The two most powerful forces shaping our civilization today are science and
A space-age scientist tells
why he must believe in God.
American Weekly, February 10, 1963.
By WERNHER von BRAUN
Director, Marshall Space Flight Cen-
ter, National Aeronautics and Space
Administration, Huntsville, Alabama
This was a one-page
article written for a magazine included in many American newspapers.
This first-generation reproduction was scanned in from the
original copy shown at right.
Through science man strives to learn
more of the mysteries of creation.
Through religion he seeks to know the
Neither operates independently. It
is as difficult for me to understand a
scientist who does not acknowledge the
presence of a superior rationality behind
the existence of the universe as it
is to comprehend a theologian who
would deny the advances of science.
Far from being independent or
opposing forces, science and religion are
sisters. Both seek a better world. While
science seeks control over the forces
of nature around us, religion controls
the forces of nature within us.
As we learn more and more about
nature, we become more deeply
impressed and humbled by its orderliness
and unerring perfection. Our expanding
knowledge of the laws of the universe
have enabled us to send men out
of their natural environment into the
strange new environment of space, and
return them safely to earth.
Since we first began the exploration
of space through rocketry, we have
regularly received letters expressing
concern over what the writers call our
tampering with Gods creation. Some
writers view with dismay the possibility
of upsetting the delicate balance
of the tremendous forces of nature
that permit life on our globe.
One letter revealed an honest fear
that a rocket would strike an angel in
space high above the earth. And one
of the Russian cosmonauts stated flatly
after his earth-circling flight in space:
I was looking around attentively all
day during my flight, but I didnt find
anybody there neither angels nor
Such shallow thinking is childish and
pathetic. I have no fear that a physical
object will harm any spiritual entities.
Manned space flight is an amazing
achievement. But it has opened for us
thus far only a tiny door for viewing
the awesome reaches of space. Our
outlook through this peephole at the
vast mysteries or the universe only
confirms our belief in the certainty of
Finite man cannot comprehend an
omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent,
and infinite God. Any effort to visualize
God, to reduce him to our comprehension,
to describe him in our language,
beggars his greatness.
I find it best through faith to accept
God as an intelligent will, perfect in
goodness, revealing himself in the
world of experience more fully down
through the ages, as mans capacity for
For spiritual comfort I find assurance
in the concept of the fatherhood
of God. For ethical guidance I rely on
the corollary concept of the brotherhood
Scientists now believe that in nature,
matter is never destroyed. Not even
the tiniest particle can disappear without
a trace. Nature does not know
extinctiononly transformation. Would
God have less regard for his masterpiece
of creation, the human soul?
Each person receives a gift of life
on this earth. A belief in the continuity
of spiritual existence, after the
comparative mere fiick of three score and
ten years of physical life here in the
endless cycle of eternity, makes the
action of each moment like an investment
with far-reaching dividends. The
knowledge that man can choose
between good and evil should draw him
closer to his creator. Next, the realization
should dawn that his survival here
and hereafter depends on his adherence
to the spiritual rather than the
Our decisions undeniably influence
the course of future events. Nature
around us still harbors more unsolved
than solved mysteries. But science has
mastered enough of these forces to
usher in a golden age for all mankind,
if this power is used for goodor to
destroy us, if evil triumphs.
The ethical guidelines of religion are
the bonds that can hold our civilization
together. Without them man can never
attain that cherished goal of lasting
peace with himself, his God, and his
Return to biography of Wernher von Braun.
But I cant help feeling at the same time that this space effort
of ours is bigger even than a rivalry between the United States and Russia.
The heavens beyond us are enormous beyond comprehension, and the further we
penetrate them, the greater will be our human understanding of the great
universal purpose, the Divine Will itself.
Dr. Wernher von Braun, This Week Magazine, 01/01/1961.
Letter to the California State Board of Education
September 14, 1972
Dr. Wernher von Braun wrote the following letter to a Mr. Grose regarding
the California school boards debate on the teaching of evolution.
It was read by Dr. John Ford to the California State board of Education
on September 14, 1972. With todays heated debates at public school
board meetings concerning the advisability of
teaching of intelligent design or alternatives to Darwinism,
this letter continues to hold vital significance.
Dear Mr. Grose: In response to your inquiry about my personal views
concerning the Case for DESIGN as a viable scientific theory or the
origin of the universe, life and man, I am pleased to make the following observations.
Reproduced from John
For me, the idea of a creation is not conceivable without evoking the
necessity of design. One cannot be exposed to the law and order
of the universe without concluding that there must be design and
purpose behind it all. In the world round us, we can behold
the obvious manifestations of an ordered, structured plan or design.
We can see the will of the species to live and propagate.
And we are humbled by the powerful forces at work on a galactic scale,
and the purposeful orderliness of nature that endows a tiny and ungainly
seed with the ability to develop into a beautiful flower.
The better we understand the intricacies of the universe and all
harbors, the more reason we have found to marvel at the inherent
design upon which it is based.
While the admission of a design for the universe ultimately raises
the question of a Designer (a subject outside of science), the
scientific method does not allow us to exclude data which lead to
the conclusion that the universe, life and man are based on
design. To be forced to believe only one conclusionthat
everything in the universe happened by chancewould violate
the very objectivity of science itself.
Certainly there are those who argue that the universe evolved out
of a random process, but what random process could produce the
brain of a man or the system or the human eye?
Some people say that science has been unable to prove the existence
of a Designer. They admit that many of the miracles in the
world around us are hard to understand, and they do not deny that
the universe, as modern science sees it, is indeed a far more
wondrous thing than the creation medieval man could perceive.
But they still maintain that since science has provided us with
so many answers the day will soon arrive when we will be able to
understand even the creation of the fundamental laws of nature
without a Divine intent. They challenge science to prove
the existence of God. But must we really light a candle to
see the sun?
Many men who are intelligent and of good faith say they cannot
visualize a Designer. Well, can a physicist visualize an
electron? The electron is materially inconceivable and yet it
is so perfectly known through its effects that we use it to
illuminate our cities, guide our airlines through the night skies
and take the most accurate measurements. What strange
rationale makes some physicists accept the inconceivable electrons
as real while refusing to accept the reality of a Designer on
the ground that they cannot conceive Him? I am afraid that,
although they really do not understand the electron either, they
are ready to accept it because they managed to produce a rather
clumsy mechanical model of it borrowed from rather limited
experience in other fields, but they would not know how to
begin building a model of God.
I have discussed the aspect of a Designer at some length because
it might be that the primary resistance to acknowledging the
Case for Design as a viable scientific alternative
to the current Case for Chance lies in the inconceivability,
in some scientists minds, of a Designer. The
inconceivability of some ultimate issue (which will always lie
outside scientific resolution) should not be allowed to rule
out any theory that explains the interrelationship of observed
data and is useful for prediction.
We in NASA were often asked what the real reason was for the
amazing string of successes we had with our Apollo flights to the
Moon. I think the only honest answer we could give was
that we tried to never overlook anything. It is in that
same sense of scientific honesty that I endorse the presentation
of alternative theories for the origin of the universe, life
and man in the science classroom. It would be an error
to overlook the possibility that the universe was planned rather
than happened by chance.
With kindest regards.
Wernher von Braun
Return to biography of Wernher von Braun.
AN ESSAY ON SCIENCE AND CHRISTIAN FAITH
This untitled essay was written as a foreword to a paperback book* by a
friend on the subject of creation, just a year before
Dr. von Braun went to be with the Lord.
Six Apollo crews have visited the moon and
returned safely to earth. The Skylab astronauts have spent 171
days, 13 hours, and 14 minutes working and living in space, and all
have returned hale and hearty to earth.
*Harold Hill, From Goo to You by Way of the Zoo,
Logos International (Plainfield, NJ 1976).
Why are we flying to the moon? What is our purpose?
What is the essential justification for the exploration of space?
The answer, I am convinced, lies rooted not in whimsy, but in the
nature of man.
Whereas all other living beings seem to find their
places in the natural order and fulfill their role in life with
a kind of calm acceptance, man clearly exhibits confusion.
Why the anxiety? Why the storm and stress? Man really
seems to be the only living thing uncertain of his role in the
universe; and in his uncertainty, he has been calling since time
immemorial upon the stars and the heavens for salvation and for
answers to his eternal questions: Who am I? Why am I here?
Astronomy is the oldest science, existed for thousands
of years as the only science, and is today considered the queen of
the sciences. Although man lacks the eye of the night owl,
the scent of the fox, or the hearing of the deer, he has an uncanny
ability to learn about abstruse things like the motions of the
planets, the cradle-to-the-grave cycle of the stars, and the
distance between stars.
The mainspring of science is curiosity.
There have always been men and women who felt a burning desire
to know what was under the rock, beyond the hills, across the
oceans. This restless breed now wants to know what makes
an atom work, through what process life reproduces itself, or
what is the geological history of the moon.
But there would not be a single great
accomplishment in the history of mankind without faith.
Any man who strives to accomplish something needs a degree of
faith. But many people find the churches, those old
ramparts of faith, badly battered by the onslaught of three
hundred years of scientific skepticism. This has led
many to believe that science and religion are not compatible,
that “knowing” and “believing” cannot live side by side.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Science and religion are not antagonists. On the contrary,
they are sisters. While science tries to learn more
about the creation, religion tries to better understand the Creator.
Many men who are intelligent and of good faith
say they cannot visualize God. Well, can a physicist
visualize an electron? The electron is materially inconceivable
and yet we use it to illuminate our cities, guide our airliners
through the night skies, and take the most accurate measurements.
What strange rationale makes some physicists accept the electron
as real while refusing to accept God? I am afraid that,
although they really do not understand the electron either,
they are ready to accept it because they managed to produce a
rather clumsy mechanical model of it borrowed from rather
limited experience in other fields, but they wouldnt know
how to begin building a model of God.
For me the idea of a creation is inconceivable
without God. One cannot be exposed to the law and order
of the universe without concluding that there must be a divine
intent behind it all.
Some evolutionists believe that the creation
is the result of a random arrangement of atoms and molecules
over billions of years. But when they consider the
development of the human brain by random processes within a
time span of less than a million years, they have to admit
that this span is just not long enough. Or take the
evolution of the eye in the animal world. What random
process could possibly explain the simultaneous evolution of
the eyes optical system, the conductors of the optical
signals from the eye to the brain, and the optical nerve center
in the brain itself where the incoming light impulses are
converted to an image the conscious mind can comprehend?
Our space ventures have been only the smallest of steps
in the vast reaches of the universe and have introduced more
mysteries than they have solved. Speaking for myself,
I can only say that the grandeur of the cosmos serves to
confirm my belief in the certainty of a Creator.
Of course, the discoveries in astronomy, biology,
physics, and even in psychology have shown that we have to
enlarge the medieval image of God. If there is a mind
behind the immense complexities of the multitude of phenomena
which man, through the tools of science, can now observe,
then it is that of a Being tremendous in His power and
wisdom. But we should not be dismayed by the relative
insignificance of our own planet in the vast universe as
modern science now sees it. In fact God deliberately
reduced Himself to the stature of humanity in order to
visit the earth in person, because the cumulative effect
over the centuries of millions of individuals choosing to
please themselves rather than God had infected the whole
planet. When God became a man Himself, the
experience proved to be nothing short of pure agony.
In mans time-honored fashion, they would unleash
the whole arsenal of weapons against Him: misrepresentation,
slander, and accusation of treason. The stage was
set for a situation without parallel in the history of
the earth. God would visit creatures and they
would nail Him to the cross!
Although I know of no reference to Christ
ever commenting on scientific work, I do know that He said,
“Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”
Thus I am certain that, were He among us today, Christ
would encourage scientific research as modern man’s most
noble striving to comprehend and admire His Father’s
handiwork. The universe as revealed through
scientific inquiry is the living witness that God has
indeed been at work.
When astronaut Frank Borman returned from
his unforgettable Christmas, 1968, flight around the
moon with Apollo 8, he was told that a Soviet Cosmonaut
recently returned from a space flight had commented that
he had seen neither God nor angels on his flight.
Had Borman seen God? the reporter inquired.
Frank Borman replied, “No, I did not see Him either,
but I saw His evidence.”
WERNHER VON BRAUN
Engineering and Development
Germantown, Maryland 1976
Return to biography of Wernher von Braun.