Rick Perry is sure about a lot of things. But the theory of evolution, or even how old the planet Earth is, are not on that list.
A woman who will probably not be supporting the Texas governor brought her young son along to a campaign event in New Hampshire on Thursday, and had the boy ask Perry his views about science. “How old do you think the earth is?” the boy asked. This was an apparent allusion to how fundamentalist Christians often insist that Earth — and indeed, the whole universe — is about 6,000 years old.
“How old do I think the earth is? You know what, I don’t have any idea,” Perry responded. “I know it’s pretty old. So it goes back a long, long ways. I’m not sure — I’m not sure anybody actually knows completely and absolutely hold the earth is.
Perry then steered the conversation to some questions the boy’s mother had been asking him, about evolution.
Here is the video, courtesy of ABC News:
“Here your mom was asking about evolution. And you know, it’s a theory that is out there — it’s got some gaps in it. In Texas we teach both creationism and evolution in our public schools. Because I figure—”
The mother cut back in: “Ask him why he doesn’t believe in science.”
Perry continued: “Because I figure you’re smart enough to figure out which one is right.”
The mother continued to tell her son, “Ask him why he doesn’t believe in science.” At that point Perry politely ended the conversation, and moved on to the next person in the crowd.
It is unclear what Perry meant about Texas schools teaching both creationism and evolution, as teaching creationism in public schools is illegal. There have been several attempts to introduce “supplemental materials” into Texas curriculum that would express doubt over evolution, or to advance creationism under the name of “intelligent design.” But these efforts have not come to any major fruition.
This is also not to say that communities there will all teach evolution with gusto — but if teaching creation were done in any official capacity, it would be struck down as an unconstitutional establishment of religion under decades of case law from the Supreme Court and lower federal courts.