MSU and MIT professors meet to discuss science and God

Due to the success of the “Christianity and the Tooth Fairy” dialogue held in April 2015, the Veritas forum returned to MSU on Jan. 26 with “Our Place in the Universe.” The dialogue was held between an agnostic philosopher and a Christian scientist in order to compare and contrast their differing worldviews. Due to the large attendance at the last event, the dialogue was held in the SUB ballrooms. Most of the seating was occupied.


The event was moderated by MSU Philosophy Professor Gregg Valeriano and featured Ian Hutchinson, an author and professor of nuclear physics at MIT, and David “Max” Maxfield, an adjunct professor of philosophy at MSU. Hutchinson and Maxfield took the stances of Christian and agnostic, respectively.


Following a brief introduction, in which the audience was assured that “tonight’s event is not a debate,” the participants were introduced.


The dialogue began with each participant having 15 minutes to state their point and worldview, with Hutchinson going first.


In his opening statement, Hutchinson iterated that traditional education is not anti-religious, but is in fact Christian in origin, quoting Francis Bacon in that the purpose of education is the “relief of Man’s estate” and that it is very Christian in nature.


He argued that “Christianity doesn’t call for blind faith, it calls us to intelligent faith,” and that his beliefs are evidence based, but not upon evidence that can be examined by science.


Maxfield began his statement with an impromptu poll of the audience to determine their beliefs. He encouraged them to question their beliefs, saying “If you don’t change your mind at least once on something big in college, then we [the faculty] failed you.” He challenged the perceived assertion of monotheistic religions that humanity is significant in a cosmic sense, saying that while possible, it was not probable or logical.


Following their opening statements, Maxfield and Hutchinson addressed each other’s points, covering topics including whether Christianity was human-centric, the reasons why Christianity’s stance on various scientific findings has changed over time and just what constitutes evidence of God’s existence.


When challenged to consider what may be the strongest evidence against God’s existence, Hutchinson replied that he felt it was the existence of “evil and pain” and that the Christian faith recognizes the reality of suffering in its teachings.


At this point the floor was open to questions from the audience, including “When will science and faith become incompatible?” “Does your worldview allow for ultimate moral truth?” “Where do you stand concerning Christian sects whose views cannot be reconciled with science?” and “What is accomplished by three white men up on the stage arguing about the existence of God?” All of the questions were discussed at length by Maxfield and Hutchinson.


Valeriano concluded the night by asking Maxfield and Hutchinson the question “What kind of evidence would cause you to change your mind?”


Hutchinson answered that it would require convincing evidence that the resurrection of Jesus Christ had not taken place while Maxfield replied that, based on his knowledge and past experiences, it would be hard to imagine such an experience.


The event then concluded, with the invitation to gather at the Union Market afterwards for refreshments and further discussion.