WASHINGTON -- Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) was widely mocked in November for saying he wasn't sure of the age of the Earth. On Wednesday, he assured the public that he does know the Earth's age: it's about 4.5 billion years old, and he doesn't think that fact is inconsistent with his Roman Catholic faith.
"There is no scientific debate on the age of the Earth, it's established pretty definitively, it's at least 4.5 billion years old," he told Politico's Mike Allen at a Playbook breakfast Wednesday. "I was referring to a theological debate."
Rubio said last month that the age of the Earth is "one of the great mysteries," telling GQ's Michael Hainey, "I'm not a scientist, man."
"I'm not a theologian either," he told Allen on Wednesday. "To the extent that there is any kind of debate about the age of the Earth scientifically, I'm not in a position really to mediate that. But on the theological debate, the theological debate is how do you reconcile what science has established with what you may think your faith teaches."
He said he isn't conflicted about possible discrepancies between the two views. In the Bible, God creates the universe in a seven-day period, and many Christians believe it is only about 6,000 years old. But he said it's possible to believe in both creationism and scientific proof that the Earth is much older.
"Science has given us insight into when he did it and how he did it," Rubio said. "The more science learns, the more I'm convinced that God is real."
His comment to GQ on the age of the Earth was controversial, in part, because of a debate over whether children should be taught creationism in school, either instead of or in conjunction with science on the matter. Rubio said he believes science should be taught in school, but parents also have the right to teach their children about the Bible's version of the Earth's creation.
Rubio said the conflict over his comments didn't seem to go much beyond Washington, joking that no one approached him in the grocery store before Thanksgiving to ask about it. He said he was "fine with" the question from Hainey and with his answer, but he wished he had explained his point more clearly.
Rubio also addressed how his religious views have shaped his other policy positions. He said he believes that homosexuality is a sin, but pointed out that the Bible also calls a number of other actions sins and that no one is entirely free of them. He is opposed to same-sex marriage.
He took a somewhat different tack in explaining his opposition to abortion rights, turning the argument about science toward his opponents and saying it has been definitively proven that life begins at conception.
"I wish there were more folks in this town who are deeply committed to science and the belief in science [and] would not ignore that scientific fact," he said. "They're pretty brave about saying the age of the Earth, but they don't want to say when life begins?"