STS-95 crew member, astronaut and U.S. Sen. John Glenn poses for his official NASA photo taken April 14, 1998. In 1962, Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth, and he returned to space in 1998 aboard the space shuttle Discovery. Photo courtesy of NASA via Reuters

Astronaut and senator, John Glenn saw no conflict between faith and science

(RNS) John Glenn may best be remembered as one of the 20th century's greatest explorers, the first American to orbit the Earth and, later, the oldest man in space.

Glenn also will be remembered for his long career as a U.S. senator, representing his home state of Ohio for 24 years as a moderate Democrat.

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But less well-known is the fact that Glenn, who died on Thursday at age 95, was an elder in the Presbyterian Church (USA) who saw no conflict between his beliefs in God and in science.

He told The Associated Press last year he believed scientific discovery – including evolution – should be taught in schools.

"I don't see that I'm any less religious by the fact that I can appreciate the fact that science just records that we change with evolution and time, and that's a fact," he said. "It doesn't mean it's less wondrous and it doesn't mean that there can't be some power greater than any of us that has been behind and is behind whatever is going on."

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And in a space-to-Earth news conference during his second space flight at age 77 in 1998, Glenn told reporters his view of space only strengthened his belief in God.

"Looking at the Earth from this vantage point, looking at this kind of creation and to not believe in God, to me, is impossible. To see (Earth) laid out like that only strengthens my beliefs,” he said.

That flight aboard the shuttle Discovery had made him the oldest man in space.

Glenn was the last surviving member of NASA's original Mercury 7 astronauts.

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(Reuters contributed to this report)



  1. No conflict because Glenn didn’t use the Bible as a science source.

  2. “I don’t see that I’m any less religious by the fact that I can appreciate the fact that science just records that we change with evolution and time, and that’s a fact,” he said. “It doesn’t mean it’s less wondrous and it doesn’t mean that there can’t be some power greater than any of us that has been behind and is behind whatever is going on.”

    Exactly. Many scientists do agree with that.

    BTW, Glenn was not the 1st American in space. That was Alan Shepard. His ship described an arc high enough to clear earth’s atmosphere, then come back down. Glenn’s was the first Orbit of our planet.

  3. Was there REALLY “no conflict” with Glenn, specifically between the Bible and the theory of evolution? Nobody knows, because Glenn never explained WHY he believed what he believed. After a lifetime of silence (except for a brief anti-atheistic, theistic-evolution-compatible statement following his 1998 flight), Glenn gave another two brief sentences in 2015 (but not the “why” of them), and then he went silent for life.

    Those statements ARE sufficient to peg Glenn as a “Theistic Evolutionist”, but that’s all. For example, did Glenn accept the Bible’s clear historical claims regarding human origins, or did Glenn reject the Bible’s claims and accept the clear historical claims of Evolution instead?

    (The two opposing historical claims can never be true at the same time. In fact, according to the theory of evolution, there was NEVER any absolutely-first original-pair of humans on Earth, such as Adam and Eve.) So how did Glenn resolve THAT conflict? He never said. Total silence. National heroes can’t afford too much controversy, you know.

    The Bible’s historical claims, regarding origins, are clearly conflicting with Evolution’s historical claims.

  4. Since John Glenn’s national celebrity is apparently being used to sell the evolutionist “Theistic Evolution” position, it might be worth looking at another article (from 2015), that dares to ask some much-needed-but-never-asked questions about the entire situation.

    Fortunately, “Evolution News and Views” does bring those unasked questions on the table, for readers to at least give some rational reflection.

  5. The fact that Glenn stated he accepted evolution and was a practicing christian supports my statement. You should remove your fundamentalist-filtered glasses and re-read the article and Glenn’s statement. Glenn, like many christians, accept the idea that Genesis was not a scientifically accurate account of the creation of the universe. If not, he wouldn’t advocate the teaching of evolution and scientific discovery. He was a christian but not a creationist.

  6. You should find some unbiased and honest sources instead if the slanted and inaccurate sites you cite. John Glenn believed in evolution and god. His own statements make him a theistic creationist.

  7. Yes. I was referring to American achievements, but I see I failed to make that clear in my final sentence.

    While I’m not old enough to actually remember Gagarin’s achievement, I do remember the fearfulness of the adults in my life. It was that soon atomic bombs would rain down from space. Very scary.

  8. You seem to be sidestepping the specific points that were presented to you there.
    Glenn, likewise, did precisely such side-stepping. Maybe there was a conflict there with Glenn, after all, or perhaps he just didn’t want to be saddled with public controversy. Controversy isn’t good for national heroes.

    At any rate, here IS the real deal: You suggest that achieving a “No Conflict” status, is as simple as a Christian choosing to “not use the Bible as a science source.”

    But in reality, that’s not true, for The Bible presents the claims of Genesis as actual Earth history. Evolutionists present the claims of the theory of evolution as actual Earth history. But the two sets of historical claims clearly oppose each other.

    The conflict isn’t about the scientific method or using the Bible as a science source. The conflict is about opposing and irreconcilable historical claims.
    You can’t get rid of the conflict by de-literalizing the Bible’s historical claims (unless you de-literalize ALL of the Bible’s historical claims, which totally eliminates the Gospel of Jesus Christ. No wonder Glenn kept quiet!)

  9. You said “god” with a small “g”. Could it be that by 2015, Glenn’s faith had deteriorated to a “small g” as well? Certainly evolution doesn’t mesh well with the big “G”.

  10. I don’t capitalize god or christ because they are common nouns. If I fail to capitalize christian, jew or muslim it’s because I am typing on a smartphone and I’m too lazy.

  11. Science encourages doubt, questioning of “received knowledge”, and challenging authority. Can the writer tell me any religion or denomination that embraces those values?

  12. If the capitalization of a letter is the measurement of your faith. Than yes your belief in God has deteriorated.

  13. Believing in evolution doesn’t make one “less religious”. Then again, a man can be overtly religious and not be a Christian at all.

    Believing in evolution does make one less of a believer in what the Holy Bible actually teaches because the Holy Bible teaches explicitly against evolution. If you believe in evolution don’t say you believe in the Bible.

  14. Actually, most of the old Protestant denominations fully embrace agnosticism.

  15. Only a small strain of Fundamentalist Christianity is delusional enough to reject established scientific theory in favor of its dishonest, rather selective, and skewed version of Biblical Literalism.

    The Catholic Church recognized evolution and denounced Creationism a while ago. Such sentiments were reiterated by Pope John Paul II in his encyclical “Truth Does Not Contradict Truth”

  16. Anabaptist sects as well. They do not play well with unquestioned authority. Even their religious rites are informal and ad hoc in nature.

  17. “The Bible presents the claims of Genesis as actual Earth history.”

    The Bible’s claims are not supported by evidence or rational forms of acquiring knowledge. As said before and worth repeating, there is no such thing as an Evolutionist. Evolution is accepted, not believed. It is accepted because it is a scientifically sound theory fully capable of interpreting research and evidence.

    “The conflict is about opposing and irreconcilable historical claims.”

    Actually no. Since the Bible virtually makes no historical accurate (or provable) claims. “De-literalizing the Bible” simply means accepting faith as the basis for one’s belief. Biblical literalism is based on a dishonest presentation of your own beliefs. You want to consider the Bible’s claims to be factually and objectively true because you lack the honesty and courage in your own faith to convince others as to your beliefs. You dishonestly deny your own faith and pretend it is unnecessary to your belief.

    The actual value of the Bible has nothing to do with being literally and factually true. But of metaphoric or spiritual truth. To address the human condition and feelings. By lying about the necessity of faith in your beliefs you cheapen them and the Bible. Making it and your beliefs easy to dismiss as ridiculous and implausible. It is akin to saying literature has no value or appeal unless it is non-fiction.

    The Gospels of Jesus Christ have value because they speak to how people feel and want to believe. Jesus employed metaphor and parable to do that precisely because it is effective to address such matters. Your inability to understand the value in such things makes you completely miss the point of your own religion.

  18. Spuddle,

    There is nothing honest about saying the Bible says what it does not say. The Bible does not say anything about creation that is compatible with the concept called “evolution”. Everything the Bible says about creation is explicitly contrary to the concept of evolution.

    The dishonest ones are those, like “The Pope”, who embrace evolution and then claim they still believe in the Bible. You may honestly think what the Bible says is wrong and unscientific. It is impossible to honestly think the Bible is compatible with the concept of evolution.

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