Click here to read reviewer Mary B. Stuart's take on The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief.
Dr. Francis S. Collins has a PhD in Chemistry and an MD. After years working on genetic diseases, he became head of the national Human Genome Project that, in competition with Craig Ventner’s private firm, worked out the DNA code which makes up our biological instructions. In this book he explains his religious belief.
Collins tells us a disarming story of his travel from agnosticism, to atheism,
to faith. He attributes the latter to a realization that he possesses a Moral Law or drive to altruism, and a Longing for something noble. After reading C.S. Lewis, he decided that those feelings were implanted by God. He dismisses the possibility that evolution endowed us with species-helping social feelings.
Thus he must defend his belief in the existence of God.
A reader of history will recognize that over time, as science has explained more things—from levers, to the earth, to gravity, to the solar system, to quantum mechanics, to DNA, smart believers have continually moved back their necessity for God. They acknowledge the unguided work of nature from some starting point.
Collins does also, and he strives to construct “harmony between science and faith.” He points out that modern physics posits fifteen constants, like the speed of light, without which our current universe couldn’t exist. Since there are no other accepted explanations for the Big Bang, he believes that only a supernatural being could have created a universe so tailored for us. That is the starting point from which nature evolves.
He does not explain the creation of that supernatural being.
As modern physics should be embraced by religion, so should modern biology. Two thirds of this book describes Dr. Collins’s genetic efforts and his belief in Darwin and Evolution. The complexity of life, driven by DNA and chemistry, is a result of that initial, supernatural cause. Although gracefully written, none of this narrative is new.
Scientist believers like Collins have adjusted their view of reality. Now, the Old Testament creation of the earth is replaced by the universe’s Big Bang, Eve and Eden are pushed aside as an allegory and pre-hominids acknowledged, the earth’s age is permitted to elongate from six thousand to four and a half billion years, and Creationism is dumped for Evolution. But shouldn’t those reluctant surrenders lead to suspicion that religious defenses will be overrun again?
Still, one could logically believe Collins’s line that a supernatural start is compatible with science—until proven wrong. And such proofs are either possible or intellectuals persuadable. Those physical constants might be derivable from the Theory of Everything that theorists seek. So could the Big Bang. It is hard to argue that a kind God lets Aids viruses proliferate. But theory construction is what one does all the time in the scientific process. We propound an hypothesis and stand back. Collins has every right to do so, too.
Still, I wonder at the man. He has provided an unsubstantiated conviction as an answer to an open question. He has abandoned the scientific process.
Further, Collins dismisses the theories of deists like Newton and our country’s founders that God started a complicated clockwork and then wandered off to other duties. Because of that Moral Law and Longing implanted in his heart, he believes that God “takes personal interest in human beings.” The real issue to the reviewer is Collins’s belief that God meddles or, at least, follows each of the trillions of humans that have and are living on this earth. This has political consequences and is thus more important than a simple theory of causation.
There appears to be thin grounds for such a conviction, none that offer the experimental proof required by science.