Monday, July 27, 2009

More Praise for Francis Collins

Gary Stern of LoHud (Lower Hudson Valley) has an article on Francis Collins that reflects on the choice that Obama made (likely the only one I have agreed with, so far) to have him head up the NIH. He writes:

Collins is all scientist. He is the former head of the Human Genome Project, which only identified the nearly 25,000 genes in human DNA and mapped out a genetic blueprint for humankind.

He is a firm believer that the universe began with the Big Bang 14 billion years ago, that evolution explains the development of life, that the Book of Genesis is poetry and not history, and that the Bible-based ideas behind "creationism" and "intelligent design" are neither scientific nor intelligent.

But science is not enough for Collins. Well, maybe it's more accurate to say that his knowledge of science - of intricate codes and formulas that work for no apparent reason - inspires him to believe things that can't be proven by the scientific method.

"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," he wrote in his 2006 book, "The Language of God."

As others have, Stern notes that Collins had a revelation reading Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis (how many people has that book influenced?) and allows Collins to explain himself:
For instance: "The Big Bang cries out for a divine explanation. It forces the conclusion that nature had a defined beginning. I cannot see how nature could have created itself. Only a supernatural force that is outside of space and time could have done that."
I find myself torn by that position. On one hand, I agree with it because it is also what I believe: that God created the heavens and the earth. And yet, it also falls under the heading of "belief from personal incredulity." Now, since it is not being posited as a scientific explanation for anything, the sting is removed quite a bit. Nonetheless, it is still the position that we, as scientists and (for those of us that are) theistic evolutionists, find ourselves. We believe in God and accept his Lordship over the universe. But we do this as an act of faith, understanding that science is not equipped to address those issues. Perhaps Collins understands this better than most.
Now playing: Paul Winter - Grand Canyon Sunrise
via FoxyTunes


  1. Hey Jim,

    I do think F. C. has it right. Ultimately I do not think "it also falls under the heading of 'belief from personal incredulity.'" His position does not squelch inquiry into what might have preceded the Big Bang (like a black hole from a different universe or a quantum fluctuation in a fabric of multiverses). Who knows, mathameticians and physicists might find some evidence to support that. The issue is that we know this universe has a beginning. We have no idea what science may deduce in the future, if anything. And if it does, it's as likely as not to also appear to have a beginning.

    For example: If we can deduce that our universe was spawned from a mother universe even remotely like ours, that only pushes the question of a beginning farther back, because the mother universe must also have had a parent.

    What is scientific is: the universe, our universe, appears to have a beginning. People who see that as a problem do so from a philosophical position. I really don't see it as much different from YECists, both are speculation without any scientific fact to back them up. But in the spirit of free inquiry let them keep trying.

    Does this make any sense? Thanks for letting me philosophize on your site.

  2. I think you are correct, HornSpiel. the more I read Collins, the more I realize that, as an act of faith, he believes. It is nothing more or less than that.