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Georgia GOP Senate candidate Herschel Walker questions evolution

Former President Donald Trump listens as Georgia Senate candidate Herschel Walker speaks during his Save America rally in Perry, Ga., on Sept. 25, 2021.
Ben Gray
Former President Donald Trump listens as Georgia Senate candidate Herschel Walker speaks during his Save America rally in Perry, Ga., on Sept. 25, 2021.

Republican Senate candidate Herschel Walker questioned the existence of evolution this week in an appearance at a Georgia church.

"At one time, science said man came from apes, did it not?" Walker said on Sunday at Sugar Hill Church in Sugar Hill, Ga., during an on-stage interview. Lead Pastor Chuck Allen responded, "Every time I read or hear that, I think to myself, 'You just didn't read the same Bible I did.'"

"That's what's interesting, though. If that is true, why are there still apes? Think about it," Walker continued.

"Well, now, you're getting too smart for us," Allen said.

Walker is running for the Senate seat held by Georgia Democrat Raphael Warnock since 2021. During the 35-minute appearance before congregants, Walker talked about his childhood and faith, in addition to expressing his belief in creationism.

The theory of evolution is accepted by an overwhelming consensus of scientists. As of 2019, however, 40% of Americans believed that God created humans in their present form, according to Gallup. One-third believed that humans developed over a long period of time, "but God guided this process." Only 22% believed that God had no part in humans' development.

Plenty of Christians do believe in evolution, however. Pope Francis, for example, in 2014 said that the idea of evolution is compatible with the idea of a creator.

In his remarks, Walker also seemed to raise doubts about scientific intervention in human conception.

"Then the conception of a baby. Let me tell you, science can't do that," he said. "They're trying to do it, but it can't, because there had to be a God."

It's not clear exactly which procedures Walker was referring to here. There are a range of medical interventions that help people conceive.

In response to a request from NPR for clarification on his comments about conception, Walker's communications director, Mallory Blount, responded, "Herschel believes all human life is created by God."

She added, on his evolution comments, "The country is unraveling thanks to Raphael Warnock and Joe Biden and the media wants to talk about Herschel in church on a Sunday morning. No wonder we've got problems."

Walker is famous for his NFL career in the 1980s and 1990s and is running to take on Warnock, who was senior pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta for 15 years.

In September, former President Donald Trump endorsed Walker.

Walker's run for Senate has renewed attention on violent behavior from his past. After the release of his 2008 book, which detailed his struggles with mental illness, his ex-wife Cynthia Grossman told ABC News that Walker pointed a gun at her head and told her, "I'm going to blow your f'ing brains out."

In 2008, she also told CNN that he once threatened her with a straight razor.

Grossman and Walker divorced in 2001, and she got a protective order against him in 2005, as ABC also reported.

Two other women also have accused Walker of violent behavior, which his campaign has denied, as Axios reported in December.

According to a late-January Quinnipiac poll, Walker is overwhelmingly favored to win the Republican primary in that state. In a head-to-head matchup, that poll found Walker and Warnock in a statistical tie.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Danielle Kurtzleben is a political correspondent assigned to NPR's Washington Desk. She appears on NPR shows, writes for the web, and is a regular on The NPR Politics Podcast. She is covering the 2020 presidential election, with particular focuses on on economic policy and gender politics.