Francis S. Collins: The Language of God
- A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief -
Henk Hogeboom van Buggenum
Biophysicist Cees Dekker regrets in his preview of the Dutch translation of this book the prevailing 'either - or' attitude when the issue 'creation and evolution' comes up. The Dutch broadcasting company EO (evangelical) speaks of 'Adam or Eve', and other journalists like to call it the 'God or Darwin' dialogue. Personally I prefer Collins' approach because it may leed to a 'both - and' position.
Francis Collins was the managing director of the National Human Genome Research Institute from 1993 onwards and headed the historical project of unravelling human DNA. The personal and sometimes emotional story of his life on a farm as a child, his academic years when he was an agnostic (and by the time he obtained his doctorate in chemistry he had become a firm atheist) is told in detail. Also the ensuing awareness of the value of Christianity as a belief in a personal God when he started working with patients as an MD after completing his medical studies. C.S. Lewis' books have had great influence on his life, especially the idea of 'Moral Law', which contradicts post-modern belief that all ethical positions are relative (p.33).
Collins clearly states that 'absolute proof of God's existence' cannot be established scientifically (p.74), but our awareness of Moral Law as an inner activity points us towards a caring God. He does not evade questions 1ike 'why does a loving God permit suffering' (p. 46 ff)
Collins does not mention Teilhard de Chardin and his writings. However, his feeling that Moral Law points in the direction of evolution (p.132) is consistent with Teilhard's view that Moral Law gives evidence of the mechanism of evolution. Teilhard's 'law' of simultaneous increase of complexity and psychism may surely be noticed in the entire process of evolution as cooperation or the unification of parts in faveur of the whole. In spite of obvious human selfishness, altruism is evident also, as human beings cautiously are on their way towards point Omega. According to Teilhard this is the ultimate point of evolutionary awareness towards human completion - enlightenment.
Anyway, if we summarize our 3,5 billion years of biological evolution on the time-scale of one day (as Collins does on page 131/132), it seems that so far we have only covered a fraction of a second on our human way. We have only just started, even if technologically we have advanced considerably.
The convergence of science and religion
It is clear that Collins follows Darwin and his findings as well as astrophysics concerning the origins of the cosmos. The "Big Bang (p.63 ff), the anthropic principle (p.70), the complexity of human DNA which wonderfully fits in with the genealogy of life on earth (p. 98), they all indicate that there is a creative force at work. He also writes, 'How appealing to us are the beauty and artistry of the details in all living creatures…for those believers in God there are reasons for great admiration.' (p.97) Of course, there are other options for the relation between science and religion. Collins discusses: Agnosticism, Atheism, Creationism and 'Intelligent Design' (p.140-167). He presents many good arguments for the strength or weakness of each. Collins prefers an 'utterly credible, intellectually satisfactory and logically consistent synthesis' of science and religion (p.170): a theistic theory of evolution for which he proposes the term 'biologos'.
The ethical decisions which present themselves in our scientific advances require more cooperation between the sciences and religion.