BOZEMAN - A Republican state lawmaker is criticizing Gov. Brian Schweitzer for comments he made to a newspaper here about the lawmaker's belief that the planet is not millions of years old.
Rep. Roger Koopman, R-Bozeman, called Schweitzer's statement "incredibly bigoted."
Speaking to a crowd of school children, parents and teachers in Bozeman on Friday about global warming, Schweitzer asked how many in the crowd thought the Earth was hundreds of millions of years old. Most of the children in the audience raised their hands.
He then asked how many believed the planet was less than a million years old. At least two people, including Koopman, who was in the crowd, raised their hands.
During an interview later with the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, Schweitzer noted Koopman's response. He said some people believe the planet is only 4,000 to 6,000 years old, despite geological evidence to the contrary.
Schweitzer said he needs support from a state Legislature that will help move Montana's agenda forward, "not people who think the Earth is 4,000 years old."
Koopman called the comments insulting.
"He insulted many Christian people and other people of faith that arrived at that position other than the way I arrived at it," he said.
Schweitzer did not return telephone calls seeking comment Sunday or Monday.
Koopman said his belief in the Earth's age is not based on his faith, but on his scientific investigations.
Koopman had initially planned to introduce a bill during the 2005 Legislature allowing the teaching of the controversial "intelligent design" theory, and other alternatives to evolution, in public schools. He never pursued the measure and said he has no plans to introduce a similar bill in the next session if re-elected.
The theory of creationism states that life and the Earth were created by God from nothing, while intelligent design, a secular form of creationism, argues the Earth was created by a series of intelligent events, not random chance. Evolution says that species change in response to environmental and genetic factors over the course of many generations.
Critics contend intelligent design is nothing more than creationism in disguise, but proponents say the theory isn't religious because it doesn't state who or what the intelligent designer is.
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that creationism is religion and cannot be taught as science in public schools.