Paul  Kengor

Editor’s note: A longer version of this article first appeared at American Spectator.

In a recent interview, Senator Marco Rubio, effectively the Republican front-runner for 2016, was asked, “How old do you think the Earth is?”

It’s a question of utter irrelevance to the country’s status and whether Marco Rubio would be a good president. Rubio’s answer was excellent: “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.”

To any sensible person, this was a perfect response. Who could object?

Well, an editor for the New York Times—that flagship of faith and reason—judged Rubio’s response “ludicrous.” A writer at the liberal Slate, who no doubt Googled first, claimed authoritatively: “Our planet was formed 4.54 billion years ago. If Rubio suggested otherwise, it’s because he’s uninformed or stupid.”

Ah, yes. I’m sure everyone at Slate knows the Earth is 4.54 billion years old.

As for myself, if someone asked me that question out of the blue, I couldn’t answer. I’ve been a scientist, an agnostic/borderline atheist, and ultimately a Christian. I’ve taught Sunday School, lectured at colleges, collected data at top research labs, and everything in between. I’ve published in scientific and political journals. I know, as Marco Rubio does, that theologians dispute this.

In fact, anyone with a serious, sincere interest in this question knows this. But, of course, the question wasn’t asked to Rubio out of serious, sincere interest; it never is when posed to a Republican.