Chief Science Correspondent
As the leader of the Human Genome Project, and now the Director of the National Institutes of Health, Francis Collins’ devotion to the Christian faith might seem unconventional.
Religious faith and scientific inquiry may appear to stand at odds with one another. And if you turn on the news, you’ll probably believe that they are. But in his book “The Language of God,” Collins presents a compelling argument that this isn’t the way things have to be.
Collins does not attempt to prove that God exists. Rather, he explains that any religious deity cannot be – and never will be – able to be proven by the scientific method. He explains that the spiritual world and the physical world are separate entities governed by different physical laws. Therefore, any attempt to use science to prove a religious belief will inevitably fail.
It is for this reason that Collins rejects the Intelligent Design theory proposed as a way for religious believers to find a Creator’s hands within science. This type of “research” fails because it does not function on a hypothesis, but the idea that there should be a way for us to use science to prove that the world has a Creator. Ultimately, ID employs circular logic, and many of its claims about how biological systems operate have been disproven.
Many people have mislabeled Collins as an ID supporter. This claim is completely false, and completely contrary to Collins’ actual thoughts on the issue. Collins argues that believers can appreciate science from a logical, non-theological perspective while continuing to believe in a higher power. He says that although
scientists should not use God to explore science, the nature of exploration can lead to a better understanding of their religion. He argues that a Creator who endowed His people with intellect and curiosity would want his followers to try and use their tools to better understand the world he created. Collins writes, “Science can be a form of worship.”
Collins actually supports the lesser-known proposal known as theistic evolution (although he renames it BioLogos), in which a believer acknowledges that a Creator made a universe that ultimately led to the development of the world and life as we know it today. Although this Creator knew that his creation
would ultimately lead to human life, He did not actively guide the process Himself. Now, scientists are left to study the world and ultimately, indirectly, better understand the work of God.
For some reason, many religious groups have stood in resistance to science under the guise that the discoveries will threaten their faiths. This is sad. It’s why we still continue to resist the idea of evolution. Even the controversies of vaccines and global warming have had some religious backing. And while he recognizes that embryonic stem cell research and cloning remain controversial in the context of the Pro-Life movement (and Christians who remain concerned with whether humans have the right to control life at these levels), Collins offers a valid compromise on the issues.
This book is well worth the read. Collins completely challenged my personal perspective on both the natural spiritual worlds, and the roles humans can hold within them. Readers should be sure to read the appendix at the end of the book, where Collins provides interesting discussions on genetic counselling, genetic enhancement and other issues of interest.
Whether you are a believer, non-believer, science-lover or science skeptic, I highly recommend “The Language of God.