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. Huebert

    It seems to me that christian conservatives have a paralyzing fear of science text books.

    November 20, 2012 at 10:07 am |
    • John

      Not the ones that they write themselves but, to be fair, I wouldn't exactly call them "science" texts. More like "This is why you can't trust science" texts.

      November 20, 2012 at 10:17 am |
    • LC

      LOL Creationist "science" books begin with the premise that "We already know the answers because they were written in our ancient book. So, whatever those fancy scientists with their fancy experiments, evidence and logical thinking might say, don't believe it!"

      November 20, 2012 at 10:24 am |
    • Bax

      It seems to me that people will try to discount God and Christianity any chance they get. God still loves you. Christians need to be more concerned about how we treat people and love everyone. Quit judging! We don't decide who goes to heaven and some of us need to look in the mirror in the first place. We are sinners too. Be kind to people and make a difference where you can, isn't that what we should be doing. Maybe then we can have a positive effect on people who don't believe.

      November 20, 2012 at 10:28 am |
    • Huebert


      If you want to believe in god go for it. If you want to tell me I or my children should believe in god, I will fight you tooth and nail. Keep your religion to yourself.

      November 20, 2012 at 10:41 am |
    • Michael

      It amazes me that people who call themselves "logical" pander to such illogical discussions.

      1. Science is based upon Fact and Theory, with the later being a pursuit to bring discovery of the former.
      2. Fact is only established by a "repeatable process" otherwise it is not a fact, it is a hypothetical phenomena.
      3. For a fact to be recognized as being established, it must have concrete "proof."

      Last time I checked, there was no eye witness to your "science text book facts", and no proof based upon a repeatable process for those claimed facts.

      To say that the earth is such and such years old is pure hypothetical phenomena at its very finest, and Greek Mythology stories at best.

      You want to teach Greek Mythology to kids in school, fine... but have common sense to not call it Science and put it in "science text books"!

      I'm not opposed to Religion or Science pandering their theories, but until we find an eye witness account, that can be established and recognized with solid "PROOF" that the earth is "...." years old, don't call it a fact.... it's just fictional theory recorded under different authors.

      The Bible does not say the earth is "...." years old, so why would Science try to compete with that?
      Where were the scientist when the earth was born? What was his/her name? Who recorded it?
      And how do they have the unmitigated arrogance to call it "science text book fact"?

      A scientist attempting to prove that the earth is "...." years old is like a preacher trying to convince you that Adam was 5 foot 8 inches tall and weighed 162 pounds with green eyes and blond hair.

      You have to be a complete moron to make such a claim, and yet we let these people put their ideas in "science text books" as fact and then call themselves representatives from the intelligentsia community.

      It's like no one has the guts to ask "who came up with this idiot idea?"

      November 21, 2012 at 7:22 pm |
    • Rich


      It's unfortunate that no one told you what a scientific theory is. If they had, you wouldn't embarrass yourself with your misunderstanding.

      A scientific theory is "a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world, based on a body of facts that have been repeatedly confirmed through observation and experiment" (wiki).

      Thus, there can be no such thing as a religious theory since religion is based on faith. Adam's appearance or even his existence can never rise to the level of a theory (it's OK, very few things do) because no facts exist related to him.

      Evolution on the other hand IS based on a very large body of facts that have been confirmed innumerable times.

      That being said, the last thing I want to do is dissuade you of your beliefs. Presumably you are not a doctor so you are in little danger of killing any one due to your ignorance of science in general and evolution in particular. It's OK though, at the end of the day evolution vs. creation matters very little to 99% of people in the world. It just has no impact.

      November 21, 2012 at 9:27 pm |
  2. DM

    The science vs. religion debate is a false argument. As with so many things the issue is NOT science versus religion. Rather it is far-right, evangelical, radical extremeism vs. militant atheism – two extreme and minority views. My God is powerful enough to have created the world any way he wanted too over as long as he wanted to. That includes billions of years of evolution.

    November 20, 2012 at 10:06 am |
    • snowboarder

      DM – actually, it is far right religious extremists against everyone.

      November 20, 2012 at 10:08 am |
    • ialsoagree

      Demonstrate your god exists in any way, shape, or form, without an appeal to a false argument such as "forests are super pretty, therefor god!" or "it's really hard for me to understand DNA, so god must have done it!"

      November 20, 2012 at 10:08 am |
    • MalcomR

      Wrong on all counts.

      November 20, 2012 at 10:09 am |

      "my god" is the telling phrase here. Since god doesn't really exist everyone can define it any way they choose – and the far right chooses an anti-science, anti-gay, anti-woman deity.

      November 20, 2012 at 10:10 am |
    • Geckowise

      ...your "God"??? .....oh bouy...

      November 20, 2012 at 10:12 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Dr. Greg Graffin's PhD thesis, "Evolution, Monism, Atheism and the Naturalist World-View", found that the overwhelming majority of the world's pre-eminent evolutionary biologists find no conflict between religion and science – so long as religion is recognized solely as a sociological adaptation.

      November 20, 2012 at 10:13 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Doc has it right, DM. There's no argument unless those who believe do not attempt to have their beliefs taught, presented, and acted on as facts.

      November 20, 2012 at 10:26 am |
  3. jtsilver2th

    Where do they find these people?

    November 20, 2012 at 10:05 am |
  4. Tex71

    It is easy to forget how many people are still alive and voting who grew up before DNA was discovered. Although most of those great elderly folks welcome change and adapt to it, many of them refuse to accept new knowledge (like DNA and speciation, radiocarbon dating, Hubble red-shift, and quantum mechanics), and that is most of the problem.

    November 20, 2012 at 10:05 am |
    • jtsilver2th

      he does not look elderly to me.

      November 20, 2012 at 10:07 am |
    • ialsoagree

      By the way, because I think this is important, the "hubble red-shift" is actually called the Doppler Effect, named for Christian Doppler, an Austrian physicist who published a paper detailing the Doppler Effect in the mid 1800's.

      November 20, 2012 at 10:13 am |
  5. Badly-Bent

    This is good stuff. Rubio is willing to show us his true colors. He is willing to disparage his intelligence to appease the Religious Right. He's in good company with representative Todd Akin and that other piece of work.

    November 20, 2012 at 10:04 am |

    Wow. Rubio has already lost – and the primaries are still 3 years off.

    November 20, 2012 at 10:04 am |
  7. rockysfan

    Just goes to show that the bible thumpers will not be denied. Any one that can't believe in science does not belong governing. You want to believe the earth was created in 7 days, knock yourself out; but that makes unfit to teach in public or lead. Period.

    November 20, 2012 at 10:02 am |

    Oh Boy. Another Republican who tries to walk the tightrope between Republican extremist (Tea party, religious right) and traditional republicans (the moderates who are being kicked out of their offices by the extremists). Willl these people ever learn?

    November 20, 2012 at 10:00 am |
    • todd in DC

      I think the present day GOP is in a cul de sac.. They will need to seriously reinvent themselves or else fall victim to a split resulting in a 3rd party that is more fiscally conservative yet socially liberal.

      November 20, 2012 at 10:04 am |
    • Geckowise

      Nope. Same ole Teapublican Party.

      November 20, 2012 at 10:07 am |

      Todd in DC
      You're absolutely correct. I wager that the Tea Party will split and form their own political party. That, along with the frustrations of the Libertarians, will essentially dissolve the Republican party base.

      November 20, 2012 at 10:07 am |
    • Tex71

      They have written off learning. They refuse to learn. The GOP is following the Whigs (whose brilliant beginnings are now forgotten since they sold out against their conscience on the issues of slavery and manifest destiny) into the dilapidated dustbin of history, and will be commemorated in future history textbooks as the party whose decline began when they sold out to ignorance and religious extremism.

      November 20, 2012 at 10:11 am |
    • Saraswati

      They're really in a pinch. Those who truly believe this stuff aren't going to just change their minds because of a political loss. If the party rejects the true believers, they risk driving them into a new party which will, at least for the next election, leave the Democrats as the largest party with other votes split. The only way they can hold the existing party together is to hope for an evolution in thought over the next 4 years, producing a more socially liberal base (possible...but won't happen quickly) or to have some other very large even occur which puts the dems in such a bad light as to lift the pressure (possible, but won't reverse the social trends).

      November 20, 2012 at 10:16 am |
  9. jrm03063

    GOP has a DUMBographic problem! Declaring a religious/cultural myth to be a theory demonstrates ignorance of both science and faith – and in its way – the most profound contempt for both. Pathetic....

    November 20, 2012 at 9:59 am |
  10. Robert

    What do you want to believe. Science are a book of fairy tales. This is the man that the GOP is going pushing for President in 2016.

    November 20, 2012 at 9:58 am |
    • John

      I'm assuming you meant "Science OR a book of fairy tales", right?

      November 20, 2012 at 9:59 am |
    • rockysfan

      Facts are what I believe in and no, if Rubio goes down this path, I predict another resounding win for the democrats in 2016; not the repubs!

      November 20, 2012 at 10:04 am |
  11. David

    It is a shame how spiteful and hateful the comments are against someone who is simply stating that science has its limits just as faith and religion do. The truth is science can NOT definitely answer why the universe was created, why intelligent life evolved, how the the universe actually began in the absence of time and space and hence change and lastly how fully functional mutations which lead to survival advantages for a species develop. Natural selection is an insufficient explanation for the clearly rules mutations we observe in nature. What science provides is observations based on the tools we use and their limited ability to measure the physical universe.

    November 20, 2012 at 9:57 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      He wasn't asked about all of those. He was asked a question that can be answered to some degree by science. While the number of years may change with further research and more discovery, it is incorrect to claim it cannot be answered.

      November 20, 2012 at 10:02 am |

      Science does have limits – but religious stories are pure fiction. At least science seeks truth, religion seeks to mold reality to fit its repressive agenda.

      November 20, 2012 at 10:02 am |
    • Osiris

      So God did what we don't understand? I mean if you want to define "god" as the ever-shrinking unknown then fine. But as soon as you assign traits to this god as seen through our species' lens then it's no longer believable. Unless of course there's a god of horses, god of elephants, etc..... And then of course there is the question: What created your god?

      November 20, 2012 at 10:03 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      “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.


      It is not a "great mystery" except to people like Rubio.

      November 20, 2012 at 10:04 am |
    • John

      Science has not answered all questions concerning the origins of the universe YET, you mean? We are learning more and more each and every day, and better instruments in the future will most likely answer many more of our questions.

      November 20, 2012 at 10:04 am |
    • snowboarder

      david – religion provides non of the things in which science is lacking.

      November 20, 2012 at 10:06 am |
    • Saraswati

      He wasn't asked how the universe was created, but how old the earth is. Those are very different questions, the answer to the latter which has been established at well into the millions and certainly far greater than 6-10,000. I agree that science can't know everything, but to claim it can't even roughly estimate the age of the earth is to be willfully ignorant of the facts.

      November 20, 2012 at 10:08 am |
    • todd in DC

      You are missing the point, David. Its not that science has limits, its science KNOWS it has limits. Ask a bible thumper a question about a contradiction in the bible, and he will respond, "God works in mysterious ways" or "I just know", etc. Science dioes not claim to know all the answers, but seeks them out. Religion does claim to have all the answers, and discourages learning.

      November 20, 2012 at 10:09 am |
    • Nancy

      You are incorrect. First of all this idiot was NOT asked WHY the universe was created. He was asked how old the earth is. Didn't you read the article? Science knows how old the earth is. It shows us the evidence; the how, the when and the where. Science does not touch the philosophical why, it knows better. No one can answer the why, especially religion and anyone who tries is a fool. The rest of your comments only show that you never picked up a biology book and know nothing about evolution which is the problem with most Americans. Religion is easy, science is hard. Go back to school before you post again.

      November 20, 2012 at 10:11 am |
    • Tex71

      Nobody in his right mind will contest the inability of science to answer the "why" questions of cosmogony. The problem is that Creationism doesn't stop at "why"; it claims to answer the "how" and the "when" with religious dogma from a pre-science cosmogonic myth.
      I think you know better, and shame on you for trying to muddy the waters with your false dichotomies.

      November 20, 2012 at 10:14 am |
    • Kevin

      "Natural selection is an insufficient explanation for the clearly rules mutations we observe in nature."
      I would LOVE to know what credentials and scientific knowledge you have available to back up this totally baseless (and nonsensical) assertion. But you probably don't have any, which is typical of people who feel they have the intellectual authority to handwave away an entire field of science.

      November 20, 2012 at 10:15 am |
    • David

      The age of the universe can NOT be answered definitely.. it can only be answered based on observed constants and variables we know of today. Here is a scientific quote on the matter "The Lambda-CDM concordance model describes the evolution of the universe from a very uniform, hot, dense primordial state to its present state over a span of about 13.75 billion years of cosmological time. This model is well understood theoretically and strongly supported by recent high-precision astronomical observations such as WMAP. In contrast, theories of the origin of the primordial state remain very speculative. If one extrapolates the Lambda-CDM model backward from the earliest well-understood state, it quickly (within a small fraction of a second) reaches a singularity called the "Big Bang singularity." This singularity is not understood as having a physical significance in the usual sense, but it is convenient to quote times measured "since the Big Bang" even though they do not correspond to a physically measurable time. For example, "10−6 seconds after the Big Bang" is a well-defined era in the universe's evolution. If one referred to the same era as "13.75 billion years minus 10−6 seconds ago," the precision of the meaning would be lost because the minuscule latter time interval is swamped by uncertainty in the former.". . so basically the universe is pretty damn old but was created pretty damn quickly. The present laws of physics just didn't apply in the initial creation moments. General relativity breaks down, quantum physics also fail us and all other theories are JUST theories and can not be duplicated or proved since the conditions can not be duplicated. Now, science aside, atheists has a serious problem which is lack of moral compass. To believe we are nothing more than finite state machines, automatons, is to accept that there are no moral absolutes and therefore raping a child, stealing, murdering have NO absolute MORAL value. These acts are nothing more than descriptions of physical objects interacting. However, even atheists, for some odd reason find it objectionable when the innocent suffer, when they are personally hurt or experience loss. Why, where does that come from? Why can't you disassociate from those feelings and accept them as meaningless..Atheists should live a life which maximized pleasure and minimizes pain at ANY costs since there is not TRUE transcendental meaning in life and NOT care what anyone else thinks.

      November 20, 2012 at 10:24 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      ALL humans recognize some acts as harmful, David. It doesn't take a belief in a god to know that murdering someone is not good for humanity.

      Did you catch 60 Minutes on Sunday? If not, you should read the research that's being done on infants only a few months old. Recognizing behaviors as being helpful or unhelpful is ingrained in us through eons of evolutionary development. God doesn't have anything to do with it.

      November 20, 2012 at 10:29 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      "Now, science aside, atheists has a serious problem which is lack of moral compass."

      Utter and complete bullish!t.

      November 20, 2012 at 10:35 am |
    • Alvis

      You're dealing in obsfucation here, David. "The age of the universe can NOT be answered definitely.": no, it cannot be, but at least science has a good crack at a timetable based on observation, deduction and research, whereas the Biblical number has what backing it up? The fact that it's in the Bible? That's a circular argument. Any unbiased thinking person would go with science here.

      And as for your assertion (which comes out of nowhere and is irrelevant to the prior discussion) that "atheists has (sic) a serious problem which is lack of moral compass" is incorrect in many cases. Most people have a moral compass, but they don't necessarily have YOUR moral compass, which makes us all different. There's no need to believe in the Christian God/The Bible/choose your text to develop a set of morals and ethics; if you need a structure, philosophy, empathy and rational thought will lead you in a direction that will make your life (and the lives of those around you) fulfilling.

      November 20, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
  12. ELH

    Do you suppose that those Americans that believe God created humans in their present form and those that believe humans evolved with God's guidance would be Republicans?

    November 20, 2012 at 9:57 am |
  13. The Jackdaw

    Science is a tool by which we understand the universe. It has no agenda, although admittedly, sometimes those who use it do. Science is supposed to be empirical; its results repeatable, testable and predictable. When those using science to understand the universe sketch an outline of the history of everything, it is not a guess; it is based in empirical evidence. To dismiss it in favor of “God”, whatever he may look like to you, is to take the easy way out. To say, “God did it” is to tie off all the loose ends you do not understand with a magic wand. I think that in today’s day, with the information that is available to us, we owe it to ourselves to try a little harder than that.

    November 20, 2012 at 9:55 am |
    • snowboarder

      well said

      November 20, 2012 at 9:59 am |
  14. 1plus1

    Science > Fairy Tales

    November 20, 2012 at 9:54 am |
  15. Geckowise

    No way will anyone ever get elected to the Presidency if they come out and say that they believe some supreme being created the earth in only six days just 6000 years ago. This goof knows that, and that is exactly why he is dancing around the question; he is torn between the fairy tale that he believes is reality and his future political ambitions.

    November 20, 2012 at 9:54 am |
    • Saraswati

      Or possibly the beliefs of those he hopes will vote for him that he doesn't want to offend. Hard to say.

      November 20, 2012 at 10:11 am |
  16. JM

    How many of you fools could quote the age of the Earth before reading this article or before doing a search?

    November 20, 2012 at 9:53 am |
    • ialsoagree

      I could, but my major is in Chemistry and I've taken college classes in every major field of science (biology, physics, chemistry, geology, sociology, anthropology, heck, even psychology).

      November 20, 2012 at 10:06 am |
    • Tex71

      Your statement is incoherent as it implies that we are all fools. Contrary to your insinuations, I think just about everyone who graduates from high school knows the Earth is about 4.5 billion years old, and that the estimated age of the universe is on the order of 13 billion years. You only make yourself look foolish by asking the question, and a boor by posing it so discourteously.

      November 20, 2012 at 10:21 am |
  17. ChristopherM

    Just what the US needs...another flat earther in charge of things.

    November 20, 2012 at 9:52 am |
  18. Osiris

    Great mystery? No Rubio, just like the tides, we do know. You can choose to reject evidence based science if you like; we can't force you to be right. But you will have no chance of occupying the White House with that sort of ignorant mindset.

    November 20, 2012 at 9:51 am |
  19. asm_ith

    Any argument that all theories should be taught is legitimate only to the extent that the theories have evidence. The Bible is not evidence, no matter how much people want to believe it. At best, it is essentially a set of assertions with respect to "science" because it makes statements but there is no evidence. People can choose to believe it, but that does not make it science and anything from it cannot be legitimately taught as alternative theories of science, whether in astrophysics vs. the "big bang", biology vs. evolution or embryology, etc., or physics and geology in determining the age of the earth and universe.

    November 20, 2012 at 9:49 am |
  20. Snowyowl

    The antiquity of the earth is only a mystery to people who are either too lazy or too dumb to consider fact-based reason and analysis. Oh – I guess that takes in the entire GOP, for starters!

    November 20, 2012 at 9:49 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.