Science

Correction of the Week, SCIENCE!! Division: All Roads Lead to the Age of the Earth, Sen. Rubio!

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Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.)  set himself up as the star of a pointless media/politics kerfuffle this week, drawing the ire of all sorts of fans of President Obama for, just like President Obama, not wanting to needlessly annoy people who rely more on religion than science for their personal opinion on the utterly unimportant to anyone trivia question: how old is the Earth?

Rubio started his response with the totally true "I'm not a scientist, man" and then waffled around the sensibilities of religious voters and, I'm sure he hoped, secular ones, though the secular ones as represented by media and social networking were not mollified.

Why, as every reasonable person of sound mind knows, it's precisely 4.54 billion years, give or take some other enormous number you are likely to forget 10 minutes after reading this, unless you know you have to win an argument with some goddamned neanderthal Republican creationist at a party. (It's 50 million!)

I suggest that, unless you are in fact a paleontologist or geologist, amateur or pro, who really has grappled with all the facts and reasoning that has gone into this not-to-be-forgotten fact, "knowing the age of the Earth" (read: knowing the proper answer to that question to avoid those around you disdaining or mocking you) is less a matter of scientific acumen and more a matter of learning how to get along with the people around you, in classic tribal fashion.

And a Slate article taking Rubio to task had an amazing correction showing that both author and editors were working not from an actual detailed understanding of all the "whys" behind that question, but merely frantically spouting arguments from authority, sounding like nothing so much as LaRouchite cultists listing all the sciences that their Master has mastered:

This article originally suggested that sociology, linguistics, anthropology, and other sciences indicate that the Earth is billions of years old. Those sciences establish that Earth is much more than a few thousand years old, but other sciences established the precise age of the Earth.

Yes, the question of "what should be taught in government schools?" is a different question, one best answered by eliminating the government schools.

130 years ago, by the way, the only answer that made you a non-idiot was the precise age established by science of 15-200 million years.

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  1. Q: how old is the Earth?

    A: I’ll tell you just as soon as Doc Brown gets back. Back… to the future!!!

    1. 1.21 GIGAWATTS!

    2. 1.21 GIGAWATTS!

    3. Q: how old is the Earth?
      A: I’ll tell you just as soon as Doc Brown gets back. Back… to the future!!!

      A real gentlemen know one does not ask a woman, not even Mother Earth, such things. And if the subject comes up anyway, one merely answers she doesn’t look a day over 29 hundred million years old.

  2. not wanting to needlessly annoy people who rely more on religion than science for their personal opinion on the utterly unimportant to anyone trivia question: how old is the Earth?

    I’ve never seen so much fail in such a small space. Congratulations, Doherty.

    1. Tonio, I have to ask you this. Did something spiky crawl up your ass and die recently? You seem to be in quite the bitchy mood lately. Why is this an example of fail?

  3. Aside: this T-shirt company that advertises here knows how to pick their models, by damnit! I mean, maybe not enough for me to buy one of their shirts, but enough to distract me from working for 3.37 minutes.

    1. I used to not care about ads at all, then Hot T-Shirt Girl showed up.

  4. Your post (#3394287) has been marked as spam by a third-party spam filter. If this is a mistake, please email webmaster@reason.com.
    * COMMENT:

  5. Why is this non-issue even published, given that it was already covered in either an A.M. or P.M. Links?

  6. Rubio is getting teed up to be the male Sarah Palin. 2016 begins now.

  7. What is the exact scientific evidence that the earth is 5 billion years old anyway?

    1. Rock minerals naturally contain certain elements and not others. By the process of radioactive decay of radioactive isotopes occurring in a rock, exotic elements can be introduced over time. By measuring the concentration of the stable end product of the decay, coupled with knowledge of the half life and initial concentration of the decaying element, the age of the rock can be calculated.[19] Typical radioactive end products are argon from potassium-40 and lead from uranium and thorium decay.[19] If the rock becomes molten, as happens in Earth’s mantle, such nonradioactive end products typically escape or are redistributed.[19] Thus the age of the oldest terrestrial rock gives a minimum for the age of Earth assuming that a rock cannot have been in existence for longer than Earth itself.

      Nevermind

      1. Maximum age comes from dating meteors which gives an approximate age for the solar system. Presumably the Earth can’t be older than the solar system.

        1. I imagine we can figure out the age of the sun from what we know about fusion and from what we can see WRT its size, temperature, and frequency emissions.

  8. Rubio better get handlers and start scrubbing his past and crafting a new narrative for himself if he wants to be the GOP’s Obama.

    1. He seems to have answered the question the same way Senator Obama did.

      1. Obama was asked how he would answer a question from a six year old about the bible. Rubio was asked the age of the earth.

        1. Pretty much the same question: how old is the earth? Pretending Obama’s question wasn’t about the age of the Earth is dishonest. In each case they refused to get into the science/religion divide over the subject. I respect Rubio more for saying it shouldn’t be part of politics.

          1. He was asked specifically how he would respond to his six year old daughter asking if the bible was literally true.

            If he was asked how he would respond to his six year old’s question about the existence of Santa Claus, I wouldn’t expect the unvarnished truth, either.

            1. Attempts to eliminate a false difference with a false equivalence.

              1. What’s the important difference between Jesus and Santa Claus?

                1. Even most atheists will acknowledge the existence of Jesus of Nazareth.

                  1. Most will admit the existence of fat guys in red suits, too.

                    The important issue is whether or not they have magical powers.

                    1. I gave you an important difference.

                      Your ability to move goalposts is impressive though.

                    2. Your ability to move goalposts is impressive though.

                      You’re easily impressed.

                  2. Even most atheists will acknowledge the existence of Jesus of Nazareth.

                    There isn’t much evidence to support that.

      2. Yeah, but, see, Obama is a Democrat and therefore given a pass by the media. Rubio is a Republican so his stupidity will endlessly be pointed out.

  9. What if he had answered to the best of his knowledge but was two million years off from what most scientists say? How would the media have reacted then?

    1. He’s stupid AND a christfag.

    2. Like he spelled potato with an e, but dogmatically.

      1. Exactly, I think he answered in the best possible way under the circumstances. If he ever does run for president this answer might actually be used to his advantage.

    3. Nobody would have given a shit.

  10. “130 years ago, by the way, the only answer that made you a non-idiot was the precise age established by science of 15-200 million years.”

    Interesting. And 130 years from now it will probably be something else.

    Why should admitting something is not one’s area of expertise open one to ridicule? I know almost nothing about football and I think most football fans would prefer I keep my trap shut while watching the game to my commenting about a subject about which I know little.

    1. Because we* expect these people to rule us, we demand that they know everything on demand. It’s okay if they turn out to be wrong, they just have to have an answer.

      *We as in the general public.

      1. Ahh, yes, because they are all supposed to be members of the Amalgamated Union of Philosophers, Sages, Luminaries and other Professional Thinking Persons.

        Perhaps Rubio has not kept up his dues.

  11. Yes, the question of “what should be taught in government schools?” is a different question, one best answered by eliminating the government schools.

    What? And miss continuing this irrelevant and pointless discussion and the countless showings of the ever-so-entertaining Inherit The Wind? Balderdash! Poppycock!

    Why, you must be some kind of anarchist!

  12. 130 years ago, by the way, the only answer that made you a non-idiot was the precise age established by science of 15-200 million years.

    80 million years, goddamnit. If it was good enough for the great Lord Kelvin, it should be good enough for you, smarty pants.

  13. 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.

    The tides come in, the tides go out. You can’t explain that.

    /B O’

    1. Technically it’s impossible to determine whether the universe is actually ~14B years old or just created to look that way.

      1. Not really talking about the universe, but earth. I agree that as our scientific knowledge becomes more advanced, we will know more about the universe and how, and when, it came into being.

        If my sarc meter is off, I am sure the devil could do this after burying the dinosaur bones to throw people off as to the real age of the earth.

        1. I don’t believed we’re being fooled, but the possibility remains and damned if I can figure out how we’d be able to know the difference. And the problem applies to any area of knowledge about the past.

          1. The actual history of the universe is largely irrelevant except to purveyors of bullshit and people who want to ask gotcha questions. I can’t think of a single invention of mankind that is based on the age of … anything really.

          2. I think they’ve recently come up with a hologram test that may be able to determine whether we live in 3 spacial dimensions or are a 2-D projection.

            1. I’d like to think that a being worthy of the title “God” could scrounge up a full three spatial dimensions for his creation.

              1. Its just a big computer! The Matrix is even bigger than we thought!

                1. A friend of mine sent me a link to some bullshit article claiming that an advanced people would have the ability to crate a virtual world. And since it could be done it has been done and we’re living in it.

                  1. crate create

            2. Aren’t there eleven dimensions?

      2. Yeah, but I’m pretty sure the notion that god is a liar is inconsistent with the description given in the same iron-age racist propaganda that suggests the earth is only a few thousand years old.

        1. I see no reason to limit the possibilities to what they used to tell people to keep them in line.

  14. For the love of fuck, leftist, DONT make me sympathetic to Rubio with this GOTCHA! bullshit. I want to hate him. But he said he is not a scientist, and as far as it is a theological matter they are in dispute as well. Pretty legitimate of an answer. However, you would have to be some extra special hot sauce level retard to come up with this shit: This article originally suggested that sociology, linguistics, anthropology, and other sciences indicate that the Earth is billions of years old. Those sciences establish that Earth is much more than a few thousand years old, but other sciences established the precise age of the Earth.

    1. You can always just hate him because he’s a Christfag. That’s apparently good enough for some people.

      1. Speaking of which, where is Palin / Max? Isn’t this his kind of article?

      2. I hate him for being a politician. That is the default position until they prove themselves worthy of mere indifference instead of hate.

        1. This is a reasonable position as well.

  15. Not only that, but as a linguist I need to point out that all linguistics can tell us is that the oldest languages we know anything at all about are about 6-7 thousand years old (i.e. Indo-European, Proto-Sino-Tibetan, whatever was the ancestor of the Australian Aborigine languages). Not anywhere near the question even of how old homo sapiens are.

    On the other hand, claiming not to know the answer to within at least three orders of magnitude in 2012 does suggest pandering to radical creationists. C’mon, equivocating between thousands and billions (yeah, I know that’s more than three orders of magnitude) suggests an innumeracy that I’d worry about in a future president.

    1. How is the age of the earth relevant to the economic problems facing the country?

      1. How is the age of the earth relevant to the economic problems facing the country?

        That is what he said:

        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.

        1. I know, that’s why I don’t understand people who are getting all over him for not having the “correct” answer.

      2. I guess it’s important the same way it would be bad if he beat his wife. Wife-beating has little to do with governing, but it does speak to his character and suggests he might behave badly in other areas too.

        1. Wife-beating is an indication of moral character. How is believing in something like that an indication of moral character?

          1. If you feel the need to issue a pandering waffling answer it speaks to your integrity.

      3. Look at the original article on Slate, if you dare.

        The argument is (1) the age of the earth is something that we know because of science, (2) science is important to economic growth, therefore (3) the age of the earth is relevant to the economic problems facing the country.

        But not only does the conclusion not follow from the premises, but the second premise is dubious.

        1. I love their “thinking”.

          (1) Shoe soles are made from rubber, (2) Rubber is needed to make car tires, therefore (3) Shoe soles are relevant to the automobile industry.

        2. The second premise is itself entirely premised on the rightness of technocracy, which is what makes these people morons.

          1. I was giving them the benefit of the doubt on 2 and assuming they meant technologies that facilitate trade like the Internet. But yea, you could be right.

    2. It also suggests that one is unable to stand up for objective, uncomfortable facts and lead people against their superstitious beliefs. In other words, it suggests one is completely unfit to lead.

      1. lead people against their superstitious beliefs

        Really? We need our president to do this now?

        1. The POTUS is the living embodient of the spirit of America. SO YEAH.

          1. Where “embodient” is obviously a portmanteau word for “embodiment” and “emollient”.

    3. 6-7k ? That supports the 4004BC (fuck the “E”) as laid out by the good Bishop Usher!

    4. I am certainly not a creationist, but if I had to choose between a radical creationist who supports liberty and a fascist or communist who knows all there is to know about geology and the precise age of the Earth I will vote for the creationist.

      1. If I have to chose between a creationist who reveres literal interpretations of ancient texts like the Bible AND the US Constitution and a statist who believes in “living documents” and consequentialism, I’m going with the Bible-beater every time.

        Natural Rights FTW!

  16. This article originally suggested that sociology, linguistics, anthropology, and other sciences indicate that the Earth is billions of years old.

    To be fair, I don’t think the article did originally suggest that at all. It would take a pretty careless reading to infer that from

    Astronomy, biology, relativity, chemistry, physics, anatomy, sociology, linguistics, cosmology, anthropology, evolutionary science, and especially radiometric dating of rocks all indicate the Universe, and our home planet Earth, are far older than any claims of a few thousand years. The overwhelming consensus is that the Earth is billions of years old.

    The first sentence is true, and the second sentence isn’t inconsistent with that.

    1. They may have edited it, since they did issue a correction.

  17. Here are a few pressing issues where the age of the earth is quite relevant:

    Fossil fuel production
    Climate change
    Space exploration

    1. Fossil fuel production

      Why?

      Climate change

      Seriously?

      Space exploration

      WTF?

      1. Well, if you really thought the earth was only 6k years old, you would have to have some pretty unusual ideas about how fossil fuels are created, no?

        1. Well, if you really thought the earth was only 6k years old, you would have to have some pretty unusual ideas about how fossil fuels are created, no?

          I think the earth is about 5 billion years old…

          …and i have some pretty unusual ideas on how “fossil” fuels are created.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A…..eum_origin

          Then again the standard theory in no way explains the “fossil” fuels on titan. Maybe joe can explain it.

          1. The first words in that article are “is an obsolete hypothesis”.

            I guess you can believe anything you want, but geologists think that’s bullshit.

      2. Because fossil fuels are created through natural processes over geologic periods of time.

        Because climate models are based in part on our knowledge of the earth’s climate over tens of thousands of years.

        Because space telescopes are able to look at cosmic background radiation from billions of years ago.

        Believing that the earth is 7 thousand years old, or professing ignorance on the subject, is irreconsileable with understanding those issues.

        1. Because climate models are based in part on our knowledge of the earth’s climate over tens of thousands of years.

          Nope, the hockey stick only goes back about a 1000 years.

          1. “Nope, the hockey stick only goes back about a 1000 years.”

            Exactly. Less than 4 millionth of the total age of the Earth.

          2. Honest question, do you think the “hockey stick” graph is the only piece of evidence climate scientists have ever produced?

            http://www.giss.nasa.gov/resea…..hansen_15/

        2. Fossil fuels haven’t been created since the earth was formed.

          Climate models aren’t based on our knowledge of the earth’s climate since the earth was formed.

          Space telescopes are looking at CBR from before the earth was formed. (What that has to do with space exploration, I don’t know.)

          The age of the earth isn’t relevant in any of these cases. Whether or not the point you’re trying to make is a good one, your examples suck.

          1. Clarification: fossil fuels haven’t been created since the earth was formed [but since a much later time]. Climate models aren’t based on our knowledge of the earth’s climate since the earth was formed [but since a much later time].

            1. fossil fuels haven’t been created since the earth was formed [but since a much later time].

              But if you think the earth is only 6k years old…

              I mean, I think this is pretty much retarded, but that also means I think it’s retarded all-around. It’s obvious pandering to retards, and I’m not going to respect someone who does it.

      3. This is arepost – it posted in the wrong place:Fossil fuel production ist best handled in the free market. Government is the PROBLEM in this industry.

        Climate change – Seriously? You still think humans have a significant impact here? Did wooly mammoths die out because of too many SUV’s?

        Space exploration – even if I am too accept your tenuous premise that the age of the Earth is relevant here this is, once again best handled in the free market. NASA has been peddling 1980’s tech until very recently. Even Obama is pushing for more private industry involvement in the space industry.

    2. Would these issues be more or less pressing if the earth were 4 thousand or 4 million years old?

      1. Don’t ask me, i’m not a Christian fundamentalist.

        1. Do you know the meaning of “if”? Ptah-Hotep is asking a hypothetical.

          1. You’re asking me to answer a question about an imaginary world that is totally inconsistent with known data.

            I can’t.

            1. You must have some answer, since apparently this premise completely destroys one’s ability to deal with these issues (according to you).

    3. Fossil fuel production ist best handled in the free market. Government is the PROBLEM in this industry.

      Climate change – Seriously? You still think humans have a significant impact here? Did wooly mammoths die out because of too many SUV’s?

      Space exploration – even if I am too accept your tenuous premise that the age of the Earth is relevant here this is, once again best handled in the free market. NASA has been peddling 1980’s tech until very recently. Even Obama is pushing for more private industry involvement in the space industry.

      1. Just because you believe the government should stay out of these areas does not mean that Marco Rubio, as president, would not address them.

        Also, climate change is real you rube.

        1. Also, climate change is real you rube.

          He never said it wasn’t dipshit.

          1. Anthropogenic climate change is real, you rube.

            Better?

            1. So how does AGW explain the medieval warm period and the little ice age?

        2. “Just because you believe the government should stay out of these areas does not mean that Marco Rubio, as president, would not address them.”

          I have no illusions that Rubio is a small government guy, he probably would not get my vote because of his foreign policy stances anyway. But that is not the point of this article – is it?

          “Also, climate change is real you rube.”

          Of course climate change is real ? what I am skeptical of is the premise that humans have a significant impact. The “evidence” has been collected in a slice of time less that 4 billionth of the total age of the planet. I notice you did not answer my question. Did wooly mammoths die out because of too many SUV’s?

          1. Did wooly mammoths die out because of too many SUV’s?

            If i had to guess it was the domestication of dogs by man that led to the extinction of Woolly mammoths. ie we got really good at killing them.

            Woolly mammoths lived during periods 5 to 7 degrees warmer then today.

            Periods of warmer temperatures that lasted for 1000s of years.

            1. But then why are both the African Elephant and the Asian Elephant still around?

              1. So you disagree that it was warmer 125,000 years ago then it is today because Asian and African elephants are not extinct?

          2. There is just as adequate an amount of good evidence that humans are the primary cause of global warming as there is for global warming itself. Not that the cause should matter in terms of whether to address the problem. Absolving humans of their responsibility (against overwhelming evidence) isn’t much of a relief if the problem is the same.

            1. “There is just as adequate an amount of good evidence that humans are the primary cause of global warming as there is for global warming itself.”

              No, there isnt.

          3. We have climate data that’s far older than 1000 years. For example, ice core samples from antarctica have trapped bubbles of atmosphere from 800,000 years ago.

            Stop embarrassing yourself.

            1. You have little understanding of chemistry.
              Those bubbles are not as good as you think as samples of ancient atmospheres. I have no intention of telling your ignorant ass why.

              1. That’s why we don’t look at precision thermometers today to see the temperature outside. We look at trapped bubbles in ice.

        3. Also, climate change is real you rube.

          Not in the way you think it is you dipshit.

          1. Your reply is counter-factual, anti-science bullshit.

  18. “This article originally suggested that sociology, linguistics, anthropology, and other sciences indicate that the Earth is billions of years old. Those sciences establish that Earth is much more than a few thousand years old, but other sciences established the precise age of the Earth.”

    I am confused. Linguistics has established that the earth is billions of years old? Sociology? Anthropology? as far as I know those sciences have nothing to say about the origin or age of the earth.
    I hope the ‘other sciences’ referred to include historical geology and physical cosmology. Being that it is from slate they probably meant women’s studies and advanced puppetry.

    1. Linguistics has established that the earth is billions of years old? Sociology? Anthropology?

      No, but those sciences do point to the earth being more than a few thousand years old–that was the point of the clarification.

      1. That I can agree with…but it says they established the earth as being billions of years old. Granted, they did say ‘other sciences’, but why include linguistics? They coulda stuck with geology alone.

    2. Putting “sociology” in the same sentence as “science” is sort of disrespectful.

  19. Ha!

    Science-Fags PWND!

  20. 130 years ago, by the way, the only answer that made you a non-idiot was the precise age established by science of 15-200 million years.

    What? This factoid can only be soiling the Internet for one reason: to suggest that our current understanding of the age of the earth is just as tenuous as it was then. So who really cares if our elected leaders understand any of the basic facts of the world around them?

    1. I think it’s very arrogant to assume that 130 years wont bring about an even deeper and better understanding of the origins of the universe, and that this knowledge might make our current understanding seem foolish.

      1. Science-fags future-PWND!

      2. Just think, if everyone were as educated and progressive as Tony, we’d be living in a utopia. Just need to raise taxes, implement universal health care, expand Social Security, push affirmative action, mandate diversity training, establish a human rights council, subsidize abortion and sexual reassignment surgery, and enact anti-hate speech codes.

        Of course, when those things all failed miserably, we’d have to elect more enlightened progressive thinkers like Tony to fix the problem. Funny that you need zero government regulations on liberty but you always need more when the government is involved.

  21. Number of times in my life that literal seven day / young Earth creationism has affected me: zero, save for a few discussions among my evangelical acquaintances.

    Number of fucks that I give about the Left’s perpetual outrage over the dumbest shit: zero.

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