A month ago, I had a bit of fun at Senator Marco Rubio's expense over his "I'm not a scientist, man" response to GQ's question about the age of the earth.
I brought up his comments again in my talk last week at the American Geophysical Union meeting, to much audience amusement. It served as a perfect example of the Pillars of Science denial, and the geologists were especially intrigued by his view that the understanding the age of the earth "has nothing to do with the gross domestic product or economic growth of the United States." Accurately dating rocks and knowing how that fits into geological history is a big part of oilfield geology, not to mention hydrology and seismology, topics with fairly obvious economic relevance.
A couple days after my talk, Rubio clarified his view in an interview with Mike Allen:
RUBIO: There is no scientific debate on the age of the earth. I mean, it’s established pretty definitively, it’s at least 4.5 billion years old. I was referring to a theological debate, which is a pretty health debate. And the theological debate is … how do you reconcile with what science has definitively established with what you may think your faith teaches. Now for me, actually, when it comes to the age of the earth, there is no conflict. I believe that in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. And I think that scientific advances have given us insight into when he did it and how he did it, but I still believe God did it…. I just think in America we should have the freedom to teach our children whatever it is we believe. And that means teaching them science, they have to know the science, but also parents have the right to teach them the theology and to reconcile the two things.
Now, I think his answer is still problematic. He doesn't seem to have changed his view about whether knowing the age of the earth has any economic value, and he still is treating science and theology as equally valid ways to answer the question "how old do you think the Earth is?"
That's a problem, and, despite what he and a certain reporter at Slate seem to think, it marks a clear difference between him and President Obama.