September 16th, 2010
02:59 PM ET
4 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.



FULL TRANSCRIPT:

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.

CHRISTINE O'DONNELL: Right.

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.

CHRISTINE O'DONNELL: Right.

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-

MILES O'BRIEN: Science.

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. Carlos

    I respect where the Tea Party is coming from, but it would be a real shame if it got bogged down by the same Bible-thumping nincompoops that have devolved the Republican Party from fiscally-minded, lean government conservatives into "family values" parrots pandering to the lunatic fringe.

    September 16, 2010 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  2. The Theory of Evolution Has Not Been Proved . . .

    Nor has the Theory of Gravity.

    September 16, 2010 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  3. Henry Miller, Libertarian

    Ignorant, superstitious, idiocy...

    It's too bad that the only effective counter to Democrats and their incessant efforts to bankrupt the country are determinedly ignorant religious nuts.

    September 16, 2010 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  4. Dustin

    Okay. So what evidence is there to support that the world was created in 6 days? Name ONE shred of evidence. I consider myself a spiritual person, but people like this are INSANE if they truly think that the Bible is something to be taken literally.

    September 16, 2010 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  5. Steve From NH

    The difference being of course that the "facts" supporting creationism are made up. Evolution is as much of a fact as the theory of celestial mechanics or gravity, until things start falling up, the earth flings itself out of the suns orbit, or planets really do all of a sudden start going backwards. Creationism is for morons who think that they have the right to bring god down to their level of understanding.

    September 16, 2010 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  6. Steve (the real one)

    So what! As a Christian, I also believe in the Biblical account of creation! That means I also question the THEORY of evolution! Once again, SO WHAT!!

    September 16, 2010 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  7. Kevin

    Not surprisingly, she is misinformed as are most evangelicals. Evolution is not a theory. It IS fact. We know beyond any doubt that it happened. The theory part refers to HOW it happened, as this is still not completely understood. This does not prove or disprove the existence of God, just as I cannot prove or disprove the existence of a giant pink invisible unicorn. No way would I ever vote for any politican who is so misinformed about such a basic science matter.

    September 16, 2010 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  8. Kahuna

    "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." – Odonnell

    This women is an idiot. There is no evidence to support what she says or what if written in Genesis in the bible. It's a belief system, not a scientific theory. And please spare me the mantra that "if evolution hasn't been proven then creationism is a posibility" BS.

    September 16, 2010 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  9. The Unsub

    Delaware has just released the kraken!

    September 16, 2010 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  10. David

    Damn between her, Palin, Beck, Bachmann, Romney, etc, etc. The GOP is being taken over by nuts.

    September 16, 2010 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  11. Donna

    There's gotta be intelligent people in Delaware...please do not elect this narrow minded, intellectually challenged female.

    September 16, 2010 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  12. Dale

    Evolution is scientific concensus. Very very few professional biologists would argue the point. But the trailer-trash Bible-banging high-school dropout rednecks and politicians know more about biology than a biology PhD that has spent most of their lives studying ths subject, right?

    September 16, 2010 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  13. Carol

    O'Donnell is a nut case. There is absolutely no factual support of creationism. And, of course, she wants to have her religious beliefs control our government.

    Also, she should keep her nose out of other people's panties and pants (she is anti-abortion and anti-masterbation). She's a closet pervert – in my opinon.

    DISCLAIMER – NOT ALL CHRISTIANS BELIEVE HER POSITIONS.

    September 16, 2010 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  14. Jason

    Stick to politics, and leave the science to the scientists.

    September 16, 2010 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  15. Bob the Observer

    So, CNN, are you saying that "freedom of expression" is only one-sided? You are recoiling in horror that someone might have expressed a view different from yours.

    I'm amazed at how the "freedom-of-speech" ninjas always choke when someone says something that they question.

    Please quit being such a snob.

    September 16, 2010 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  16. angelitac

    Seriously, if you're not a real scientist, stay out of the debate. Stick to your "PoliSci," okay?

    September 16, 2010 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  17. Dave

    Good grief... Another right-winger with a ground-floor IQ... O'Dumbell and Palin must have been separated at birth...

    September 16, 2010 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  18. LouAz

    A clear leader for this Republics journey back to the Dark Ages ! You betcha !

    September 16, 2010 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  19. Comedy at it's best...

    Bwahahahah.....I don't know what is more laughable...the fact you think a magical man in the sky created the wonders of this world or that he/she/it did it in less than a week. WOW....what amazes me is that a lot of people actually believe this nonsense. You people scare me!

    September 16, 2010 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  20. FRANK - LAS VEGAS

    This is the woman who wants to be a senator? She and Angle in NV should get along very well, they can talk about how humans and dinosaurs were on the earth at the same time and how Social Security and Medicare are against the First Commandment. Both of these Tea Baggers need to be soundly voted down.

    Vote NO in NOvember to the party of NO and ignorance.

    September 16, 2010 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  21. PaulinABQ

    Science is science and creationism is religion. End o' discussion. Teach science in science class and religion anywhere EXCEPT as an alternative to science. Ultimately, creationism depends on a belief; it cannot be tested. As Dr McKinney said, evolution is tested constantly and shown to be FACT.

    September 16, 2010 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  22. JD in Moraga, CA

    "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.

    Huh? I'd love to know where she got her dual degree in biomedical engineering and theology so that she could make such a ridiculous claim.

    People falsely assume the ontological argument – news flash: the apparent presence of "order" does not necessitate the presence of a driving intelligence. It just shows human arrogance in believing that we're entitled to an answer for everything.

    Secondary news flash: You're human – get used to dying with your questions unanswered.

    September 16, 2010 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  23. rkm63

    And? The more you in the liberal media along with the democrats try to besmirch this young lady, the more votes she'll gain. So, keep it up! LOL

    September 16, 2010 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  24. mark

    It's not right for ANY political candidate to offer their religious views. If church and state are to be seperate then they should keep their views regarding that OUT of the political spectrum. ESPECIALLY do gooders like O'Donnell. People like her ALWAYS have skeletons hiding in the closet. Humans are human and she is one.

    September 16, 2010 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  25. skorpeo

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

    The evidence being fossils, geological studies, meterological studies, and scientific papers.

    "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 evidence being 1 (one) chapter in 1 (one) book called the Bible.

    Sorry, not buying it.

    September 16, 2010 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
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