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.