“The Language of God” by Francis S. Collins

Language_of_god_francis_collinsSince the dawn of time humanity has questioned our origins. In modern times these questions have largely been distilled into two opposing groups: those who hold on to faith and religion and those who cling to science and its corollaries. Sadly these two groups are largely seen as moral enemies rather than allies. It is into this fray that Francis S. Collins ventures with his book The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief. Written in three parts, Collins attempts to bridge the gap between faith and science in hopes of uniting the two camps.

The first part consists of two chapters which gives a brief biography of Collins’ life up to the publication date. These chapters also detail his journey of faith from an agonistic to atheist to a follower of Jesus. By retelling his faith journey, Collins does two things. First, he places himself as a member of the evangelical Christian community, the largest group within the faith camp and the most vocal against science and its conclusions. Secondly, Collins lays the foundations of human ethics and morality that point towards a faith in God.

In the second part of the book, Collins moves away from his own journey and onto the great questions of human existence, i.e. the origins of the universe and the beginning of life on earth. It is during this section that Collins’ background as a noted scientist really begins to show. Starting with the Big Bang, Collin walks the reader through the various theories as to the origins of the universe, ending with the conclusion that science can never provide “absolute proof of the existence of God.”[1] In light of this conclusion, Collins suggests that the Anthropic Principle might prove helpful in pointing towards a Creator.

The third part of the book is devoted towards exploring the different ways in which faith and science have interacted over the years. In this section, Collins looks at the four main options available to humanity: 1) atheism and agnosticism where science trumps faith, 2) creationism where faith trumps science, 3) intelligent design where science needs divine help and 4) BioLogos where science and faith work in harmony. As a devoted scientist and Jesus follower, it is the fourth option that Collins highly promotes and encourages. In Collins’ view, science is the “only legitimate way to investigate the natural world” while faith is needed to answer the questions concerning the “meaning of human existence, the reality of God, the possibility of an afterlife” and other related topics.[2]

As a Jesus follower who has floated between Collins’ second and third options (creationism and intelligent design) with an occasional dive into the deep waters of science, I found Collins’ light dismissal of the questions proposed by those groups a bit frustrating. Rather than creating straw-men to knock down, I would have appreciated it if Collins had taken more time to walk through the arguments presented by these four options. Specifically it would have been nice if Collins had spent more time discussing evolution and why he thinks it is a proven reality rather than just adding God to the equation.

In conclusion, Francis Collins’ book The Language of God was an insightful volume dealing with the interaction of faith and science. While weak in some areas, the book does bring up a lot of good questions and stimulates thought on areas a lot of people ignore. I can also see the benefit of the book for those who want to discover a way to embrace both faith in a Creator and their love of science.
End-notes
[1] Collins, Francis S. The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief. (New York: Free Press, 2006), 78.
[2] Collins, Francis S. The Language of God, 228.

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