Here we go again:

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.

This sort of thing drives me crazy, and not just because that’s an embarrassing, illiterate answer for a national politician to give on a question like that.

For the record, I am far more interested in what a politician has to say about the problems we’re dealing with now than in his religious beliefs about the age of the universe. Science shows that it’s impossible for American Indians to have been descended from the Hebrews, as the LDS Church teaches. Yet what is it to me if Romney believes this falsifiable “fact”? I know, I know: But if he believes something that is provably not true, how can we trust his thinking? All I can tell you is that I’ve known people with whom I would trust to manage my money, who believe as a matter of dogma that the earth was created 7,000 years ago. People are strange about that sort of thing. I don’t have any particular problem reconciling what science tells us about the age of the earth with my Christian faith, but I’ve known lots of Christians — really intelligent people — who, for some reason, draw a bright, clear line around a literal reading of Genesis. I wish they wouldn’t, but I am not unnerved by the fact that they do, or at least I don’t see it as disqualifying in a politician, any more than I would see it as disqualifying for a businessman. (For a scientist, science teacher, or theologian, it’s a different story.)

This question is really about laying down a status marker, giving Republican politicians the opportunity to show to secular liberals whether or not they’re the troglodyte idiots that they (the secular liberals) believe all Republicans are. Liberal journalists keep thinking that if only they can draw Republicans out on this issue, it will be perfectly obvious that these politicians are unfit for office, because they’re anti-science! They never seem to notice that just about half of all Americans believe in the creationist account of mankind’s origins. Me, I wish Republican politicians had a more sophisticated and plausible account for how God created the universe and all within it, but this is hardly the vote-loser that liberals think it is.

I wish one of these liberal journalists would go into a black or Latino church supper and ask people their thoughts about how the universe began. I’d bet that 99 percent of the people there would agree with Marco Rubio, even if most of them would vote for his opponent. People just don’t care about this stuff at the national political level. You’d better believe I’d fight over this issue if it came down to a matter of what was going to be taught in my local school. But I couldn’t possibly care less what the guy who lives in the White House thinks, unless he tries to impose it on the country.

Having said all that, could we please have a rising GOP star who would, for once, defend both science and religion on this question? It’s a false choice, saying that either Genesis has to be literally right, or the atheists do. According to that Gallup poll, one-third of all Americans believe the standard scientific account of the universe’s origins, but also believe that God guided the process (this is my view, by the way). When I was working for the Templeton Foundation, I ran across distinguished scientists and theologians who believed this, and who could defend it. The answer to the question is not the either/or that secular liberals or Christian fundamentalists types believe it to be. Would it kill top Republican politicians to do a little reading in the works of Sir John Polkinghorne, a theoretical physicist and Anglican priest, and other Christian scientists like him?