore either did not share a common root, or branched off much earlier in time. No respected linguist anywhere in the World traces languages back to the Tower of Babel, the creationists’ simplistic and patently absurd explanation for different languages. Indeed, American Indians, Australian Aboriginals, “true” Indians, Chinese, Mongols, Ja.panese, Sub-Saharan Africans and the Celts and other tribes of ancient Europe were speaking thousands of different languages thousands of years before the date creationist say the Tower of Babel occurred – and even well before the date they claim for the Garden of Eden.

    Seventh, lactose intolerance is also a clear vestige of human evolution. Most mammals only consume milk as infants. After infancy, they no longer produce the enzyme “lactase” that digests the lactose in milk and so become lactose intolerant. Humans are an exception and can drink milk as adults – but not all humans – some humans remain lactose intolerant. So which humans are no longer lactose intolerant? The answer is those who evolved over the past few thousand years raising cows. They evolved slightly to keep producing lactase as adults so as to allow the consumption of milk as adults. This includes most Europeans and some Africans, notably the Tutsi of Rwanda. On the other hand, most Chinese, native Americans and Aboriginal Australians, whose ancestors did not raise cattle, remain lactose intolerant.

    I could go on and elaborate on a number of other disciplines or facts that creationists have to pretend into oblivion to retain their faith, including the Ice Ages, cavemen and early hominids, much of microbiology, paleontology and archeology, continental drift and plate tectonics. Even large parts of medical research would be rendered unusable but for the fact that monkeys and mice share a common ancestor with us and therefore our fundamental cell biology and basic body architecture is identical to theirs.

    In short, and not surprisingly, the World’s most gifted evolutionary biologists, astronomers, cosmologists, geologists, archeologists, paleontologists, historians, modern medical researchers and linguists (and about 2,000 years of accu.mulated knowledge) are right and a handful of Iron Age Middle Eastern goat herders copying then extant mythology were wrong. Creationists aren’t just trying to swim upstream against the weight of scientific evidence; they are trying to ascend a waterfall.

    November 19, 2012 at 8:15 pm |
    • Cesar Tirado

      Wow! I could not have said it better. Literally. Lol.

      November 19, 2012 at 8:37 pm |
    • Philip Dougan

      You rock!

      November 19, 2012 at 8:40 pm |
    • DaveinKan

      Best response I've read this evening on the subject.

      November 19, 2012 at 9:09 pm |
    • mama k

      Yes. Excellent, Colin. It took me a while to get through – well that's my fault – toward the end, I had to get up and get a glass a delicious glass of Lactaid milk (with some Ovaltine in it).

      November 19, 2012 at 9:27 pm |
    • End Religion

      thank you

      November 19, 2012 at 9:27 pm |
    • Athy

      Colin
      Great to read the truth for a change. Too bad it will be over the heads of most creationists; and will probably exceed the attention span of the rest. Hopefully it may help those few that are not totally brain dead.

      November 19, 2012 at 9:38 pm |
    • kc

      Bravo!! Eat them apples creationists!

      November 20, 2012 at 10:14 am |
  11. noodles doodles and toodles

    50 % of Americans can't answer the question "around what celestial object does the Earth revolve" ?
    So pander to the stupid, Marco. Pander to the stupid. The entire world is laughing at us.

    November 19, 2012 at 8:14 pm |
    • Akira

      Are you freaking serious? Oh, that is frightening.

      November 19, 2012 at 8:26 pm |
    • trextrainer

      C'mon now, just cause we wanna make a point doesn't mean we should make up facts. We can't be like the other side.
      http://www.gallup.com/poll/3742/new-poll-gauges-americans-general-knowledge-levels.aspx

      November 20, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
  12. Bob

    What an embarrassment. The rest of the civilized world must look at us with total disbelief that we could be so advanced and yet so incredibly ignorant.

    November 19, 2012 at 8:13 pm |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      Bob, it's absolutely true. Your neighbours to the North are looking down, shaking their collective heads, and saying, "Whaaa?????"

      November 19, 2012 at 8:19 pm |
  13. Interested48

    And they wonder why they lost the election!

    November 19, 2012 at 8:11 pm |
  14. Kathleen

    Wow .. so Rubio is Catholic, Mormon and Baptist. He just hit the trifecta of aggressive ignorance there, didn't he?

    November 19, 2012 at 8:11 pm |
    • Apple Bush

      absurd ism

      November 19, 2012 at 8:12 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      Hey I'm just like you, I'm a . Vote for me!

      November 19, 2012 at 8:13 pm |
  15. gertrude

    there is no there, there.

    and apparently no here, here.

    i often wonder why i am so confused.

    shame, i always thought it was simply the beer.

    November 19, 2012 at 8:09 pm |
  16. tam

    There goes his presidential campaign - down the tubes.

    November 19, 2012 at 8:08 pm |
  17. RoonyC

    Pretty amazing that people like that represent the people of the U.S. Just amazing.

    November 19, 2012 at 8:08 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      Not only that, but also be a member of the Senate Subcommittee on Science and Space – influencing legislation related to science!

      November 19, 2012 at 8:09 pm |
    • fritz

      So you lump all Americans together with these stupid creationist idiots? That shows how much you know about us. Practically nothing.

      November 19, 2012 at 8:18 pm |
  18. The Dude

    Typical Repub;ican, cannot give a straight answer about anything.

    November 19, 2012 at 8:07 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      More to the point – would rather look and say something stupid – so as not to offend the fundies.

      November 19, 2012 at 8:08 pm |
  19. Sutalleesue

    This politician is nothing but an opportunist. He changes religions like most folks change their under garments. His stance about what the scientific community considers as factual is astounding. If we will not accept what the scientists tell us, why do we spend so much money educating our children? One could debate whether or not two plus two equals four if we accept the theory that the universe was built in seven twenty four days by a ghost that no one has ever seen. Even if you are not religious you should let your common sense guide you a little bit. I would not be surprised if the Republicans nominate him for the Presidency because after the Romney fiasco they are liable to dig up Bonzo and nominate him.

    November 19, 2012 at 8:05 pm |
  20. PN_NJ

    Will we below mentioned incidents in America if we have more of such Politicians:
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-20321741

    Woman dies after abortion request 'refused' at Galway hospital.

    November 19, 2012 at 8:05 pm |
    • PN_NJ

      Further details on this story:
      http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/nov/18/savita-halappanavar-death-abortion-ireland-change

      There should be distinction between private life that is religion and public life that is politics. I know, in America, there is great divide on this subject, where people even deny science to get votes (as mentioned in this story/Florida Sen. Marco Rubio comments). I also understand that the non-educated people following such an agenda. However, when even educated people accept everything science has proved, except where its not convenient as per religion, that just amuses me.

      November 19, 2012 at 8:38 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.