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Showing 1-4 of 4 reviews(2 star). See all 99 reviews
on 14 June 2012
In his introduction, Collins says "But science is powerless to answer questions such as "Why did the universe come into being?", "What is the meaning of human existence?", "What happens after we die?" One of the strongest motivations of humankind is to seek answers to profound questions, and we need to bring all the power of both scientific and spiritual perspectives to bear on understanding what is both seen and unseen."

And yet these questions are neither profound, nor answered in any satisfactory way. They are not profound because they presuppose an answer. Why SHOULD there be a reason for the universe? Why SHOULD there be a meaning to life? Why think that anything might happen to us other than decay after we die, and why suppose that there is an 'us' which is separate from our body and could have an existence after death anyway?

These of course are questions which those who ask them need to justify, yet Collins never does. He simply accepts that the assumptions behind the questions are valid and that answers are required. The questions are not only not profound; they are not even shallow.

Collins approach is to simply fit the god he was inculcated with as a child into what he sees as gaps in the science, by implicitly concluding that a gap means the questions is unanswerable, therefore the only feasible explanation must be the god his parents told him about. This is intellectually dishonest and especially so from someone who earned his living closing gaps in scientific knowledge using the scientific methodology which we now need to believe is inadequate for the job when it comes to the gaps which best fit his gods.

And there lies the final piece of dishonesty: if, as Collins admits, the 'spiritual', or 'supernatural' are beyond the reach of science, how does he know about them and how can they interact with the natural world? Clearly they cannot. To interact with, and so to influence the natural world, is to be part of it. Anything which is exerting any influence in the natural world would be detectable by measuring this effect. If it cannot be so measured it is not doing anything and we would have no knowledge of it existence. As a man of science, Collins SHOULD be aware that this principle unpins all of science.

If science is powerless to answer his questions, and powerless to examine his assumed 'spiritual' world, how does he know HIS answers are the right ones? Clearly, he deems them to be the right ones only because they confirm the assumptions behind the questions in the first place. Hence this book is nothing more than a lengthy apologia for Collins' own superstitions, just as those of C.S.Lewis (whom he cites as some sort of authority figure) were for C.S.Lewis superstitions. Inevitably these books always arrive at the same conclusion - it is the locally popular god that did it! Strangely, no one these days ever rehearses these same old answers to these same old questions and concludes that it was Zeus, Ra or Wotan that did it, even though the 'logic' would still stands. Of course, an Islamic apologist will conclude that it was the god Mohammed described and a Sikh will conclude that it was the god revealed by Guru Nanak or a Hindu will conclude that it was one or more of the Hindu pantheon. The conclusion is always the one which best supplies the local market in religious apologetics.

Collins is very clearly trading on his scientific background and yet he has abandoned science in what is nothing more than a book intended to trade on the market in self-affirming satisfaction for those who derive it from reading about how a 'real scientist' agrees with their superstitions and evidence-free preconceptions, and who like to think that there are still plenty of gaps in the science in which their unintelligently designed, locally popular god, so perfectly fits.
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on 17 February 2009
Have you ever struggled with questions like why a scientist can believe in talking snakes and a being of omniscience that has no start and no end and lives outside of time and knows that you are going to read Francis Collins' book before you have even read it? No. I have. And now, after reading this book, I have some insights.

This book gives a fascinating insight into how a person of incredible scientific knowledge reconciles the genesis account and belief in miracles. Apparently it's all done with the Moral Law. Collins can't for the life of him understand how the moral law arose by evolutionary forces. It's ineffable and the ineffable must point to God. Has Collins ever read Deuteronomy? Where the God depicted there has a vastly different moral compass to ours and quite clearly doesn't practice what he preaches. He looks at cosmology and he seems settled that the big bang must have had a supernatural cause. Just because people have a natural God desire, called by many philosophers, "the God shaped hole", then that seems to be evidence that humans were made by a process (evolution) guided by a being (God) that is not of this world. Apparently, he doesn't even consider that our God shaped hole could be the by-product of our psychology. He looks at Quantum Mechanics and seems to conclude that because the very small is very weird then that must mean God designed it like that. I've read that paragraph a number of times and I still can't see evidence for God. One gets the feeling that this guy will see God in everything. And indeed, when his daughter is raped, this doesn't shake his faith but it merely gives him more opportunity for it to grow.

He is well able to undertake science and world class science at that. But he shows little awareness of the philosophy of science. He's no philosopher, as he readily concedes - and neither am I. But...underpinning science is the worldview of naturalism which dictates that science must always adhere to a natural explanation. If Collins ever came across this worldview then his book might be rocked. Science can't look to a transcendental cause of reality because that transcendental source cannot be called upon to participate in experiments or to help out with equations.

He seems to get confused when talking about religion and spirituality. Many times the word "spirit" is given near the word "truth". He quite ably explains how science is our best method of gaining truth of the natural world but when it comes to other strata of knowledge like the softer life sciences he seems in awe of theologians. Underpinning his writing is the feeling that the theologian has the best method of gaining insights into the supernatural, spiritual and even the human condition. What ground breaking, life enhancing, deeper insight has a theologian ever given us except... I feel the need for a drum role...God did it.

C.S. Lewis is quoted at length from many of his works. I laughed out loud at C.S. Lewis' explanation of how evolution and talking snakes and knowledge giving apples are reconciled. Collins often states he is in awe of Lewis. I'm afraid I'm not - even less so after reading the quotes in this book.

All in all this is great fodder for Christians who want to engage in debates. After reading this I can see it has been used extensively in a debate I have engaged in. So, basically there wasn't much that was new in here for me.
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on 5 January 2014
Collins' involvement in the human genome project is supposed to lend weight to his argument that there is a god. It does not. Like a lot of students, myself included, he was confronted with questions of where he will go when he dies he is loaned a copy of C S Lewis' "Mere Christianity" and comes to believe, perhaps more in C S Lewis than god. Even though he realises that this involves a form of wishful thinking he argues that wishing for something that is real does not make it unreal. That is true, but to assume that everything you wish for is real is just magical thinking. He deals with suffering in an alarmingly trite way given that the example is the rape of his own daughter. He accepts (apparently with little questioning) that C S Lewis has an answer for this in his attitude to forgiveness and testing by god. Not clear what it did for his daughter.

He makes a lot of the moral law but does not apply it as a test of the existence of god. A god that produced a requirement that one should intervene to prevent evil and yet clearly does not intervene himself is not a god to be trusted or believed in.

Collins is more sceptical about miracles and says (or rather reiterates that C S Lewis says) miracles are not every day and are extremely rare. Which leads to the miracle of our existence.

He does a whistle stop tour of Cosmology and Evolution and his own specialisation in genome mapping. He is not a Young Earth Creationist and he does not accept the Intelligent design movement's ideas as valid. This at least was reassuring. He goes on to describe how his acceptance of Evolution and an old Earth is a problem for an American Christian.

Also, to be fair, he does a decent job of quickly writing off creationism and intelligent design. He emphasises at several points that a god-of-the-gaps basis for faith is dangerous.

His answer is theistic evolution a sort of "lets not get too specific about the mechanisms but we believe god did it". He wants to rename it BioLogos. It all seems to be similar to the position to that of Kenneth Miller in "Finding Darwin's God". C S Lewis again provides the answer that Adam and Eve are allegories so he doesn't have to be too literal in his adherence to the content of the Bible.

Ultimately Collins says nothing new in the debate about reconciling science and faith and comes across as a product of his culture, which is to feel that you should believe and then justifying that belief as a rational act. At no point does he propose the proper scientific approach to the existence of god with any criteria that would falsify the hypothesis that god exists. He hints at the reason for this in the chapters on suffering and in his exposition of theistic evolution. God would fail so he prefers to adopt the "lets not look at the details too closely and just accept on emotional grounds" approach.

To sum up he believes because he wants to but he is fairly liberal and undogmatic about issues like: when embryos become people, and the validity of modern science in Evolution and Cosmology. His theology is mostly rehashed C S Lewis.
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on 3 April 2008
It is astounding how far a scientist with considerable academic achievements is ready to compromise his intellectual integrity.

Like when he argues against evolutionary explanations for moral behaviour, especially altruism, he quickly discards with "ant altruism" as irrelevant (one gene set for all relevant ants).

Other group effects are also put aside: "... evolutionists now agree almost universally that selection operates on the individual, not on the population". - Is it really that simple?

The possibility of an evolutionary aberration is not even mentioned here.

So what is interesting about the book is the evidence of intellectual compromises to reach a comforting solution - there is someone out there for me.

Flat earth theorists or the adversaries of Galileo were certainly not all stupid or mischievous people - some might just have wished for a comforting world view.
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