John Glenn is a pretty cool guy, to say the least. The former U.S. senator and astronaut flew more than 120 combat missions combined in both World War II and the Korean War, but he is best known as the first American to orbit the earth – a feat he accomplished in 1962.
Glenn, now 93, recently granted an interview to the Associated Press, during which he made it clear that he is a religious man who supports evolution.
That might come as a surprise to some given that Glenn, a Presbyterian, observed in 1998 on a return trip to space that “to look out at this kind of creation out here and not believe in God is to me impossible.”
For Glenn, however, religious belief and evolution can coexist.
“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,” Glenn 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.”
For religious people, Glenn really nailed it. In a single statement, he dismissed the simplistic creationist platform that there will always be a war between science and religion because the two are supposedly incompatible.
And Glenn is not alone in this perspective. Jeff Hardin, chair of the zoology department at the University of Wisconsin, identifies as an evangelical Christian. He also believes strongly in evolution and tries to explain to his fellow Christians that they, too, can embrace both God and science. Additionally, Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, and Cambridge University molecular biologist Denis Alexander both think the Bible and scientific facts can coexist.
“There are a lot of different theological thoughts on evolution, a whole range of different theologians support the teaching of evolution,” said Josh Rosenau of the National Center for Science Education, in an interview with the Christian Post.
Many creationists, like TV preacher Pat Robertson, simply cannot comprehend how anyone could believe in both God and evolution. (Robertson recently argued that God performs fewer miracles in the United States than in Africa because too many Americans accept evolution as fact.)
Robertson’s view is a narrow interpretation, based on personal dogma, yet he and his allies think it’s acceptable to push creationism in schools at the expense of evolution. In reality, they are forcing their beliefs on others in violation of the First Amendment – not promoting “critical thinking” as they sometimes claim.
These fundamentalists are wrong, and they should learn a thing or two from Glenn – who has been on this earth longer than most and accomplished more than nearly all.