In a widely posted interview with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews from 2009, Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence refused to say whether or not he believed in evolution. While Pence dodged the question in 2009, previously the answer was an emphatic no — he does not believe in the theory of evolution.
In 2002, Pence delivered an entire speech in the House of Representatives on the subject. “I believe that God created the known universe, the earth and everything in it, including man,” Pence told his colleagues. “And I also believe that someday scientists will come to see that only the theory of intelligent design provides even a remotely rational explanation for the known universe.”
Pence went to the floor to discuss the discovery of a skull from Sahelanthropus tchadensis, “one of the oldest known species in the human family tree.” He attempted to use this discovery to cast doubt on the entire theory of evolution. While there are still questions being raised about where this discovery fits on the evolutionary spectrum, whether the skull came from a common ancestor of humans and chimpanzees or a direct descendent of humans, the skull did not throw the case for natural selection into doubt.
In his speech Pence also deployed the old Creationist canard of confusing the scientific definition of the word “theory” with its common usage. “The truth is it always was a theory, Mr. Speaker. And now that we have recognized evolution as a theory, I would simply and humbly ask, can we teach it as such and can we also consider teaching other theories of the origin of species?” Pence asked before continuing to push Creationism as an equally scientifically viable alternative. “Like the theory that was believed in by every signer of the Declaration of Independence. Every signer of the Declaration of Independence believed that men and women were created and were endowed by that same Creator with certain unalienable rights. The Bible tells us that God created man in his own image, male and female. He created them. And I believe that, Mr. Speaker.”
While it seems silly to have to point this out, as the National Academy of Science notes, “The formal scientific definition of theory is quite different from the everyday meaning of the word. It refers to a comprehensive explanation of some aspect of nature that is supported by a vast body of evidence.”
The NAS also points out:
Many scientific theories are so well-established that no new evidence is likely to alter them substantially. For example, no new evidence will demonstrate that the Earth does not orbit around the sun (heliocentric theory), or that living things are not made of cells (cell theory), that matter is not composed of atoms, or that the surface of the Earth is not divided into solid plates that have moved over geological timescales (the theory of plate tectonics). Like these other foundational scientific theories, the theory of evolution is supported by so many observations and confirming experiments that scientists are confident that the basic components of the theory will not be overturned by new evidence. However, like all scientific theories, the theory of evolution is subject to continuing refinement as new areas of science emerge or as new technologies enable observations and experiments that were not possible previously.
Mike Pence might have been cautious with his words when questioned by Chris Matthews in 2009, but in 2002 his answer was clear. He was so dedicated to the cause of Creationism he gave an entire speech on the subject. It should come as no surprise that a politician who denied the dangers of tobacco would not believe in basic science.