Evolution Stands Faith Up – On Francis Collins’ and Karl Giberson’s “The Language of Science and Faith”

By Guillermo Paz-y-Miño-C. — © 2011

[A book-review format of this article is available at Amazon.com]

In matters of God’s nonexistence, the high-school-educated atheist is more lucid than the deeply religious scientist.

A trilogy of spiritual books, inspired in personal revelation, has been written or sponsored by Francis Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health NIH and former head of the Human Genome Project: The Language of God 2006, Belief: Readings on the Reason for Faith 2010, and the brand new –coauthored with fellow evangelical Christian Karl Giberson– The Language of Science and Faith 2011.

Spiritual Trilogy Francis Collins Books

Much “language” for a redundant message: “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God,’” PSALM 14:1, reads the heading script to the fifth chapter of Collins’ –hopefully– last “consilience” volume; a sort of “the pot calling the kettle black” or the blind accusing the sighted of not seeing the fullness of the empty glass. And empty indeed of evidence, except for that which the blind imagines.

Francis Collins at NIHDr. Francis Collins (left), Director of the National Institutes of Health NIH and former head of the Human Genome Project

But Collins and Giberson allege to navigate brightness and shuffle the pages of the book of nature, epitomized by Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species 1859, with those of the Christian Bible, and propose a “model for divinely guided evolution” that “requires no intrusions from outside for its account of God’s creative process, except for the origin of the natural laws guiding the process.” And the authors “suggest that once life arose, evolution and natural selection permitted the development of biological diversity and complexity,” including humans.

After evolution got under way, Collins and Giberson conclude, “no special supernatural intervention was required.” God was done, but remained in touch for eternity.

Shot-gun marriages like this, between evolution and faith, have never worked, despite the tradition of pointing the barrel at evolution’s head. The truth is that evolution likes it single. Free, with no stoppers of thought or restrains on logic. And when lured unknowingly into the altar by those who see facts and fiction compatible, evolution has consistently stood belief up and walked away, sometimes run, toward its secular turf.

C. S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity, 1952, impacted Francis Collins, and deeply, while Collins was searching, during the late 1970s, to “believe in some sort of God” and to abandon his non-theist past, as he confesses in The Language of God.

C S Lewis

Author and spiritualist Clive Staples Lewis (1898–1963) or C. S. Lewis

Impossible to be fully comprehended, Lewis’ God is the supreme architect of existence. God is both nature and its master. And Lewis’ narrative can be persuasive, severe, and even frightening. The Screwtape Letters 1942, The Great Divorce 1946, and The Problem of Pain 1962, reveal a complex, pre and post World War II traditionalist and suffered Irish survivor who, as a teenager, used to be “very angry with God for not existing.”

But Lewis yielded to his inner struggles. In An Experiment in Criticism 1961, a book on how to judge literature and artistic expression, he wrestled with himself: “The first demand any work of art makes of us is surrender. Look. Listen. Receive. Get yourself out of the way. There is no good asking first whether the work before you deserves such a surrender, for until you have surrendered you cannot possibly find out.”

The Language of Life Francis Collins

One of Collins’ science-friendly books, The Language of Life: DNA and the Revolution in Personalized Medicine (2011). Contrary to The Language of God (2006), this ‘antithesis’ book -The Language of Life- is sober and valuable.

Francis Collins also “surrendered” to Jesus Christ on “a beautiful fall day,” as he “was hiking in the Cascade Mountains” during his “first trip west of the Mississippi,” where “the majesty and beauty of God’s creation overwhelmed” his “resistance” to accept a deity. As he “rounded a corner and saw a beautiful and unexpected frozen waterfall, hundreds of feet high,” he “knew the search was over.” The next morning, he “knelt in the dewy grass as the sun rose” and became a Christian.

The Homo centric perception of the cosmos –in the past byproduct of ignorance, at present of faith– has led Collins to infer “fine tuning in the universe to embrace life” –a principle traceable to Islamic philosophy of the eight and fifteen centuries [see also Victor J. Stenger book The Fallacy of Fine-Tuning, link below]– but this is too illusory. It is actually life, its biochemical processes, its proximate and ultimate causation that are finely tuned to the effects of cosmic change.

“…the dream of arranging evolution’s wedding with belief will remain dormant for as long as evolution is awake”

Decoding the Language of God Geroge Cunningham Francis CollinsCan a scientist really be a believer? In Decoding The Language of God 2010, George Cunningham responds, both as comrade physician and geneticist, to Collins’ theistic evolution, repackaged as BioLogos, or the exploration, promotion and celebration of the integration of science and Christianity (see BioLogos Forum). Contradictions bleed out of Collins’ book as Cunningham scalpels –in reality he butchers– the fallacies inherent to finding logic where there is nonsense.

Faith aside, Collins’ outstanding research career and administrative skills shine. NIH and the Human Genome Project will always treasure his golden fingerprints of astute visionary policy. But his dream of arranging evolution’s wedding with belief will remain dormant for as long as evolution is awake. — © 2011 by Guillermo Paz-y-Miño-C.

 Recommended Book


The Fallacy of Fine-Tuning by Victor J. Stenger

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