James Irwin: An Astronaut Rejects Evolution

Dr Jerry Bergman

Author, Speaker, Professor

James Benson Irwin (March 17, 1930 – August 8, 1991) was an American astronaut and scientist. He was the Apollo 15 Lunar Module Pilot on the fourth human lunar landing, and was the eighth human to ever walk on the Moon (Reynolds, 2002). Irwin was also very active in the creation movement for most of his life.

Early Life

Since childhood, Irwin dreamed of going to the Moon (Irwin, 1989, p. 5). After Irwin graduated from East High School in Salt Lake City, Utah, he received a Bachelor of Science in Naval Science from the United States Naval Academy, and a Master of Science in Aeronautical Engineering from the University of Michigan.

In preparation for becoming an astronaut, he was required to study in detail several science fields, including geology, astronomy, and spacecraft design (Irwin, 1989, p. 11). Religiously, he was a skeptic during his educational years, but after extensive research he became convinced that Darwinism was false and Biblical Creation was true (Anonymous, 1991).

Apollo 15

Apollo 15, called “exploration at its greatest,” landed on the Moon’s Hadley-Apennine region, an area noted for its high mountains and deep valleys (Reynolds, 2002, p.171). A lunar module named Falcon transported the crew from the Endeavor rocket to the Moon’s surface (Irwin, 1989, p. 32). Between July 26 and August 7, 1971, Irwin logged 295 hours and 11 minutes as the Apollo 15 Lunar Module Pilot. Irwin’s task was more science-based than previous expeditions, thus he spent a total of 18.5 hours on the Moon surface, more time than did his colleagues in earlier missions.

While on the Moon, Irwin and his co-worker completed numerous detailed scientific experiments, such as charting seismic activity, collecting high-energy particles emitted by the Sun, and obtaining core and rock samples (Irwin, 1989, p. 35). He returned to Earth with 77 kg (170 lbs.) of rocks. This work required intensive geological training to meet the demands of the first “J”-class missions of Moon exploration (Reynolds, 2002). His extra training is credited with allowing the Apollo 15 team to make one of the most important discoveries of the entire Apollo era: the so-called Genesis Rock (Woods, 2006), thought to be the oldest rock from the lunar crust.

In their three separate excursions lasting over three days, they explored the spectacular Apollo landing site, a narrow valley hemmed in on three sides by the 4,500-m-high Apennine Mountains, and on the fourth side by a two-km-wide canyon called Hadley Rille. The patch Irwin cut from the backpack that was abandoned on the Moon during the Apollo 15 mission and later retrieved was auctioned at Christie’s in 2001 for $310,500. A consignment of material from Irwin’s estate garnered a combined 500,000 dollars (Anonymous, 2007).

An Active Creationist

Beyond his NASA astronaut achievements, Irwin is well known for his many Christian and creationism activities. He wrote about the importance of his NASA experience on his Christianity as follows:

I am now more than an earthling, because I have walked on the moon. Being on the moon had a profound spiritual impact upon my life. Before I entered space with the Apollo 15 mission in July of 1971, I was…[a] silent Christian, but I feel the Lord sent me to the moon so I could return to the earth and share his Son, Jesus Christ. (Irwin, 1983, p. 7)

In 1972 he retired from the Air Force and founded the High Flight Foundation. Its focus was on helping others realize that science facts support, not evolutionism, but rather creation.  He spent the next 20 years proclaiming the fact that Jesus walking on the Earth is far more important than mankind walking on the Moon (Irwin, 1983). He wrote that it is critically important to recognize the Creator of this great planet and the universe in which it exists. After all, He is the one who created the laws of science that make space travel possible. (Irwin, 1989, p. 46)
Irwin frequently spoke about how his experiences in space had made the presence of God far more real to him than before. One example is the finding of the so-called Genesis Rock:

Most of the rocks previously brought back from the moon were dark, dense basalt. Scientists knew that if the moon were composed entirely of this dense rock, it could not possibly be in its present orbit. It would be too heavy [dense]. They knew there had to be an abundance of lighter material, lighter in density and color. Our mission was to find a lighter rock from the mountains on the moon. While we were exploring … we’ve found … a pure, white rock, the oldest rock brought back from the moon—part of the deep internal material which had been ejected to make the mountains—and the most important scientific discovery of our mission. The press labeled it the “Genesis” rock, for it confirmed the fact that the earth and moon were created at the same time, giving scientific proof of the creation story of Genesis 1:14-18 (Irwin, 1983, p. 50).

Thomsen added that:

World-renowned scientists testing the “Genesis Rock” with sophisticated radiometric dating technology made one of the greatest discoveries of space exploration. They discovered that the moon and earth had come into existence at just about the same time. That simple white stone, the “Genesis Rock,” found sitting on its pedestal at the base of Mt. Hadley by astronauts Scott and Irwin, had scientifically confirmed the biblical creation account (Thomsen, 1997, p. 73).

Thomsen added Irwin believed that “in Genesis, the first book of the Bible, you will find the truth about where the moon, the earth, and the sun came from” and “how God created all things out of nothing in six days, how God created the earth on the first day, and then, seventy-two hours later on the fourth day made the moon, the sun, and the rest of the universe” (Thomsen, 1997, pp. 72). Irwin did not have concerns about the putative long ages accepted by evolutionary scientists because he accepted the mature creation worldview (Bergman, 2012), which teaches that

God had created each thing with age built in; such as, on the third day, He had instantly made fully grown fruit trees with fruit on them and seeds in the fruit. And how on the fourth day, He instantly made light that shone on the earth, having come from stars billions of light-years out in the universe. And on the sixth day… He created Adam—a fully grown man. ….  These things Colonel Irwin had accepted … just as Wernher von[Braun] had done (Thomsen, 1997, pp. 72-73).

Ever since he was a boy, Irwin wanted to search for Noah’s Ark, and after he retired from NASA he had the opportunity to fulfill his lifelong dream.

Irwin’s Search for Noah’s Ark

Locating the remains of Noah’s Ark, if any remained, was his life’s passion (Cruz, 1991, p. 3). Beginning in 1973, Irwin was involved in several expeditions to Mount Ararat, a 17,000-foot high mountain in Turkey, in search for evidence of the remains of Noah's Ark (Goltz, 1985). In 1982 he was the leader of an expedition supported by the Turkish President, Kenan Euren, who graciously provided Irwin with the required permits (Sobel, 1983, p 116).

In return for President Euren’s support, Irwin presented to him a Turkish flag that had once flown on the moon (Irwin, 1985, p. 14). Three elite Turkish commandos were required to accompany the 14 researchers on the trip because this area is only a few miles from the border between Iran and the old Soviet Union (Sobel, 1983, p. 116).

On this trip Irwin and another man were severely injured from falling rock while climbing Ararat. Irwin was unconscious for five hours, and his injuries were so severe that he had to be transported by Turkish Lieutenant Orhan Baser and his commando team down the mountain on a horse, and then by car to the nearest hospital, which turned out to be poorly equipped.

Lieutenant Baser was one of the Turks assigned to protect and lead the team on this expedition. The group of 14 persons required 30 horses to carry their equipment. While they were climbing, Soviet guards shot and killed two Turks who were not involved in the expedition (Irwin, 1985, p. 57). The team was eventually forced to abort the search for the Ark due to the accident and enormous difficulties involved in the climb. Part of the difficulty is Mt. Ararat is the highest mountain in Turkey, and is one of the largest landmasses of any single mountain in the entire world (Irwin, 1985, p. 69).

Irwin returned to Mt. Ararat in 1983 and 1985 in further attempts to locate evidence of the Ark. In the end, they found no compelling evidence of the Ark. Around the time of the 1985 expedition a group of eight Kurdish separatists ambushed and robbed at least four different groups of foreigners who were attempting to climb the mountain. In retaliation, the Turkish military killed three Kurds and captured another suspected of causing the ambush (Goltz, 1985, p. 5).

Health Problems Began on Apollo 15

It was during an intense period of work on the Moon that the first symptoms of Irwin’s heart problems appeared (Chaikin, 1998). He was working for 23 hours straight, during which time he conducted a moonwalk, performed the ascent from the lunar surface and rendezvoused with Endeavor, the command module (Woods, 2007).

The astronauts’ physiological vital signs were being monitored back on Earth, and the flight surgeons noticed irregularities in Irwin’s heart rhythms (Kraft, 2001). Dr. Berry concluded that he was in not in serious danger despite the strain his heart was under then. The one hundred percent oxygen cabin and zero gravity of Endeavor produced ideal health conditions (Kraft, 2001).

Irwin later suffered a major heart attack near his Colorado Springs home. He died from a subsequent heart attack on August 8, 1991, at age 61 (Anonymous, 1991). Over 1200 supporters and family, including seven astronauts, attended his memorial service (Cruz, 1991, p. 1). The James Irwin Charter Schools were founded in Colorado in his honor.

Irwin is an excellent example of a creationist who has achieved enormous accomplishments in science. His guiding faith was that, as “God-designed creatures,” humans were “meant to relate to our creator” (Irwin, 1983, p. 24). He was honored with burial in Section 3 of Arlington National Cemetery.


Allen, Sam. 1985. To Ulster’s Credit. Killinchy, UK: (unnamed publisher), p. 123.

Anonymous. 1991. “Astronaut Jim Irwin Led Searches for Noah’s Ark in Years After Moon Walk.” The Toledo Blade, August 10.
 ______. 2007. Antiques Road Show Insider 7(2):11, February.

Biographical Data: James Irwin. Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, National Aeronautics and Space Administration. 1991.

Chaikin, Andrew. 1994. A Man on the Moon II: The Odyssey Continues. Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books.
______. 1998. A Man on the Moon. Toronto, Ontario, Canada: Penguin Books.

Cruz, Nicky. 1991. “A Tribute to Jim Irwin.” Apogee. September, pp. 1, 3-4.

Goltz. Thomas. 1985. “Ex-Astronaut Leads Search for Noah’s Ark.” The Daily Sentinel-Tribune.   Bowling Green, Ohio. August 26, p. 5.

Gorman, James. 1984. “Righteous Stuff.” Omni 6(8):46-48, 98-102.

Irwin, James. 1973. To Rule the Night: The Discovery Voyage of Astronaut Jim Irwin. (with William A. Emerson, Jr.). Philadelphia, PA: A.J. Holman.
______. 1983. More Than Earthlings. Nashville, TN: Broadman Press.
______. 1984. Search for Noah’s Ark. Track Published by High Flight.
______. 1985. More Than an Ark on Ararat: Spiritual Lessons Learned While Searching for Noah's Ark (with Monte Unger). Nashville, TN: Broadman Press.
______. 1989. Destination: Moon. Portland, OH: Multnomah Press

Irwin, Mary, and Madeline Harris. 1971. The Moon Is Not Enough: An Astronaut’s Wife Finds Peace With God and Herself. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Kraft, Chris, and James L. Schefter. 2001. Flight: My Life in Mission Control. New York, NY: Penguin Group.

Reynolds, David West. 2002. Apollo: The Epic Journey to the Moon. New York: Tehabi Books.

Sobel, Dava. 1983. “In Search of the Real Noah’s Ark.” Omni 5(6):116.

Thomsen, Paul. 1997. Flight of The Falcon: The Thrilling Adventures of Colonel Jim Irwin. El Cajon, CA: Institute for Creation Research.

Woods, David. 2006. “Mountains of the Moon.” Apollo 15 Lunar Surface Journal. NASA.

Woods, David. 2012. “Apollo 15 Flight Summary.” Apollo Flight Journal. NASA. http://www.hq.nasa.gov/office/pao/History/ap15fj/a15summary.htm.