Since Galileo's persecution by the Inquisition in the 1600s, a deep rift has existed between religion and science. Today, the division continues, as debate rages over human origins and the science of evolution. The topic was brought to the fore recently at the University of Calgary in a seminar debating the subject of creation vs. evolution.
The evening debate Thu., Oct. 6 pitted two evolution proponents, Dr. Denis Lamoureux and Dr. Michael Caldwell, both of the University of Alberta, against creationist John Mackay, International Director of Creation Research.
The two people defending the scientific evidence for evolution each had a distinctive philosophy.
"The Jesus I prayed to as a young Earth creationist is the same holy Jesus I pray to now," explained Lamoureux of his stance as a devoted born-again Christian biologist. "There is nothing that says you have to be an atheist to be a scientist. You don't have to be one or another."
With Lamoureux combining science and religion, Caldwell was a self-proclaimed unapologetic atheist paleontologist, and Mackay an avowed creationist.
Mackay quickly differentiated himself, proclaiming his belief that God formed humankind, and the Bible, as the word of God, is inerrant.
"Theistic evolution is a contradiction," Mackay asserted, assaulting Lamoureux's prior words. "Much of present day biological knowledge is ideological. The evidence shows that creations have only produced their own kind, as stated in scripture."
Caldwell was passionate in his opening.
"Is the concept of creation defensible?" he asked. "No, not by science. There is no evidence of the flood, that dinosaurs and man lived together. Is the concept of evolution defensible? Yes, by science."
Held in Murray Fraser Hall, there was ample room for the 150 plus audience. However, audience sentiment was firmly divided, as illustrated by one attendee's inquiry to another prior to debate, "So what side are you on?"
"I came here to see a live debate," commented Dan Rento, a student at a Bible institute outside Calgary. "I wanted to see what the evolutionists' theory was about."
Despite best efforts by presenters, pre-existing notions proved hard to alter, as audience members were admittedly 'not swayed at all' in a poll by organizers following the debate.
While heated at times, the debate failed in some respects, according to the evolutionist Caldwell.
"It went off well, but there was no questioning on creationism," said Caldwell following the debate. "It was a night of poking holes in evolution. I am remarkably antagonistic to attempts of calling creationist science a real science."
The debate was the first segment of a three-day conference on creationism. The organizers of the event, Creation Truth Ministries, are 'dedicated to defending the authority of the Bible and...to see unbelievers come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ."