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Since when did Newt Gingrich become Michele Bachmann?  Last I noticed, Gingrich was shorter, heavier, and aspiring to be  the  “intellectual” of the Republican party.  And yet, his latest comments mauling evolution sound eerily Bachmann-esque.

On September 29th, Gingrich mocked anyone who accepts evolution by asking, “do you think... we’re randomly gathered protoplasm? We could have been rhinoceroses, but we got lucky this week?”  These anti-science remarks belong in Bachman’s Land of Babble, where she makes claims about evolution like, “a grain of wheat plus a starfish does not equal a dog, and that this was what evolutionists were teaching in our schools.”  

Ask any biologist, and she will tell you that’s not how evolution works.  Gingrich knows this.  Or at least he used to, before he decided to go as Bachmann this Halloween.  Who remembers 2006, when Gingrich asserted he had a “passion” for “how life evolved?”  When he declared that if he had chosen a career in science, he “would have been a naturalist” and followed E.O. Wilson’s example?  When Gingrich professed to understand that “evolution should be taught as science, and intelligent design should be taught as philosophy.”  

Will the real Newt Gingrich please stand up?  The Gingrich that does not march in the Republican Primary Panderer’s Parade?

The only candidate with real courage to take a sane position on evolution is Jon Huntsman.  In response to Governor Rick Perry’s claims that Texas unconstitutionally teaches creationism, he said, “I believe in evolution... Call me crazy.”  He is the only Republican presidential candidate to openly defend evolution.

And guess what? It’s not working for him.  Jon Huntsman isn’t gaining ground on the front-runners by maintaining his integrity and defending the evidence-based science that earlier incarnations of Gingrich had the courage to promote.

The important question is if primary front runner Mitt Romney is in lock-step. Back in 2007, Romney took a position strongly in support of evolution, saying, “They teach evolution at B.Y.U.”  He was completely right when he said, “science class is where to teach evolution” and “if we’re going to talk about more philosophical matters... that’s for the religion class or philosophy class or social studies class.”  

And now, will Romney switch his colors like a Newt-or rather, a chameleon? 

As these primary candidates spoon-feed voters what they want to hear, not what is accurate, honest, or real, the costs to this country mount. Costs to science education, science jobs, new scientific innovation.  Costs to democracy and the honest exchange of ideas.  Costs to the moral core of our country that Republicans profess to know so much about.

These candidates need to be challenged on their dramatic shifts in position. After all, anyone who knows anything about evolution knows it takes ages for a species to lose its spine.  These candidates must still have a backbone somewhere. It’s  high-time they found it and defended sound science once again.

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