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Science & Faith: What Conflict?,
This review is from: The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief (Paperback)
As a Christian trained as a physicist, I have always been drawn to books that tread the road between science and faith. "The Language of God. A scientist presents evidence for belief" by Francis Collins is one of the best. Dr Francis S Collins is head of the Human Genome Project and one of the leading scientists working on DNA, the code of life. He is also a man whose unshakable faith in God is clear throughout this book.
If you have been drawn to "The God Delusion" by Richard Dawkins then I would urge you to read Collins too. How can two men with such similar backgrounds and similar scientific interests come to completely opposing conclusions? Indeed Collins admits that in his student days and for sometime afterwards he was an atheist himself.
"The Language of God" is part autobiography, part layman guide to DNA and evolution theory; cosmology and quantum physics (though I can think of better introductions than Collins) making an interesting comment on Einstein's famous phrase "God does not play dice". It is also a profound analysis that fully endorses evolution theory as explored by science whilst fully upholding faith in the Christian God of the Bible, including the miraculous. These two worldviews are not incompatible in Collins' mind, and he builds some important bridges: "It is time to call a truce in the escalating war between science and spirit. The war was never really necessary."
Along Collins' road he tackles the main alternative positions including the atheism of Dawkins that he challenges on several grounds, concluding that atheists must find some other basis for taking their position, evolution won't do. The agnosticism of Thomas Huxley "Darwin's Bulldog" is also explored, and Collins' feeling that it is a comfortable default option for many becomes clear.
Collins also tackles the main positions adopted by people of faith today. Young Earth Creationism, probably more popular in the USA than in Britain, is explored and receives particular criticism for its ultraliteral interpretation of the Genesis creation stories, for its rejection of God-given reason and scientific study. The God of the Bible could not be deceiving us by planting false trails in the stars and galaxies, in the animal world or fossil record, or in our own genetic code. Collins is particularly concerned that Young Earth Creationism is driving a wedge between science and faith, sending a message to young people that science is dangerous, or driving then away from a God who would ask them to reject science.
Interestingly the recent Intelligent Design movement is not supported by Collins. He rejects ID on two main grounds. Firstly it presents itself as a scientific theory yet it fails at the first hurdle because it does not offer a framework in which new experiments can be conducted that will refine or challenge the theory. Secondly, one of the main principles of ID, the concept of irreducible complexity is increasingly exposed by scientific advances, and is looking more like another God-of-the-gaps approach, so ably demolished by Dawkins among others.
Collins' own position of science and faith in harmony becomes clear throughout the book. He presents six premises that lead him to an entirely plausible, intellectually satisfying, and logically consistent synthesis. "God, who is not limited in space or time, created the universe and established natural laws that govern it. Seeking to populate this otherwise sterile universe with living creatures, God chose the elegant mechanism of evolution to create microbes, plants, and animals of all sorts. Most remarkably, God intentionally chose the same mechanism to give rise to special creatures who would have intelligence, a knowledge of right and wrong, free will, and a desire to seek fellowship with him."
Collins also believes that there is a Moral Law (his capitals) written into the heart of every one of us. Clearly this is not science and it is a strand that runs throughout the book from his own conversion from atheism to faith, his experiences as a medic working in Nigeria, his views on science and faith, and finally to his appendix on Bioethics: the moral practice of science and medicine.
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Showing 1-7 of 7 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 20 Apr 2009 20:07:12 BDT
I. Maxfield says:
On Collin's comments on ID, it is interesting to note that his understanding of ID is flawed, therefore his conclusions about the subject will be flawed.
Posted on 14 Jul 2009 20:31:02 BDT
S. J. Payne says:
"Science & Faith: What Conflict?"
You know, the conflict between the scientific method - of tentative hypothesis-framing and theory-building based upon empirical evidence, observation and repeatability - and faith, i.e. assuming something preposterous to be true on the basis of zero evidence.
In reply to an earlier post on 9 Aug 2009 12:33:13 BDT
J Grainger says:
"and faith, i.e. assuming something preposterous to be true on the basis of zero evidence.
*That* conflict. "
The same thing as Richard Dawkins who said the chances of life arising spontaneously from a random combination of inorganic chemicals is so small as to be impossible - but we're here so it must have happened. A more unscientific statement - and which is based entirely on faith - is impossible to imagine.
In reply to an earlier post on 3 Dec 2010 10:09:58 GMT
Queen's Gambit says:
Surely you are just being disingenuous here? If not: Dawkins is saying that the probability of complex lifeforms self assembling from a collection of molecular parts is very low and so this is *not* what happens. Instead complexity develops gradually one small step at a time by natural selection. I expect that you'll find that Dawkins does not differ significantly from Francis Collins in this area, despite the latter's religious beliefs.
Posted on 26 Feb 2011 22:47:15 GMT
I'm surprised at Collins feeling able to characterise Young Earth Creationism as rejecting God-given reason and scientific study. There's a lot of thought-provoking material from highly scientifically qualified young earth creationists, who fully embrace 'God-given reason and scientific study'. However the universe came about, it strikes me as odd to suggest that the 'God of the Bible' would be deceiving us if the earth is indeed young (as written in the Bible), but not deceiving us if it's actually billions of years older than the Bible claims!
Posted on 13 Jul 2011 15:51:45 BDT
Kev Partner says:
"God, who is not limited in space or time, created the universe and established natural laws that govern it. Seeking to populate this otherwise sterile universe with living creatures, God chose the elegant mechanism of evolution to create microbes, plants, and animals of all sorts. Most remarkably, God intentionally chose the same mechanism to give rise to special creatures who would have intelligence, a knowledge of right and wrong, free will, and a desire to seek fellowship with him."
On the basis of what evidence? Replace "God" with "Pappa Smurf" and the above paragraph is no less nonsensical. Belief in God is like belief in ghosts, the general populace go along with it having experienced not a shred of evidence of his/her/its existence.
And we call ourselves rational beings.
Posted on 10 Apr 2012 20:13:36 BDT
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