Saturday, June 10, 2017

The Language of God by Francis S. Collins

In The Language of God, physician and chemist Francis S. Collins considers the compatibility of science and religion. At the time this book was published (2006), Collins was head of the National Human Genome Research Institute. Since 2009, he has served as director of the National Institutes of Health.

Collins is a Christian, but he did not come to the faith until after starting his career in medicine and science. His interactions with patients drew him to consider the spiritual aspects of life. Through this God eventually drew Collins to Christ.

Collins is very much a supporter of science. He readily calls people of faith to task for damaging their own cause through ignorance of science or abandonment of reason. A true god won’t be damaged if we come to a better knowledge of his creation.

Science, however, is hardly able to answer all of humanity’s important questions. It isn’t designed to do that, and sometimes it simply cannot do it.

In exploring the issue, Collins considers several potential stands on religion. He finds atheism impossible to defend. His own former agnosticism was something he could hold to so long as he did not seriously delve into the questions of existence, human life and ethics. He argues that theism is the most reasonable belief, though it may take a few more steps to get from theism to Christianity.

He also gives some attention to the idea of how we can live peaceably with science and religion. He has plenty to find in history. The seeming antagonism between science and religion, which he attributes mostly to proponents of extreme views on both sides, is a relatively new phenomenon. Historically (and currently) many scientists were people of faith and the church was a supporter of scientific discovery. He finds model of harmony between science and religion going back to St. Augustine.

Collins addresses this book to both believers and nonbelievers. To both he argues that belief in God is rational, and that faith is complementary to science.

If you’re interested in this book, you may also be interested in

Collins, Francis S. The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief. New York: Free Press, 2006.