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. Odie

    I am sure she also believes in the toothfairy (oops maybe about the tooth white knight) and that the shooting of JFK was a conspiracy. I also suspect she believes she can see Russia from Palin's kitchen window.

    September 16, 2010 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  2. DenInNooYawk

    God save us from the good Christian. Such people seem to surround themselves with an impenetrable wall of confirmation-bias-driven stupidity.

    September 16, 2010 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  3. Can't We All Just Get Along?

    Wait a minute - this defies believability.

    How can someone who doesn't think and is as stupid as O'Donnel form something as complex as "questions?"

    People like her don't "question" anything. They just accept what someone with an even lower I.Q. spouts off as the truth with no scientific or logical basis to back it up.

    September 16, 2010 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  4. Praise Jeebus

    Oh, Great!
    George W. Bush without the parental pedigree or Harvard/Yale background.

    September 16, 2010 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  5. The World is Flat!

    Amazing.....another person who blindly believes there is not enough 'evidence' for evolution! And that 'creationism' is some sort of 'science'.

    Can O'Donnell PROVE there is not enough evidence for evolution? Where is her evidence (beside a book) saying the earth is 6,000 years old and was created in 6 days?

    If elected:
    Will O'Donnell shut down the Public TV channels for showing the series on evolution this year?
    Will any 6 million year old human skulls dug up be burned by the O'Donnell squad as faked?
    Will the mapping of the human genome be stopped by the Tea Party as a hoax?

    In this country we are entitled to believe anything we want. But when it comes to what actually does exist......just the facts ma'am.

    Perhaps O'Donnell should read Steven Hawking's new book!

    September 16, 2010 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  6. CaliforniaBC

    Here is where the people with NO science background pop up in the crowd. Creationism IS NOT A THEORY!

    A scientific theory is a backed up by a large amount of documented data and evidence that has been compiled and independently reviewed by numerous other scientists who have tested and retested the validity of the results. In the case of Evolution (which IS a theory) it has been continually tested with results that consistently support the theory. It is amazing because we are now and have been challenging a 19th Century theory down to the genetic and molecular level and STILL Darwin's theory holds true.

    NOTHING in creationism holds up to the standards of science. Nothing.

    Oh and just to address the whole popular societal use of "It's just a theory". This is contextual semantics here. In this context theory is just an idea someone has. It doesn't even reach the level of being a hypothesis (a question posed based on evidence). When someone says, "It's just a theory." they are essentially means, "It's just an idea".

    So using this connotation of "theory" to describe the Theory of Evolution is simply incorrect. It is however more closely related to what creationism is...just an idea.

    September 16, 2010 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  7. Yobee

    Keep talking honey, your mouth is our best friend 🙂

    September 16, 2010 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  8. barry

    Stir the pot CNN. The more the liberal networks attack Tea Party and GOP candidates the more the American people support them. Come NOV the government run news agencies will see their ideas don't represent the majority.

    September 16, 2010 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  9. n8whit

    Multiple polls and surveys show that between 85-90% of all Americans believe in some form of creationism and 70% believe that it should be taught side by side with evolutionism. Sounds to me she is way in the mainstream in her beliefs.

    source: Creation & the Courts: Eighty Years of Conflict in the Classroom and the ... By Norman L. Geisler P. 277

    September 16, 2010 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  10. louise

    Wow, just what our country needs, another religious fanatic... It appears there is alot we don't know about this individual after the fact, typical Tea Party participants, folks the Republicans are in serious disarray if they keep following this path...............................

    September 16, 2010 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  11. Peter s

    She may be right and entitled to her own opinion and its just lame to attack her using her faith!! come with something better people!!!

    September 16, 2010 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  12. larry

    How could she question evolution. Easy, it is because her brain obviously has yet to evolve.

    September 16, 2010 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  13. gg

    Not only is O'Donnell a theocratic neo-fascist moron, she is now accepting thousands of dollars of foreign corporate money to attempt to undermine our democracy.

    September 16, 2010 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  14. TCO

    Why is this news? A lot of people feel that way. Seems like CNN is digging pretty deep to try to trash her as a candidate.

    September 16, 2010 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  15. Haren

    No wonder USA is behind other countries in education.

    September 16, 2010 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  16. Randolph Carter, I'm no expert, but...

    "just as much, if not more evidence" supporting the theory of creationism as there is supporting the theory of evolution."

    Hahahaha! Let's see this "evidence." Gravity is just a theory, too, lady. Why don't you test it by jumping out a 20th story window and get back to us with your results. What a "moran." Have a nice day!

    September 16, 2010 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  17. Former Republican - Now Independent

    The big question about Christine O'Donnell: Is she the Paris Hilton or Lindsay Lohan of the GOP?

    September 16, 2010 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  18. richard in Montana

    If she doesn't believe in evolution, then, how does she explain how she was able to crawl out from under a rock to become a politician?

    September 16, 2010 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  19. chuck

    Honestly, does this not scare people???

    September 16, 2010 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  20. Nellie Bly

    Christine O'Donnell being a qualified candidate is a theory, too.

    September 16, 2010 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  21. Joe Kilman, DMD

    She's exactly right that the genetics of homosapiens does not indicate the species of Ape anywhere in the code. Its amazing how this seems to get ignored by the establishment. People seem to put aside the fact that evolution is a "theory" which means it is not supported by conclusive evidence making it true. I absolutely believe that other theories need to be discussed in the classroom. Why wouldnt you? Makes you think there is more than meets the eye going on in this country!

    September 16, 2010 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  22. Republicans is smart in the head area

    September 16, 2010 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  23. Ellid

    Let's see:

    Christine O'Donnell so far has defaulted on her loans, lied about her educational record, sold her house to her campaign to avoid foreclosure, questioned evolution, compared masturbation to adultery, advocated women submitting to their husbands despite herself being unmarried, and somehow managed to live on a reported income of $5,800 a year, most of it likely from campaign donors.

    If she gets into Congress, Delaware should be ASHAMED.

    September 16, 2010 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  24. Andrew

    Lets clear some details up, first, a few theories.
    General Theory of Relativity.
    Theory of Special Relativity.
    Atomic Theory.
    Plate Tectonic Theory.
    Quantum Field Theory.
    Germ Theory of Disease.

    Etc. A theory is a large explanatory body in science, with large amounts of evidence. Evolution is well supported. It is a scientific theory. Creationism doesn't qualify as a theory, it doesn't qualify as a hypothesis, it barely qualifies as a cogent idea. Any testable predictions that could be made via creationism have fallen flat on their faces, it's the epitome of an intellectually vacuous position these days. I really, really hope this woman cannot get elected, we need people who can rationally examine evidence to make informed conclusions, not people who base their beliefs on pure faith.

    September 16, 2010 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  25. ysidero

    Hahahaha! O'Donnell's an idiot! Way to go, Delaware GOP! She wouldn't be electable in Alabama, much less DE. Strong work tea party!

    September 16, 2010 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
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