George Coyne, an ordained Catholic priest and renowned astronomer, discussed intelligent design and evolution at a lecture Sept. 4 in the Mildred and Ernest E. Mayo Concert Hall.
“Evolution and Intelligent Design: Who Needs God?” explored the disparity between religion and science.
Coyne, who was director of the Vatican Observatory in Italy until his retirement in 2006, said intelligent design, or creationism, “belittles God.”
“I am going to, for better or worse, take on the intelligent design movement in this country,” Coyne began the lecture. “I’m not going to apologize on the statements I make.”
The lecture, which began with a brief history of the universe, narrowed down the 14 billion year-old universe into one year, with human existence only coming in during the last two seconds of the year.
Coyne said it is impossible for science to fully embrace God.
“We seek for natural explanations of natural events. God is beyond this kind of explanation,” he added.
Coyne narrowed down the complex argument between intelligent design and evolution to an argument between chance and necessity.
“If (the universe) was created by chance, who needs God?” Coyne asked. “If by necessity, then someone had the necessity. Someone designed it.”
However, Coyne said this argument is not adequate enough for him.
He said although he believes in God, and believes God created the universe, he cannot believe in intelligent design as a scientist.
“God gave the universe a certain structure so we could come about, but he didn’t predetermine it,” he said. “He created the universe and then let it go.”
Coyne spoke briefly about the religious and political implications of the debate between intelligent design and evolution.
“The chasm between religious faith and scientific research is falsely created, especially in this country,” he said.
Coyne gave examples of conversations he has had with parents concerned their child was being taught evolution in school.
He personally encourages evolution to be taught in school, not intelligent design.
“You shouldn’t talk about God in a science classroom,” he said.
According to Coyne, it is the parents’ duty to teach their child about God if they want, not the science teacher’s responsibility.
He also said as a scientist, he cannot truly believe in the biblical explanation for the creation of the world.
“The Genesis stories are the most beautiful stories I’ve ever read. They’re stories. Not science,” Coyne said.
He concluded a Q-and-A session by saying regardless of his status as a Catholic priest, he continues to think critically about his faith.
“Our faith in God . is something that should always be a challenge,” he said.
Audience members said they felt the lecture was accessible.
“It was good. It really cleared up a couple of things I had been wondering about,” Stephanie Laurent, freshman criminology major, said. “Religion is abstract and you can’t really touch it. Science, you could find evidence and actually believe that it’s true. Religion only uses the Bible, and you can’t really explain it.”