Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Book Review: The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief

In The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief, geneticist Francis Collins, who was head of the NIH Human Genome Project, shares his journey from Atheism to Christianity and the high value both science and faith have for him.

Some may pick up this book thinking that it is a Christian defense of one or both of the Creationist or Intelligent Design movements. Rather, it is a plea by a Christian biologist for understanding between the theological and scientific communities. To be sure, Collins is a believing Christian in the very traditional sense of the term, but he is equally a lover of science. He believes deeply in God as our Creator, but also subscribes unequivocally to Darwin's theory of evolution.

He devotes equal portions of the book to explaining the reasons he embraced Christianity and to the reasons he believes in evolution.

At the end, he writes to believers skeptical of science,
I hope you are reassured by the potential for harmony between faith and science...If God is the Creator of all the universe, if God had a specific plan for the arrival of humankind on the scene, and if He had a desire for personal fellowship with humans, into whom He had instilled the Moral Law as a signpost toward Himself, then He can hardly be threatened by the efforts of our puny minds to understand the grandeur of His creation.(1)
A few lines down, he exhorts believers to consider the words of Copernicus, who said, "To know the mighty works of God; to comprehend His wisdom and majesty and power; to appreciate, in degree, the wonderful working of His laws, surely all this must be a pleasing and acceptable mode of worship to the Most High, to whom ignorance cannot be more grateful than knowledge."(2)

On the other hand, he writes to those "who trust the tools of science but remain skeptical about faith,"
Science alone is not enough to answer all the important questions... The meaning of human existence, the reality of God, the possibility of an afterlife, and many other spiritual questions lay outside of the reach of the scientific method. While an atheist may claim that those questions are therefore unanswerable and irrelevant, that does not resonate with most individual's human experience.(3)
Later he says, "Science is not the only way of knowing. The spiritual worldview provides another way of finding truth."(4)

My only criticism of the book is the author's curt, albeit cordial, dismissal of the Intelligent Design ("ID") movement and the significant distinction ID scholars have made between microevolution (adaptation within species) and macroevolution (the transformation from one species to another).

Despite the heavy topics tackled by the book, it generally carries a personal and humble tone throughout. Dr. Collins account of his gradual journey from Agnosticism, to Atheism, to Theism, to Christianity is instructive and rings tremendously genuine.

The book is recommended to those generally interested in the Faith and Science dynamic.
(2)pp. 230, 231
(3)p. 228
(4)p. 229


B. Hold said...

Nice review! Sounds like a book I'll have to pick up sometime. I'm taking a Biological Anthropology class right now and we got into a big discussion about Intelligent Design. Few people seem to realize that the early Church Fathers came to no consensus on the question of how to interpret Genesis 1. There has never been an ecumenical statement on whether creation was formed in six 24-hour days, six 1,000-year days, or six 10,000-year days. Various saints have held to one idea or the other, but I think it's important for us to realize that the scientific method, though it makes great discoveries, is not something that can touch God, faith, mysticism, etc. Science should not be feared or pitted against us, as it will never be able to prove or disprove God.

elgreca262 said...

one truth or law that cannot be supported and has not thus far: Man did not evolve from a chip and has not evolved from other species we were created in the image and likeness of God.

Nader Alfie said...

B.Hold,Thanks so much for your encouragement and your thoughtful post.

Elgreca, Your point is certainly well-taken. Dr. Collins' view is one of many. I think he might say, to your point regarding the theological concept that humans are created in the image of God, "Well perhaps one shouldn't get to hung up on the notion that this scripture is referring to physical anatomy...the image of God seems alot more about mind and spirit than body. Does God have toe nails? A belly button?" (p. 205