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. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    I wonder what Dr. Einstein O'Donnell thinks will happen to Gulf Coast marine life in the next 20 years.

    September 16, 2010 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  2. Ken, AZ

    Did anyone expect anything intelligent to come out of this person's mouth?

    September 16, 2010 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  3. Haren

    If she get elected I am sorry for the American.
    When we criticize Quran and their follower for seventh century sharia law than how we justify our self to believe what is written in bible in first century.

    September 16, 2010 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  4. Ed

    In my opinion anyone who questions the validity of evolution does not possess the critical thinking ability to serve as a member of congress.

    September 16, 2010 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  5. chris24

    did she ever pass a science test?

    what a dope.

    September 16, 2010 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  6. C Smith

    Has anyone questioned O'Donnell's evolution? She, like the other teatantrummers is the gift that keeps on giving to the Dems. Please let her keep talking. I hear she wants to regulate Hollywood now?

    September 16, 2010 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  7. Peter

    Here we she's a creationist. Excellent.....the gift that keeps on giving. The lowering of the bar continues unabated.

    September 16, 2010 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  8. jackson

    Helter skelter!!! Helter skelter!!!

    September 16, 2010 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  9. B

    I truly believe that this great country is going backwards at an alarming rate! This person is yet another extreme rightwing Nutcase that is a close second behind Pallin.. This will either put the Democrats in a good position this Fall or if this country is so dumbed down to elect these fools,then we are all in Big trouble..

    September 16, 2010 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  10. jim

    Oh , my gosh we all better hide under our beds.We certainly don't won't to elect someone that pose a questions as to whether something is real or not !!!!

    September 16, 2010 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  11. Eric

    It's simple. God created the world in 6 days. Of course I don't remember it saying that it was 6 24 hour days but he did do it in 6 days. What is so hard about that?

    September 16, 2010 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  12. Nancy

    O'Donnell need to have a debate on jobs, jobs, jobs.

    September 16, 2010 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  13. Former Republican, but never again!

    Nut case for sure! Loser in November for sure!

    September 16, 2010 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  14. Minnesotan

    Moses parted the Red Sea with a Brontosaurus and Jesus got out of the cave without being seen by riding a Pterodactyl into the sky....

    September 16, 2010 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  15. Coger

    Is she a sister or cousin of Rosey O'Donnell? Looks like family to me.

    September 16, 2010 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  16. Marie MD

    This woman is so right winged that she is going to fall off the face of the Earth. How people can be so ignorant and stupid makes me gag.
    She has proven herself to be a liar in what she has done personally and professionally and these people still voted for her.
    Only the rethugs can be so retarded. Their leaders all are!!

    September 16, 2010 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  17. Ivan Bial

    God help us..
    God does not beleave in "creationism"

    September 16, 2010 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  18. Forbes, Waterloo

    This is the usual back and forth with a hesitant scientist trying to be precise and fair while the religious advocate puts forth nonsensical statements such as: "I think that when you look at genetic engineering, it all points to creationism,...."

    The real issue that seems to be avoided all too often is that evolution is based on scientific methodology and creationism is based on dogma. They should not be taught along side one another unless the topic is about sound methodology versus junk science. O'Donnell seems to be ignoring the fact that thousands of biologists do not debate the "theory" of evolution. It is for them an established set of facts that are consistent with the facts established by other research areas such as geology and biochemistry.

    I should add that this consistency across disciplines is in much more agreement than the widely different views held by different relgious groups who are in constant disagreement about many of their own basic "facts".

    September 16, 2010 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  19. Jon

    She's kind of cute but stupid.

    September 16, 2010 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  20. Tom-Vermillion Ohio

    That's that problem with these 'fundamentalists', they have a very narrow view on the world and how it works. They cannot make the leap into reality that perhaps, their view of the world could be entirely wrong. They believe that God made the world for humankind to use and perhaps even abuse, so long as the 'holy book' is followed to the letter. The world is for the living and those yet to live and be born.

    September 16, 2010 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  21. Critical

    Just as much evidence huh? I would like to see her non-biblical references. Apparently, she does not understand the concept of faith, which is defined as a belief in something despite the absence of proof. Nice work voters of Delaware! Unless people start getting educated about American history and civics as well as their own religion, the Tea Party mentality will be the ruin of this country.

    September 16, 2010 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |

    Wow, one of the world's brightest scientific minds runs for office.

    Let's all vote for this genius.

    September 16, 2010 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  23. Ben in Texas

    Yeah. And that stuff about the earth being round is suspect, too. There's just a much, if not more evidence that it's flat. And BTW, the moon is made of green cheese. And Christine O'Donnell is qualified and electable. And the Tea Party is totally a separate deal from the Republican Party. And Faux News really is fair and balanced, and Bush was a fabulous president, and, and...

    September 16, 2010 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  24. D. Bunker

    More proof that O'Donnell is dangerously unqualified.

    September 16, 2010 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  25. LacrosseMom(the real one)

    (excuse the yelling, folks)

    WAKE UP AMERICA!!! Do you really want this woman to be a senator?

    She has been running for the Senate, for years! She has been accused of living off campaign funds. She is a NUTCAKE.

    She believes that condoms don't prevent AIDS.
    She believes that masturbation (last I heard we live in a FREE country) is wrong.
    She wants to privatize Social Security.
    She wants to abolish Medicare.

    DELAWARE, before YOU vote do some careful listening.

    BEWARE AMERICA: Big Corporations, Koch Brothers, etc., is funding the Tea Party candidates, so they can control our government!

    September 16, 2010 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
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