I enjoyed The Language of God, by Francis Collins, the head of the US government’s part of Genome project that unravelled the genetic blueprint of humanity. But I’m afraid I did not like the book for the reasons Collins seemed to be hoping for. He was encouraging those with mechanistic and scientific perspectives to consider his “Theistic Evolution” as a way to reconcile scientific fact and a belief in God. As philosophy / theology I think the book was pretty weak - it was a thoughtful and heartfelt personal journey to a belief in God, but little more than that.
The subtitle promises evidence for belief but Collins offers anecdotes, personal feelings, and CS Lewis quotes. Fine, but for the reasons I go into below I want some gosh darn burning bushes, thank you, and think that without them his argument is very weak.
Collins does do an excellent job as scientist. First, he very effectively demolishes “young earth creationism” where proponents maintain the earth is less than 10,000 years old, as a very naive view. Next he tackles “Intelligent Design” and actually made me less sympathetic to this approach than I’d been before, suggesting it’s a “god of the gaps” hypothesis that is already wearing down in the face of increasing understanding of the Darwinian evolutionary processes it claims to challenge . To Collins the scientific evidence is overwhelming and clear - basic chemistry and physics plus Darwinian style evolution explain pretty much all the organisms on the planet. I’m comfortable with that view because I think it springs from a combination of common sense observations and reason.
Much of the book is summarized in Collins’ key notions of Theistic Evolution. I’m comfortable with the science stuff but I simply don’t understand two things that seem to resonate so strongly with him, and I think with many thoughtful people of faith. The first is that morality is a sign of God rather than a product of evolutionary and social forces over time. The second is that God has a personal relationship with humans and cares about us. Here are my concerns about those two ideas: (click for full review)
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