The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief
If you aren't familiar with the work of Francis S. Collins, it's important that you know a bit more about him to help you understand why this book is such a significant release. When a diehard, lifelong evangelical scientist presents evidence for belief, the population at large can easily dismiss the argument. But the head of the highly acclaimed Human Genome Project, one of the leading geneticists in the country, and a former agnostic-turned-atheist? When a scientist of that stature in the secular community writes a book about faith --- well, that makes news.
The son of a back-to-nature couple who were a decade or two ahead of their time, Collins was home-schooled in the 1950s on the family's 95-acre farm in rural Virginia. Fascinated with chemistry, Collins graduated high school at the age of 16 and was nearly at the end of his doctoral program in physical chemistry when he switched gears and entered medical school. In all this time, religion was nonexistent and irrelevant to his life. When a joyful, terminally ill patient challenged his refusal to examine the question of God's existence, Collins was brought up short: "Does a scientist draw conclusions without considering the data?...And there I found myself, with a combination of willful blindness and something that could only be described as arrogance, having avoided any serious consideration that God might be a real possibility."
Then Collins discovered C.S. Lewis's MERE CHRISTIANITY, and the great British scholar convinced yet another skeptic not only of the existence of God but also of God's love and justice and goodness. Collins began to see the "elegance" of God's design in all of life. From then on, Collins found himself among a distinct minority --- scientists who adhered to the theories and findings of the secular scientific community while holding to a belief in God from an evangelical perspective.
Collins writes of his journey toward faith in Part I, titled "The Chasm Between Science and Faith," which includes a philosophical look at the clash of worldviews with regard to religion. In Part II, "The Great Question of Human Existence," he wades into deeper waters, examining the origins of the universe, life on earth and the human genome, from the basis of scientific research as well as the spiritual impact of the researchers' findings. Unless you live in Collins's world, your eyes may glaze over more than once as you read this section, but even if you don't understand all of the technical data --- which I admit I didn't --- you can still glean a lot from these chapters, which I admit I did. In his discussion of what he calls the overwhelming evidence in favor of evolution, he writes: "Science should not be denied by the believer, it should be embraced. The elegance behind life's complexity is indeed reason for awe, and for belief in God --- but not in the simple, straightforward way that many found so compelling before Darwin came along." It's a section well worth reading.
Part III, "Faith in Science, Faith in God," is your reward for making it through Part II. Though it still contains some fairly heavy scientific matter, it's primarily a discussion of the four options Collins believes we have when it comes to our perspective on science and faith: atheism and agnosticism, or science to the exclusion of faith in God; creationism, or faith in God to the exclusion of certain scientific discoveries; intelligent design, or, as he puts it "when science needs divine help"; and "BioLogos," the term he coined to convey the harmony between science and faith. Christians should immediately recognize "logos" as the Greek term for "word," interpreted as the Word of God. "Bio," of course, means "life." "BioLogos expresses the belief that God is the source of all life and that life expresses the will of God," Collins writes in defining the term.
An appendix offers a much-needed examination of bioethics, particularly with regard to the hot-button topic of stem-cell research. Collins never wavers from either his belief in God and respect for Scripture or his belief in science and respect for scientific findings. As a researcher fully immersed in the complexity of science and a believer equally immersed in the complexity of God, Collins emerges as a voice of reason standing squarely between the polarized camps of science and faith --- and his is a voice worth listening to.
Reviewed by Marcia Ford on July 11, 2006