Marco Rubio’s Deceptively Pro-Science Answer on the Age of the Earth

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) speaks at a combination fundraiser and birthday party for Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, on November 17, 2012 in Altoona, Iowa. Branstad turned 65 this year.
Marco Rubio is not ready to give a thumbs up to science. Photo: Steve Pope/Getty Images

Marco Rubio may be the future of the Republican Party, but his views on science appear to be stuck somewhere in the seventeenth century. In a new interview with GQ, Rubio was asked how old he thinks the Earth is, and to anyone who believes that science is more accurate than the Bible in matters of geology, his answer is either amusing, depressing, or enraging — or possibly all three simultaneously. But parse it closely, and it appears that Rubio does endorse science, albeit subtly and perhaps accidentally:

GQ: How old do you think the Earth is?
Marco Rubio: I'm not a scientist, man. I can tell you what recorded history says, I can tell you what the Bible says, but I think that's a dispute amongst theologians and I think it has nothing to do with the gross domestic product or economic growth of the United States. I think the age of the universe has zero to do with how our economy is going to grow. I'm not a scientist. I don't think I'm qualified to answer a question like that. At the end of the day, I think there are multiple theories out there on how the universe was created and I think this is a country where people should have the opportunity to teach them all. I think parents should be able to teach their kids what their faith says, what science says. Whether the Earth was created in 7 days, or 7 actual eras, I'm not sure we'll ever be able to answer that. It's one of the great mysteries.

Though asserting that science and theology disagree on the age of the earth, and, ridiculously, declaring the dispute "one the great mysteries" — one side has hard evidence, the other side just wrote down a number it plucked out of the air — Rubio's opinion on the matter does slip through. The meme-ready "I'm not a scientist, man" and the later "I'm not a scientist. I don't think I'm qualified to answer a question like that" may serve as convenient dodges, but they also indicate that Rubio thinks that science, as opposed to a theology, is the right way to answer the question, which it has.

What Rubio isn't ready to do is explicitly declare that science is right, and the Bible is wrong. As he positions himself for 2016, he'd rather straddle the fence between the religious right and the science-believing wings of the GOP and fall back on a this isn't about the economy so it shouldn't concern me evasive maneuver. In doing so, Rubio echoes another man who isn't exactly known for his intellectual prowess:

CAIN: I’m ready for the gotcha questions and they’re already starting to come. And when they ask me who is the president of Ubeki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan, I’m going to say, 'You know, I don’t know. Do you know?' And then I’m going to say, 'How’s that going to create one job?'