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Science and Faith — A Report from Colombia

Are science and faith incompatible or complementary?

From November 7 to 9, 2018, Richard Sternberg and I from Discovery Institute joined three other speakers in Bogotá, Colombia, to address this question before a large audience at the First International Congress of Science and Faith.

I would have posted this report much sooner, but after returning from Bogotá I came down with a bad case of the flu. By the time I recovered the holidays were upon us, and I found myself preoccupied with our visiting children and grandchildren. I apologize for the long delay.

The Congress was held at a Roman Catholic private school, Liceo de Cervantes, which is affiliated with the Catholic university Unicervantina. Its principal organizers were Fr. Ronal Antívar and Mr. Fernando Loaiza, and it was endorsed by (among others) the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. Often the 600-seat auditorium was filled almost to capacity, with people standing at the back.

In addition to Rick and me, the speakers included Fr. Michael Chaberek from Poland, Dr. Jay Richards from Washington, D.C., and Fr. Nelson Medina from Colombia. All the talks except Fr. Medina’s were simultaneously translated into Spanish and transmitted to headsets worn by people in the audience. During the question-and-answer periods the four English-speaking presenters wore headsets to receive Spanish-to-English translations of the questions.

The agenda for the three-day conference was:

First Day
What is this controversy about? (Wells)
Neo-Darwinism and intelligent design (Sternberg)
The limits of natural science and theology (Chaberek)
Are we a speck in the universe? (Richards)
Reality of the immaterial (Medina)

Second Day
Universal common ancestry: Arguments for and against (Wells)
Cambrian explosion: Is there a scientific explanation? (Sternberg)
Thomas Aquinas and theistic evolution (Chaberek)
God and evolution? (Richards)
Is there something unique in human intelligence? (Medina)

Third Day
Icons of evolution (Wells)
What is a gene? (Sternberg)
Evolution and the book of Genesis (Chaberek)
God and intelligent design (Richards)
Intelligent machines: The next evolutionary step? (Medina)

The audience included many priests and nuns, Catholic lay workers, university students, scores of high school students in their school uniforms, and others. I was impressed at how attentive the audience was, and how thoughtful their questions were. Because of the audience, and because of the unique mix of high quality talks on all aspects of the controversy — scientific, theological, and philosophical — Rick and I agreed that this was one of the best conferences we had ever attended.

Photo: A image from Fr. Michael Chaberek’s website Aquinas.Design.