Random: Afterthoughts on ‘The Language of God’ by Francis Collins

I realised that I have not been coming to WordPress regularly to post for quite a while. Perhaps it is due to my lack of people to follow. Low inspiration. It is also a very foreign place to me, without anyone I actually know.

Apart from that, my thoughts today were to give some of my opinions on a book I have finished, The Language of God by Francis Collins, the director of the Human Genome Project about a decade ago. It is his appeal to scientific and religious peoples, or simply anyone interested in the science vs religion debates that actually does still ring true today. Many objections he lays down in the conflict (which he tries to resolve later on) still hold in all the modern arguments that are refuted and counter-refuted and defended and attacked and whatnot.

For a general layout of the book, it starts of with Francis Collins explaining how he converted from atheism to Christianity. He also outlines the ‘War of the Worldviews’, ie science and religion. His ‘Part Two’ consists of four chapters devoted to explaining evidence (at that time) for and against belief in a supreme deity. They include cosmological and evolutionary arguments, after which he shares his experience in the project to unravel the entire ‘instruction book’ coding for humans.

His Part Three gives the reader four options one can respond with, including introducing what he names as ‘BioLogos’, option 4 (also known more widely as theistic evolution). It is more of a way to approach questions science cannot answer, Collins explains, and that sets it apart from the other options (namely Atheism/Agnosticism, Creationism and Intelligent Design). The last chapter is a conclusion and summary of his arguments presented in the whole book.

I guess it would do well to say I am not intent on an objective book review. Objectivity is hard even for people seeking it intentionally anyway. Rather I do wish to say that this book has made me question by own beliefs. I was initially more or less a ‘believer’ in ID (intelligent design) based on the many Youtube videos I have been watching. Yet one thing I believe can shake anyone is the question: Did we evolve from lower life forms?

I have firm ideas about what I believe about how a Biblical account of the creation of the universe (and life) and modern ideas of evolution tie in. God set forth into motion the Big Bang, and everything followed. About how the first life entered I am not sure exactly. But simple life did, and evolved into complexity through millions of years. One thing I held firmly onto was that humans were a special breed that God raised from the dust.

This book insists otherwise. But perhaps I have gone beyond asking the real truth (for we may never reach an obviously irrefutable conclusion), and started wondering, how do we view the idea of a human? For those who have read the Chrysalids, it is one of the many books asking us to think of the implications of a mutated human species. More fingers or toes. Telepathic abilities. Does that make us something else than human?

The Language of God maintains that God decided at one point to breathe His image – not a physical but a spiritual kind – into a species according to His plans. This is a profound idea – that we have a soul, a concept of “I” and “we”, unselfish love, awareness of past, present and future (and reflecting on this), and perhaps most importantly Moral Law – something that can often go against survival instincts or the concepts of evolution. Perhaps this is what makes us human, this is what the book says, and I do agree.

For those examining the possibility this book puts forth, there is also one question: at what point can we no longer attribute God with the observations we make in our daily lives? Francis Collins believes that ‘BioLogos’ can allow science to continue discovering more of our natural world, yet cannot answer all questions. So how is it possible to conclusively show there are those questions which are undeniably existing on a different plane (from that of the natural world)? Could there be a day when we will discover that the universe started itself, rather than God setting it forth into motion? While Francis Collins does not cover this possibility extensively, today it is also a fierce area of debate. Two very different responses ought to point us towards two very different courses of actions: first, “We will eventually understand with science” and second, “We cannot ever understand with science”. It is easy to deliberately or accidentally confuse the two. Yet majority of debates exist exactly because the opposite sides are trying to push the topics into the field governed by the question that they support.

A simple example is attempting to explain the Moral Law using natural selection. One thing for sure is that debate will not simply cease, because both sides will relentlessly fight.


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