---- — If there is hope for the Republican Party to survive and even thrive in the 21st century, it comes from leaders such as Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.
But the party's aspirations are going to be hindered by the nonsensical pandering that Republicans have long felt obligated to do to satisfy the anti-science leanings of many of the party's most diehard faithful.
In the days after Mitt Romney's loss in the presidential race, Rubio quickly emerged as a reasoned voice who was able to articulate how Romney's failure had as much to do with missteps and miscalculations about message as it did about the strength and credibility of the core beliefs of many Republicans.
It was Rubio who argued that Romney misplayed the campaign by focusing on identity politics rather than forcing President Obama to talk about policy. Romney responded to the loss by grousing with a brand of class warfare that alienated half of America. Rubio sounded authentic and vibrant and, well, presidential.
Until he was asked about the age of the Earth.
In an interview with a magazine, Rubio did his best to parry the question, arguing that geology and astrobiology are not necessarily matters of vital importance to the head of state.
"It has nothing to do with the gross domestic product or economic growth of the United States," Rubio said.
Which is true enough, as far as that goes. But, Republican politicians routinely dismiss well-ground scientific theories despite the weight of the objective analysis.
There is evidence that strongly indicates that evolution has taken place. There is evidence that climate change has taken place and it is man-made.
There is evidence that the Earth is 4.54 billion years old.
A Republican who wants to lead the country ought to be able to acknowledge this degree of probable and useful knowledge without fear of prompting another Scopes Monkey Trial. And yet, a century later, Republican politicians are still searching for safe harbor when it comes to trying to appease partisans while answering even the most basic questions about earth science.