By Francis S. Collins.
Free Press. 2006
Review by Ceal McLean, Senior Editor for the CBWC
Dr. Francis Collins is one of the world’s most eminent scientists. He is the man who headed one of the most complex scientific inquiries in history, the Human Genome Project, which created a map of the genetic sequence of DNA. He is also a committed Christian.
His book, The Language of God, is his personal confession of Christian faith and explains his belief that scientific inquiry and Christian faith are in harmony with each other. His goal is to convince people of faith that science’s pursuit of truth is a not a threat to faith and to convince scientists that religious faith can be based on reason. He believes that science and faith reinforce each other rather than fight against each other as polar opposites.
Collins refutes every argument of science against faith and diffuses the antipathy of faith towards science. Throughout his book, he borrows heavily from the wisdom of C.S. Lewis’ many books to reinforce his positions. His most compelling chapters in this articulate and easy-to-read book are those that tour the various positions of science and faith. Partly relying on his belief that all humans have a shared moral code which thus proves the existence of a common source for that moral code in God, he dispatches atheism by pointing out the flaws in its logic and its tendency to go beyond the evidence. Similarly, he dismisses agnosticism as a cop-out.
He then turns his sights on creationism and intelligent design, rejecting the idea that a belief in evolution is necessarily atheistic. He rejects young earth creationism because it is selectively literal in interpreting the Bible and puts God in the role of a cosmic trickster who deliberately confuses us with misleading information to test our faith. He rejects intelligent design’s insistence that science cannot explain the world’s complexity, criticizing it as a ‘God in the gaps’ theology that leaves less and less room for God as new scientific discoveries are made to explain the complexity that ID proponents claim is irreducible.
Instead of polarizing faith and science, Collins argues for what he calls ‘BioLogos’—faith and science in harmony. This is a view that espouses ‘theistic evolution’ in which he affirms that the universe was created 14 billion years ago under a set of circumstances so improbable that it could only have been created by God. He believes his views are entirely compatible with both Christian faith and science. In short, he argues that no one needs to choose between Christ and Darwin.
This is a courageous and insightful book. As a man of faith, he is sympathetic to Christian beliefs and as a distinguished scientist he is highly knowledgeable and credible about the claims and methods of scientific inquiry. His ability to communicate complex theological and scientific ideas clearly and simply makes this books, its observations and its arguments easily accessible and compelling. This is a must-read for anyone interested in issues of faith and science.