A recent news item reported on research about how a person’s religious beliefs might influence attitudes toward space exploration. University of Dayton political science professor Joshua Ambrosius recently presented “Separation of Church and Space: Religious Influences on Support for Space Exploration Policy” at a meeting of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion in Indianapolis. This past summer, Ken Ham was falsely accused of being opposed to the space program and as saying that aliens probably don’t exist, but if they do, they’re going to hell. At the risk of stirring that pot up once more, let’s wade right in.
Professor Ambrosius reportedly found that “regular church attendance, along with other measures of traditional religious belief like a high view of the authority of the Bible and belief in creationism, exert a negative effect on support for space exploration.” It wasn’t that long ago that church attendance, high regard for the authority of Scripture, and belief in creation were the norm in the United States. This report at least implies that these once-respected practices and beliefs are harmful to society. While not as hostile as the attitudes of Richard Dawkins and Bill Nye, it is condescending.
The news report went on to state, “According to Ambrosius, the youngest generations, Generation X and the millennials, as a whole, exhibit less interest in space exploration than the previous baby boomer generation.” What this tidbit had to do with religious belief was not clear at all. Perhaps the implication was similar to what Bill Nye thinks. Nye, who repeatedly has blamed the influence of creationists for falling educational achievement of American students, probably would blame creationists for less interest in space exploration among young people. However, given that generation X and millennials are abandoning churches of any kind in droves, this makes no sense.
The news story went on to state, “Ambrosius noted that the privatization of space exploration could be a game changer if Evangelical hesitations are, in some part, driven by anti-government sentiment.” While many evangelicals are politically conservative as well as theologically conservative, this was a needless slam on the part of the news writer. Political conservatives have a healthy suspicion of government, but that is far from being “anti-government.” Most conservative evangelicals are mindful of our Lord Jesus Christ’s admonition that we are to render to Caesar what is Caesar’s (Matthew 22:15–22). The Apostle Paul expanded on this in Romans 13:1–7. These biblical passages and others do not allow the Christian the option of being “anti-government.”
This news report twice commented that clergy speaking positively about science influenced their parishioners to be more supportive of space exploration. People in the pews generally trust their pastors. Indeed, if they didn’t, they probably would depart their churches. Here at Answers in Genesis, we well understand the influence that pastors have with their congregations. If pastors do not treat Genesis properly, then their flocks will not either. This is why Answers in Genesis sponsors a scholars Grand Canyon raft trip each summer to reach key pastors and seminary professors with the message that we can trust the Bible’s authority starting with Genesis 1. This also is the point of Ken Ham’s coauthored book Already Gone.
But what did the news writer mean by “science”? Did he mean evolution and billions of years? Even to those who believe in evolution and billions of years, there is far more to science than that. This is the difference between experimental or observational science and historical science. It may be shocking to some, but we here at Answers in Genesis agree with most scientists about science far more than we disagree. You see, here at Answers in Genesis we love science. We just think that when it comes to origins, many scientists have gone off in the wrong direction, assuming that God has nothing to do with the real world. If we have the wrong starting point when it comes to the past, then it is not surprising when our historical science is incorrect.
As a professional astronomer who grew up during the Apollo program, how could I not like space exploration? I have some strong opinions of the directions that some space exploration has taken, but those opinions are based upon knowledge and passion. For example, I am particularly supportive of unmanned space exploration over manned exploration. Over the past 35 years, unmanned spacecraft have returned a treasure trove of information about the planets of the solar system. The cost of these programs has been a minute fraction of what manned missions would have cost. The many orbiting observatories, such as the Hubble Space Telescope, have allowed data collection from distant astronomical objects that were impossible from the ground. These observatories work fine with little or no human presence necessary. Putting people in space to operate these observatories just adds tremendously to the cost. I have found that as a whole, most biblical creationists support space exploration. Our motivation to study the creation is that we understand that the world is not the result of random chance, but that God purposefully designed it.