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GOP Candidate Jon Huntsman Makes Waves with Tweet on Evolution and Climate Change

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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Jon Huntsman posted a statement on his official Twitter account yesterday that is sure to endear the Republican presidential hopeful to the scientific community:

The statement was retweeted widely, along with a few warnings that many people would, indeed, call Huntsman crazy for holding those beliefs. (I retweeted it myself, not as a political endorsement but because of its newsworthiness—his avowed pro-science stand on those issues puts him in rare company among the frontrunners.)

Huntsman in 2009. Credit: World Economic Forum/Natalie Behring via Flickr/Creative Commons

Huntsman then remarked on his sudden increase in followers; today he has added more new followers (1,085) than any American politician other than President Barack Obama, according to the Web site Fan Page List. But even with Huntsman’s recent Twitter flurry, he remains near the bottom of the GOP-hopeful pack in Twitter followers. (In fairness, he’s a relative newcomer to the online service, having started posting only in June.)

Here is a chart of Twitter followers for several declared and possible candidates for the Republican presidential nomination, as of late Friday morning (EDT). Two politicians with high-profile pasts—2008 vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich—have a far greater following than the others.

Twitter stats for GOP hopefuls

About the Author: John Matson is an associate editor at Scientific American focusing on space, physics and mathematics. Follow on Twitter @jmtsn.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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  1. 1. RobLL 2:49 pm 08/19/2011

    Mr Huntsman seems to be positioning himself for 2016. He is avoiding pandering to the current anti-science crowd which will likely nominate the 2012 candidate for his party. Smart move.

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  2. 2. jsciam 3:25 pm 08/19/2011

    I find myself quite saddened that not only is this *considered* newsworthy, but that it in fact *is* newsworthy. Just think: an entire major political party has regressed to the point where a candidate expressing support for nearly universally accepted and incredibly well supported scientific theories leaves us shocked.

    How did things get this bad? I should be glad for even this small display of sanity, but instead I just feel depressed because I know that its such a minority view among his party.

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  3. 3. dbtinc 3:44 pm 08/19/2011

    Thank you Mr Hunstman. Not all Republicans are neanderthals in their thinking. It’s a shame that in this day and age we need to praise a person for their right thinking as opposed to the old days of the religionists running rough-shod on the people.

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  4. 4. the Gaul 4:03 pm 08/19/2011

    To continue …
    The Majority view among his party, if adopted, is *guaranteed* to rapidly end the tenuous preeminence of America. One would not think that a group which prides itself on its *patriotism* would choose such a course, yet they loudly proclaim that they have.
    Further, though I do not attend school in Texas, I understand that skewed information and myth is being debated as fact. This has the consequence of doing two things: insuring that succeeding generations will continue to decline scholastically; and also insuring that our attention is diverted from the objective.
    The objective for them would be to be free to do everything necessary to continue their fossil-fuel-based dominance.
    How long they do is, in part, up to you.

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  5. 5. frankblank 4:17 pm 08/19/2011

    Well, he may as well switch parties. He’s done with the republicans.

    I think Christine O’Donnell should throw her broom into the devils ring of GOP primaries. She’s as good as they’ve got.

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  6. 6. JamesDavis 4:55 pm 08/19/2011

    Don’t forget that Huntsman is a republican, and a while back SciAm had an article called “The Psychology of No” or something like that and it said that the republican party is the master of that word. He is lying and trying to deceive the ‘stupid minded’ people who do not have a brain to think with and will follow the republicans wherever they go and believe every word they say and consider it more truthful and holier than the Holy Bible itself. Do not fall for that ‘crap’ talk about helping the environment because they do not mean a word of it. If a republican gets back in as president, they will do the same thing every republican president has done since the beginning of the last century: destroy everything that has the word ‘clean green energy or clean green energy research; continue to collapse the economy, continue to plunge America into a third-world economy, and start more wars. We will no longer have a health care system or Medicare and will be forced to purchase health care from a private insurer that will skyrocket the premium and deductible out of the reach of the common person and electric cars will be dead and fossil fuel will be with us for the next hundred years and gasoline will be $8.00 to $15.00 a gallon.

    Huntsman is another Bush, and under the Bush administration, he left this country with $4.15 a gallon gas – the highest ever in our history, a $3.9 trillion dollar debt – the highest ever in our history, two expensive wars at a trillion dollars a year each – the longest lasting wars ever in our history, the loss of 10 million jobs – the highest ever in our history, the teller of the most lies ever in the history of any president… Yes, the republicans are history making people and do you really want to be a part of that kind of history making?

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  7. 7. Velstras 4:56 pm 08/19/2011

    While I believe in Evolution and I believe that the Earth’s climate changes over time, I do not necessarily believe mankind has a large role in what appear to be natural fluctuations in our planet’s climate. It is important that any good scientist question the status quo and accepted theory because more often than not we must challenge this dogma to move forward in understanding. I find the blind acceptance of current theories and the ridicule directed at those that question it just as distasteful as the religious zealots you find offensive. I prefer to keep my mind open and make my own decisions. Most of you appear no better to me than the assholes who persecuted Galileo.

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  8. 8. the Gaul 7:21 pm 08/19/2011

    I prefer to keep my mind open and make my own decisions. -Velstras
    Since you’ve made your decision, your mind is no longer open.
    Galileo would be at the forefront of those “good scientists” of today who, by a vast majority, state that the unnatural contributions of the wastes of human industry to the ecology has adversely altered it, as evidenced by the unnatural fluctuations in the planet’s climate. The questions now are to determine the extent to which the degradation can be limited.
    Fortunately, you’ve provided the ability to attach a name to an asshole.

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  9. 9. Gojira1974 8:56 pm 08/19/2011

    This is totally off topic, but the idea of an open mind is absurd. To say that your mind closes when you make a decision is to invalidate the validity of having what is thought to be an open mind. Does that make me close minded because I decided to have chicken for lunch? The entire phrase is meaningless. People should pride themselves on having an ACTIVE mind. You can make decisions and yet retain an active mind. It avoids the absurdity posted above.

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  10. 10. Soccerdad 9:47 pm 08/19/2011

    This ought to double his poll numbers. Soon he’ll be up to 2%! He’s surged from wholly irrelevant to irrelevant in one fell swoop.

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  11. 11. Wood Gas 2:24 am 08/20/2011

    I can vaguely remember Dwight Eisenhower speaking from a round tube black and white television. I have been wondering for a while, where did all the real Republicans go? The political descendents of Lincoln are few and far between these days. While I can’t endorse any of the GOP, this appears to be a brief flash of sanity. I’m suspicious.

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  12. 12. da bahstid 6:49 am 08/20/2011

    Remember that the Republicans were actually the LIBERAL party in the days of Lincoln. I mean, you’ve got a guy imposing Federal control by military force over the states in the interests of uniting the country and eliminating race-based slavery. Big government, and to some degree socialist values. Meantime the Democrats were arguing we needed slave labor for economic success and that states should be allowed to decide – clearly conservative values. It was a different time. I think it was around the time of the civil rights movement that the parties switched sides, but I’m not THAT much of a historian.

    Huntsman is setting a good example for his party and more of their members should follow. Actually, I’d say polls show most Republicans already are on a path of increased moderation, but it sure isn’t showing up in the acts of their representatives. Time will tell if their voters are willing to hold them accountable.

    As far as the global warming is concerned, the theory moved past the formative stages a long time ago. Much like evolution, it is way past the days when each discovery allows or even requires a complete reformulation of the principles. Within the scientific community it’s only a matter of refining the theory to be more accurate and encompassing.

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  13. 13. RobLL 12:35 pm 08/20/2011

    Mitt Romney has joined Huntsman on this. The LDS Church does not interfere with science or the study of science. What they expect is for members not to assert that science disproves the faith or parts of the faith.

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  14. 14. brublr 4:29 pm 08/20/2011

    Henri Poincare, the famous French scientist and mathema- tician,said, “Science progresses, funeral by funeral.” evidently, so does common sense; unless it regresses, election by election.

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  15. 15. Ehkzu 3:17 am 08/21/2011

    I was impressed by Huntsman until he agreed during the last GOP hopefuls debate on Republican TV that he’d veto a bill that “balanced” budget cuts to tax increases at a ratio of 10 to 1–something no sane economist says is feasible.

    If even Huntsman doesn’t dare offend the GOP’s corporatist string-pullers, I’m afraid I’m left looking at today’s GOP establishment and thinking “Lasciate ogni speranza.”

    http://www.blogzu.blogspot.com

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  16. 16. Neil5150 10:56 am 08/21/2011

    It has been reported, Newt Gingrich paid a company to get Twitter followers.

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  17. 17. co2dog 4:42 pm 08/22/2011

    Have yet to hear or meet a politician who really understands SCIENCE. Get to the nuts and bolts and evolution is sound and climate change is sound BUT not the nutty man-made refuse that the climate change whores advocate. Yes, whores who prostitute for grant money and fame. Driven by politics. The Earth has had extensive climate changes, ice ages and hot humid periods, all before man burned anything. The science of real climate change is full of unproven theories without solid observations. Idiots cooking the data and models are not scientist.
    While the Earth is very old, many features that we see are quite young: the Great Lakes – 12,000 years old, last Ice Cycle 18,000 years since NYC was under ice, water in Death Valley – 2,000 years ago. No one will say that the end of last Ice Cycle was due to man-made CO2. So what was it?

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  18. 18. hanasi 5:14 pm 08/22/2011

    The question raised by “Wood Gas” (Where have all the real Republicans gone) is an interesting one, and the more so because it can be asked equally well about the Democrats. Republicans have turned into irresponsible Luddites and No-Nothings, and the Democrats have become irresponsible free-lunch addicts innocent of any connection between arithmetic and economics. Democrats (full disclosure: I am a registered Democrat) have lost all interest, furthermore, in foreign policy, and have made the US a laughable figure among both its friends/allies and enemies in the world. It is American politics that has lost its way, not this party or that.

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  19. 19. Diesel67 11:37 pm 08/22/2011

    Lincoln would not be welcome in his own party today, and John F. Kennedy would not be welcome in his.

    Climate has changed before Homo sapiens came on the scene; the difference is the magnitude and rapidity of the change. The last decade or two were the hottest on record, and it seems to be getting even hotter. I don’t really mind, because it cures my depression for three months a year. Sunshine on my muscular shoulders is the best antidepressant around. But I can do without violent electrical storms popping up out of nowhere, often from small dark clouds in an otherwise blue sky, normal in the tropics but not in New York City.

    The Mormons have their own mythology that asserts that humanity originated in North America – as demonstrably false as the claims that H. sapiens is not descended from nonhuman primates and that the world is 5771 years old. Religion can be a tremendous force for good in the world, but when it asks us to deny objective reality it becomes ridiculous.

    Chicks tweet. I am not a chick. Do I look like one?
    http://multiply.com/mu/diesel67/image/3/photos/1/600×600/5/After-finish.jpg?et=%2BKy339TJGQiZgRawD2jURQ&nmid=122518180

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  20. 20. johnhei 12:31 am 08/23/2011

    GOP candidate Jon Huntsman has made his first big mistake. For in supporting the scientism of evolution and climate change he has planted his feet firmly in mid air.

    He should first learn the difference between publicly observable “operational” science (based on the Empirical & Scientific Method), and “explanations” based “historical” theories (Darwinism), which are based on SUBJECTIVE presuppositions, inferences, conjecture, interpretations and loaded predictions regarding “unobserved” and unrepeatable past events.

    He will need to eventually face reality, and stop living in denial. Darwin’s evolutionary continuum is a “myth”. Evolution could never account for the vast complexity of even a simple life form, let alone posses the necessary overall perspective to produce superbly “integrated” Eco-systems comprising a vast variety of interdependent and co-dependent life form.

    Natural selection is blind and has a perspective crisis. It hasn’t the foggiest notion of where anything or everything is evolving to, or even why. It doesn’t have the necessary perspective to fully integrate vastly complex biological systems, together with multiple subsystems, to produce a workable whole. Having no overall perspective it is incapable of ‘evolving’ and “arrange” specific components, in specific way, to preform a specific complex function.

    Kenneth Miller may well use the mouse trap clip as a tie pin, but that is not the issue. He needs to demonstrated how the mouse trap could arrange and assemble itself. But as no “intelligence” or “design” is now allowed in biological science, or in science generally, this could never happen. Particularly, with scientists now apply vast amounts of intelligence to their “non-intelligent” universe. And in doing so have sawn off the limb they are sitting on.

    The reality is that all observation ever made affirms that every life form works to preserve itself AS SUCH, with all variations directed to that end. All breeders know that there are definite “natural limits” to possible variations and cross breeding for all life forms. And they well know what those limits are. It’s called the preservation of species. And every observation ever make by scientists affirms this reality. No scientist has ever seen any life form change into a creature of a different kind. In short, bacteria in, bacteria out; flagella in, flagella out; dog in, dog out – end of story. So, Huntsman could well be crazy, along with his Darwinian supporters!

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  21. 21. johnhei 3:11 am 08/23/2011

    p.s. The climate experts once used the term “Global WARMING”, now they talk in terms of “Climate Change”, without really knowing what the climate is changing from or to. Everything in science is “tentative” and “not necessarily the final word.” Meaning, today’s scientific establishment “facts” are tomorrows garbage. Which has special relevance to the climate change dogma. In fact, a little more global “warming” would go down very well in Australia. We are having the “coldest” winter for years. Oh, for more “warmth” – Please!

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  22. 22. da bahstid 11:22 am 08/23/2011

    It’s a complete myth that science has never observed evolution in action. And if you have a degree in the field…well, at least from a decent university and assuming you actually learned anything as opposed to memorized your way through tests…it should be pretty hard to miss how the fine morphological gradations between species fits perfectly with where their divergences happen in the fossil record.

    It is not possible for an ant to birth a groundhog, this is not suggested by evolutionary theory nor is it seen in the fossil record. What we see is gradual changes pretty much all the way through. A close look at the fossil record will show for example that there is actually quite a bit of blur between the animal kingdoms. A mouse was never born from a reptile. But reptiles diverged into several transitional species, some of which developed heavier cardiovascular systems, warm-bloodedness, hair, etc. The platypus and alligator are remnants of these transitions. What we see alive today in kingdoms represent groupings of cooperatively adaptive features that are highly conserved because they happen to function well together, while the transitional species did not represent as adaptive a combination and thus are no longer common.

    What has to be the final indisputable link is mapping evolutionary divergence by genetic sequencing also agrees with radioactive dating of the fossil record. In other words, mapping how the chromosomes have changed gives the same evolutionary tree as the fossil record.

    Thing with science is, it’s about finding the correct answer. A scientist should never sway results for the purposes of appealing to what people want to believe. And this is how it should be, because wishful thinking does not yield results. We need to be able to get results.

    As an example, we’ve been observing bacteria evolving increased resistances to antibiotics for decades now. It’s more than a little worrisome to those of us in healthcare, as there hasn’t been a whole lot of new ground-breaking drugs and some people are now getting infections that simply cannot be killed anymore. We actually monitor regional differences between bacteria now because what works for staphylococcus in Las Vegas will be different from in New York, and these regional differences are changing all the time.

    Cancer is a similar problem, as each time a chemotherapy treatment fails, the likelihood of recovery continues to drop as cancer cells evolve resistances to chemo drugs.

    The role of evolution in these processes are integral to understanding how to treat the disease properly in the long term. I would go so far as to say you are compromising your competency as a healthcare professional if you do not accept evolutionary processes for what they are. Results require acknowledging reality first and going from there.

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  23. 23. bobandpat 12:26 pm 08/23/2011

    Evolution is fact. Plain to see. Is it like Darwin thought? No. Could it be divinely directed. Sure. But Evolution is fact. Lets move past this.

    Climate change or global warming is also fact. Do humans cause it? Probably. Maybe not. But what’s the difference? It most certainly is going to impact us in a negative way, and we can do something about it. Instead of arguing, lets do something about it.

    Jon Huntsman is the only Republican that appeals to this Independent, and his common sense on these “issues” is another reason why.

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  24. 24. blackbird79 3:14 pm 08/23/2011

    Well, this does mean Mr. Huntsman is DOA in the humorously, or “shillingly” — or delusionally — christened Republican “Debates” leading up to their convention. Of course, given his current standing, it may be difficult to discern any watershed moment. But a brief tip of the hat anyway… before I get back to ignoring when I can, or otherwise detesting his prostitution to predatory corporate interests.

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  25. 25. blackbird79 3:22 pm 08/23/2011

    BTW, ‘dbtinc’, I think you are being rather unfair to the Neanderthals in your characterization.

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