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. Jesusiscreepy

    "left leaning blogs...." which means that CNN is still owned by the big corporate christian empire huh?

    November 20, 2012 at 9:22 am |
  2. max

    And there is talk of this guy running for pres. in 2016? GOP has not learned a thing. LOL

    November 20, 2012 at 9:21 am |
  3. Rubio

    I'm not hedging to court both sides for political reasons, I'm too stupid for that.

    November 20, 2012 at 9:21 am |
  4. Jordu

    Come on CNN! "Let-leaning blogs and sites"? You mean those that believe in science? Just because CNN is too ratings-whipped to risk offending ANYONE, doesn't mean that all ideas actually do deserve equal respect. Creationism is a fable or at best a parable. Let it be that and go ahead and teach it at Sunday school, but don't try to equate it with science.

    November 20, 2012 at 9:20 am |
    • Merlin66

      The hayseeds think that science is just one person's opinion against another's. Our Democracy needs better educated voters.

      November 20, 2012 at 9:23 am |
    • Big Joe

      So what you're saying is there are no such thing as "left-leaning" blogs, "right-leaning" blogs, and "moderate" blogs?

      It never ceases to amaze me that the same folks who complain that they can't get objective news reporting will complain when a reporter uses objective terms in a news story.

      Oh wait, you don't want "objective." You want pandering to your own set of views, while deriding and criticizing those who might hold a different view.

      November 20, 2012 at 9:51 am |
  5. Political Agnostic

    So long as the Republican party continues to promote their right winged agenda of trying to impose their beliefs and morals on the country they will continue to decline. It is sad to see the party of Lincoln, Roosevelt and Eisenhower evolve into the name calling, narrow minded, reality denying group it has become. Maybe it is time for it to go the way of the dinosaurs.

    November 20, 2012 at 9:20 am |
    • Saraswati

      There will always be two parties the way our system is constructed, and they will almost always split the vote around 50/50. But we do appear to be at the stage when you have to wonder if the Republican's will be the surviving party. If they modify their position, their may be an effort to create a third party which is more strictly religious. That would fail unless the culture changes radically, tossing another election to the democrats by splitting the vote. This is unless the remaining Republicans made adjustments to take on a substantial part of the democratic party by modifying a few of their stands. It will be interesting to see...the two party system isn't up for grabs too often.

      November 20, 2012 at 9:36 am |
    • Merlin66

      There is absolutely no connection between modern Republicans and Lincoln, T. Roosevelt, or Eisenhower.

      November 20, 2012 at 9:36 am |
    • Big Joe

      Lincoln? Really? You want to bring Lincoln into this? In his most famous speech, delivered 129 years ago yesterday, President Lincoln had absolutely no qualms about labeling America as a "nation under God." Now let's hear the apologetics of the "left-leaning blogs" as to why Lincoln didn't MEAN to call this a "nation under God." Lincoln must have been pandering, right?

      November 20, 2012 at 9:55 am |
  6. tecjug

    "...a church representative was unlikely to be available in the near term."

    Just like a church...never around when you need them.

    November 20, 2012 at 9:20 am |
    • PaganScorp

      lol...too true, if they were calling to make a donation, someone would have been on the phone within seconds.

      November 20, 2012 at 9:34 am |
  7. Mimimama

    The very wise response offered by the Senator, and one which is being overlooked and underreported is that the age of the earth has nothing to do with gross national product or the state of the economy. Go figure that the media and the tweeters raise a hullabaloo about this non question and the very benign answer offered in which the Senator tries gently to bring the focus back on what is important.

    November 20, 2012 at 9:20 am |
    • Tex71

      It is true that metaphysical discussions have no place in political discourse. It is also true that Republicans take every opportunity to MAKE them part of the political discourse. Where Rubio's statement went all to heck is the point where he questions the scientific consensus on the Earth's age, which calls into question everything we have learned in the past 500 years, and the validity of the scientific method itself. Anyone who can seriously entertain doubts about the age of the planet or the universe is too ignorant, or too intellectually corrupt, to be allowed within 100 yards of a government building. The fact the 46% of Americans believe in a literal interpretation of Genesis is truly embarrassing and is a testament to the poor investment we as a nation have made in education.

      November 20, 2012 at 9:31 am |
  8. Alex in NJ

    He should have skipped his entire, "opinion," and just said how the question is irrelevant to governing, and a clear "gotchya," question. He shouldn't have taken the bait because it's lose/lose. Marco Rubio knows damn well how old the Earth is, just like W. Bush knew. He just doesn't want to alienate Evangelicals whom he will need in the primary. He knows how old the Earth is just like Obama knows there is no war on women. It's all just pandering, and both sides do it, and it sounds just as dumb coming from either side.

    November 20, 2012 at 9:18 am |
    • Tex71

      With every election cycle, the number of voters who grew up and went to school before there were national standards for public science education is decreasing. The dilemma for Republicans is that the undereducated and scientifically ignorant used to be such a large voting bloc that the GOP came to depend on them, playing to their lack of knowledge to capture their votes, to the point that they now have nobody else to vote for them. The GOP has taken their stand with a few greedy billionaires, an aging racist demographic, and a dwindling population of ignoranti. The chickens are coming home to roost.

      November 20, 2012 at 9:39 am |
  9. Elbert

    Gee, did CNN and GQ do this kind of crack investigative reporting when it came to Obama's beliefs? Did they call Obama's church and ask them the age of the earth? Oh, I'm sure they did and we just never heard about it.

    November 20, 2012 at 9:17 am |
    • mama k

      Well, for an interview for a magazine, I would think the interviewee has to be very willing. And I would think they would take their time with their answers.

      November 20, 2012 at 9:19 am |
  10. tkindsm

    Who give a hoot what his scientific or religious beliefs are; i'm interested in his economic ideas! Liberals are truly disgusting evil and mean spirited.

    November 20, 2012 at 9:17 am |
  11. Russell Thomas

    I'm amazed by the tone of these responses. I'm sure many of the anti-religion commenters consider themselves to be fair, open-minded tolerant people. But their comments dismissing all believers as liars, mentally deranged, or somehow deficient in their humanity betray how closed minded and intolerant they are. Many people believe religion is a source of morality, and a way to guide themselves in a moral, just way. As Thomas Hobbs observed, life in the state of nature is "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short." To condemn people for seeking a way to improve that life through belief in a system of morality is little short of monstrous. Shame on all of you.

    November 20, 2012 at 9:16 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      I'm not ashamed to be fed up with nuts who believe that science cannot know the age of the earth. I'm ashamed that the level of education in this country is such that one of them has been elected to public office, where he can form public policy that affects public education.

      November 20, 2012 at 9:21 am |
    • snowboarder

      russ – pretending the source of morality is religion is ludicrous. morality has existed in every society throughout history, entirely devorced from any particular religion. to imply morality stems from christianity is simply dishonest.

      November 20, 2012 at 9:25 am |
    • Emerald

      " To condemn people for seeking a way to improve that life through belief in a system of morality "

      That's why religious nuts are some of the most prejudice and bigoted people in our society.

      November 20, 2012 at 9:28 am |
    • snowboarder


      November 20, 2012 at 9:29 am |
    • Saraswati

      Agreed – I'm not religious but to universalize the insults of claims of insanity or evil intent to all religious people is very juvenile, and a play to discredit by contentless ridicule. But this isn't exactly an academic discussion site.

      November 20, 2012 at 9:32 am |
    • ummmm

      " I'm not religious but to universalize the insults of claims of insanity or evil intent to all religious people is very juvenile, and a play to discredit by contentless ridicule. But this isn't exactly an academic discussion site."

      Now include yourself in this comment. 😉

      November 20, 2012 at 9:35 am |
    • Saraswati

      @ummmm, I'll certainly include myself as a user of this site. I'd be impressed, however, if you can find a place where I've ever made a statement universalizing condemnation of religious folk or belief. In fact, within the last ten minutes I posted a defense of the consitency of Christians in wanting to be ruled by an all powerful god vs democracy, stating that they were entirely consistent in that belief, in contrast to the claims of the OP.

      November 20, 2012 at 9:39 am |
    • ummmm

      No idiot, but you're still using condemnation language, welcome to the belief blog. 😉

      November 20, 2012 at 9:41 am |
    • Saraswati

      @ummmm, I never said I wouldn't condemn. I condemn any religion that is, for instance, proposing the superiority of one race based on a religious text. What I said was that I wouldn't universally condemn all religion. Universally condemening all religion is like universally condemning all political views. That doesn't mean that no views are to be criticized or condemned, but that you need to be selective and recognize that there are many kinds of Christians, just as there are many kinds of Republicans. In each case some are illogical or motivated by self interest while others are not. It is the universal condemnation and blanket statements that are unacceptable.

      November 20, 2012 at 9:45 am |
    • Tex71

      Believing in God is one thing; believing that a sacred myth is literal truth – even in the face of plain and verifiable evidence to the contrary – is quite another. The first is completely reasonable and logically defensible; the second is foolish.
      If Bobby Jindal claimed to believe (or dodged the question, like Rubio) that Lord Ganesha is an actual four-armed, elephant-headed man who literally rides around on a giant rat scattering blessings in his wake – you would be ridiculing his hypocrisy just like the folks here are ridiculing Rubio's. You know you would.

      November 20, 2012 at 9:46 am |
    • Saraswati

      @Tex71, Your point is sound, but note that Bobby Jindal is a Christan and so would be unlikely to be having the discussion you describe.

      November 20, 2012 at 9:49 am |
  12. Greg

    Coward. He's hedging so he doesn't upset the religious fundamentalist and lose their vote yet he doesn't want to upset the people that actually use their brain and realize that science tells us the earth is billions of years old. You can't have it both ways. Either you believe the Bible that the Earth is less than 9000 years old or in facts, science.

    November 20, 2012 at 9:15 am |
  13. diana

    IS that the same question they asked barack obama when he was out politicking......liberals already out to draw blood....dirty fights......and ignorant people put him in for round 2....you havent seen anything yet america

    November 20, 2012 at 9:13 am |
    • Merlin66

      Conservative women should stick to their housework and let their husbands speak for the family.

      November 20, 2012 at 9:16 am |
  14. garyR

    And this is a surprise because..?

    November 20, 2012 at 9:11 am |
  15. Jeremy

    This is an attempt to "kill the egg before it hatches". Mainstream (leftist) journalism LOVES to use this question against high-profile republicans in an attempt to make them look "stupid" to the general public. They know Rubio is getting in line for 2016 and they want to put in the pillory now.

    November 20, 2012 at 9:10 am |
    • Saraswati

      The job of the media is to make the politicians answer the hard questions. Media on all sides do it, and so they should.

      November 20, 2012 at 9:12 am |
    • Merlin66

      Rubio IS stupid. Most of the Republican leadership is stupid. Conservatives have a bizarre preference for untalented leadership.

      Remember half of all Americans have a below average IQ.
      Half of all Americans are Conservatives.

      November 20, 2012 at 9:14 am |
    • Matt

      It's definitely not the question that makes him sounds stupid.

      November 20, 2012 at 9:16 am |
    • PaganScorp

      Better to get rid of the uneducated and well, just plain stupid now before you Americans have to go through another round of idiocy like you just went through.

      November 20, 2012 at 9:24 am |
    • Jeremy

      This has very little to do with journalism...

      November 20, 2012 at 9:47 am |
  16. lindaluttrell

    I grew up with Creationism in church and science in school! There is certainly room for both. Edcuators do not dctate what is taught in church...so, religion stay out of schools!

    November 20, 2012 at 9:10 am |
    • Tex71

      Actually, there is not room for both. There is room for religion in school as a subject for social science, not as dogma; but Creationism is religious dogma that depends on misconceptions and ignorance to pass itself off as science. There is not a serious, intelligent, well-educated scientist in the world who believes in a literal interpretation of Genesis. Sacred myths are valuable and contain truth about the human condition, whether they derive from the Torah, the Bhagavad Gita, or the Shan Hai Jing. But to read them as a science text is madness.

      November 20, 2012 at 9:56 am |
  17. dave

    Trying to figure out how many angels can dance on the head of a pin is a stupid religious argument

    Trying to figure out how many vibrating string parallel universes can dance on the head of a pin is brillinant physics

    November 20, 2012 at 9:05 am |
  18. Doc Vestibule

    There is a Chinese creation myth that says the ancestors of mankind were the fleas and lice on the body of the God Pan Gu.
    In the beginning, Pan Gu escaped from the great universal egg by cracking it open with a broadaxe. The light part of the yolk floated up and became the heavens while the cold, hard part stayed below to form earth with Pan Gu standing between them like a pillar to keep the separated. When He died, His breath became the wind and clouds, His voice thunder, His eyes the sun and the moon, his beard and hair turned to the stars in the sky, His blood the water. His veins became roads and his muscles fertile land.

    If the Genesis Creation myth is to be taught as an "alternative theory", Pan Gu should be taught right along side Yahweh.

    November 20, 2012 at 9:04 am |
    • Third Eagle of the Apocalypse

      And all the other creation myths, from the Greek to the ‘native American’.

      November 20, 2012 at 9:14 am |
    • Tex71

      Can you imagine Republicans defending a Chinese politician who takes a stand for a literal interpretation of the Pan Gu myth?

      November 20, 2012 at 10:00 am |
  19. Kevin

    How did he ignite a debate? He said "I don't think we'll ever know the answer to that." I think CNN and ThinkProgress are already trying to slander Rubio before 2016.

    November 20, 2012 at 9:02 am |
    • Saraswati

      If you can't know that (yes, we have the technology) you are essentially saying we can't know anything. There is a meaning of the word "know" that is necessary to everyday discourse, in which we must accept that we can "know" the age of the earth in the same way we can "know" that a particular virus causes, say, chicken pox. If you are disputing the ability to know one, you are essentially saying that all science is worthless. That's a pretty big, and dangerous, claim.

      November 20, 2012 at 9:07 am |
    • ialsoagree

      Saraswati, bloody well said. That is precisely the problem, I could not have said it better myself!

      November 20, 2012 at 9:09 am |
    • Joel

      But we DO know the answer to that. That's what people are attacking. We do know these things. It's not a matter of opinion, the facts are known.

      November 20, 2012 at 9:19 am |
    • The GOP need to pack up and leave

      Except we know the earth is billions of year old and the universe is also billions of years old. Could we be off by a billion or two? Of course, but billions is a far cry from the mere thousands that the creationists believe.

      November 20, 2012 at 9:53 am |
  20. Terik Ororke

    Most so called evangelicals have no idea what the bible is really all about...they think they do and they preach from it...the bible does not really say when the world was created and why. It simply tells a story that is set against the Baals and the Marduks of the then pagan world, a wolrd that claimed that their gods created the world after and bitter battle in which the corpses of the losers were used to from the earth. Waring gods is an excellent idea, on the ohter hand and not that far from our modern idea of Big Bang!...so let the Bible bew the Bible..no one really cares when the world was created...all believers have to know is that God did it, and if He did it our of nothing, that is his problem, not ours. Ours is to enjoy the beautiful thing He gave.

    November 20, 2012 at 9:00 am |
    • Paul

      I completely agree. For you and me and most of us, it really doesn't matter. I know that God is there and nothing else really matters. I wish the atheists would get on their own website and argue their stupid theories and stop cluttering up ours.

      November 20, 2012 at 9:13 am |
    • Third Eagle of the Apocalypse

      I care. So do many others. Asking the hard questions and looking for the truth (the truth supported by FACTS, not made up gibberish) is what makes Atheist better than Theists.

      I hope you are not referring to THIS site. Because this site is a news site and you are posting on their belief blog. Belief does not mean Christians, religion or theist. Feel free to Google the actually definition. Not to mention the site owners…you know CNN…post stories about Atheist here as well. Your ignorance is no surprising but is no less saddening.

      November 20, 2012 at 9:22 am |
    • The GOP need to pack up and leave

      The idea of a 7 day creation cycle actually came from a Mesopotamian belief. It was adapted to other belief systems and adopted in the stories of bible along the way.

      November 20, 2012 at 9:54 am |
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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.