There has been much discussion of GQ Magazine’s effort to sandbag up-and-coming Republican presidential contender Marco Rubio with a seemingly irrelevant question about the age of the Earth. That means it worked. The only question is how well it worked.
As a refresher, here is the GQ question and Rubio’s reply:
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.
As I observed at the time, I think Rubio should have stopped right about where I put the paragraph break, but otherwise it’s a reasonable enough answer. This is clearly part of an effort to dilute the political influence of certain groups of Americans, by getting them to squabble over something that has little to do with worldly politics.
But some have expressed disappointment that Rubio answered the question at all, or that he was willing to entertain the slightest room for religious faith in a question that was ostensibly about science (but was really about wedge-issue politics.) We may rest assured, given the turmoil this “age of the Earth” inquiry caused, that Rubio will get many future chances to answer it again… and so will every other Republican candidate. Of course, no Democrat will ever be hit out of left field with such a sandbag, even if they profess themselves to be persons of deep and serious religious faith.
However, as Daniel Engber of Slate pointed out, Barack Obama actually has weighed in on the age of the Earth, and he gave essentially the same answer Rubio did, back when he was a Senator in 2008:
Q: Senator, if one of your daughters asked you???and maybe they already have??????Daddy, did god really create the world in 6 days?,??? what would you say?
A: What I’ve said to them 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. I know there’s always a debate between those who read the Bible literally and those who don’t, and I think it’s 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.
The big difference is context. Obama was asked this question during a religious forum hosted by CNN, not ambushed with it out of nowhere during an interview about other topics. (The previous question in the Rubio interview was about his thoughts on the dignity of his father and grandfather.) There is no chance Obama would have snapped, “It’s 4.54 billion years old, what the hell kind of religious nutjob question is that?” and he would not have been expected to. Democrats are asked about religion solely during explicitly religious conversations, and their answers are always portrayed as touching testimonials to their spirituality, not evidence of fanatical ignorance.
The other big difference is that everyone knows Barack Obama’s true religion is the faith of the State. It transcends and overrides any other belief he expresses, and he insists that it overrides your religious beliefs, too. The State is a jealous God, and it will have no other gods before it.
This faith is clear, vibrant, and heartfelt for Obama; he wears it on his sleeve, and hires armies of government agents to stitch it into yours. Obama is willing to use other religious iconography in service to his faith in the State, as during his frequent discourses about Christ the Tax Collector. But everyone on the Left knows that his supreme faith rests with their ideology.
That’s why they don’t care if Obama, or other Democrats, have to occasionally pretend they are devout or spiritual, in order to fool the rubes into voting for them. They regard the stunned expressions on the faces of the odd semi-serious churchgoing Democrat official who gets steamrolled by hard-Left ideology as comical, not tragic. Just ask Bart Stupak. Did that pitiful fool really think Obama and his allies would grasp the ultimate prize of socialized medicine less tightly, out of concern for his quaint religious beliefs?
Likewise, a good number of Catholics just voted to re-elect the man who subjugated their religion to the sacrament of ObamaCare. The lower spot on that ticket was held by Joe Biden, who is supposedly a practicing Catholic, but could not care less what his church says about abortion. These leftists long ago calculated that modern American religious faith is no match for their faith in the State; with the re-election of Obama and Biden, they decisively won this contest. Catholics care less about the tenets of their religion than Obama and his allies care about the tenets of theirs. Who on the Left really minds if the triumphant champions of the State occasionally feel the need to parrot some of the colorful language of religion… as long as they get to write the rules?
Personally, I haven’t got any problem with the commonly accepted 4.54 billion year figure for the age of the Earth… which very few of the people criticizing Marco Rubio could have accurately recalled to within a billion years, as of three days ago. I also wouldn’t be surprised if further scientific research adjusts that number in the future, or think that such revisions mean the people who say 4.54 billion years today are fools. Revision is an essential aspect of science, not its negation.
And I don’t suppose I would be all that surprised, upon shuffling off this mortal coil and coming face-to-face with the Almighty, to learn that some of our science was fudged by the divine hand, or that God told the transcribers of Genesis that it took six days to create the universe because He didn’t think they were ready for quantum theory just yet. Maybe He’ll confide that Day One was a heck of a long day, given that there weren’t any day-and-night cycles until it was over, and we’ll share a laugh. Frankly, if the Author of the universe wants to punk us, I don’t think there’s any rational response except having a good sense of humor about it. You really bamboozled us with your infinite power, sir! Way to go!
Meanwhile, I’m all in favor of using the tools of reason He has provided us, to solve the infinite mysteries surrounding us, as precisely as we can. Doesn’t the separation of religion and science call for a degree of mutual respect?