Is science the new religion, or is it possible to meld traditional religious beliefs and modern scientific theory?
Last Friday afternoon, heart surgeon Dr. Gary Ott spoke in Murray Fraser Hall to over 200 students, staff and other attendees. His multimedia presentation, entitled "Science and God: Accident or Design? Finding meaning in an age of skepticism", looked to biological systems for evidence of a God-directed evolutionary process.
"I had an interest in making my scientific endeavour consistent with my faith," said Ott, who is a Surgical Director in the Heart Failure/Transplant Program at Providence Heart Institute in Portland, Oregon.
Ott argued that religion and science do not have to be mutually exclusive. While he accepts many aspects of evolutionary theory, he believes it is implausible the complex biological systems present on Earth evolved purely by chance. He asserted that unexplained gaps in evolution are evidence there is some sort of design behind the process.
Campus Crusade for Christ invited Ott to speak and raised funds in the community to cover the expenses.
"[The purpose of the event was] to try and show science is not an alternative to God, but merely a tool pointing us to whether God may or may not exist," said event organizer Chris Harman.
Although Campus Crusade for Christ sponsored the event, the presentation did not target Christians exclusively.
"We wanted to stay away from a Christian-specific perspective," said Harman.
The talk did, however, target the scientific community. While Ott's presentation was articulate and punctuated with humour, a background in biological sciences was needed to follow his argument.
"It was definitely geared to very scientific people," said first-year General Studies student Carolyn Miller.
The question period following the presentation illustrated the divide between scientific and religious perspectives as the scientists in the audience emphatically voiced their objections. Most questions reflected specific, technical rebuttals of Ott's arguments.
"I'm not surprised that it arouses passions," said Ott. "People usually come in with an idea already about what they're going to believe. This makes for good discussion."
Ott quickly rebuffed each of the objections, although he did encourage people to investigate the relevant evidence and draw their own conclusions.
Just as the debate was heating up, time ran out.
"I think it was cut a little short," said first-year Social Work student Karen Briggs.
While both Briggs and Miller wanted to hear more, they said they appreciated the opportunity to examine how science fits in with their own beliefs.