Creationism and evolution debated

Published: Tuesday, October 28, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, October 27, 2008 at 10:12 p.m.

While a debate Monday at the University of Florida was billed as creationism vs. evolution, Christian lecturer Douglas Jacoby asked the audience, "Why not both?"

"The point is you can be both a scientist and believe in God," he said.

But professional skeptic Michael Shermer said the existence of God is not testable and by definition is not science.

"No, I can't prove there's no God, but I can't prove there's no Bigfoot either," he said.

The duo debated before an overflow crowd of more than 1,000 people in the Grand Ballroom of the University of Florida's Reitz Union. The student-run Accent Speaker's Bureau sponsored the event.

Shermer is publisher of Skeptic magazine, which debunks pseudoscience and the paranormal. Douglas Jacoby is a Christian minister who has lectured in more than 80 countries.

Jacoby said Charles Darwin was misrepresented as an atheist and actually believed that evolution and religion could co-exist. The debate between creationism and evolution has since degenerated into a wrestling match in the U.S., he said. "In the United States it's a big deal because things are very charged, very polarized," he said.

Shermer billed himself as a "militant agnostic," saying he agreed with a bumper sticker that said, "I don't know and you don't know either."

Religion has sometimes been used to fill in the gaps of science, he said.

"There are certain things I think we cannot know, but why fill that gap with a particular deity?" he said.

A flaw in intelligent design is the question of who designed the designer, he said. He said the fossil record shows a period of billions of years before the evolution of humans.

"There's nothing creative in terms of a spark of creation or an overnight Genesis event," he said.

Jacoby said that like the nine months it takes for someone to be born, God works in sometimes lengthy scientific processes.

"What was God doing for 3.5 billion years?" he said. "God takes his sweet time."

Shermer said it was a "cosmic accident" that human life developed on the planet. Vestigial structures such as male nipples and the appendix show how humans developed over time, he said.

"All design is natural from planets to plants to people," he said.

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