When the shift in U.S. demographics became a major story after this year’s presidential election, Florida Senator Marco Rubio‘s name began to pop up as a possible Republican candidate for president in 2016. Rubio’s Cuban American background was highlighted as something that could help the GOP win back voters who aren’t white.
Rubio ethnicity alone won’t win him the Republican nomination, however. As the Republican Party begins to shift itself toward a more moderate platform, possible presidential candidates will have to find a way to seem moderate enough for a general election while pleasing the party’s far-right base during the primaries.
This week, Rubio drew a line in the sand with regards to science education and religious beliefs. During an interview with Politico, Rubio emphatically stated that the Earth is at least 4.5 billion years old. That may seem to be an inconsequential statement, and in scientific circles it undoubtedly is. For many of the fundamentalist religious protestants that make up the GOP’s base, though, that statement is akin to heresy. Many Christians, in the U.S. particularly, believe that the age of the Earth is determined by the Bible to be only 6,000 to 10,000 years old.
“Now, for me, actually, when it comes to the age of the Earth, there is no conflict.” said Rubio. “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. That’s how I’ve been able to reconcile that, and I think that’s consistent with the teaching’s of my church.”
It’s clear that Rubio is attempting to split the difference in what is sometimes perceived as his party’s dismissiveness toward science. He emphasized that children “have to know the science,” but also stated that parents should have the right to teach them their theology.
Rubio’s comments come just one week after prominent Christian Pat Robertson also challenged what is known as young-Earth creationism. “If you fight science, you are going to lose your children, and I believe in telling them the way it was.” said Robertson on his 700 Club TV show.