Last Friday, acclaimed British astronaut Tim Peake spoke at Peterborough Cathedral about the possibility that the universe was designed. While doing a tour with the space capsule that brought him back to Earth in 2016, The Times reports Peake as stating:

“Although I say I’m not religious it doesn’t necessarily mean that I don’t seriously consider that the universe could have been created from intelligent design…”

“There are many things in science that lead us towards that conclusion. From a point of view of seeing how magnificent the Earth is from space and seeing the cosmos from a different perspective, it helps you to relate to that.

“That’s the macro level. When you look at the smaller scale, the micro level, and you understand quantum mechanics and quantum physics, there are many things that lead us towards intelligent design of the universe.”

Fast-forward to Tuesday, and BBC Radio 4’s Justin Webb is quizzing Peake on his heretical statement. The presenter pursues a strangely aggressive line of inquiry, introducing the segment with,

“It’s an opinion you might associate with those who don’t think much of science, perhaps in the southern states of the US, where evolutionists are regarded with suspicion…”

Apparently Webb is completely unfamiliar with the debate, and doesn’t know the difference between the debate over whether the universe was designed (the fine-tuning debate), and the debate over intelligent design in evolution. Peake is arguing for the former, which is far more ‘intellectually respectable’ than the latter. (Of course being ‘intellectually respectable’ has no effect on whether either are true or false. In fact it’s often an inverse relationship…).

Peake defends his loosely held views well, and refuses to be beaten down on them. You can listen to the 4-minute segment in full here:

Peake is not the first astronaut to have a sense of divine design stirred by the view from space. Apollo astronaut Edgar Mitchell reported being so affected by seeing Earth from space that he developed ‘an overwhelming sense of universal connectedness… an ecstacy of unity.’ He even went so far as to say, “My view of our planet was a glimpse of divinity.” Quartz reports that other Apollo astronauts such as Charlie Duke and Jim Erwin became religious preachers after their other-worldly experiences.

It’s not hard to see why. The sheer sense of awe at seeing the planet from space must raise the big questions in a visceral way. But is it just an emotional reaction of disconnected astronauts, or does Peake’s suggestion have the support of scientific evidence? We think it does, and our upcoming articles will explore just this topic. Stay tuned!

Cover photo courtesy of the Department of Innovation, Skills and Business (Flickr)