Did God create the universe or was it a random natural occurrence? The University of Findlay’s Campus Ministries hosted a lively debate about the topic on Thursday, Feb. 21. Featured were guest speakers Ivana Nikolic Hughes, Ph.D., a Columbia University chemistry professor representing the atheist perspective; and Robert DiSilvestro, Ph.D., a human nutrition scientist from The Ohio State University, voicing Christian beliefs.
The Big Bang theory, which posits that a force caused concentrated matter to explode, forming our solar systems and other observable matter, was addressed by both speakers and used to support their stances.
Watch the video of the event here.
Hughes mentioned famed astronomer Edwin Hubble and the telescope named after him, to support scientific hypothesis regarding time, space and matter. The telescope’s “Hubble Ultra Deep Field” image has helped scientists estimate the universe is home to about 100 billion galaxies, which speaks to the scope of existence, and does anything but prove there is a supernatural element to the universe.
Evidence from fossils, asteroid hits to earth, microbial changes and evolution also point to random, naturally-occurring changes on earth’s surface, Hughes pointed out.
“Data from all these different sciences points to the same thing. To say that the Bible is right is a bit misleading,” said Hughes.
DiSilvestro, however, maintained that the vastness of the universe, the meticulous positioning of matter, and the diversity of species does support theological concepts.
“I would submit to you that God did it (caused the Big Bang) is not a ridiculous proposition,” said DiSilvestro. To back up his claim, he used statements from well-respected scientists who support the notion of intelligent creation. Some of those include Anthony Flue, who, later in life, “became convinced there had to be a God based on science” due to the perfect conditions on earth that make life possible; and Francis Crick, the co-author of the paper that proposed the double helix structure of the DNA molecule, who concluded such matter couldn’t be created by merely natural means.
“There are a lot of scientists that say we are a privileged planet, and who don’t have a particular theology,” DiSilvestro maintained.
When asked how atheism is most misunderstood, Hughes addressed morality. “I think there’s a connotation, especially in this country, that there’s something morally wrong with being an atheist,” she said. “But I find an incredible amount of inspiration, love and meaning for what science tells us about the natural world.”
In answer to the same question, DiSilvestro mentioned “the idea that science can’t say anything about whether there could be a supernatural being. Why is it that science can’t look for clues that there’s an outside designer?” he asked.
The Thursday event was the second Open Dialogue hosted by Campus Ministry. Its purpose is to foster civil and respectful discussions about religious-focused topics. The debate was free and open to the public.