Profiles in Republican courage

In an interview, Florida’s Republican senator Marco Rubio, widely seen as a potential candidate on a future national ticket, ducks a direct question that should have an obvious answer.

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.

It is true that the age of the Earth has nothing to do with short-term economic policy. But your answer to such a question reveals whether you are a reality-based person or someone who lives in fantasyland. And if you duck such question, that tells us even more about your fitness to hold high office. It is true that you are not a scientist but saying that implies that you think that scientists do know the answer. So why not ask one? Florida has plenty of them. To then talk about there being “dispute amongst theologians” makes no sense.

The real mystery is how it has come to be that in 21st century America, people running for office should be scared to take a position on the age of the Earth and think that theologians have any relevance on such an issue.

Senator Rubio, here’s the answer you should give the next time someone asks you this question: “According to our best scientific knowledge, the age is 4.54 billion years, give or take 50 million years.”

And if you want to really impress people that you are reality-based, add that, “According to our best scientific knowledge, the age of the universe is 13.75 billion years, give or take 130 million years.”

See, that wasn’t so hard was it?