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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. Kate

    Why don't people leave religion out of it? They tie themselves in knots over this. Religion should be a private issue, you can't force it on anyone, if you try then soon or later they usually will resent it and will turn against it. The republicans should be LEADING the way in social programs if they were truly Christian. That's what Jesus did,wasn't it?

    November 20, 2012 at 8:15 pm |
    • LikeLogic

      they do actually lead in social programs if you look up the statistics. Conservatives far outdo liberals in charible giving and across all platforms, not just church-related They also give more of their time than liberals in community service. This holds true regardless of income level. In otherwords, poor conservatives also are more generous with their dollars and time.

      November 20, 2012 at 8:26 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Cite your sources, like.

      November 20, 2012 at 8:27 pm |
    • Athy

      Don't hold your breath, Tom, Tom.

      November 20, 2012 at 8:40 pm |
    • LikeLogic

      Tom, I am sorry. I responded to your question but it posted way up at the top.

      November 20, 2012 at 8:43 pm |
    • Kate

      Likelogic.... They TELL me they do. But I have no proof or see any. If even one person suffers because they cant get the help they need then we all have blood on our hands the religious right too. Action speaks loader than words and one church or charity can't get to everyone. But I'm sure you will have a great talking point as to why I'm wrong.

      November 20, 2012 at 8:48 pm |
  2. paulbip

    There is no hope for this country when idiots like this get voted into office.

    November 20, 2012 at 8:15 pm |
  3. PR

    Marco...quit sucking up to the extreme right. The christian conservatives lost the election for Mitt...they'll lose it for you too. Time to get smart boy and get educated.

    November 20, 2012 at 8:11 pm |
    • DT

      Hey Mr. intelligent, you must be a poster child for the Obama movement. Let me guess, you don't need a sun tan. Whats the old saying, if it quacks like a duck it must be a duck and if it is looking for government handouts it must be a democrat

      November 20, 2012 at 8:19 pm |
  4. Jerry

    I'm taken back by the vitriol directed towards Rubio. Basically said he was no expert, in contrast to many of the post authors. A couple of points: as a physician who is involved In the care of patients with brain rumors, I see many of these decent people turn to religion to carry them through difficult times. Not particularly religious myself, but I would never belittle these individuals, though I suspect some the people spewing the vitriol in this column would not hesitate to do so.

    Second point: the Frenchman Leclerc in 1877 stated the earth was maybe 60,000 years old. In 1897, Lord Kelvin of electromagnetism, thermodynamics, and wave theory of light fame strongly insisted the earth was 24 million years old, down from his previous estimate of 400 million years. Fifty six years later, in 1953, Clair Patterson came up with the 4.55 billion age now accepted, problematic at the time because this was older than the presumed age of the universe in 1953. Patterson is likely correct, with his estimate based on measurement of lead/uranium levels and ratios, but my point is, can anyone guarantee this number won't change in the future? People who have spent much time in the pursuit of science know that an open mind is the best asset.

    November 20, 2012 at 8:09 pm |
    • Jerry

      Typing error: Leclerc made his estimate in 1777, not 1877. My humble apology.

      November 20, 2012 at 8:14 pm |
    • Haps

      Then they all have in common that the Earth is older than 6-10,000 years. A view that most educated people would agree with.

      November 20, 2012 at 8:14 pm |
    • Reality

      Sorry Jerry, but I have to laugh, 'brain rumors'! (or were you serious?)

      November 20, 2012 at 8:17 pm |
    • End Religion

      An open mind will have people buying snake oil and swamp land in Florida. You have a brain. It's no crime to use it. When used properly one easily comes to understand religion is a delusion. And now again, religion is responsible for more people dying over imaginary friends.

      So while I also personally know plenty of nice, harmless religious people, it is time to grow up. Those nice people can be just as nice without religion. People that need religion as a crutch can turn to booze or pills if they can't grow up and learn that life is a wonderful thing even without the sky fairies.

      November 20, 2012 at 8:21 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      I'm with End Religion

      Grow the fvck up and smoke a little weed (legalize it already) or pop a prescribed pill if and when you need to. Honesty and freedom will cure what ails you better than invisible sky-daddy wizard.

      November 20, 2012 at 8:24 pm |
    • Jerry

      You gentlemen have confirmed my point: I do not tell my patients how to deal with their situation–religion, anger, drugs–I don't suggest any particular path, and neither should you. Just watched a bright 29 year old lady die from a GBM. She chose religion for comfort–who are we to tell her otherwise?

      November 20, 2012 at 8:34 pm |
    • End Religion

      Jerry, first, thank you for the work you do. It sounds honourable.
      Second, I don't know that any atheists (beyond the expected percentage of insane people in any group) are condoning rampaging through Hospice and forcing the dying to give up religion. I'm not heartless, but we do have to start somewhere, and eventually even the feeble and on-their-last-breath worst-case cancer patient is going to have to learn to deal with the very real possibility there is no security blanket in the sky. Unfortunately religion simply does not stay in the domain of "nice dying people who need comfort". It also grows black and dangerous in the hearts of strong willed healthy people who want control and power based on fantasy. And the feeble and confused are too easily misled.

      November 20, 2012 at 8:55 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @Jerry

      you asked: " can anyone guarantee this number won't change in the future?"

      Of course not. Given the evidence presented, one could extrapolate that newer science will find holes in the current theory and project an even older age for the earth. The fact that it hasn't changed materially in almost 60 years is pretty significant though.

      Along the lines that others have posted, there is an essentially zero probability that any 'new' science will change the estimate by six orders of magnitude down to 10,000 years.

      November 20, 2012 at 9:34 pm |
  5. Mike

    Given that theologians accept that the Bible and the New Testament were 'assembled' in a political process managed by the Church in the 4th century, I find it hard to accept the result as the literal 'Word of God'. What we know as the Old Testament was written down 2,500 years ago after being passed down as oral histories for untold generations. If the Jews do not take the Old Testament as a literal story, how can the Christians?

    It defies logic for us to allow these people to attempt to dictate myth as science to the rest of us.

    November 20, 2012 at 8:06 pm |
  6. Kash Figueroa

    What kind of anwer is that such as "...mysteries". If he thinks that was a smart answer, we have a bridge to sell you. Is that presidential material ? Is that the best the GOP has to offer?? Typical GOP talk, like the 47% and other stuff that is way too offending to most people. The GOP better kick the so called Tea Party out to where thry belong ir it wants to stay as a feasible solution to our problems.

    November 20, 2012 at 8:06 pm |
    • Logic

      Ironic how you as a strongly politically polarized individual attack one polarized to faith.

      November 20, 2012 at 9:00 pm |
  7. LikeLogic

    Several interesting facts: (a) In the original GQ source article, Rubio was asked many questions about a range of topics and yet this was the one CNN focused on solely in order invite exactly the anticipated reaction you see on this board. (b) Rubio answered the question posed about creation in a reasonable manner. Those of you who do not believe in God or who have never studied the Bible–fair enough. But to those believers who have, it is often accepted that God's time is not necessarily man's time. In other words, 6 days doesn't have to mean days as we know them. Rubio indicated that in his answer. (c) The questions were heavily pro-Obama weighted. Rubio recognized this and acquitted himself well. The point? The interviewer inserted a question on a controversial religious topic in hopes of gaining traction. Of making Rubio look foolish. But Rubio didn't look foolish to those who believe in God. He appeared measured and thoughtful. To those who do not believe in God and, furthermore, do not believe in respecting those who hold differing views, the beliefs of every Christian, Moslem, and Jew must appear foolish to you. Which brings me to my final point. (d) It is inaccurate to assume all Republicans are believers in God and all Democrats are not. Blacks and Latinos are strongly faith-based as are Jews. All voted heavily Obama's way. So there are many, many Democrats who would have no problem with Rubio's response to a provocative question.

    November 20, 2012 at 8:06 pm |
    • bill N the SG

      When you say specific stuff like this, you have to be ready for the backlash. It's not merely, "I believe in a God, it's a matter of faith," it's I don't believe in / know anything about Geology, Astronomy, Biology, Archaeology, History.

      The moment before the big bang can be debated, how old the earth is is approached exactly the same way as how car engines work, why airplanes fly, how to find oil–science rules the day in all of these areas and can't be washed away with "could be, might not be".

      November 20, 2012 at 8:25 pm |
    • End Religion

      The Subcommittee has responsibility for science, engineering, and technology research and development and policy; calibration and measurement standards; and civilian aeronautical and space science and policy. The Subcommittee conducts oversight on the National Science Foundation, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the Office of Science and Technology Policy.

      November 20, 2012 at 8:34 pm |
    • End Religion

      He's on the Science Committee. If he's responsible for science policy he ought to believe in scientific fact.

      November 20, 2012 at 8:35 pm |
  8. Jon

    How wearying to see Christianity turned into political fodder by the Right. For those Christians who love the Bible and also love science, one option is a wonderful pro-Christian, pro-Evolution website, BioLogos: http://biologos.org/ The site was begun by folks aligned with respected scientist and head of the NIH, Francis Collins.

    November 20, 2012 at 8:05 pm |
  9. George Marshall

    Rubio's statement that "there are multiple theories out there as to how the universe was created " is abject nonsense. He could not possibly be that stupid. Apparently he think that religious extremism is going to work this time around. It did not work with Huckabee, Palin, Bachman, Santorum, Perry , or Gingrich, all unelectable because of it.

    November 20, 2012 at 8:04 pm |
    • David

      Either he believes the teachings of his faith, that the Earth is only 6,000 – 10,000 years old or so, or he believes otherwise. To muddy the argument with what others believes is disingenuous. What others believe has no bearing on how he answers the question about his personal beliefs – unless he is trying to be deliberately misleading with his answer.

      Anyone who has a personal disconnect with the proven science about the age of the Earth has no place being on a science committee.

      November 20, 2012 at 8:19 pm |
    • DT

      Not unless he gives out free stuff like maybe the Rubio phone, Where is that spokesperson for the obama phone anyways. I know there is a video out there somewhere. I believe she speaks for all democrats when she said we is getting free obama phones and other free stuff too. Priceless

      November 20, 2012 at 8:22 pm |
  10. Locker

    Science works for everyone, creationism just works for "the faithful".

    November 20, 2012 at 8:03 pm |
  11. Anon

    Those statistics prove that a significant percentage of Americans are complete and total stupid morons.

    November 20, 2012 at 8:02 pm |
    • terre haute

      Yup, which explains a lot...

      November 20, 2012 at 8:04 pm |
  12. Locker

    Faith and belief are two of the most evil concepts in the human sphere of existence but not more evil than evangelism. Listen to all of these people criticizing scientific theory for not being "certain" while demanding that the rest of us accept their made up voodoo based on... absolutely nothing is laughable.

    There is no reason to accept any of the Christian mythology other than peer pressure while the measurable, repeatable and logical reasons to accept the scientific description of the universe and earth are numerous and testable by anyone without the need for blind belief or a spiritual mediator.

    November 20, 2012 at 8:01 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      And the folks with the advanced degrees provide their best argument: "Yeah, but you really can't be sure of anything, so!...?...!?"

      (I'm looking at you, gf)

      Well, okay, but you might be a brain in a jar and this is all a fancy video game, too. Should we believe nothing, ever, at all, for any reason? Morons.

      November 20, 2012 at 8:05 pm |
  13. terre haute

    The sky appears blue. Water is wet. Earth is not 10,000 years old. These are not opinions. These are not theories. These are facts. If you think otherwise, you are ignoring the facts, and you are incorrect.

    The only counter-argument is, "God lets you think it is." By that logic, the sky doesn't really look blue; God just lets us delude ourselves into thinking it is. Nonsense. The sky appears blue, water is wet, and the Earth is over 4B years old. Period. End of debate.

    November 20, 2012 at 8:00 pm |
  14. kit rhodes

    i went to a men's retreat back in the 70's, the speaker was Chris Croft; the voice of Apollo. he said the age of the universe and the seven days to create it depended on where God lives. if on Earth one day is 24hrs, On the sun, how long to circle the center of the universe, if in the center of the universe it would be a billion years for one day. So the creationists need to decide where god lives. the church in the 14th century believed that the sun circled the earth, So, creationists, don't be so egocentrict to believe we are the center of the universe.

    November 20, 2012 at 7:59 pm |
    • terre haute

      What's going to be hysterically awesome is if the Mars Discovery rover really did find evidence of organic compounds on Mars, as has been rumored and may be announced later this week. Not that the creationists will believe it because it's science, which we all know comes from Satan, but it would make Earth, and all of us on it, a whole heck of a lot less special and "chosen".

      November 20, 2012 at 8:03 pm |
    • End Religion

      sweet jeebus on a pogo stick, that would be a grand announcement!

      November 20, 2012 at 8:39 pm |
  15. Peter

    Wow, if he prays in front of the Wailing Wall a couple of times he'll be able to tell any religious joke he wants!

    November 20, 2012 at 7:57 pm |
  16. David

    Some people read Rubio's comments and couldn't help think "Iowa", the first state to hold a caucus in 2016. I read it, and think "Ohio", the state that will reject that pandering the way they did Romney.

    November 20, 2012 at 7:55 pm |
    • Reality

      'Iowa' rejected Romney too.

      November 20, 2012 at 8:00 pm |
  17. dc

    Sounds like a guy who knows 'creationism' is a crock, but is also smart enough to know he can't say so and still get elected as a Republican...

    I can actually sympathize. Religious differences are tolerated in this country (see further 2 Catholics and a Mormon on the last Presidential ballot), as long as you HAVE one. If you admit to being agnostic or atheistic, it's political suicide.

    November 20, 2012 at 7:52 pm |
  18. Donald in CA

    So a inexperienced cuban is supposed to get the mexican american vote for the far right haters. Rubio is in bed with the rest of the folks on the far right who hate people of color.

    November 20, 2012 at 7:51 pm |
    • The Truth

      It's like watching a childrens puppet show where they keep changing the puppets color to appeal to the children in the audience, but when you look up above the curtain you can see the buckle on the republicans belts and you realize what they have been bouncing around on stage with glued hair and painted on faces...

      November 20, 2012 at 7:55 pm |
  19. Haime52

    I find it interesting that many find it impossible to believe in what they cannot see, feel or touch, yet believe in a process they cannot hope to duplicate, watch or repeat.

    November 20, 2012 at 7:47 pm |
    • reality check

      You do realize that the universe continues to expand, don't you? With it you can calculate Earth age.

      November 20, 2012 at 7:49 pm |
    • Reality

      'believe in what they cannot see, feel or touch'

      You mean like time, magnetism or credit?

      November 20, 2012 at 7:58 pm |
    • agathokles

      Your stance is flawed. We can and have watched evolution - in the microbe world, for example. And if you understood genetics, you'd see the tracks in the genes. I see little hope for an America in which 46% of the populace believes the earth is 10,000 years old. Such ignorance is appalling.

      November 20, 2012 at 8:05 pm |
    • Nate Taylor

      Yes, it is idiotic to believe in gravity, even though I cannot touch it. Fantastic logic.

      November 20, 2012 at 8:15 pm |
    • Lynn

      It's not really that mysterious. Science cannot prove the existence of God, which requires a personal experience of revelation by the Holy Spirit. Science, however, has shown that the Earth is not young. This doesn't need to be "repeatable" to have validity. 85% of Americans believe God was involved in the creation of the universe, just a difference in the age and role of science in our beliefs.

      November 20, 2012 at 8:27 pm |
    • Lynn

      Correction: 78% believe God was involved in the creation of the universe. (Forgot to include undecideds)

      November 20, 2012 at 8:32 pm |
  20. Doc Vestibule

    The Universe only appears to be super old because The Creator willed it thus.
    The Earth really is the centre of all things because man is the predilect object of Creation and the entire Universe exists as it does simply to have us in it. God is anthropocentric – it says here right on the label.
    The rest of the universe, oh so simple and boring compared to humanity, is simply window dressing – God really concentrated when making The Earth as opposed to, say – Pluto.
    You see, when God was creating the Earth he placed it in a time dilation bubble in order to give it the attention it needed.
    This is how we see light from distant galaxies – they are, relativistically speaking, billions of years old – but thanks to God's chronoton singularity, we are only a few thousand years old.
    Some of God's early creations were well aware of this and, through the power of prayer, able to manipulate the tachyon fields that surround us all.
    That's how Adam and Noah lived to be nearly 1000.
    God bestowed certain seemingly normal objects with chronoton field generation capability, like Moses' staff and Noah's ark. How else did the seas part or the ark able to support two of every animal despite it's physical dimensions?
    In recent studies, credible theologians have revealed that the physical dimensions of Noah's Ark are actually much, much smaller than those depicted in the Bible. They theorize that the source texts were modified to be more believable as nobody would be able to imagine all life on Earth fitting into a box no bigger than a phone booth.
    The oral histories of a small, reclusive sect of ultra-orthodox Jews say that the Ark made a "fwomp fwomp fwomp" sound before it gradually faded from sight only to reappear well after the flood. Stone tablets retrieved from this same sect show that the name "Noah" is actually an ancient Hebrew word from a long lost dialect that translates to "Doctor".
    They also found evidence that Moses' staff was really a small, hand held device about the size of a pen that emitted a high pitched squeal and glowing green light. "Staff" also appears to be a mistranslation. The original word was "screwdriver".
    Engineer Montgomery Scott has been able to detect tachyometric chronoton fields using his ship's long range sensors, and after recalibrating the deflector dish was also able to make several trips back in time, including a visit to 1980's Earth where he and his crew were tasked with obtaining a whale and a quick jaunt to the depression era where his Captain had an ill fated tryst with a leftist woman named Edith Keeler.
    All of this is well laid out in the Gospel of Saint Roddenberry.

    November 20, 2012 at 7:45 pm |
    • The Ark

      "fwomp fwomp fwomp"

      I made no such sound! Retract your lies!

      November 20, 2012 at 8:43 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 with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.