A question about the age of Planet Earth is turning into a media feeding frenzy against Sen. Marco Rubio ever since the Florida Republican said he was not a scientist and didn’t think he was qualified to answer such a question.
In an interview with GQ magazine, Rubio, who many think may run for president in 2016, was asked, “How old do you think the Earth is?”
Rubio responded: “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 seven days, or seven actual eras, I’m not sure we’ll ever be able to answer that. It’s one of the great mysteries.”
New York Times editorial page editor Juliet Lapidos called Rubio’s answer “ludicrous.”
Daniel Engber of Slate wrote, “We all should understand the age of Earth is not a matter of opinion, but a scientific fact: Our planet formed 4.54 billion years ago. If Rubio suggested otherwise, it’s because he’s uninformed or stupid.”
Even Jeb Bush Jr., son of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, called it “kind of a head-scratching type of answer.”
Appearing on CNN Tuesday, Bush said it was a “strange question” but also “kind of a strange response.”
He thought Rubio’s support for science was not evident in the GQ interview.
“We’ve got to be a kind of pro-science and pro-technology party. And I think Marco Rubio is just that,” Bush said. “On the Earth question, I guess I have to read more closely in terms of getting a better understanding, but, yeah, kind of a strange response, I guess.”
Ironically, Barack Obama was asked a similar question when he was campaigning for president in April 2008, and gave a response very similar to that of Rubio.
“What I’ve said to [my daughters] is that I believe that God created the universe and that the six days in the Bible may not be six days as we understand it … it may not be 24-hour days, and that’s what I believe,” Obama told the Compassion Forum at Messiah College in Grantham, Pa.
“I know there’s always a debate between those who read the Bible literally and those who don’t, and that I think is a legitimate debate within the Christian community of which I’m a part. My belief is that the story that the Bible tells about God creating this magnificent Earth on which we live – that is essentially true, that is fundamentally true. Now, whether it happened exactly as we might understand it reading the text of the Bible: That, I don’t presume to know.”
Mark Halperin, a political analyst for Time magazine, speaking on MSNBC, said this was part of a campaign to demonize Rubio, should the tea-party favorite decide to seek the presidency in 2016:
“There’s one area where the Democrats are just really far ahead of Republicans right now, science and technology. It’s doing this thing that Democrats failed to do in 2000 to stop George W. Bush, which is really, really early on using the left-wing freak show to define anybody who’s thinking of running for president as quickly as possible in negative terms on Twitter, on cable, on the Internet. Now, they’re all over this Rubio thing because they want to control his image in a negative way, and they did it. They did it this cycle. They went after Romney early. It really hurt him, and they’re doing it now.”
Radio host Rush Limbaugh agreed, saying Wednesday, “Essentially what’s happening here is that Rubio is being Romneyed.”
“The press is the Democrat Party, and they are out now to destroy Rubio. He’s the frontrunner. The same way they destroyed Palin. The way they’re doing it with this question. They’re trying to paint Rubio as an extreme right-wing fundamentalist Christian wacko. Now, he’s a Catholic. But they are trying, because the fundamentalist Christian right-wing, it is believed, do not care about science. They’re strictly biblical, and science can go take a hike. And where science may say that the earth is billions of years old and that the evolutionary relative to man might be hundreds of thousands of years old, they believe the Earth itself is 10,000 years old, and everything else is bunk.”
He continued, “The global warming debate is also set up to cast Republicans as anti-science. The problem is that science has been politicized by the left, and science isn’t science anymore. Science is no different than illegal immigration in terms of the media’s technique. The media is trying to get Republicans to abandon their base.”
Limbaugh noted that Obama’s answer to the question of origins “is almost identical to Rubio’s, but Obama is never gonna be thought of as a fundamentalist right-wing Christian who’s anti-abortion, anti-contraception, anti-gay marriage, anti-whatever people want to do. But Rubio is. There’s always a double-standard here. And now, predictably and disappointingly, a bunch of conservative media people are also jumping all over Rubio for being a nitwit and an idiot, not understanding the relationship between science and politics and science and religion. The age of the Earth is the ultimate gotcha question for any Christian Republican politician. Six thousand years of recorded history’s actually true. Recorded history.”
Limbaugh said the best way to answer the question is to say, “‘I agree with President Obama. I agree with what President Obama said.’ It’s that simple, because Obama and Rubio said nothing different.”