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Andrew Alden

Senator Rubio, It's 4.56 Billion Years

By November 19, 2012

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GQ magazine features a quick interview with Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla) in which he is asked the straightforward question, "How old do you think the Earth is?" He begs off, calling the subject "a dispute among theologians." But it's not a theological question, it's a scientific fact that the planet Earth formed approximately 4.56 billion years ago. And by "scientific fact" I mean that as closely as we can tell, after centuries of exploring and debating the topic with all our tools and intellect, the Earth is configured, down to the atomic level, exactly as if it originated at that time. I think the Senator ought to commit that statement to memory because it's compatible with all faiths and persuasions.

OK, it was a "gotcha" question; I get that argument. As the Senator went on to say, "it has nothing to do with the gross domestic product or economic growth of the United States." But we use shibboleths and catechisms of all kinds in our lives, from the Pledge of Allegiance on down. I'm OK with asking our public servants what they know about science, because their answers are important to me as a voter and a citizen. Is there a problem with that?

Background:
The birth of Earth
Yardsticks for geologic time
The geologic time scale
Evolutionary theory: common sense writ large

Comments

November 19, 2012 at 10:13 pm
(1) Liberal Geology Grad Student says:

Well, we don’t really know the date of the Earth that precisely. That 4.56 Ga figure is the date at which CAIs formed. It took several tens of millions of years after that for the proto-Earth to form, and it is something of a matter of opinion when you define the end of its formation. A few tens of millions of years later, possible more than a hundred million years later, the Moon-forming impactor smacked into the Earth, and the Earth proper as we know it today formed. The lower bound depends on how well you believe the dates we have on the oldest grains we’ve found on Earth and the Moon. On Earth, it’s 4.4 Ga on the zoned Jack Hills zircon, and on the Moon, it’s 4.46 Ga on a pyroxene inclusion inside the Genesis Rock. In any case, it’s probably on this side of 4.5, and it could plausibly be as young as 4.46 Ga–and younger if the Genesis Rock data is suspect.

November 20, 2012 at 1:55 pm
(2) Geology Guide says:

I won’t require my senator to know all of that, any more than theologians require us to parse ancient Aramaic.

November 21, 2012 at 3:55 pm
(3) Jason says:

” (I)t’s a scientific fact that the planet Earth formed approximately 4.56 billion years ago”… I’m sorry but that is a LIE.
The wrangling that goes on with scientific dating methods of rocks by radio isotopes is NEVER EVER talked about to the public, and if they knew how you pick and choose the dates that you “want” or “expect” to get
the intelligent ones who think for themselves would see right through the veil. You DO NOT know how old the Earth is.
There is plenty of data that flies in the face of these ages…i.e. soft tissue and DNA found in fossils that are supposedly 10′s of millions of years old.
Science throws out ANY possibility that a supernatural creator could have created this universe…that my friend is NOT science. Just suppose that that IS what happened. You ABSOLUTELY WILL NOT CONSIDER IT, so then you are just guessing and building on theories that are incorrect, and bending the data to fit you model, when your model is wrong.
Just consider it.
The evidence is actually better for a catastrophic world wide flood, but you REFUSE to consider it because it is supernatural…

“Thinking themselves wise, they became fools

November 21, 2012 at 5:06 pm
(4) Geology Guide says:

Jason, geologists started out with a flood-based scenario, but they argued themselves out of it . . . two hundred years ago. You refuse to consider a natural explanation for the world’s rocks and fossils, and that is why you don’t understand science.

November 26, 2012 at 10:02 am
(5) Paleobug says:

From Jason’s comment, why is he reading a science related blog.

November 26, 2012 at 2:51 pm
(6) Geology Guide says:

Paleobug, Jason surely is interested in geology, and I’m happy to inform him of whatever I can. Rocks and minerals and fossils and landforms and geophysics are all very interesting in themselves, and the overarching theories we devise to explain them are not necessary to enjoy them. I have no problem with people whose primary reward is a sense that God is good. It’s not scientific, though.

November 26, 2012 at 11:26 am
(7) Mark says:

Jason:
I’ll entertain a non-scientific explanation for the formation of earth that. It may have been formed last year, or five minutes ago, with all our memories, artifacts and back projected forms intact (by the agency of the great God-ess “Ishkabibble”). Maybe not as likely as the Biblical story but in the same league. Definitely further out there than most of creation stories people have come up with. But much closer to the Biblical story, account, myth, whatever.

November 26, 2012 at 6:31 pm
(8) Terri says:

Jason, Science is based on truth and verified facts, not fairy tales. There is no basis for believing in human myths so one does not have to throw out something that is just stories as if it were factual. There have likely been many worldwide floods over billions of years but none involving a wooden ark built in a desert where there were no trees. There is no evidence whatsoever that there is or was any supernatural beings at all. Humans have created all sorts of myths to explain things that science can easily determine the cause of. The Senator, in fact, believes that the earth was created 6,000 years ago in a 6 day period which is very easy to disprove . We have cave art more than twice as old as that as well as other remnants of other civilizations much older. Anyone gullible and stupid enough to believe what he does should not even be in the Senate making laws for us to live by let alone be on a science committee.

November 27, 2012 at 6:11 pm
(9) Don R. Miller says:

There seems to be many young experts in geology these days. I was an expert once when I was younger but soon realized that certainty in our science is unattainable.

When I was in graduate school the Earth was 3.5 BY old and “continental drift” was a crazy but fascinating concept. It’s amazing how much the Earth has aged and and changed in 50 yrs.

Geology as a science rarely accepts absolute rules. Lighten up and quit taking yourselves so seriously.

December 1, 2012 at 2:04 am
(10) j a higginbotham says:

not so old? comments on the latest controversy?

says Richard Young, a geologist at the State University of New York, Geneseo. “But there’s a lot of evidence for a young Grand Canyon,”

Indeed, says William Dickinson, a professor emeritus of geosciences at the University of Arizona in Tucson, … Grand Canyon is a very young-looking feature to this geologist’s eye.”

Karl Karlstrom, a structural geologist at the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, describes the findings as “out in left field.” His team has also analyzed …. And their preliminary results, Karlstrom says, bolster the notion of a young gorge.

December 1, 2012 at 6:57 pm
(11) Geology Guide says:

No comments; it’s just some new data. It has nothing to do with the age of the Earth.

December 7, 2012 at 12:51 pm
(12) Karl says:

Questions as such as these should be directed to scientists, not politicians. Pres. Obama claimed to visit “…all our 57 states” and after winning the election, referred to our founding fathers as signing the Declaration of Independence “200 yrs. ago”. (1812?.. I believe were were fighting the British for the 2nd time by then.).
History doesn’t change but the evolution of Geology makes our understanding of the earth change.

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