September 16th, 2010
02:59 PM ET
8 years ago

O'Donnell questioned evolution

In 1996, GOP Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell expressed doubt about the theory of evolution.

In 1996, GOP Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell expressed doubt about the theory of evolution.

(CNN) - Christine O'Donnell may be the GOP Senate nominee in Delaware, but in 1996 she was the press secretary for the Christian group, Concerned Women for America, and in an interview with CNN, said there was "just as much, if not more evidence" supporting the theory of creationism as there is supporting the theory of evolution.

In the CNN interview with then correspondent Miles O'Brien that aired on March 30, 1996 O'Donnell also said DNA is linked to God.

"I think that when you look at genetic engineering, it all points to creationism, because genetics can be traced back to the obvious existence of a higher being - of God," O'Donnell said.

Although she said she thought the theories creationism and evolution should both be taught in public schools, she voiced her skepticism over the validity of evolution.

Read the full transcript, after the jump:

"Evolution is a theory and it's exactly that," O'Donnell said. "There is not enough evidence, consistent evidence to make it as fact."

O'Donnell's comment came from a section of the interview where she defined creationism.

"Well, creationism, in essence, is believing that the world began as the Bible in Genesis says, that God created the Earth in six days, six 24-hour periods. And there is just as much, if not more, evidence supporting that," O'Donnell said.

The O'Donnell campaign did not immediately respond to CNN's request for a comment on whether she stands by her comments, and CNN is waiting for a response from the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

O'Donnell won the GOP primary Tuesday night with the support of Tea Party activists. She defeated centrist Republican Rep. Mike Castle who had the backing of the GOP establishment.


MILES O'BRIEN, Anchor: Tennessee is not alone in reconsidering evolution and creationism. Alabama has approve inserting a disclaimer in biology books that calls evolution a controversial theory. And conservative Christians have joined school boards and pushed for the teaching of creationism in districts from California to New Hampshire.

Two guests are joining us now to discuss what children should be taught about humanity's origins. Michael McKinney is an associate professor of evolutionary biology at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. And Christine O'Donnell is the press secretary for the conservative Christian group Concerned Women for America. She previously worked for the Republican National Committee's cable network. Welcome to you both.

Let me ask you first, Ms. O'Donnell, what are the facts as far as you see them then?

CHRISTINE O'DONNELL, Concerned Women for America: Well, as the senator from Tennessee mentioned, evolution is a theory and it's exactly that. There is not enough evidence, consistent evidence to make it as fact, and I say that because for theory to become a fact, it needs to consistently have the same results after it goes through a series of tests. The tests that they put- that they use to support evolution do not have consistent results. Now too many people are blindly accepting evolution as fact. But when you get down to the hard evidence, it's merely a theory. But creation-

MILES O'BRIEN: All right. Well, Dr. McKinney, let me ask you this – Do most scientists believe that evolution is fact or a theory which has an awful lot of evidence supporting it?

Dr. MICHAEL McKINNEY, Professor of Evolutionary Biology: Well, we've been using the work scientist pretty loosely here. I'd like to distinguish, you know, the different kinds of scientists, and certainly most evolutionary scientists believe that evolution is a fact. I wouldn't feel particularly qualified to discuss say nutonium [sp] mechanics, so I think we need to be very clear when we say this.

And there's been a lot of terms here used loosely anyway. I would, in fact, disagree with the idea that evolution is a theory. I think evolution is a fact. There's a huge body of evidence to support it. It goes on now. Every time we genetically engineer a bacterium that is, in a sense, evolution. There's a lot at stake here, by the way. I don't want to get bogged down in ideology and opinions. Our economy could suffer if we don't teach our students about biology. Genetic engineering is very important to our economy, and if people don't learn how biology DNA evolution really works, we could suffer in practical terms.

CHRISTINE O'DONNELL: I agree with you-

MILES O'BRIEN: Ms. O'Donnell, let me just ask you this question – The net result of all these debates and controversy and discussion is that teachers tend to just sort of ignore this subject, and isn't that something that leaves our students less off- worse off than they would be otherwise?

CHRISTINE O'DONNELL: Absolutely, and I agree with what the gentleman said about we need to teach DNA, and I think that when you look at genetic engineering, it all points to creationism, because genetics can be traced back to the obvious existence of a higher being – of God.

Now, he said that it's based on fact. I just want to point out a couple things. First of all, they use carbon dating, as an example, to prove that something was millions of years old. Well, we have the eruption of Mt. Saint Helens and the carbon dating test that they used then would have to then prove that these were hundreds of millions of years younger, when what happened was they had the exact same results on the fossils and canyons that they did the tests on that were supposedly 100 millions of years old. And it's the kind of inconsistent tests like this that they're basing their 'facts' on.

MILES O'BRIEN: All right. But let me ask you this – There's a lot of people who would suggest that creationism and evolution are not mutually exclusive. That the big bang- after all, something had to create the big bangs, perhaps some higher being, and there's a tremendous amount of scientific evidence that there was a big bang which started this whole process underway. You can't go along with that?

CHRISTINE O'DONNELL: Well, creationism, in essence, is believing that the world began as the Bible in Genesis says, that God created the Earth in six days, six 24-hour periods. And there is just as much, if not more, evidence supporting that.

MILES O'BRIEN: All right. Well, Dr. McKinney, is that science or is that religion then?

Dr. MICHAEL McKINNEY: I think it's religion. I want to point out that there are a lot of very religious scientists, a lot of evolutionary biologists who are firmly religious. I don't want to get trapped into this thing that if you're not a creationist, you're not religious and don't believe in God, because a lot of scientists do.


Dr. MICHAEL McKINNEY: Creationists have a very strict interpretation. They believe that the Earth is approximately 6,000 years old and it's stricter than a lot of people think it should be and that's really the point. It's not Godless evolutionists versus say creationists. There's a lot of ground in between. I also- I can't let it pass when you said that a lot of these dating techniques are not valid. There's a huge body of scientific evidence that I can't go into that says that they are valid. For instance, we don't use carbon to date fossils. Carbon is only good back to about 50,000 years old. Most of the fossil record is based using potassium argon and other types.

MILES O'BRIEN: Dr. McKinney, what's wrong with saying that evolution is a theory?

Dr. MICHAEL McKINNEY: It makes it sound as if it's on an equal plane with any other theory that we all come up with. I could come up with a theory that maybe the world was created in this way or that way.

MILES O'BRIEN: Yeah, but if the theory is brought forth along with the evidence, allow the students to draw the conclusion then.


Dr. MICHAEL McKINNEY: I'll buy that if the word theory isn't abused, and the word theory has been incredibly abused. There's a huge philosophical issue and people get bogged down in these huge debates saying it's just a theory and that's the problem. It is a theory, but there's some- I mean, in that sense, but there's so much evidence that most of us just say it's easier to say it's a fact.

CHRISTINE O'DONNELL: And there's so much evidence-

MILES O'BRIEN: Ms. O'Donnell, would you agree with that, that if it's brought forth as a theory and then the evidence is laid out so the student can make his or her own decision, is that OK?

CHRISTINE O'DONNELL: Well, I think definitely. However, you need to weigh them side by side – creationism and evolution side by side. When they're-

MILES O'BRIEN: In the same classroom?

CHRISTINE O'DONNELL: Right. When they're-


CHRISTINE O'DONNELL: -together then it is not the establishment of religion. And another thing that we're overlooking is that evolution is also based on a set of belief systems, i.e., a religion and that's secular humanism. So if you're going to say that you can't have religion in school, you-

Dr. MICHAEL McKINNEY: I disagree with that.

CHRISTINE O'DONNELL: -can't have secular humanism in schools either, and if you're- and that's just impossible.

Dr. MICHAEL McKINNEY: I have to strongly disagree with that. Evolution-

CHRISTINE O'DONNELL: Well, you need to teach the two side by side and let the children determine for themselves, because I think the kids will.

MILES O'BRIEN: All right, Dr. McKinney, go ahead.

Dr. MICHAEL McKINNEY: Well, let me ask you this. Then why not let us teach evolution in churches if we have to have everything side by side?

CHRISTINE O'DONNELL: Because you're getting out of a public arena. The public schools are a public arena and you can't present one view point as more accurate than another. Now when you get in the church setting, I mean, that's a whole different ball game there, because you are talking about people who very specifically believe in the Bible and believe in the divine inspiration of the Bible and they are there to be taught the word of God and what it has told.

MILES O'BRIEN: Well, Dr. McKinney, in bringing this into the schools, are we undermining the separation between church and state here?

CHRISTINE O'DONNELL: No, not at all.

Dr. MICHAEL McKINNEY: I think so, I think so, and I want to say and I want to be very clear, that evolution is not a value system, it is not a philosophy, it's not humanism. Science is supposed to be, when it works right, it's a value free pursuit. It's what's, basically, makes our economy and our society run. What- when we get into trouble is when we get away from the value free pursuit and start doing just this thing. We start trying to bring our values into science, we start talking about what should be right, what shouldn't be right. What we do as scientists is look at the empirical facts, report it and tell you what we see. That's all.

MILES O'BRIEN: All right. We're just about running out of time. I want to ask you both, briefly, do you suspect we've heard the last of this issue in Tennessee and for that matter, the rest of the country.

CHRISTINE O'DONNELL: Absolutely not.

Dr. MICHAEL McKINNEY: Oh, absolutely- yeah, absolutely not.

CHRISTINE O'DONNELL: No, but I just want to clarify something. Church and state has nothing to do with this, because as I said before, it's not about putting the church into the government. When you teach them side by side, you're not favoring one over the other.

MILES O'BRIEN: All right. Thank you very much, Christine O'Donnell and Michael McKinney, we appreciate you joining us this morning for a lively debate.

Filed under: 2010 • Christine O'Donnell • Delaware
soundoff (109 Responses)
  1. yarrrr

    15 year old statement? Come on...

    That being said, the PR team around Christine needs to respond to reporters or reporters will just run wild... not responding is just stupid now. You have to shut things down or you'll get in trouble.

    September 16, 2010 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  2. jeff, alabama

    People who believe in evolution probably did come from
    People who reject evolution were definitely created by God.
    There now, argument settled.

    September 16, 2010 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  3. Kathleen

    Another TEA PARTY NUT JOB! And Boehner to take over the House if the Reps win the majority. What a castrophe for our country. It will only take one vote to PRIVATIZE or get rid of Social Security and cut Medicare, which is a goal of most GOPS.

    September 16, 2010 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  4. Rosslaw

    A wonderful representative of what passes for so-called conservatism today. It would be a safe bet that she hasn't traveled far as well given the danger of falling off the edge of the world.

    September 16, 2010 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  5. Sherri

    She's absolutely correct. Go Christine !!

    September 16, 2010 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  6. duffey

    Just another whakco that appeals to the ignorant. Too bad we have so many ignorant voters.This has nothing to do with book smarts, since I know plenty who espouse this doctrine who are well educated.

    September 16, 2010 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  7. Kathleen

    Do "LOOKS" count!?Can you win because you are "pretty" but dumb.
    America should wake up and vote for Dems. if we want the Middle Class to survive in our Country. Social Sec. and Medicare. They are against both.

    September 16, 2010 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  8. Agent Stan Smith

    "Nutonium mechanics"? Who transcribed that interview; Dubya?
    Anyway, surprise surprise, the tea party candidate is undereducated and over opinionated. That will really help keep America in the forefront of science.

    September 16, 2010 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  9. mf2

    What a nightmare.

    September 16, 2010 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  10. Lynn

    Yep, just as I said earlier. A graduate from the Sarah Palin school of stupidity. They are able to bamboozle enough voters to win an election and that's the real worry. A winning smile and cutsey mannerisms are all they have to manipulate some very stupid people into voting for them.

    September 16, 2010 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  11. Anonymous

    So what if thats what she believes CNN, are you trying to find something negative about these comments because you are so left wing and are obamas mouthpiece?
    Im sure many people think this way. I think the comments she made are excellent...there ist just as much, if not more, evidence supporting creationism over evolution," Evolution is just a theory....and not a very good one....although you can believe in Creationism and then evolution took place.

    September 16, 2010 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  12. anagram_kid

    For anyone who believes in creationism… which version do you believe? There are two conflicting creation stories in the Bible; one in Genesis 1:1 to 2:3 and then a second from Genesis 2:4 to 2:25. You know the bible, that huge book that you swear you live your life by, but have never actually read.

    September 16, 2010 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  13. Rick McDaniel

    You cannot get anyone religious to admit to evolution.

    Religious people cannot be objective.

    September 16, 2010 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  14. To Christie

    Genetics and God have nothing to do with one another. It seems that she's trying to Palin-ize herself. Appear totally stupid (which attracts her to ALL of the Republican Party, Tea or no Tea,) quit or lose your race, and then be just a pop culture laugh-fest.

    Creationism? Give me a break! Do you think in India or China, they are teaching their children that their version of God created everything, and gives no credit to mankind and his ability to affect his environment. No, over there, they are PROPERLY taught science, real science, not false faith science.

    September 16, 2010 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |

    Now CNN what's wrong with what she said. I am a Christian and believe in creation just as she does. Yes there are arguments for both sides of view. But one thing they can not explain is how this all began. There always has to be a cause for everything. Someone stated all you had to have was gravity for it to take place. The smartest scientist in the world stated this. Well I'd like to ask him what caused the gravity. It goes on and on from there so don't keep writing articles trying to belittle someone who is not a Liberal. I know that most Liberals are aithest, homosexuals, wineheads and muslims. So lets just leve this one alone. The incumbents are gong out no matter how you try to undermind them. The Republicans will rule after November. SO be prepared. There is change coming to America. A secure border, bin Laden will be caught. The war will go on in Afghanistan until there is never a danger of more terriosts springing up. No amnesty to the criminals who have already snuck across the border. No more raising unfair taxation of only the rich. The welfare classes will also feel the crunch if you need to tax. It will be based fairly on the amount of salary one makes. If you not smart enough to have a good job then sit on your porch drinking wine and drawing welfare only tax the amount of welfare you receive. That is all your going to do anyway.

    September 16, 2010 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  16. Annie, Atlanta

    What ever happened to the Republican Party? And is the type of stunning ignorance and stupidity we're seeing with Tea Party candidates where our future lies? "Hey, I think I'll vote or her, she's just like me." Dear God!

    And CNN, have you become the Tea Party Network? Are you in collusion with Fox? Somewhere along the line do the Koch brothers have a financial interest in your network? Why all the stupid, day in and day out? Along with the GOP/Tea Party I have to wonder if this is where journalism is heading, too? Infotainment, is a word I've heard a lot recently. Anything for ratings, huh? Where's the article on Palin?

    September 16, 2010 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  17. Wake up America

    Hey genius' of CNN. So does 70% of the country!

    Actually, I wasn't sure about her. Now, I love her even more.

    I'm contributing $100 for her campaign today. Thanks for sharing this piece which was meant to tear her down.

    Why aren't we seeing anything about her opponent?
    CNN is in full scramble at this point. I love it!

    September 16, 2010 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  18. Anand

    Keep religion out of politics. The US is not and never has been a theocracy, even in the Constitution. Period. We don't need or want a Christian Taliban in Washington, D.C.

    September 16, 2010 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  19. mary dale

    She sounds like a child still going to Catholic gradeschool.

    September 16, 2010 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  20. Indiana Voter

    So because she believes creationism, she is not fit for office? This obviously CNN's attempt to get the liberal left fired up so that she can lose in the general election. Does Gabriella Schwarz work for her opponent? Millions of Americans agree with her. CNN needs to try and be more biased in the "smear" attempts.

    September 16, 2010 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  21. Ryan

    Oh my goodness! Evolution is a fact accepted by the rest of the world! Even the Vatican accepts it! What is wrong with this lady? What's next? Burning witches at the stake?

    September 16, 2010 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  22. Whatever

    ALL of the candidates need to put their own personal beliefs on the shelf when they want to represent the people. There consitutents consist of many different backgrounds. I wouldn't want her making decisions about what can or cannot happen in my home. Pray for your elected officials but keep CHURCH separate from STATE!!!!!!

    September 16, 2010 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  23. LB in FL

    Every single one of the tea party, candidates and supporters are religious nut jobs. Period. From Palin to the old fart holding a nazi sign at one of their many "rallies", right-wing religious nut jobs. The sooner the American public realizes this to be true, the sooner this wrong-headed, racists group will be put where they belong. In the rear view mirror.

    Tea Party = OMG, there's an African-American family living in the White House. Period.

    September 16, 2010 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  24. David in Seattle

    When will people learn that science doesn't and never has purported to give the truth. (If you want truth turn to Religion and Philosophy.) It only presents a way of explaining the world around us and to make predictions. Theories evolve as old ones can't explain new findings. The "Theory of Evolution" does its job 100% in explaining what we see that existed and to make predictions - albeit on a short time scale compared to the age of the earth. Even if God created the Earth last Wednesday, the Theory of Evolution still holds. It explains what we see and what will happen.

    September 16, 2010 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  25. Shawn-GA

    Even if there was a mutation every second there would not have been enough time for animals to evolve into humans.

    This is a fact that makes people crazy when they try to prove that there was no divine intervention in our evolution and growth. So they ignore it or try to hide it. Why? What are you afraid of?

    September 16, 2010 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
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