Story Highlights• Mike Huckabee, a Baptist minister, defends biblical creation narrative
• John McCain, an Episcopalian, says "the hand of God" made us what we are
• Sam Brownback, a Catholic, says religion and reason are not at odds
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MANCHESTER, New Hampshire (CNN) -- During the first GOP presidential debate last month in California, three Republican candidates raised eyebrows by indicating they did not subscribe to Charles Darwin's theory of evolution.
When the topic came up again Tuesday night in a CNN-sponsored debate in New Hampshire, one of those evolution skeptics, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, offered a spirited defense of the biblical creation narrative.
"In the beginning, God created the heavens and the Earth," said Huckabee, an ordained Baptist minister. "A person either believes that God created the process or believes that it was an accident and that it just happened all on its own."
Huckabee also said that if Americans "want a president who doesn't believe in God, there's probably plenty of choices. But if I'm selected as president of this country, they'll have one who believes in those words that God did create."
He went on to quote Martin Luther: " 'Here I stand, I can do no other.' And I will not take that back."
Huckabee later added, "If anybody wants to believe that they are the descendants of a primate, they are certainly welcome to do it."
However, when pressed about whether he believed in a literal interpretation of the timeline laid out in Genesis -- that God created the world in six days about 6,000 years ago -- Huckabee said, "I don't know."
"Whether God did it in six days or whether he did it in six days that represented periods of time, he did it. And that's what's important."
Many Christian denominations marry the biblical creation narrative with scientific evidence by accepting evolution as the process God used to create life on Earth. But many conservative and evangelical Protestants adhere to a literal view of Genesis, rejecting the idea that human life evolved from lower primates over millions of years. And some in that camp maintain the process did indeed take just six days.
Huckabee's elucidation of his views during Tuesday's debate drew a follow-up response from Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who, when the topic came up in the first debate, had said he believed in evolution.
"I admire [Huckabee's] description, because I hold that view," said McCain, an Episcopalian. "There's no doubt in my mind that the hand of God was in what we are today. And I do believe that we are unique, and [I] believe that God loves us."
Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas, who expressed skepticism about evolution during last month's debate, also elaborated on his views, which he described as being in tune with a philosophy "of faith seeking reason."
"I believe we are created in the image of God for a particular purpose, and I believe that with all my heart," said Brownback, a Roman Catholic. "I am fully convinced there's a God of the universe that loves us very much and was involved in the process. How he did it, I don't know."
"One of the problems we have with our society today is that we've put faith and science at odds with each other. They aren't at odds with each other. If they are, check your faith, or check your science."
The third candidate who indicated he did not believe in evolution in last month's debate, Rep. Tom Tancredo of Colorado, was not asked to address the question Tuesday.
And Huckabee made it clear that he did not appreciate the question, either, calling it unfair.
"It's interesting that that question would even be asked of somebody running for president," Huckabee said. "I'm not planning on writing the curriculum for an eighth-grade science book. I'm asking for the opportunity to be president of the United States."