Climate

Rand Paul refuses to say how old the earth is: “I think Im just gonna have to pass on that one”

This TP crosspost (with video!) could be filed under “Signs of the Apocalypse.”  But these days I think the smaller, more manageable category would be “Signs there isn’t going to be an apocalypse.”

Last Friday, Kentucky GOP Senate candidate Rand Paul attended a meeting of the Christian Homeschool Educators of Kentucky (CHEK), where he gave a speech promoting homeschooling and fielded questions from the audience. At one point, a questioner asked Paul about his personal faith and how old he thought the planet was. Paul responded by saying that he forgot to say he “was only taking easy questions,” provoking laughter from the CHEK crowd, and then said he would “have to pass on that one“:

QUESTION: Was there a point in life where you became a Christian […] and also, how old is the world?

PAUL: I forgot to say I was only taking easy questions (crowd laughs)….  I’m gonna have to pass on the age of the earth. I think I’m just gonna have to pass on that one.

Watch it:

Later in the question-and-answer period, Paul explained to a questioner who asked about his views on separation of church and state that he does think “church really should be separate from the government,” but added that he thinks “you could have prayer in public schools.” (HT: Barefoot and Progressive)

Cross posted from Think Progress.

25 Responses to Rand Paul refuses to say how old the earth is: “I think Im just gonna have to pass on that one”

  1. Michael Tucker says:

    Passing on the age of the Earth question is the same as saying something stupid like: 5000 years old.

  2. Ominous Clouds Overhead says:

    Everyone knows the earth is about 4.65 billion years old, and even rocks from the moon verify this – everyone knows but people who refuse to believe in science.

    We won’t name names here, but let me say they’re the same people who believe whole-heartedly in science when they get on an airplane or when watching TV or messing around with computers or cameras or iPods or cell phones or cars or…

    Cognitive dissonance.

  3. Ominous Clouds Overhead says:

    I think prayer in schools is OK, as long as it’s praying that children learn to differentiate between science and magical thinking.

    How’s that for cognitive dissonance?

  4. Richard Brenne says:

    Some follow-up questions:

    Exactly why is the science of ophthalmology valid and the science of cosmology, astro-physics, astronomy, geology, evolutionary biology and essentially all other sciences invalid?

    If you think the Earth is 6000 years old when it is 4,600,000,000 years old, you are off by 4,600,094,000 years. Is your eye surgery that precise?

    Exactly which dinosaurs did your ancestors ride to church?

    Do you have any problems with the accuracy of the headline “Self-Certified Eye Doctor Panders to Home-Schooled Hillbillies”?

  5. darth says:

    Gotta love the Young Earthers. Don’t they know you can count the years in ice cores back 100,000 or so – just by counting the layers! No spooky math or radio-dating here, just counting. That alone demolishes the 6,000 year theory – with no other evidence its at least 100,000 years old. Rand Paul is an idiot.

  6. Montana says:

    You gotta love all the conservatives in Kentucky who voted for Rand Paul (Mr. certifiable not certified) and brought him to national prominence, priceless. Let’s face it, this is the same guy who wanted to apologies to BP, he gave us an “OP Ed” where he planned to give himself a “Pardon” if ever he became Governor and the same guy who many say is not a racist (even though he said “private businesses should have the right to discriminate against black people”). Let’s face it they will try to vote this liar in but we can only wait and see if there are other skeletons in his closet. Great thing is we are talking about Kentucky, so being a racist may be a positive, we will see.

  7. Peter Mizla says:

    I wonder why Dr. Paul could not become a board certified ophthalmologist- in KY? These kind of statements are probably the reason.

    Nothing against KY- but I am glad I live in Connecticut.

  8. mike roddy says:

    McConnell has been working on his future colleague, and telling him to basically say nothing, and stick to repeating the talking points issued to him by minders in the Party.

    At least Roy Spencer is man enough to come out and admit that he is an idiot, by saying that earth is 6,000 years old.

  9. Gerry says:

    I believe in creation and man-caused global warming. I do not believe the earth is 6000 years old because Genesis 1:1 says in the beginning God created the heavens and earth. This verse describes an action separate from the creative days starting in verse 3. So the earth was in existence before the creative days began. So if science says the earth is 4.6 billion years old, that is fine for me.
    Now you know one creationist that is not a global warming denier. There is probably another one somewhere!

  10. villabolo says:

    Gerry says:
    June 29, 2010 at 7:51 pm

    “I do not believe the earth is 6000 years old because Genesis 1:1 says in the beginning God created the heavens and earth. This verse describes an action separate from the creative days starting in verse 3.”
    ************************************************************************
    Gerry, although I’m not an expert in the ancient Hebrew, my understanding is that Genesis 1:1 was not correctly translated in the past as far as grammar goes.

    It’s original sense was more like “When God began to create the Heavens and Earth.” (New Living Translation; Genesis 1:1 footnote a)

    Another example from Young’s Literal Translation:
    “In the beginning of God’s preparing the heavens and the earth –”

    This precise translation seems to give “young Earther’s” some justification for their 6-10 thousand year dating.

  11. 9. Mike –

    do you have a link for Spencer saying the earth is 6000 years old?

  12. Jim Groom says:

    Considering the audience Paul was speaking to I’m not surprised at his chickenshit response. He was in room full of people who felt the same as the idiot who asked the question. I wonder what kind of answer Paul would have for a room full of biologist? Probably the same or very similiar. What a sham-wow this fellow has been exposed to actually be.

  13. mike roddy says:

    Peter-

    No, I don’t, but have read that Spencer is a creationist Young Earth believer. Can’t recall where, though.

  14. Todd F says:

    I’m almost certain that Roy Spencer does not believe the earth is 6000 years old. He does believe in Intelligent Design (http://www.ideasinactiontv.com/tcs_daily/2005/08/faith-based-evolution.html), and does not believe in what he terms evolutionism. He seems to make the distinction between micro and macro evolution, and he would claim to deny the existence of the latter. Intelligent Design is a vague term that implies a rejection of natural based evolution, in favour of a designer to create or guide the diversity of life that we observe. One may or may not believe in common descent, or even an old earth. In the following link, Spencer discusses the Vostok temperature record, going back 400K years. If he really believes the Earth is 6K, then his commentary is based on evidence he doesn’t believe in. I don’t think he is that dishonest.

    http://www.drroyspencer.com/2009/06/ice-ages-or-20th-century-warming-it-all-comes-down-to-causation/

    Personally, I’m a Christian, and I think it is essential that Christians warm up to evolution, and reject pseudo-science. I think there are more interesting observations within the laws of physics themselves, and around the fine-tuned nature of the Big Bang. God didn’t create a universe that needs divine tinkering for it to work. He can get it to work as he wants without tinkering the laws of nature, which He created. I think some Christians seem to associate naturalism with atheism, and thinking that nature is fundamentally flawed, and is incapable of producing complex thinkers. One wonders whether this insults God.

    And I see that many Christians do share a concern over global warming, even some conservative Christians. I understand John Cook at Skeptical Science is a Christian, and he has a pretty good handle of science, imo.

    And I sense a bit of irony in that Intelligent Design folks reject a theory, of which Intelligent Design theory could apply. After all, much of the debate on climate change is whether there is an anthropogenic signal, i.e. Intelligent Design. Unfortunately, the IDists at William Dembski’s blog (Uncommon Descent) didn’t think that was such a good idea, when I mentioned it a few years ago.

  15. Richard Brenne says:

    I think the most profound understanding of science and of spirituality are not mutually exclusive at all.

    I feel it’s arrogant and ignorant for anyone to say “I know more about cosmology, astro-physics, astronomy, and geology than the most studied, conscientious scientists who have devoted their lives to these fields.”

    I also feel it’s arrogant and ignorant to say, “All that we can quantify is all that there is” when it seems evident that there’s equally more than we now know.

    My own view is that each of the sciences is fundamentally correct, with of course more being learned all the time, and inevitably many mistakes made on the way in the endless process of science.

    I also feel that there is a Creator and unifying Principle in Spirit, but one that to me knows nothing of the material world we’ve dreamt up. So I don’t think such a God created all the sadness, tragedy and loss that we agree about in what I call consensus reality, which I see as an incredibly complex dream. The complexity and consensus don’t make it any more real to me.

    So I deeply respect every sincere quest to know any aspect of science and spirituality.

    Scientific or especially religious dogma impresses me infinitely less.

    As historian Kevin Phillips points out in his book “American Theocracy,” during World War I English pastors would have their congregations sing “Onward Christian Soldiers” not with the spiritual meaning about fighting evil (the impulse to fight such a war being the greatest evil of all), but instead had their congregations singing it literally, like the English were the Christian soldiers and the Germans the opposite. This is what literal interpretations of intensely spiritual works like that hymn and the Bible do – they become rigid and dogmatic interpretations that can snuff the genuine spirituality out of the Bible, religion or anything else.

  16. Todd F says:

    Regarding Rand, I watched part of the video, and I don’t think there is much that can be safely deduced by his refusal to answer the question. Keep in mind, he is a politician, and his immediate audience is probably heavily skewed towards a young earth view. Rand is in trouble either way. If he says he believes in an old earth, he disappoints some of his core supporters. If he says he is young earth, it gets national media attention, and his political prospects are diminished. It is interesting that he said it was a difficult question. I’m not sure whether that means it is difficult to know whether the Earth is a few billion, or a few thousand years old, or whether it is difficult to give an answer that doesn’t draw the ire of some of the crowd.

    Personally, I would answer the question, but I also wouldn’t make a very good politician.

  17. Icarus says:

    Gerry said:

    I believe in creation and man-caused global warming. I do not believe the earth is 6000 years old because Genesis 1:1 says in the beginning God created the heavens and earth. This verse describes an action separate from the creative days starting in verse 3. So the earth was in existence before the creative days began. So if science says the earth is 4.6 billion years old, that is fine for me.

    The trouble is, what you seem to be saying is that you’ll accept the evidence just as long as it’s possible to reconcile it with your interpretation of the Bible. That’s not science, that’s anti-science – i.e. that you’re prepared to reject objective evidence if it conflicts with your pre-conceived notion of reality which was derived from religious scripture. That’s not how science works. You should believe in accordance with the evidence.

  18. Roald says:

    I think Todd F #16 has hit the nail on the head. I can’t believe someone as smart and educated as Rand Paul doesn’t know how old the earth is. He is a politician and has to tell his people what they want to hear. I’m just glad that we don’t have these kinds of discussions here in Europe.

  19. Gerry says:

    Icarus:

    The point I was trying to make was just because a person calls themselves a Christianand studies the Bible, it does not mean they do not believe in anthropogenic climate change.
    The evidence from the Bible and what science says about the age of the earth (and a hundred million galaxies of so) is not in conflict unless one misinterprets what the Bible says. The Bible and science have both suffered from interpretation problems.
    Like you, I believe according to the evidence presented. That also means we will not always agree because of how we interpret the evidence.

  20. Esop says:

    I have seen numerous claims that Spencer is a young earth creationist, but if that is true remains to be seen. He is a creationist, though, and that severely reduces his credibility when it comes to any scientific issue.
    This is the case for a decent portion of the denialist movement, and this needs to be stressed. A sizeable chunk of the public (at least outside the US) will change their mind regarding the denier claims when they learn that these “scientist” deny many fields of science, not just climate science. One would think this would be interesting stuff for an eager and deep digging journalist, but climate change deniers seem to live in some sort of a sanctuary, shielded from reality as well as not having to answer questions from the media regarding the failure of their theories, ties to fossil fuel interest and bad science in general.

  21. mike roddy says:

    Esop, I believe that the reason the creationist deniers are shielded from scrutiny is that there is a marriage of convenience between them and the oil and coal companies. A major media outlet won’t investigate them. We are going to have to depend on Rolling Stone and various outlier online organs.

    A commenter asked me to verify my statement that Spencer believes the earth is 6,000 years old. Since I can’t recall or dig up the source, I withdraw the charge.

  22. mike roddy says:

    However… Spencer describes evolution as a religion, thinks that increased CO2 could be beneficial or part of a natural cycle, has been accused of manipulating temperature data, and photoshopped the cover of his book. Like Lindzen, he is the darling of far right denier gatherings sponsored by the George Marshall Institute.

    I could go on, but you get the picture. Deltoid and Desmogblog have more background here.

    As for Spencer’s illustrating the paleo record in a talk, Religious Right people bifurcate that one all the time, using logic that eludes me. They will say this is what the science says, but the Bible timeline is also correct. Huh?

    I don’t think the fossil fuel people behind them are always that ignorant- the ones I’ve met are more commonly church hypocrites, who use religious fanatacism for their own ends (mainly making and hanging on to money).

  23. Leif says:

    The question is not “how old is the Earth” but how much older will a livable earth become? It is clear that the answer to that question is not in the billion, millions, or even thousands of years. We are getting down to hundreds of years by looking at a number of different lines of scientific evidence. The value of science is the reliability of what it can tell us about the future.

    Medical science can anticipate future health concerns to allow early mitigation, often simple life style changes.

    Artillery science uses gravity, wind, air temperature and more to plot a course to their target.

    Space science can thread a needle on a distant planet.

    Atmospheric science, almost to the man, continues to warn of serious trouble in the near future and the window for life style changing is rapidly closing. “Tipping points,” by the bunches, will assure that push will progress to shove at which point it is all down hill…

    Just a matter of time and not all that long. One generation?
    Two or three generations?
    Any one think we got 4 or 5 generations left?

  24. Michael Tucker says:

    With little or no CO2 reduction I think we will be pretty well screwed by 2050.